Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Therapeutic knitting...

Ugghhhh.... I have the worst cold ever.

But I'm finding much comfort in gallons of chamomille tea (with honey), and addictive little honeycombs...

The early start of a very sweet beekeeper's quilt.

I love diving into my (vast) collection of sun-bleached and speckled kpppm. Very soothing. Hope you find sweetness too in this start of autumn. I'll be back soon with more from my dreamy trip.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shetland Designer

One of the best things about doing a knitting tour with Gudrun and Mary Jane was that they had arranged for us to meet with and learn from some of Shetland's most talented knitters.

One such lady is Wilma Malcolmson, owner of The Shetland Designer . We visited her shop and studio and got to speak with her about her design process, as well as drool over some of the most beautiful Fair-Isle knitting I've ever seen.

Here's Wilma explaining where she gets her colour inspiration. In this case it was a photo of old painted barrels.

All these swatches were knit with the same yarn. So fascinating to see the difference depending on what yarns were used for the foreground and background motifs.

Here, Wilma showed us swatches she worked up for the Shetland Museum. The staff that greet visitors wear beautiful Fair-Isle vests designed by Wilma.

If you ever find yourself in Shetland, you must visit Wilma's shop and studio. As you can imagine, we all left with lighter wallets and lovely woolens. I'll try and take some good photos of the goodies I brought back to show you in another post.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Shetland, land of wooly goodness!

Today, I want to show you a few of the wonderful sheep-related activities we got to experience on the trip.
Shetland sheep. They're small, hardy, cute, and everywhere!

The majority of the fleeces from the sheep we saw grazing all over the island go to one place: Jamieson and Smith Shetland Wool Brokers. We had the great privilege of visiting with Oliver Henry, J&S's master "wool man".

Oliver Henry hard at work

Several people referred to Oliver as the "high priest of wool" and that's pretty much what he is. For over 45 years, his eagle-eye and deft hand have been sorting and grading fleeces for colour and quality.

Raw fleeces

Child's Fair-Isle jumper knit with natural Shetland colours
Oliver explained to us the special properties of Shetland fleece. It's very fine and soft and comes in a great variety of colours. Many of the colours have Shetland dialect names:  light grey, grey, white, emsket (dusky bluish-grey), musket (light greyish-brown), shaela (dark steely-grey), black, fawn, moorit (reddish brown), mioget (honey-toned, yellowish-brown), and dark brown.

Pat listening attentively to the master

It was wonderful to hear Oliver speak. He's a man clearly in love with what he does, with an impressive mastery of his craft (this would be a defining characteristic of so many of the Shetlanders we met all week long).

Next, we visited a croft (a small farm), and got to see some pretty impressing hand-shearing. Here's Ronnie, the crofter, skillfully ridding the sheep of its warm coat. I was struck by how swiftly and gently he handled the sheep. This man knows what he's doing!

Mary Jane was the only one of us brave enough to try her hand at shearing. Way to go Mary Jane!

After all that hard work, we headed back to the family house to have a delicious lunch of soup and bannock (a Scottish version of scones). We all fell hard for the resident cutie, Rowan. And we got to buy some of Ronnie's lovely organic yarn.

Of all the things I loved about Shetland, the warmth and generosity of the people is what left the biggest impression on me.

I have many many more wooly things to tell you about, but I think this post is long enough... Next time, I'll show you all the amazing things that people make with beautiful Shetland wool.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Grand Adventure - Shetland, settling in

I fell in love with Shetland the minute I caught a glimpse of it from the plane. Wild, green, windswept, lush, covered in sheep, surrounded by the crashing ocean, I was in heaven.

I arrived a day before the actual tour started. Flights to Shetland are often delayed or cancelled because of fog, and I didn't want to take the risk of missing any of the tour. So I spent the first night in Lerwick, the capital and main port of the Shetland islands.  As you can see, the weather was very fine. Like Glasgow, I was surprised at how warm and sunny it was. Lerwick is a charming port town with pretty streets lined with little shops selling all sorts of wooly goodness. I kept my wallet in my pocket though, knowing that I would have plenty of opportunities to acquire "souvenir yarn" during my week-long tour.

The next day was when the real fun began. I met up with some of the lovely ladies that would accompany me on this adventure, and we all set off in a van for Burrastow, our beautiful home for the next week.

Burrastow House

My beautiful loft room....

...with a view.

Some of the lovely ltp's (lucky trip people): Pat, Kathy, Paula, Lori and Claire

We had a relaxing first evening, just hanging out, having the first of a string of gourmet meals, and walking off all those delicious calories. The hiking trails around Burrastow were outstanding, and we were keen to explore Shetland's stunning landscapes.

First glimpse of Shetland ponies!

Hello lovely Lori!

It was lovely to settle in to these beautiful surroundings, get to know everyone, and just catch my breath before the start of our full-on yarny adventures. More on these soon...