Shetland Wool Week 2016: Shetland Museum and Archives

I have promised a post about Shetland Museum and Archives for a while now. I like museums, and I like this one very much. As with all museums, also this one has a lot more to show than you can see in the public exhibitions. For instance, textiles are often stored away from light that may damage them. In the Shetland Museum you can still see a lot, both originals and copies. They are behind glass, which you can see in my photos, sorry for that.

Sweaters, cardigans, vests, tops, hats, tams, scarves. Stranded colourwork has developed especially in Fair Isle, the little island southeast of Shetland mainland. But it’s been, and is, practised all over Shetland. In one of the photos below you can see a photo of Edward, Prince of Wales, wearing the sweater that started a boom in the 192os. Fair Isle knitting is an ever changing story. Throughout its history the fashion of the period has influenced the patterns, and the colours used.







Sheila McGregor and her books have their own showcase:


Shetland tweed. Weaving has been much more common in Shetland than is usually known. This would be something for me to explore next time.



When you see all these beautiful textiles, you can’t but marvel at the women who did all this beside their everyday tasks. It’s overwhelming. I can’t fully comprehend it.

And when you come to the cases with lace – it’s then when a spinner and knitter would be happy for a chair to sit on, because the sight makes you feel weak.

Lace shawls and haps, case after case. Sometimes the lace is so fine you need a magnifying glass to see it properly. Samplers remind us that all knitters couldn’t read, and that there weren’t always charts to follow. The lace knitters were extremely skilled. They made their own patterns, and they varied them in their own fashion. Skilled lace knitters work like that still today. The finest shawls are still called Wedding Ring Shawls. Even the biggest of these shawls can be drawn through a wedding ring.







The equipment for spinning the fine yarns are the same we use today. Hand carders for the very fine Shetland wool, a spinning wheel, a niddy noddy, a lazy kate. In the photo below there’s also something we don’t use anymore: a smoke barrel with sulphur for whitening the yarns. Nowadays some of us also use dog or cat combs to prepare the wool for worsted spinning.



There’s lots more in this amazing museum! But I want to show you the Gunnister Man. The link takes you to Wikipedia, but there’s much more to read about him and his clothes and accessories. I like this article with lots of links: Costume Historian. There are a free purse patterns on Ravelry, the link takes you to one of them. I’ve made a few purses to give away to friends.

This year’s Shetland Wool Week hub was in the museum. In the hub you could meet other attendants, sit down and knit for a while, have coffee or tea, get information about everything concerning Wool Week. You can see some of the knitters behind the Gunnister Man.



You could also take part in a charity project by knitting a square or two for a blanket, bring them to the hub, and have them sewn on to a blanket. The blankets will be sent to South Africa to children that have lost their mothers because of aids. I knitted three squares.



If you want to know more about knitting in Shetland there are lots of books and articles, and much to be found on internet, like the museum’s digital photo archives. I will show some of the books I own in my next post.

Shetland Wool Week 2016 : knitting and fishing in Whalsay

Kerstin and I booked a guided trip to Whalsay, an island on the east coast of Shetland. The knitters there had arranged a wonderful day for people who attended Wool Week. They took us sightseeing on the island, and it was beautiful, and the weather was fine. There were sheep everywhere, on the slopes, in the gardens.

This photo is from Simbister Public Hall where we were served tea, coffee, cakes, sandwiches, and delicious fish and chips. I love the decorations in the ceiling! Ready for Christmas, but very nice the year round.


The incredibly kind ladies took us in small groups in their own cars to see designers and crafters. I went to Ina Irvine, spinner and knitter, and Angela Irvine, artist, knitter, photographer.

Let’s start with this handspun and hand knit Shetland shawl by Ina Irvine. She has the most fabulous handspun and knitted items in her small studio, but the shawl just made us stand there in silence first, then trying to say something that wouldn’t be flat.


Ina also makes miniatures for sale:


This is one of her wheels, a wee Shetland wheel. She has several wheels, both old and new.


She has a fine collection of miniature wheels. A few of them here (I have a similar reddish one):



Angela Irvine’s studio was a total contrast. She gets her inspiration partly from traditional Shetland knits, as in this luxurious hat:


Her dresses – imagine them in a night club, or at a posh party:


This cupboard is amazing!



There was much more to see in both studios, but now I want to go fishing. This is the vessel, or part of it because my camera couldn’t get the whole picture of it:


Those who wanted where invited to take a tour in one of the trawlers in the harbour. I wanted to! So I missed the textile exhibition, but as you can see in another post I saw quite a lot of textile in Shetland Museum.

Now ladies and gentlemen, have a look at this ship: not one little piece of dust to be seen anywhere!









If you’d like to have a fishing vessel like that you’d have to dig out some 25 million pounds from your wallet… Fishing is the main source of income in Whalsay. It’s a hazardous business still today. You can only imagine what it was like in earlier times, and what it was like for the women who waited at home while the men where at sea. They took care of all that had to be done in the house and on the grounds, and they knitted. That probably kept their mind away from what was happening out at sea at least for a while.

So what are they knitting now? Traditional, traditional with a twist, new garments. And they have a gang of girls learning to knit.

One of the ladies said it’s good that knitting isn’t taught at school anymore, because that gives the skilled knitters a chance to teach children that really wants to learn and not just play around. That was comforting to hear! As you may have noticed, there is great concern in Shetland about the future of Shetland knitting. I didn’t take photos of the children, but they were there, and they knitted, and they seemed to have great fun.






A good day in Whalsay! If any of you who arranged this happens to see my post, thank you so much!

Shetland Wool Week 2016 : Lerwick, and Jamieson & Smith

I fell in love with Lerwick when I first went to Shetland in 2010. Stone, stone, stone everywhere, still the impression of the town is friendly and welcoming. The people are so friendly! I haven’t seen any irritation at all with the whimsical tourists who take photos of everything and are in the way in the narrow streets and shops, and sometimes also shrieking instead of talking, which is considered to be a bit uncivilised in many European countries. More information about Lerwick here.

Kerstin and I had a plan for our Shetland trip, and one of them was to walk in the centre of Lerwick for one day. Of course that had to be the only day it was raining during that week! So we didn’t see all the places I had planned, but it was quite a good day anyway.

Let’s start with a photo I took a couple of days earlier, when it wasn’t raining. This is Commercial Street with our self catering upstairs in the building to the right. I love the bunting!


And a couple of days later seen from the market square:


From the other end:


The Shetland Library. It used to be a church:




It’s a beautiful library, but as a librarian I can see there’s not enough space. With movable shelves you can easily change the rooms, though.

Shetland Museum and Archives:

When you walk towards the museum you see this, if it happens to be Shetland Wool Week:


The sea is present everywhere in Shetland, so also in the photo above. An old black ship is anchored next the museum.

I’ll show more from this enchanting place in another post. It has a big and well displayed textile collection. But if you turn around and look in the other direction, you see Hay’s Dock, one of the most beautiful places in Lerwick on a sunny day:


But back to the old part of Lerwick: Lodberrie. This used to be a private pier. The houses were build in 1730:


Lodberrie from the other side. All who have watched the Shetland TV series know this building. For your knowledge: Jimmy Perez walks through the green door, but the kitchen you can see inside isn’t in Lodberrie. It’s somewhere in mainland Scotland, Glasgow perhaps?


And the famous door:


And now: Shetland Woolbrokers/Jamieson & Smith, aka J&S. The wool room and the shop. And you know what? I forgot to take photos in the shop. I have been talking angrily to myself, but it doesn’t help. So have a look at their site to see what they offer. They ship worldwide.


When you walk through that door you enter a big room with different qualities of yarns, tops, and literature on shelves that fill the walls. There are also knitwear and knitting equipment, and in the middle a counter with desks on four sides so the nice and service minded, qualified persons inside can serve a lot of customers at a time. At least two skilled designers work at J&S: Sandra Manson and this year’s Wool Week Patron Ella Gordon.

This is the headquarter of Shetland Wool Week, here it was initiated in 2010. It grows bigger and more beautiful with each year.

I’ll take you to the wool room next to the shop, because luckily I remembered to take photos there. First a glimpse of the incredible, lovable Oliver Henry, the man with more knowledge about Shetland wool than anyone else. I was at his last wool talk on September, Friday 30th, and it was just as fascinating as his talk at Stirling University in 2010, and later that same year in this very wool room. Oliver will retire in a near future, which makes many of us a bit sad. But he has an heir, a young lady called Jen, and I’m sure she’s capable, and the work will continue.

Oliver working in the wool room before his talk, moving wool from one place to another:


Below: Oliver talking about wool, showing us different types of Shetland sheep wool. His fingers are constantly touching the wool, patting it, stroking it, adding fleece after fleece on the table. The audience is so quiet, we try to take in what he’s saying, try to remember as much as possible. Behind him the already classified fleeces from supreme to cross to double coated, all in their designated shelves. In a room downstairs: more fleeces. From one of the piles I pick a supreme fleece for three friends in Finland.


Two types of fleece: supreme and double.


Oliver’s hands examine a wool staple from a Shetland supreme fleece. He demonstrates what this fleece will be turned into by showing us the supreme quality top and a ball of Shetland Supreme 1 Ply Lace Weight, a yarn almost as thin as sewing thread. Beside them lace scarves knitted from this yarn.


A close up of a Shetland supreme fleece. All you spinners out there: don’t we love that crimp?


Yes, I love Oliver Henry’s great knowledge, the quality of his work, his humble but at the same time confident way to present it. The even quality of the yarns J&S produce depend on the farmers and their work with the sheep, and on experts like Oliver.

One last photo from the wool room. This is a double coated fleece, a quality that is very difficult to turn into yarn in a ordinary modern mill. But handspinners can! Don’t be afraid to buy beautiful fleeces like this. Double coated fleeces have been used for thousands of years. With the right kind of knowledge and skills you can spin them and weave, knit or felt beautiful and much valued sweaters, hats, mittens, blankets, socks, carpets.


Just now I feel like going back to Shetland.

Shetland: Burra Bears and Jamieson’s

ETA: Please note that the spinning mill “Jamieson’s of Shetland” is a different company than “Shetland Woolbrokers/Jamieson & Smith” aka “Jamieson & Smith” aka “J&S”. I will return to J&S later.

Writing about all of the places I tell you about in this post would make a very heavy post with far too many photos. So I decided to give you links instead. Hope you don’t mind!

I was in northern Sweden in August 2015, meeting up with Swedish spinning and knitting friends for a weekend together. I showed photos from my first trip to Shetland in 2010, and all of a sudden some of us were planning a trip to Shetland Wool Week in 2016! In the end only Kerstin from Sweden and I from Finland were able to go, but others joined in: my friends Sarah Jane from US and Veronica from UK who were also in Shetland in 2010, and Malin and her husband Urban from Sweden. We booked Fort Charlotte Self Catering in the centre of Lerwick in September 2015. Before leaving Shetland in October 2016 we heard it was already booked for Wool Week 2017.

I went to Orkney on Wednesday 21st, and flew to Shetland on Saturday 24th. Four of my friends met me at Sumburgh airport. We then drove to Jarlshof to have a look at the Viking site, but as it was closed we went on to Hoswick Visitor Centre for tea and coffee, and then to Lerwick.



In the Hoswick Visitor Centre we saw this small Shetland spinning wheel. We saw many more of the same kind during the following week. Wheels like this have been used for spinning yarns for lace and sweaters in Shetland. There are still handspinners who know how to spin Shetland wool into the super thin lace yarns.


The Shetland Wool Week Opening Ceremony was a grand show with live music, a fashion show with garments made by renowned Shetland designers, good food and drink. Here’s Nielanell on stage. She designs garments that work like magic: they fit all types of figures.


And then all of a sudden the Guizer Jarl and his Squad marched in! The handsome “Vikings” with their thoroughly made costumes and friendly behaviour were well appreciated and much admired. No one was hurt or killed… Find out more about the fire festival here: Up Helly Aa. You can also watch it live, next year on Tuesday 21st January 2017. The Viking influence is strong in Shetland even without the Jarl Squad, and for a Swedish speaking tourist like me Old Norse is obvious in many place names and in the Shetland dialect.



Kerstin rapidly got used to driving on the left side of the curvy and narrow roads. She kept murmuring “vänster, vänster, Kerstin vänster” in the roundabouts and crossroads (Swedish “vänster” meaning “left” in English”). Following that rule she took us to Burra Bears and Jamieson’s Mill during the first two days.

The crossroad to Houss and Burra Bears. Stonewalls are one of the most common sights in Shetland.


I bought a bear from Burra Bears. I couldn’t get one to fit into my luggage the last time, but now this sheep-bear sits beside me in my spinning room.


The Burra Bears studio is beautifully situated in Houss on East Burra, with sheep grazing on the hill slopes, and with the firth (I hope this is the right word for the bay between East and West Burra) on the west side. I didn’t take photos in the workshop, but here’s one from outside:



Jamieson’s of Shetland produces yarn from Shetland wool. Kerstin and I walked through the mill with it’s big, clean, impressive machines. They also wash and dye wool, but we didn’t see that part of the mill. We had no guide because we weren’t able to book the official tour, but it was still interesting to se the mill. Here Kerstin is trying to choose yarns from the shelves in the shop:


Jamieson’s also produce Shetland knits:


From a hand spinner’s view this looks impressive:


… and complicated…


Jamieson’s also produce weaving yarn:


We had time to drive down to the beach near Jamieson’s, where you can see Papa Stour, one of the biggest islands in the Shetland archipelago. There’s a small church and a church yard, beautifully situated by the sea.



Scalloway is a small town near Lerwick. We drove there on the way home from Burra Bears. We wanted to see the castle, but just like Jarlshof it was closed. Maybe next time… It seems I have to go to Shetland at least once more to see everything that was closed🙂


New houses in Scalloway are often build from wood, which hasn’t been usual in the treeless Shetland.



Back in Lerwick the stairs up to the self catering almost killed us…


But once you’d gone through that ordeal, you could rest in a comfortable, clean and well equipped apartment.


Sheep and stone in Orkney

My trip to Orkney and Shetland is over. I feel a bit sad, but because it was an amazing trip I think I can survive. Both those places take a firm hold on you: you don’t want to leave them.

Orkney first, and Shetland in following posts.

Some years ago an internet friend of mine invited me to Orkney, but I didn’t think at that time that it would ever be possible. Thanks to a decisive Swedish friend I was able to make the trip this year. I don’t regret it! Thanks to my friend I was able to see not only her Boreray sheep, but also places I’ve wanted to see for many years. So thanks to Jane I can now show a few of the hundreds of photos I took of stone and sheep. As you may know, Orkney is a paradise for people who love archeology, history, and sheep.

The Standing Stones of Stenness are impressive. I don’t know why they effected me so strongly. Here they are from some distance:


A close up of one of the stones. It’s been here for quite a while, at least 5000 years. The wind, rain and sun have been working on it:


The next stop that day was the Ring of Brodgar. There may have been as many as 60 megaliths, 27 remain. The stones are smaller than the ones at Stenness, but just as impressive. Like so many others, I also wonder what purpose these rings had when they were constructed.


As it was such a beautiful day, I also had the opportunity to see Skara Brae. The museum has a reconstruction of one of the neolithic buildings. The settlement is 5000 years old.


My photo of the hearth isn’t very good, so follow the link above if you want to see a better one.


After the museum I walked down to the settlement, which was a joy on this beautiful day. I sat down by the beach to look at the cliffs and the sea, and the stones that still show where the people have been collecting building material for thousands of years.


For a second I was tempted to take a stone with me…


A view from the settlement:


I have lots of photos from Skara Brae, but I think going to Orkneyjar and reading about the settlement there will give you much better information than I can.

Because I want to show you some sheep. Hold on to your hats, here are the Borerays running for some treats!


Jane Cooper is doing a necessary and admirable work by farming these very rare sheep. There is some information about them on internet. I think you should start here: Mrs Woolsack’s Blog.

Jane’s sheep are adorable! They are quite small, and they are very cute, at least when you don’t have to do all the work with farming them. They live in a beautiful landscape, but the weather isn’t always as nice as it was when I was in Orkney. For me who comes from a rather calm part of the world with storms that seem like a summer gale compared to the winds in Orkney, it’s difficult to fully understand what the farmers are up to during the winter storms. We have the cold winters, and need to keep the sheep and cattle indoors from the middle of September or beginning of October until the end of May, while the sheep are outdoors the year around in Orkney. So animal farming here in Finland is quite different than in Orkney, and on the whole it seems Orkney is a better place for sheep and cattle.



Some of the boys:


I also saw the St. Magnus Cathedral and the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall. The cathedral was – not what you’d expect in a small society like Orkney. Impressive. I could’ve stayed all day in there.

I also met Liz Lovick, our guide on my first trip to Shetland in 2010. More about her CPW in another post!

Waiting for Wednesday

I’m waiting for Wednesday – I’ll leave early in the morning, and in the afternoon I’ll be in Orkney! On Saturday I’ll be in Shetland. I’m not sure if I can post from there, but will post when I’m back home if not earlier.

This yarn is spun from Kainuu Grey wool and mohair from Sanski’s goats that I mentioned in an earlier post. Delicate like Sanski’s handspun yarns, which is a bit odd as it’s spun in a mill. I love it! Light, light grey.


Autumn has come, and with it the frost. It’s still sunny and quite warm every now and then. The green beans and some of the herbs have frozen, but some flowers have survived. Wonder if I should save the pelargonium. It’s bright red, and there’s buds.


Dyeing and spinning bouclé with friends

The last week in August hubby, Kasper and I drove southeast, so close to the Russian border that you could see Russia if you climbed a small hill. We met with my spinning friends Petra and Mervi at Sanski’s, who’s a professional spinner and natural dyer. She also has a few angora goats, that provide her with mohair. And she has a beautiful garden! This is just one of her gorgeous dahlias:

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Sanski lives by one of Finlands lakes. We have about one thousand lakes! It was a calm, beautiful day when we arrived, and continued to be so the next days.

This Finnish top from Pirtin Kehräämö thinks it’s a snowman, only needing a couple of arms and eyes, and a nose and mouth to be perfect. But oh what a surprise: soon it’ll be teared apart and sprinkled with dyes!


This time we dyed with reactive dyes, which only Mervi knew from earlier. I was surprised by the very clear and vibrant colors our Finnish tops showed after having dried. I dyed blue (surprised anyone?)


This is Mervi patting out dyes on her top. She’s our Renaissance crafter, she knows more techniques than any other of us:thumb_p1010029_1024

Here’s our dyeing that first day, still dry after the rinsing (my blue top is already hanging to dry outside the photo):


Sanski got quite excited and acid dyed a lot of top after we had left her alone so she could flip out in peace🙂 I’m sorry I don’t have a photo to show! But here is her wall of yarns dyed with natural colours, all light fast. Her dyeing is magical!


Petra is a sheep farmer who hasn’t spun for very long, but pretty fast it turned out she’s a natural spinner. We had a task for our small retreat: everyone had to spin core yarn for a classic bouclé yarn. Here Petra takes a close look at mohair from Sanski’s goats, so different from Finnsheep wool:


At Sanski’s all four of us spun mohair for the bouclé wrapping. And then we wrapped it around the cores, and that was a sweaty job. Think: fresh core yarns, and freshly spun mohair with lots of twist! But we made it. Look at this skein, fresh from the skein winder and before finishing:


That’s a yarn spun by four spinners from different wools for the core, different types of mohair for the bouclé wrapping, and the same cotton sewing thread as binder. Please admit we were very clever and skilled! We also used different wheels: two upright Scotch tension, an antique Saxony, and a Hansen Minispinner.

My reflexions from those three days: we four spinners are as different as dyers as we are as spinners. Spinning and dyeing is so similar to your temperament. I think we four friends cover the most common types: the impulsive, and the thoughtful and meticulous, and a mix of these.

Sanski and me had already fallen into the dye bog. Now Mervi and Petra are splashing around there with us. Only Kasper didn’t think it was a hit:


But he was happy in the beautiful woods of that region. Hubby took him for long walks, and in between they just rested.

Hubby, Kasper and I had a fast and beautiful trip home. We haven’t been much in that area of Finland. We both fell in love with the nature with the forests and lakes, and the small hills.