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Skein of thought

Shetland ... Part 1

Monday, October 10, 2016           by The Purl Box

If you've been following us on Facebook or Instagram, you'll know that the both of have just come back from holiday.  Its quite possible we could have chosen no two destinations further apart than Shetland & Tonga, when speaking either of geography or the Dream Island Holiday concept.  Both now come thoroughly recommended, if you are ever thinking about it.

My trip was rather longer than Anita's & as it also involved re-visiting old friends & haunts in England, from a time I used to live & work there & some time in Scotland.  A good friend was getting married, which gave me the push I needed to finally, after 9 1/2 years, go back.   That the wedding was going to be in September was a total bonus for me.  For that meant I could also tick one of the biggest items on my bucket list off - visiting the Shetland Islands & attending Shetland Wool Week.

Shetland is a wondrous place - all windswept hills & vales, sea-scapes & lakes.  And sheep. And wind. It may sound strange, but Shetland seems to make the most of the three dimensional world.  And maybe its all that moisture in the air, but the light is amazing & when the sun comes out, it feels like all the colours of the landscape have just taken steroids.

I don't think I have any photos that really do it justice, so please, feel free to go & check it out for yourselves.

Back to the knitterly aspect though - Shetland Wool Week.  If you've ever attended The Craft Sessions, you'll find Shetland Wool Week a rather bigger cousin.  More than 300 classes & talks to choose from over the week, you can sign up to as many or as little as you want.  I did quite a few - some were knitting related tutorials, others were discussions on various aspects of the Shetland textiles industries.  All were fascinating & I've walked away with a head full of ideas. 

As you probably know, Shetland has a very long history of knitting - Fair Isle colourwork, Shetland Lace have long been sought after items.  Two things we rather love here at The Purl Box, colourwork & lace.  YOu can see I was totally in my element!!

Historically many women of Shetland worked in the knitting industry.  Others have expounded on these topics far better than I can in a quick blog post, including Kate Davies - check out either Haps, Yokes or Colours Of Shetland if you haven't already.

Other than just sharing some holiday snaps, today I'm going to chat about just one aspect of the week I spent there.  During Wool Week, a number of regions within Shetland put on displays of their knitting in their local halls.  And provide Teas ... read an impressive display of cakes that would make any CWA member proud.  Apparently Shetland Teas are rather legendary to the frequent Wool Week flyer.  

I went to one of these knitting displays - at Ollaberry hall in the Northmavine region with a couple of Icelandic ladies, Hjordis & Làra I befriended on the trip.  It was most definitely a highlight of the week.

I'll show you a few pictures,  Please excuse the terrible lighting.  There were dozens of the most impressive array of haps & fine lace shawls I've ever seen.  It was difficult to photograph the entirety of the collection. Or pick a favourite.  Most had a tag on them that indicated who had knit it.  Over 80 or under 18 - it seems everyone in Ollaberry is maakin (knitting) beautiful lace.  Some were displayed on Hap stretchers - which is how they are blocked.  Most are not made from a specific pattern, but designed on the fly, using a range of preferred lace stitch patterns.  I'll need to expound on this at a later stage as its a fascinating & strangely freeing concept.

The best bit of visiting Ollaberry?  It's not a museum.  The lovely ladies directing play said this to us : "Here - you can touch it" . Amazing shawls we could actually touch!!!!

I heart Shetland.


Yep, it gets Windy!!


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