Working on Westray

06 Westray School needle felting

I spent last weekend in Westray, one of the other Orkney islands. I have a friend who lives there, and she is in charge of setting up courses etc on the island. I was there to run days on needle felting and spinning. Elly came with me. It was the first time she had flown in an Islander, the planes that serve the Outer Isles.

01 plane

Flying through a rainbow!
Flying through a rainbow!

We stayed in the main village, Pierwall.  Elly took the camera out for a wander while I sorted myself out!

Pierowall Hotel
Pierowall Hotel
Pierowall shoreline
Pierowall shoreline

All day Friday was needle felting at the school, with S1 and 2 (about 12 – 14 yrs). There were 11 of them, 5 boys and 6 girls, and they really worked hard.

05 school feltingAs always we started with a flat piece to learn the basic techniques, then moved on to shaped pieces. With Mother’s Day approaching I suggested they might like to make a brooch for their mum. Many took up my idea of a daffodil or a sheep, but others had their own ideas. After lunch we went on to 3D work. By request it was selkies (seals) again! We all made the pipe-cleaner frame together then worked on the padding and felting at our own pace. We used North Ronaldsay fibre for this, which felts so quickly – much faster than merino!! There were some delightful Finished Objects!

06 Westray School needle feltingThe next day was spinning, with adults. Everyone was at a different stage, but I think everyone learnt something from the day. Some were new spinners, others enjoyed trying new fibres. Several spun silk for the first time, and several took their first steps along the ‘art yarn’ route.

08 spinners 207 spinners 109 spinners 3We talked about blending fibre, on both carder and a drum carder, and about preparing fibre for spinning in general. Oh – and we had a gorgeous lunch!

On Sunday evening it was the adults’ turn to try needle felting. People concentrated very hard, and produced some lovely work in just 3 hours.

10 adults felting 111 adults felting 212 adults felting 313 adults felting 414 adults felting 515 Sunday feltingAs it was now 1st March, I had to take a pic of a few daffs we saw….!

16 daffodilsEarlier on the Sunday, Elly and I went to Notland Castle. Built by Gilbert Balfour around 1570, and never finished, this is an impressive ruin standing on rising ground towards the north of the island.

17 Notland Castle19 castle gateway18 drawing of castleThe castle kitchens.  There was a floor half way up and storage space above.

The castle kitchens. There was a floor half way up and storage space above.

The castle ghost - or possibly Elly looking down.
The castle ghost – or possibly Elly looking down.
The one carved detail in the whole building - at the head of main staircase.
The one carved detail in the whole building – at the head of main staircase.

Flotta in January

04 south to north

It has been a miserable month. We expect gales at this time of year, but we do not expect them to be constant for weeks on end without a break. And we do not expect thunder storms day after day. It has also been very wet, leaving the land waterlogged and turning paths into streams.

This dawn was, as it turned out, a Shepherd’s Warning! But it was striking while it lasted.

01 red sky in the morningAt the very end of the month we finally had a glorious day. It was theoretically colder than of late, with thick ice on all the puddles, but because the wind was down it did not feel nearly as cold. So we headed up to Stanger Head for a circular walk in the heather.

Flotta was an important base in both World Wars, and bits of the built heritage survive all over the island. This area was covered in barrack huts in WWII.

02 sun over StangerTurning round, with the low sun to my back, the hills of Hoy were stark against the skyline. Geese are everywhere: some passing through, some deciding the long migration back to the Arctic is too much bother, and staying here to breed. They are a real nuisance, eating the new grass, and later the new crops, and making a mess of grazing land. There are islands close which are reserved for them, but unfortunately they prefer the cultivated land to rough pasture.

03 snow and geeseWe wandered up to the look out. From here you can see across the island from south to north. I am on the eastern hill. To the west, in the distance, is West Hill, the highest point on the island, and between the two hills is the main cultivated area, with the houses and farms. (You can just see the sea on the far right of the photo.)

04 south to northZooming in, to the south you can see more gun emplacements and a lookout post. These were vital in protecting Lyness, on Hoy beyond, which was the main base for the British Fleet in the North Atlantic.

05 Balaclava bayMoving north is Manse Bay, with the old Manse to the right of the photo. Sheep tend to winter out up here, but most of the cattle come in, to save the ground from being churned up.

06 south and turbineNorth again, and the kirk is the large building towards the right. On the far right is Burnside, the group of houses where I live, and the community hall.

07 Kirk and turbineSwinging further round to the east of north, is the lochan that was dug out to hold water in WWII. It is iced over here. My ‘new’ car is on the far left of the photo, mid way up. Being green it hardly shows.

08 towards KirkwallFinally, a closer view of one of the brick chimneys on Stanger Head. These are all that is left of the officers quarters in the barracks. The men had iron stoves in their huts, but the officers had a proper fire!

09 turbine and chimney

Magical Shetland Lace Shawls to Knit

Capture

CaptureDrum roll please…..

I can now tell you about the work I have been doing for most of the last 9 months. A new book, due out in September 2015, of Shetland shawl projects.
Knitting Shetland lace is easier to do than it looks! Relatively few stitch operations are used, and even the most complex-looking patterns have a rhythm to them.

There is much interest in the history of Shetland lace. The book will include a summary of this, pointing out that ‘economic imperative’ has shaped the tradition, and that the story of the lace is intertwined with the sheep and the Shetland way of life.

The book assumes that the knitter knows the basics of knitting lace (directing beginners to The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting), but specific techniques of fine lace knitting and care will be explained in detail. Thus there will be, for example, a detailed discussion on dressing/blocking fine lace. The different shapes of Shetland shawls will be discussed, and each will be accompanied by an apprentice piece (a mini shawl) for practising the techniques involved. And there will be a section on ways to wear your shawls.

Elly with one of the square shawls
Elly with one of the square shawls (a reference shot, not a book one!!)

The projects will cover an increasing order of difficulty in 4 ply/fingering, lace weight and cobweb weight yarns. A heirloom set of shawl, dress, petticoat, bonnet and bootees for babies is included. The shawls have suggestions for other uses – for example a scarf worked in cotton makes a table runner.

There will be a section on mistakes and repairs.

Dropped stitch only noticed when dressing/blocking
Dropped stitch only noticed when dressing/blocking
Mended repair
Mended repair

Throughout, the book aims to give confidence to the knitter so that they can enjoy the process of knitting airy shawls they will love using.

The book contains 15 projects and 5 apprentice pieces. It will be published by Search Press in the UK and St Martins in the USA.

Over the coming weeks I may be letting you see a few more of the projects…!  Here is a bigger section of the petticoat which goes under the heirloom dress.

98 med

Flotta Christmas 2014

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Christmas for the Flotta community arrived on the back of a lorry. As always. And as always people appeared to help as soon as Kenny drove his pick-up into Burnside.

Flotta Christmas  14  001This year, of course, Scottie was not here to supervise them, but Isla took up where he left off.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:12:28 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizePutting up the tree might be the same as most places, but Flotta has its added extras – 8 guy ropes, double pegged, to make sure the tree stays upright whatever the weather throws at it.

PhotoELF Edits:2014:12:28 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeAs always, lots of folk turned out to watch the tree lights being turned on, and to sing carols. The rain kept off for a while, so there was one carol before the lights went on….

Flotta Christmas  14  004… and then the two boys from the school pushed the switch.

Flotta Christmas  14  005Then there was another carol, before folk adjourned to the community hall for refreshments and more carols. (I went back to work – deadlines wait for no man.)

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:12:28 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThe lights go on just before twilight, and off at midnight. The tree is right outside my gate, and means I have no need of my own tree inside.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:12:28 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizePhotoELF Edits: 2014:12:28 --- Save - Overwrite --- resizeWhen I take the dogs out for our last night walk, the lights do look pretty. (The red one is on the hub of the wind turbine on the top of the hill.)

Flotta Christmas  14  009A few days before Christmas we did have a bit of snow. This is Fara and the hills of Hoy taken from down near the pier on Flotta.

Flotta Christmas  14  010The kirk is an important part of Flotta life, and Christine always decorates it to look its best.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:12:28 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeFlotta Christmas  14  012Many of the decorations were made by the children over the years.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:12:28 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThis year we had the addition of Christingles, brought over by Marion for the Carol Service.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:12:28 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeOne of the great traditions is the Watchnight service on Christmas Eve. This starts at 11.30, and ends with the bell being rung at midnight. We then come out of the pews, hold hands in a circle, and sing Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Then we have a party.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:12:28 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeChristmas Day was cold and crisp. It was icy underfoot, but the dogs still enjoyed their morning walk, as did I.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:12:28 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeI hope your Christmas was as enjoyable as mine!

Flotta Christmas  14  017

Christmas at Shearers 2014

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I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, but it has disappeared for some unknown reason.  So here it is again.

It is that time of year again: Christmas at Shearer’s, the family grocer (and more) in Kirkwall. Here are a selection of shots from this year’s display. This time when I was there with my camera the cat was downstairs not by the fire, but I have included him as he is an integral part of the shop.

Remember to look at the top of the pictures, On many of them you can see the old tilly lamps and hurricane lamps they used to sell, along with old biscuit tins and other bits from the last century.

Enjoy!!

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Hector’s Visit to Flotta

RNLI at Flotta 004

When the ladies of the Longhope Lifeboat Guild came over last year raising money for our local lifeboat, I talked about taking Scottie over to meet their mascot, Hector. That never happened. But when I heard they were bringing Hector this year, I knew I had to take Isla and Meg to meet him.

Longhope is on the island of South Walls, next door to Flotta – one I often photograph on dog walks. The lifeboat, the Helen Comrie, is stationed in the village.

RNLI at Flotta 001It is a short passage from Longhope to Flotta’s main pier, and the lifeboat tied up where the ferry comes in.

RNLI at Flotta 002As we walked along the pier, I could see a familiar shape investigating the area. This was Hector, Scottie and mascot.

RNLI at Flotta 003Once my two saw him they wanted to be introduced. Scotties are unusual in that, unlike other dogs, they greet each other by touching noses first…..

RNLI at Flotta 004… before doing the usual dog thing of smelling bums!

PhotoELF Edits:2014:11:24 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeHector wears a dog life jacket, something each lifeboat carries for canine casualties.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:11:24 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeHe is quite used to wearing it, and being picked up by the handle:

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:11:24 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeWhile some of the crew stayed with the boat…..

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:11:24 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resize… the rest of us went back to the hall. My dogs stayed in the car, but Hector came in to join the fun and earn his keep, looking cute.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:11:24 --- Save - Overwrite --- resizeThe pocket on his life jacket really does have a hip flask in it, and by the smell it really does contain brandy!!

PhotoELF Edits:2014:11:24 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; shape; resizeWe tried to get a pic of Hamish with the three boys from the lifeboat, but getting the four of them to stay still wasn’t easy, so the pix aren’t brilliant!!

PhotoELF Edits:2014:11:24 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeGetting Hamish to pose with the RNLI flag was easier. Any Scottie owner will know from the expression that FOOD was being offered…!

PhotoELF Edits:2014:11:24 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThank you to all RNLI Longhope for coming over. I am glad you raised a goodly sum to go towards the sterling work you do.  (Their Facebook page is here.)