Teaching on Papay

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Now that my health doesn’t let me travel much, I am only teaching in Orkney. One invitation I could not turn down was to teach a weekend on the Orkney island of Papa Westray, known locally as Papay.

Papay is one of the northernmost isles of the Orkney group. It is a place I have been to often, and a place I love. It is a peaceful island, with very friendly people, interesting archaeology and beautiful sandy beaches. Oh – and it has its own wool shop!

So I am teaching a weekend of workshops on the theme of Orkney knitting. Here is the poster with the details:

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There are more details, and a chance to ask questions, over on Facebook here.

Papay is easy to get to once you are in Orkney. It is served by the Islander aircraft – small, eight-seater planes, which act like a bus service! The return flight from Kirkwall to Papay costs £21 if you are staying overnight. If you book on the right one, you might even get to travel the world’s shortest time-tabled flight between Papay and Westray! Just 2 minutes. Details of the timetables are here (at the bottom of the page), along with details of how to book.

As for accommodation, Papay has a ‘hostel’ in what was once a line of farm workers’ cottages. The rooms are very well appointed, and there are two well-equipped kitchens. The island shop is also part of the same complex, and it has everything you might need, including both ready meals and local produce should you want to cook ‘properly’. More details, including how to book the hostel, here.

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So what will we be doing in the workshops?

In the Orkney Lace workshop, after seeing some old photos of Orkney lace and talking about its relationship to the Shetland tradition – and others – we will first check that folk comprehend charts, and then we will be knitting a bookmark (or two) using common Orkney lace patterns.

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In the Orkney Fairisle class we will again start with looking at some examples, and talk about the connections with the Fair Isle itself before making a small pouch (or the first of a pair of wristwarmers).

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The project for the gansey class is a pin cushion using Orkney gansey patterns. Again we will look at old photos and talk a bit about the herring industry in Orkney before starting on the project.

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In each workshop, yarn will be provided and students will take home patterns for various items including socks (lace), a hat (colour work) and a cowl (ganseys). There will be an opportunity to visit the Papay wool shop to choose yarns for further projects, so if coming by air, make sure you bring and extra bag, and leave room in your 15 kg luggage allowance for taking yarn back!

It is going to be a wonderful weekend, and I look forward to seeing you there!

Mystery No More!

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The final clues in the Mystery Gansey KAL (knit-a-long) I have been running on Ravelry have been released, so here are some of the photos.

There are two patterns, one for a gansey and one for a throw and cushions. Both use stitch patterns found on ganseys in Orkney photos, most of them from the Orkney Museum and Archive. Some of these stitch patterns can be found in other places, but others I have only seen here.

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The gansey comes from a photo of several seamen on the Forward, registered in Kirkwall. The date of the photo is unknown, but the boat was registered in 1896. It is the gansey worn by the second man from the left.

The pattern includes instructions for knitting the gansey on two needles and in the round, and both methods come in 13 sizes, from 21″ to 69″ chest. The smaller sizes have a smaller version of the pattern, and some of these do not have a gusset.

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One thing about these stitch patterns is that the inside looks as good as the outside, so the gansey can be worn either way out.

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In addition, the construction means that the back and the front are exactly the same, so it can be worn either way round. This has the practical value of evening the wear to places like the elbows.

The other pattern is for a throw made up of 8″/20cm squares, There are 28 squares, each knitted up in a different colour of Frangipani 5 ply wool. Several of these stitch patterns come from the gansey on the right:

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This photo is another from the Orkney Archives and was taken on the Orkney island of Stronsey in the 1920s during the herring season. The gansey, unusual because the pattern across the front is not symmetrical, is worn by a girl known as Jess. (I have the pattern for her gansey here.)

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I blocked each individual square and when I had them all…

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… I arranged them in the order I wanted….

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…before sewing them together.

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Buy the gansey pattern here:

Buy the throw pattern here:

Flotta Yarn Bombing

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The Christmas Eve edition of the Orcadian newspaper contained the following report along with some photos.  I have added some more photos of the things that I took last week.

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Flotta folk woke up Sunday recently to find that yarn bombers had decorated the community tree with red and white crocheted decorations.

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It was first thought that Kenny Gee, who organises the tree for the Community Council, had arranged for the decorations to be put up, but then other red and white knitted and crocheted items were found elsewhere. The wooden ‘men’ in one garden had been given hats, there was a Santa on the kirk steps, and Scandinavian a ‘nisse’ in one porch.

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Later in the day, it was found that the three ‘Flotta penguins’ had also been given hats.

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Knitwear designer and author Elizabeth Lovick, who lives on the island, was asked whether she was responsible. “Knitting is my work, not my hobby,” she replied, “and I am too busy to spend time on fripperies.”

At the time of writing, Flottarians still have not figured out the answer. But they agree that the decorations brighten up the tree.

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Christmas at Shearer’s

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As many of you know, Shearer’s, the traditional grocer in Kirkwall, have a Christmas shop each year.  Nothing different about that – many businesses do.  But Shearer’s Christmas shop is up on the first floor of the original shop where goods left over from the early years of the Twentieth Century are stored.  Original shelving, a clerk’s desk, and an animal feed hopper all feature, and if you look at the upper shelves and beams in many of these pictures you will see bits from a by-gone age.

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As you come up the stairs, a traditional scene greets you.  Often the shop’s cat is curled in the chair beside the (real) coal fire, but not today!  It is only as you start to look more carefully that you see the old radio and the tilly lamps.

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So wander round the shop with me, and see what you see!

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Off the Horns of a Dilemma

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or Why I am NOT taking part in the GAL or Black Friday Sales.

I live in the UK. We have Harvest Festivals in September or October; we do not have Thanksgiving. And therefore we do not have Black Friday.

Until last year.

For the first time last year some places over here, big and small, had Black Friday deals. This year it is even worse, with many catching on to a ‘sales opportunity’.

At the same time, over on Ravelry, there is the GAL – the Gift-Along. Designers are cutting prices by 25% and pushing other people’s patterns all over social media. It only started a few days ago, and I am bored with it already! It is a huge amount of effort, and while it obviously works for some people, it isn’t for me.

I like a bargain as much as the next person, but not at the expense of other people. Maybe the huge stores can afford the drop in profits, but indies can’t.

In the knitting and crochet world, there is more and more pressure to have lots of free patterns. It gives people a chance to see what your patterns are like, ‘they’ say; you will sell more, they say. But it is my experience that things do not work that way.

There are folk who buy patterns, and folk who will only consider free patterns. Very occasionally someone who downloads a free pattern will come back and buy patterns, but the vast majority do not. The two ‘markets’ are different, and as I like to heat my house, I sell my patterns.

There seem to be more an more excuses for having a %off sale. New patterns, old patterns, holiday time (which, incidentally, over here come in July and August), festivals and anything else you can think of. The trouble is, once you start doing this, many folk wait until you have a sale before buying – I know that I wait to get things from companies which do this!

I have 3 main objections to such promotions:

a) As an indi, I do not get a salary from anyone. If I want to eat and run my car I need to get money for my work. Yes, I enjoy my work, but I need to keep the money coming in. The people who buy promotions tend not to come back again at a later date.

b) The people I want to benefit from any sales or specials are those who buy my patterns and books year in, year out. The ones who have loyally followed me and bought my patterns for years (and years and years in some cases!). I am very grateful for their support and like to give them something back.

c) Patterns take a lot of time, effort and money to get out there. If I don’t value my work, and expect to get paid for it, why should anyone else value my work?

Will I loose out on sales if I don’t take part? I don’t know – my Ravelry takings did not drop last year. But if they do, so be it. I will continue to believe in my work, and will continue to give a Thank You to my loyal customers.

So, for all my very-valued long-term customers and friends, here is a piccy of Scottie.  Totally irrelevant, but I love his laid back style.  Taken on one of the beaches on North Ronaldsay a month before he died.

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RNLI Longhope Fundraiser on Flotta

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Longhope is our local lifeboat. I often see the boat in the Longhope harbour when I walk Isla on West Hill. Many of the lifeboat crew – all volunteers – work on the ferry. So it is very much part of our life.

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Every November the Ladies’ Guild come across for a fundraiser. They bring RNLI merchandise, bric-a-brac, a book stall, a raffle and several other ‘games’.

This year they brought Stormy Sam, the RNLI mascot. He greeted us at the door, and was generally available for photo opportunities!

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They also bring Hector, their mascot. And Hector is a Scottie. His owner is Angus Budge, one of the crew who is a scallop diver (more about that later!)

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Hector is used to such events; he has seen it all before. So when no one was looking at him, he took the chance of a quick nap…

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Then I brought Isla. They had met last year, and seemed pleased to see each other!

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The wind was pretty blustery, and it was raining a lot of the time, but we managed to find a dry spell to take some pix of the two Scotties together and various other combinations. Isla was totally uninterested in Sam…..

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… and Hector wasn’t too sure!

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But I did manage to get some nice ones of Angus with Hector and my Flotta friend Celia with Isla.

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I also got some nice ones of the two Scotties with Angus.

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Trying to get both Scotties looking in the same direction without having them walk towards me was not easy!! This is the best of that bunch!

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Remember I said Angus was a scallop diver? Well, one of the raffle prizes was a container of hand-dived scallops, fresh from the Flow.

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And who won them? Well, I did!! And very, very nice they were too…

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They raised £438 on the day, which considering the total population of the island is only about 65 is pretty good. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any piccies of the islanders buying. Next year I will try to remember to do so.

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2016 Flotta Calendar Now Available!

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By popular demand, limited numbers of the 2016 Flotta Calendar are now available for folk who are not lucky enough to live on the island!

The photos are all taken on Flotta, except for June, which was taken on South Ronaldsay looking over to Flotta. There are general views, plus close ups of some of the island’s flora and fauna.  Here are the photos in order:

Sutherland Pier, looking across the island of Fara to the snow-covered hills of Hoy.
Sutherland Pier, looking across the island of Fara to the snow-covered hills of Hoy.
Standing on Stanger Head looking across the main cultivated area of the island to West Hill.
Standing on Stanger Head looking across the main cultivated area of the island to West Hill.
It is an Orkney tradition to plant narcissi and daffodils along road verges. These are at Saraquoy. Burnside, where I live, is in the background.
It is an Orkney tradition to plant narcissi and daffodils along road verges. These are at Saraquoy. Burnside, where I live, is in the background.
The Flotta Penguins. Made by Tam out of bits and pieces, and repainted a couple of years ago by Stewart! They stand looking out towards Fara.
The Flotta Penguins. Made by Tam out of bits and pieces, and repainted a couple of years ago by Stewart! They stand looking out towards Fara.
One of the Robertson's Highlanders!
One of the Robertson’s Highlanders!
Taken from Hoxa Head, South Ronaldsay looking over the Sound of Hoxa to Flotta.
Taken from Hoxa Head, South Ronaldsay looking over the Sound of Hoxa to Flotta.
Big, beautiful thistles growing on the side of the track to the shore near my house.
Big, beautiful thistles growing on the side of the track to the shore near my house.
Buchanan Battery, one of the gun emplacements left from WWII. Looking over Scapa Flow towards Kirkwall.
Buchanan Battery, one of the gun emplacements left from WWII. Looking over Scapa Flow towards Kirkwall.
The semi-wild Rosa rugosa grows well in salty winds. These hips, from my neighbour Heather's garden, were huge!
The semi-wild Rosa rugosa grows well in salty winds. These hips, from my neighbour Heather’s garden, were huge!
Sutherland Pier again, this time looking over to the Orphir Hills on the West Mainland.
Sutherland Pier again, this time looking over to the Orphir Hills on the West Mainland.
The remains of WWII buildings on Stanger Head. The observation tower looked over the Sound of Hoxa, one of the main entrances to Scapa Flow.
The remains of WWII buildings on Stanger Head. The observation tower looked over the Sound of Hoxa, one of the main entrances to Scapa Flow.
In the Kirk after the midnight service, about 1 am on Christmas morning.
In the Kirk after the midnight service, about 1 am on Christmas morning.

The calendar is printed on high quality, fairly stiff glossy paper, which brings out the colour. The photo is 28 by 21 cm (11 by 8 ins) with a month to a view, giving plenty of space for writing in appointments etc each day.

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The cost of the calendar, including postage, is £15 to UK addresses and $25 for all other addresses.  It is available from the Northern Lace Press web site.

http://www.northernlacepress.co.uk/ if the direct link does not work!)