Yesterday I finally got over to Shapinsay. This is a medium-sized island half an hour on the ferry from Kirkwall, home to about 350 people of good farming stock!  Appropriately enough, the ferry is the MV Shapinsay, and she can carry about half a dozen cars:

MV Shapinsay

The only village on the island is called Balfour, the family name of the folk who built Balfour Castle in the mid 1800s, and the island has the advantage of having the pier in the centre of the village.  The Heritage Centre is over the old smithy only 2 minutes walk from the ferry:

Shapinsay Heritage Centre and The Smithy - houses beyond were built for workers on the Balfour estate
Shapinsay Heritage Centre and The Smithy - houses beyond were built for workers on the Balfour estate

Unlike some small island centres, this one was warm and dry, with plenty of light and tables for research.  The photos were well  catalogued, and laminated – very useful for keeping them pristine, but making details difficult to photograph.  No matter, the custodian was extremely helpful and once welcomed I was left to get on with it.

As always, the pix brought up new patterns and confirmed old ideas!  There were several pix of old Orkney wheels, with their common design points, and lots of ganseys.

Spinners will note the different way of holding the fibre and thread
Spinners will note the different way of holding the fibre and thread

Interestingly, there were a lot more plain ganseys here – probably due to the link with the gentry at the castle.  Those with stitch pattern often showed similar pattern characteristics, like plain sleeves.

On the lace front, there were some interesting head haps, like this one which doesn’t have the usual Old Shale border but an eyelet pattern:

Orkney hap

There was more evidence of the large trees in a christening shawl, which also had an interesting lace.  I THINK I have enough detail to chart both.

Shapinsay christening shawl

I must also mention two wonderful models made by the school children a good while ago.  Once was a model of Scar Brae, the neolithic village on Mainland; the other an iron-age Broch on Shapinsay:

model of Burroughston Broch


6 thoughts on “Shapinsay

  1. Your writings are always so interesting…I always disliked history even thru college; however, the history in your writings is always so well written and very interesting.

    Thank you Liz for all the effort and work that you share with us.


    1. Thanks Lora. I hated history at school – all those dates – but I have always been interested in social history. I find that fascinating, especially the women and fibre bits…. Orcadians have never been ones to blow their own trumpet, and seem amused that anyone is interested in what to them is ‘just my work’.


  2. Thank you for sharing! I love to see the old pictures and information about the islands. Isn’t the knitting beautiful!

    1. There was some beautiful knitting! One jacket on a woman in the 1930s could have come right off this years
      ‘s catwalks – very pale with a darker edge, probably crochetted on; very fitted at the waist and narrow sleeved… Very similar to one I am doing for a commission in fact!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s