Last Post of the J&S Tour!

Friday was again spent based at the J&S shop, and again in our two groups.  Hazel Tindall was teaching Fair Isle to both groups, and in the morning the spinners had an extra class with Margaret Peterson.

An awful lot of spinners have never worked with good, raw fleece – and when they do it is a revelation!  Margaret raided Oliver’s store for some lovely white Shetland fleece, and showed people how to prepare it for spinning.

She then showed how to spin for a fine yarn suitable for knitting lace.  Everyone was surprised how easy it was to spin a beautiful thread given the right fleece prepared well.  So Oliver sold more fine fleece…

Meanwhile, Hazel was taking the first Fair Isle class.  As usual she brought along a selection of the garments she had made, and as usual she spent a lot of time answering questions about exactly how she does things, both in the knitting and the finishing.

In the afternoon, the non-spinners had free time while the spinners took the Fair Isle class with Hazel.  For some folk it was a case of honing their skills and for others it was their first time doing stranded knitting.  Everyone took away new knowledge!

Our final evening meal was taken at the Golden Coach Chinese restaurant.  Both the service and the food were excellent – only the rain prevented the evening from being perfect!  But it did mean folk went back to their accommodation quickly afterwards to pack.  It isn’t easy to get all that fibre into an already-full suitcase…!

The boat didn’t leave until Saturday evening, and we spent the day on a coach trip to the south of the island, with archaeology and retail therapy sharing top billing!  Getting all the luggage into the coach was the first challenge – but we made it!  We then went to Clickamin Broch so that people would know a little of what a broch looked like before Old Scatness.  Unfortunately as soon as we left the coach the rain started, so only the few made it along the path into the loch to clamber about through the passages and between the walls.  Those that did brave the weather got a good idea about the way a broch and its outside houses worked.

Next stop was at the Shetland Collection, the workshop of Wilma Malcomson.  People loved her use of colours, and many garments were tried on and bought, tams and gloves being particularly popular – I wonder why?!

We had lunch at the Hoswick Visitor’s Centre, where there is an interesting display of weaving paraphernalia and general knitting bits and pieces.  While we were parked there, some people also went down to the beach to experience the wind and waves at close quarters while others went along to Niela’s shop.  I first met Niela through a mutual friend about 5 years ago when she was at Shetland College doing textile design, and it was a good opportunity for people to see some of the modern work being done in the county.

Her garments, under the brand name NielaNell, combine interesting textures with interesting shapes, and she specialises in things which can be worn in several ways.

Once more the purses were out.  I bought a lovely shawl pin in the hope that one day I might actually get a chance to wear such a thing…!

Next it was on to Old Scatness.  This site was exposed during the building of the runway extension at the airport.  As you stand on the site you can see where the road crosses the runway (yes – the road crossing the runway!!) and the red lights flashing when a plane is due.

The weather was still foul, and only the hardy made it right round the site.  This was a shame as it is a fascinating place which was in use over hundreds of years.  There are houses inside houses inside houses in places, and also evidence of metal working and textile production.  They have made replica spindle whorls from the same soapstone that was used there a thousand years ago, and these spin really well.

Several replica houses are either finished or in the process of being built as the money becomes available.  In one an iron age kiln has been made and is fired on special occasions.

Another is finished, complete with roof, and the peat fire was burning giving a cosy space out of the wind and rain.  Oil lamps were the only lighting, and one could easily imagine what it was like trying to spin or weave in such a space.

Next it was up to Sumburgh Head.  Fortunately the rain had stopped, and now there was just a strong-ish wind.  Most people got out of the bus for a minute or two, and the hardy (or fool hardy!!) walked right up to the highest point.

The puffins had gone, but there was the odd bird here, including a fulmar chick.

Our final stop was the Sumburgh Hotel for refreshments and the chance to go round Jarlshof, a site which has 13 different levels of occupation from about 4,000 BC to the mid 1500s AD.  The bar was warm…

While we were there I was given a lovely ‘card’ by the group – a cartoon about 10 ins x 8 ins drawn by Frans Tegeal.  It says it all!

Then back to the ferry terminal, where I did my last sheep-herding job, getting them all on the boat to Aberdeen!  I can’t get back to Orkney until tomorrow (Monday).  I am staying the weekend with an American friend who has spent the last couple of weeks on the Fair Isle.  The rain has stopped, the sun is almost out…  It is quiet….  Tomorrow I go down to J&S in the morning to sort out the final admin bits and pieces, and then to lunch with Margaret Peterson (yep – the Golden Coach again!) before heading home.

It will be strange to be in a house by myself after the past two and a half weeks with lots of people about….


14 thoughts on “Last Post of the J&S Tour!

  1. Thank you for sharing your Shetland trip with us – it looked absolutely great. I have just ordered a book by Carol Rasmussen Noble and Margaret Petersen about Lace shawls. I imagine that Margaret would be the same lady you mention in today’s piece?

  2. I’m so pleased that the whole trip went well and everyone seems to have had an amazing time. It was lovely recognising some of the faces from Knit Camp.

    It has been lovely following it – almost like doing my own ‘virtual tour’, and after sharing the highlights with my DH for the past week, it now looks as if we’re going to be heading up your way and doing one of your wonderful tours/holidays in 2011 Liz!

  3. This looks fabulous. I met some of your group at Knit Camp, and it’s amazing to think they (and you) are still going strong with the textile tour! So jealous ; D

  4. Thank you so much for the information and pictures from your time in Shetland with the group – so envious may have to seriously think about coming over. If only I did not have to fly!!!

  5. Great post Liz – I so wish I could have been there! I visited the Glenelg brochs (West coast of Scotland) many years ago. Awesomely remote spots and so evocative of eons past.

  6. We have been discussing what we would like to do on our next holiday, having looked at the ‘Sheep of Knit Camp’ I am going to suggest this to Steve! We need to see Shetland, people, sheep, fleece in the flesh! I am going to start a Fund For Shetland pot right away! Don’t care about the weather, there’s so much more than that! Looks as though you all had a wonderful time!

  7. I gave a couple of those soapstone-whorl spindles I bought form the adorable Viking re-enactor on Unst in ’06, and one of his hand-carved oil lamps, too. The pics are making me feel so homesick! I hope I can afford to come back someday soon.

    1. I guessed as much….! I have some lovely pix of you with those Vikings..

      They are in the processs of doing thnigs at the boaty – making a car park and stuff. The boat itself looked tired – it needs a bit of TLC. No doubt once the works have finished it will look good again.


  8. Wow wow WOW! Fantastically energetic post! LOVE the photos and wonderful descriptions of the time you spent on this trip! What a wonderful place – I hope I can be there one day!!!

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