A Family Wedding

As some of you know, I have a granddaughter called Natasha, or Tash for short.  Yesterday she married her longterm boyfriend, Sean.

The wedding took place in a clearing in a small wood called Happy Valley.  Unfortunately it poured with rain the whole time!

Here are a few photos I took before and after the actual ceremony.

The first three were taken by my son Ben in Kirkwall before we left for Happy Valley.  It was dry then!  The dogs belong to Nick, Tash’s father, and Ben was acting as dog sitter for 24 hours.

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My shawl is the one from my book, Magical Shetland Shawls.  Tash wore another from the same book, the Heirloom shawl.

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Although my son Nick is Tash’s biological father, she was brought up by her mother Rachael and a friend of Nick’, Craig.  So Nick and Craig decided to share the father-of-the-bride duties!  Both gave her away.  Here they are waiting to be called down to the clearing where the ceremony took place.  Tash’s sister Charlotte was in charge of Tash’s train, and with all the rain it had to be held up out of the mud!

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Nick, ever the clown, decided my hat would suit him…

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I had bought a brolly specially for the occasion, and Nick then hijacked that to try to keep Tash dry.

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As they got ready to move off down the path, I got this pic of Tash looking pensive…

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I then went back and sat in the car, as they were using frankincense, which I am allergic to.  (At least I stayed fairly dry!!)

The rain poured down throughout the whole ceremony, and when it was over, people rushed for their cars.  Tash was so wet, however, that she wasn’t bothered.

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(That is mud on the hem of her dress, legs and shoes, not lace!!)

It was lovely to see Tash and Sean so happy.  They are young, but they have been together for at least 5 years, and both know what they are doing.  I am sure they will be happy together.

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And finally, one of more of the kilts….!!

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Kirkwall’s Weeping Window

To mark the start of WW1 an installation of poppies was set up at the Tower of London, with one poppy for every person killed in the war.  This year, smaller installations of some of the poppies are being set up round the UK, and Kirkwall was chosen as one of those sites.  The place was St Magnus Cathedral, right in the centre of town.

The timing was set to coincide with the commemorations of the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the largest sea battle of WW1, at the end of May. Today marks 100 years since the start of the Battle of the Somme, the longest and deadliest of land battles and it seems a good time to to show you ‘The Poppies’.

Installation started in early May, in awful weather.  The poppies are attached to a wire framework on scaffolding.   The ceramic poppy heads are then attached individually.

My first sight of them was in filthy weather!  The wind was preventing the use of the cherry picker to attached the higher poppies, and work on the lower ones had also stopped.

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You can see the gap where poppies still need to be attached.

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I returned a few days later in better weather.  The poppies on the scaffolding had all been placed and work was ongoing on those around the base.

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The display was called The Weeping Window, and started at a small window high on the front of the Cathedral.

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A close-up of the main drift of flowers shows the framework of entangled steel stems.

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Near the base, the frame spreads out to the main door of the Cathedral…..

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…. spilling down the steps ….

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… along the wall and on to the grass of the Kirk Green.

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These two poppies, waiting to be placed, show the ceramic construction of each flower, made at the Wedgewood factory.

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The poppies on the grass were ‘planted’ and then their height was adjusted to fit the overall effect.

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The next day the final finishing touches were being made.

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This last photo is by Tom O’Brien, a staff photographer on the Orcadian newspaper, taken from the roof of one of the buildings opposite the Cathedral.  It shows the completed installation, a moving tribute to those who died on all sides during the Great War.

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(c) Tom O’Brien

My New Wheel – a CPW

For a long time I had thought a CPW would suit me, but the C stands for Canadian, and there are very few of them this side of the Pond.

My feelings were reinforced when I got to have a play with Anna’s wheel in Zurich last October.  I didn’t want to stop.  So when a Ravelry friend spotted a large wheel on ebay I was right there!  The photos were terrible, but I could see that it was indeed a CPW, so I bought it.  It was in Aberdeenshire, and I knew Littlejohn’s would pick it up and bring it home.  They did – and earlier than I expected too.  Which is why I hadn’t cleared the space for it!

So what is a CPW?  The Canadian Production Wheels were made in Quebec, in the eastern side of Canada, from the mid 1800s to about 1940.  They are sloping bed wheels with large wheels (mine is 31″), cast iron parts and ’tilt tension’.  Most have a knob on the flyer end, but this is just decorative and is not there to adjust the tension.  That is done by tilting the mother-of-all towards or away from the wheel.  For much more about the wheels and their history, see Caroline Foty’s ebook, Fabricants de Rouets. (Caroline is fiddletwist on Ravelry and the book is available from her.)

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I knew from the ebay photos that the crank was broken, but I also knew that was no problem living in a rural area where blacksmiths are used to mending things.  My motocross son was able to give me 3 or 4 names, and the first one said they can do it!

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The most obvious ‘problems’ are the least important.  There is a bit out of the wheel itself, and one joint has opened.  Neither will be a problem in use.

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I am not restoring it to its original condition, just cleaning it up and getting it working.  The wheel itself turned easily, but the flyer assembly was seized.  So my first job was to squirt plenty of 3-in-1 oil on to the screws of the tilt tension and the axle of the flyer.  I did this morning and night for a couple of days, and that did the trick.  I was able to move the maidens to get the flyer off, and then to get the whorl and bobbin off.  I cleaned it all, rubbed boiled linseed into the wood, and coated the axle with silicone gun oil and put it back together again.  It has now been sent off to Mike Williams to make a couple of new bobbins for it.

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One more night with the 3-in-1 and I was able to undo the butterfly and bolt that held the mother-of-all (MOA).  There was a fairly recent nail in the assembly.  I suspect it was put there to tighten up the tension at some point.

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There was a lot of gunk between the top and bottom parts of the saddle:

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Once I had removed some of this I was able to remove the MOA, to find even more gunk beneath it!  Many moons ago someone had put a layer of some sort of brown paper right round the MOA.  Some came away at once but some needed another night of 3-in-1 before I could get it all off.

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I then oiled the MOA and have given the leather several coats of leather cleaner to make it less brittle.  It is in good shape and should last me out!

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The main wheel is now ready to be picked up and taken off for the blacksmiths to do their bit.  And I just have to be patient….!

Flotta in June Part 2 – Man Made

This is a collection of photos which can loosely be considered Man’s interaction with the natural world.  I have included farm animals here just to even up the numbers!

Again, no writing, just pictures.

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The WW2 remains on Stanger Head.
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Longhope across the Sound, with Kirk Bay.
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Young cattle who have not yet shed all their winter coats.
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My house from the Little Lingle road.
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The Flotta penguins.  Daddy, Mummy and Baby!
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One of the many lookout posts and gun towers from WW1 and 2.  Looking across to Switha.
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Looking towards Stanger Head from West Hill.
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Mum and baby in the evening light.


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Highland Cow and calf.
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Shetland ewe calling to her lambs….
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… who are busy playing hide and seek (see some others in the long grass?)
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6 of the 10 lambs playing in the reedy grass
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A WW2 building is now part of the Blackback colony’s territory.
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There are the remains of many houses all over the island.
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WW2 remains in the foreground, the Flotta windmill on West Hill behind.
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The Flotta windmill and the hills of Hoy.
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The oil holding tanks across Pan Hope.







Flotta in June Part 1 – The Natural World

I was back home on Flotta for a couple of days last week, and spent some time cruising the island giving my car a run!  I took a lot of photos, and so I have split them into two parts.  These are basically wildlife and the natural world,  The second part will be man made.  Roughly!

So here are some picture.  No writing except the captions.  Enjoy!

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The island of Fara witht the hills of Hoy behind.
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A Bonxie (Artic Skua) at her nest. These seemed far fewer on West Hill than usual this year.
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Cotton Grass


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There were a few late Bluebells on the verges.
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I know these as rock roses, but have no idea what their proer name is!
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Thrift, or Sea Pinks.
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A Cow Parsley head that has survived the winter storms.
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Stanger Head covered in flowers of all sorts.
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Switha from Little Lingle. In the autumn these beaches and rocks are covered in seals.
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The geo to the north side of the path out to the Cletts. The birds nesting are Fulmars.
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The geo to the south side of the path, with one of the rock stacks known as the Cletts. There is a cave right through the rock under the path.
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Fulmar on her nest.
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Blackbacked Gulls making their presence heard!
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The Fulmar on the left had just come back from fishing, and was feeding his mate.
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A screaming mass of Backbacks and Greater Blackbacks.
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From Stanger head looking back over Flotta to Hoy.

Another Dog Blog!

It seems you all like dogs as much as I do!  So by popular demand, some old and new photos…


This one is of Scottie and Ben 8 or 9 years ago!  Scottie came from STECS, the breed rescue society, when he was 18 months old.  When he came to me he had been loved to bits, but fed rather too much.  On our very first walk he laid down at one point and couldn’t continue.  We stopped for a while and finally he got up and carried on!  I had had him for a couple of years when Ben joined us as a 7 months old ruffian.  He was completely untrained and wilful, but soon settled to become a very happy, well behaved dog.

One more of Scottie, in his last year, looking after my granddaughter, Tash.


Ben is still very much about, and living with Steve.  A few weeks ago Nick and I took Ben and Isla to be clippped.  This is the ‘before:


Ben after:


Isla after:


And both of them together on a walk a few days later:


Nick has 2 Boarder Collies.  Bess, here with Ben, is, at 11, getting an old lady.


Wobble, in the background, is 2.  She is from the same breeder as Bess.


When Scottie had to be put down (large abdominal tumour) 2 years ago I had two sisters from STEC.  Meg (at the top of the post) was 12 and Isla 10 going on 10 months!  From the start they loved the freedom of their Flotta life, and spent hours sitting looking out of the gate, watching the world go by!

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Meg had to be put down a year ago (a liver tumour) but Isla is still going strong!  She has adapted to town life pretty well, and she and my son Ben are great friends.  The rougher he is, the more she seems to like it.  The other day he put her in his linen basket.


She buried down in and settled for a sleep.


Isla is a sun worshiper.  In the mornings she lies in my bedroom, which is east facing.  In the afternoon she is in the west-facing sitting room, moving round with the sun!  She loves the days when the back door can be open all day and she can sit outside and get really, really hot!


She is a great companion!

How I Design

People often ask me how I go about the process of designing, so here is an outline of the way I go about things.  Every designer has their own way of working.  Some do it all on the computer, some use notebooks.  Some are completely organised and some are completely disorganised.  I am somewhere in between!


Over the years I have tried using notebooks, but I found I never had them to hand when I had ideas.  So I use paper, mainly scrap A4 sheets printed on one side, which I tear in half.  I also have one of those square paper blocks and use those, and also the back of an envelope if one is beside me.


Rough ideas come first.  I do a lot of the early work in my head, often when walking the dog, so that when I get as far as pencil and paper I usually know fairly clearly what I want.  I play with exact shapes before starting to jot down numbers.


At this point I may start swatching.  Sometimes I already know the yarn and stitch pattern, other times I play.


These swatches are not 10cm x 10cm; that comes later!  I watch for stitch pattern first, then needle size, and only then do I do the ‘proper’ swatch for tension.  Often early swatches are pulled back, and it is only when I am pretty sure I have what I want that I wash and block the swatch to check it IS what I want before knitting the final swatch.


If the item is a large one in a stitch pattern or yarn I am not familiar with, then I do a big swatch.  Which I will later turn into a hat!

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At this point I decide on the size I will be knitting.  Usually it is to fit a 34″ bust if a ladies’ garment or 40″ chest if men’s, but I may use a different size if it is for a specific person.  Where possible I like to knit up one of the sizes in the middle of the range.

Once the sample is knitted, washed and blocked, I do a final measurement check and if necessary adjust the tension before grading (working out the stitch numbers for other sizes).  I have tried using various computer programs for this, but personally I find they don’t give the knitters’ answers, and it is more work getting the computer’s numbers into real numbers than it is to do it by hand.  In addition, the ‘percentage system’ works very well over the middle of the size ranges, but does not work for smaller and larger sizes.


I find working with a calculator and pencil works best for me.  Pencil because you can rub out!  Sometimes this process goes smoothly, but often I find I have to tweak the numbers to make knitting sense for each size.  As I am almost always working with some sort of stitch pattern, I work on pattern repeats, not on set chest sizes.


Some stitch patterns need extra tweaking and again scraps of paper come in handy!

Once I am satisfied all is well, the numbers get put into the pattern, and the design stage is over.

What is left is the paper-based stuff.  The pattern is read and re-read, looking for mistakes and then it goes off to the TE (technical editor) who checks the numbers and suggests changes to wording to make instructions clearer etc.  Photos need to be taken and the words and pictures need to be put on to the final page.  A final check and the new pattern is ready to go.   By this point, I will be well into the next project…!