Monday, October 6, 2014

Textile collection, Shetland Museum

One of our tour activities was visiting the Shetland museum with its textile curator, Dr. Carol Christiansen. Her interpretation of the textile collection really brought to life all the beautiful specimens on display. I took a million mediocre "interior light" photos, but hopefully they still give you a sense of just how beautiful and wide-ranging their textile collection is.

Here Dr. Christiansen is telling us about Gunnister Man, a mystery man who lived 300 years ago. His remains were found preserved in peat in 1951. The museum has recreated the clothing and other possessions found with the body. It was fascinating to hear about the theories of who this person was based on the clothing he wore. There is an interesting article on the Shetland Times website if you want to learn more about what may have happened to him.

A fisherman's kep (cap)

Exquisite Shetland lace

The museum has several pull-out drawers and panels that protect more delicate pieces from light. The lace piece seen here was truly breath-taking.

Here Dr. Christiansen is pointing out pieces that mostly feature muted, "natural" colours. They were some of my favourite pieces in the collection.

This text panel features a funny photo of staff working for a wool-garment manufacturer, modelling a comical array of garments (most likely for promotional purposes). Note the floor-to-ceiling stacks of hap shawls in the background!

I like the shaggy top of this hat. The yarns were dyed with natural materials.

A fancy hap

As a special treat, we also got to "visit" with pieces that are not currently displayed, and even got to handle them (after washing our hands of course!). It was lovely to be able to inspect these beautiful items up-close. My favourite part was studying the insides of garments. So neat to see the different finishing techniques!

A rustic, workaday hap

A fair-isle jumper featuring a mix of Shetland and rayon yarn

A Shetland lace cardi "modernized" with a zipper



The narrow strips were probably pattern samplers

A visit to this museum is a must when in Shetland! Not only for fibre enthusiasts, but for anyone interested in Shetland's history and culture. Speaking as someone who works for a museum and visits lots of them, I can say that the collections and interpretation are of extremely high quality! Thank you Gudrun and Mary-Jane for giving us such an opportunity to explore the Shetland Museum's treasures!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rambling around Burrastow

The walking trails around Burrastow House where we were staying were phenomenal. Just outside our door were spectacular views of sheep-dotted fields criss-crossed with beautiful stone walls. Breath-taking cliffs that tower over the wild ocean. Hills covered with just-blooming heather and other wildflowers. Sweet and shy Shetland ponies...

It's easy to see how Shetland artists and artisands are inspired by their stunning surroundings.

Ooh I could live here! Can't wait to come back.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Therapeutic knitting...

Ugghhhh.... I have the worst cold ever.

But I'm finding much comfort in gallons of chamomille tea (with honey), and addictive little honeycombs...

The early start of a very sweet beekeeper's quilt.

I love diving into my (vast) collection of sun-bleached and speckled kpppm. Very soothing. Hope you find sweetness too in this start of autumn. I'll be back soon with more from my dreamy trip.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shetland Designer

One of the best things about doing a knitting tour with Gudrun and Mary Jane was that they had arranged for us to meet with and learn from some of Shetland's most talented knitters.

One such lady is Wilma Malcolmson, owner of The Shetland Designer . We visited her shop and studio and got to speak with her about her design process, as well as drool over some of the most beautiful Fair-Isle knitting I've ever seen.

Here's Wilma explaining where she gets her colour inspiration. In this case it was a photo of old painted barrels.

All these swatches were knit with the same yarn. So fascinating to see the difference depending on what yarns were used for the foreground and background motifs.

Here, Wilma showed us swatches she worked up for the Shetland Museum. The staff that greet visitors wear beautiful Fair-Isle vests designed by Wilma.

If you ever find yourself in Shetland, you must visit Wilma's shop and studio. As you can imagine, we all left with lighter wallets and lovely woolens. I'll try and take some good photos of the goodies I brought back to show you in another post.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Shetland, land of wooly goodness!

Today, I want to show you a few of the wonderful sheep-related activities we got to experience on the trip.
Shetland sheep. They're small, hardy, cute, and everywhere!

The majority of the fleeces from the sheep we saw grazing all over the island go to one place: Jamieson and Smith Shetland Wool Brokers. We had the great privilege of visiting with Oliver Henry, J&S's master "wool man".

Oliver Henry hard at work

Several people referred to Oliver as the "high priest of wool" and that's pretty much what he is. For over 45 years, his eagle-eye and deft hand have been sorting and grading fleeces for colour and quality.

Raw fleeces

Child's Fair-Isle jumper knit with natural Shetland colours
Oliver explained to us the special properties of Shetland fleece. It's very fine and soft and comes in a great variety of colours. Many of the colours have Shetland dialect names:  light grey, grey, white, emsket (dusky bluish-grey), musket (light greyish-brown), shaela (dark steely-grey), black, fawn, moorit (reddish brown), mioget (honey-toned, yellowish-brown), and dark brown.

Pat listening attentively to the master

It was wonderful to hear Oliver speak. He's a man clearly in love with what he does, with an impressive mastery of his craft (this would be a defining characteristic of so many of the Shetlanders we met all week long).

Next, we visited a croft (a small farm), and got to see some pretty impressing hand-shearing. Here's Ronnie, the crofter, skillfully ridding the sheep of its warm coat. I was struck by how swiftly and gently he handled the sheep. This man knows what he's doing!

Mary Jane was the only one of us brave enough to try her hand at shearing. Way to go Mary Jane!

After all that hard work, we headed back to the family house to have a delicious lunch of soup and bannock (a Scottish version of scones). We all fell hard for the resident cutie, Rowan. And we got to buy some of Ronnie's lovely organic yarn.

Of all the things I loved about Shetland, the warmth and generosity of the people is what left the biggest impression on me.

I have many many more wooly things to tell you about, but I think this post is long enough... Next time, I'll show you all the amazing things that people make with beautiful Shetland wool.