Friday, July 29, 2011

Knitting Mecca

[PhotoFair Isle knitting on display
in the Shetlands]
If I were a knitting fanatic or, I suppose, a serious knitter, or just a good knitter, which I am not, but if I were, then knitting mecca would be the northern Scottish Islands: the Shetland Islands, Fair Island. Think Shetland lace, wedding ring shawls, FairIsle Knitting with multi colours And, of course, knitting meccas need fibre, lots of it, and spinning techniques designed to use the best characteristics inherent in that fibre. So knitters and spinners should head north to those islands.
[PhotoKnitted lace, with wool
 spun thinner than thread]
The Shetland Museum is a modern museum where many objects, too many to display, are also accessible in pull out drawers or pull-out wall displays. The museum, thoughtfully, provides lightweight plastic stools, useful when you just need to sit and gaze in awe for hours at a lace-knit bodice, a FairIsle vest, or try to see the ply in the cobweb yarn.
[PhotoCathy's shawl based on a
design  of a shawl over
100 years old]
We quickly connected with a visiting spinner and weaver from California and joined her in an impromptu textile talk by two of the staff, appropriately sporting FairIsle vests as part of their uniforms.
Cathy show us a lace shawl she knitted for Cushla to wear at her daughter's wedding in New Zealand. See the picture to the right.  Cathy made up the pattern based on a 100 year old shawl on display.  No pattern, she just thought it through.
While in the Orkneys we also stopped in the small textile museum run by the Shetlands Islands Spinners, Weavers and Dyers Guild.  A small museum but someone is always there to demonstrate spinning or knitting or just to chat with you.  They have a small collection of knitting and woven goods on display.  Well worth the visit.
They told us the best quality lace knitting is done by the women of Unst.  So off we went to Unst, one of the smallest and most northerly Shetland Islands.  There we found another small museum with some exquisite knitting on display and for sale but the best pieces knitted with cobweb yarn had already been sold, leaving the very fine lace weight (and I had previously thought that was the finest until I saw the cobweb yarn).  Next door was a wonderful boat museum with a varietuy of small open boats and related gear on show.
[PhotoUnst bus shelter]
While on Unst and having done some advance reading before leaving home, I knew to look for the Unst bus shelter, the most northerly bus shelter in the UK.   Apparently the locals decorate it and each year pick a new theme and given the Tall Ships event in the islands, they picked a pirate theme.  We almost blinked and missed it but here it is.
Only a couple days after we had been, BBC did a 3 minute video on a Day-in-the-Life of the Unst Bus Shelter  The bus shelter even has it's own web site.
There isn't much on Unst but what there is is impressive.


  1. Oh my! They're kindred spirit there in Unst. Islanders and besotted with pirates, they're practically Protection Islanders -- we should be setting up a Sister Island program. . .

  2. Materfsmilias,
    Yes, I felt right at home there.