hermaness worsted

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we have been suffering from a usual Shetland summer this year for example today pretty much the rest of the UK is going through a heat wave and in Shetland its 14 degrees and raining.. pretty poor to be honest but sometimes, and quite a a lot recently the days have been crap but the nights have been quite nice and last night was one of those nights.

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Since I came back from Iceland I have had a lack of knitting mojo, it think it was over-stimulation! I came back with too many ideas and too many things I wanted to make. I needed something simple and quick, then I saw Karens post about the Fringe Hatalong. The pattern is a worsted weight version of Hermaness, one of Gudrun’s pattern from her book that was released last year.

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The pattern requires one ball of Shelter, I have a few of those lying around..! So I thought I’d give it a go, I still have my jumper weight version on the needles, which I really want to finish.. but for now this was a quick and easy project.

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I used 3.5mm needles for the rib and 4.5 for the main pattern. Since I am over half way through my jumper weight version of the original pattern I caught on again to the pattern repeat pretty quickly so I got the hat worked up over a couple of nights (while I binge watched Orange is the New Black!!) I was disappointed with how much it stretched when I washed it so if I was to make another I might go down a needle size and maybe two for the rib! Its ok as it is a slouchy hat but if it had been more of a beret I would have been disappointed.

Collage The Shelter was lovely to knit with, it has a very odd texture to me, although its 100% wool it nearly feels like chenille or something? Its very loosely spun so it must be all the air making it feel squishy. If you look hard enough on Raverly there are people complaining about how easily it breaks, I don’t find it to be too bad and I think the colour of the yarn makes up for it. They are very complex and dyed in the wool so you get lovely flashes of other colours. I used Hayloft which is a lovely bright orangey yellow. The hat should take one ball but I had used a tiny bit of this ball so I ran out near the end and couldn’t do all the knit rounds between the decreasing or the I-cord bind off.

Thanks to my mam for taking the pictures of me in the hat, I totally turned our walk into a photo-shoot..!

If you would like to knit your own hermaness hat you can download the pattern via Karen’s blog and if you do, remember to use the hashtag #fringehatalong on instagram!

yell and the old haa

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I mentioned in my last post that me and my dad were going up to Yell to set up a small joint exhibition in the Old Haa museum in Yell. Well on Sunday we did that but a few weeks ago we also went up for some inspiration, I thought I’d share some photos from both those trips. Yell is one of the northern isles of Shetland and where my Granny and Grandad on my Mams side are from. Although they left Yell for Ollaberry in the mid 1960’s it still feels like a family place to me.

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Yell is quite a big island (the second largest after the mainland) and some parts are quite empty with concentrated groups of villages, the land goes from peat covered to green and lush from one mile to the next. This large expanses of land also means of course: lots of sheep, and quite a lot of nice coloured sheep too.

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The weather on both days me and dad were up was typical Shetland summer days, rain one minute and sun the next. We got caught in a few showers but when it was sunny it was lovely. There are quite a few abandoned bulidings and crofthouses in Yell as there is everywhere in Shetland but as you know I love any crofthouse, derelict or otherwise as I use them for inspirations for my cushions!

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So, the purpose of our visit on Sunday was to set up the exhibition, my Dad for those who don’t know is a local cartoonist and artist in Shetland, he is best known for his cartoons which he does every week in the local paper (for the past 25+ years!) and he also sells his cartoons at Craft Fairs and the like in Shetland. Although of course I am biased he is really very funny but also very talented and his ‘serious’ pictures are just as good as his cartoons.

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I think my cushions and his pictures go very well together! The exhibition is located in the small gallery room in the Old Haa, a museum located in Burravoe in Yell, it houses a lot of local history about Yell from its nature and geology to the experiences of Yell men going to the whaling and the war. It also has a tea room, with very nice cakes (I can confirm this) For more information about the Old Haa see here.

The exhibition runs until the 12th of July so if you happen to be in Yell, go for a look!

Iceland – the textile museum

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I was really interested in visiting the Textile Museum located in Blönduós, you might know that I am a trustee of the Shetland Textile Museum (see the shiny new website here) so I am always interested in seeing small local museums.. especially if textiles are involved.

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As you probably know if you are as interested/obsessed about Iceland as me the typical Iceland Jumper – the Lopapeysa is a relatively new invention and really took off thanks to the tourist industry, much like a Fair Isle yoke – but the Textile Museum concentrates on Textiles that date from before this time. Helene Magnusson, who ran the tour I was on, has a beautiful book ‘Icelandic Handknits‘ which is all patterns inspired by items in the collection.

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Quite a large part of the museum is dedicated to Halldóra Bjarnadóttir who was a very important person in Icelandic Textiles, you can read more about her here. Many of the items were either knit by her or were in her collection, she had a huge interest in knitting and weaving but also the traditional Icelandic national costume. Quite a lot of the pieces had echoes and similarities to Shetland knitting, especially the lace. Which made me feel nice, I don’t know why..

IMG_5596 IMG_5600 IMG_5602One of the things I found most interesting was the shoe inserts, Helene has done a lot of research into this little knitted objects and another one of her books (see here) is devoted to patterns inspired by this type of knitting. This inserts were knit using garter stitch and intarsia and were designed to go into the traditional fish skin shoes. Something about them just made you really want to have a pair!

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We arrived before the museum had officially opened for the summer season so not all of the exhibitions were up yet but there was also a room filled with embroidery work which was very beautiful. I did quite a bit of embroidery at college but since I am neither patient nor neat I never got that far…

IMG_5604 IMG_5605We also visited the former Womens College which is next door to the Textile Museum. It is now a research centre where people can stay and do residencies and research. As I am a toonie I never had to stay at a hostel for school but it kind of reminded me of the Janet Courtney Hostel in Lerwick were students from outlying islands come to stay through the week for school. It was a bit old school in the decorations though compared to that, just look at the wallpaper in some of the bedrooms!

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Anyway, while we were there we met with the two ladies there that were doing a textile residency, one of them Amanda had actually commented on one of my photos on Instagram a few weeks before I went so it was so nice to meet her. She is a weaver (and knitter too, I’m sure she was wearing an Acer cardigan..) so she showed us some of the things she’d been working on. They had a beautiful weaving room upstairs full of old looms. Now I also did weaving at college and my earlier mentioned personality traits (lace of patience and neatness) also meant I was crap at it but I can appreciate a room full of wooden looms. Even I could have woven there.

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One of my besties (and weaver extraordinaire) Amy Gair would have LOVED it, it was very peaceful and quiet, I loved the window Amanda had a little desk set up with all her lopi and pencils ready for inspiration

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While I’m speaking about people I met on Instagram I also have to mention my friend Lara! She bought a cushion from me a while ago and since then we have kept in touch, she is interested in Shetland and me Iceland so obviously we are a perfect match. Luckily we were able to spend most of a day together on my last full day in Reykjavik and she took me to the National Museum, back to Alafoss to buy wool and we also went to a house museum park type thing that was closed but we had a nice wander around! I was really touched that Lara brought a present she made for me, these beautiful mittens:

IMG_5704 I also took a photo of Lara in her recently finished Gamaldags Cardigan, a design by Helene! circles and roundabouts folks..

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Thank you Lara :)

Although I still have a gabillion photos from Iceland this will probably be the last post about my trip, well I might do more at some point but I need to get back into the present..! On Sunday I am heading up to Yell to set up my first joint exhibition with my Dad who is a local artist. Ill be back next week to tell you more.. til then, have a nice weekend and happy knitting xx

Iceland – glaumbær and the fish tannery

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Hello, today I am back with more photos from my trip to Iceland, this time some pictures from the Glaumbaer Turf House and Folk Museum and the Fish Tannery – very different from each other but very interesting! We first visited the Turf house with its adjacent folk museum, these wood-fronted turf-walled and turf-roofed dwellings were inhabited until 1947. Iceland, much like Shetland is pretty tree-less so these buildings were an answer to the lack of wood available. Many aspects of the house are wood but the roof and walls are all made from turf and turf bricks.

col1Some of the front rooms were quite basic and sparsely decorated, with the open turf walls but other rooms were pretty fancy and you forgot the walls were made from earth!

IMG_5555 IMG_5557 Adjacent to the turf house is a lovely tea room and folk museum, filled with items from the last century or so. The house was moved to the site in 1991 as an example of the kind of house that came after the Turf houses. The house is typical of that of a rural Icelander of the time and it was a very sweet building, I loved the blues and greens that were everywhere.

IMG_5575col2IMG_5573 IMG_5572 IMG_5565 There was even an old knitting machine!

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After we had been to the museum we headed further north to go to the Fish Tannery in Sauðárkrókur. It is the only tannery in Europe that makes fish leather.. yes fish leather, its a thing! (these photos are of animal skins, if you are offended.. sorry!)

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My friend Vivian has done a lot of work with fish skins so I knew it was something that could be done but I was amazed at all the different things they can do with it! As well as working with fish they also make more traditional animal skin products from sheep, horses and cows.

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I’m afraid, well maybe not – I’m allowed my own opinions after all, I really quite like sheepskins and stuff.. not like mink coats or anything but these products which are by-products in fact, of the food industry are lovely. At the end of the day, these animals are raised for meat and if someone can get warmth from the skin which would otherwise be destroyed.. why not? spoken like a true granddaughter of a crofter!

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We were shown around the tannery by one of the ladies who worked in the family business and she showed us all aspects of the process.

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There were huge vats full of water and fish skin which had just come from presumably wherever they used the meat (meat? is that the right word for fish?) for the food industry.

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As we were going around I was thinking that surely you would have to sew together lots of fish to get a big enough piece to do anything with but I was amazed how much the fish skin stretched when it was cured – Amazing!

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The products made from the fish skins are extremely high end and the company travels to many places in the year like Japan and Milan to trade shows to gain contracts for the big fashion houses.

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I thought it was really brilliant what they were doing. The tannery was located in a small fishing town and its great that this unusual technique is happening right there and ending up on the catwalk!

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She also showed us upstairs in their sample room some other examples of things which could be made from animal skin, like polar bears, artic foxes and even a cat! I refrained from taking a picture of that.. I know there is a lot of cat lovers around..!

next time.. the textile museum!

xx

Iceland – istex factory

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Hello, I’m not intentionally dragging out my Iceland posts for dramatic effect, things have been so busy this week but today I am back with some pictures from one of my favourite parts about my trip, the Istex yarn factory! I have a very healthy *ahem* stash of Icelandic yarn so I was really looking forward to seeing where it was produced.

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The factory is just outside Reykjavik and it is where they spin and dye the wool. It is washed in a different part of Iceland, in Blönduós – a town in the north which we also visited and is home to the textile museum.. (can you smell another blog post on the horizon?) Icelandic wool is made of up two types of fibre: a finer,softer inner and a stronger,glossy outer. These two aspects together create a warm, water repellent and windproof yarn which is perfect for Icelandic (and Shetland..) weather.

IMG_5656 As you know, I work for a yarn company (Jamieson & Smith) so as you can imagine, any thing related to wool or wool production I find really interesting. At Jamieson & Smith the yarn is spun and dyed down south so I don’t get to see any of this part. We deal with the raw wool in the wool store and then the finished products in the shop. The factory was smaller than I imagined which I think is quite common for this kind of industry, wool and yarn is such a niche market that we seem to manage to do the work with less staff and space as people would think. (not that the factory was tiny or anything, its just when you know how far reaching a yarn brand is, its always surprising how few people are really involved)

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The washed wool arrives at the factory in bales and then it is spun and dyed from there. The factory was a hub of activity and it was brilliant to see all the wool at its different stages from airing, blending, dyeing, carding, spinning, balling to finished yarn.

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We were shown around the factory by Hulda Hákonardóttir who is the marketing manager for Istex, she told us how the Istex brand was formed after the wool crisis in the 1980s and 4 (of 5..not sure) members of staff joined together to purchase the factory after the bankruptcy of the former company. This was interesting to me as I know we struggled in the 1980s and 1990s in Shetland with the price and value of wool.. Well J&S did, others not so much. Anyway, the company has gone on from strength to strength and now has a staff of about 40 making the yarn, from einband (lace weight) up to bulky.

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I was pleasantly surprised with some of the similarities I found between my work and that of this worldwide brand. They even handmade their shade cards there in the factory, one of my least fave jobs to do..

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I think it is really good how forward thinking they are and Hulda told us about the new Lopi 34 book (of course already purchased..) It is made up of vintage patterns redesigned for a more modern audience. This is the kind of things that keep classic Yarn company’s moving and not being left behind. There is a place for more rustic yarns (read scratchy) and honestly you can train yourself to wear them. I will always support these kind of company’s because they are honest about what they are doing.

Next up! the turf house and folk museum and the fish tannery..!!

(also: I’ve added some more piece to my knitwear collection blog, including a few pieces I bought in Reykjavik)

iceland – goats at haafell

Hello, I’m sorry for the delay in posting more about my trip to Iceland. Getting back to normal has taken me longer than anticipated and I have had lots to do since I got back!! I thought I’d share some pictures today from the Goat Farm we visited in Haafell in the Borgarfjörður region. IMG_5510IMG_5528

We visited the farm on our first day on the way to our guesthouse. I don’t know a whole lot about goats as we don’t have many in Shetland but they were extremely cute, we were able to see a lot of the newborn baby goats which lets face it is always a good thing.

my favourite baby goat!

my favourite baby goat!

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This farm holds a significant population of the Icelandic goat and the family-run farm strives to further and strengthen the breed. The farm was close to closing in the past couple of years but thanks to a crowd funding campaign which had donations from all over the word (you can see the facebook page here) the farm was able to stay open. One of the things that has helped the farm gain attention is that some of these goats were featured in Game of Thrones (I tried to watch it, too gory for me!)

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Inside the shed with the mam’s and baby goats there were a few other animals as well, including some new born kittens and rabbits (very like my own rabbit from my childhood, Beano flashbacks!)

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We were really lucky with the weather on the first day, it was really nice and sunny which made visiting the goats outside much nicer, you could tell they were enjoying the sun as much as us. The guy that was driving our bus said to me about the weather ‘its not always like this you know’ when I mentioned I was from Shetland he came back with ‘Oh so you know the situation then!’ which made me lol.

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note the adopted goat to the left, a sheep brought up as a goat!

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I really enjoyed visiting the goat farm, I don’t know much about them as I said but I was amazed at how friendly they were compared to sheep, in Shetland and in Iceland most of the sheep you meet are pretty scared of you and run away as soon as you come near but the goats just sidled up next to you and waited to be clapped!

me cuddling a goat. As you do.

me cuddling a goat. As you do.

The website for the goat farm is here and this is a lovely article with some great photos from when the farm was feared to close.

Speak soon!

iceland: part 1

So I am back from Iceland! I had a brilliant time and took far too many photos, I thought instead of bombarding you with hundreds of pictures I might do a general post today with some photos from my trip and then do some specific posts about places we went. I began my trip with a few days with Kate (and Tom and Bruce of course) we went for a lovely walk (to the tree!!) and it was great to see Kate!

PicMonkey Collage IMG_5432I flew from Edinburgh to Keflavick and joined up with Helene Magnusson’s Spring Knitting Retreat holiday, we did a lot of travelling around the west side of Iceland and these are a few pictures of some of the things we saw:

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Hallgrimskirkja

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baby icelandic lamb

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naturally dyed yarns at Hespa

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Helene’s yarns

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IMG_5478PicMonkey Collage3I’ll be back soon with more specific posts the places we visited including the Textile Museum, the Istex Yarn Factory and even a Fish Tannery…! til then speak soon and happy knitting!

Ella x