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Shetland Wool Week Adventure

So. I went to Shetland Wool Week this year. Wow. It´s been over a month now and I still can´t believe I really were there. It was such an experience in so many ways. I went with my knitting friend Marie, the perfect woolly companion, since she has a lifetime´s experience of all sorts of textile crafts. While we were there, we also met up with Anna, who runs the exquisite yarn shop 60 Garner Nord in Gothenburg. She only carries Shetland yarn from Jamieson & Smith. Imagine that!

Me, Marie and Anna

Of course I had knitted a Wool Week cardigan (had to have an equivalent to the Rhinebeck sweater, don´t you think?), the Cockatoo Brae by Kate Davies. I practically lived in it the whole week, although we didn´t really need warm clothes or jackets at all. I think we accidentally caught all of Shetland´s sunny days for this year, and it was really warm the whole week.

So, what did we actually do? First and foremost, we met other knitters. At the hub in Shetland Museum and Archives, on the streets of Lerwick, in the yarn shops, in classes and on tours. People were flying in from all over the world, and I was amazed at how many participants there were; I think 700 were registered on the second day of the week.


Commercial Street in Lerwick, home of some really nice yarn shops

Secondly, we tried to soak up as much knitting tradition as we could. The history of Shetland knitting and the industry it once was (and still is) is fascinating. I loved to listen to the skilled and experienced people that we got to meet. I took a class in spinning with Elizabeth Johnston, a very well-known expert in hand spinning. I got to try some raw Shetland wool for the first time, and I noticed that there can be quite some difference between fleeces, although it´s the same breed. I wanted to try to learn something new to me: to spin with long draw. I vividly recall Elizabeth´s reply when I declared that I wanted to learn long draw: “That is hard, very hard to learn”, she said and peered at me over her glasses, clearly inspecting if I was up to it. Well, she did willingly teach me, and at the end of the session, I think I at least grasped the basics. I learned to prepare the fleece before carding – I had chosen a double coat and I had to remove the bottom layer of wool before carding. Then to prepare a rolag. That was fun, and I have got the hang of it now, practising with my own wool. After that on to the actual spinning. Letting twist into the wool was a bit scary at first, but as soon as I learned how to regulate it with my left hand on the strand, and slowly feeding wool from the rolag from my right hand, it became easier. All in all, I think I really took a step forward as a spinner during that class and I am very happy that I enrolled.

My first real attempt at long draw

The knitwear we spotted everywhere was truly inspiring and I was fascinated by the fact that it really is a common thing in the Shetlands. Everyone wears their fair isle jumpers and cardigans, in stunning colours and patterns. Of course this led to a somewhat extensive wool haul (but I was prepared with an extra backpack to carry home yarn in!).

Fair Isle jumpers on blocking boards

Some lace knitting samples

All of the official Wool Week hats

Uradale Yarn

So many good things to experience, and still much more left for another year. I will definitely go back again and next time I want to see more of the nature, that was quite dramatic.

On the coast of the island Bressay

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