I can’t remember when I first heard about Shetland Wool Week but each year when I saw reports on various media, it became more and more enticing. It also seemed fraught with difficulties because you need to book your flights and accommodation months before the programme is made available, just before bookings open in May. What if none of the workshops, talks or tours appeal? As it happened, I was encouraged to go for it by Frankie, a friend from Cambridge guild who had worked out the logistics for me and her daughter, Katie. I spent hours researching the tutors, the venues and the bus/ferry services and then had a frantic time online trying to get my chosen workshops before they sold out. I was lucky and got into most of them which resulted in a wonderful 8 days, busy with workshops and talks. The weather was far better than I expected and, although it did rain, I missed most of the showers whilst in classes but enjoyed the magnificent rainbows when I stepped outside!
On my first day I had to be at the bus station by 7.30 to get to the ferry for Whalsay where I spent the morning learning how to knit fair isle using a knitting belt. This was one of my favourite classes. Others included sorting, combing and spinning a Shetland fleece, another on blending coloured fleece and spinning for fair isle, spindle spinning on Bressay and weaving on Yell. I saw Oliver Henry doing his famous wool sorting demo, bought an extra fine moorit fleece from the shop, visited the Shetland Textile Museum and spent several hours in the main Museum. This is where you could spend hours chatting and knitting in The Hub, exploring the museum exhibits or leafing through out- of-print books in the archives. In the evenings there were several interesting talks held in the auditorium at the museum. Frankie was teaching Peruvian knitting on two days and had an interview with the Fruity Knitting podcasters on the Friday morning so she didn’t do so many workshops. On the Saturday morning, Frankie, Katie and I braved the wind and rain to visit the ram sale where Frankie bought two prize fleeces. We then went on to the Makers’ Market where there were no end of tempting stalls selling woollen goods, yarn, fibres and delicious chocolate decorated with Fair Isle patterns.
All the Shetlanders really embrace Wool Week and are so welcoming and keen to please. It was lovely being a part of a community (permanent and temporary) who are so passionate about wool and the associated crafts. Everywhere you went you would see people wearing this year’s Wool Week hat, knitted in their own choice of colours. It was easy to find someone to talk to, sit and knit with and generally feel part of the event. The world map in The Hub showed just how far the participants had travelled – from Tasmania, Hawaii, New Zealand, USA, Canada and Scandinavia – all over the world. I loved watching others knit and the Norwegians and Shetlanders, in particular, were so fast – their fingers making minimal movements to knit fair isle and lace. They took their knitting everywhere with them so they could whip it out at the earliest opportunity to get a few more rows done. Not only were their knitting techniques fascinating, but more often than not, these knitters were dressed in the most unusual, beautiful handknits, often designed by themselves. I found it all so inspiring.
We are a group who enjoy learning and improving our skills and are genuinely interested in sharing these skills with each other and any one who would like to join us.