One last chance to buy more Shetland wool

Day 5

Plan: Return to Lerwick to drop off rental car. Do last minute shopping before catching  ferry to Aberdeen at 5:30pm .

Leaving Muckle Roe It’s our last day in Shetland. We woke up to the cries of a lost lamb outside our window. Nobody seemed too concerned, including the mother who didn’t seem in much of a hurry to find him. After our traditional Scottish breakfast of an egg, ham, sausage, a slice of tomato, toast and coffee (but hold the beans please) we set off for Lerwick.

As we drove towards the main road that runs from Northmavine to Lerwick, I skimmed through the guide book and found what sounded like an interesting detour. Just a few miles north of Mavis Grind is a small winding road that heads west towards the coastline and eventually ends at a place called Nibon. The rocky landscape reminded me of our drive to Sandness but with more elevation. Like always, sheep and abandoned crofts dotted the hills. At the end of the road we reached Nibon which was nothing more than a few houses overlooking a picturesque rocky beach. What you don’t see in the picture is the sheep poo beneath my feet. Sheep are so ubiquitous on this island. If you don’t immediately see them you still usually come across some sign of their presence. After enjoying the view we head back towards the road to Lerwick.

As we drove into town it seemed like a good idea to stop at the ferry terminal just north of town to pick up our tickets and drop off  luggage before returning the rental car. Luckily they had a “left luggage” room. Oddly enough there was no attendant minding the baggage. The woman at the counter said that they’d never had a problem with theft ( or terrorism?).

After lunch at the Peerie Cafe we wandered around town poking our heads into place that we hadn’t visited and returned to others for one last look. One place that I hadn’t yet visited was Fibres. From the outside it’s kind of hard to tell whether it’s a yarn or knitwear store. The sweaters in the window didn’t look hand knitted but plastered on the other side of the door are yarn company posters. As soon as I stepped inside I saw shelves of yarn and figured I’d found yet one more yarn shop on Shetland. As I wondered up the stars I found knitwear in a variety of styles, some traditional and others less so. For the most part they had the usual UK yarn brands plus Noro. What caught my eye was a basket near the register. It was full of miniature skeins of hand dyed Shetland. As I sorted through the skeins the woman at the register mentioned she had dyed them herself. I picked out four skeins and walked out hoping Paul wouldn’t notice this small wool acquisition.

After Fibres I briefly visited Ninian, a shop with all sorts of gift items with a more trendy flavor. With no more room in my luggage I avoided buying more knitwear however I was very intrigued by the stitch pattern on this sweater in the window. Any ideas on what it is? It’s double-sided.

Besides wool and knitwear there was only one other thing that I was hoping to find on Shetland, a brooch for my lace shawls. I’m not sure whether such a thing is too old-fashioned or not part of their tradition but I couldn’t find one. I settled for this pin until later while in Edinburgh I found this Celtic style brooch which is close to what I had envisioned.

Before long it was time to head back to the ferry terminal to collect our luggage and board the ship for the overnight voyage to Aberdeen.

Along the way we passed Fair Isle. It was sad to be so close but not to have gone there. But there’s always next time.

Fair Isle

After Shetland we were off to spend a few days in the Highlands before heading to Edinburgh and eventually London. I have plenty of pictures of our visit to Leault Farm,  as well as a few from the National Museum of Scotland’s interesting display of textile related machines and a few knitwear samples from Shetland.


Oh, how time flies. I’ve been diligently working on my Nihon Vogue homework this week trying to make up for spending the previous two weeks on Evelyn’s Angel Lace Shawl. Last night I just realized I have to redraw the pattern for my third assignment.

Westarye Bed and BreakfastSo I left off last time with having visited Shetland Designer to check out her fabulous array of Fair Isle garments. We were heading up north to Muckle Roe to checked in to our B&B before heading off to Eshaness.  Around noon we found ourselves in Brae and decided to pick up a sandwich at the grocery store instead of trying to find a restaurant. As we were sorting through the “take-away” food case I overheard one local say to another, “Fine weather for November isn’t it?” In case you were wondering about the weather, for the most part it was cold and very windy. I don’t think it ever got over 55 degrees Fahrenheit the five days we were there although we did encounter a few sunny moments. From what I’ve heard since I’ve been back, the weather has been very cold and wet allover the UK this summer.

I booked a room at Westarye because it didn’t seem to be too far out of our way to Eshaness and would also give us a change of scenery. Just as the guide book said, it’s a modern croft house that we found to be very comfortable. During our entire stay I could look out the window and see sheep in the pasture doing whatever sheep do. Almost got me thinking about getting one for my garden.

After checking in and dropping off our luggage we drove over to Busta House to make reservations for dinner. If you’re a fan of a certain Scottish knitwear designer and have seen her video you might recognize this place. That’s where she filmed the knit-along part of the video. It’s the only place on Shetland with more than a hand full of trees. The staff indicated that no reservations were needed and as an alternative we could eat in the lounge. So with that chore done we headed north.

Tangwick Haa gloves
Just before reaching Eshaness there’s a turn off from the main road that makes its way to Tangwick Haa Museum. We decide to go ahead and take this diversion as it was about 3pm and according to the guide book it was only open from 1-5pm during the week. The description sounded very enticing “Kids and adults alike will also enjoy the shells, the Shetland wool and sand samples and the prize exhibit ,the Gunnister Man …”.

This small museum didn’t disappoint and certainly exceeded any expectations. The second floor of this old house held an armful of knitting gems – various types of knitwear, knitting implements, Shetland wool, documents and photos about local knitwear firms. There are more photos of this museum in my photo album (link on the upper right side).

This excellent display rivaled the one at the new museum in Lerwick and was certainly much more intimate. I was in such a state of awe over this display that I forgot to see the prize exhibit (although I think he’s in Edinburgh, right?). In the gift shop I picked up a small booklet called A Stitch in Time which gives fantastic insights into lace knitting and spinning from Unst. Of course I could have stayed there for the rest of the day (or a week) but I’m sure Paul was ready to move on.

EshanessNot much further down the road we finally reached the Eshaness lighthouse which overlooks the high rocky cliffs. It’s certainly one of the most amazingly beautiful dramatic coast lines I’ve ever seen (even compared to the Pacific Northwest). The place was so windy that even the most daring person wouldn’t stand too close to the edge for fear of getting blown over. About every 20 minutes or so I headed to the car for shelter so I could warm back up before heading outside again. It’s hard to belief this tiny flower could survive all that wind. Maybe it’s the inspiration for this jumper I saw at Tangwick Haa.

On the way back to Muckle Roe we made a brief stops at Stenness fishing station and Braewick Caravan Park. Odd as it may seem, this caravan park had an impressive small display of knitwear for sale. As I  waited for Paul to return from the restroom a few woman were gathered around a table looking at a exquisitely knit lace baptism gown and booties that had been knitted by an elder woman that passed away. Knitting is ever present on Shetland and happens to appear in the most unexpected places. Hopefully it will stay that way for many more years.

North Mainland

Day 4

Plan: Considering it’s the last full day in Shetland, visit any sites near Lerwick that were previously missed before driving North. Stay at Westayre B & B in Muckle Roe and visit Eshaness area. If there’s enough time visit Tangwick Haa Museum in the afternoon.


It was our last day in Lerwick so we packed up the car and headed over to Jamieson & Smith (Wool Brokers) Ltd. (know as “the wool brokers” to locals). It was one more place I was itching to see but hadn’t managed to visit earlier since it’s not within the easily reach of the main part of town.

As you can see it’s a very unassuming place from the outside but once inside  I knew was in the right place. The shop isn’t huge but they’ve somehow managed fit three floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with yarn, wool and knitting accoutrements along the walls. All are easily accessible by customers as well as staff. I had no problem dashing from one bin to the next pulling out skeins to compare one with the other. My purchases quickly piled up on one of the counters in the middle of the shop. The two women working that day were very pleasant and eager to help. It was a delight to chat with both women. Both were avid knitters and/or spinners.

Like a kid in a candy store, it was difficult to limit my purchases to the space left in my luggage. After about an hour of fondling yarn and chatting I settled on some lace weight wool, a few skeins of jumper weight wool, a knitting belt with needles, four 100gm bags of combed Shetland wool and a poster illustrating Shetland sheep markings. Needless to say, I could have spent hours there talking with those women but needed to get going. Before heading north I wanted to stop by Wilma Malcolmson’s studio which about 10 miles south of Lerwick.

Shetland Designer jumper A fellow Feral Knitter who had been to Shetland a few years ago mentioned that Wilma’s studio wasn’t to be missed. I was planning on stopping by there the previous Sunday but somehow missed it. When someone else from the island mentioned that I must drop by there to see her work I knew we had to go down there again, even if it was out of the way.

The studio was not far off the main road and not hard to find.  We just had to follow the sign that pointed to  Shetland Designer. I suppose we had missed it the last time because I hadn’t connected Shetland Designer with Wilma Malcolmson. As promised her studio was a feast for a Fair Isle knitter. Not only did she have a large range of knitwear for sale but her studio was right next to the shop within easy view of customers. In the studio she had several color stories prominently displayed with each displaying several carefully arranged  knitwear pieces next to an inspiring photo or illustration. All were quite different from the others. As a knitter I knew her work was exceptional but my husband, who wasn’t impressed with Fair Isle sweaters, surprised me by holding up several and asking my opinion on which to buy. As we drove off he commented on how distinctive the colorways of her knitwear is in comparison to what we had previously seen. Unfortunately Mrs. Malcolmson was not there when we stopped by.

With my two “must sees” out of the way we headed north to check in at Westayre B & B before heading farther up to Eshaness. I’ll leave that part of the day for my next post (hopefully tomorrow).

I’m sorry to keep drawing this whole trip out over many posts but you’d be surprised at how long it takes me to sort through photos, load them and then write about my experiences. I write about as fast as I knit – average to slow – but, I hope that this info will be of use to other knitters considering a trip to Shetland. It’s a wonderful place to visit, especially if you’re a knitter interested in learning about traditional knitting.

da toon o’ Lerrick

Day 3 (continued)

Jamieson's LerwickWe left the Jamieson’s Mill around noon so by the time we arrived back in town it was time to eat lunch but before we did that, I headed over to Jamieson’s to pick up that pack of yarn.

It’s really hard to describe this shop. I popped in there briefly on Saturday afternoon but didn’t stay long because I knew I would be going out to the mill on Monday. Besides, I could always come back to the shop later if I didn’t find all I needed at the mill.

This shop wasn’t at all how I had imagined it to be. Unlike the mill shop, all of the spindrift yarn is behind the counter. To see the yarn you’ve got to  point to the colors on the color card and the clerk pulls the yarn from the bins. I always find this type of setup awkward, especially since that’s not how most yarn stores in North America operate. I like taking my time pulling out yarns and putting them together, just as I had done earlier that morning at the mill.

Not only does this shop have yarn but towards the back half of the shop there are racks and bins full of machine knit sweaters and woven blankets. None of which seemed as attractive as what I’d seen else where. To be honest, visiting this store was underwhelming.  I guess I had some how envisioned a quaint shop but instead found an old stodgy place that’s much different from my impression formed through thumbing over the pattern books put out by the US distributor. Apparently merchandising isn’t their forte but creating a quality line of Shetland yarns is.

After my task was finished it was time to find a place to eat before heading off to the museum. I happened to remember the guide book (The Rough Guide to Scottish Highlands & Islands) mentioning the Peerie Cafe “…with imaginative cakes, soup, and sandwiches, and what is probably  Britain’s northernmost latte”. That sounded like the right place to go since our last espresso drink was the one we had in the Edinburgh airport just before boarding the plane for Sumburgh. Sure enough they had cakes, soup, sandwiches and decent espresso. Over the next few days we stopped by there frequently to get our caffeine fix.

Shetland MuseumAfter lunch it was off to the new Shetland Museum. It had only opened a few weeks earlier after being closed for several years for an extensive renovation. Like most museums in Britain entry is free, although donations are gladly accepted.

Paul and I have different museum wondering paces and interests so we set a time to meet up later. Of course I headed straight up the stairs to the textiles. There was a small section (a few floor cases) of that floor devoted solely to knitting, weaving, dyeing and spinning. It was so exciting to see Shetland textile history laid out before me. There was an example of just about every kind of knitted and woven garment. The exhibit also featured an interactive computer program that let children design their own Fair Isle jumper. I gave it a go but didn’t come up with anything as interesting as what was on display.

museum war jumperThe one thing that struck me as I walked through the other exhibits was how often knitted goods were shown along with other artifacts. Here’s a  jumper that was owned by a prisoner of war. He had managed to hang on to this throughout his imprisonment and was his connection to home.

Here’s a link to some of the items on display. Keep in mind all the items are behind Plexiglas so that’s why the photos are not very clear.

All the exhibits in the museum were interesting and well done. I’m so glad that we timed our visit  after the opening. It was well worth it. I was just looking at their “What’s On” guide for the summer. It’s too bad I missed the talk on Shetland knitting heritage by Margaret Stuart.

The museum shop also has lots of interesting books, cards and crafts by local artisans. Here are some Fair Isle socks knitted by a woman that works at Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers. I wanted to buy the purple ones but couldn’t quite justify the price – 45 GBP. I purchased a few note cards with knitting related photos on the front.

The Spider's Web
After the trip to the museum we walked back to town as I was keen on getting back to The Spider’s Web. It was another shop that we had briefly visited on Sunday. Luckily it wasn’t quite so busy this time so we were able to chat with the shop’s proprietor about knitwear and designers. It’s a lovely shop packed with all sorts of garments of every imaginable design. Some are very traditional while others come in updated color schemes  and designs. She even had a small display of garments made with hand spun wool. Paul purchase a jumper similar to the one displayed on the board outside the shop and I got these gloves. I can’t quite explain why I like these gloves because I’d never put these colors together myself nor chose to wear such a design. I guess I like them because the craftsmanship is good – especially the cuff – and I like how the colors morph from one shade to the next. Perhaps some day I’ll duplicate the affect in a different color scheme.

After shopping we went back to our room to relax before heading off to the Isleburgh Exhibition. Paul flipped on the TV and we were both surprised to find out that Shaun from Wallace and Gromit has his own show. The few episodes that we were able to catch were hilarious. My favorite was when the sheep tried to sabotage the electric shears after seeing how bad the farmer did with the first sheep. While the farmer was bumbling around trying all sorts of things to get the shears working the sheep managed to sneak out and find a beauty parlor. When the farmer did find them they all had very stylish cuts.

Although it had been a full day of sight seeing we felt refreshed enough to walk up to the Islesburgh Community center to see their summer exhibition. Every Monday and Wednesday a group of  locals put together an evening of  demonstrations and sell local crafts. The exhibition is spread over 3 – 4 rooms.

Isleburgh exhibit
The first room we entered had a few elderly ladies showing how they knit with belts and an elderly man who made fiddles. Unfortunately I didn’t stay and chat with these folks and never got a chance to go back.

The next room was set up as a replica of the inside of a croft house. Inside we found two women spinning. One was spinning on a Saxony wheel teaching a little girl and the other woman (in the picture) was spinning on a much smaller castle wheel. I commented on how small it was and she said that it’s a typical wheel found on Shetland. She said the wheels were small because the houses were small, although I’m not quite sure about that. The museum mentioned that flax wheels were imported to Shetland in hopes of stimulating a linen industry. Perhaps these wheels are based on those flax wheels. Whatever the story, they work well with Shetland wool and fit into a small house.

The third room was a mixture of displays and handcrafted items for sale. There was so much to look at in this room. I wanted to buy so many things. In the end I got a few post cards and a knitting belt. I was only in the room for about a half hour when I was prompted to go to the next room to hear a recital by local school children who were learning to play the fiddle. After the recital a projector was set up and we watched silent films of Shetland from the 30’s.

The exhibition was an excellent chance to learn more about Shetland culture and crafts directly from locals. Every one there was so friendly and more than happy to share their culture. Today I checked the Islesburgh website for the link to the exhibition but it apparently has disappeared. I hate to think it’s no longer being held because it was truly one of the highlights of my trip.

To Westside and back

Day 3

Plan: Since it’s the first business day of the week, head straight over to Jamieson’s Spinning Mill in Sandness on the Westside of Mainland. In the afternoon return to Lerwick and check out the new museum. Time permitting do some shopping on Commercial street. In the evening head over to Isleburgh Exhibition.

Jamieson's sign
Jamieson’s is the only mill on the island that spins and sells Shetland wool so of course I had to go check it out first thing Monday morning.

Although I knew from various sources that it was about 30 miles from Lerwick I wasn’t too sure how long it would take to get there. It’s on the Westside of Mainland, well off the beaten tourist track but probably on every Fair Isle hand knitter’s radar. To get there one first goes north on the main highway until the turn off to Weisdale Mill. Until last fall this mill housed the Shetland Textile Working Museum. Sadly, the textile collection is currently without a home. I hope the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers can find a new home soon. I’d love to see their collection some day. After Weisdale the road veers west and eventually gets narrower the closer one gets to the mill. The landscape is quite different from the south. It’s a remote rock strewn landscape with very few houses but sheep everywhere. An odd place to find a spinning mill.

We arrived around 9:30 and poked our heads in the door. The place looked and sounded deserted. NobodyBreakroom was in the office and we didn’t see any one near the door to the mill. I was too shy to wander around the place looking for someone so we waited for several minutes before someone eventually appeared. A woman guided us to the “start” of the mill near the weaving looms and then promptly left. We stayed at the looms for about 10 minutes but the woman didn’t reappear. Besides one guy attending the weaving looms the place seemed to be void of workers. When it didn’t seem like the woman would return we moved along stopping at each machine and guessing its purpose. Having read a bit about spinning mills and previously visiting a Mission Mill Museum, I had a good idea of what each machine did. So I guide us through the process. If you are interested in seeing most of the machines here’s a link to my photo album. I can’t promise that the descriptions are totally accurate.

After being there an hour or so we happened to come across the break room and could hear people on the other side. When a man, whom I think was Peter Jamieson, came out the door I commented on how it looked like things were kind of slow this morning. He said that they wrap up production on Friday and start over again every Monday. So from that comment, I  guess he’s saying that it takes a while to ramp up on Monday. Perhaps we caught them between dye lots. He also commented that some machines in another part of the mill were running.

Jumper parts After passing by all the wool processing machines we came across a room where several knitting machines were spitting out jumper (sweater) pieces. Most of the colorways really didn’t appeal to my sense of color. But as the saying goes, to each his own. I suspect these jumpers end up in Japan.

Yarn for ArabesqueEventually we wound up at shop door and found someone to let us in. I easily by passed the stacks of blankets and jumpers for the huge wall of yarn – floor to ceiling of cubby holes filled with yarn. I started pulling out yarns looking for enough to make Arabesque from A Collector’s Item. Again we were left alone, which I didn’t really mind. I was stunned by this cathedral of yarn.

After sorting through yarn for a half hour and having a hard time finding several that I needed, Paul went off to find someone to help out. The woman who we saw at the beginning of our visit appeared. She said she wasn’t surprised that several colors were not out because  a bunch of knitters had been in on Friday (maybe from the Skeins and Skerries tour?) and the shelfs hadn’t been restocked. She gladly took down the colors I needed and went off to fetch them from the mill. She couldn’t find one color so I asked if she could check with the shop in Lerwick to see if they had it. I was in luck. They had one bag that I could pick up when I got back to town.


Around noon I finally settled my yarn purchases and was ready to head back to town. I wanted to pick up that last remaining pack of yarn before the clerk at the shop forgot about the call. She didn’t seem all that helpful the last time I was there.

So that’s only the first half of the day. More to come later.

South Mainland Shetland

Day 2

Plan: Since most shops are closed on Sunday I planned to hit the sights open Sunday. If we found Flavour of Shetland  interesting we could go there before driving south from Lerwick to Sumburgh Head. On the way to Sumburgh Head we’ll stop at Jarlshof, a prehistorical archaeological site before heading up to the light house to see if we can find any puffins. If time permits stop at Croft House Museum.

Sumburgh Lighthouse

On Saturday evening we followed the parade back to town and despite our nap earlier in the evening, still felt worn out.  Sleeping that night was difficult. The noise coming from the street sounded as if every one in town was out and about making the most of “simmer dim”.  I don’t know if it’s the norm around there but I did happen to noticed that one pub listed closing time as 3:00am (about 1/2 hour before sunrise).

Despite all the revelry, the town hall bells chiming every 15 minutes and the lack of darkness, we woke
up on Sunday morning bright and early for breakfast at 7:30. Over breakfast we discussed the day’s plan and decided to avoid the crowds at Flavour of Shetland and head south to enjoy the wonderful weather.

Our first stop was Jarlshof, a settlement that goes back to prehistoric times. We arrived just after it opened and for about one hour were the only ones there. The site was interesting and I enjoyed visiting the place but I’m not a prehistory buff. I figured this would interest Paul. As you can see it was a beautiful clear morning and I enjoyed the spectacular view from one of the buildings.

When we walked back to the car we noticed a local old guy selling sheep skins and a few knitted items (made by his wife) in the parking lot. We briefly talked. He mentioned how people that raise sheep on the island really don’t make much money and that wool prices weren’t good. I looked through the knitted items but didn’t see anything that caught my eye.

puffinsOur guide book mentioned puffins hang out near the lighthouse so we headed off up the hill in our car. About 1/2 mile from the lighthouse we arrived at a parking area near the gate to the lighthouse. We had to get out there and walk the rest of the way up.  It didn’t take long to find the birds. They were just beyond the other side of a short rock wall in front of the lot. At first it was difficult to get close enough for a good picture but when we walked several yards towards a cliff near the gate we got close enough to snap some good photos. Aren’t they cute? It was so fun to watch them land and take off. I later read that it’s best to look for them in the afternoon as they come home to feed the chicks after fishing all day.

At noon we decide to head down and find a place to eat. At the bottom of the hill, near Jarlshof, we popped our heads into the bar at Sumburgh Hotel to see if they had a table available. We got lucky and grabbed the last one as people started streaming in looking for a place to eat.

Mrs. Brown knitting After lunch we head north until we came across one of those signs along the road that pointed the direction to knitwear. The first one that we happened upon was the Shetland Collection. It was Sunday so I wasn’t really expecting it to be open but when we drove up and got out of the car we were cheerfully greeted by the man out front replacing plants in the garden. He fetched his wife who came from the house to opened the shop. It was a small shop but everything in there was so beautiful. Not only did she have Fair Isle garments but she also had the most delicate lace shawls. I mentioned that I was a knitter and she immediately whisked me over to her studio to show me her knitting machines and also how she does handwork using a knitting belt. I was so amazed by her enthusiasm and willingness to spend time chatting about Fair Isle knitting and her work. I just about died when she opened drawer after drawer to a small cabinet that contained Fair Isle swatches (drawer 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) all arranged by color and/or theme. What an inspiration!

In the shop she not only had Fair Isle garments but had some exquisite lace shawls. While talking about lace she mentioned Myrna Stahman’s visit last summer and that the pattern for one of the shawls will be in Myrna’s next book. Well, needless to say, I wanted to buy everything but settled for a couple of fingerless gloves and hats. I could have stayed there much longer but knew Paul was probably ready for something else.

Croft House Museum_shawl_2>We drove up the road a couple of miles and stopped at the Croft House Museum .This Happ Shawl immediately caught my attention. Click on the picture and look closer at how it’s attached to the frame. String is strung through the tips along the border and then the shawl is strung around the pegs on the edge of the frame.

This house (and probably all croft houses) only had a couple of rooms and was very dark. A smoky peet fire was burning when we stepped in which didn’t make it a very enjoyable place to hang out. After taking a quick tour of the house we went on a short jaunt along a small path down to the mill. Plenty of sheep were on either side of the path, doing whatever sheep do. A couple of times I tried to get close but they’d just run away. I don’t know if they’re always so scared of people in general or wise enough to recognize a spinner when they see  one. None looked like Shetland sheep.

Since we’d already driven the  main road to Lerwick the day we arrived Paul decide to veer left and take a small loop that leads west. We ended up at a picturesque tombolo beach that jets out to St. Ninian’s Ise. A few folks were enjoying the windy weather.

St Ninian  Isle_2

By this time the weather had changed and the sky turned grey. We headed back to Lerwick to find a place to eat dinner.

We eventually ended up at an Indian restaurant and as usual I ordered Chicken Jalfrezi. I was surprised when the waiter kept insisting that the dish I was pointing to on the menu would be to hot for me. He recommended a different Jalfrezi. To this day I’m still puzzled by this. Who in Shetland can eat that dish? I don’t remember seeing many Indians during my visit. Now I regret not ordering it and showing him that there are some white folks that do eat hot food (four – five star hot).

A feral knitter goes to Shetland

If you haven’t realized it, I love to travel. My most memorable trips tend to be ones that include unique fiber related experiences. No, I don’t try to visit every yarn store possible. I’m pretty lucky to live in an area with lots of yarn stores and can usually find just about any type/brand of yarn right here.  I’d rather seek out what I can’t find in my backyard. Although,with that being said, I did over hear my husband once remark to a shop owner that we’re on a worldwide tour of yarn stores. Despite this remark, he’s been a good sport and I honestly think he always finds something that interests him as long as we don’t spend most of our time in yarn shops.

The idea to go to Shetland germinated shortly after our trip to the Pyrenees last Fall. That trip was his idea so it was my turn to choose where to go next. When it came time to buy our tickets he mentioned that the Tour de France was starting in London this year so he’d be even more happy to go to Shetland if we could also see the prologue. I checked the events calendar on Visit Shetland and found that the Flavour of Shetland would be taking place two weeks before “Le Grand Depart”. So that settled the issue of how long our vacation would be – two weeks. We would try to make it to the last couple of days of the Flavour of Shetland and the first day of the Tour de France.

Next, I needed to decide how long to spend on Shetland. I wanted to stay a week but Paul couldn’t fathom finding much to do there and suggested staying a few days. I listed all places I wanted to see and finally settled on 4 full days. Later the in-laws decided to take a tour of Scotland about the same time so we all decide to meet up in the Highlands. After a few days wander around the Highlands we move on to Edinburgh and then headed on to London.

Day One

Plan: Arrive at Sumburgh Airport at 12:30pm and pick up the rental car. Drive to Lerwick and check into Fort Charlotte Guest House. Walk over to the Flavour of Shetland if we weren’t too tired.

The last leg of our long flight was on a small Saab airplane from Edinburgh. The weather was terrible when we took off from Edinburgh but once our plane was ten minutes away the skies cleared and the down pour stopped. We arrived at the airport about a half our later than schedule due to a short wait for a late arriving passenger and immediately picked up the rental car.  The road from Sumburgh to Lerwick cuts across the landing strip so cars are required to stop whenever a plane lands. My first impression was of a very rural place with no trees but the landscape was very green and sheep as far as the eye could see.

Fingerless glovesOn the drive to Lerwick we spotted three signs along the roadside that  advertised the way to knitwear studios. It was hard to pass these studios but I also wanted to catch the end of the festival in Lerwick. I kick myself for not stopping when we drove past a crofter sheering a sheep along the side the road. That’s not something I think I’ll ever see again.

Vikings walking up Ft. Charlotte streetThe festival was in full swing when we arrived making it difficult to find a parking spot anywhere near the guest house. We ended up parking at the top of the hill and hauled our backpacks down. Once we checked in and washed up we headed down to Victoria Pier. I was quite shocked to find the place packed with so many people. It was hard to move around between tents to visit the crafts, demos and events. The enthusiasm of the locals was heartwarming but after having travel so long that day, the crowd became overwhelming. We dashed between the dozen or so craft booths and entertainment tents before heading back the guest house for a nap. The best part was the pair of fingerless gloves that we found in Barbara Isbister’s tent. You see, he requested such a pair many months ago but for various reasons they’ve never materialized. I”m so glad he found these. I’m finally off the hook, right?

On the way back to the guest house I poked my head into Jamiesons and  Spiders Web.  Spiders Web was quite busy so I decide to go back on Monday when the festival was over. I’ll mention more about these shops later.

The nap lasted a few hours until Paul woke up and decided see if he could move the car closer. As he was leaving I caught a sight of a group of “vikings” walking up the hill. I figured that the festival must have been winding down and folks were heading home.

Oh, was I wrong. When Paul returned about five minutes later he mentioned seeing lots of folks gathering up the hill. Some event was about to begin. Not wanting to miss out, I quickly got dressed and we scurried up the hill just in time to find that a parade forming. We had just woken up in time for the beginning of the Midsummer Carnival.

Check out my photo album of this parade – a chance to see local folks actually wearing traditional Fair Isle jumpers.

I have many more photos to load and will try to get them up soon.