Day 3 (continued)
We 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.
After 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.
The 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.
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.
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.