Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Scottish Yarn - Shetland, A Year Later

What a special treat to hear this story on the radio, A Scottish Yarn: A Knit In Time Saves The Fabric Of Shetland Life, while I sit recovering from several days of intense heat. With a huge thunder storm approaching and the radio warning us of the possibility of flooding I heard this story. To say that I enjoyed this story is an understatement! A year ago I was so lucky because I got to go to Scotland's Shetland Islands as well as some of the outer western islands. While the western islands were just gorgeous it was Shetland that really spoke to me. As I listened to this story in total surprise and delight I visualized the places they mentioned, the sheep, the Island of Unst, the lace, the baron hills, as well as watching these amazing women knit and spin what I feel is the most wonderful wool on Earth. Here's a link to the story: Hopefully the audio will be available to listen to as hearing the lovely Shetland dialect is just wonderful. I hope you enjoy! I sure did! Mary

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Knit Hats for Babies to Raise Awareness for Shaken Baby Syndrome

A fellow knitter posted this information: "Click for Babies is a national organization represented, in Maine, through the Maine Children's Trust and the Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention Councils. Knitters are asked to create baby hats to be distributed by local hospitals to new parents, with information about shaken baby syndrome and how to prevent it. The hats should be soft and comfortable and at least 50% purple to symbolize "PURPLE," the mnemonic referring to early childhood crying: Peak of crying Unexpected Resists soothing Pained face (though there may be no pain) Long-lasting and Evening The program was developed by the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome to raise awareness about this serious issue. There is lots more information, including links to some cute hat patterns, at Collection time is September. Broadreach in Belfast is a collecting agency."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kate Davies Sheepheid Tam

Blackfaced sheep of Shetland Isles are really something to be seen. I fell in love with them as well as that lovely place Shetland. Now as I sit by my wood stove back in the states I'm knitting the coveted Kate Davies sheep tam that I purchased. And I must say, what fun it is! The yarn is the to die for Jamison & Smith Jumper weight Shetland yarn. Jumper means sweater to Americans. I bought the tam and blanket kit while in Lerwick, Shetland Scotland. So as I knit I'm transported back to that wild and vastly open place. This is my first "real" colorwork knitting. Sure I've done other pieces before but this is the real McCoy. Here's my progress so far: You can see the sheeps' legs and body taking form. As that was happening I noticed that I accidentally knitted one sheep with 3 legs! I debated ripping it out and then decided to embrace the Navajo tradition of always working in a mistake as they do with their woven blankets. Reminds us and humbles us to the fact that we are human and thus not perfect. So a three legged sheep the tam will have. Another funny decision I've been toying with is the color of the sheeps' faces. The pattern calls for knitting white faces. But most of the sheep we saw in Shetland were blackfaced sheep. When I opened my computer this morning the sheepie photo above was staring at me. Another decision made. One blackfaced sheep the tam will have. I must say that this is a lot of fun so I'm called back to my tam and my blackfaced sheep. Enjoy your day and I hope you are able to find time to include some fiber work in your day, Mary

Friday, August 16, 2013

Knitting Gunnister Man's Bag

The knitting has begun and stopped. (I ran out of spun yarn and fleece. I am waiting for more of the colors I have to become available from North Ronaldsay). And what a tricky beginning it was! You can see the crocheted chain loops. These were done every 7 stitches. I am assuming the final chain will go through these loops to act as a pull closure. The pattern called for a knit cast on which sounded very much like cable cast on so that's what I did. Every 7th stitch was pulled through and a 10 stitch crochet chain was added. Then put back on needled to knit 7 more and add chain. This continued until 105 stitches and 15 chain loops were in place. This was very new to me and I am hoping I did it right. I'm working on size 2 dpt needles. I really don't know why circular needles couldn't be used for this. If I was home where I could grab a circular needle I would. But for now I'm at the lake and I'm following the directions which says to use dpt (double pointed) needles. There must be a reason. I hope. This pattern comes from the summer '06 Spin Off magazine. Here's what the finished bag should look like although rather than a dark brown stripe I'll have a pink stripe like the original bag had. This is fun so far. Mary

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spinning for Gunnister Man's Bag

Deep in the vast chocolate moorland high in the 60*latitude north the remains of a man, Gunnister Man, lay hidden for many years. It is assumed that he walked the Scottish island sometime in the 1700's since a coin in his bag was dated 1690. His remains were found by two crofters, aka farmers, in 1951. I read about him years ago in the Summer 2006 issue of Spin Off Magazine. What caught my eye was a photo of the recreated bag that he was wearing. It is believed that his bag is one of the oldest examples of Shetland knitwear and a very early example of stranded knitting (two color knitting). This magazine's pattern was part of a larger article written by Deborah Pulliam on the seaweed eating sheep of North Ronaldsay. North Ronaldsay is a tiny island off the northwest coast of Scotland and is considered part of the Orkney islands. Ever since reading that article I've wanted to visit that island and it's sheep and spin/knit that bag using North Ronaldsay fleece. Years ago when I tried to purchase some fleece I found out I couldn't. Hoof and Mouth had spread through the UK and raw fleece was not available to anyone in the states. Then I found out about this fiber trip (many older posts below)and was surprised and ciked to see that a trip to this tiny island was part of the itinerary. I signed up and I wasn't disappointed. And the best part was that fleece and yarn are now available to purchase! You can read about my visit to the island at this link: So I'm back in the states and a bit jet lagged but very excited to see packages from Orkney and Shetland have already arrived. They contain the coveted fleeces from Shetland's wool brokers (Jamison and Smith) and some from North Ronaldsay. After sorting through the fleeces and yarns and choosing which I wanted to share with knitting and spinning friends I decided that I would use the Shetland fleeces after all for this bag. Gunnerston Man was found in Shetland after all! I pulled out my madder to dye the white fleece pink and then stopped when I noticed that some of the fleece from the wool broker was the perfect heathery pink color. Which works just right since I only had an ounce of the white fleece so I didn't really have enough to dye it anyway. Then I notice that the pattern calls for a tad more grey fleece then I had. But I had a lovely fawn brown. Since the bag was found in the peat bog I thought it must have been brownish because the peat soil of Shetland is the most chocolaty soil I've ever seen. Rather magnificent looking really. (But it really stinks when it's burned for heat!) Once I was done spinning the pink and the white I began combining the tan and the grey to make a tanish grey. While it would not be something I'd use in a piece of clothing it was perfect for this project.See the slight different shades of these two fleeces. The 3 skeins of yarn have been hand washed in a gentle soap, rinsed in a mild vinegar water, and are now drying while this knitter waits patiently for the knitting part of this project to begin. I do worry that my yarn is thicker then what is called for. I'll measure them when they dry and go from there. The pattern calls for the yarn to be 15-16 wpi (wraps per inch). I'll keep you updated as I progress, which will be slow I'm sure. Happy spinning/knitting! Mary

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shetland On My Mind

First breakfast home after returning from Scotland. From now on I'm going to refer to my visit as my trip to Shetland because I have decided that it really was all about Shetland. Back to breakfast...what could be better than a first breakfast back home in Maine with a good cup of coffee, oatcakes with this years strawberry jam, and porridge? Sitting outside on a cool,clear morning watching and listening to cardinals at a birdbath and opening Facebook to find these two articles on Shetland wool and knitting! Tis first article is on a talented Shetland knitter who designed and knit a lace christening shawl for the new royal baby... And another on Foula (a small Shetland island)wool and shearing. I have handled my fair share of fleeces/raw wool and I have to say that the wool raised on the Shetland Islands are the nicest wool I have ever handled. When watching the video notice the absolute gorgeous luster and crimp! Amazing! Now to pick raspberries. Slàinte, Mary