Monday, 22 December 2014


Just a few days of 2014 left now. Time to catch up and recount something of the past year.

My blogs started off well in the Spring, then as the summer arrived I just never seemed to have enough time and the blog suffered. Time to fill in the gaps from Shetand Handspun's year. It was exceptionally busy however with several trips which made it harder to keep up with production.

The Vararfeldur started in June is still not finished. It has progressed slowly and continues to grow slowly, but spinning and knitting work needed to take priority.  

June, July and August, is the main tourist season, and 'stay at home' time to see visitors to the Studio and there are always many interesting tourists from all over the world.

An invitation from Norway to attend a Wool event in Bergen at the end of August saw 9 of us from Shetland spending a wonderful week there. Teaching Fair Isle and Lace knitting workshops, demonstrating and giving talks on various textile subject. We were given space for an exhibition and for sales tables as well. There were also trips to the Hillesvag Wool Mill and Oleana knitwear factory, and some wonderful food and company, (and a little bit of shopping too). A very successful week but my camera didnt seem to take any photos! (or I was having too much fun).

I did get a few photos from some of the others. This one of myself, Wilma Malcolmson and Hazel Tindall, out for a walk at the Heathland Centre, ...

... and this - 2 generations of owners of the Hillesvag Wool Mill, Norway with 2 generations of owners of the Sandness Mill, Shetland. Taken during our visit to the Hillesvag Wool Mill.

September took me to Iceland, and the North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference.
The invitation to talk was as a result of a project of ongoing research into the warp-weighted loom, - Hildur from Iceland, Marta from Norway and myself talked about native wool use on the old loom, each talking from our own countries aspect. 

We dressed in Viking costume and set up a loom which we worked on during the talks. With the help of an Icelandic and a norwegian viking spinning and weaving bands, we had a good tableau of textile product to accompany our talks. 

During Hildur's Icelandic talk, with Marta weaving and myself spindle spinning.

We had a few excursions during the conference. This to see the sheep brought off the mountain ranges and watch them being sorted before all are taken indoors for the winter.

Everyone got a gift of a mitten kit from the wool mill - this design aptly named 'Volcano' - and designed especially for the occasion of our visit. Apt as we were all in Iceland at the start of the latest eruption. Here is the first pair that was completed.

Here are several photos from the Viking feast at the end of the conference - wonderful food and wonderful company.
The banquet table
Looks like a good discussion at the top of the table.

Our Icelandic Viking

Lena from Sweden and Deb from the US - knitters are never idol.

The journey back to the airport was across the mountains, with views of the glaciers, to see the terrain where the sheep have been all summer. No tarmac roads and desert vegetation, and near arctic weather now in september. But facinating to see. Here is a view from the bus.

Home again, thankfully with no delays due to the volcano, with only a few weeks till Shetland Wool Week starts, and that would be 9 days non-stop both work and fun. Niela, from Niela Nel Studio, and myself, with help from a few others, put on workshops and drop-ins in the Hoswick Visitor Centre in Sandwick. Again too busy to take photos, but I did remember on one day only - so here are a few.

Always need a cup of tea/coffee before we get started.
My lace design class concentrating hard!

Niela's dye class making very practical use of black rubbish bags as aprons - perfect.
The drop-in area was well used all week whether we had a tutor available or not.

Wool Week over and only another few weeks till the Christmas Craft Fair in Lerwick. Always well attended with stall holders and customers - more stock required. I did however have to look after grandchildren and do some research, so the spinning was minimal. Craft Fair over and time to - do some housework, prepare for Christmas, have a rest.....

There was a load of spinning done, then dyeing with logwood and cochineal...that can keep till the next blog.

In the meantime I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year. 

Thanks for reading my blog.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Fair Isle Allovers

I thought it might be time to catch up on some handspun garments instead of the vararfeldur. The real work has still been going on as well as the weaving! Two Allovers (Fair Isle jumpers) have been finished recently.

This one, a slipover, in the Mousa design but with madder red and onion yellow in the ribs and a small amount through the Fair Isle. It is a good design just in the black and greys, but with the red and yellow it is that little bit extra special.

Mousa design Slipover ready to be packaged and posted

The next Allover is washed and on the jumper board drying, and will be off to its owner tomorrow. Black and greys again, this one is Neesik - Shetland name for the Porpoise.

A perfect day for drying jumper outside.

And another good use for a jumper board.....

.......3 shades of fawn handspun yarns needed for commissions, and for stock. The jumper board is perfect to hang hanks and tension then while they are drying.

Here are a selection of other designs from Shetland Handspun.

Shetland Handspun

Shetland Handspun
Tammie Norrie

Shetland Handspun
Trowie Sweater

Shetland Handspun
Trowie design in Blues

Shetland Handspun

Shetland Handspun
Njuggle Waistcoat

Shetland Handspun Neesik Fair Isle Allover

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

My Shetland Vararfeldur - Week 3

I am back on track - half done.

Change of colour - this is mainly from a light grey fleece.

Thanks to a full day with myself and Mary both working the second 50 cm is complete. 

For comparison - this is the first part, much darker.

I worked on preparing the fleece, and Mary did the weaving. She had never worked on this loom before, but she did very well. I wondered if I would keep her supplied with fleece - it does take time as we had found out while working on the previous vararfeldurs - but I did, just!

Mary needed her photo taken with her achievement.
The last 2/3rds of the weaving is her work - well done.

Before we finished, we wound the weaving up on the top of the loom. My next job would be to move all those stones down below the shed bar before starting to weave on my own again.

Mary had a couple of photos of the rams that we rooed, and some of the the ewes with their lambs.

Looking good, but staying well away from humans.....just in case.....
They did not want any more funny stuff from us, - had enough of rooing, drenching and trimming feet.

Some of the ewes coming to see what was going on.
Beautiful view over the loch to the cliffs and the sea in the background.

Monday, 30 June 2014

My Shetland Vararfeldur - Week 2

One full week working on my own on the feld, and I figured if I did 25cm each week then I could finish in 6 weeks. For the first week - I failed, only 15cm have been woven. I will have to play 'catch up' this next week to get on track. I will have help one day from Mary, as pay back for helping to 'roo' her rams. That could be a whole day of weaving, and with the 2 of us working I might be ahead of schedule after that. 

15cm woven on the 2nd quarter of the feld, with a colour change - very light grey with a little black and dark grey.

A question was asked regarding what a Vararfeldur is exactly. It is a Viking age cloak, the word means a cloak which is a sale item. 'Vara' is where the English word for 'wares' comes from - sale goods. They were made in Iceland, mainly around the 12th and 13th century's, and many being sold to Norway. The Icelandic fleece is perfect for the tufts on these, and as the Icelandic law book, which still exists, documented much of the textiles which were made, we have a good description of the details of the cloak.

The Law Book states:
It measures 1 metre by 2 metres (approx, in today's measurements). 
There are 13 tufts in every row. 

There is a piece surviving in Iceland where we can see the thickness and set of the backing, and as the 'knot' has been analysed and documented, we have all the information needed to reproduce the Vararfeldur. 

The finished item mimics a sheep skin, but is a larger piece, and so works as a cloak which easily wraps round the whole body. It will stay as a soft fabric where a skin may become harder in time, will be easier to dry when it gets wet, but will keep the wearer as dry as a skin does.


This is a Vararfeldur which we made in Norway. You can see the tufts all lying in one direction - from the top edge of cloak to the bottom. To finish it we took it outside, (laid it on a sheet), wet it and walked on it. No other washing or finishing was done, but it worked well.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

My Shetland Vararfeldur - Day 7

Sigrid went home today but we did take time to roll the weaving up on the top beam before we went to the airport.

Weaving rolled up on the top beam

Stones to be moved down the loom
With the weaving rolled up the loom, the stones needed to be lowered. My shed rod is fixed and quite low, and with the distance the weaving was rolled up, I needed to put a spare heddle rod in place to hold the shed until the stones were lowered. You can see the fluff from the yarn on the floor - maybe should have swept that before I took the photo. But also, you can see the cardboard we set behind to lessen the damage to the wall - the stones were really hitting the wall hard at times!

Stones lowered and board back in place, raised on some books, so I can reach the weaving which is now at the top of the loom. A good use for encyclopedias and catalogues.

All ready to weave again, but then I decided to rethink how I put the colours in to the next 3/4 of the weaving. So the weaving will wait until tomorrow.

I will also need to prepare more fleece. Although Sigrid prepared a lot of fleece yesterday and left a quite a bit of fleece ready to go into the Vararfeldur, it gets used up very quickly. There is black, moorit, dark grey and fawn ready to use, and light grey and white to work in as well.

Progress will be slower now, so will blog perhaps once a week from now on.

Friday, 20 June 2014

My Shetland Vararfeldur -Day 6

Back to work today. 

I did a little work this morning ... then I have been weaving. Sigrid has worked steadily most of the day on fleece for the pile. It gets used up fast but there is still quite a lot prepared.

Here is where we left the loom today. 50cm woven - one quarter done.
 The first quarter finished so I will change the colours and the colour mix to make the next quarter lighter. Tomorrow we need to roll the weaving up on the top beam, and the stones will have to be lowered before I start weaving again.

Sigrid goes home tomorrow, and that leaves only me to work with the fleece, weave and put in the pile ....... anybody want to help. PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE!!!

A close up showing the colours.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

My Shetland Vararfeldur - Day 5

This was our day off from weaving. So what did we do?

We went visiting at a croft at the Dale of Walls and to help 'roo' 3 rams. Rooing is removing the fleece by hand. For the ram sales in the Autumn they look much, much better if the fleece is rooed instead of sheared.

Here is the black ram waiting in the pen, showing off his stunning horns.

There were 2 white rams, and just look at the amount of belly wool that had to come off. It is much easier if there is less on the belly.

..........and here is where the camera thought that it should run out of power............

Rams were rooed, but we had no more photos to show, either of the sheep or the croft.

There was a stop in Lerwick for a fish supper on the way home, but we still worked on some fleece for the pile (and had some chocolate) in the evening.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

My Shetland Vararfeldur - Day 4

From now on we will be continually preparing the fleece and weaving. We do 8 picks then add the fleece to make the pile.

Sigrid putting in the fleece

.....and more fleece (but she really just wanted her picture taken)

Thick mist this morning, then the sun came out so we took a break
....and went to the beach to look for more stones for loom weights
....well, we have enough but it was a good excuse.
And Sigrid really did want her picture taken!

The tombola beach we were on and St. Ninians Isle. Huge amount of sand on the beach this year.

10 cm woven yesterday, and now we have 31 cm woven.
Sigrid says 69cm to go.

Woven enough so the sides of the weaving needed to be tied to the sides of the loom. Tied over nice bone needles. 

The board we had been standing on to reach the top when we started working could be taken away too and the heddle bar lowered as well.  PROGRESS.

Full view of the loom at the end of today... there is still a lot to weave.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

My Shetland Vararfeldur - Day 3

All ready to weave. The loom was all set up and the shed tested yesterday, so now we are weaving.

Very pleased with the row of stones.
They made a beautiful sound as the shed was changed.

Beating up the first threads on the start of the vararfeldur.
We gave some thought as to how we should use the different coloured fleece in the vararfeldur. We had to try to be artistic! The decision was a frame of black round all 4 edges then mix dark colours for the first part. I found some moorit fleece to mix with the black and the grey ....... then see what happens next.

3 rows of pile done in black for an edge to the design.

The start of the moorit and grey added in the next 2 rows.