Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Perfectly Brilliant Day

Monday morning we packed our bags and departed from Burrastow House. The weather wasn't brilliant for this, our last full day in Shetland, but the events of the day more than made up for the overcast skies, brisk wind, and rain.
Our first stop, and for Jean and I (Kath is a non-knitter), the long anticipated highlight of the trip to Shetland, was Jamieson & Smith. J&S, a shop located in Lerwick, sells yarn made from the fibre that comes from the Shetland sheep that sprinkle the islands. The building it occupies is divided into two spaces. The first holds the raw fibre, which gets sent to a mill in England to be processed.


It was incredible. The sight and smell of so much wool all gathered in one space was something I will never forget. The people working in the wool room were incredibly friendly, and let us wander around to take some pictures.

The wool sorting room was the prelude to the big moment, the one I had been dreaming about and anticipating since the moment we purchased our plane tickets to Shetland. It was time to enter the front door of Jamieson & Smith's. I think you can gauge from our smiles how excited we both were! We might just have been edging from excited to giddy.


It did not disappoint. In fact, it was even better than I had dreamt it would be. Every wall was filled with cubicles, and each cubicle was stuffed with a single colour of yarn. It was bright, and beautiful - a whole room packed with knitting potential.


I have been in many yarn stores in my knitterly life, but this was in a category of its own. As a knitter, I felt I had just reached the peak of Everest.


There was a box of knit up samples to look through, ready made sweaters to buy, and misc. items such as the brightly coloured knitting belts you can see at the bottom right of this picture.


And like every other place we had visited in Shetland, there were incredibly friendly people. I went into the store with a very vague idea that I wanted to knit a Fair Isle vest. By vague, I mean I knew I wanted to knit a vest, but hadn't chosen a pattern or what colours of yarn to use. Seeing so many colours of yarn, and having spent many hours on Ravelry unsuccessfully searching for just the right pattern, I felt completely overwhelmed. Enter lovely Ella, one of the employees at J&S. She led me over to a rack of books and seemed to know just what it was I was looking for. Then she helped me find the perfect colours to knit up the vest. Thanks so much for your help, Ella!

I also bought the yarn to knit the Scatness Tunic, a pattern that Kate Davies features in her Colours of Shetland book. I had decided before the trip that I would buy, over the counter instead of online, the yarn for one of her beautiful patterns. And there was a last minute slip when, completely overwhelmed by yarn fumes and the excitement of the moment, I also purchased the kit to knit up the peerie jumper you can see in the top left picture collage - it's the one on the right side of that picture. (By the way, the word peerie is the Shetland word for small.)


We were very happy customers.


After lunch in Lerwick we made our way south toward the Spiggie Hotel, where we would be spending our final night in Sheltand. On the way we stopped at the Shetland Crofthouse Museum, which had been on our list of "must see" attractions. We were all so glad we did!

As we entered the croft house the pleasant smell and warmth of a peat fire burning in the hearth greeted us, as did the volunteer who works there. It took our eyes a few moments to adjust to the dim light, but once they did we looked at our surroundings in amazement. It was hard to believe that the two small rooms we were looking at could hold a large family.


All of their cooking was done over that peat fire you see in the middle two pictures. It burned constantly, morning and night, spring, summer, fall and winter. In the picture at the bottom left you can see the pile of peat that supplies the museum. On the bottom right you can see a shed with an old boat being used as a roof. Apparently this was very common. The picture at the top right is one of several small bed chambers in the bedroom of the house. As far as I could make out this tradition has Norse influence, as so many things on the islands do. Perhaps most amazing of all is the fact that this house was occupied until the 1960s.

We stopped at several small knitting studios as we journeyed along, and one of these stops turned out to be an unforgettable and quite unexpected experience. Unbeknownst to us we had landed in the studio of the lady who knit the sweaters for the two Shetland ponies used in pictures to promote tourism in Shetland! As we browsed around her studio admiring her work, she casually mentioned she was The Lady, Doreen Brown. Then she invited us into her home, sat on the couch in her living room and gave us a demonstration of how to use a knitting belt.


I especially loved the next bit. She then escorted us into her design studio - the very room where she knit the pony sweaters on her knitting machine - and asked if we would like to see swatches from some of her designs. She pulled out a drawer and we were met with this feast for the eyes.


Imagine our shock when she opened not one, not two, not three, not four, but five more drawers filled with gorgeous designs!


Our last evening in Shetland was spent in the dining room of the Spiggie Hotel, where we laughed, and knit a little (it seemed important somehow to pull out our socks and at least do a couple of rows together), and talked about what had turned out to be a perfectly brilliant day. I think we were all a bit sad to see the end of our time together come to a close. Jean was a wonderful travel companion, and she had Kath and I laughing on numerous occasions. It was a privilege to get to spend this time with her, and, who knows, there could be a next time. After all, we still need to see Fair Isle.

22 comments:

  1. I have no words!! My mouth is hanging open! What.A.Fabulous.Amazing.Awesome.Place!! I am so glad you got to go there and just BE in all that knitterly heaven! Cx

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  2. Wow! What an amazing day - absolute nirvana for knitters! Those drawers full of swatches, and every one gorgeous.

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  3. WOW!!! You are so lucky to be able to see and experience all of this. Just amazing.

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  4. Brilliant stories, Kristie. It always amazes me that someone like Doreen Brown can be working away like that without being at all well known as a big name. We'll be looking forward to the FOs from all that purchasing.

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  5. Gorgeous! I can only imagine what kind of heaven you were in. Fun to read Jean's account too. Safe travels - sounds like you've had a wonderful trip!

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  6. What a joy for you all! Thanks so much for your account and pictures, which let us travel with you. I hope to read your report from Fair Isle one day!
    -- stashdragon

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  7. Oh wow, knitters' heaven! That yarn and those patterns leave me open-mouthed with envy. How did you stop yourself needing a porter to carry your loot? I've enjoyed every minute of your trip. :-)

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  8. Your bag from the Jamieson store looks like it's bursting! Well done! I am completely envious of this adventure!

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  9. Oh, please, Kristie! Let me come with you when you go to Fair Isle!

    I just finished the Scatness Tam from Kate's book with wool I purchased at J & S on my trip in May. Sandra helped me and was so sweet, I think she makes customers buy more yarn just because she is so helpful!

    And our knitting tour stopped at Doreen's shop at 9 am Sunday morning, and she invited all 10 of us in to her amazing studio. We all bought more ...... A sweater or a tam or gloves. We were only sorry that we were on our way to the airport and some of us had to wear our purchases as our bags were already full to the FLybe limit. My bag was a little over ......lucky for me, we were fogged in and had to take the overnight ferry to Aberdeen....no weight limit on the boat! (I did have to sleep crunched up with my bag across the bottom of my bunk as our 4 person cabin could not hold 4of us and our knitting booty.)

    The whole trip was such an adventure......and yours sounds equally delightful!

    Barbara M. In NH

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  10. That sounds like a day I would really enjoy as well. It's amazing that the smaller the population the bigger the wool shops seem to be. I live in a big city and usually rely on the Internet when I need to buy wool.

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  11. Goodness what a wonderful experience, I look forward to seeing your finished sweaters

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  12. Ruth in Ontario, CanadaSeptember 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    I think you showed a lot of self-restraint in the J&S store, judging by the number of bags we can see...oh my, I think I need to go there one day! Now I really must go and hunt up that Fair Isle sweater kit in my stash that's been marinating for far too long. Do keep us posted on the knitting progress!

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  13. Wow your last full day on Shetland sounds amazing from seeing the raw wool to visiting the store and then meeting that amazing woman!
    Sarah x

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  14. Oh thank you for you very kind mention of me, :) i hope you find a copy of the book and im so glad you enjoyed your trip to Shetland. :) Ella xx

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  15. Wow, what an adventure! Quite lovely photos--I love that first shot of the drawer of samples.

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  16. An amazing trip, I'm so pleased to see your shopping bags are bulging!!! safe travels home!!

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  17. What a lovely final day in Shetland, Kristy. I don't even knit, but I was excited for you as I read through this great post. I do love Fair Isle patterns, and those five drawers of patterns are fantastic. Looking forward to seeing the results of your purchases. Safe travel. xx

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  18. Wow, I felt giddy just looking at your pictures, especially of J & S! What a wonderful trip!

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  19. Oh my stars, all that yarn, and those glorious patterns, and I missed it!!!

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  20. I am SOOOOO envious of this wonderful trip you've been on!

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  21. Awesome! Many years ago my sister worked in a shop that sold handmade chocolates and homemade ice cream. Your smiles remind me of the way I felt when I was allowed to in there. :)

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  22. This is my favourite Post from your trip! Just amazing. What a wonderful experience Kristie and thank you so much for sharing all the pics and your words with us. Mel x

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