Monday, August 12, 2013

Scotland Journey Part 2: Shetland Designer + Puffins!

After a couple days in Edinburgh, we made the trek up to the Shetland Islands. Shetland can be reached by ferry or plane, we opted to take the 14 hour, overnight ferry ride from Aberdeen harbor. We arrived in Shetland early in the morning and were so excited to be there, we immediately hopped in our car and started driving. We didn't have a destination, but just wanted to get out onto the land and explore. We headed south from Lerwick (the main town) and it only took about 5 minutes before we saw a sign that said "Knitwear Designs" pointing to a small house. We couldn't resist--we turned the car around and drove in. It was early on a Sunday, so we didn't expect it to be open, but the owner just happened to be walking outside and let us in. Little did we know, we had arrived to the best and most amazing collection of Shetland knitwear of all time!

We lost Stephen.

Wilma Malcolmson is the proprietor and knitter extraordinaire behind Shetland Designer. She designs and knits sweaters (jumpers) cardigans, vests, hats, mittens, and scarves - all with beautiful fair isle designs. Most of these are knit on small machines in her studio, but some are still knit by hand. We lost our minds with happiness at all the beautiful handknits.

Wilma was kind enough to show us around in her studio which contained several knitting machines and lots of knit swatches of her designs. The knitting machines still take a lot of work to get set up with special pattern cards that Wilma designs herself. She even has a seaming machine to seam the sweaters together.

Scenes from Wilma's studio

Wilma's swatches using natural undyed colors. 

We spent quite a while there, taking in all of her amazing designs, trying on sweaters and mittens and buying lots of knitwear!

Beautiful stacks of berets and gloves

Happy knitters surrounded by knitting!

Wilma also demonstrated knitting on a knitting belt. A knitting belt is a very common way that Shetlanders knit fair isle. It is leather and has holes to insert your knitting needle into a padded part of the belt. The end of a very long (about 14") double point needle is inserted into the hole which stabilizes the needle so the knitter can knit very fast. Pieces are knit in the round on these on just 2 of the double point needles, with a 3rd used as a working needle. Wilma showed us how she uses it and we've never seen anyone knit so fast - and she was doing colorwork!! Ysolda picked up a knitting belt while on Shetland and gave it a try as well!

Wilma shows us her knitting belt

When we left Wilma, she told us we had to keep driving south to see puffins! Of course we went. We drove to the furthest southern tip of Shetland where there are high cliffs on the sea - home to thousands of nesting sea birds, including puffins! While we went to Shetland to soak up the knitting culture and love of wool, a lot of people make the trek there to watch rare birds which Shetland is also famous for.

After seeing Puffins and eating some delicious local seafood for lunch, we checked out a crofthouse. Shetland has a beautifully restored, 1850's crofthouse museum that shows what life would have been like for early families living on the island. Women and children would work the land, living in the crofthouse, while the husband was away fishing or whaling.

Even our lunch spot was decorated with fair isle knitting.

Restored 1850's crofthouse

Next up: we visit Jamieson mill, Sandness beach knitting and sheep!!


Natalie B said...

love the group shot - you guys are hilarious!

Natalie B said...

love the group shot - you guys are hilarious!