My 2019 Shetland Wool Week Experience Part 3

On Monday morning at 8am, it was working as usual for me; lots of crofters and wool clips, grading and packing, and of course lots of visitors to the wool store. I had an afternoon 2pm talk on all things Wool, Past and Present, as well as demonstrating wool grading and hand sorting. From 3pm until 5pm it was back to the usual work load.

At 6pm I travelled to Mareel; a multi- purpose entertainment venue located on the (waterfront) of Lerwick and just across the harbour from our house. I have a run through of my powerpoint and talk, entitled – A Journey With Shetland Wool, which charts out my working life to date (spanning over 50 years) as I have blogged on since April this year. I had only seen the auditorium twice before and that was when our grandchildren were performing at the Shetland schools’ music festival. The first time I went there was when Lynsey, our eldest grandchild played the accordion at the music festival, and when Aidan our grandson was in a boy’s choir. Lynsey was quite reluctant to do this despite being fairly good at playing a tune and had performed before. I decided I would try to encourage her to perform by using some of my own psychology. I approached her saying, “Lynsey, before I die I would love to hear you play in Mareel.” Play she did, and she made me feel very proud as her fingers danced over the keys, and seemingly without a care in the world and before a packed audience. I was to take her home after the event and as we were leaving the car park she looked up at me and said, “Da Da you asked me to play in Mareel, I have done as you wished, you will not hear me play in Mareel again!” Looking up at the sea of faces it dawned on me what I had put her through, and I supposed I had a sense of karma! My talk seemed to go down quite well, I was not aware of any doubts; however it was of great comfort and strength for me to see in the very first row, Catherine who had come to support me. I would like to thank Ella Gordon for preparing my power point; she has a canny knack of knowing how I think.

My Talk on My Journey at Mareel

Tuesday morning and the fifth day was to be a landmark day for me, a trip into the unknown; my first ever teaching class. Held in the Islesburgh community centre, formerly the Lerwick Central School which I had attended over 50 years ago, although it was not the happiest time of my life as it was my first journey away from my home in Burra Isle. My class itinerary consisted of an introduction followed by a powerpoint, Shetland sheep, wool awareness, presenting a fleece for grading, grading wool, the composition of classing the wool which had included fault grades. A break was due and then I showed them how to sort a fleece; they then had their own Flecket fleece to sort into colour and wool quality. I talked about wool scouring, and demonstrated fleece judging. Finishing off with questions, 3 hours later, most seemed quite happy with the end result. I was quite pleased to have overcome my doubts on how I would manage to teach a class of 10 people, especially with my memories of being taught in this same location all those years ago.


In the evening we paid a visit to the Islesburgh Spinners and Knitters in the same community centre. We visited an old friend of ours, Ruth Gough of Wingham Wools; we had first met Ruth many years ago at Woolfest in Cumbria. Ruth had an excellent selection of all things wool in one of the larger rooms upstairs. She gave us a demonstration on the art of combing, which I had never seen before which was very interesting indeed. It was while visiting Ruth that we met with Wilma Ross, my first cousin, who introduced us to her first cousin and her friend on her father’s side, all the way from Geelong in Australia. It was great to meet up with them and chat about sheep and wool back home in Geelong.

Geelong Visitors

Downstairs in two of the main halls we joined in with the Islesburgh Spinners and Knitters. Claire White the compere from the opening night was entertaining the mass of people with her Shetland fiddle tunes; there are no ends to her talents.

Claire Entertaining the Crowd

I met with lots of old friends especially Mary Eunson and Mary Kay who were the two local ladies who test knitted our first batch of 100% Shetland lace (wirsit) we did in partnership with the local museum and parent company Curtis Wool Direct. I was in fact discussing our 1 ply (wirsit) lace when I saw Ms Webber, my surgeon, who was wearing a very stunning 1ply top and cowl, in an array of natural shades. I asked if it was knitted from her hand spun Shetland wool, she replied “Do you not recognise your own yarns?” There were a lot of Roadside beanies on display, also a very eye catching Roadside skirt.

Ms Webber 1 ply Lace Supreme Skirt
Roadside Skirt Owner

We arrived home late very tired but happy with how the day had gone and the fact I had managed to see and chat to so many people!

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