In September of 2019 I joined my sis­ter Beth for Wool Week in the Shetland Islands. These are the places that we went and the things we saw. (Click through the gal­leries for more infor­ma­tion in the pic­ture descriptions.)


Lerwick is the capi­tol city of Shetland. We stayed in an apart­ment just up the hill from the har­bor. A short walk down hill (through “our alley”) led to Commercial Street, the pedes­tri­an shop­ping dis­trict and a block lat­er the Esplanade — the har­bor frontage road. . The con­fer­ence was cen­tered at the Shetland Museum and Archives. The HUB in the large mul­ti­pur­pose room being the cen­ter of all things Wool Week. Furnished with an endear­ing­ly eclec­tic vari­ety of chairs and couch­es arranged in vague cir­cles, it’s the place to sit and knit and meet up with folks from all over. There was a map of the world in which we were each invit­ed to put spin with home town on it. There was a big­ger map of the UK to accom­mo­date all the “locals” at the conference. 

A Walk and Clickimin Broch

From the City cen­ter you can take a love­ly walk along the sea walls to Clickimin Broch. A broch is a type of Iron Age build­ing found only in Scotland fea­tur­ing a round, dou­ble wall and a large inner court­yard area. Clickimin is notable because of its eas­i­ly acces­si­ble loca­tion and it’s loca­tion in the mid­dle of a small Loch. (Really it’s easy to get to from down­town: walk down to the Tesco and cross the Lerwick-Sumberg road at the petrol station.) 


Sunday night was the Welcome Ceremony at the Clickimin Leisure Center. The high­lights includ­ed tak­ing a pho­to­graph of some 500 peo­ple mod­el­ing their Roadside Beanies. Yes, there is an offi­cial hat for Wool Week. Actually, it’s a knit­ting pat­tern you have to make it your­self. Here’s mine:

Can you imag­ine that many peo­ple all wear­ing the same hat? Well, sort of the same hat — alter­nate col­or ways abound­ed as did the occa­sion­al vari­a­tion in form. (Stocking cap any one?) The occa­sion was also graced with a video greet­ing from HRH the Prince of Wales. Seriously. Quite the treat for the colonists. 


Monday morn­ing we went to Scalloway on our way to an after­noon class at Uradale Farm. We vis­it­ed Scalloway Castle and the muse­um there. We had lunch at a lit­tle cafe in town. Very good quiche. 

Knitting at Uradale Farm

That after­noon we had a class in Bohus Stickning at Uradale Farm. Kits were hand­ed out and while we learned about his­to­ry of Bohus knit­ting, we start­ed our own Bohus style sam­ples. Here’s a look at mine start­ed, but not fin­ished. Also a cou­ple of images from Uradale Farm were the class was held. 

A Day Out with Ponies and Chapels

On Tuesday we took our rental car and went all the way west arriv­ing in Sandness to vis­it with the ponies of Frances Taylor famous for their mod­el­ing of Fair Isle sweaters. Beth met her soul mate. We end­ed our vis­it when the sun­ny, windy day turned down-right treach­er­ous with side­ways sleet com­ing from the North. 

We stopped in Walls for lunch. The town min­is­ter kind­ly assist­ed us in find­ing the Regatta Club where they were hold­ing a cafe and craft show. Warm soup and ban­nock for lunch and huge pot of very hot tea. We watched the seals play in the voe while we ate and picked ups few presents at the craft show. 

As we went fur­ther south the weath­er cleared a bit. Our next stop was St Ninian’s Island to look for the ruins of a church. You can’t see any­thing that even vague­ly resem­bles a church from the Mainland side — not even with binoc­u­lars. But Beth insist­ed that there was a ruin out there so we crossed the tombo­lo to search for it. A tombo­lo is a path of sand that con­nects two bits of land and lies between two arms of the sea. The tombo­lo at St. Nianian’s is a semi-permanent fea­ture. Being impas­si­ble only in the win­ter when the rough and high seas wash the sand away. It returns in the spring. 

We did even­tu­al­ly find the ruins. Thought to call it a church is being gen­er­ous. It’s a tiny 12th cen­tu­ry chapel whose out­lines and a few tum­ble­down walls are indi­cat­ed by a hol­low in the hill­side. The site is impor­tant most­ly because of a trove of sil­ver objects found by the school­boy Douglas Coutts in 1958. (No we didn’t see them; they are in Edinburg. Though there are some copies of some of the pieces in the muse­um in Lerwick.) 

Knitting a Peerie Hap

Wednesday we start­ed the day with a class in mak­ing tra­di­tion­al Shetland haps (shawls) And here, for ref­er­ence, is a pic­ture of the peerie hap that is sup­posed to result when I get my lit­tle lace project sewn up. Not near­ly as impres­sive as this huge hap, on it’s stretch­ing board. And yarn bombers were about, here’s a lit­tle mes­sage that they added to the Shetland Sign on the Esplanade. 

Jamieson’s Mill

Later in the day we went back to Sandness in the west (by full-sized tour bus on one-lane roads) to vis­it the Jamieson’s mill where they spin and dye Shetland wool into yarn. They also do a bit of weav­ing. I made this lit­tle video of tweed weav­ing on a jacquard loom. 

Bressay Island and Garth’s Croft

Thursday we made the 10 minute cross­ing to the island of Bressay on a lit­tle fer­ry that car­ries maybe 15 cars. The park and ride on the Bressay side was full. Lots of peo­ple who live on Bressay work in Lerwick. On Bressay we toured Garth’s Croft the home of Chris Dyer and his flock of Shetland Sheep. He’s also got pigs, chick­ens, and hoop house for grow­ing fruit trees and ten­der veg­eta­bles that can’t stand the Shetland cli­mate. He’s also a mas­ter builder of dry stone walls. 

Then we had a light lunch at the com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter in the old grade school and vis­it­ed the stu­dio of RAM knitwear. I bought a love­ly cowl assist­ed by the moth­er of the designer. 

A Brewery and Some Vikings

In the after­noon we went to the Lerwick Brewery — per­haps the most north­ern brew­ery in the UK. And final­ly the MRI Maakers sup­per at the Town Hall where we looked at some nice stained glass win­dows and met Vikings. We also had some mut­ton, pota­to, and lentil soup. (I think that I will make it a “tried it once” thing.) 

Experimental Lace Knitting and a Spree

Friday we took anoth­er lace knit­ting class, this one about mix­ing yarn weights and nee­dle sizes and the effects both good and bad that you can achieve. 

Friday night there was the Spree — a tra­di­tion­al Shetland rave-up — where Beth con­vinced me to dance. And there is, thank­ful­ly, absolute­ly no video evi­dence. I am com­plete­ly inca­pable of fol­low­ing even the sim­plest of phys­i­cal direc­tions mak­ing the task of teach­ing me to dance the Boston Two-Step neigh on impossible. 

Tour of South Mainland

Saturday, ear­ly in the morn­ing, Beth left for the air­port and the long trip home. I went on a tour of the South Mainland. We start­ed with the Croft House Museum. A recre­ation of a typ­i­cal croft with two small liv­ing rooms, a store­room, a barn, and thatched roof. While we sat inside next to a (smokey) peat fire, local story-teller David Cooper told us a ghost story. 

Scatness is an Iron Age vil­lage (and broch) that has been exca­vat­ed a cou­ple of times, most recent­ly in the 70’s. You can’t just go wan­der­ing around here; you get a guid­ed tour. We were lucky to find one of the arche­ol­o­gists in and got a very infor­ma­tive tour. She point­ed out that the broch is the old­est of the build­ings that they have exca­vat­ed so far but that there is anoth­er lay­er under­neath. When or if they will work that old­er site isn’t decided. 

Finally we vis­it­ed the light­house at Sumberg Head where there was cake, amaz­ing views, and the very large engines that make the fog horn work. 

Sunday I spent most of the day sit­ting in the HUB knit­ting and chat­ting with the folks stay­ing ’til the very end of Wool Week. Had love­ly din­ner and then packed up for the trip home. 

I am now on an air­plane very far up in the sky — fly­ing very fast on the way home to Seattle. And in a cou­ple of days you all will get to see this report. 

3 replies on “Shetland Islands/Wool Week 2019”

  1. Thank you for your love­ly diary of SWW! The spelling of pla­ce­names and gram­mar et al needs some atten­tion, but I will over­look all of that for your com­ment on the Welcome address by the Saxe Coburg Goethe, aka “HRH Prince” Charles. “This will make the colonists hap­py” you wrote. It did indeed. And it made social­ist repub­li­cans (note the small “r”, US friends) like me very unhap­py. As did the fore­word in the annu­al. Shame.

    1. I can’t begin to track the machi­na­tions of the UK pol­i­tics. My own coun­try’s flail­ing is enough to make me dizzy. Glad you enjoyed the pictures.

  2. That was love­ly to read. Even though I’ve been to Wool Week eight times it is fas­ci­nat­ing to see how dif­fer­ent peo­ple organ­ise their weeks. Seems like you did not waste one minute of your stay in won­der­ful Shetland x

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