Shetland-themed Sunday Tea in the South

800 miles South of the legendary Tingwall Teas put on by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, comrades of Berkshire, Oxfordshire and other nearby shires gathered yesterday at Purlescence to partake of homebaked fare, admire one another’s work, knit, and drink tea.

It was a very jolly afternoon and Sarah and Jonathan were amazing hosts.

Jonathan and Sarah of Purlescence
Jonathan and Sarah of Purlescence

I made bannocks adapted from this recipe by Peter Sinclair of Hillswick. Peter specifies that one should use self-raising flour from the Johnson & Woods bakery in Voe, Shetland, and a Shetland hen’s egg, and buttermilk. I did not have these items so instead I used a duck egg courtesy of my irascible ducks, Happy Shopper flour from the corner shop, and some of my homemade kefir in place of the buttermilk. Even with these hacks, the bannocks came out well and happily I came home with far fewer than can be seen in this photo from the start of our Sunday Tea!


I also brought along my collection of Shetland publications for browsing, to which Francoise joyously added a copy of The Shetland Times. Scooped on her recent trip to Shetland, this copy of the newspaper has a massive Wool Week pull out, and it was wonderful to see familiar faces and such good coverage of Shetland Wool Week there.

Shetland Books!
Shetland Books!
The Shetland Times - thank you Francoise
The Shetland Times – thank you Francoise

The knitwear display was wonderful – Jonathan and Sarah had cleared a table on which people were invited to share knitting projects with a material or conceptual connection to Shetland, and there were some utterly beautiful things to see. Here are some highlights;

Blomekrans by Shazknits
Blomekrans by Shazknits

This wondrous vest worked by Shazknits was much admired with its bold, graphic patterns and luminous colour scheme.

AuntiFred's Shetland Shawl
AuntiFred’s Shetland Shawl

This gorgeous Shetland Shawl by AuntiFred tells a lovely story; the pattern was purchased by her parents on their honeymoon in Shetland, and knitted for her as a baby, by her Father. This is her own later version, worked in J&S lace-weight yarn. I love the inter-generational story of knitting and visits to Shetland, bound up in this lovely object.

Chopkinsknits dotty Shetland Croft House Museum Mittsalong
Chopkinsknits dotty Shetland Croft House Museum Mittsalong

It was beautiful to see the Shetland Croft House Museum Mitts on which Chopkinsknits is currently working. How jolly are those lovely big dots? and how soft and playful the lines?! I’ve been lucky to have Catherine in a couple of my workshops and I really love her playful and celebratory approach; these mitts to me are the epitome of having fun and making something wearable at the same time. The abstract shapes she’s used are really pleasing expressions of elements of the Croft House Museum; the wiggly line is the winding path; the big happy spots are the old round stones; and the soft palette of fawns and greys and blues is very descriptive of the luminous light over the water in Shetland, I think.

Blues, fawns and silvers in the lovely light over the water, near the Shetland Croft House Museum
Blues, fawns and silvers in the lovely light over the water, near the Shetland Croft House Museum
Val's Crofthoose Hat
Val’s Crofthoose Hat

As expected, there were a few examples of this year’s immensely popular Shetland Wool Week Hat pattern – the Crofthoose Hat by Ella Gordon – and this example was knitted by Jonathan’s mother, Val. She was at the workshop myself and Brenda Dayne gave at Purlescence near the start of this year, where she drew inspiration for her stranded colourwork from some very ornate tiles she had seen on holiday. She’s taken that palette and now applied it to her Crofthoose Hat, aren’t the results just lovely?

Val's colour inspiration
Val’s colour inspiration
Liz's amazing wee bluebells hat
Liz’s amazing wee bluebells hat

My friend Liz is an amazing knitter; she was one of the sample knitters for the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, and here you can see her wonderful version of Kate’s Wee Bluebells pattern, plus a matching tam of her own devising She also handspun enough Portland fleece to make a Miss Rachel’s Yoke; I am just blown away by Liz’s mad skillz and can barely believe that this is handspun because it is so even and so neat.

Liz's Miss Rachel's Yoke
Liz’s Miss Rachel’s Yoke

It was brilliant to see so many of Kate’s iconic designs on the table yesterday. Two knitters independently brought along a Sheepheid Hat and a Rams and Yowes blanket, worked in Jamieson & Smith Jumper Weight Supreme…

Sheepheid and Rams and Yowes!
Sheepheid and Rams and Yowes!

…and this Machrihanish by Scarcelyodd just blows me away.

Machrihanish by Scarcelyodd
Machrihanish by Scarcelyodd

I felt extremely lucky to be able to wear a Scatness Tunic from Kate’s book, Colours of Shetland, knitted by my Aunty Gill. I got her the book for her birthday a couple of years ago and she knitted the tunic but then found she wasn’t wearing it much at all… she asked if I would like it and I said I WILL WEAR IT WITH PRIDE FOR THE WHOLE AUTUMN IT WOULD BE THE BEST THING EVER and so here I am, proudly sporting it yesterday 🙂


There was much talk of knitting, much knitting, much admiring of knitting, much drinking of tea, and much talk of Shetland, and I was really made up because Jonathan set up the television so we could enjoy my Listening to Shetland Wool Week sound map in the background. This is the sound map I produced in 2013 for Shetland Wool Week using the aporee sound maps platform; you can press play all on the map and it will play sounds from all over Shetland that relate in one way or another to sheep and wool. Though it was disconcerting at a couple of moments – the cows at the Voe Show were very loud, and the crowd at the Clickimin Bowling Halls whom I recorded last year for the Knitting Pundits were wonderfully rowdy – overall it was very fine to be able to hear the wind, the birds, the sheep and the labour that goes into Shetland wool, while we were admiring the end products that can be made with it. Thank you for playing the sounds!

Beautiful Shetland gloves, bought by Sarah in Shetland on her travels earlier this year
Beautiful Shetland gloves, bought by Sarah in Shetland on her travels earlier this year

This morning I’m listening to several albums that I can’t recommend highly enough if you are feeling the FOMO and experiencing any sort of Shetland Wool Week withdrawal symptoms:

The Best of Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham
Yella Hoose / Goodnight Ginger by John McCusker
Fiddle Music from Shetland and Beyond by Curlew
The Silver Bow – The Fiddle Music of Shetland by Aly Bain and Tom Anderson

It was magic to see folks yesterday who had just come back from Shetland, and to reminisce with buddies about previous Shetland Wool Weeks. Thanks so much to everyone for making it such a lovely afternoon. Finally, I hope you’ve enjoyed joining in a little bit here, I’ll be back soon with a special Shetland-themed podcast for you all,


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4 Responses to Shetland-themed Sunday Tea in the South

  1. As always another wonderful read and thank you for those pictures of such gorgeous and breath takingly beautiful knits, it looks like you all had a wonderful time…..your Auntie Gill’s tunic is stunning and you look proper grand wearing it.
    Even though for many of us going to Shetland Wool Week is but a dream, you’ve made it so accessible and reading your Wool Week related posts over the past few days I certainly don’t feel like I’ve missed out in anyway…

  2. Catherine says:

    It was a lovely afternoon. As you say Sarah and Jonathan are such great hosts and so nice to see all the knits everyone bought – I do hope Liz publishes a pattern for her gorgeous bluebell hat, I want to make one for my granddaughter! Thank you so much for having such a brilliant idea

  3. Anne says:

    Thank you. Feels like the real deal. Appreciate the share!!


  4. Caiknit says:

    Beautiful photos. Thanks for everything you’ve done to help with my fomo this year! You’re such an encouraging person

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