Back in the spring my Mum (Bam) mentioned that she and my dad (Pops) were planning to go to Shetland this July.
Since my parents only planned to be in Shetland for two days, I wanted to prepare them for their trip so promptly sent them Volumes 1 – 3 of the fantastic Shetland Wool Adventures Journal produced by Misa Hay. As well as beautiful knitting patterns from Shetland’s world-famous designers, these journals contain recipes, walking routes, essays and atmospheric photography of Shetland’s dramatic landscapes. Rich, inspiring, accessible and full of heart, there is no finer introduction for first-time visitors to the isles.
I also decided that under no circumstances were Bam and Pops to travel to Shetland without Shetland Wool Week Hats. It is hard to overstate the joy provided around the world each year by these Hats. They connect Shetland knitting with other aspects of Shetland life and provide a means for global, knitterly participation in the festivities of Shetland Wool Week. From Hazel Tindall’s 2014 Shwook to Linda Shearer’s 2022 Bonnie Isle Hat, each design is a masterclass in Fair Isle knitting, revealing its creators’ flair and aesthetic, and giving insights into Shetland life, culture and history. Hurrah for the Hats! With a massive, worldwide audience of avid fans and knitters, the knitting and wearing of hats strengthen ties between Shetland appreciators, Shetland visitors, and Shetlanders. Bam and Pops could not go to Shetland without Hats!
In March I drove to their home with all my Shetland Wool Week Hats to date to try out some ideas and explore what they might like.
Here is Pops in Donna Smith’s 2015 Baa-ble Hat, which Pops loved (although this version was a bit on the massive side after I experienced massive gauge fail)…
…and here are Bam and I, with matching long hair and differently-coloured versions of Hazel Tindall’s 2014 Shwook.
It was a very jolly afternoon of trying on hats, discussing colour combinations, telling my folks all about different Shetland designers, and learning things about my parents – for example Pops never had a hat with a bobble; my mum has an aversion to wearing yellows/oranges/mustards next to her face; and they both have a preference for the sort of deep ribbed brim that can be folded up about the ears to keep them warm. I measured their heads, made notes in my trusty KNITSONIK Bullet Journal, and dove into my stash of Jamieson & Smith 2 ply Jumper Weight to put together palettes.
As the date for their trip drew closer, I kept thinking how brilliant it would be to discretely book myself onto their ferry and surprise them by appearing on their trip. However, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep such a fun secret to myself! Instead I revealed my plans to join them, so we could plan their days in Shetland together. Two weeks ago, we met in Aberdeen to prepare for our travels and to hand over The Hats!
As per the spec from our March visit, Bam’s hat is a slouchy beret shape with a deep ribbed brim that can be folded up. It is worked in Jamieson & Smith 2 ply Jumper Weight Yarn in shades of pink, lilac and blue using this year’s glorious pattern by Linda Shearer – Bonnie Isle Hat. Pops’ hat is a neatly-fitting Baa-ble hat by Donna Smith. I made it using Alice Starmore Hebridean 2 ply for the brim and then Jamieson & Smith 2 ply Jumper Weight Yarn for the main body of the hat. To try and achieve something close to the gauge in the pattern, originally for Aran-weight yarn, I held strands double throughout. I also felt that years of having no bobble should be corrected, and spent a jolly evening making one to go on top.
Correctly outfitted, we set off on adventures – all of which were over far too fast. Our first morning in Shetland was spent in Lerwick, enjoying some of its best views and places…
…The Lodberrie, immediately recognisable from the television series, Shetland; and from the cover of Vol. 01 of Misa’s Shetland Wool Adventures Journal…
…and The Woolbrokers AKA THE PALACE OF WURSIT!
Our afternoon was spent in my favourite place in Shetland: Burra. This is the birthplace of the Baa-ble Hat, but it’s also where I’ve stayed and visited with my friends Donna, Caroline and John Wm. on many joyful and laughter-filled occasions these past few years. I love Burra, to me it is a land of friends, sheep, and joyous happy memories. I was completely blown away by John Wm.’s generous offer to bring us on a fishing trip around Burra in his wonderfully tough little boat, The Osprey.
In this picture John Wm. is setting up the jigger for catching mackerel. I think we were traveling in Langsoond – the same stretch of water after which Donna’s Langsoond Yarn is named – you can see it in this film about Donna’s Yarn.
When we went out in the boat, John Wm. and my Pops were both wearing sweaters machine-knit by John Wm.’s mum. I’ve read so much about the intertwined histories of knitting and fishing in Shetland, and have taken part in many aspects of Shetland knitting… but until last week, I’d never done any actual Shetland fishing. Even on a fine evening in July, in relatively sheltered waters, and still a good distance from the open North Atlantic, there was enough swell and movement in the water to knock me onto the floor of the boat (to everyone’s amusement – especially mine). As boat-clown and chief mackerel-scooper (we suddenly hit a shoal and there were fish all over the boat that needed scooping up and adding to the coolbox…) I was totally overjoyed to see a bit more of Shetland from the sea; to feel the power of the ocean; and to know it as a place of sustenance, beauty, and awesome force.
THANK YOU SO MUCH JOHN WM. AND THE OSPREY FOR THIS UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE!
The next day was full of a very different sort of sea travel as I drove Bam and Pops to Unst and we travelled between the islands on the inter-island ferries. I wanted to bring them to Hermaness so they could see Puffins, Bonxies and Gannets and so we could enjoy the UK’s most northerly tea and cakes at Victoria’s Vintage Tea Rooms.
On the trip back down South to where we were staying, the famous Unst bus shelter was much-admired, with its seasonal, Jubilee-themed adornments and decorations.
The final day of Bam and Pops’ whistle-stop tour of Shetland involved the best beach in the universe – Minn Beach – and a journey to Sumburgh Head. I wanted them to get a sense of the full extent of the isles – the length of Shetland, at least, if not the breadth.
Sadly this concluded the time of Bam and Pops in Shetland, though I was happily able to stay on a little longer.
MORE OF MY SUBSEQUENT ADVENTURES SOON…
Yours in Puffins, Wursit, Mackerel and HATS –