Bam and Pops in Shetland

Bam and Pops stand outside J&S with their beautiful sign featuring the red logo and the words HOME OF REAL SHETLAND WOOL

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.

Pops wears Baable; he is grinning under the hat, which is a bit oversized for his head, and he wears red braces and a blue shirt

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)…

Felix and Bam - daughter and mother - stand side by side, wearing the same hat, but in different colourways - it is the Shwook by Hazel Tindall; Felix wears and orange and grellow edition, while Bam wears a purple and green version. Both Felix and Bam have long hair.

…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!

Bam and Pops in Wagamama in Aberdeen, wearing beaming smiles and Shetland Wool Week 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 - built in the 1700s, one of the old buildings in Lerwick that effectively acts as a pier for the transfer of goods from the sea onto the land - a building extending into the sea; a Lodberry, from the Norse word for a loading rock; a low, sturdy stone building extending out into the sea

The Lodberrie, immediately recognisable from the television series, Shetland; and from the cover of Vol. 01 of Misa’s Shetland Wool Adventures Journal

Bam and Pops stand outside J&S with their beautiful sign featuring the red logo and the words HOME OF REAL SHETLAND WOOL

…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.

John Wm. setting up the jigger for catching mackerel, parents on the left, and Burra in the background

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.

Stacks of Houssness; great stone stacks sticking out of the water as seen from The Osprey


John Wm. in the Osprey, near to the pier where he released my parents and I onto dry land

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.

Puffins at Hermaness

Gannets soaring around Hermaness

Gannet colony living on the rocks - epic quantities of Gannets lining every shelf and crevice of the cliff face

Windswept parents enjoying tea and cakes in 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.

Famous Unst bus shelter decorated lavishly with stickers and housing plants, books, an unconnected TV, and many Jubilee-themed fixings, including a revamp of the seat into a throne.

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.

Pops on Minn Beach wearing his Baa-ble hat

Minn Beach - cool blue waters atop white sand, banked by strong outcroppings of land - the most beautiful beach in the universe

Sumburgh Head - the view from the top down the green and rocky cliffs

Sadly this concluded the time of Bam and Pops in Shetland, though I was happily able to stay on a little longer.

Yours in Puffins, Wursit, Mackerel and HATS –

13 thoughts on “Bam and Pops in Shetland

  1. Thank you for this lovely blog post — I adore all the photos of you and your mom & dad. What lovely smiles you all have!

  2. What a wonderful, jolly trip. And it was delightful to meet Bab and Pops. I look forward to additional posts about your trip.

  3. Thanks for getting me out of my same old routine for a bit. What a lovely trip and lovely memories for you and your folks. I’d say “hats off” to you all, but that just wouldn’t seem right.

    1. Hey Terry, “hats off” made me laugh as they were definitely ON for our trip!!! Thanks for always reading and for being so supportive in the comments here x

  4. What a perfect trip! You fit in so many wonderful aspects of the Shetland experience even getting all the way north to Unst. Puffins, yea cakes, a personal boat tour – I’m sure these all helped your parents understand your love of Shetland!

    1. My great grandmother Joan Mouat was born in Shetland. I enjoyed reading about your whistle stop trip and the folksy nature of your post.

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