Not that my stash needs adding to at the moment (with 3 projects worth of wool currently taking up space in the bedroom cupboard!), but I can never resist a native wool!

A couple of weeks ago we were at the new Museum in Scalloway and we were just about to leave when I spotted a lovely kishie, full to the brim with beautiful cakes of yarn. The colours – broomy yellows – heathery purples = licheny greens…all reminiscent of the colours of the landscape.

On returning home I did a quick internet search and found the product not just local to Shetland, but it was wool from sheep that were in spitting distance. What more could you want!

Uradale Yarn are based in East Voe and their product is 100% local, native and organic – the triple whammy. Their certification means that the wool can be traced back to the sheep on the hill who grew it too. Amazing stuff!

The Uradale wool is spun at the mills in New Lanark  and then dyed at Organic accreddited Paint Box Textiles.  Sue, from Uradale Farm, was nice enough to drop round a shade card (What a service!) and I think you will agree that the colours are just lovely…

…and all named after the plants their flock feed on.

I purchased a ball, just to swatch it up and get a feel for it.

This is what I would call a lovely “Sheepy” wool. Not as rough to touch as a lot of Shetland wools (This occurs a lot in the dyeing process, with the use of harsh chemicals), in fact, I felt there was still a bit of the natural oil in there (which I prefer), but it could be the organic dyeing process.

The stitch definition is really good and it was a really compliant wool to work with.

In washing and blocking, there was a little dye which escaped into the water, but nothing which detracted from the overall colour (this is the Self-Heal colourway). I used Eucalan wool wash and I would give it two soaks, just to get that lovely softness and bloom it deserves.

I was using the DK weight (130m) and thought I might try a little woolly jacket for a baby friend, which just flew off the pins and the finished item is soft and lovely!

I cannot wait to purchase more Uradale Organic Yarn for my next project (after the 3 queued!) and will be keen to try the yarns in the Aran and Chunky weights, as well as some of those other delicious colours!

If you are interested in the wool and Uradale Farm, please do seek them out at http://uradalefarm.blogspot.co.uk

….and in other news….

The Humble Cardigan

It’s had a bad wrap (pardon the pun) over the years, with Soap Opera matriarchs standing on street corners, bemoaning life and pulling their badly shaped, acrylic, beige cardi’s around them.

But I have a huge love of the cardigan, I think it is a very under-rated piece of clothing, which goes from slobbing out comfort to high fashion.

Having been a knitter and trying to hone my skills for a few years now I have always shied away from big projects, but this year I thought that if I wanted to master my skills I really need to move on up from accessories. So I proclaimed that this year will be….(insert fanfare)…. THE GREAT CARDI KNIT OF 2012!

I have spent a long time salivating over the cardigan designs of Gudrun Johnston, Kate Davies and Ysolda Teague and decided that if I could knit one pattern from each designer this year I would be very happy.

So far I have knit two Ysolda and on my second Shetland Trader one!  – with 2 Kate Davies cardigans in my queue! (colourwork AND steeking involved!)

I’ll not say it has been easy…. you wouldn’t have thought something as simple as a button-hole would cause tears, but it did….I think I need a blood transfusion from all the blocking injuries I have sustained…and I think I have inhaled half an alpaca…. but I have to say I am really enjoying tackling larger projects. It feels good to be adding to my skills!

Moch Cardi by Gudrun Johnston
DO NOT use Drops Karisma Superwash, It pills after ONE use. Very upsetting, but a lesson to always follow the designers tips on wool!

This is Cria, designed by Ysolda Teague Made with Drops Alpaca…the one with the troublesome, tearful buttonholes

I have just finished another Cria for my pal Mavra, who is a tour guide at Rosslyn chapel. Don’t you think the buttons are very fitting?

And it’s not just the Great Cardi Knit for Morrolesssocks! Oh no! I have also managed two wee person sized ones too…so I am off and running! I don’t think I’ll manage one for every month of the year, but I’ll give it a damn good go and I can only hope that I will straighten out my buttonholes (and tension and other wee problems) along the way

I even managed a little poncho for Jeremy!

Check out the Threads!
(this was actually a pre-steeked practice…such regality though…Queen Jeremy)

So, off I go to unto the knitting breach once more, what new techniques shall I seek out with the next project?

…I will be sure to report back!


    Today I was in the mood for a little bit of reminiscence. Sometimes the body and mind just crave a tender walk down memory lane. For some time I have wanted to revisit the family croft. Its not far away, just over the water in Bressay, and every time we drive into Lerwick I see it there  – not so picturesque – next to the fish meal factory – crumbly and grey and even at that distance it looks in need of a wrecking ball, but so many childhood memories are there.

I remember…. A white washed house, inside a tiny kitchen with one cold water tap….A hay loft that made me feel like Heidi….a kaleyard with tall walls….an old tin bath and Belfast sink in the garden…..lots of out buildings to play and hide in…feral chickens and even more feral factory cats…yelllow fields….sheep everywhere…family everywhere….dipping, clipping, lambing…jostling about in the back of the hay cart, being carted downhill in the tractor….

    As we walked along the road and got closer to the croft house the ground was still the same deep, spongy marsh that, as a child, you felt might swallow you up if you stood in certain places. Even though there is a brand new road that goes on past the house, my feet carried me instinctively along the well-walked track. The last time I was at Annfield was before dad died, probably about 8 years ago, and although I knew the place had fallen into disrepair it was sad to see it so run down in those few years and even further removed from my minds eye.

  Even if I screwed up my eyes out of focus I could still see that it was vastly different from how I remembered it, or how my mind wanted me to see it (those kaleyard walls don’t look particularly tall, could it have been that I was just too small to see over them once?

   The Belfast sink and bath are still there, but looked more sad and discarded than fun farm objects. I found the hay truck too…doesn’t look like it would be very safe to travel on these days!


Sadder still it was to see that someone had broken the door in and had a wee trash. I wouldn’t have gone inside anyway as the roof is rather unsafe, but seeing that was a little like having ones childhood memories stomped all over. So, there was no whitewash and no family and no feral animals (though still some sheep!)

But I couldn’t help feeling connected still. Even if my remembrances were fading into reality.

And then I laughed…because, as I told my lovely time travelling companion, We usually hated going to the croft when we were wee! It might have meant a 3 mile walk there (a lot for little legs), we might have been dragged there in our summer holidays when we had better things to be doing, we might have had to suffer spending time with older family members (one of whom, breathless and hopelessly rotund my 7-year old little sister pushed at least a couple of yards in a wheelbarrow once! Fact!), it might have meant eating spam sandwiches on the beach or at the peat hill and getting sand and peat mould in places that no-one wants to get sand or peat mould…

How fickle the mind! That it only lets us remember some things and sugarcoats other things. But I am sure we always enjoyed ourselves really! Since leaving Bressay today I had some vague words by Norman Maccaig floating around my head..

‘…The circle of this year.

the smaller of the last year.

the smaller one of the year before last –

They narrow down to a point

and balance on that crystal.

I see in it

with exact clarity

endless things

and endless meanings of things…’

I think that as the years go on and the memory adapts to retain new information only the honey of memories remain, so I’ll take that and remember it just as I do.

Walking away from the house, we went down the park towards the beach and the old fishing station. I do like a pebbly beach and this is a pebbly beach! Not very stunning (with the Lerwick Power Station in close view) but lots of treasures were found.


 I love nothing more than puddling around a pebbly beach and coming home with a carrier bag of treasure….and today’s was put to good use straight away!

I’ve made a film!


No, it’s not a remake of the wickerman, rather it’s a tribute to the Shetland tradition of guizing in straw costumes as seen through the eyes of a photography student and juxtaposed with archive sound recordings from one who remembers the now extinct custom.

You can read a little of the background of this project here, but basically the ethnologist in me was fired up to research Skeklers, but instead of satisfying my need for knowledge, I am still scratching my head.

The guizer – dressed in straw and ribbons, with blinded face and disguised voice – was first mentioned in Samuel Hibbert’s, Description of The Shetland Islands in 1822, but even then the tradition was described as something which was dying out.

Any evidence of skekling is fragmentary, occurring only in visitor accounts and almost each one (found mainly in the mid-late 19th Century) states that the custom was only just clinging on. Here is one such visitor account from the 1850s, which describes the skeklers in their full glory!

“The kitchen was full of beings, whose appearance, being so unearthly, shook the gravity of my muscles and forced a cold sweat to ooze from every pore in my body…

…[they] stood like statues. One was far above the rest  and of gigantic dimensions. eyes, mouth, or noses they had none, nor at least a trace of their countenance. 

They kept up an incessant grunt — a noise partly resembling a swine or turkey cock. Their outer garments were as white as snow ans consisted of petticoats below and shirts on the outside with sleeves and collars. They were veiled and their headdresses or caps were about 18 inches in height and made of straw twisted and plaited.  each cap terminated in three or four cones of a crescent shape. all pointing backwards and downwards with bunches of ribbons of every colour raying from the points of the cones.”

Once a common sight at Halloween and Christmas and New Year guizing, the skekler was also an honoured guest at the Shetland Wedding, where a group of characters – the ‘fragments’ tell us they had names such as Scudler, Gentleman, Fool & Judas – would enter the celebration and dance with the bride, blessing the union. Again, they were dressed in straw, with their faces and voices disguised.

It is shame that the accounts of skekling only cover a finite period of time and over what seems to have been its demise. There is photographic evidence from the early 20th century of boys in Fetlar, who are dressed head to foot in straw. I wonder if the custom was passed on to the children in an attempt to keep it alive, much in the same way that the Papa Stour Sword Dance was taught to the boys on the Island in the 50’s/60’s to ensure that there were people to carry on the tradition, when the island suffered from depopulation.

Still, I don’t feel like I drew the short straw on this occasion (boom, boom!) I have been thoroughly captivated by the Skekler, much in the same way Gemma, the photographer in the film, has. It is nice to see someone from outside a tradition come in and look at it with new eyes and I hope she has the opportunity to bring her exhibition up to Shetland.

Clutching at Straws has been entered into Hansel of Film 2012, a short film festival which is travelling from Shetland to Southampton (and back) as part of the London 2012 Olympics celebrations.

Happiness is…

Here are the things that are just jingling my joy at the moment…


This year I discovered Drops range of wools and The Wool Shed. I am in love with the squidgy Andes and Nepal ranges (65% wool, 35% Alpaca!) and the ladies who run The Wool Shed in Aberdeenshire are so unbelievably helpful. Drops are having a discount running until 31st December too!



…The frozen grass crunching under Jeremy’s paws…

… Declan O’Rourke… such a lovely voice and a great guitarist



Lemon drizzle cake! One of the easiest things to bake ever and sooo mouth puckering good with a cup of coffee.





…Just the best film ever to get you into the Christmas spirit! I recently watched the colour version, which I was highly dubious about, but it is even more magical, if that’s possible.


Laughing at…

…Jeremy’s propensity to sleep wherever she darn well pleases.

…and her “get out of my face” look…



…currently revisiting The Tales of The City, by Armistead Maupin. I have read and re-read these books over the last 15 years and now enjoying them on my iPod!


Ah! Christmas is but around the corner. Not sure how Christnassy I feel yet…maybe I need to stick on George Bailey again. I hope happiness and joy is blooming all around.


Camiaow blogger

“It’s been so long since I blogged, where on earth do I begin…” The female one exasperatedly sighed.
I happened to be watching from my basket…well I was pretending to sleep, but I often have one ear open as well as one eye…I don’t like to miss much,

The female one got up, deciding that it was more important to bake something (not for me Imight add, the male one gets the goodies) so I thought I’d stray over to the table and see if I might lend a paw.

I must say, the female one has been lax in her blog-writing! But where she doesn’t know where to pick up again, I can at least tell you what I know.

Until July I was happy living with The Male One. He was the one who named me Jeremy.  (That was rude of me, I should have introduced myself from the outset! ) The name, you may think, has a rather noble turn to it, but the fact that I am a young lady seems to have escaped The Male One – although he does, crudely, call me Jeremywithavagina sometimes, so he can’t be so clueless…

…anyway, I digress!

Yes, so it was The Male One and I, and my sister (she stepped out a while ago…August, I think it was…Not sure where she hangs these days) and then one day The Male One brought The Female One to say hello. I, being a bit of a madam, made a bit of a fuss of her and She I. On her very regular visits she began to bring some of her knitting for me to play with, which was very kind of her…here am I keenly watching the yarn, I made quite a mess of that when backs were turned.

Anyway, The Male One (TMO) obviously liked The Female One (TFO), and thought he’d keep her around. I’ve got the pair of them pretty domesticated now. It’s nice not to have troublesome pets. TFO has transitioned well into our lives and is ever so obedient – every morning, after parading myself outside of the “stick cupboard” she gives me my morning meaty treat.

Although it hasn’t all been fun and games! Currently I am a little…er…indisposed, I have an…infestation. TMO & TFO have been very obliging with the powders, potions and sprays, but when feeling under the weather there is only one place I want to be. Under the covers in their bed. Every time I open the door (who says cats *need* thumbs!) and creep in TFO comes rattling down the stairs to scold me. Something about warm environments and breeding fleas! Ach! if I’m scratching I don’t see why they shouldn’t be!

Mind you, I do like to grab a nap wherever is most inconvenient for others.

But then I just roll over, cross my little paws in front of my chest (like an old woman clutching a handbag)  and give a PurrMiaow and they’re like kibble in my paws!

…Miaoooww! TFO is coming back with a tray of scones for TMO! Well, I guess one day she’ll think of how to catch you up with all her news.

Until then, it was nice chatting…


I think I have been in a time warp peeps! I cannot believe how long it’s been since I last allowed myself the time, between lectures, essays, revision, exams and life to blog!

 Well, I suppose to catch you up, the last year has been a bit of a whirlwind, but I’ll try to keep to nutshell proportions.

 University: after having two years off, due to having as much motivation as a small, wet square of toilet tissue and a period of fragile mental health, I was absolutely chomping at the bit to get back to my course.

 My courses for my final year included Scotland and Heritage, Cultural Revivals and Traditional Drama and I was pretty fired up about all of them, until my old adversary Doubt came creeping in.

 ME (Gleefully): Revivals and Drama and Heritage, oh my! Revivals and Drama and Heritage, oh my!

DOUBT: Do you really think after two years you can do this?!

ME (positive): Aye! After what I’ve been through I can handle anything!

DOUBT: Are you sure? Really sure?

 ME: …er… yes!…I think so!

DOUBT: What about finding time to study in a shared house? What about working to pay the bills too? (in a creepy evil voice) What about your 10,000 word dissertation?????

 ME (frowning): Oh!

Doubt laughs evilly as I ran and hid in the corner for a little while.

Yes, whatever I seemed to undertake, Doubt was there, pointing and sniggering. But you know what? I did it. And I couldn’t be happier with the marks I’ve got this year and the progress I made. I think in first year I was thinking, “Right! Got to work for a first!” and to be completely honest I don’t care if I get third class honours. I did it, and I’m very proud of myself – if it’s a sin, I don’t care about that either! (unless God’s reading, in which case, Sorry!)

 My final marks are posted on the 3rd of June, so I am going in with my two pals Mojo and Mighty L for moral support!

Right…What else…Oh yes…

Knitterly: Truth be told, I thought I would do a lot of knitting to help me relax during revision, but I quickly found that I couldn’t focus on a pattern after staring at books and a computer screen. So in order to unwind I began to wind. Spinning was a completely brilliant way to still be creative, but also relax. I found a great website for combed wool at really good prices, I bought a few bags of merino in delicious colours from knitshop and that really kept me going.

As soon as my last exam was finished I started on my first lace project which was also my first shawl.

The Mezquita shawl  is a lovely, and very quick project.

I ordered some nice lace wool from Jamieson and Smith, but wanted to try it in a thicker wool first to practice. I had some Artesano 4ply. It is so soft and I have hardly been without it on these blustery spring days.

I like the practice one so much (with my own little mistakes…can you see?) that I am using my J&S wool for an Anniken Allis shawl, which is on the pins as I type.

 Lately I have been trying my hand at felting, just a couple of wee samples really, but I seem to have go Mojo interested in it (maybe she’s only humouring me to shut me up!). She had her new kitchen put in and is thinking about designing a wall hanging or several small pieces to frame.

I have a lot of odd wee samples of wool so we have decided first to dye and hand paint the combed tops. I am not sure how we got on the the subject of plant dyes, but last saturday we went for a walk along the old Rosewell railway and picked a wee selection.

I should add that we only picked or cut flowers that were either blown over (what a wind it has been recently!) or horse trampled, or on their way out, so that the vergesides were kept pretty and blooming for others to enjoy.

When we got back to the kitchen we laid them all out, and realising we didn’t know the first thing about producing dyes from plants we did a bit of googling. Obviously all yellow flowers will not produce a yellow dye (in fact dandelions produce pink!) but we decided to put all our lilac and blue flowers together to see what our experimentations would produce.


Most hits on google said that the microwave method was quickest, so we picked our petals and bruised them before covering them with water in a bowl with a teaspoon of vinegar.

The method we used was to cover the bowl with cling film and blast for 2 minutes on high, then take out and bruise again with a pestle, and repeat this until your water begins to colour and the petals seem drained of colour.

This is the end product on banana fibre!

We were quite please with that and set about with our yellow flowers, which produced a sort of new baby’s nappy green colour. But after testing the colour with yarn it produces a lovely lime colour! we were quite gobsmacked. We felt a bit witchy, or at least ancient domestic goddess-like!

The quantities that we made we will use for hand-painting the wool tops before felting.

Today I am trying my hand at kool aid dyeing on a 2 ounces of different natural shades of Shetland wool. What great fun it is!

I bought the drink mix (this stuff is actually called Mixade) on ebay ages ago and forgot about it. So today I thought I would give it a go.

For anyone who hasn’t tried it, I recommend it! You can dye hanks of wool as well as the combed tops and for each wee sachet of drink it will dye roughly and ounce of wool.

There are varying methods but I prefer the stove top method.

Firstly you soak the wool in some tepid, soapy water (I use handsoap) and you prepare your pot (soup pot, Tattie pot, anything that is large enough, but use an older pot, just in case any colour is left on afterwards).

Half fill the pot with tepid water and add your sachet/s. I used two sachets of Tropical Punch Mix-ade…oh! A tip! Don’t go by the colour of the drink on the sachet. The Tropical punch shows a bright pink drink, but I would say the water was more orangey.

Give a wee stir to let it dissolve and then give your soaking wool a squeeze and add it to the pot.

You will need rubber gloves, unless you want brightly coloured fingers…like me! 🙂

Turn the heat up and let it get to almost boiling and then switch off the heat and let the water cool.

Get your gloved hands in every now and again turn the wool so that it dyes evenly.

 In this case I am not too fussed if it doesn’t dye evenly as we will be hand-painting it at some point too.

Give it 30-60 minutes standing on the hob – with no heat under it – to absorb the dye. If after an hour the water is not clear (or almost clear) , you can turn the heat on again and bring it to almost boiling again and let it cool for another 30-60 minutes.

 I have just rinsed mine, which should be in water that is a similar temperature to that in the pot, so that you don’t felt the wool and this is the result!

The reason I wanted to use the different coloured natural Shetland was to see what colour variation would be like with the dye. It is unfortunate that my camera doesn’t pick these up so well, because the Shetland black has gone a dark aubergine colour, while the fawn and brown have gone almost heathery tones and just look at the white!



I have just rolled them in a towel to blot them dry and I’ll probably leave them there to dry for a while.

 I have to say that the pot was left with a pink tinge, but I used a bit of salt on cloth and it went away with a light rub.

So anyway, I think I have filled a yaking and maaking quota for one blog. I hope everyone is awful well, I have thought of you often, even though I haven’t been blogging!

Next time hopefully I’ll have wool hand-painting and felting news as well as results getting and boyfriend arrival…more soon! 😉




Oh dear friends, where have i been? I think I must have been in a wee time warp, cos there is no other reason that I can see for being away so long!
ok…maybe not a timewarp then! Just a web of working throughout the summer and now University.

Hasn’t it got cold chaps! Winter is definitely making her presence felt in Edinburgh…a good portion of my last bursary went on thick tights and knee socks as well as a few other thermal items!
University, hmmmm….since I took my leave all I’ve thought about was going back, now two years on that excitement has turned to fear and dread!
Ok, maybe not as bad as dread, but 4th year has certainly brought its fair share of anxiety.
I’m currently researching my dissertation, the topic of which is on the contemporary use of charms for luck or protection. Some of the theory is quite dry, but what I’m really interested in is finding out what people really think of the use of lucky charms…did you see what i did there? Yes, you dear readers (if you are still reading), I’d really like to know whether you have an object that you either wear or carry for luck and what your belief is in the item. And I definitely want to know if you don’t believe in such charms, and why? I’d be really interested to hear from you (email me if you dont want to post a comment)

I have a few items that I would class as lucky or protective, but when it comes to the faith i put in them i’m not sure if it’s blind faith, sentimentality, superstitious or something more religious.

what is the faith that you place on your charms, or amulets? Or is it mind over matter?
I’d be really interested to hear…and if you know any of your friends might have an opinion on the subject I’d be delighted if you can bring them over here.