Monday, September 30, 2013

I finished the tedious ribbing for the Milano at last, and started striping. I think from here it will knit itself, as long as I pick it up from time to time, and keep ahead of the game on skein-winding. Time to start thinking about the Shetland projects.

General remarks about Shetland

-- Ponies abound.

-- But Shetland sheep are harder to find. There are plenty of sheep, everywhere, but they are mostly the sort of sheep you might see in Perthshire. They are largely being raised for meat, we were told. Shetland sheep are a relatively small breed and thus not ideal for that purpose.

They can be recognised by their smallness, and by the fact that they come in all the natural colours with the wonderful names – gaulmogot, katmullet, mooskit, sholmit and shaela. We saw this flock near Burrastow.

So where does Shetland yarn come from?

-- I don’t think I saw any cultivated ground, except around houses, and less of that than one would see elsewhere in the British isles. There must once have been some sort of grain – for bannocks, and to provide straw for thatching and bedding the cows; and root vegetables and kale.

-- We learned at the Unst Heritage Centre (and you thought it was all lace knitting) about the interesting structure of the island. In the dark backward and abysm of time, the left-hand side of the island came from Connecticut and the right-hand side from Siberia. I’m sexing that up a bit, but you get the idea. The geology of the two halves is quite different.

When we left the Centre, we went on a little way to a point from which we could see the Muckle Flugga lighthouse, as I have already mentioned. It is a splendid sight, and I am grateful to Kristie and Kath for getting me there. When the lighthouse-building Stevensons first saw that rock, they reported back that it couldn’t be done. The authorities said, you’ve got to, so they did.

When one looks south from that same vantage point, one sees a series of finger lakes – is that the suture by which the island is stitched together? It was enough to make one want to start life again and study geology.

I didn’t take a picture, alas. Did you, Kath? I got this one from Google.

Finally, here is a seagull in his Shetland sweater. I am told that this is how young birds look. We are much plagued with seagulls in Drummond Place, but I have never seen one like this.


  1. You've never had seagulls nesting on your roof then. Those young birds look very familiar to me as we have a pair that nest most years behind our chimney. Slightly messy and incredibly noisy but otherwise no trouble.

    I'm really enjoying your account (and Kristie's) of your Shetland trip and I think the Relax looks splendid.

  2. I was reading a blog post recently with facts about seagulls. Here's what they said about this: "Most types of seagulls are born with dark brown feathers. It takes three years for their plumage to change colors from nearly all brown to nearly all white with some darker streaks."
    There are other fascinating facts about these birds in that post at:

  3. You'll soon notice these young gulls in Edinburgh, now you know about them. It's often the way isn't it? Something comes into your view for the first time, and then you see or hear it all over tha place after that. I think they call these young gulls 'scories' in Shetland don't they?

  4. That's amazing about the geology. My uncle is a geologist, his interest started when my grandmother went to some lectures on geology when he and my mother were children. I've seen young gulls like that but I love your description of their little Fair Isle jumpers, it's spot on.

  5. Christine2:24 PM

    To see Shetland sheep you need to come to my house in NW Kent!! Our friends have a flock and some of the rams currently live in the field at the end of our garden. They and I converse whenever I'm hanging out washing! My favourite colour is the caramel moorit.

  6. Anonymous4:39 PM

    Jean - I have been posting comments - but they seem to never reach across the pond. I am enjoying your trip to the Shetland Islands. As a college student, I visited the Orkneys. Now, I sit in NJ and knit!
    Leslie Bagatelle in NJ