Saturday, March 24, 2012

One of the side trips we made on our trip to Shetland was out to the island of Unst.  Unst is the northern most island in the Shetlands.  To get there requires a short ferry ride.

Sheep under cover of building at ferry landing going to Unst.

Unst is special in a number of ways.  It is essentially the farthest north you can go in Britain.  Hermaness National Nature Reserve is on the northern most edge of the island.  It is a wind swept headland complete with sheep tucked on rocky precipices over the angry ocean and great skuas dive-bombing you as you hike.

Wendy hiking (and wind blown) at Hermaness
Unst is also known for producing the finest lace knitting in all of Shetland, perhaps in Britain. I've personally never seen knitting this fine anywhere!!  We had a chance to visit the Unst Heritage Centre that has a lovely display of old and new knitted lace.

When Martha and Elizabeth came to teach in 2010, Elizabeth had us try our hand at spinning the yarn for this type of lace. The lace is typically done in a two ply weight yarn.  The wool for these shawls comes from the neck area of the Shetland sheep, which is exceptionally fine and crimpy.  Each ply for this handspun yarn is about 5 wool fibers total.  An entire shawl knitted in this yarn can be threaded through a finger ring.  It was the most difficult spinning I have ever done.  I have a small sample of yarn that I covet.  However, I will not be making any more soon!

Unst knitted lace

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