A Grand Shetland Adventure Indeed

There’s nothing unusual about two friends going on a knitting trip to a beautiful place with other like minded people.  What is unusual is that we came back…Here’s a glimpse of our Grand Shetland Adventure.  (Each photo is linked for more information except for the first one…that’s my Gram)

First of all, Scotland is in my blood. My maternal grandmother was born in Edinburgh in 1904 and I have always wanted to go. My mom told us stories growing up of her uncles coming to the states with their thick Scottish accents and the picture of my grandma as a three year old in her linen dress and leather shoes has always made me wonder about the trans Atlantic journey she took to get here. As a knitter, Scotland holds so much wonderful fiber history, from sheep to the wool industry and Fair Isle technique.  The rich landscape and good people who sustain those things are still going strong today and I wanted to see it.

One day last summer our friend and customer Susan Coe had just returned from the trip and went on and on about how we “must” go.  At that point we decided to sign up as soon as the 2017 dates were announced. Luckily, we were able to secure the last two spots last October and put it on the calendar.

We flew into Edinburgh on July 6th and enjoyed two days exploring the city on foot before leaving for Shetland on a small plane to start our adventure.

The trip is led by Gudrun Johnston and Mary Jane Mucklestone, two wonderful knitwear designers  who are intimately familiar with Shetland. Gudrun (The Shetland Trader) is from Scotland and lived on Shetland for a time as a child.  Her father still lives there today.   Mary Jane is a Fair Isle knitting expert and has authored many Fair Isle motif books in addition to her design work.  Several years ago Mary Jane and Gudrun bundled their talents and enthusiasm for Shetland and developed a trip with a week of activities for knitters and fiber enthusiasts. The trip includes travel  to wool mills, sheep farms, museums, and artists’ studios all over the island.  There’s time for a little shopping too…


When we weren’t traveling to our daily activities, we were back at Burrastow Guest House, having special order breakfasts at 8am and 3-course gourmet meals at 7:30pm. Pierre and Han, our chef and his assistant made sure every need was met.  We gathered in the Conservatory each day to talk, knit and learn.  Shetland ponies grazed in the next pasture.

We were treated to guest speakers Hazel Tindall, Elizabeth Johnston and Ella Gordon before dinner on two of the nights and took a fair isle class with Mary Jane. We went to the studio of Mike Finnie, a jeweler and artist to make silver buttons with fair isle motifs in a 3 hour class. Another day we spent an afternoon with knitwear designer Nielanell learning how to dye sock blanks.

When we weren’t touring, we were hiking! To Muckle Roe, Eshaness and the cliffs near Minn Beach in Burra. All of this occurred in the most ideal weather conditions – a fact no one really believed as it was happening. Shetland is known for rainy and chilly summers and we had bright sunshine, cool breezes and the most perfect days. There is daylight in Shetland for nearly 18 hours during “Simmer Dim”, giving it an almost magical feel in July.

Karen and I marvel at our good fortune to have had this experience. We are not only avid knitters and business partners, but great friends. Packing a bag and setting out on this adventure was everything we could have hoped for and more. The company we kept was a gathering of 13 people from all over the world with one thing in common: a love of knitting. Few of us knew more than one other person on the trip and making those new relationships was one of the many enduring positives we will hold on to. We are so grateful to Gudrun and Mary Jane for making our week what it was. Their knowledge, good company and most of all their relationships with the people of Shetland, made the 10th Grand Shetland Adventure a trip of a lifetime. Signs above departure gates at the Edinburgh Airport read “Haste ye back”.  We can’t wait.

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