Shetland Trip: Foula. I Thought It was Just a Remote Island.

I’m told I’m a fast knitter.

I might be, but If you really want to see fast knitting, you should go watch some version of this video.

Hazel Tindall is not just the world’s fastest knitter but she is an amazing fair isle designer. As you can read here, she has been knitting fair isle all her life.

During our trip to Shetland, we got a chance to visit with her. She was kind enough to bring samples of her knitting. She also had her Jamieson & Smith colourbox challenge piece with her and she let us all cut a piece of the neck and arm hole steels!!


I couldn’t help myself. I asked her how long it took her to knit this vest. Her answer?

“Well, I knit this at 6 min/row and there are 106 rows to the armhole” (actually it may have been 104 rows but that is just a rounding error).

Let’s do the arithmetic, shall we?

6 x 106 = 636 minutes =~10.5 hours

I’m sure my parents will be happy to hear that I can still flex my college education to do important math like this!

Hazel was so gracious. She gave us some knitting tips, answered many of my insane questions (like, “what do you do in the winter when it’s dark outside all the time? do you knit like 12 hours a day!?!? (that would be a vest a day, btw)”, etc.). So much fun.

You may recognize the knitting we are cutting in Jamieson & Smith’s blog post about the Cunningburgh Show! Despite our scissor-work, the vest was a trophy winner. Congratulations, Hazel!!

I cannot believe that I did not take photos of the knitting samples Hazel brought for us. I was way too busy looking at the samples and checking out the patterns and colors. My Shetland trip roommate to the rescue, though, with the shot below:

IMG_0574(Photo by H. Bliss)

The samples were amazing. Knitting was, of course, fantastic — evenly tensioned (all you have to do is look at the reverse side of the knitting), use of color was beautiful, and there was just one wonderful thing after another.

There was one sweater that really caught my attention though, mostly because it was a bit different than anything else in the suitcase, and I swore the yarn felt different than the other items (other than that it was knit out of DK). I loved how there were some cable panels at the waist for shaping, and the yarns were clearly natural colors. (You can pick it out in the photo above, right?)

It’s the Hamnafield Cardigan. (The moorit cardigan in the bottom left corner in the photo above, with the color work yoke.) It’s the cardigan that Hazel designed and knitted for Shetland Wool Week last year — and the pattern has just come out. It is knit out of wool from sheep on Foula.

IMG_0920This is how close I got to Foula. I know about Foula because I hiked as far as I could go to the ocean in Walls and I saw an island off the coast — and I looked at the map. I had put it on my  “next time in Shetland, I would like to” list because it sounds like birding on the island would be pretty interesting. I also liked the description that I found on the Web about Foula: It is “one of Great Britain’s most remote permanently inhabited islands,” according to the modern version of Encyclopedia Brittanica (Wikipedia, I mean).

Of course, after speaking with Ronnie Eunson about natural colored sheep (and now that I know there’s YARN on that island) I doubly want to go.

How could I have possibly not heard about this yarn? Clearly I am slacking in my yarn trolling duties.

Remember that I said meeting the incredibly fiber artists and having access to the Internet was “killing” me?

Well, this may have arrived in New York City last week thanks to that beautiful cardigan and the Internet:


And it contained this:


That’s right. It’s Yarn from Foula.


This package is from my “new person I want to meet”, Magnus Holbourn. You can find him online too at I have enough yarn to knit the Hamnafield Cardigan.

I think I need a couple extra sets of arms — or try to catch Hazel in speed — with all the knitting I have planned for the fall.

Hazel is a huge inspiration. So was Elizabeth Johnston, and more about what happened when I met her in the next post!

  1. Lovely post. Lovely photos. I know you had a wonderful time because I too spent a week on Shetland visiting the same wonderful knitters you mention. Wasn’t it just heaven on Earth? I too have put Foula on a “to do” list.

    • I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to go to Shetland. I had a fantastic time! (My “Shetland To Do Next Time” list is ridiculously long….and the thoughts I’m having are things like, “well, I don’t have to worry about driving on the ‘other side’ of the road because all the roads are single lane”!!!)

  2. NancyKnot said:

    I am thoroughly enjoying your blog. My friend went to Shetland the week before you and I’ve shared this blog with her…she said it was reliving the whole holiday. Love the photos and you stories…

  3. Bev S. said:

    What a wonderful trip! Carol and I are hoping to go on a cruise that is hosted by Hazel next May.

  4. Irina said:

    I just found this. Very nice! I wonder if we’ve been in Shetland at the same time! I’m currently travelling in search of the old breeds and just spent two months in Shetland. I was lucky enough to hear about Foula before and made that my prime destination! Staying at Magnus’ cottage and getting to clip some of bis sheep. He’s wonderful. As is Foula! The sheep are fantastic and the wool a dream! I have some pictures on my blog if you want to look. Text is in german, though. I’ll definately good back. Might see you on Foula some day!

    • Wow!!! I will either have my college roommate translate or….there’s Google translate to get the gist!
      Thank you, I’m going to go look now.

  5. All these comments are spot on. Shetland defies all expectations. I’m going back and Foula is No. 1 on my list. I also encourage everyone to spend time in Unst as the hiking trails are lovely and the geology is a real treat, so accessible and interesting.

  6. aklucia said:

    All these comments are spot on and wonderful to read! Shetland defies all expectations. I’m going back and Foula is s dream destination. I also encourage everyone to spend time in Unst as the hiking trails are lovely and the geology is a real treat, so accessible and interesting. Meeting Hazel made my knitter’s bucket list complete! Whenever I feel a little inspiration knit deprived I watch her video. Admittedly, hubby just doesn’t get it.

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