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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!!

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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:

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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:

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And it contained this:

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That’s right. It’s Yarn from Foula.

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This package is from my “new person I want to meet”, Magnus Holbourn. You can find him online too at http://www.foulawool.co.uk. 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!

With all the sheep walking about, was I tempted by their fleece or yarn?

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Not really.

But traveling with 12 other knitters, who were all wearing beautiful handknits? Killer. Being connected via Internet during the trip (as bad as connections were), pretty bad. Meeting with incredible artists on Shetland? Even worse.

I only brought one sweater to Shetland with me, which I finished on the trip and wore almost every single day.  This is the Northmavine Hoody by Kate Davies from her book, Colours of Shetland. I knit the sweater with the exact yarn and colors given in the pattern, something I rarely do,

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but after going to Northmavine (Eshaness), I was very glad that I did. I feel like I know exactly why Kate Davies chose these colors.

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Handknits from this collection was particularly popular. I also had the Northmavine Hap from this collection, knit out of all the natural colors of Shetland sheep represented by J&S Supreme Jumper Weight. I had made this slightly larger so I can wear it like a true hap shawl (wrapped around and tied in the back), and I wore this shawl quite a bit as well.

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(Photo of my shawl taken at Clove Cottages in High Falls, NY)

Another traveler in this group had a gorgeous Puffin Sweater. I do not think the photos do this sweater justice. It is an absolutely stunning design. And yes, I’m going to knit it,

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..along with perhaps almost everyone else on the trip. I’m not changing the colors on this sweater either…because well, puffins!

We were traveling with Gudrun Durham (nee Johnston), so her designs were of course very well represented. I had my absolute favorite shawl with me, her design, Flukra (now I know how to pronounce it — “fluck-ra”). I felt slightly weird that this shawl was knit out of merino/silk! I will have to make this again in Shetland wool. 

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(Flukra knit out of Hedgehog Fibres Silk/Merino Lace in Grit — a club color way so it is, unfortunately, OOAK!)

Several knitters had Gudrun’s Mystery Knit Along shawls, Havra (mine, still unfinished…)

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(Havra, in Wollmeise 100% in Safran, Sternschnuppe and Campari Piccolo)

I didn’t bring mine but someone also had a Laar:

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(my Laar, knit in Wollmeise Lacegarn, Magnolie Dark)

and there were several Audrey in Unsts (which, mine is now gone and I have the yarn to knit another).

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(my Audrey in A Verb For Keeping Warm Annapurna in Indigo Blue Sky — how I loved that sweater.)

Another popular purchase on this trip was yarn to knit Burrafirth out of her Shetland Trader 2 collection (I’m knitting mine out of GASP non-Shetland, non-wool yarn — this is French Market Fibers Uptown Sock in Gelato, 2 dye lots of Midnight on the Moonwalk and Olive Salad)

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…and yarn to make Nikka Vord, my version in the same yarn as the pattern (Jamieson’s DK) but a combination of different natural sheep colors.

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Of course, can’t forget what Mary Jane Mucklestone made me do (more yarn, more Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight but more about that when I talk about the fair isle knits we ran into on this trip.)

See what happened? It wasn’t the sheep. That is, until Uradale. I was “chatting” with Deb Robson via the Internet. She knew I was in Shetland, and she was telling me a bit about her encounters with the Shetland Organics movement (Her trip to Shetland last year can be found on her blog here), of which Uradale is a participating croft. Then she told me that the Shetland Organics yarns are (and I quote her here very loosely, sorry Deb) one of her favorite yarns, not just from Shetland but globally.

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Well? What am I to do!? The sheep there were gorgeous, the fleece was beautiful, and I had someone who would know about these things basically telling me that I should get my hands on this yarn. (Which you, too, can be convinced, link is here)

So I did.

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Then, of course, there was the dinner with Hazel Tindall. She brought along for us a suitcase full of her work. I am remiss in not having taken good photos of her beautiful sweaters, and pillows, and hats, but it’s because I was too busy listening to her talking about them. Well, of course, one sweater really caught my eye. So I asked about it.

And I did something about it. But more about that next time!