There is so, so much to say and definitely not time to write it all now. However I have written a song which I performed rather badly but with great gusto at the end of my talk, “Listening to Shetland Oo” and I thought that those of you who were not there might like to read the words;
SHETLAND WOOL by Felicity Ford
I live in Reading, 800 miles from here,
It’s famous for brickwork, seed packets and beer,
And… like… much of the UK…
Once famous for it’s wool, but not so, today!
Memories are all that we’ve got,
Of our once-famous sheep-breed “The Berkshire Nott“,
Alas, this fine animal is now extinct,
The last vestige of its genes is in the Hampshire Down I think?
If places were graded and sorted for their wool
Then Shetland would be an ACE, 1-star, and full marks
while Berkshire would be down there round about nine,
Unusably coarse and not very fine!!!
Yes, I live in Reading, and I like its beer…
Its brickwork brings me inspirational cheer,
And I like to gather from familiar streets,
ideas to turn into hand-knitted treats…
But – oh no! – what can I use, to knit my ideas?
You can’t knit colourwork from seed packets and beers…
What I need, is wool, that is soft and yet strong,
That’s bouncy from sheep that are short-tailed not long…
If places were graded and sorted for sheep
Then Shetland would be at the top of the heap,
With its kindly-fleeced sheep breed, and also its rough –
Because WHO DOESN’T LOVE SHEEP THAT ARE MADE OF STRONG STUFF???
I live in Reading, and I visited these isles…
And I am blown away, but not just by your textiles…
INTRICATE FAIR-ISLE, INSANELY GOOD LACE,
But also a deep sense of connection with place,
A feeling that wool and landscape grow together,
Surrounded by ocean and shaped by the weather,
Stories of fishing and knitting entwined…
A High Street of KNITWEAR that will blow your mind!!!
If places were graded and sorted for knits,
For gloves, socks and mittens, and hand-dyed yarn kits,
Then Shetland would surely get the top grade,
For all of the “maakin'” and all that gets made?
I live in Reading, with my cat, and my man,
And I love it there but I do hope I can
Return here often, to listen to terns,
To go up on the peat hills and hear the burns,
To visit the WOOLBROKERS and HUFF THE WOOL FUMES,
To listen to Shima machines, record the looms,
And revel in knowing that the Shetland Isles,
Are still rocking the world with amazing textiles…
That unlike in some other parts of the UK,
The wool industry here is still thriving today,
That people here still know that knitwear is hip,
SO THE CROFTER CAN EARN SOME MONEY FOR THE CLIP…
If… places were graded and sorted like wool,
then Shetland would be an ACE, 1-star, and full marks,
And I am so happy to be here to share
This wonderful textile that we should all wear.
ETA: the song was filmed and recorded by Liz Musser, so that you can now learn the tune if you want to sing along! The film is here on YouTube if the version I’ve embedded below doesn’t quite work…