Wool, wool, wool! There was just so very, very much of it, all around us – and can you believe the number of colours, tones and shades?
This is the Jamieson’s shop on Commercial Street in Lerwick. What a joy it was to visit it when we were in Shetland last month. It’s a visual hymn to the absolute gloriousness that is Shetland wool, and a testament to how passionate people in Shetland are about it.
Even my husband, Tim, was enchanted (he usually detests shopping of any sort – except for buying Ordnance Survey Maps). It has to be told – he left that shop with a carrier bag which held a fabulous Shetland wool jumper. I left with bags full of wool and dreams of crochet and weaving projects swirling around my head.
I also went to Loose Ends, another crafting and yarn store on Commercial Street. On their shelves I saw the earthy, vibrant tones of Uradale Yarns Wool. I walked away with the small stash you can see set out on a piece of blue cotton.
The stash that weedled its way into my bag at Jamieson’s included some muted, natural tones of brown and green, which I am thinking may become socks or a cowl,
and I also bought two balls of chunky to do a hat.
But most of my time in the shop was spent with an enthusiastic and patient shop assistant who helped me to find the right combination of blues and greens for a weaving project I have in my mind’s eye. I want it to echo the many shades of blue and green that wrestle with each other in the sea itself, depending on the weather and the light. Here is the final choice of yarn that we made together that day:
And here are some of the thousand faces that the oceans around Shetland turned towards us during the two weeks we were there. I hope you enjoy being drenched in their colours as you look through.
And why is all this talk of yarn relevant on a blog that is supposed to be about writing? Because, for one thing, the names of the colours themselves are poetry;
Birch, Lichen, Moss and Wren.
Flukkra, Sea Pink, Meadowsweet Heath.
Aqua, Storm, Sapphire,
Lomond and Seabright,
Clyde Blue and Yell Sound Blue.
And the other reason this is all relevant to my writing journey is due to the way my crafting life is deeply intertwined with my wellbeing – and with my ability to centre myself. Let me give you an example.
On the second-to-last afternoon of our stay in Shetland, I sat down with a cuppa and crocheted half a row of my Dune blanket (another fantastic design from the talented Lucy of Attic 24 here in Yorkshire). And I realised what a good barometer crochet is for ones own state of mind, at any particular moment in time.
I noticed that I couldn’t settle as I normally do into the looping rhythm that the Dune blanket has us tune into:
Five trebles in a cluster,
skip one stitch,
one double crochet to secure the shell,
skip one stitch,
five trebles in a cluster again,
repeat, repeat, repeat…
I kept dropping the last part of the second treble of the five – don’t know why it was that stitch that kept evading me.
And so I stopped, breathed deeply, and tried to ‘feel’ my mind – and, yes, it did feel in disarray. Was it because this holiday was running out of time? Was it the worries of the everyday world creeping closer again? Focusing on my churning brain like this showed up the scratchy, bumpy thoughts that were stopping me getting into the crochet groove. After a minute, I picked up my hook, and I found the magic of looping the yarn in my fingers once more, bringing me back to the fullness of the moment, back to my senses, back to the present.
And in that moment I realised what a complete and utter gift it has been, discovering crochet and stitching over the last two years.
It has given me a way to allow cool, calm spaces into previously over-crowded days; with a crochet hook in my hand, I soon slip into a pool of concentration. I find it hard to get into the easeful, fugue-like state that is the best way to be if I want to write – and this allows me a reliable and pleasant route in.
So, my new love of yarn may not make me a better writer, but it might make me able to sit down with my pen in my hand more often. A row of stitches gives way to a line of prose, another row of stitches, a phrase of a poem … looping forward, scribbling on … steadily … gratefully.