Monday, June 25, 2012

Scotland Part 3

Traveling northwards, there are a lot fewer people, and a lot more sheep.


The landscape becomes more waterscape

Finally, from the top of the mainland, a ferry to the Orkney Islands.

Orkney houses what is apparently the highest per-capita concentration of artists and artisans. Knitting and fiberarts are no exception. So you can just be wandering around and see this in the window of a hardware store.
I didn't keep very good notes for all of the knitting and yarn stores I went to, so here are the three I could sort out from a combination of photos and receipts.

R A Finn, at 12 Victoria Street (despite what the address marker says) in Kirkwall, is a half-yarn, half-cosmetics, half-gifts sort of store.

There are amazing handknitted colorwork garments for sale. It's hard to imagine someone could finish a sweater like this, let alone however many are for sale here.

The yarn comes from North Ronaldsay (an Orkney island), from sheep of the same breed. Here's a shelf filled to the gills.
North Ronaldsay sheep have evolved to eat seaweed instead of grass! So their wool and meat have a certain je ne sais quoi -- one of the other ladies in my knitting group said the wool smelled like the sea.
Sheepy goodness

In Stromness, the flagship for Quernstone is at the center of town. This is a national brand that sells not only yarn, but also knitwear.
A lot of knitwear.

More delicious knitwear, colorwork, yarns. It's kind of overwhelming.

Time for a break from the yarn-drunkeness! We took a tour of the island, including some neolithic sites, like the Standing Stones of Stenness. There are quite a few pre-historic sites and stones, and most are just part of regular farmland. These sheep have grazing rights among the Standing Stones (but taking a break to ruminate here).

There are miles and miles of these low stone walls in Scotland, built with parallel flat stones. The stones got flatter the higher north we went, and then in Orkney, the walls are topped with perpendiular stones.

Compare these walls to the walls of the neolithic houses built into the hillside at Skara Brae, about 5000 years ago.

Back to the yarn crawl. Simply Wool, also in Kirkwall, is quite new that they didn't have business cards or a website (at the time).
In contrast to the other knitting stores in Orkney that focus more on finished products, Simply Wool sells, well, mostly wool.

The other wall, plus large shelves in the center of the store, are stuffed to the gills with yarn. The yarn is mostly commercial brands, with only a small amount of local yarn/roving. I think if I lived here, this would end up being the go-to LYS -- for high-volume knitters (who aren't selling tourist goods), it is way too expensive and limiting to knit with the handdyed local yarn.

Since my luggage space was so limited, and most of these yarns are available in the US, I ended up not getting any yarn at all, but a pattern book. The pictures are in one book, and the patterns are in another booklet which is behind the counter. Very clever!

If you can believe it, total Scotland yarn purchases were 3 balls/skeins! There was just too much on-the-go traveling by public transportation to carry around a ton of souvenirs/yarn. We made our way back down southwards, spending 1-2 nights in each place.

The cows say helloooooo.

All in all, two thumbs up for Scotland! The views are spectacular, the whisky is tasty, and the knitting is worth retiring here!


KiniaCat Crafts said...

Scotland?!? Cool.
Please pardon me for traipsing into your blog...I was looking to contact you about a note I left for you on Ravelry regarding a bit of yarn in your stash.

'Course now I'm off to explore your blog a bit. Again - I hope you don't mind too much.
Nifty pictures and I'm impressed at your yarn-purchase restraint! It looks like you had a lovely trip.

Angela said...

Wonderful place for a visit. Your photos made me stop and enjoy the blog. Indeed beautiful.