Monique Boonstra on Working with Wool…

Following on with our woolmill theme, we thought it would be nice to feature this blogpost submitted by Monique Boonstra to our competition. What is interesting is how the whole experience of travelling to Shetland to see the Jamieson’s of Shetland Mill inspired Monique to knit a cowl. Her observations on the place, the landscape, the mill itself, and even the clothes of the woman in front of her on the tour bus have all in one way or another inspired her Work with Wool. Thanks to Monique for submitting this piece to the WOVEMBER 2012 competition!

When you’re on Shetland, you’re surrounded by Heather. It is all over the place.

The culture shock for me – the no-trees thing – wasn’t as ‘bad’ as the heather thing. When you live on mainland Europe, you know that when you go to the mountains, you see a valley with a village or a town or a city in it. Not on the Shetland Isles; there it’s heather. And water.

And… silence. I live in a woody area. I’m used to hearing the wind in the trees. Here are NO trees. (I did spot some pines in Voe and Brae).

Here… no sound. The wind is there, but the sound is different. And what I missed was the smell of the ocean. The only day I smelled the ocean was on Friday, when it was stormy and the waves had a great time playing around the rocks.

Back to the heather.

Because I got sick on the bus to Voe, Tuesday, we decided to take the car. A good thing, as I will tell you later. The road to Sandness is a bit boring; wide valleys, hardly any sheep because it’s too wet. Once you pass Hellister, the road to Weisdale becomes the most amazing drive on the entire island. The way goes up, and just at the right spot is a passing place to take in the view.


We were fortunate the sun was shining through the clouds and looking all the way to the south it was isles and the silver water.

When you pass Bixter and continue on to the Bridge of Walls, not going to Walls, you steer away from life as you know it, and continue on a single road. The happiness begins.

Heather, small streams, passing sheep. Silence. Silence, more silence. In fact, you could SEE the silence. There just wasn’t anything to make sound.

I started to wonder what we would find at the end of this road!

It was a very small village and a mill, even that didn’t make much noise at all. Or they were on a break.

The Jamieson’s of Shetland Mill is where they select, dye, card, spin, weave and handle wool. We got to see the machines make fabric (like tweed) and knit sweaters. We saw all the steps of selecting, processing and producing products from the wool. Gary, our guide, showed us every thing and told us the Mill had even woven fabric for Ralph Lauren. At the end of the tour, Cathy asked him to show us the fabric. The first tour group was already seated on the bus! We went upstairs for a ‘quick’ look.
My mother had asked me if I could bring her tweed so she could quilt with it. I asked Gary if I could get some tweed. He told me I could point at a roll of fabric; they would cut the amount and send it to me.
But that wasn’t what I had in mind. My mother cannot quilt with anything ‘single’. He pointed at the waste bin. I asked, he nodded and then 6 women went wild in the bin, putting back the pieces that were tagged.

A call announced that the bus would be leaving, and because Amy and me had come by car, we kept grabbing pieces of the tweed.

Thanking Gary, we went back downstairs, smiling at our treasure. We were already sitting in the car, feeling very lucky, when the shop lady came running.

Oh oh..

We opened the door and she said we forgot something. A goodie bag. Oh my god, more? We thanked her very much, covering our treasure and ogling the new goodies. A pattern, yarn, colour card and a bag with Shetland words for English knitting terms printed on it.

What a day.

I did buy yarn at Jamieson’s. I glanced at the colour card and noticed a lovely orange. The same shade of the wrap that the lady on the bus from Voe had been wearing the day before. The road from Voe to Lerwick was long enough for me to study the pattern.

My mother saw it, loved it, and got it, along with all the tweed.

Circumference: 58” or 250 stitches (on size 4.5mm needles).

The yarn? Jamieson’s Heather in Gingersnap and Mirrydancers.

All content © Monique Boonstra and republished here with her permission. All published originally on Monique’s blog, here