Cordova Gansey Project: The Long Story #7 - A Shetland Farewell

It has been a full and productive summer here at The Net Loft. As summer merges into fall, and with Shetland Wool Week 2015 about to commence, it seems a perfect time for me to reflect on my final days almost one full year ago in that fair place along our shared Latitude 60 Degrees.

In the meantime, here in Cordova, Alaska, we have been painting, knitting, dyeing, needle working, needle felting,  gluing and pasting our way through the spring and summer days in true Net Loft fashion.  With the rains that have finally arrived, the mushrooms are emerging and my not so secret love of wild mushroom foraging, harvesting, and dyeing is my most current distraction and greatest means of procrastination in the midst of the usual shop life which entails my not so favorite pile sorting and organizing following all the Net Loft summer activities.

Today, however, I direct my thoughts to this special spot on the other side of the globe, in hopes of completing at least this part of the long story I have attempted to tell over these last several months. It is time for me to take a moment and return to those beautiful green rolling hills and the beginning of a very special journey that followed the Shetland Wool Week Activities.  

After of full week of classes and events, I was happy that I had given myself an extra day or so in Shetland, following the  programmed activities.  These last couple of days were just as eventful and were filled to the brim with a variety of memorable social engagements.

  • A Fiber Artists multi-course feast in Hoswick.
    • Fleece buying from Margaret in Whiteness...
      • A most delicious salmon meal followed by an evening of good company and sharing stories at the home of Gudrun Johnston's father along with the company of Mary Jane Mucklestone and Ysolda Teague.  The hospitality provided in this home in another land at the edge of the sea, was such a pleasant and relaxing experience,  and these moments together and our conversation I count as precious and very special. Gudrun and Mary Jane had come to Cordova for our Net Loft Fiber & Friends 2014 and it was nice to have some time together when I wasn't in the midst of managing so many logistics.

      • That same night after the long winding drive back to my cottage, I had a late evening  show and tell session with my "neighbor" Marion at Vementry, ending with a purchase of one of her just completed  Shetland yoke sweaters sans buttons. Those who know me, know my love of buttons, and  I am excited that I get to choose some Net Loft ones to compliment her fine workmanship.

      While sitting in her living room, she showed me some examples of her collection of knitting including a very sweet vintage ruffled baby hat.

      I had mentioned that I was still struggling with how to choose colors and deciding how to place them in  Shetland designs. Marion kindly spent time helping me to grasp her process of selecting the symmetrical gradations and arrangements of color. What I observed mostly, was her intuitive sense of color variation,  demonstrated in subtle and beautiful color changes aided by the extensive pallete and variety of the lovely heathered hues of Jamieson Shetland wools.

      This was such a treat for me to have this time to focus and inspect her pieces carefully one on one and one by one into the wee late night hours.  Time is such a precious gift and appreciate every one along the way of this journey who has taken the time to share their wisdom and life skill knowledge with me. I am always touched by all those who take the time in the midst of their own projects to stop and come alongside to those just learning.  What a wonderful force  exists in the collective body of craftspeople around the world of kindred spirits sharing their mutual love of handcraft and needlework.

      • The next day was a journey to and through the Jamieson Wool Mill in Sandnes. A perfect destination after the previous evening studying pattern and color, the Jamieson mill is one of the two major sources of production of the rainbow of yarns responsible for the Shetland signature sweaters and colorwork.                                                    
      I walked in the mill and  was greeted  by owner Gary Jamieson, and let him know that we had his wool for sale around the globe here in Cordova, a half a world away.  It was fun talking with him and he advised me to wander about and ask questions of anyone who I might bump into as I toured the facility.

      I wandered in and out of the various rooms, and had the opportunity to visit with a weaver weaving yardage destined  for Italy.  


      I  strolled by myself in and out between the giant machines watching as the fiber made its way from fleece to finished product bagged and bound for knitters hands around the world, the music of the mechanics of the machines humming throughout .







      • My last destination was off and down to the island of Burra for the rest of the day for  a silversmithing session to make buttons and a necklace at the Red Houss with Mike Finnie.

      The process was fascinating and so excited to make myself a set of  sterling silver buttons and a Shetland sterling silver necklace in the hours that followed in his Red Houss studio. Mike kindly gifted me his smaller demonstration button, so I ended up with a total of three beautiful buttons awaiting some special future hand knit. I appreciate the fine Shetland hospitality both he and his wife extended to me.  


      In all of this, I contemplated my brewing thoughts of the Gansey Project, and how this entire program here in Shetland had been an immense collaboration and celebration of the past merging with the present through the care and efforts of a host of instructors and volunteers... tradition entwined with this modern life...patterns and designs prevaling through the efforts of generations of knitters and the hope of preservation of the craft for further generations to come.  Halfway around the world I felt as though I were gathering up this bed of knowledge and packing it up in my suitcase to be carried off to our little Alaskan fishing village  to be carried forward in its own unique way. I didn't know exactly at this time what shape or form it would take, but I knew an idea had definitely taken hold.

      I cannot imagine a better last couple of days in Shetland with all its fullness of rich activity, and the next morning,  as I said goodbye to my little croft house at Vementry, I wished to myself that I could stay another week just to rest and absorb all that had taken place. But further adventures were to be had,  and such an adventure ahead that I had only imagined for many years...

      As I drove up to the small airport in TIngwall and boarded the tiny plane on that beautiful blue sky day, I could not believe that this next dream was about to come true and  as our plane gently lifted into the sky, with a tilt of the plane's wing, I bid dear Shetland a fare thee well.

      Part 8 to follow.  Onward to the next adventure....PART 8


      Back to blog


      Ack! I’ve been reading along and there is no link to Part 8 and I have been unsuccessful at finding it using the search function :(

      Carlene Paquette

      Thank you Jane. We look forward to you joining us in June! It should a great time together.
      Kind regards and Happy Knitting to you!


      You are an inspiration! I thank you for these wonderful postings. I love reading about everything you saw and did, and can’t wait to make my own Alaskan gansey here in New Jersey. And, God willing, I will be there in June to see it all for myself.

      Jane Cavolina

      Kirsten and Eloise,
      Thank you for your comments. You encourage me to keep at it. I look forward to unfolding the rest of the story, so many layers of life entwined…
      All the best to you both.


      I’m glad ya’ll are doing fine. Who could ever be upset for life, itself, taking over during the wonderful Summer Weather. When I read the first few words, I could picture all the activity….repairing nets, checking floats and machinery..good hard work and sound sleep at nights. As you said the story ended on one side of the world and beginning in Cordova…a new chapter of a “BEST SELLER”, from where I sit! So now, as life begins to slow and all Advances to Winter…time will allow the actual creating to bloom…warmed by a fire, one stitch following another..Purl stitches pop up here and there and a rhythm can be heard as the needles move… Like the coming and going of the Tides or the Seasons, but before long, the pattern emerges. In the Crisp Morning light…you see it…you spread the knitted fabric out, pushing and pulling…a smile grows and the eyes that were so tired before, light up, the yellow rays settle and, there, right at the center….shines “CORDOVA” , and the stitches sing of the clear blue waters, crisp and cold. Here are the Salmon, swimming, scales flashing. There are the ropes and nets and floats, coming to life..The wool is warm to the touch but will repel the water that is sure to land there…..on and on it continues…this story of life in a small remote part of Alaska that meets the Great Sea. It is a story, told by spoken in stitches and told from the depths of Your Heart..never to be forgotten!

      When you write the next Chapter, I will be waiting to Read. I have to say that the story is so good, I want to look at the last page, to know how it ends..but I’ll wait. You sure know how to build the suspense !


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