INSIDE Jamieson and Smith the quiet hum of conversation cannot mask the mounting tension, writes Genevieve White.
It is midday, and 13 knitters have half an hour left to work on their Fair Isle bookmarks before the workshop finishes. Will they succeed? “Possibly,” says workshop leader, Hazel Tindall amid laughter from some knitters and visibly increased concentration from others.
Punky Fleck has travelled to Wool Week from North Carolina and chose this particular workshop because she wanted to learn how to steek.
Apart from this morning, what has been the highlight of her trip? Without hesitating, she pulls a small bag of fleece and a ball of yarn out of her handbag.
“Shetland sheep have the most open, clean and beautiful fleece I’ve ever come across. From this fleece I’ve managed to spin this yarn. Look how strong and beautiful it is!”
When asked what she enjoys most about leading knitting workshops, Hazel Tindall answers: “I enjoy being able to make people’s lives easier by spotting their problems and telling them how to fix them – like when I see someone knitting with the yarn wrapped around their fingers the wrong way, for example.”
Yet Hazel is aware that the future of such workshops is far from certain. “There’s a real irony. When I was at primary school, we all had people at home who could knit and we also had lessons at school.
“Today’s bairns have neither. Most of the workshop leaders are on their bus passes: who’ll be leading these workshops in 10 years’ time?”
At nine o’clock the same night Shetland’s makkers are still going strong.
The upper floor of the Peerie Café is packed to full capacity at a felted purse making workshop led by Ana Horne and Amy Fisher.
The tables are strewn with Shetland and merino wool tops, threads and sequins. “It’s like a buffet”, explains Ana. People come and help themselves.”
The tables buzz with chatter and the thump of needles. Mother and daughter Merran Adamson and Eileen Tait have come along to enjoy some craft time together and have sparked up a conversation with Elisabeth Kunzi from Switzerland and Alex Daniel from York.
Elisabeth first heard about Wool Week on Ravelry (the knitter’s equivalent of Facebook) and made up her mind to experience it.
For Alex, taking part in Wool Week has realised a long term personal ambition. “It’s just so lovely to be able to come and enjoy doing what I do with people who don’t think it’s a bit weird”, she says.
“Meeting so many likeminded people in a small space has been just amazing.”
The Fine Art of Fair Isle Knitting with Hazel Tindall is now available for download and on DVD at http://www.hazeltindall.com