A new day. Shetland

The moon, a crescent, wakes me at just before 4am. It is shining through the window, the night sky pitch black but studded with stars.  Outside, I can see everything by the light of the moon.

In all the time that I have lived here, I have wanted to sit by the light of a long, outside, taper-candle on the beach. Now, I light it in the garden by the light of the moon in a windless night just after 4am.  I stick the taper into the ground in front of the house,  between my thinking bench and the wall. The shadow of the flickering flame dances like a sundial, resting on the south side of the taper, whilst the flame gently flickers north.  There is no wind, just a gentle whisp of a breath of air.  Here, I can see where the breeze arrives and leaves.

The sky is studded with stars.  The only constellation that I know is the Plough.  It is ahead of the house in the North East, I think. The rest I do not know but I look around and around in awe of miles and miles of stars, not seen as clearly in cities or towns.   Slowly, faintly, the sky begins to lighten in the East, showing its arrival through the crack between earth and sky, splitting and dividing the darkness into sea and sky. Still, the taper dances on unhindered, glowing light and a slight warmth.   I am not cold here on my thinking bench between house and porch, drinking tea and eating a Tunnock biscuit. There is no sound other than the sea down at the beach.

Northlink arriving from the South

As the skyline lightens with the approaching sun, the stars fade but I still see them.

The stars have all but disappeared. The light is magical. I use the camera to capture the moon. There is only enough battery to take three photos before it shuts down. I capture the moon in two. 

This fulcrum of time of darkness and light tipping from one to the other, is magical. What a gift to be alive at this moment, in this place.  There is no nip in the air but it is clear and crisp. The taper flickers on.   This is turning out to be one of my most beautiful mornings here, to watch the world in front of me change from dark to light guided by the light of a flickering outdoor taper, serenaded by the sound of the waves.

At 5:45, the sky has a faint peachy glow in between the sea and sky horizon line. As I look South, I see the tiny glowing lights of the Northlink arriving far away. What a peaceful calm sailing the passengers must be enjoying, sailing into sunrise.

A peach ribbon of light stretches south. The light begins to form the shape of a horizontal shard – the point of which is at the South and the wide end of light to the North, many miles away. There is a clear dividing layer of cloud, sky, sea – taking on hues of peach, pink, lilac, a deep rose colour and blue.  Slowly, slowly, the Northlink sails into the shard of light. The sky looks as if it is a tide upon a beach.

I sense the present moment in elements – Earth, Sea, Sky, Water, breeze and see the colours of peach, pink, lilac, blue and rose whilst sitting facing the sunrising and the moon leaving.  Light is pushing away the darkness, bleeding into it forming a new day.

Just think, if I had slept through this.

At 6:40am the first Starling arrives. I have baked them oats.  I don’t know if they can eat them but figure that if we can – then why not.

I have been on this bench for 2 hours celebrating a new day – what a start.


Shetland Wool Week 2021

This week is Shetland Wool week 2021.  The first time I visited Shetland, was for a Wool Week in 2015. I stayed at the hostel in Lerwick and every bed in every room was taken by wool week visitors.  I fell in love with Shetland, its culture of knitting and the tangible, visible history across the islands.  I also visited St Ninians for the first time and squealed with joy at just seeing it.  I still sometimes squeal at seeing St Ninians. 

Since 2015, I revisited again and again – for Up Helly Aa in 2016, a few more holiday trips, an Artist residency at the Booth in Scalloway in December 2017, and an R&D trip to Unst in 2018.  All of these trips deepened my love of the social history across the islands and my love for Shetland knitting.  I remember meeting Hazel Tindall in the Textile Museum one day in May 2017, and I recorded her talking about her Grandmother collecting the peats for the rayburn. (At that time, I had a passion for old stoves left in abandoned croft houses)   I still have that recording and I have always been in awe of Hazel, her skill and her warm character. She makes me smile when I see her. She is a Wool Week Goddess.  I met her for lunch a couple of months ago.  We went to the Mareel.  It was a joy to be with her, such an honour.

Hazel in one of her amazing knits.

Six years after first visiting Shetland, it is once again, Wool Week.  It is not a face to face Wool Week where thousands of participants descend upon Lerwick and the surrounding areas to enjoy workshops, trips, visits to museums and of course both Jamieson’s wool shops, but a virtual wool week. Next year will be real, I know it.   But, in 2015, it was my first experience of being here – I sat by the pier knitting and watched an otter come in carrying a huge fish.  He didn’t know I was there until I moved. I mean, a city girl watching an otter whilst sitting on the pier knitting in the town – who would have believed it?

Here is a blog from that time https://www.travelblog.org/Europe/United-Kingdom/Scotland/Shetland/Wick/blog-901174.html

This week, six years later, I am teaching Online Colour blending sessions in the Virtual Shetland Wool Week programme -2 this weekend, 2 next weekend and on Friday, three ladies are coming to the house to do a face to face colour blending session and incidentally, they are from my home town of Matlock.   Seemingly, we are 6 degrees of separation, or maybe just one degree.

I’ve been teaching online sessions since January when one of my supporters asked for a class, in December, for her friends for a Christmas present.  I said that I was busy with the house but would do a workshop in the January.  It happened the last weekend of Jan, – I got in by the skin of my teeth and since then have been teaching up to 4 sessions every month ever since – except when I took a 6 week break to work on the Dear Susan Project.  I would very much like to thank that supporter who truly developed my own Creative Practice.

This weekend, I have met ladies from America, Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany, The Netherlands,  Sweden and Scotland.  Today, I had two ladies join me from Canada and America at 2am and 5am their time – I felt honoured and flattered that they were so dedicated to join me in the middle of their night.

Every time I do an online workshop, I feel warm and happy afterwards.  I get so many messages after the sessions that I know that all the hard work to teach, inspire, engage with and to share skills is worth it.  Some of the ladies over the last 6 months have also become my international online friends – especially Cait St. George, whom I met through a session with Cream City Yarn in Milwaukee.  Cait became my test knitter for Dear Susan and also number crunched the pattern.  The Internet and Instagram has made these sessions possible and I want to thank every one who has attended a session already, everyone who is booked on to a session and to future bookers.   You make my creative practice valued and I value every one who has joined me.   If you would like to join a colour blending workshop, I have a couple of places left on 17th October and I am taking a waiting list for November (dates to be confirmed) If you go to my online workshop tab, here on the website, you can see information of the classes.

Dear Susan jumper

Here’s to Shetland Wool Week 2021.

I look forward to seeing your work – tag me on Instagram.  Tracey 😊

Oh yes, I have 20% off all of my knitting patterns during wool week.
The code for the basket is Wool Week Workshop

and patterns are here


A quick postcard from Shetland

Alfie and the ribbon sky.

Some days, Shetland is good at sparkling.  Yesterday, from sunrise until the rain came in the afternoon, the South of the Island sparkled.  My friend is here for a week and she loves to walk.  The day started with the most beautiful sunrise, sky ribbons and pink sunlight. I nipped to Levenwick beach first thing to walk along the edges of the tidal waves coming in. The beach is a gift.  The sun rising above the cemetery cast a pink glow upon the sea horse waves coming in and a seal bobbed a little way out, the ebb and flow of the sea water cast a net of ridges upon the sand as if hair splayed out.

There was just me on the beach and a seal – what a start to a beautiful day. 

Whilst Deb has been here, we have been to all of the beaches in the South of the island – long, curved Scousburgh probably being the best experience as half a dozen young seals followed us in the sea as we walked along the beach and back. They played and we smiled. St Ninian’s is always beautiful and West Voe, always barren and astonishing in beauty with its wide vista edged in waving grasses.  No seals bathed on Rerwick.

On Sunday, we walked along the coast line in Levenick to the Broch (or what is left of it ) with a special view from the old water mill grinding stones. It was boggy and wet underfoot, the fog was lowering and the landscape became atmospheric.  So much tangible history here touched by many hands over time. This was Deb’s favourite walk.

Yesterday returned to Jarlshof to walk to Sumburgh lighthouse along a track that skirts the coast which we saw clearly marked from a standing point above, last Friday.   Along the track are many Cairns, we placed stones and I made a wish.   It was sunny and breezy and light – a perfect walk, and this became my favourite walk.

Sea water, swimming water, salt water


It is one year since arriving and I am now leaving. The biggest memory I will take back with me is one year living by the water. Water is ever present in Shetland, latterly, in fog and mist but on the clear days, and even on the not so clear days, I have been swimming in the sea with a really good friend in the village, on my own and once to a magical place on the West Side on the most sparkling of days. When the fog rests across the ground, it is easy to forget the magical swimming days but even last Saturday, we went swimming in the sunshine and left the beach in the rain.

Levenwick, Saturday 4th September

It takes a while to get ready to go swimming at the beach, and often it takes longer to sort stuff out when you get home, but I walk down the road, in the wetsuit with a jumper on top, to meet my friend and we walk and chat on the way to the beach. She has given me the confidence to really enjoy the sea, its depths, its clarity, its coldness and its power to bring me to the very present moment and feel alive.

Last Saturday, the sea was pale green, reflected from an overcast sky. Each time, the sea is different in colour, clarity, choppiness, or calmness and each time we are accompanied by different creatures, a cheeky seal or birds or a crab and sometimes jelly fish but always, and every time, it is a wonder and the sound of water is a healing property. Sometimes, the sun glistens across the surface of the water and you are part of a different world – not of land but of sea.

When the sea is pearlescent green, but still clear to the sand bed and the sky is washed out white/grey, and I wade in confidently, it is an exhilarating moment.  Striding up to knee height is easy, thigh height and sea water seeps in between your sea slippers and the bottom of the wet suit climbing up your legs but it is not until the sea water reaches to the top of our legs, do you feel that you are in sea water 60 degrees north.  Keep walking, do not stop. The northern temperature bites through the zip at the back of my wetsuit, flooding my bare back with an icy reminder of cold and still I keep walking until, just until, I can breathe and have stopped swearing and waving my arms around and then, surprisingly, after about five minutes of cursing and squeaking, the water warms, or my body cools – either way, body and water harmoniously exist side by side to bring the mind exactly to the present moment.  When I swim, I no longer feel the coldness. It is then that the sea water laps down the neck of the suit and reminds me of the temperature

Keep going, don’t stop. I could have done more becasue I have only just begun to understand the water. I wasn’t born by the sea but it has become my ever present friend over the last year.

Keep going – do not stop, this is one of the beauties of living here. Raw, alive, cold, awake, harmonious– sea swimming at Levenwick beach, at Scousburgh Sands, at St Ninian’s and on the West Side.

Some days in Shetland are crystalline. They don’t always start that way but develop in the the most glistening of days. Swimming in this rock pool with Foula in the distance was such a day. Everything glistened and we swam without wet suits. A true and clear world was reflected back from the pool and the sky in clear colour of blue and green. On days such as this, there is no finer place to be with a great friend, astonishing beauty, no noice, no litter and a completely natural world.

And then I went home to my beautiful house, which faces the sea, with all its doors and windows open, just smiling.

Where’s Alfie?

Levenwick Beach is perfect for sea swimming. We wade out, keep going, swim across the bay and back again. In the summer we met a group of 10 yorkshire ladies – all sisters and aunts and cousins, who went in the sea every day on their 2 week holiday. They were also there, chatting and laughing and it is heart warming to see people enjoying this place.



One day, I went to Scousburgh, with another friend. I started swimming in the wet suit, got acclimatised then peeled it off and went back in, in just my costume. We brought the suits and shoes and gloves back in a large blue tub. It was a fine afternoon spent on one of the finest beaches in Shetland. A local group of 4 women were leaving as we were arriving. Women love the water.

And, then there is the local swimming pool. I still go every day and swim gently or hammer out 50 lengths. The women here are powerful swimmers and I’m so impressed by their strength and stamina to swim solidly like seals for an hour – me, I potter but swimming has been part of my life for 40 years or so. The pool at Sandwick has few people using it. Over the past year, attendance has grown but yesterday, I had it to myself to start with. The staff are brilliant. They know me and my routine and they are all really lovely, accomodating people. Swimming is an activity that has been my companion for a year in Shetland and for many years before arriving. All forms of water immersion are mindful.

Sandwick Pool

On Thursday, A friend is coming to stay for a week from Sheffield. She wants to go sea swimming so I will lend her my suit and socks and gloves and I will borrow a suit and we will go. I will not tell her how the cold takes your breath or that you will bob up and down on your toes to acclimatise. I will be quiet so that she can enjoy her own experience 60 degrees north and hopefully take away something rare to remember. We will maybe go at late sunrise with knitted hats on.

Levenwick Sunrise swimming