Sheffield to Shetland and back.

On Friday, I set off just before 7am. A sky of midnight blue, changing through a line of tangerine and peach until the sun rose, a golden ball accompanied by a never ending line of staggered planes flying north, whilst the sky turned pale pink, lilac, pure blue and the stag watched it all beside the edge of the tree line.  I felt a pure energy like I used to on my doorstep at sunrise in Shetland, except I was one mile from the edge of a city on an old Roman road crossing Houndkirk moor.

I walked as far as the stone way marker with the skull and crossbones carved in the side facing Sheffield but the weather hasn’t been kind and the marks are now eroded away. 

On the moor, I felt the same energy being drawn from living within a pure hour of anticipating the first tip of the rising sun on the horizon surrounded by many colours of a changing sky across a visible 180 degree sky line.   Instead of sea creatures, I saw the stag watching me and the night before I had watched the young badger and fox in the city.  Finally, I felt back at home.

In the afternoon, I spoke with my agent, Jenny from Jenny Brown Associates about my book proposal, which I am quietly excited by.  I have recently been added to their website as a new author. My proposal will go to publishers next week.  It contains my first three chapters of the book I am writing about my year in Shetland.   I have recently had some great support from Hannah, and The Writers Workshop who helped with editing and the synopsis.

Writing the book has allowed me to rethink what happened that year.

The House of Two Women

A journey to and from Shetland  

‘I stand for a second to take in the moment, to look at the old plank-board door with a square wooden knob which I finally turn sharply to the right. The simple mechanism lifts a wooden latch inside. Human touch has left tangible traces of every hand that has opened this door before me. The sound of the sneck – a door latch hitting its casing – is what I will always remember of this place. I understand that it is a unique sound to this house, one that will forever embody a simple place of great beauty. In this exact moment, I am sold on the sound of a wooden latch and the view of the stone flag floor in front of me. Before the agent has even arrived, I know that I will not pull out of this crazy unfinished deal to buy this house and change my life forever. I won’t admit to the agent that it is the sound of the sneck that sealed the deal, but it is.’

This book is a love letter to Shetland and its extreme elemental landscapes; to an old croft house and three generations of the same family who lived there for more than 140 years. It is my story: a single, 57-year-old Yorkshire woman and knitter who dared to follow a dream against all odds; to sell up and risk all to move lock, stock and two cats from a small city flat to a home facing the sea, in the northernmost reaches of Scotland, the islands of Shetland.

This is also Susan Halcrow’s story – a strong, independent woman who lived in the same house for eighty-three years, from 1876 to 1960 – and how I came to know her through exploring the history of the home we shared. I write a letter to her in each chapter.

Each page is an invitation to share in my arrival on the island and to experience a full year of living through the seasons. It unfolds in monthly instalments, beginning on the very first day I visited the house, and heard the sneck, in August 2020, to my last sunrise in October 2021, when I had to leave. I dreamed of living on the island to be closer to nature, creativity and a life less ordinary, with my knitting practice at the heart of every day; of moving through slow travel across sea and natural beauty, to come to a personal understanding of both inner and outer landscapes. I never dreamed I would want to leave.

I will tell stories about sunrises and sea swimming; island hopping, whales and perfect Groatie Buckie shells; the night sky full of the milky way and a moon as big as a dinner plate; Easter blizzards coating the front of the house with a sheet of icy snow; of knitting and making a home in an old stone house, where learned so much about myself.

I will also share how emotionally challenging it is to make such a seismic life-change from city to island life and how my being an incomer, made it hard to find community both with some islanders and with some other local incomers.

The book, written entirely from the islands of Shetland, ending in October 2021 and offering an insight into island life and, finally explaining the reasons why I had to sell up and leave, to never look back again

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver.

Pink Kitchen (New hat pattern)

Since September, on and off, I have been working on a new little hat pattern.  The colours have been inspired by the dusky pink hue that I painted my new little wooden kitchen, with highlights of rich magentas and wine for the motifs and pale background colours – just as I painted the insides of kitchen cupboard doors.

When I went back to stay with Mati in Fair Isle in September, I started with ideas for colours and motifs because I was, at that time, painting the kitchen too.  But it wasn’t until December that the hat finally took on a full body of a good colour blending work throughout the motifs.  I was then happy with it.

When I teach on my online colour blending workshops, I teach the principles of how I choose and blend my colours in my knitting projects to enable the participants to harmoniously choose colours for their own new work.  After the principles, I give ideas of how to choose colours with ‘your heart’ – to go out and find your own true inspiration and work with those colours and the feeling from the inspiration, rather than to just reach for a big pile of coloured yarn in front of the TV or buy from a shop without forethought, then to just knit anything that looks good together. 

Knitting and designing takes planning, and thought, and even love to get it all right.  To knit a project and work with colours ‘with your heart’ adds another dimension to the work – it becomes art – my art – your art.

The new little hat pattern sings -and I think it is my favourite design to date. I worked on the motifs for some time so that I felt happy with the design and so that the patterns built up and worked together well.

I’ve kept a uniformity of colour changes and carried those through each motif in the same way, which is not really like me.  I am normally more random but I am thinking of knitting a vest with these colours and patterns so this is a taster of things to come.

The pattern for the hat also has a new detail that I haven’t done before, and that is to have a b/w chart as well as colour coded charts for the body and crown of the hat – so that the knitter can use the chart to design their own colours and rows where the colours change.  This addition is quite exciting for me because I am hoping that knitters will take this pattern and develop their own colours for the patterns and that I will see many different combinations.   If you do knit the pattern in your own colour choices, please tag me on Instagram with @traceydoxey so that I can see your work – I share some on my stories and I  would love to share your work too.

The new pattern went to two test knitters, one in Sheffield, who came around to my flat and chose her own colours from my box of yarn, and one friend in Nova Scotia, who knitted the hat using her stash.  I’m grateful to Karen and Shona for test knitting – here are their works of art.

the new pattern is now out on Ravelry, it is here.

For anyone who has attended a colour blending workshop – you still get 20% discount off all of my patterns with a code that I have already sent you after the workshop. But, if you don’t have your code for discount, please email me and I’ll send it to you.

Thank you for reading this little mention of this little knitting project. If you would like to read up to date information on how my book is moving along, please sign up to this blog to be updated, by submitting your email in the box below.

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