Design and colour in Knitting Workshop Ideas for Sheffield

Call out to register interest in Sheffield workshops.

I have been back in Sheffield almost two weeks and I have found the perfect space for workshops in the city for like-minded people to meet and spend creative time knitting, learning and experimenting with colour and design for knitting. I am now considering doing two new face to face workshops in Sheffield starting in January and if you are interested, I would love you to register your interest in the form at the bottom of the workshops page here.

The workshops will be in a creative space called ‘Craft Sheffield’, owned by Sarah, who offers sewing workshops and a chance for other creative teachers (like me) to hire the space, which nestles over an old coach house yard on Abbeydale Road. You can see it below above the shop.

The studio has a large table in the middle and 10 separate workstations and a beautiful bay window with two relaxing chairs, which means there is plenty of space for a group of 10 to sit around the table and to use as break out spaces if you wish. There’s also a great little kitchen and bathroom so everything is to hand.

Access – please note that there are steps up to the entrance of the studio space – it is not on ground level, which unfortunately makes in not possible for participants who are unable to climb stairs to access the space. I’m sorry about that.

My first two face to face Sheffield workshops that I am considering are:-

Workshop 1  – Colour Blending and swatch knitting for Fair Isle motifs

Workshop 2 – Start experimenting with colour and design to start your swatch design book

Possible dates – Saturday January 8th and Saturday 15th (tbc)  10am – 2:30pm

A small synopsis of each session is written below. But if you would like an overview of each session sending to you, please contact me through the online form on the Online Workshops page here.

Colour blending swatch workshop  10am – 2:30pm – date tbc

For up to 10 people.

At this hands-on workshop, you are able to learn the basics and more difficult techniques of colour blending within Fair Isle knitting. I will do a one-hour presentation on colour blending within Fair Isle motifs,  then we will be aiming for everyone to knit a yoke sample with a tree and star in the colours of your choice.  The choice will be yours as to what motif you use to swatch and what colours to use from an abundance of 200 balls of Jamieson’s of Shetland yarn available on the table. I will show you many traditional Shetland tree and star designs and you will be able to use copies of motifs out of my swatch book or you could graph your own Shetland star motif to knit your swatch sample at the workshop.

The main learning curve of this session is to develop an understanding of how to blend colours within your own knitting projects and to develop the skill of choosing your own colours with confidence and understanding how it will turn out, therefore minimising colour mistakes. This is a session for the experimenter in us all and for those who want to learn how to successfully choose your own colours for projects rather than using the colours that the designer has chosen.

Workshop requirements: – 

If you can knit and are not an absolute beginner, and you want to learn more about colour blending and Shetland design – this is for you. Come and experiment.  This workshop is not for people who cannot knit.

At this workshop, you will learn: –

  • The basic and more difficult techniques of Shetland yoke patterns – the choice will be yours as to what motifs you use from a selection on offer.
  • How to blend colours in your knitting using the huge variety of colours on offer to create a harmonious pattern.
  • You will learn how to choose your own colours for your own projects – and not to just go with the designer’s colour choice.
  • If you love colour and textiles, you will enjoy the experimentation

What is Included in the session.

All yarn will be provided for the workshop.  You will be able to choose from a large selection of Jamieson of Shetland spindrift yarn colours provided for you to knit your swatch.

If you have not had time to finish your swatch during the workshop, you will be able to take enough yarn home to finish your sample.

A full set of workshop Handouts on colour blending, tree and star patterns and how to colour blend.

All tea, coffee, biscuits and cake provided during the workshop

Workshop 2

Swatch/design book Saturday 10am – 2:30pm date tbc

for up to 10 People.

This is a hands-on experimental workshop where you are able to learn the basics and more difficult techniques of colour blending within Fair Isle knitting to make your own experimental knitted swatches sing in the colours you want.  I will do a one hour presentation on colour blending  and the benefits of swatching for your knitting projects. Swatching isn’t torture – it’s a great way to understand quickly if your colour choices will work or not. It’s a great way to learn, show progression and learning.  We will be aiming for everyone to graph out a motif of your choice or you can use photo copies of motifs that I have already graphed out (to save time) for your first swatch and your new sketch book. I will photocopy motifs from traditional Shetland pattern books and you’ll be able to choose a motif that you like most then you will be able to choose the colours you would like to use from an abundance of 200 balls of Jamieson’s of Shetland yarn available on the table. The choice will be yours as to what motif you use to swatch and which colours you will use.

The main learning curve of this session is to get excited about experimenting with Shetland motifs and to knit it a swatch in the colours you choose.  It will start your journey of your own swatch/sketch book.

I will bring along my design sketch books from my Masters at Nottingham Trent University and you’ll be able to see how swatching develops your skills analysing what colours work and what doesn’t and even why.

Workshop requirements: – 

If you can knit and are not an absolute beginner, and you want to learn more about colour blending and how to really experiment with Shetland motifs and colour – this is for you.  It would be a good workshop for a textile student to develop ideas for sketch books.  This workshop is not for people who cannot knit.

What is Included in the session.

All yarn will be provided for the workshop.  You will be able to choose from a large selection of Jamieson of Shetland spindrift yarn colours provided for you to knit your swatch.

If you have not had time to finish your swatch during the workshop, you will be able to take enough yarn home to finish your sample.

A full set of workshop Handouts and graph paper.

All tea, coffee, biscuits and cake provided during the workshop

If you are interested in the above workshops, please go to my workshop page and complete the form at the bottom to register interesthere   

Happy knitting, happy learning, happy experimenting – visit Sheffield.

Testimonial – Alice Hartnell – I attended Tracey’s colour blending workshop during a holiday in Shetland.  The venue, Traceys croft, definitely added to the experience but the workshop was fascinating and informative.  I could knit but had no previous experience of colour blending, Tracey explained the theory using her own work to illustrate.  She encouraged us to choose colours for our own blending, explaining why some worked and some didn’t.  Once we had settled on our colours we knitted a sample to test our choices.  The day was well paced, Tracey had a knowledgeable but approachable style and I came away feeling I had learned a lot about the use of colour in knitting.  Highly recommended!

Smola – a replaced blog from November 2020

I came to Smola in the 57th year of my life, wondering if it was foolish, due to age, aloneness, no income, no idea of future with two cats in a cat pram, arriving in a storm.

I still wonder those things, but will be patient with myself and life.

There are real highs and fairly low lows but I am in the right place, I know it.  This place in time belongs to me and how I live it. I should not worry, I should just continue and be the best person I can be for myself and towards others. 

I’ve said it before but I will remind myself that, Anais Nin said, ‘we do not see things as they are but as we are’ .

Yesterday, I called in at John’s who said speak to Jim, so I went to Jim’s and Martin was there too, they were off to a funeral and Jim was gracious with his time with me. He told me of Susanna (Susan, Cissie) who lived in the house that I now live in and that he was sent, as a child, to get the milk from her.  She had one cow and rowed the little milk bills up on a shelf in the porch, the same porch that I have.  He was a young boy – he told me of his house too, so much history in every place.  After,  I walked out of Jim’s old back gate, across the tufted grass,  down the bank and on to the beach, along the length of it then up the south bank to come up behind the cemetery. I stupidly and possibly unempathetically, didn’t think that the funeral would be at Levenwick, so when I saw the people all in black with face masks arriving, I left.  

But Martin, spoke with Raymond who came to see me today with the most wonderful handful of photos of photos of Susanna Halcrow (Susan, Cissie, or even Zizzie) and I saw, for the first time, a face to a name of a woman who lived in my old house for many years. She was born on the 6th February 1876 and Died 4th January 1960 – she was 83 and what a beautiful picture she was.  Raymond brought me 4 photos of Cissie and 4 of John, that had been left in the house before his Aunt Alice lived in it. Raymond remembers it well. I had seen John in a photo before –   John Halcrow, who one day walked out of that front door of the old porch facing the sea in Levenwick and never came back – he died in the battle of Jutland 31st May 1916.    I am beginning to gather the stories of the lives in this old house – some sad and this one of war and loss and a wonderful looking woman called Susan with a dog called Ralph.  So, if Tiggy will allow me,  I will also get a new puppy and call him Ralph too.  The woman looking back at me, who appears to have only worn dresses, gives me strength and look – the group are leaning against the wall that still surrounds this tiny house that used to be called Croft number 7 and Ralph sits upon it too.   Susan looks absolutely calm and I want her to know that I already love her old house which is now called Smola and hope to share it with other women who possess  a love of the wild and windy Levenwick and the old authentic place with a wall around it. And I think my next knitting pattern will be named Cissie.

With great thanks and appreciation to Raymond Irvine.

Two letters – a replaced blog from November 2020

Yesterday, a witch wrote to me from Idaho.   What did she see in me that I do not yet see or acknowledge in myself.  She said that we would have been called witches – it was, and I took it as, a compliment.  My hair is becoming shaped and reshaped by the wind, knotted at the neck. Since being so far North, it has taken on a grass-like quality.  A little like a long cat’s tail with a curl at the end –  like a plait made of grass.

Tiggy purrs loudly beside me with watery eyes. His coat is wet from his night hunt in the rain – thankfully, he came back empty mouthed.

Today, 25th November, is the day I can open a letter I wrote to myself exactly one year ago to the day.  Also in the envelope is the letter I wrote to myself the year before.  The letters write what I hope for myself for the coming year, what I think I ought to do, try to aim for and wish for. I always forget what I wrote in the letter (s).  Today is the day to find out what I was thinking.  Here are both letters written to myself – word for word.

25th November, 2019, Upper House, Brindister, Shetland.

Dearest Tracey, So many things have happened since you wrote to yourself one year ago.  Some of the hopes have come true – risk taking, finding a path that is true to you, becoming more open.  
There is one thing you did but need to continue doing – that was to make calculated decisions and stick with them.  

You need to really decide now, because you are at a cross roads – what will you decide?  – here – I’ll list a few options.

Get an artist studio @SI Get an interesting job in Sheffield p/t – like arts co-ordinator

Sell the flat to buy in Shetland

Look to rent a place in Shetland for a year to see what happen
Apply for the Phd @ NTU – 2 options there

You WILL NOT get a full time office job – that’s for sure.

Tracey, choose a path.

Your patience has paid off lately.  Patience waiting @ SHU, patience with the situation last month, have patience with S because I think if you could have anything – it would be a growing, deepening relationship.

You learned to love on FI and you were loved also.

Do not forget that love in the coming year.   Open up more to love, Give more of yourself and of gifts of time – Just give

Volunteer, if you feel lost when you return to Sheffield. 

I wish for you, that your creativity flourishes – that you grow creatively  –  that the path you started to carve when you took VR is more deeply carved and you are on a great journey of self.

Be kind, be open be love and loved.  Xxx

Also, in the envelope was the letter from 6th November 2018, which I opened on 6th November 2019 by the sea whilst living on Fair Isle.  I took Lola, way before dawn and we walked to the North of the Island and I sat on a rock and opened the letter written to myself exactly a year before.

6th November 2018. 

Dearests Tracey.

Be kind to yourself.  To push yourself every minute is not entirely fruitful.

Take those moments to continue to be real, more real, most real.

What is this real?  What is the shape and colour of this reality?

Build on what touches your core, opens you up, loses you deeper into the life that is ever present. 

Wellbeing – basics – go to more yoga, keep going swimming, wear your cycling helmet, talk to dogs, wave at kids, book those trains, ferries, planes. 

Remember ( the distance between what we want and what we fear is the width of an eyelash)

I hope in one year that you will have carved a path that is entirely true to you, a place that you are happy to work, a place of wellbeing, a place of some kind of contentment ringed by periodic risk taking.  Don’t stop taking risks.  Be true to the real reasons.  Do not blame.  What do you want for yourself for in one year?  

To be less (not isolated, not alone, not single – but more open to a partnership with someone – will you ever find that – that thing?

You are still on a journey – be patient, it will grow.   So much growth already, but we never stop developing ourselves, do we?

I hope that you will be more professionally fulfilled.   You take calculated risks but actually, you should make calculated decisions and stick with them.

Do you want to live on the Tibetan Plateau for a month – if so, do it.  This is now.   What do I want now for you in the future?  I want you to be sound and happy.  Eric would say during yoga, ‘comfort and stability’ whilst standing on one leg.  I want contentment and joy, or excitement and joy, or health and connection.  Does it have to be two things only?  No. 

I want you to grow more sound in your wellbeing, more connected to people, more open to those things that you can have, break through any fear, give more of yourself to others, open yourself to others because you already make opportunities.

Be pure, be you – 6th November 2018.

Midnight, 25th November 2020, Shetland.   

Two years later – I am outside, in the small road by my broken gate and the old wall surrounding my small house, under a sea of stars in this clear Shetland sky.

The Plough is not above me, as it was in Sheffield, but to the North.  the aurora is showing but I cannot see it with my eye. To see it through a six second open shutter is to stretch time, hold time in one frame as if holding my breath to catch the dancing green light.  I will wait.

Already the inside of the windows in the porch and bedroom are clouded with condensation through their touch with the outside cold.  Here on the bench, for the first time in weeks, I see the sea, the stars, the moon and smell the heady scent of peat fire smoke.  All the world is here within the stars, the universe, the sea with its horizon line lit at midnight by the light of the moon, the old stone walls built and rebuilt over almost 2 centuries surrounding this house. All these things turn on the axes of the earth and will still be here long after I have gone. 

The cats have taken themselves to bed.

Tomorrow, I will write myself a third letter of what I hope for myself to come for the year ahead.  3 letters in one envelope to read a year from now – so many changes already – so many to come

.26th November

I nearly deleted this post as it makes me feel open to criticism by being completely vulnerable but I read a beautiful comment which made me leave these words in the hope that it may make you stop, just for a moment. And, then I looked at some of the great changes I have made – moved house, moved 1,000 miles from city to island, had a year of making, of helping people at the NHS, of being brave, taking risks, being open, started designing small knitting projects, started driving again after over 12 years of not driving a car, written words, taken photos, dug out a byre, researched a woman who lived in this house facing the sea. To date, this is my most meaningful creative piece – it may be a hat but it encompasses over 40 years of my knitting, of travel, of recognising strong women. The life that has inspired this latest pattern is a woman that lived in this very house I write in for 83 years, looked out of the same windows and door on to that vast ocean and sky. I called the Pattern Good Wishes for the New Year – Here it is

Here she is

Ravelry: Good Wishes for the New Year pattern by Tracey Doxey

Ravelry: Designs by Tracey Doxey

Notes on the weight of colour

For me, choosing colour for my knitting projects (and even my home) comes in many forms, from many points of inspiration but always from really looking – I mean really looking, and feeling.  

Colour is a personal development of experience from seeing colour choice mistakes and understanding the mistakes to tweak them to make the piece sing. Colour choice is about experimenting and being excited to try new colour combinations as well as recognition of combinations through the tactile feel of yarn in my hands.

Colour comes from the edge of where sea meets sand or from looking at an old red gate with rusted hinges hanging off, once cared for – inspiration – not just seen but also felt.

Colour is in movement – the movement of the sea, of the eddying mist, the fog that drops like a blind and a flan or flann of wind (A sudden squall of wind blowing from high land over the sea- or in my case, over the hill behind the house, around a corner to find me)  which knocks me sideways. 

Anyone who has taken one of my colour blending workshops will hear what I say.

This is how I work. Colour invades me from different angles like the waves – always undulating, telling a story, many stories of winds and moon and sun affecting the tides. These things touch me. Colours undulate.

Colour also comes from a place of gratitude in seeing the small things – the bigger details of life.

I am always site responsive.  That means, I respond to the purity of a specific moment in a specific place which moves me. I figure out why it moves me enough to write about it, to see it through my eyes to sense the place or moment, to feel it personally  – the nature of a knitted row takes in not only yarn and the movement of my hands but the memory of the event which has moved me. It could be a first sight – such as inspired the Smola set of scarf, mitts and hat, inspired by a red gate, the peat cut by hand from the hills, stacked bagged and burned  on the fires, the smoke taken in on a quiet evening sitting on a bench below the chimney and then there is the movement of the sea. I suppose colour can be sensory for me. I don’t just grab colours for a project – the story and the idea dictate my colour choices.

Here is an extract from the story with the ‘Dear Susan’ Pattern. ‘Outside, I Inhale the heady scent of peat smoke, as a hundred women must have done so before me. Standing on to the hand-hewn flag stone veranda that skirts the front of the house, I take in the heady scent of the previous night’s peat fire smoke lingering in the air.  The grey sky is touching the grey sea beholding all that is in front of me, under my feet and behind me within the stones of this old house.’

And again here:-

I’ve likened this sharp first breath outside to that of when I lived in China. It is the sharp clear smell.  Here, the first air is heavy with last night’s peat smoke scent. In China, when I lived in the hutongs, it was braziers, left out in the lanes, lit in the evenings with charcoals for light and warmth.  There were no street lights there either. It’s the same combination of mixed senses.  Smell of coals, smoke and the biting freezing sharp air, backed by a rising sun. With this combination, I am instantly taken back to China. But I stand here, in frozen Shetland.

Senses enter the knitting and the colour choices.

In my workshops, I say, ‘go out and choose your colours with your heart.’ But now I see that there is something more to it for me and that is to ‘feel’ the elements of colour. Feel the moment.

I develop from mistakes. What I saw to be really interesting 2 years ago, I have developed into a movement of colour.  Below is my development from Shetland Wall Flowers pattern to the Smola colours and pattern.

The Smola Beanie, though my cheapest pattern at £2.50, cheaper than a brief cup of coffee in a café, is my most sophisticated in colour choice embodying light, sea, eddying mist, an old red gate, the scent of peat smoke, a walk where sea meets sand at an ever changing pace and place. It moves from light to dark in more ways than one.  A solitary, singular figure connecting with surroundings and landscapes.

If you would like to join me on a colour blending session which will make you see differently, I have added New online colour blending workshop dates to the website :-

Wednesday 24th November   2-4pm UK time

Wednesday 1st December   2-4pm UK time

Saturday4th December 2-4pm UK time

Sunday 5th December 2-4pm UK time

Smola trio of hat, scarf and gloves are here.

A last Shetland sunrise

teeep in a blur

A last Shetland sunrise
Its flaring red, pink, lilac and blue skyscape performs to remind
the boys and I of perfect
untainted natural beauty.

I smile
I walk out to greet the glow
Sky, wind, cold envelope me.
Sheltering from the Baltic wind in a steadfast porch that faces east,
I watch
To etch the view forever.
A basin of ice cold sea
wraps the surface of a world below a rippled dancing sky.
Alfie by my feet
on the age old stones.
The red sky does not fade,
it glows, it sings, it morphs

It shouts to me
“Goodbye, do not forget me,
For I am in your soul”

Levenwick, Shetland. 23/10/21

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

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

A house of two women.

July 2021

In September 2020, I moved to a croft house in Levenwick and began, more or less immediately, to research the people that had lived here before me. Through conversations with local people, the return of photographs and pottery and 8 sessions in Shetland Museum Archives,  I found that the Halcrow family had lived here from the mid 1800’s until 1960.  I became particularly interested in researching a woman called Susan (Cissie) b1876 –  d1960 who lived in my croft house for 83 years – and after her parents and brother died, from 1916, she was alone.  She made the fire in the hearth, grew things, opened the old latch door and looked out to sea every day, as I now do, also as a single woman.   Susan was the last of three generations of the Halcrow family to live in this house and she lived through some of the most recorded changeable times in Shetland history.

Through this new frame of mine, I began to write a story of two women living in the same house over a century apart.  I began to write and research through my own lived experiences, diarised in a daily practice of writing. I researched a story of Susan, this house and Shetland, juxtaposed with my own lived experiences in the same house and out of that story, I knitted a pattern for Susan.  When I look at Susan’s face in any of the photographs that I have been given, she looks calm, serene and has a real beauty about her.  The glint in her eye was there to the end.

I was awarded a VACMA award.  (Visual Arts Craft MakersAward) to write the story of Susan and myself living in this house over a century apart and to design a knitted piece dedicated to Susan Halcrow.  I have made a neat little pullover dedicated to her, with her in mind. The jumper hopes to embody the natural elements of Shetland and how serene and calm Susan looked –  always smart, usually wearing a brooch or collar when photographed outside the house.  The body of the jumper is inspired by the colours of the Shetland seas of turquoise, aqua, greens and all the blues you could ever imagine and I wanted the yoke to be jewel-like.  It is a knitting recipe of light, wind, the sea, yarn, Shetland life and a woman called Susan as well as my own creative practice. My creative practice is a way of expressing my life through the art of storytelling and technology of knitting and through the use of expressive colour.

I would like to thank Shetland Arts and Creative Scotland for supporting this project – for me, it is a thing of great beauty – not only the design but the 15 page story of Susan and I.  The writing of this work has been a research and a personal journey written in letters to Susan. If you are interested in the knitting pattern, it is available on ravelry (with the story too).

Big love from Shetland in these long summer days. Tracey.

For the knitting pattern and 15 page story