British Isles 2013?


I apologize in advance if I'm not very responsive right now. The hard drive (six months old) on my computer (4+ years old) died completely on Friday, which explains the computer's increasingly balky behavior. The drive is under warranty, but at the moment the computer is best suited for use as a doorstop. Thus I have only intermittent and partial access to my working files—actually, I have the files. I just don't have the programs that I use to work with them. I'm sorry for any delays in getting back to folks. I'm working on it. Fortunately, this post was almost done and I transferred most of the photos to Dropbox as my mainstay machine wavered, then stumbled, and then quit. If a few of the photos here look odd, that's because for some reason those particular images inexplicably vanished during my emergency saving operations. And now to the main topic of this post. . . .



So there's plotting going on. It seems to be gathering momentum. Because there's close to a year to get ready, I might actually be in the British Isles next fall. I would be there to do more on-site research about sheep and wool, which is absolutely the best kind of research. (I do consider the research that I do on a daily basis, at home, with the help of books, interlibrary loan, e-mails, and the internet to be absolutely essential foundational work.)

Several friends with whom I've talked about my challenges in getting information of all types, as an independent researcher without any organizational sponsorship or funding, have been encouraging me to make a trip and offering both moral and some crucial logistical help.

Much Depends. However, the fantasy of this trip is coalescing around October 2013, in large part because of a number of events that will be taking place then, including Shetland Wool Week and the Campaign for Wool's Wool Week.

When I was in Scotland in 2010 for UK Knit Camp, I had hoped to take one side trip to do some research. I had to think of a single place that would have sheep that I wanted to have more firsthand knowledge about, that I could get to in the available time, and that would fit my budget. I settled on North Ronaldsay, in Orkney: Shetland was farther and more expensive than I could manage. I did a lot of what-iffing and planning. I got books. (I had maps.)

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I discovered the land-and-sea methods by which I could afford to get to North Ronaldsay, and that the Bird Observatory offers good, inexpensive lodging, and vegetarian meals.

Then it turned out that I would need to be back in the States to help with photography for The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook a few days after I finished teaching at UK Knit Camp. I could still get to North Ronaldsay, but I would need to fly. Flying wasn't in my budget.

Instead, with the help of June Hall and Sue Blacker, I went to Cumbria. I had a fantastic time. I also visited Glasgow for a day and a half as a way of making my trip to the airport easier (and more fun). (Kelvingrove Museum. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Walking around, including from one accommodation to the other, since I couldn't get two nights at the same location. Bookstores: bought a map.)

Nonetheless, my interest in the contexts of the sheep, especially of Shetland, has been longstanding.


Close-up of a few of those books above:

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I bought History of Scotland, Invaders of Scotland, Off the Beaten Track Scotland, Chronicles of the Vikings, and Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings at least a decade ago, and probably more like fifteen or twenty years ago, when I was researching something. The primary topic was probably sheep. The narrow item between the Scotland cluster and those two Viking volumes is the map of northern Scotland shown a couple of images ago. I suspect I got these resources when I was fact-checking items for Spin-Off. The map revision date is as of September 1992, and its printing date is 1993, which makes the "fact-checking for Spin-Off" and estimate of just under twenty years highly likely.

And. . . .

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Another close-up:

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Colin Baxter and Jim Crumley's Shetland: Land of the Ocean is, like the map of northern Scotland, dated 1992. I can tell from the label on the back, although the bookstore's name isn't included, that I bought it at the Tattered Cover in Denver. At the time, the main Tattered Cover store, where I went most often, was in the Cherry Creek neighborhood (the main store is now on Colfax). I don't remember where I came across J. Laughton Johnston's A Naturalist's Shetland, but I do remember that I caught sight of it in one or another independent bookstore when it was new (copyright 1999) and bought it without much internal debate, even though it was a hardcover and stretched my budget beyond its comfort level. It's a lovely book, although sheep are only mentioned on 9 of its 506 pages (and sheepdogs on just one).

I'm always interested in natural, cultural, and historical contexts. I've had some opportunities to explore those in relation to sheep (and generally) as I've traveled for other purposes. Because of time I've spent in the Southwest, I have always made sure that the vehicle I own has high enough clearance to manage two-track travel, away from pavement.

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That's one of the shelves of books related to the Southwest, particularly textiles. I read Gladys Reichard's Spider Woman and Dezba, Woman of the Desert at least thirty-five years ago (they were written in the 1930s), about the time I was constructing a Navajo-style loom and weaving a rug that I gave my mother. (That was the same time that my cat had been hit by a car, and I spent a month tending him around the clock. He was a year and a half old. After the accident, he had only one intact leg-and-paw, one of the front ones, which earned him the additional nickname Thunderpaw. He lived to be fifteen; died in 1988; and I still miss him. Weaving the rug—which I did twice, since I pulled the weft out of the nearly finished first version because the edges were pulling in more than I wanted them to—and providing hourly care to that cat, whose most common name was Wow, are completely integrated in my memory.)

I do love books. But I love even more putting together the background information not only with the work of my hands, which I can do at home, but with the people, the landscapes, and the living animals that create and sustain both traditions and new visions.

So, while there are many places I want to go and people I want to meet and talk with, Shetland is very high on my list.

With the assistance of my "why not?" friends, we've gotten as far as picking a time to organize our ideas around (October) and securing a place to stay in the appropriate part of the world during Shetland Wool Week.

One item at a time: that's how The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook went from idea to completion.

As it stands, I will be traveling just to do research, and not to teach, although I've had people inquiring about whether I might be teaching in the UK in the foreseeable future. On the previous trip, I was fortunate that I was traveling both to teach and to do research, for the book and for some articles that I later published. For me, the trip had a clear purpose regardless of its outcome.

The ramifications of the visa situation that we overseas instructors encountered in getting permission to teach at UK Knit Camp were impressive. My explorations of the latest information on the UK Border Agency site (not the easiest resource for a non-UK resident to understand!) indicate that significant paperwork and fees, including investments for both sponsor licensing and individual visas, are required to clear all the necessary hurdles.

I don't want this potential upcoming trip marred by any potential problems. If there are other folks who understand this stuff better than I do and can help me negotiate the legalities, I'd consider teaching in person, which I love to do. If not, I'll be contemplating other ways to teach, likely computer-mediated. It's not the same as being together in person, and once UK Knit Camp actually happened I met many wonderful people whom I look forward to seeing again on the upcoming hypothetical trip. But teaching by internet doesn't require any visas.

In any case, I enjoy travel. I'm open to possibilities and suggestions. And some of this (or all, or more) just might happen!

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Have maps, will travel? Here's my personal map repository, part 1:


and part 2:


I couldn't get the whole shelf in one snapshot.

The brightly colored boxes on the righthand end include places I can't get to (theoretically) by walking, biking, or driving. The British Isles burst out of general International in conjunction with the 2010 trip. The only state in the US that I haven't been to is Hawai'i, although many years ago I was accepted to the university to study languages, and one of the things I have always wondered about is what my life would have been like if I'd gone there, instead of getting married. I've been in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and British Columbia. I've been to Japan for a whole summer, and briefly, southern Spain (eight days, during most of which I had food poisoning; it was still a good trip). And the one trip to the UK for Knit Camp.

Due to previous adventures, many imaginary and that one real bit of 2010, I'm especially well supplied with maps of Scotland, although I have maps of other places in that part of the world. My aunt gave me her maps from her trips to the UK, doing genealogical research. I'm also willing to get new maps of other places.


Map of South East Scotland: one of my aunt's; copyright MCMLXXVIII (1978).


Pink-covered map of Barnard Castle & Richmond on the right: one of my aunt's, copyright 1982. Map of Penrith & Keswick: bought in Glasgow to help me remember where I'd been in Cumbria. Map of Ireland on the left: we got this almost a decade ago to see where our friend JG lives. The place is so small that it doesn't show up on any but the most detailed maps. Five years and a lot of saving later, one of us got to go to Ireland, including that tiny place, for two weeks.

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Maps are magic. Maps can make dreams happen.




8 thoughts on “British Isles 2013?”

  1. Deb, this will happen! Nothing is insurmountable and I am sure someone out there knows exactly how to navigate all the intricacies and convoluted rules relating to visa applications. Somewhere hidden in all that bureaucratic obfuscation, there has to be a simpler, less expensive option for those who are travelling to teach relatively informally to small, specialised groups otherwise no-one in the UK would be able to bring any knitting or spinning tutors across.

  2. I’ve had a pretty bad case of wonderlust lately. I do hope you can make this trip – at least I could live vicariously;-) For funding, would you be opposed to setting up a PayPal donation system? Seems that $5 or $10 here or there from folks who would like to help could really add up.

  3. You're right that little bits could add up and help. I do have a donation button on this blog, but I don't emphasize it. I'm sort of bashful that way, and so far I haven't been very good at some of the self-promotion efforts that could be quite helpful. I'd always rather do more research than administer things like that. I think I've had enough administration for a lifetime already {wry grin}. I'll work on my mental state about it {wry grin again}.

  4. I think you would really like Kate’s blog:

    She has just written a book “Colours of Shetland”.

    “My name is Kate Davies. I live in Edinburgh with Tom (a man) Bruce (a labrador retriever) and Jesus (a cat). I love writing, designing, and walking in our wonderful Scottish landscape. I find that all of these activities have a creative and a critical dimension and the best of possible worlds is one in which I productively combine them all.

    Some days I feel like a writer who enjoys designing knitwear, on others I seem to be a designer preoccupied with textile history. On most days I feel like someone who is recovering from a serious stroke, though one hopes that this may change in time. I produced this book and have written many features about fashion and textile history for Rowan, The Knitter, Twist Collective , Selvedge, and many other magazines. I also produce my own digital magazine, Textisles.”

  5. E T, you're right, I do enjoy Kate Davies' blog, and I read it regularly! I'm waiting until the first flurry is over to order Colours of Shetland. Kate and friends are swamped with mailing things out, and I'm swamped with deadlines and getting my computer situation working again. I'm looking forward to the book as a reward for dealing with the details.

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