I was up in Shetland last week guiding for About Argyll Walking Holidays and taking inspiration from all the beautiful shells, pebbles, driftwood and other natural materials you find whilst out hiking I decided to make a stone and wool pendant necklace.
I am a bit of a magpie when it comes to pebbles and shells. I am constantly on the look out for pretty things, scouring beaches for cowrie and top shells or searching for the ‘perfect pebble’: smooth and round with a beautiful colour or texture.
On our first afternoon on Shetland we visited St Ninian’s Isle beach, the best example of a tombolo in Europe: a double-sided beach created by wave action on the lee side of an island. For me it’s one of the most spectacular beaches in Scotland, and a great place to look for pebbles. The type of rock at St Ninian’s is schist. Erosion by the sea creates flat grey pebbles, perfect for skimming.
Whilst walking on the beach a pendant shaped rock caught my eye. It was grey in colour and tiny mica crystals made it sparkle. It had a interesting texture and I could see just the spot where a small hole could be drilled to attach a necklace.
Later in the week, after a super walk up at Fethaland in the north of Shetland, we visited Mike Finnie, a painter and jewellery maker from East Burra. His studio and website is called Red Houss. Mike is a collector of natural resources too. His studio is filled with beautiful things: polished felsite from Northmavine, dark green bead-like serpentine pebbles, broken pieces of sea urchen shell, intricate woven-coiled baskets and a huge collection of cowrie shells collected over 30 years. Found natural materials like these are incorporated into his jewellery. We were thrilled to spend time with Mike and make some really good purchases.
Before we left I showed Mike my pebble from St Ninian’s Isle and shared with him my idea to make a pendant necklace. Mike liked the idea and agreed to help me. With great care he drilled a small hole through the stone and attached a small silver ring, soldering it and filing it smooth. I was very pleased and grateful.
My next step was to make the necklace. My idea was to use a technique I have been practicing for a while, to make four-ply rope from two colours of wool. The following day, whilst visiting Easting beach on Unst I found the wool I was looking for.
The fields by the beach are grazed by Shetland sheep, both white ones and moorit brown. I collected up lots of wool from the grass and later that day got to work weaving my wool rope.
First I made one metre of two-ply white rope then began weaving in brown wool making and another metre. With my two-ply rope finished I folded it over and began weaving it again, making four-ply rope with pleasant alternating white brown colours. I threaded the rope through the silver ring on the pendant, gave it a wash and it was done.