Hello! we are back with another post in the yarn series, this time it is the turn of Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight – a totally undyed and natural 4ply Weight Yarn. This yarn is perhaps best known in recent years for its use in the designs by Kate Davies, however we have been singing the praises of this natural woollen spun yarn for many years.
Supreme Jumper Weight comes in a range of 9 completely undyed shades, ranging from Natural White (Shade 2001) to Yuglet (Shade 2009) The other shades are either as they are on the sheep or carefully blended from the natural wool to create a well-rounded palette.
Historically Coloured Shetland Wool was used by knitters in Fair Isle patterning and Lace knitting like Haps before the dyed wool was available. As time went on however the Coloured wool lost its value and it became almost worthless because white fleece was easy to dye and much more uniform in texture. Up until around 1997 almost all Shetland Yarns in ‘natural’ shades were dyed to create these tones, the reason being the dye house could make it a set shade each time. This differs from our supreme range in that each batch, for example Shetland Black (shade 2005) will not be the same each time as all sheep are not the same shade. So if you plan to use this yarn its best to get all the yarn at one time, it may be quite different in the next lot!
Another reason most of the mills have to dye or ‘add a touch of dye’ is that we at Jamieson & Smith buy roughly 80% of the entire Shetland wool clip , the majority of which is white with only a limited amount of natural coloured which we use for these our 9 shades. We need a substantial amount of natural coloured fleece in order to produce all the shades in the palette. This means we have to do a lot of hand sorting to separate the various fibre qualities and of course shades which can be found in one fleece. For more information about the Natural Wool and the Sorting process see our earlier posts here and here.
In 1997 we began a journey to further and strengthen the value of the coloured fleece. This came about as a joint venture between Jamieson & Smith and Yarns International, a now sadly closed down business in Maryland in the USA. Betty Lindsay, a partner in the company visited J&S and was saddened when we told her that the coloured wool had little to no value. Betty vowed to do something and true to her word we set up the totally dye free range which was named Shetland 2000. She employed Ron Schweitzer to design a range of patterns using the yarns, you can see some of his designs on his Ravelry designer page here. Since then lots of desingers have found how well all the natural colours blend together, you can subtely blend them or do some quite striking patterns.
At the beginning of the post I mentioned Kate’s Sheep designs, the Sheepheid and Rams and Yowes blanket. Both these patterns are extremely popular and use all 9 shades to maximum effect, they both feature motifs of Sheep and Rams which is obviously reflected in the yarns.
You can order kits for these patterns here on our online shop
Hopefully this post has helped you understand the work that goes into the Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight range. There a a number of crofters and farmers in Shetland who are very comitted to the coloured Shetland Sheep and we couldnt do this range without them! The coloured Shetland Wool would have been at a time one of the only ways to get different shades into your knitting, now we are extremly lucky to have so much different colours that we can use. Sometimes you cant go wrong using what nature provides us.
til next time, Happy Knitting!
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