The wool season 2013 has finally kicked off after a pretty poor start to the year weather-wise. Stuart is back through in the wool store most of the time helping Derek and Oliver and even Ella has been having a go at hand-grading the wool and baling it up. Load 1 of 12 will be leaving us very shortly to head off to the scourers and then the fun begins as most of Shetland’s wool pours into us from all over the islands.
We handle roughly 80% of Shetland’s clip which is about 250 tonnes of new wool. After the wool is dropped off by one of our 700-800 suppliers and weighed in, each fleece has to be hand-graded and sorted into its various colours and one of 5 grades; from Superfine to Rough. This can include dividing up a single fleece into various grades, as Shetland wool can contain fine fibre for spinning lace and thicker fibre suitable for carpet all in one fleece. It is then all baled up and each bale labelled clearly, with the crofters who own the wool noted down, so that it can be traced from the scourers right back to the croft on which it was grown. All in all it is hard work but very worthwhile watching all the wool passing through, especially when you go next door to the shop and see all the beautiful products it is transformed in to.
Shetland wool, like Shetland’s climate, landscape and wildlife, is varied, untamed and often seems to have a life of its own; but once it has passed through the laborious process of hand-sorting at J&S, its rebellious and challenging nature that comes from its original, unprocessed form gives Shetland wool products the unique and beautiful handle and bounce; the natural, undyed colouring; and the distinctive ‘Shetland halo’ that it has become world famous for.
If you’re ever in Shetland make sure to pop in to the J&S wool store and shop for a look, where you can see the various grades of wool, how it is handled and the beautiful products Shetland wool creates.