Yarn Series – Shetland Supreme Lace Weight

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Of all the Shetland wool products produced over our long history, this yarn marks the beginning of a new era of yarn development in which we aim to recreate a very important part of our Islands culture and heritage. True yarn for knitting Shetland lace which has played such an important part in Shetland’s knitwear and textile industry.

women carding and spinning, Shetland. Photo courtesy Shetland Museum and Archives
women carding and spinning, Shetland. Photo courtesy Shetland Museum and Archives

In 2007 we were approached by the General Manager of the Shetland Amenity Trust, a public body and amongst their responsibilities is to preserve our heritage, culture, and environment. Jimmy Moncrieff, the general manager of the Trust wanted to try and further and develop the one of Shetland most well known crafts – Shetland Lace Knitting. He approached us to see if we could help in developing the main ingredient – the lace ‘wirsit’ (yarn) used by our predecessors. This product aims to replicate the traditional worsted effect of hand spun Shetland Yarn on a more commercial scale.

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In order to replicate this intricate yarn, we started by grading and sorting the finest fleece as we have always done – by hand, making sure there was no guard hair in the blend. We has to ensure the fleece had all the characteristics required: a superb handle (softness), strength, fibre fineness and uniformity of quality. The next task was to source a worsted spinner, who were very scarce in present times. When we settled on a spinner in West Yorkshire the next task was to produce a similar yarn to the original hand spun. With the help of local experienced knitters Mary Kay and Mary Eunson of Lerwick alongside one of Myrna Stahmanns groups at a knitting retreat in the USA settled at 16s worsted count for the single 1ply and 2/16s for the 2 ply.

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Worsted spun yarns differ from Woollen spun (1ply Cobweb and 2ply Lace are Woollen spun) in that the fibres are combed rather than carded. This process aligns the fibres but also removes short and coarse hairs as well as any vegetable matter left in the fibres. This process creates a yarn which is extremely strong but also soft as the fibres are quite aligned and not sticking out (these tiny fibres are what makes wool ‘itch’) What makes this yarn so perfect for lace is that the worsted spinning process makes a yarn which has very good drape.

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The 1ply Shetland Supreme is available in 6 shades, Optic White, Natural White, Fawn, Moorit, Grey and Black. The Optic White is a lovely bright white which makes it perfect for traditional lace items like veils, shawls and scaves.

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The 2ply Supreme is currently only available in the 5 natural Shades, as we explained in our last post this helps strengthen and further the Coloured Shetland clip, by offering the natural colours in more than one weight of yarn this means it can be used in lots of different ways and the strength of the yarn means it can be knitted on a knitting machine at different gauges and be used in weaving.

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You might wonder why we keep the 1ply Cobweb as well as the Shetland Supreme but we feel they both have something to offer depending on what you are looking for from your 1ply lace yarn. For more information about the cobweb see here. The Woollen Spun nature of the Cobweb makes for a crisper, more cotton like feel whereas the Supreme has more of a halo and drape. It is confusing we know, but we are always able to help you make a decision.

We are very proud of the Shetland Supreme Lace Yarns and we hope you like them too, you can see them on our online shop here

Til next time, happy knitting!

7 thoughts on “Yarn Series – Shetland Supreme Lace Weight

  1. curtthesheep July 8, 2015 / 7:06 pm

    The skill that goes into making this yarn is matched by the skill of the knitters who make such incredibly delicate articles from it. From the crofters and wool producers of Shetland via the environmentally friendly scouring and combing plants in Bradford, spinner in Huddersfield back to the lace knitter it is a wonderful story. No one else in the world makes such a yarn from Real Shetland wool, which was grown in the Shetland Islands. Look out for the 3 sheep logo and be safe in the knowledge that Shetland wool producers are being rewarded for their hard work.

  2. woollyadventures July 8, 2015 / 10:30 pm

    Fascinating to read the work that goes into creating this yarn .. have really enjoyed this series. Thank you.

  3. Marilyn F. July 8, 2015 / 10:44 pm

    Ahhhhh . . . Takes my breath away . . . what beautiful yarn!!! And a great job reproducing a well admired product from past handspinners for ageless lace knits. Just terrific.

  4. elaine July 9, 2015 / 4:43 am

    How beautiful! I look forward to being able to try knitting with it one day ~ a beautiful story too 🙂

  5. carolscreativeworkshops.net July 13, 2015 / 10:17 am

    Fascinating, and a joy to see the finished product. I visited Shetland with my knitting group a few years ago, and, as well as filling our cases with jamieson & Smith yarns, we went up to Unst and visited the Heritage centre to see the knitted lace shawls on display. My mother, originally from outside Aberdeen, used to knit round lace shawls for all her friends’ babies and I always marvelled at seeing her fingers moving so fast they were a blur! Labours of love, all of them.

  6. Susan July 14, 2015 / 1:42 am

    Makes ‘us’ drool on the keyboard………thank you.

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