Yarn Series – Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Peat Hill Waistcoat, Adult Lynsey and Karelides Cardigan, some of our current kits made using Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight

Peat Hill Waistcoat, Adult Lynsey and Karelides Cardigan, some of our current kits made using Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight

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.

IMG_5938You can order kits for these patterns here on our online shop

PicMonkey Collage IMG_5726Hopefully 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.

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til next time, Happy Knitting!

PS. we are now on instagram! search thewoolbrokers to follow us.

 

 

KNITSONIK – BLOG TOUR PART 2!

As you may know, Felicity Ford has recently published a book ‘The Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook‘ We took part in the original blog tour which was part of the kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for the book. The full amount for the project had already been raised by the time we did our original post so we knew this book was going to be a roaring success!! We were lucky that the first copies of the book arrived in Shetland when Felicity was here for Shetland Wool Week so we got one of the first peeks.  I sent Felicity a few more questions to see how she was feeling now the book has come out!

the_cover-950x4251: How did you find the process of writing the book and are you pleased with how it has come out? I think it is beautiful!

I really enjoyed writing the book; I was lucky to have a talented team who shared my vision and gave tons of love to its production. Additionally, I was able to share milestones with the project backers through the Kickstarter site. Working on the book felt like going an adventure with loads of friends and I think it is richer for having had encouragement, input, energy and skills from many KNITSONIK comrades.
The little sections describing each inspiration source were the parts I most enjoyed writing because I discovered so much about my local area while researching them. The Berkshire Records Office and the Local Studies section of the central library in Reading were really helpful, providing me with access to building plans and street directories. Seeing and touching these old documents from Reading’s past made me feel more connected to the history here.

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As you will have seen, one section in the book celebrates my iconic Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin. I discovered through old census data that a William Chas Wellstead once lived at our address and that this individual had formerly worked as a tin-factory labourer. This information made my treasured little tin feel even more significant and personal. At the Berkshire Records Office I was enchanted to see the old building plans for the now demolished Huntley, Boorne & Stevens biscuit tin factory: this was where William once worked and where my tin was made.

Huntley_Boorne_Stevens-1-3Art_Deco-1Another snippet of local history celebrated in the book is an old pink Art Deco building on the Basingstoke Road. I was unable to discover when it was decorated in its distinctive shades. However in the Kelly’s Street Directory of 1949 the building was registered to Tokalon Ltd. (a cosmetics company) and when I found old Tokalon face powders on eBay the shades of pink were uncannily similar to the stucco facade.

TOKALON-1I don’t know if that was when it was painted but it’s a lovely coincidence!
These discoveries added extra context to my knitting and made me feel more connected to my town through stitches and patterns. Everyone who was involved in the project shared my joy in the lovely links between my knitting and my town and I feel that you can really see that in the final product.
I’m thrilled you think the book is beautiful. I am incredibly pleased with how it looks and want to credit the super talents of Fergus and Nic here because their photos and design are what really make the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook. Going on photo-shoots with Fergus was super fun as he really got the essence of the book and wanted to use the photos to show connections between my town and my knitting. The day when we went out together to photograph my bricks-inspired-swatch against the Reading brickwork was an especially happy one; I actually cried for joy when I saw his photos!

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It was also thrilling to pass Ferg’s wonderful photos over to Nic and see what she would do with them. I especially like the spread for the page opening the chapter about knitting places because the way Nic arranged Ferg’s photos is superb. She said “I wanted to put you in the middle, in your car, with all your favourite places around you” which is such a nice way to think about that chapter and something I could never have come up with by myself.
These are just two examples of how my amazing comrades have enriched this book with their talents and undoubtedly the best thing about writing the book was working with wonderful people.

2: What are your dreams for people who are using the book? We have had lots of Shetlanders asking about it!
My dreams are that people using the book will feel empowered to design stranded colourwork from things they love! I want to show that creativity is not mysterious, and that it involves practical steps which can be practised by anyone who wants to play.

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I hope the book will inspire knitters to start on hugely personal projects that feel rich and personal and significant… one of the reasons for spending all that time researching the history of old biscuit tins and factories is to show that these little things we notice each day really matter and are worthy of knitterly celebration.
I hope that reading the book will also inject a bit of fun and mischief into everyday life. The other day I saw a lovely message from Sarah who used to work for your company. She remarked on how the book had made her see some chimney pots in J&S yarn shades. That’s what it’s all about; finding inspiration and magic everywhere and cultivating creativity in unlikely places.

3: What are your best tips for people interested in colourwork but a bit scared to take the first step (apart from purchasing your book of course!) do you have any fail safe things to get colour and motifs inspirations from?

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My top tip is to edit your inspiration source down to a manageable size. If you start with the idea “I want to knit a swatch based on my favourite beach” then you may be overwhelmed! But if you can make this idea a bit smaller – “I want to knit a swatch based on this bit of sand, maybe using this individual shell and these pebbles for pattern ideas” then it has already become more manageable. Creativity is really just about solving problems – the first problem to solve is usually that the initial idea is vague, so defining the brief more clearly is the first step. I think a lot of people are tempted to start with nature subjects – a tree or a landscape for instance – and though these are beautiful and picturesque subjects they can also be quite complex. A single tree contains so many different shades and lines and colours that it can be hard to know where to begin. I address this in the book in my chapter on plants, and there are definitely ways to make it easier to knit from the natural world but if this seems complicated then you can’t go wrong with pleasing food packaging! A tin, a cereal box, even the washing up liquid bottle can all be superb starting points for stranded colourwork. These generally contain just a handful of colours which are easy to identify and it can be fun to hunt about in an initially simple-looking object for hidden patterns and shapes. I was delighted that in Shetland during Wool Week several comrades brought Tunnocks chocolate wrappers to my workshops as their inspiration source – these are ideal as they have really strong graphic lines and superb, bold colours.

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My favourite swatch in the book is the one based on my little handheld recorder. The object is so simple – just a little black plastic device with a digital screen and some buttons – that I really had to look hard to find details. Once I started, I had millions of ideas and it was a fun project.

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So my best tips are to start with a small idea or to start with a big idea and then make it smaller!

4: How do you think writing this book has changed how you will approach colourwork in the future?

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The main changes are that I have fallen in love with swatching (which I used to really dislike) and I feel more confident that you really can use anything as a starting point for designing stranded colourwork. When I started trying to design my own colourwork projects I didn’t know what I was doing; there were so many variables and I kept making ugly things or getting confused about the numbers or messing up the colours. As I solved each problem I got a bit more secure in my own creative process and my swatches got longer and longer as the ideas started really flowing.

In the Kickstarter video I said “I want to make this book for us” and in finding ways to clarify my process for other knitters, it inevitably became clearer to me. I had to put structure and language around what I do when I am designing stranded colourwork and that helped me to organise my thoughts. The result is that now I feel quite at home in the KNITSONIK system and know exactly where to start if I have an inspiration for stranded colourwork. I really hope the book makes others feel the same.

5: I really hope you liked working with our 2-ply Jumper Weight, I’m going to be horrible and make you choose your absolute favourite shade! If you can’t choose one, I at least want your top five!

Your 2-ply Jumper Weight is amazing and it was a pure delight to work with it for many reasons. Its provenance can be traced back to crofts on Shetland; its hand is soft and bloomy; and the range of shades is magnificent. After working on this book I almost know the shade card numbers by heart… there is no way I can choose one all time favourite shade, but my top five would be 9097, FC11, 202,1208 and 125.

90979097 is a calm red; it is the exact colour of the distant poppies that bloom on the horizon when driving my favourite road and it has a magical relationship with FC12 if you want to transition between red and green.

FC11FC11 is the most beautiful verdant green. It energises all plant-based design themes with its vivid hues; it is the colour of fresh leaves that have the sunlight passing through them.

202I think I used 202 more than any other shade in the book; it is an incredibly useful neutral shade and appears in many palettes with its translucent cool creaminess. It tempers brightness in surrounding shades and is really useful for describing such textures as faded pages or old paint; spots on a beach where the sunlight is hitting the sand; faded road markings and clouds. It is versatile and understated and I feel a must-have shade for every knitter trying to turn everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork!

12801280 is perfect for transitioning magically between purple and green shades as I discovered while I was knitting sloes. The bloom on a sloe is a beauteous and elusive thing but this shade I think goes some way towards capturing it.

125Finally I love 125 because it is almost the exact same colour as Reading Red. That is the colour that Reading clay fired to in the Victorian brickworks once plentiful in this town and there is nothing like it. You can see that the later bricks were not made of Reading clay because they are not the same vivid shade as your wonderful 125.

Thanks Felicity and Congratulations!

Wool Week Saturday and Sunday

Our last class yesterday was with the brilliant Felicity Ford, who’s new book arrived on Friday, nearly ready to post to all the people who backed the campaign to publish it!

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Felicitys friendly teaching style meant for a great class on being inspired by pictures and your life in your Fair Isle Knitting

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The shop was open til dinnertime then I headed to the Wool Week hub at the Shetland Museum, it looked really great!

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This map was full of pins showing where all the visitors have come from!

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big3 big2As well as the hub being open the Town Hall was filled with producers at the Makers Market, from Foula Wool to Shetland Handspun.

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There was also some historical things there, one of the makers, a knitter also had on her table some Wool related memories, including these vintage slips from Jamieson & Smith in the 1970s!

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Today marked the end of Shetland Wool Week and I went out to Whiteness for the annual Sunday Teas held by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers

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As well as the great teas and fancies the Guild also has a presentation of their work, and there were some fantastic things to be seen from some well known Shetland Knitters: Ina Irvine, Hazel Tindall, Linda Shearer and Kathleen Anderson to name a few!

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I also spied a number of things which were entries to the Colourbox Competition we hold at the Voe and Cunningsburgh shows like Lindas jumper seen above.

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Members of the Guild were also demonstrating which was great to see!

big4Sue, Loretta, Outi and Eve spinning and knitting away.

This marks the end of my posts about Shetland Wool Week, its been a fantastic week and I hope you have enjoyed seeing what was happening in Shetland. I have so many pictures I didnt get to use that you may be seeing some more! For now though its time to tidy up the shop and get things back to normal,

Happy Knitting! xx

Wool Week Wednesday and Thursday

big1So we began Wednesday with another class on Fair Isle by Hazel Tindall, again it went down a treat!

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PicMonkey Collage big2In the afternoon we had the first of our lace classes with Elizabeth Johnson of Shetland Handspun, as usual once things got going this was one of the quietest classes.. lots of concentrating going on!

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We stayed open after five last night to host the Shetland launch of Gudrun Johnstons newest book, The Shetland Trader Book 2!

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Gudruns new book has 10 patterns, a number using J&S yarns, 3 of which you see here! We sold out of the book after a couple of hours and it was great to see how many people came to support Gudrun

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Today we began the day with something a bit different for us, a fleece preparation class with Deborah Gray.

big1This involved Deborah showing the group how to prepare raw fleece for spinning, really interesting!

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And this afternoon another class from Mary Henderson, this time of steeking! aka cutting your knitting! (not as scary as it sounds!!)

big1Mary had the group knit a ‘Mug Hug’ mug warmer, a nice small project perfect for steeking!

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Another great few days, I headed to the Museum tonight to listen to Hazel Tindall and Stella Ruhe’s talk on Knitting in the 1960s and Dutch Ganseys, really interesting! Ill be back on Saturday with a round up of the last few days of Shetland Wool Week at J&S.

Happy Knitting!

 

Wool Week Monday and Tuesday

So we began Wool Week at J&S with a class from our Wool Week patron Hazel Tindall, Hazel designed a bookmark which involved a bit of Fair Isle and steeking! the perfect small project which everyone made great progress on in the 3 hour class

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We even had some finished ones by the end!

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In the afternoon we carried on with the Fair Isle with a class on Colour knitting by English designer Mary Henderson, Mary has designed lots of things using our wool and her use of colour is fantastic!

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Of course the shop was busy all day with lots of wool being bought so I only took photos when I got a chance!

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Today we had another two classes with the US based dreamteam Mary Jane and Gudrun who are both here with a tour group. First off Mary Jane took a class on Fair Isle socks

big1of course she brought her suitcase of Fair Isle swatches and soon everyone was knitting away!

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In the afternoon we had a bit of Lace with Gudrun Johnston, Gudrun who was born in Shetland has a great pattern for a Shetland Hap, she had the knitters make a mini Hap which was a great way to try out all the elements of the shawl

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From the initial triangle, old shell pattern and the edging, in the mini-hap the students were able to try out all the things you need to know for a full size Hap!

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Today the shop was very busy with knitters buying basketfuls of wool, Me and Sandra were serving all day!

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and lots of decisions to be made!

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Ill be back with more pictures from Wednesday and Thursday on Thursday night!

Happy Knitting! xx

Wool Week Opening Ceremony

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So today saw the opening ceremony of this years Wool Week, it was held in Mareel and there were lots and lots of visitors around!

IMG_3556For something different this year different textile makers and yarn producers all had a table to show off our wares to all the visitors. It worked great and we got to speak to lots of people

IMG_3559It was hard to know what to bring so I just took a selection of the yarns and products we make. It was inspiring to see the other makers too, like Mati Ventrillon

IMG_3564Linda Shearer and Ina Irvine, mother and daughter super knitters from Whalsay

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And Kathleen Anderson, a beautiful lace knitter

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As well as lots of others. Of course like last year there was the fabulous Fair Isle Cake!

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and lots of Shwook hats to be seen, the exclusive pattern designed by Hazel Tindall, patron of this years Wool Week

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Oliver was one of the speakers who opened Wool Week, and as always it was interesting to hear from him the origins of Shetland Wool Week and amazing to see how far it has come!

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Cheers to a great Wool Week!!

New patterns in J&S yarn

It has been a crazy couple of weeks at J&S getting some exciting new projects up and running or to the final stages. More about that later. But now we finally have time to share a couple of new designs that are out there that use our yarns with you.

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Firstly is the Alcott slipover that is highlighted on the front page of The Knitter magazine, where it is featured, as a ‘Fair Isle tank top in candy colours’. It is designed by Mary Henderson who is a designer and knitter from Somerset.  Mary has a great skill in combining colours in Fair Isle designs. She will be here for Shetland Wool Week giving a class in our shop on using the steeking method, in which participants will be able to  knit, finish and take away their very own mug hug in an afternoon. You can find out more about Wool Week classes and events here

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Photo: Jesse Wild

The following is from the lady herself on the inspiration for the Alcott and looking forward to her Wool Week class:

Inspiration comes from many places and happens in unexpected ways. Since the age of 8 I have been in love with Fair Isle knitting – I saw a photograph of a jumper in the Lady’s Home Journal (US publication) and wanted to learn how to knit it. It was the start of a lifelong journey. I have been knitting and learning ever since. In 2009 I realised a lifetime dream and travelled to Shetland for the In the Loop conference and finally visited Jamieson and Smith Woolbrokers (having ordered from them many times over the years). I was able to see all the colours and play around with colour combinations: traditional ones plus some unlikely ones. It is great to see how colours work together: how the colours ‘in between’ change and enhance the main colours and how a single, strong contrast in the horizon line can pull a colourway together and make it sing. Luckily the staff are very tolerant! I put together various colourways and organised for it to be posted home to Somerset.
Roll on 18 months. I was very fortunate to be part of the commissioning process for The Knitter – one of the possible samples was entitled Fruit Salad. I worked on a traditional OXO pattern with the colourway based on cross sections of citrus fruit – oranges, strawberries, blueberries – it was based on a colourway I had played with on the counter of the Woolbrokers. I wanted a bright colourway- it is a summer take on the traditional blue, red, yellow, white colourway – pinks and orange with red, shades of blue (towards the green side) with natural white as the background to lift the other colours. I wanted the colours in the 1×1 rib to shimmer as well as mirror the colour sequence in the main body.
A word about steeking: after decades of knitting Fair Isle designs – it was time to give steeking a go. It was a revelation! Placing the steeks at armholes and the neck made keeping track of decrease sequences really easy. As a knitting teacher I want to spread the word that it is a useful technique, easy to do with the right materials – Jumper Weight wool is perfect. I will be teaching how to steek during Wool Week in October – participants will be making a Mug Hug in a traditional OXO pattern. It should be great fun.

You can order the Alcott kit in a variety of sizes from our website here. This will come with all the yarn required to knit the kit in your specified size but please note that we cannot supply the pattern. You can find that in Issue 56 of The Knitter magazine or purchase it from Ravelry here or The Making Spot here.

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Photo: Jesse Wild

The second of these two new designs done with our yarns is the Damaress jumper by Liz Lovick. This beautiful contemporary garment is done in a classic design which lends itself well as an ‘everyday favourite’ jumper or one for showing off at a special occasions. 

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Photo: Liz Lovick

Liz is a knitter and designer who lives in North Ronaldsay in Orkney and has been a friend of J&S for many years. She has done a number of patterns for us in the past, some of which are being made ready to print to be released soon. Quoting from the Yarn Review in the feature on the Damaress jumper in Yarnwise, Issue 59, she states that “J&S’s 2ply jumper weight has been the best yarn for Fair Isle work for generations! The shades blend well with each other, and the yarn is ‘sticky’ enough to make steeking easy”, which is a great compliment for us!

You can order the Damaress kit from our online shop here. This will come with all the yarn required to knit the kit to the size you select but please note that we cannot supply the pattern. You can find that in Issue 59 of Yarnwise magazine or purchase it from Ravelry here.

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Photo: Liz Lovick