The Book of Haps

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Hooray! The Book of Haps has arrived! Our good friend Kate Davies has done it again and her latest book has just landed at J&S, ever since we heard about this book we have been so excited to see it and the patterns don’t disappoint!

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clockwise from top left: Hapisk by Helene Magnusson, Moder Dy by Kate Davies, Harewood by Bristol Ivy, Happenstance by Romi Hill

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Clockwise from top left: Theme and Variation by Veera Valimaki, Montbretia by Carol Feller and Hexa Hap by Tom van Deijnen,

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Clockwise from left: Nut-Hap by Jen Arnall-Culliford, Uncia by Lucy Hague and Shore Hap by Martina Behm,

As always the essays are well researched and full of wonderful photos, Kate goes into depth about all aspects of a Hap, what it means, what it represents and its historical importance to places like Shetland. We are so happy that three of the beautiful designs have been made in our yarns..

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Lang Ayre by Gudrun Johnston, knit in 2ply Jumper Weight

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Hamegaet Wrap by Hazel Tindall knit in Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight

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Houlland by Donna Smith knit in Shetland Supreme 2ply Lace

We love how all the patterns are so different but all encompass the elements of a Hap updated with design features like lace, intarsia, steeks.. and many more. Each design has something new and different to learn which is well explained. Kate has worked closely with Technical Editor Jen Arnall Culliford and all the patterns are detailed and clear with lots of extra tips..

You can order your copy here and see more information about each pattern here. There are lots of fun ways to get involved with this new book: Jen Arnall Culliford is hosting a Knit-a-Long in her Ravelry group for the book which you can see here and Louise Scollay of Knit British is also hosting one which you can see here.

Hap-py Knitting!

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Kate and her wonderful Moder Dy design, one knit in Buachaille and one in 2ply Jumper Weight.

Rugs and Placenames

We recently received a new batch of Rugs developed by the Real Shetland Company made from our lovely Shetland Heritage Yarns, we at Jamieson & Smith were tasked with naming the beautiful range of blankets and we decided to go with placenames in Shetland ending in Wick – this can be translated from Old Norse as Vik which means Bay.

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The varying place names we have here in Shetland are what they are because of our Norse heritage. Norwegian settlers arrived here around 800 AD and brought with them many words to describe the landscape, the language spoken by them was Old Norse, from which Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic languages are all derived. Of course, Scottish and English speaking settlers who came after them meant place names changed and developed but anything ending in Wick means a bay is sure to be nearby.

1654 Map of Orkney and Shetland

1654 Map of Orkney and Shetland

Shetland is surrounded by Coastline, some of it high and rocky but a lot of it low and easily accessible to boats, hence why we became such an important part of the Northern Sea. Unpredictable weather and rough seas teamed with our unique location of 60 degrees north means we are a common stop off point.

A while ago me (Ella) and Derek had to go out on a little excursion and decided to take some of the blankets with us to photograph alongside the signs for their namesakes.

One of the Blankets – Westerwick is the birthplace of one of Shetland’s most well known poets – T. A Robertson. I thought I’d share this poem, its called Voar Wadder and is about Springtime in Shetland, although we are coming into Summer now I thought it was still appropriate! – If you would like to hear the poem being read you can listen to it here

Da ask is tick at da back o Vaila,
   As da cowld, sweet braeth o da Sooth wind blaas,
Whaar da rigs is lyin, gold an shaila,
   An da paet-reek driftin by ower Waas;
Whin da green paeck comes, an you hear da kilya
   Among da fleein cloods o maas.

As up an doon da gaet A’m gyaain,
   Wi da owld byre-borrow back an fore,
I feel da Sooth wind saftly blaain,
   An da cock craas lood at da barn door.
Nae time laek da time wi da green paeck shaain
   An da smell o da eart ida first o da Voar!

The rugs can be purchased on our website here.  They are sized approximately 188cm (74 inches) long and 131cm (51.5 inches) wide which makes them perfect for a summer picnic. Of course while we were taking our pictures we had an interested audience..

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Happy Knitting!

Yokes

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a shetland knitter working on a V-bed machine, photo by Tom Kidd

Historically Shetlander’s have always had to have a few things on the go, originally we were crofters and fishermen and this meant there was always quiet times, be it bad weather, dark nights or rough seas you had to find something to do. In the height of Shetland knitwear fame many homes were equipped with large v-bed knitting machines like the one you see in the picture above for people to combine machine and hand knitting and to earn a bit of extra money. Prior to the Oil Boom of the late 1970s/early 1980’s many homes echoed to the sound of the knitting machine.

by the mid 1960’s, when the local press reported that knitting was beginning to become more profitable than crofting, many Shetland families were encouraged to purchase Passap or Knitmaster machines specifically to turn out sweater bodies, as well as yokes in their own home’

An excerpt from Kate Davies ‘Yokes’

Working in one of the many Knitwear factories. Photo: Unknown

Working in one of the many Knitwear factories. Photo: Unknown

With the introduction of oil and all its job opportunities and  wealth it was no surprise that locals packed away their knitting machines and took advantage of the Oil Boom and all its rewards. The skills of these cottage industries saw a deep decline, luckily there were still people in Shetland who had these skills and we are lucky to be able to work with some of them.

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We have designed a range of traditional Yoke cardigans using both our 2 ply Jumper Weight and Shetland Heritage yarns, we have partnered up with a selection of Shetland knitters to help us produce them – The body and sleeves are hand frame knitted for us by a maker in Whalsay, one of the outlying Islands and then we have a number of local knitters who put in the yokes and finish the garments in their own homes.

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The continuation of the Shetland Textile industry is always very important to us, that’s why we are ensuring to pay our knitters a good price for doing the work, we understand and appreciate the skills the knitters have and want to pay them rightly for these skills. We have the initial stock available on the website here but we will be adding to it as colours come back from the knitters.

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We are very excited about our new range of garments, and we hope you are too! If you don’t fancy buying a ready made yoke the pattern is taken from Sandras’ Hairst Yoke pattern which is available as a kit.

Happy Knitting!

lambing time

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One of the nicest things about this time of year in Shetland (apart from lighter nights!) is the sight of Lambs. Lambing starts end of April and goes on throughout May, and all the photos in this post have been taken in the last few weeks.

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The Shetland is the smallest of the British breeds and is believed to be of Scandinavian origin. It retains many of the characteristics of wild sheep such as natural hardiness, longevity and an ability to thrive on a low level of food intake from our heather clad hills and peat moors.

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Shetland Sheep are naturally good mothers, they require little assistance when giving birth and easily lamb by themselves. You can see from the photos that the mothers fairly keep an eye on you when your near their babies! Hill sheep in Shetland average 25 kilos and the new born lambs birth weight can is ususally 1 to 2 kilos and sizewise not much larger as a cat.

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Ewes that lamb on the hill usually give birth at dusk or dawn,  this is natural instinct to lamb in semi-darkness to avoid predators such as the Bonxie and Ravens. By lambing at night this timing gives the lambs a chance to get to their feet. Lambs become quite independent after a week or two and start to graze and chew the cud.

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At this time of year Shetland hills echo with the loud bleating of straying lambs followed by the answering call of its mother.

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If you would like to make your own Peerie Shetland Lamb you might like our newest kit! The Peerie Sheep, this was designed by Sandra Manson who works at J&S and was inspired by all the lambs in Shetland at spring time.

til next time, happy knitting!

Photos by Jan Robertson and Ella Gordon

Spring/Summer KAL 2016

hello! Thank you for the kind comments on our last post, today I’m going to speak about another fun thing we are doing this Spring and Summer. After the success of our Winter Woollies KAL last year we thought we’d try another one! So these are the shades for our Spring/Summer KAL 2016

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L-R: 141, 125, 29, FC55, 122, 1281, FC45, 121

The Rules for the KAL are:

  • You must use at least 5 of the 8 shades (no additional shades not listed above)
  • You can make any kind of garment or accessory
  • The item must feature some Fair Isle knitting (two colours per row)
  • The Knit a Long will run until 1st August 2016

I had a look on Ravelry and came up with some patterns which would work great with the KAL, all use Fair Isle knitting and a number of colours. First up is Hats!

 

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Clockwise from top left: Green Memories, Seasons Hat, Saudade and Crofthoose Hat

Next up is Gloves and Mitts..

Since it is getting into the warmer months I thought rather than Jumpers I’d share some good vest patterns which are out there, they are perfect for trying out all the techniques like stranded knitting and steeks but without the huge investment which a jumper can be..

Clockwise from L-R: Cruden, Wartime Farm, Islay and Tortoise and Hare

Clockwise from L-R: Cruden, Wartime Farm, Islay and Tortoise and Hare

I hope this has given you some ideas for the KAL! if you want to take part we have a thread on Ravelry about it which you can see here, so come and join the conversation, and you can buy the shades here from our site.

Happy Knitting!

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berry farm visit

Oliver and Ella recently paid a visit to the original home of Jamieson & Smith, Berry Farm which is located in Scalloway. We are working on an exciting project at the moment (more of that later!) so we are doing a bit of looking back and it was a fine day so we took a quick trip out.

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In writing this post I was trying to think of how to adequately explain the importance of Berry farm to J&S, and I think it’s best explained by Kate Davies from the introduction of our book Knit Real Shetland:

One fine summer morning in 1946, a truck set off from Berry Farm, Scalloway, with its driver, Magnie Halcrow, and a passenger, 15-year-old Eva Smith. It was Eva’s school holidays, but she wasn’t on a jaunt: her hands held a chequebook full of blank, signed cheques, and her head was full of pricing information.Eva had a job to do. Her father, John, had sent her to the village of Walls on Shetland’s West Mainland with instructions to buy wool. John was a livestock trader, an expert on his native Shetland Sheep and a skilled grader of fleeces; his nickname—Auld Sheepie—suggests the estimation in which his expertise was held. John had built up a reputation for sorting and grading during the 1930s and, by 1946, found himself in unprecedented demand. These were the years of the post-war knitwear boom and the industry placed high demands for uniformity on the producers of increasingly popular Shetland wool. From Berry Farm, John successfully graded fleeces for the consistency and quality the market required, then brokered the wool for processing and sale. By the late afternoon of that fine summer’s day in 1946, Eva had finished her work, and, with the truck laden with fleeces, set off back to Scalloway. She didn’t know it then but these were the beginnings of Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers, which she would later run with her brother, Jim Smith

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This was a nostalgic trip for Oliver who first started working at Berry Farm in the summer of 1967 after spending 2 years at Agricultural College at Craibstone in Aberdeen. The founder of J&S, the late John Smith  was a farmer but also a dealer trading in all kind of livestock and agricultural produce including wool.

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In the winter months the farm labourers would work at sorting and packing the wool purchased by the Smith family, this helped with their employment as the winter was much quieter on the farm. As the company grew it moved into Lerwick where it started retailing knitting yarns spun from local Real Shetland wool. In 1967/68 Oliver spent half the working year on the farm and half in the wool store at Lerwick. Berry Farm was a very busy place in the 1960s/70s, with quite a large herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle as well as up to 1,000 sheep. We were lucky to see a new baby calf when we visited, Ella’s uncle James works at Berry so he took us around all the various sheds and byres.

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The green fields at the East side of Scalloway was where the arable crops were produced to feed the livestock. Hay, Corn and Turnips were the main crops produced and they were very labour intensive; there was also the battle to have the harvest in due to the short growing season and the very unpredictable Shetland weather. The Corn crop was harvested and brought into the farm where it was milled through a threshing machine then the oats were bruised ready to feed the livestock.

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Our history is extremely important to us at J&S and it’s always nice to go back and see where it all began. Jim, Eva and their family were a crucial part of how we came to be today and we like to think we still treat our crofters and customers with the same respect that we always have done since the 1930’s.

As we go into the lambing before our most important time – the Wool Season! we will be back with more photos from this busy time of  year in Shetland.

Happy Knitting x

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At this time of year we are beginning to gear up to the busy wool season – all throughout the year we are continually hand sorting and grading the wool but it’s also the perfect time for us to do a bit of maintenance to our buildings!

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We are based in Lerwick, Shetlands Capital so this means we are tight for space, wool takes up a lot of room and we are always looking for ways to streamline our operations. During the Wool Season the Wool store is absolutely jam packed with lovely wool, see this picture from the last year….

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Anyone who has visited J&S will know we had two Wool Stores, well this off season we have combined the two to make one big wool store! This was quite a task and the floors were not at the same level as they were build at different times. Luckily Oliver, Derek, Scott and Jan are all handy with a hammer so once got the wall knocked down (by professionals!) they were able to do all the work in raising the floor. We also blocked up the two middle doors so there is more room for the bales we know are coming!

The main reasons for this alteration are not just to improve the work flow and thus cut costs it is also to accommodate a more modern, larger baler replacing our current wool press, we received it second hand in 1970 so we are due an upgrade! This new press will cut costs and speed up wool handling meaning we can process crofters wool and payment’s faster.

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There used to be one small door linking the two stores, now the forklift can easily go between them and stacking bales is a bit easier

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We also took the chance while we were working with concrete to install a better ramp and rail outside the shop, which makes outside the shop a lot safer and tidier.

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In a small place like J&S it’s important that we can all turn our hand to different things, and we are very lucky we have members of staff able to do this work in house when things are a bit quieter on the Wool Side, it’s a lot of hard work now but in the long term it will benefit how we are able to process the Wool we receive annually from over 600 of Shetlands Crofters and Farmers. I think head Wool man Oliver is pleased with the progress!

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Until next time, happy knitting!