Vintage Shetland Project

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“Fashion and history intertwine in the Vintage Shetland Project as Susan Crawford recreates and explores cherished pieces from Shetland’s rich knitting heritage”

Here at Jamieson & Smith we are lucky to know and call lots of designers our friends, one of these designers is Susan Crawford. Her latest project as you probably know is the Vintage Shetland Project. In this unique book Susan will recreate and publish the patterns for a number of designs featured only in the collection of the Shetland Museum and Archives. For the past 4 years Susan has painstakingly reknit and de constructed (mentally not physically) the pieces to find out how they were made.

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photo: Susan Crawford

Susan has used crowdfunding website Pubslush to help raise the funds to publish this book herself, at the time of writing this post the amount raised is nearly double what the initial target was of £12,000 but in this last few weeks of the campaign we would encourage you to contribute if you can. For £15 you can get a digital copy of the book and for £25 you will get a signed copy of the print edition as well as a host of other goodies depending on how much you put in.

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photo: Susan Crawford

We have been trading since the 1930’s in buying wool and making yarns since the 1950’s so it is quite possible and extremely likely that a number of the pieces were knit using J&S yarns. Luckily as a part of this blog tour we are able to share some of the pieces that will be in the book. Today I’m going to talk about this piece:

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photo: Susan Crawford

This short sleeved jumper is a lovely example of a 1940’s piece of Shetland knitwear and features nice little puffed sleeves, the jumper would have been knit in the round to the oxters (armpit) and then extra stitches cast on for the neck and sleeves to allow it to be knit in the round, the back neck has also been steeked so a zip could be inserted, you can see the maker or owner has written their name on the zip tape

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I asked Susan about what she found out about the piece, she said the yarn is most likely worsted spun (like the Shetland Heritage range) especially as the gauge is quite small at 34 stitches and 34 rounds. This means the yarn is combed before its spun, resulting in a very soft but also strong yarn. As you know from our post on the heritage range we based the colours on traditional knitwear and although this piece is from a bit later than we were looking at some of the colours are still a good match:

L-R: Mussel Blue, Indigo, Berry Wine, Auld Gold and Fluggy White

L-R: Mussel Blue, Indigo, Berry Wine, Auld Gold and Fluggy White

The Indigo shade is a bit brighter than the original but as Susan pointed out the piece may have faded over time and it could have been brighter when first knit. You can see from the first picture of the whole garment how well these yarns last over time, apart from the wear under the arms the yarn is incredibly well preserved.

photo: Susan Crawford

photo: Susan Crawford

This book will be a welcome addition to anyone interested in Shetlands textile heritage, here at J&S we work very hard to keep this strong heritage alive and well so we are really excited to see the book when it comes out!

The full blog tour schedule is below so go back and have a look at some of the posts from our knitterly friends!

 

Thursday 9th July
  
Saturday 12th July
  
Monday 13th July
    
Wednesday 15th July         
  
Friday 17th July
  
Saturday 18th July
  
Sunday 19th July
   
Monday 20th July
  
Tuesday 21st July
  
Wednesday 22nd July
  
Friday 24th July
  
Saturday 25th July
  
Sunday 26th July
   
Monday 27th July
  
Wednesday 29th July
  
Friday 31st July
  
Sunday 2nd August
  
Monday 3rd August
Tuesday 4th Aug
Thursday 6th August
   
Friday 7th August

Wool Season 2015

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At long last we have had some fine weather in Shetland which has spurred on the shearing and we now are well and truly into our wool season. All manner of vehicles roll up to our large green doors and unload their wool clip, so far we have shipped 2 loads, over 40,000 kilos, and are well through grading and packing load 3.

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We would encourage our crofters and farmers to take great care of their wool clip, especially avoiding shearing damp wool, as this can affect the financial returns to the producer. Our prices remain very high and this season we are pleased to say we are increasing the price of our Super Fine white grade by thirty pence per kilo.

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We are able to maintain and in the case of our Super Fine grade increase it due to our various products using all the grades of wool. As the main buyer of the Shetland wool clip handling approximately 80% of Shetland’s Wool from between 600 /700 crofters and farmers, it is our responsibility to seek out new products and marketing opportunities to ensure a secure and fast payment to all our customers. Our registered brand the three sheep logo guarantees the user of our products of the authenticity and traceability of our Real Shetland wool.

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In the Woolstore Derek, Jan and Scott are working at baling up the clips coming in everyday in the large baler, we also have a smaller baler in the middle store which Oliver is currently using, in the middle store we also have some of the oldest pieces of equipment at Jamieson & Smith, our wicker wool baskets.

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These baskets are now nearly 100 years old, we took ownership of them from another Shetland Textile company, Pole & Hoseason of Mossbank in 1960 and their sturdy construction, flexibility and durability make them ideal for grading and sorting wool. Prior to the mid 1960’s there were many rural and island shops in Shetland that would also trade in Wool, now there are only 3 other handlers of the local clip who deal with the remaining 20%. This photo from the Shetland Museum and archives shows one of the same baskets in use in 1958.

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photo courtesy of the Shetland Museum and Archives

As technology improves in the industry its interesting to see how although many things move forward because we still hand grade and hand sort all the wool that comes in we still have a need for these timeless items. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the Woolstore in the wool season, til next time..

Happy Knitting! x

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.

 

 

Knitted Wedding Dress

I’m taking a break from the Yarn series today to show you something very special which was made using one of our yarns: the 2ply Lace mentioned in a previous post in the Yarn Series. Shetland designer Sheila Fowlie is an extremely talented knitter who is well-known in Shetland for her bespoke hand knitted Shawls and Scarfs, she often gets commissions for projects and recently she was asked to knit a wedding dress for the wedding of a local couple Rebecca and John!

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

Of course we were very excited when Sheila told us about the project, and now the happy day has been we are pleased to share some photos from which Sheila has sent us. I asked Sheila some questions about knitting the dress:

  •  Were you surprised to be asked to make a knitted wedding dress?

I was, very surprised, wasn’t even sure if I could do it, but couldn’t find anybody else willing to take it on so decided to give it a go myself!

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

  •  How many hours do you think it took you from start to finish?

No idea, I gave up after 100 hours and I hadn’t even finished the bottom frill!

  •  Was it important to you to use Shetland Wool in the design?

It was very important to use Shetland Wool, as I believe it’s a superior product and is what I use in all my knitwear, unless specifically asked for something else.

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

  •  How did you go about putting together the design and was it quite complicated to do?

All I had at the start was a picture of the sort of dress the bride would like, so we began by taking some measurements and I started with the frill at the bottom after experimenting with different sized needles to get the correct tension. We had decided on three different lace patterns for the dress, one for the bottom frill – ‘willow leaf’ pattern; one for the middle bit – ‘print o’ the wave’; one for the body – ‘bird’s eye’ pattern.

I made the bottom in five panels, then sewed them together. The next bit was more complicated as I had to split the back, so that buttons could be added and therefore had to transpose the ‘print o’ the wave’ pattern to make it match on both sides of the opening. That took a few false starts and many, many swearwords before I got it right! I then grafted the middle bit to the bottom frill. From the middle and up was also quite complicated, as I had to insert darts below the bust into the ‘bird’s eye’ pattern in the front. The back had to be split to incorporate the opening and then made in two bits to join at the shoulders. I then had to attach a matching lace edge to each side from the shoulder to the waist. By the time I started the top bit I had the ‘underdress’ to copy for size, so that made it a bit easier!
(Washing the finished dress was a bit of a challenge, but that’s another story!)

I also made a 1-ply shawl to match the dress, which the bride used as her veil and a pair of matching lace ‘dags’.

Sheila the designer and Rebecca the bride.

Sheila the designer and Rebecca the bride. photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

  •  Were you pleased with the finished dress and did you enjoy the wedding?!

I was really pleased with the finished result and thought the bride looked stunning. I really enjoyed seeing her wearing it at the wedding and received lots of compliments, which was nice!

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

Rebecca and John actually live next door to us here at J&S so we were lucky enough to see Rebecca as she left on the wedding day. We are very proud to have played a tiny part in such a special garment and well done to Sheila, and of course congratulations to the happy couple!

til next time, happy knitting!

Up Helly Aa 2015

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My yarn ‘torches’

One day to go til Lerwick Up Helly Aa! I cant believe it was one year ago when head wool man at J&S, also known as Oliver was in the 2014 Jarl Squad (see here and here for more details)

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some details of Olivers 2014 suit from my Up Helly Aa window

some details of Olivers 2014 suit from my Up Helly Aa window

But now its another squads turn to be the Jarl Squad! For those who dont know, Up Helly Aa is a fire festival held all over Shetland, tomorrows Up Helly Aa, the biggest of the lot, is in Lerwick and the whole day is given over to Vikings.. the night-time torchlight procession (live feed can be watched here!) contains over 800 men and results in the burning of a Viking Galley.

a photo from last years procession

a photo from last years procession

After the procession, local halls are open and there is a big night of dancing! Each of the squads involved (usually about 40-50!) are dressed up and come up with an ‘act’ for the people in the halls. understandably Wednesday is a public holiday in Shetland so we wont be open, but we’ll be back at work on Thursday.

Til then, happy knitting and Happy Up Helly Aa!!

Happy Christmas

a snowy Shetland scene. Photo courtesy of the Shetland Museum and Archives.

a snowy Shetland scene. Photo courtesy of the Shetland Museum and Archives.

We are now closed for Christmas and New Year, we will open again on the 5th of January 2015, No more orders or emails will be dealt with until this time.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our customers and friends, and thank you for supporting Shetland Wool and all that it stands for.

xx

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!