Oliver and Catherine recently returned from a few days away visiting the Shetland Sheep Society, they invited Oliver down to give a talk on Sheep, wool and its uses and his work at Jamieson & Smith. The event took place in Nuneaton at one of the groups conferences.
In 1985 the Shetland Sheep Breeders group was formed to help breeders outside the Shetland Isles to maintain flocks conforming to the 1927 Shetland Breed Standard. The group then became responsible for registering Shetland sheep on the U.K. mainland, overseeing and maintaining the strict breed requirements by inspecting the animals. The group admits they are not totally dependent on breeding the sheep classing themselves as part time unlike in some cases in Shetland where sheep is the bread and butter of the sheep producer.
Oliver was greatly surprised and delighted to see the high standard of Shetland sheep in person at the Ashby by owners Lynne and David White. It was obvious that a great deal of care and attention into the flock breeding and husbandry of the animals. There was a big focus on quality, fibre fineness, uniformity of staple length and handle ( softness). After his presentation and question and answers Oliver was asked to judge a small amount of fleece some members had there and as with the sheep very impressive the fibre fineness and handle was quite exceptional.
There is no doubt that this group containing approximately 500 members from the North of Scotland to Devon and Cornwall in the south of England play an important part in the Shetland breed of sheep. Not only does the group members travel to Shetland frequently and purchase high quality fine wool breeding stock, it is not unusual for some Shetland sheep breeders to do likewise.
There are many reasons for this. One being the numbers of natural pure bred coloured sheep flocks are diminishing, also blood lines in Shetland are in some cases becoming to close thus the need for new stock. There is also an exchange of Shetland sheep judges wherein mainland judges travel to Shetland and judge at local agricultural shows, in turn Shetland sheep breeders travel and judge on sheep at U.K. mainland shows. It is very clear there is a combined dedicated effort to preserve the Real Shetland sheep, and this connection has resulted in many close friendships over the years.
The visit was not just confined to sheep and wool but also a visit to Ashby St Ledgers a very important part of English history the home of the Gunpowder plot of 1605 where Guy Fawkes and the co-conspirators would have hatched up their plans to blow up King James and his Parliament. The church dates back to the 1100 s and is still in use today.
Very grateful thanks from Oliver and his wife Catherine for the excellent and kind hospitality shown to them by the group, and a special thank you to David & Lyn of the Ashby Flock for letting me see and handle their outstanding Shetland Sheep. A never to be forgotten journey.
We are saddened to announce that Jamieson & Smith former co-owner Eva Smith passed away this weekend, Eva and her brother the late Jim Smith took over the running of the family company in 1969 after the passing of the company’s founder, their father the late John ‘Sheepie’ Smith.
Brought up on Berry Farm Scalloway Eva had a great love and passion for all aspects of farm life both at Berry and their farm at Pitmeden, Dyce, and Aberdeenshire. Eva was well-known for her work with Aberdeen Angus cattle and her great love of Shetland Ponies. Berry stud book was renowned for its breeding of special miniature ponies, Eva in particular was much sought after as a judge in this field and became the youngest judge of her era to judge the Royal Highland Show as seen in the photo above.
Combined with all her hard physical work on the land Eva was sent out by her father to purchase Shetland wool from Shetland crofters and farmers and take it back home to Berry Farm where it provided work for the farm labourer plus Jim & Eva in the winter months.
With the expansion of the wool handling business in 1952 and its move to Lerwick, Eva became more involved in the running of their company and along with their manager Gilbert Johnston was responsible in having the Shetland sorted wool they bought contract spun into knitting yarns at Hunters of Brora in the Scottish Highlands.
Eva was a keen and active knitter and like many Shetland ladies produced her own designs, her understanding helped greatly in the progress of the company moving forwards and establishing Jamieson & Smith as the leading suppliers of Real Shetland knitting yarns in its field built up on the Berry philosophy of trust, respect and humbleness.
At the age of 75 and Jim 81 they decided to retire from the textile trade and concentrate on running both their farms selling the company on to the main buyers of the Shetland wool clip: Curtis Wool Direct in 2005.
Eva was a very private person and resolute in achieving her aims in both her careers as a farmer and wool merchant and even up to her final days was giving out orders and advice as to how J&S should be run, still a passionate and caring person to the end.
Sandra made Ollie the Ewan Sweater from the Croft – Shetland Tweed pattern book, it contains 14 designs by Sarah Hatton all to be made using the Croft Yarn. The Ewan Sweater is one of two patterns for Mens jumpers in the book and there is a nice selection of other jumpers and cardigans for Women as well as some accessories. Oliver decided on the Boddam colourway for his jumper and I think it looks great!
Sometimes with a very flecked or speckled yarn its hard to imagine how the wool will knit up but this shows how the speckles really work well with the texture and cables in the pattern. Sandra likes to knit in the round as much as she can but she chose to follow the pattern and knit Oliver’s jumper in pieces, the Croft yarn has a good drape and can grow a bit when its washed so a big project like this is best worked in pieces for stabilitly.
I think Oliver is pleased with his Jumper!
You can see the Croft Shetland Tweed yarn on our website here and the pattern book here, you can also see more of the patterns in the book here. I would suggest looking through the projects made with the yarn on Ravelry too, there are some great ones!
Second post in a series about the people behind Jamieson & Smith.
Jan works in the wool store all year round. Between July to October she grades wool which comes in from over 600 local crofters and farmers. It’s a busy time and there’s never a dull moment! Over the winter Jan continues to sort fleeces as well as carry out any maintenance that needs to be done around the buildings.
It’s great to have Jan as such an integral part of the J&S team as she’s also a crofter and a beautiful knitter! When Ella and Sandra aren’t around in the shop for colour advice for a customer I have often asked for Jan’s help.
What’s the best thing about working at J&S?
“Meeting all the people who come through the big green doors who have as great a passion as I do for the Shetland breed and about what we are doing here at Jamieson & Smith. I also love telling the J&S story.”
Do you have a favourite place in Shetland?
“Shetland as a whole, all of Shetland! I am so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. It never ceases to amaze me, even through the wind and the rain. In the summer it’s mesmerising.”
How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working at J&S?
“At home with the animals in Walls – ‘Waas’ in dialect; knitting (there are always at least two things on the wires at any one time!) whether it’s lace or colourwork. I also like to be out and about when I can find the time away from croft work but I do love lambing time (March to May) and clipping (July to August).”
Welcome to the first post in a new series about the people behind Jamieson & Smith
We’ll start by introducing Ella Gordon, who I’m sure many of you will already know as she is the 2016 Shetland Wool Week patron! From her early days at J&S as a Saturday ‘shop girl’ in 2012, while studying textile design at Shetland College, Ella has continued to develop her creative skills and passion for knitting. We are so lucky to have her working with us as our main blog writer, as well as the everyday busy shop duties of making up orders and assisting customers with their projects. Ella is also great at the graphic design side of things and coming up with ideas for KALs and other fun woolly stuff!
What’s the best thing about working at J&S?
“My favourite thing about working at J&S is meeting so many people from all over the world passionate about Shetland Wool and Knitting. Through things like Wool Week, Ravelry, tours and our blog I feel like I’ve met lots of people with the same interests as me. I also really enjoy being in the shop and helping people choose colours and patterns. I’m very thankful for being able to have a job in the industry I am interested in which not everyone can say.”
Do you have a favourite place in Shetland?
“I love lots of places up north like Uyea and Fethaland and I recently walked to Lang Ayre but it was such a trek I don’t know if I’d do it again! I like walking around the Town as well and I love the south end of Lerwick where the Lodberries are.”
How do you like to spend your time when you’re not at work?
“Knitting.. haha! I do spend most my time either thinking about knitting, looking at Ravelry about knitting, reading about knitting and a little bit of time actually knitting! I also like all the usual things like spending time with my boyfriend and family, reading and walking.”
What’s your favourite J&S yarn?
“I would say my favourite yarn is probably 2ply Jumper Weight, the longer I work at J&S the more different colours I like. I love greys so 203, 54 and 81 are up there in my faves but I really love FC11 and FC58 – two of the shades I decided to use in my Crofthoose hat!”