Ollie Dolly!

Hello everyone, happy Friday! A few weeks ago we received an email from a customer in Australia, Debra Hinton who had made a doll featuring our very own, and this year’s wool week patron, Oliver Henry!

Debra had kindly mentioned in her email she would be happy to have the pattern available free so we are offering it to you here if you would like to make your own peerie Ollie! I (Ella) decided to make one and for my first knitted doll – I’m very pleased! I found the pattern easy to follow and it just took me a few nights of working on it before he was finished.

It’s knit using 2ply Jumper Weight and stuffed with our Wool Balls – I went for shades 21 (blue), 53 (peach) 54 (dark grey) 203 (light grey) and 9097 (red). For the boiler suit details, I used sewing thread held double in a bronze shade.

So if you would like to make your own Oliver you can get the pattern by clicking here: oliver henry man of wool doll. Although it is free (for non-commercial use i.e you can make it for yourself or for a gift, not for sale) she did mention she would be happy for people to make a small donation to the MRI Maakers appeal.

If you are coming to Wool Week and would like to make one we would love for you to bring your doll so we can take a picture and show Oliver, we’d love to see how many we can see before the Week is out!

Roadside Allover

Hello everyone! We have been delighted with the feedback on the Roadside Beanie, both here in Shetland and at Edinburgh Yarn Festival over the weekend. If you were there you may have seen Oliver in a very striking Fair Isle Jumper – which is what we are sharing today!

When Oliver was thinking about going to EYF he asked Sandra if she would make a jumper for her, so in a couple of weeks (!) she knitted up the Roadside Allover for him to wear when he got to Edinburgh. It was a design she had made before and we all agreed he would really suit the colours.

It features a mix of blues with some surprising shades thrown in and a lovely all over OXO pattern. Its knit in the traditional Shetland way – in the round with steeks added in for the armholes and neck. Me and Oliver headed down the new pier in in front of J&S a few weeks ago to get some photos and it fitted in perfectly with the fishing boats

So if you would like to knit yourself a Roadside Allover you can find the kits on our website here, we are running out of a few shades which feature in both the Roadside Beanie and Allover but we are expecting a stock delivery in the next week or so so if you see anything sold out dont panic, Happy Knitting!

Roadside Beanie

Hello everyone, today is the first day of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival marketplace, Derek and Sandra are there (if you are going we can be found at stand K8) but Oliver is also down because he has been announced at this year’s Shetland Wool Week Patron!

We are very excited of course as Oliver was instrumental in organising the first Shetland Wool Week 10 years ago as J&S founded the event. It has gone from strength to strength every year so for the 10th anniversary, it’s great to see such an important figure in the Shetland Wool Industry as the patron.

Oliver’s design – the Roadside Beanie has been launched today and you can find kits here on the website and the pattern here on the Wool Week website. The design features common motifs for a Shetlander, sheep and fishing boats! To learn more about the Roadside Beanie have a read of the pattern.

We are extremely proud of Oliver and look forward to seeing all the Roadside Beanies this year. Happy Knitting!

Olivers trip to Visit the Shetland Sheep Society

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.

Shetland and Shetland Type

Hello everyone, today we are going to touch on something which comes up every now and again – the issue and differences between Shetland and Shetland Type wool. Sometimes it can be quite confusing but this post is just to alert you to the fact some yarns you see called ‘Shetland’ may be that in name only.

According to the British Trading Standards, the current usage of the word Shetland in Wool is: ‘A yarn spun on the Woollen system of 100% Virgin Wool.. such yarn being capable of imparting to a fabric the qualities of crispness and/or smoothness and soft handling attributed to the products formerly made exclusively from the Shetland breed of Sheep’  This is interesting as it shows you that a yarn could be named ‘Shetland’ but not include much or any Shetland Wool, but by imitating the spinning style or feel of whats attributed to Shetland Wool you can give it that name regardless of where the wool comes from or the breed used. Another point in the trading standards information is this: ‘where the term is qualified by the adjectives ‘genuine’, ‘real’ or any similar description, or quantified by the terms ‘100%’ or ‘all’, this implies the wool actually originated in Shetland.’ You will see we always talk about our wool as Real Shetland Wool, or 100% Shetland Wool etc – this is us working on this basis – to show you the wool originated here in the Shetland Islands from Shetland Sheep!

We know for a fact that there are many more products out there called Shetland than there is wool available. We annually take in over 260,000 kilos of local wool from the Shetland Islands (which equals well over 80% of the Wool clip) and what doesn’t come back to us in yarn and finished product is sold on through our parent company Curtis Wool Direct for many other wool products. There are of course other Shetland Wool producers and ones on the mainland but you will find in their description of the yarns they will explain this – the ones which should ring alarms bells are those who have ‘Shetland’ in the name of the yarn range but no other mention of Shetland or Shetland Sheep in the description.

We have a very interesting piece of text in our archives which comes from Alistair MacDonald who was a long-term staff member at Hunters of Brora, where we used to have our yarns spun before they went out of business in the early 2000’s. The folder contains Alistair’s findings and remarks on lots of different aspects of the yarn and knitwear industry and he has some interesting comments on the Shetland/Shetland Type argument, some of which we noted in our book: ‘When I think of the Shetland yarn on offer I am reminded of the bizarre situation with Cheddar Cheese.. the name Cheddar now describes a type of cheese not a cheese from the Cheddar Valley. Just as cheddar is now ubiquitous to the super market so now Shetland is ubiquitous in the textile market place.’

Our aim with this post is to highlight that ‘Shetland Type’ yarns are appropriating the reputation that Shetland Wool has earned over hundreds of years through our climate, culture, history and sheep. We are rightly extremely proud of our wool and if this is something which is important to you also, we urge you to ask questions about the origins of the Shetland Wool you are buying.

Happy knitting!

All photos on this post have been taken by us either in the Woolstore at J&S or at local Agricultural Shows and the top image was taken at one of our crofters farms in Bressay.

Oliver’s Ewan Sweater

Hello everyone! Just a quick post today to show you the jumper Sandra has made for Oliver using our Croft – Shetland Tweed yarn which we launched last year together with West Yorkshire Spinners..

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!

Happy Knitting!

North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference

Hello everyone! So while we were getting over Shetland Wool Week Oliver and his wife Catherine headed off to the Isle of Man to attend the Native Sheep and Wool Conference which was held there from the 12th-15th of October. The aim of the conference is to promote the fleece of the Native Viking breeds, and the event features a series of lectures, farm visits, croft workshops and fairs. Oliver was there to give a talk about Shetland Sheep, its wool and their uses (something he knows a little bit about..!) – this year was celebrating the Isle of Man Loghtan Sheep of course!

Loghtan Sheep share some of the characteristics of Shetland Sheep – which you can certainly see from the pictures! Both are thought to be of Scandinaivian origin, perhaps brought over by Vikings who settled in Shetland and also the Isle of Man. The Loghtan Sheep are mostly the same colour – the call it ‘Mouse Brown’ and it is very similar to our Moorit shade.  The ewes are mostly two horned and rams four horned, four horned sheep used to be quite common in Shetland up until about 60 years ago although they were mostly white.

You can see from these pictures of a Loghton fleece it is similar to Moorit, in colour it is a bit lighter and the staple is mostly quite short and blunt however throughout the fleece one can find guard hair staple similar to ours.

There was also a fashion show which took place at the University College of Isle of Man, it included student work and delegates designs, you can see our Fair Isle V-Neck Jumper in the picture above. J&S had 3 designs included and all were very well received!

Heres Oliver at the delegates Craft Fair which was a chance for each area to show and discuss their regions products.

Elizabeth from the Guild who presented Oliver with a lovely Loghton fleece and farmer Peter at Church Farm Cregneash, a small Manx Crofting community which was beautifully preserved.

There they saw a Manx Cat, famous for there lack of tails which is a genetic mutation within the breed.

Oliver and Catherine did get a bit caught out and delayed with Storm Opheilia but they have made it back safe and sound to Shetland. It was an excellent event held in beautiful surrounding and Oliver enjoyed meeting and sharing ideas with delegates from around the northern hemisphere and it was an ideal location and audience to share our products.

Oliver would like to thank the organisers and people of the Isle of Man for their Kindness and warm hospitality, it was much appreciated!