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

out of season

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!

Crofthoose Hat Kits

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So this years Shetland Wool Week pattern has now been out for a month or so, we were out of stock of one of the shades but its now back in (yippee!) so if you would like to knit the J&S colourway of the Crofthoose Hat you can order a kit from our website here

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It uses 5 shades of Jumper Weight in the colours seen above, if you order a kit we will include a paper copy of the pattern but you can also download it via the Shetland Wool Week website here

If you would like to knit the hat but dont fancy these shades just leave us a note in the delivery comments box of the shades you would like and we will put them in for you, there are four different colourways in the pattern and lots of projects on Ravelry if you need inspiration!

if you do knit a Crofthoose Hat remember to tag your projects on instagram and ravelry with the #crofthoosehat

Happy Knitting!

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It was back in 1968 the Jamieson & Smith introduced knitting yarns to help add value to the Shetland Island clip, as mentioned in the last post the wool was graded and sorted by hand into its various quality’s before being sent away to be spun into whichever yarn we specified. Nearly 50 years later we still do the same.

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Knitting in Shetland has been one of our main industries throughout the centuries* and we are lucky to have patterns passed down throughout peoples families but for those out with Shetland it was tricky to access these traditional patterns. Sandra Manson who works at J&S has been knitting since she was a child, the skill’s passed down to her from her Granny and Auntie.

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Sandra is always on the lookout for vintage patterns and one she has recently reknit in our Shetland Heritage range is a Hap taken from the Traditional Shawls and Scarves book (which we have on our shop here) Some of these vintage patterns need a bit of work so Sandra has made a few changes to hopefully make it easier to knit and you can find the pattern in this weeks edition of The Peoples Friend.

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Almost since we started doing yarns in the late 60’s we have had patterns in various magazines, before the days of Ravelry, Facebook and Twitter that was the main way we could reach our customers all over the world and for many people without access to the internet it is still a way for them to hear about Jamieson & Smith Yarns.

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If you don’t have access to the Peoples Friend Magazine we will be releasing the kit ourselves in the upcoming months, but for this week it can be found in there. Happy Knitting!

*If you are interested there is a day all about Shetland Knitting being hosted at the Shetland Museum and Archives this Saturday (March 5th 2016) and it can be viewed on-line, for more information see here

winter jobs

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During the winter (and its feeling wintery today in Shetland!) of course things slow down a bit on the Wool side of J&S but we carry on with the job of sorting the graded fleeces, white and coloured. Shetland Wool is known for having different grades in one fleece and it is this time of year we can take the time to separate out the best of them.

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Oliver is taking each fleece and looking for certain things within them – the handle, the character and fibre fineness to name a few. You often find spinners looking for the crimp of a Shetland fleece and this is one of the things we are looking for.  The best of all these things together make for the finest results in Spinning.

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The finest fleeces have a lack of Guard Hair, the courser fibres which bring down the grade. By hand sorting you can remove and ensure the overall fineness of the fleeces. This exquisite Shawl of Sandra’s shows an example of how fine Shetland Yarn can be hand spun.

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As well as the white fleeces, which is obviously the most common in Shetland, we are also lucky to have many of Shetland’s crofters come to us with their coloured fleeces. (I did a post a while ago about the Natural Colours which you can see here) These are crucial because they allow us to have a number of ranges using only the Natural Shades. 1 and 2ply Supreme Lace and Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight. We also have something new coming soon using the Undyed colours so keep an eye out for that..

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So although the green doors are shut there are plenty of things going on behind them! And if your interested in Olivers hat there will be a pattern coming soon..

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Happy Knitting!

Sometimes here in Shetland its easy to forget how far-reaching our yarns can be. As you probably know, every year we take place in the Colourbox challenge with local agriculture shows, see posts here and here.

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Well our friend Mary Jane Mucklestone was teaching at Vogue Knitting Live last week and she had the idea to try a mini colourbox challange with her students, so using this years colours, the students set about knitting their own Fair Isle using the colourbox shades

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They were very lucky because there were a few Shetland Ladies kicking about New York last week and noted Shetland Designers Hazel Tindall and Wilma Malcomson were both available to judge the entries, just like we do here!

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After some deliberation (by the looks of it!) Hazel and Wilma chose their winners..

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So congratulations ladies! We would have loved to have been there and seen J&S in the wild in New York

Happy Knitting!

Christmas Posting Dates

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As things begin to cool down get a bit more wintry we always see the orders getting more and more, all our yarns are made from 100% Shetland Wool so they make the perfect projects for this cold weather! You might also be thinking about yarns for presents so I thought I would give you a breakdown of the Royal Mails recommended posting dates for Christmas:

Friday 4th December: Africa, Middle East

Monday 7th December: Asia, Far East, Cyprus, Japan, Eastern Europe

Tuesday 8th December: Caribbean, Central and South America

Thursday 10th December: Australia, Greece, New Zealand

Monday 14th December: Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland

Tuesday 15th December: Canada, Finland, Sweden, USA

Wednesday 16th December: Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal, Spain

Thursday 17th December: France

Friday 18th December: United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Switzerland

As we are located approximately 200 miles off the coast of the Scottish Mainland (you’d be amazed how many people don’t realise!) and we are susceptible to the wild weather there are delays with boats and planes that are outwith our control. We try our best to get everything out as soon as we can but its worth ordering a few days before the limit to be sure. For more information on how we send out our orders see here

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We have got our tree and lights up so its looking very Christmassy in the Shop, that goes along well with the wintry showers we’ve been having!

Happy Knitting!