North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference – Shetland – 2013

Conference Poster

It has been a busy few months at J&S and we are very excited to have played a small part in the initial organisation of the North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference 2013 which is coming to Shetland in October. Following on from the previous two conferences in Orkney (2011) and Bergen (2012) it is a must-see for anyone interested in Shetland Sheep and their cousins around the North Atlantic.

North Atlantic Native Sheep Breeds

It begins on the Friday of Shetland Wool Week – 11th October – and continues until the following Tuesday 15th October. The programme is packed with activities including: a look around Shetland Agricultural Centre, with wool grading and sorting, a visit to the abattoir and sheep and wool sales; a day trip up to Yell and Unst visiting Hermaness National Nature Reserve to discuss common grazings there, spinning and knitting demonstrations and talks on the use of wool in local arts and crafts; talks from experts on subjects ranging from the genetics of North Atlantic Native Sheep to their importance for the local economies of their places of origin; and a large conference dinner featuring Shetland’s famous local produce and music. Not only will visiting delegates gain a valuable insight into North Atlantic Native Sheep and sheep farming in the region, but they will also get to experience a range of Shetland’s landscapes, being immersed in its culture during their trip.

For anyone who wishes to attend the conference, or if you are just interested to know more, you can have a look at the programme (which was created right here at J&S!) below. Note – if you want to print it off, the second link should work better for most systems.

North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference 2013

North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference 2013 – printable

If you want to know more contact conference organisers:

Emma Miller:

emma@shetlandamenity.org, +44 (0)1595 69468

or Pete Glanville:

pete.glanville@shetlandorganics.com

Wovember 2012

It is already half way through Wovember 2012 and we have realised that all has gone quiet on the J&S blog front recently. So to contribute our little bit to this magnificent month we thought we would give you a little sneaky peek behind the scenes here to show you where all your wonderful wool comes from.

We start off in the wool-store, which could be described as the hub of Shetland’s wool industry with more than 700 local crofters delivering their wool – ranging from bundles of a few kilos to trucks full with a few tonnes in some cases – through our big green doors.

We then sort through the bags, fleece by fleece, to separate them into the different grades and natural colours with the finest being used to make fine lace and the toughest for durable wool carpets. The wool is then squashed into bales by our trusty old baler ready to be shipped and scoured, carded, combed, spun and dyed into the cushion filling, combed tops and lace and yarn that we send off to you. Some of it comes back to us transformed into beautiful rugs, carpets, duvets and even the life-changing Vi-Spring beds.

We sent off our last load of wool for 2012 yesterday which has left room in the main store to clear out the coloured wool-store and sort each coloured fleece into the different grades, ready to be sent away in the final load of this year’s wool season – usually in April – and processed into all of our natural, undyed products. This  final 12th shipment will bring this year’s total to over 240 tonnes of wool: a total which is usually greeted with a look of amazement from anyone who hears it.

When the products finally arrive back here after their long transformation they take pride of place in our shop that is joined onto the wool stores where they first became part of J&S as raw wool. The shop was expanded in 2010 to make it three times its original size and give all of our treasured woolly products room to show off. It is now much-loved by knitters who can rummage around, comparing and contrasting colours to create their very own Shetland Wool knitwear.

The shop also doubles up as the mail-room where we make up, package and send out orders from all over the world. This makes it a very busy place every morning until our postie comes just after 12 to take away the parcels. However, we love making up the little woolly bundles so thank you to each and every one of you who has ordered from us and helped support Shetland’s wool industry.

I just thought I’d end with an image of what makes this all possible. The humble Shetland Sheep with its world-beating wool in its wild, exposed habitat that makes it all so magical.

The future for Shetland Wool…

Shetland Wool in the Wool Store at Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers
OK, so because of the increase in wool prices this year our yarn prices will be rising as of January.  For UK customers, this will coincide with the rise in VAT to 20%.
As it stands, this is a bit of a pest for customers. But that’s not the whole story. The rise in wool prices is such good news for crofters and farmers all over the world, and has come about through hard work and initiatives like The Campaign for Wool. More and more, we are all coming back to a place where we see the incredible benefits, environmental and otherwise, of natural wool for use in our clothes, carpets and furnishings. 
The rise in wool prices is extra good for Shetland, because Shetland Sheep are in such decline (the total number of sheep has fallen by 28% over the last 10 years). Low wool prices is one of many challenges to the future of the breed so to help ensure that keeping pure bred Shetland Sheep in Shetland is viable, we paid our wool producers a much higher price per kilo this year. We were able to do this because of all our lovely yarn and knitwear customers, who know just how good Real Shetland Wool is! The crofting and textiles industries, and Shetland Sheep, are really important to Shetland in so many ways including culture, heritage, economic development, even the Shetland dialect!
So, this price increase will come into effect on the 4th January. All orders placed online until the 4th January will be charged at the current prices. When the online shop is updated on the 4th, the new rate will automatically come into effect. 
We will be away on our holidays over this period, but will start posting all of these orders off on our return on the 5th January.
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