Ollies Visit to Papa

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Oliver recently spent the day clipping sheep on Papa, an island off the west side of Scalloway. Papa Isle is owned by the Smith family, the founders of Jamieson & Smith, he headed there with my (Ella’s) Uncle James who runs Berry Farm and a group of willing clippers and packers!

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arriving on Papa

Papa Isle is one of the now many uninhabited islands in Shetland. Shetland is made up of over 100 small islands but only 16 are now lived on. Nearby to Papa there are a number of similar isles – Hildasay, Oxna, Linga, Havra and Langa were all at one time inhabited like Papa but as times changed and Island life became harder people gradually moved to the more easily assessable islands, part of Oliver’s family came from Hildasay.

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Preparing the cro

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Gathering the Sheep

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James looks on while the sheep are rounded up

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Brian watches as the Sheep enter the pen

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Oliver hand shearing the old way!

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Shearing by power – the modern way!

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Papa is now the home of approximately 90 sheep who are quite happy living on the natural grazing and feeding on seaweed. They are handled only twice a year for shearing and later in the year for taking home the lambs so with the exception of necessary drenching are virtually organic and quite self-sufficient! They are able to survive and reserve energy and fat for the harsher winters, Hill Sheep have very good wool, the environment and grazing usually leads to a very fine quality of wool.

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All clipped and back to the hills!

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Lots of Oo ready to head to the J&S Woolstore

There are still many examples of Papa being inhabited, the two below pictures show the plaque erected by the Slater Family and the remains of the Slater family Croft house which was attached to the school.

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The next two pictures show the Papa Kirk, you can see Oxna Isle in the background with the house used for Lambing. Papa in Old Norse means the Island of the Priests and people came from all the surrounding Islands for the Sunday service. It was still active in the early 1930s and an elderly neighbour of Oliver’s said he would row over from Burra for the service. The image with the stone before it shows the rock on which the late Robert Fullerton told Oliver a Bible would be laid onto, the people in Oxna would look for this through a spyglass and if it was there they would climb the hill behind their house and wave a bed sheet which would have been seen on the Islands of Hildasay, Linga and Langa. The congregation would then row or sail over for the service. If the Bible wasn’t there it meant the weather was too poor for the minister to make it to the kirk from Scalloway.

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The ‘Crying Knowe’ can be seen in the picture below, this was a small hill used by the residents of Papa to shout across the sound to the people on Oxna

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You can still see remnants of the Papa Peat banks like in the picture below, many people still use Peat to heat and warm their houses in Shetland today but it was a complete necessity for people in isolated Islands like Papa. You can see a bit more information about Peats in Shetland here.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick look into a bit of Shetland History, you can see on the Map I’ve included above from 1806 nearly all the Islands in Shetland are named, probably because people lived on most of them! Papa is located directly across from Foula on the mid/bottom left hand side.

Happy Knitting!

 

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Waas Show

Hello! last Saturday dawned a bit damper as me (Ella) and Sandra headed out to Waas for the Walls Show.

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Spirits were not dampended however and we soon got to work (after a cup of tea and a bacon roll!) judging the colourbox. This is our first year having the colourbox at Walls so there wasn’t too many entries but next year I’m sure there will be more!

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As with all shows in Shetland there were plenty of animals to be seen..

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and lovely knitwear..

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We weren’t able to stay until everything was fully set up but I’m glad we got a few pictures! Thankfully it dried up and the rest of the day was much better than the morning.  We were amazed on the way back to town how lovely the heather is at the moment in Shetland..

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You can see why we have so many heathery shades in our Jumper Weight range (FC55, FC56. FC14, 87, 133 to name a few!) FC11 and FC12 are good matches for the grass too!

There are a few more shows still to come (Yell and Unst) but we probably won’t make it to those so I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip around the mainland Shetland Shows!

Happy Knitting🙂 xx

Cunningsburgh Show

Our tour of the Shows continued this week and we headed to Cunningsburgh on Wednesday. It was a lovely day, the only one of the week so it was great to be out!

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Again I was judging the Colourbox Competition and Oliver the Wool so we headed to our respective huts to get judging..

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After I’d done my bit I went to see how Oliver was getting on with the raw wool

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As it was such a nice day we had a good wander round and looked at some of the Sheep..

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and I was amazed at the amount of dogs..

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Before heading back to the Knitwear to see the finished displays, as always the skill and amount of Knitwear entered was brilliant and it was very hard to judge the Colourbox, I did a few of the other category’s too but the I’m sure the other knitwear judges would agree the standard was very high!

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As we had a tour in the afternoon we headed back to town so we didn’t get a look at everything but just like the Voe Show there were Cows, Poultry, Horses, Vegetables.. lots of things to see!

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The Walls Show is this weekend so after that Ill have another post to round up the J&S tour of the Country Shows!

Happy Knitting!

Voe Show 2016

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On Saturday I (Ella) had the task of heading up to the Voe Show to Judge the Colourbox Competition. We have mentioned it many times before but in case you’re not sure what it is – every year we choose a selection of 8 shades of yarn and people have to use at least 5 of the shades in a Fair Isle garment or accessory. They then enter it into the Voe, Cunningsburgh or for the first time this year the Walls show. There are a number of these shows which go on all over Shetland in the Summer, filled with livestock, animals, vegetables, flowers, baking and our favourite of course – knitting!!

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This years shades were 2ply Jumper Weight – 71, 118, 80, fc39, 82, fc22. 9097 and 9144 and as always I was amazed at the finished items! I wish I had got more pictures but I was busy judging and when I came back later the knitwear was full of folk so I couldn’t get near!

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Voe always has an excellent amount of entries in the Colourbox and this year was no exception even though I would say the colour’s were a bit trickier than years before – but it is meant to be a challenge and to push people out of their comfort zones.

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Apart from the colourbox, there were some amazing examples in the other knitting categories, everything is covered from 1ply lace to yokes and cardigans, mittens, gloves, scarves, machine knit and hand knit. Basically, every kind of Shetland knitting you can imagine!

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Oliver was judging the fleece so I had a quick look in the tent to see what he had thought of the entries.

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I thought I’d leave off with some more pictures from around the show, if you ever get the chance to come to a Shetland Agricultural show I would definitely take it as it gives you a great overview of Shetland Culture and it’s a great day out!

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lambing time

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One of the nicest things about this time of year in Shetland (apart from lighter nights!) is the sight of Lambs. Lambing starts end of April and goes on throughout May, and all the photos in this post have been taken in the last few weeks.

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The Shetland is the smallest of the British breeds and is believed to be of Scandinavian origin. It retains many of the characteristics of wild sheep such as natural hardiness, longevity and an ability to thrive on a low level of food intake from our heather clad hills and peat moors.

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Shetland Sheep are naturally good mothers, they require little assistance when giving birth and easily lamb by themselves. You can see from the photos that the mothers fairly keep an eye on you when your near their babies! Hill sheep in Shetland average 25 kilos and the new born lambs birth weight can is ususally 1 to 2 kilos and sizewise not much larger as a cat.

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Ewes that lamb on the hill usually give birth at dusk or dawn,  this is natural instinct to lamb in semi-darkness to avoid predators such as the Bonxie and Ravens. By lambing at night this timing gives the lambs a chance to get to their feet. Lambs become quite independent after a week or two and start to graze and chew the cud.

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At this time of year Shetland hills echo with the loud bleating of straying lambs followed by the answering call of its mother.

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If you would like to make your own Peerie Shetland Lamb you might like our newest kit! The Peerie Sheep, this was designed by Sandra Manson who works at J&S and was inspired by all the lambs in Shetland at spring time.

til next time, happy knitting!

Photos by Jan Robertson and Ella Gordon

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!