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.

132

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

IMG_7943

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.

IMG_7950

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.

IMG_7946

IMG_7957

IMG_7960

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.

IMG_7966

IMG_7969

IMG_7983

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!

IMG_7771

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….

IMG_6138

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.

IMG_7757

col

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

IMG_7930

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.

ramp

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!

IMG_7935

Until next time, happy knitting!

The First Minister of Scotland and the First Minister of Shetland Wool

410A9229

We are proud to represent one of Shetlands traditional industries, this means occasionally we get some unusual visitors to our shop, yesterday this was the case when we got a visit from the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon!

410A9154

For our international readers the First Minister is Scotland’s head of government, Nicola Sturgeon is also the leader of the SNP party so she was in Shetland on the Campaign trail for the upcoming election. Its always important to show these kinds of visitors what we do here at J&S and the effort we make to sustain the Shetland Wool Clip, we can feel a bit isolated sometimes from the effects of Mainland Politics but Nicola was very interested to see the kinds of things we make up here.

410A9213

410A9158

410A9194

Of course Oliver gave her a tour of the Woolstore and Showroom as well as the Shop, we forget as we are here everyday but the first time you come in the shop and see the walls full of Shetland wool it really is like a sweetie shop! As always we felt proud of what we do here at J&S and no matter your political views it was exciting to have a visit from our First Minister.

All photos here by Scott Goudie, our resident photographer (oh and he works in the wool store)

winter jobs

IMG_7607

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.

IMG_7582

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.

collage3

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.

IMG_7610

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..

IMG_7602

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..

IMG_7596

Happy Knitting!

Cunningsburgh Show 2015

1

On Wednesday Me (Ella) and Oliver headed down to Cunningsburgh in the South End of Shetland for the annual Show, Oliver was Judging the Wool, and I was judging the Colourbox Competition we hold each year with some of the shows.

2

When we arrived we had a peerie look around and then headed into the tent where the Wool Judging was to take place and Oliver begin judging the wool people had entered into the show.

3olli2

Beginning in the late 1980’s they developed a Judging sheet for the wool, there are 5 or 6 categories which Oliver Judges each fleece against and gives them a mark out of a set amount. This is beneficial as it gives the entrants some explanation as to where they placed and how it can be improved for another year.

IMG_6290

 

4

As well as the trophy fleece seen above, Oliver also judges a few other categories such a most commercially saleable fleece, which may be different to the best fleece!

5ollie1

While Oliver was doing the most of his judging (I took these photos at the beginning and end of his part) I headed over to the shed where the knitwear and crafts were

9

For the best few years we have done a competition with the rural shows where we chose a group of 8 shades of 2ply Jumper Weight to be used in Fair Isle knitting, the entrants then must knit an item using at least 5 of these shades. It has its own category and that’s what I was there to Judge!

10

The entries as ever were extremely strong and it’s always great to see how people have put the colours together, some colour selections are more popular than other years but as always we like it to be a challenge!

11

Unfortunately due to poor weather the Voe Show was cancelled this year, very kindly the Cunningsburgh Show committee decided along with the Voe Committee to show the Voe entries also so I Judged that too, there are always some extremely beautiful pieces of knitting in the Voe Show so I am really happy they were able to be in the Cunningsburgh Show!

12 13knit2Of course alongside the Colourbox Challange there is a huge amount of knitwear entered into the show14knitFrom Lace to Fair Isle there was a huge range of items to be seen

15

The fineness and skill in knitting Shetland Lace never ceases to amaze me and I was happy to see a few of our patterns knitted up, I spotted a Sheelagh and a Gibbie Shawl.

16

Understandably the knitwear was very busy with people coming to see how they and their friends had fared as well as just coming to see the skills on show.

17

Of course as it was a rural show there were lots of animals there too, obviously we spent a fair amount of time looking at all the sheep!

18 19

19a

20

20a

22amooritBut as well as the sheep there were dogs, cattle, horses, ponies and poultry to name a few!

22kye

23

23a

24

24b

25hensIt was a very busy but great morning, as judges we were also treated to a lovely dinner at the hall! Of course I always have my eye out for nice knitwear..

IMG_6356

I hope you enjoyed this peek into the Cunningsburgh Show! Til next time, Happy Knitting!

PS. remember there is still time to vote for Jamieson & Smith in the Best Brand for British Yarn category in the British Knitting Awards, if you like what we do at J&S you can vote for us here

Wool Season 2015

IMG_6142

At long last we have had some fine weather in Shetland which has spurred on the shearing and we now are well and truly into our wool season. All manner of vehicles roll up to our large green doors and unload their wool clip, so far we have shipped 2 loads, over 40,000 kilos, and are well through grading and packing load 3.

IMG_6138

We would encourage our crofters and farmers to take great care of their wool clip, especially avoiding shearing damp wool, as this can affect the financial returns to the producer. Our prices remain very high and this season we are pleased to say we are increasing the price of our Super Fine white grade by thirty pence per kilo.

IMG_6143

We are able to maintain and in the case of our Super Fine grade increase it due to our various products using all the grades of wool. As the main buyer of the Shetland wool clip handling approximately 80% of Shetland’s Wool from between 600 /700 crofters and farmers, it is our responsibility to seek out new products and marketing opportunities to ensure a secure and fast payment to all our customers. Our registered brand the three sheep logo guarantees the user of our products of the authenticity and traceability of our Real Shetland wool.

derekbaiIMG_6130

In the Woolstore Derek, Jan and Scott are working at baling up the clips coming in everyday in the large baler, we also have a smaller baler in the middle store which Oliver is currently using, in the middle store we also have some of the oldest pieces of equipment at Jamieson & Smith, our wicker wool baskets.

IMG_6147ollybas

These baskets are now nearly 100 years old, we took ownership of them from another Shetland Textile company, Pole & Hoseason of Mossbank in 1960 and their sturdy construction, flexibility and durability make them ideal for grading and sorting wool. Prior to the mid 1960’s there were many rural and island shops in Shetland that would also trade in Wool, now there are only 3 other handlers of the local clip who deal with the remaining 20%. This photo from the Shetland Museum and archives shows one of the same baskets in use in 1958.

image (1)

photo courtesy of the Shetland Museum and Archives

As technology improves in the industry its interesting to see how although many things move forward because we still hand grade and hand sort all the wool that comes in we still have a need for these timeless items. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the Woolstore in the wool season, til next time..

Happy Knitting! x

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