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.

Waas Show 2018

Hello everyone, so bright and early on Saturday morning me and Sandra headed out to Waas to have a look at the Show and judge the Colourbox competition. This is only the 3rd year we have had the colourbox at the Walls Show so it is a bit smaller but still has beautiful entries:

We’ve had a few questions about the Colourbox Shades so for a reminder the 2018 colours were: 3, 53, 66, 72, 87, 366, fc37 and fc56.

Once we had done our bit we enjoyed wandering around looking at the animals and other entries. While we were driving out it was pretty rainy but luckily it was dry and sunny on the Westside (which is quite often the way!) so we had a great time.

Like all shows in Shetland the knitwear is to an extremly high standard, there was quite alot of lace but also Fair Isle. The judges had a tough job!

There are still a couple of shows  still to be but thats the last with the Colourbox for this year, next years colours have been chosen so we are looking forward to 2019 already!

Happy Knitting!

Voe Show 2018

Hello everyone, this past Saturday saw our annual visit to the Voe Show – the first agricultural show of the year in Shetland. I (Ella) headed up to judge the Colourbox Competition. Every year we choose a selection of 8 shades of Jumper Weight which are used by people in a category on its own in the knitwear section of the show. The entrants must use at least 5 of the 8 colours – this year the shades were: 3, 53, 66, 72, 87, 366, fc37 and FC56.

The allover on the left was the Trophy winner for this year.

It is always very difficult to choose the winners as the standard is extremely high but I was really pleased with the entries. This is the Show where I have the most time so I helped the other ladies with laying out the rest of the knitwear and as a judge I got to help with choosing the trophy winners. There is everything from lace, handspun and machine knitting to yokes, all overs and hats.

This 1ply Shawl by Kathleen Anderson won lots of prizes – very well deserved! It was beautiful.

I then spent the rest of my time at the show looking at all the other entries. At Voe there are Cows, Sheep, Horses, Chickens, Ducks, Goats, Dogs… the list goes on.

The sheep are probably my favourite as the amount and variety of breeds is always so interesting but I also like to have a look at the flowers and vegetables too…

I didnt get any photos of the baking or other handicrafts but I can assure you it all looked great too! The rain came on just as I was leaving but I had a great day at the Voe Show, this week sees Cunningsburgh on Wednesday and Waas on Saturday so we will be back with more photos from those shows too, happy knitting!

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.

Walls Show 2017

Hello everyone, happy Friday! I’m back with the final installment of our trips to the Shows – this time the Walls Show – there are others which we wont make it to but these are the three which have the Colourbox in it so we always go! Last Saturday was not too bad a day weatherwise, there were a couple of showers while we were there (you can see some offending clouds above!) so me and Sandra had a fine drive out to Waas.

Me and Sandra judged the Colourbox and the most of the knitwear at the show, this is only the second year we have done the Colourbox at Waas so it is still small but growing so we were pleased to see the entries, there was a good amount of entries in the other knitting so we had our work cut out for us.

There were lots of amazing Fair Isle and Lace to be seen..

Again once we had done our judging thing we went for a look around at all the animals and other entries..

This was a very friendly kitten in the pets section..i think Sandra would have taken it home if she could!

And then we also made friends with the Goats (there is another version of this photo in the Shetland Times today – just know I set it up and the photographer swooped in!!)

I really enjoying going to the different shows and seeing whats similar but also different about them all. We were quite lucky with the weather this year but for our judging we are always inside so its fine for us! I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos from the shows, we have already chosen the colours for next years Colourbox and people have been buying them already so it bodes well for next years entries. Happy Knitting!

PS>> Have you started your Bousta Beanie yet? We are 5 days in our KAL and lots are on the needles on Ravelry already!

Cunningsburgh Show 2017

Following on from Voe, last Wednesday was a bit brighter and Oliver and Me (Ella) headed down to Cunningsburgh for the Show, I was judging the Colourbox again alongside some other knitwear and Oliver was Judging the Wool.

I was put to work and worked my way through the Colourbox and other categories, there were some beautiful items in the Colourbox as always and the rest of the knitwear was of an extremely high quality too. The tropy winner for the Colourbox was the vest in the first picture, I loved the way the colours were put together and it was beatifully knitted. You can see above they also had a Bousta Beanie section!

The Wool is usually in another shed/tent but this year it was in the same shed as me so I was able to keep and eye on Oliver and his judging and after he was finished we started to make our way around all the other bits of the show.

There was a bit of a surprise arrival as you can see in the photo below!

This sheep obviously was trying to get on Oliver’s good side…

and this duck was interested in making friends too!

We had a great time as we always do at the Cunningsburgh show, the Colourbox is growing every year and I love to see all the animals. Cunningsburgh Show allows entries from the whole of Shetland whereas the others are all more area specific so there is always lots to see, it had 2841 entries in total this year!

Ill be back at the end of the week with our last show trip – to Waas, Happy Knitting!

Voe Show 2017

hello everyone, happy Monday! We have had a busy time of Shows this past week or so, I thought I’d begin with the first one we went to last Saturday which was Voe! it dawned a bit damp but we are pretty used to that around here..

The main reason I (Ella) headed us was to judge the Colourbox Competition we now host every year with the Voe, Cunningsburgh and Waas Agricultural Shows. Each year we choose a selection of 8 colours which must be used to make something using at least 5 of the 8 colours. This this then broken down into categories within that. Voe has the most entries and they have lots of categories for the Colourbox, this years shades were selected from the Heritage yarn so it was really interesting to see what people made with the more traditional colours.

You have to choose an overall trophy for the Colourbox and the cardigan below was the winner, it was beautifully made and I thought the colours were expertly put together..

The Voe Show has lots of other lovely knitwear on display, from Lace to Fair Isle with everything in between. I always love to see all the skills we have in Shetland and its so inspiring to see it all together.

After I had done my judging I went around and looked at everything else, they’re is so much to see from animals to flowers and you can spend hours wandering around.. quite happily I add!

I hope you enjoyed this peerie peek into this years Voe Show, I’ll be back in a couple of days with the round up from the Cunningsburgh Show, happy knitting!