Cunningsburgh Show 2015

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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..

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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

Vintage Shetland Project

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“Fashion and history intertwine in the Vintage Shetland Project as Susan Crawford recreates and explores cherished pieces from Shetland’s rich knitting heritage”

Here at Jamieson & Smith we are lucky to know and call lots of designers our friends, one of these designers is Susan Crawford. Her latest project as you probably know is the Vintage Shetland Project. In this unique book Susan will recreate and publish the patterns for a number of designs featured only in the collection of the Shetland Museum and Archives. For the past 4 years Susan has painstakingly reknit and de constructed (mentally not physically) the pieces to find out how they were made.

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photo: Susan Crawford

Susan has used crowdfunding website Pubslush to help raise the funds to publish this book herself, at the time of writing this post the amount raised is nearly double what the initial target was of £12,000 but in this last few weeks of the campaign we would encourage you to contribute if you can. For £15 you can get a digital copy of the book and for £25 you will get a signed copy of the print edition as well as a host of other goodies depending on how much you put in.

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photo: Susan Crawford

We have been trading since the 1930’s in buying wool and making yarns since the 1950’s so it is quite possible and extremely likely that a number of the pieces were knit using J&S yarns. Luckily as a part of this blog tour we are able to share some of the pieces that will be in the book. Today I’m going to talk about this piece:

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photo: Susan Crawford

This short sleeved jumper is a lovely example of a 1940’s piece of Shetland knitwear and features nice little puffed sleeves, the jumper would have been knit in the round to the oxters (armpit) and then extra stitches cast on for the neck and sleeves to allow it to be knit in the round, the back neck has also been steeked so a zip could be inserted, you can see the maker or owner has written their name on the zip tape

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I asked Susan about what she found out about the piece, she said the yarn is most likely worsted spun (like the Shetland Heritage range) especially as the gauge is quite small at 34 stitches and 34 rounds. This means the yarn is combed before its spun, resulting in a very soft but also strong yarn. As you know from our post on the heritage range we based the colours on traditional knitwear and although this piece is from a bit later than we were looking at some of the colours are still a good match:

L-R: Mussel Blue, Indigo, Berry Wine, Auld Gold and Fluggy White

L-R: Mussel Blue, Indigo, Berry Wine, Auld Gold and Fluggy White

The Indigo shade is a bit brighter than the original but as Susan pointed out the piece may have faded over time and it could have been brighter when first knit. You can see from the first picture of the whole garment how well these yarns last over time, apart from the wear under the arms the yarn is incredibly well preserved.

photo: Susan Crawford

photo: Susan Crawford

This book will be a welcome addition to anyone interested in Shetlands textile heritage, here at J&S we work very hard to keep this strong heritage alive and well so we are really excited to see the book when it comes out!

The full blog tour schedule is below so go back and have a look at some of the posts from our knitterly friends!

 

Thursday 9th July
  
Saturday 12th July
  
Monday 13th July
    
Wednesday 15th July         
  
Friday 17th July
  
Saturday 18th July
  
Sunday 19th July
   
Monday 20th July
  
Tuesday 21st July
  
Wednesday 22nd July
  
Friday 24th July
  
Saturday 25th July
  
Sunday 26th July
   
Monday 27th July
  
Wednesday 29th July
  
Friday 31st July
  
Sunday 2nd August
  
Monday 3rd August
Tuesday 4th Aug
Thursday 6th August
   
Friday 7th August

Wool Season 2015

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Yarn Series – Shetland Heritage

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Following on a few years after the successful launch of our Shetland Supreme Lace Yarns as featured in the last post, which was a joint collaboration between Jamieson & Smith, The Shetland Museum and Archives, The Shetland Amenity Trust and our parent company Curtis Wool Direct we developed the yarn we are talking about today, the Shetland Heritage Range. We were approached by Carol Christensen, Textile Curator of the Shetland Museum in 2010, to create a ‘wirsit’ worsted yarn reminiscent of some of the yarn used in their historic knitwear collection, of which some pieces date back to 1870. We were invited by Carol to view some of their collection held in the museum store at the North Staney Hill. On show was a mixture of distinct Fair Isle  ‘keps’ caps, scarves, all-overs and slipovers all laid out on tissue paper.

a piece from the museum collection.

a piece from the museum collection.

Our first impression was the distinct rich colours and how the Fair Isle patterns stood out and were crisp and well defined. Many of the articles were very old, Carol explained the yarn was hand-spun, the wool was combed and not carded, and the dyes were natural dyes. There was little or no wear visible in these garments, testifying that worsted yarn has different wearing properties than woollen spun yarns, a stronger smoother yarn, which retains its elasticity despite being washed and rewashed. We were allowed to handle these precious articles and were immediately impressed by the smooth soft handle.

a piece of Fair Isle knitting in our Heritage Yarn

a piece of Fair Isle knitting in our Heritage Yarn

Carol asked if it would be possible for us to produce a similar ‘wirsit’ worsted yarn as used in the construction of their garments. Carol said could we judge the thickness of the yarn by sight and handling the garments, a big ask to get the finished article correct. Having only worked with a woollen spun yarn and also in the days of the Gala cut, a woollen spun count system that was used by our old spinners Hunters of Brora. We settled on a 2/22.5 cut, which was a 2ply woollen spun yarn used by Hunters of Brora. This yarn would be slightly thinner than our present woollen spun yarn 2/8 nm. We passed on the images and information to Martin Curtis at Curtis Wool Direct, who put the process into action, firstly preparing the superfine Real Shetland wool, which they buy from us. Then combing and dyeing and finally having the yarns spun by one of the few remaining worsted spinners left in the U.K.

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The resulting yarn has a beautiful soft handle, much softer than traditional Shetland or Shetland type woolly yarns. It is perfect for traditional Fair Isle but becuase the yarn is slightly lighter than Jumper Weight this also means it works well for lace. Initially we launched 6 traditionally inspired shades: Indigo, Madder, Fluggy White, Peat, Auld Gold and Berry Wine. We then added Coll Black, Snaa White, Mussel Blue, Moss Green and Silver Grey to round out the palette in 2013, the non marled and matte colours give the yarn a lovely sheen when knitted which looks very traditional.

detail from the Fair Isle V-Necked Jumper kit, available here

detail from the Fair Isle V-Necked Jumper kit, available here

The yarn was described by Carol as perfect, yet again we proved that partnering with local bodys like the Shetland Museum and Archives and the Amenity Trust helps us in recreating our living past in Shetland. The finish of the yarn makes it a diverse fibre and the Coll Black colour way was used by the 2014 Jarl Squad of which Oliver our manager was a member. we have the suit on permanent display in the shop so you can see the heritage yarn used in the Kirtle, the tunic worn underneath the breastplate. You can see from our post about that day here it was a horrible rainy day but according to Oliver they didn’t feel cold!

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There is no doubting the luxury of our Heritage yarn, however most people encountering it today as well as being impressed they have not seen this type of yarn made from Real Shetland Wool, this in itself makes our job of marketing the yarn all the more difficult as it was lost in the age of time and only now has been resurrected, you can buy the Heritage yarn here.

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Yarn Series – Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight

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Hello! we are back with another post in the yarn series, this time it is the turn of Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight – a totally undyed and natural 4ply Weight Yarn. This yarn is perhaps best known in recent years for its use in the designs by Kate Davies, however we have been singing the praises of this natural woollen spun yarn for many years.

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Supreme Jumper Weight comes in a range of 9 completely undyed shades, ranging from Natural White (Shade 2001) to Yuglet (Shade 2009) The other shades are either as they are on the sheep or carefully blended from the natural wool to create a well-rounded palette.

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Historically Coloured Shetland Wool was used by knitters in Fair Isle patterning and Lace knitting like Haps before the dyed wool was available. As time went on however the Coloured wool lost its value and it became almost worthless because white fleece was easy to dye and much more uniform in texture. Up until around 1997 almost all Shetland Yarns in ‘natural’ shades were dyed to create these tones, the reason being the dye house could make it a set shade each time. This differs from our supreme range in that each batch, for example Shetland Black (shade 2005) will not be the same each time as all sheep are not the same shade. So if you plan to use this yarn its best to get all the yarn at one time, it may be quite different in the next lot!

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Another reason most of the mills have to dye or ‘add a touch of dye’ is that we at Jamieson & Smith buy roughly 80% of the entire Shetland wool clip , the majority of which is white with only a limited amount of natural coloured which we use for these our 9 shades. We need a substantial amount of natural coloured fleece in order to produce all the shades in the palette. This means we have to do a lot of hand sorting to separate the various fibre qualities and of course shades which can be found in one fleece. For more information about the Natural Wool and the Sorting process see our earlier posts here and here.

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In 1997 we began a journey to further and strengthen the value of the coloured fleece. This came about as a joint venture between Jamieson & Smith and Yarns International, a now sadly closed down business in Maryland in the USA. Betty Lindsay, a partner in the company visited J&S and was saddened when we told her that the coloured wool had little to no value. Betty vowed to do something and true to her word we set up the totally dye free range which was named Shetland 2000. She employed Ron Schweitzer to design a range of patterns using the yarns, you can see some of his designs on his Ravelry designer page here. Since then lots of desingers have found how well all the natural colours blend together, you can subtely blend them or do some quite striking patterns.

Peat Hill Waistcoat, Adult Lynsey and Karelides Cardigan, some of our current kits made using Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight

Peat Hill Waistcoat, Adult Lynsey and Karelides Cardigan, some of our current kits made using Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight

At the beginning of the post I mentioned Kate’s Sheep designs, the Sheepheid and Rams and Yowes blanket. Both these patterns are extremely popular and use all 9 shades to maximum effect, they both feature motifs of Sheep and Rams which is obviously reflected in the yarns.

IMG_5938You can order kits for these patterns here on our online shop

PicMonkey Collage IMG_5726Hopefully this post has helped you understand the work that goes into the Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight range. There a a number of crofters and farmers in Shetland who are very comitted to the coloured Shetland Sheep and we couldnt do this range without them! The coloured Shetland Wool would have been at a time one of the only ways to get different shades into your knitting, now we are extremly lucky to have so much different colours that we can use. Sometimes you cant go wrong using what nature provides us.

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til next time, Happy Knitting!

PS. we are now on instagram! search thewoolbrokers to follow us.

 

 

Knitted Wedding Dress

I’m taking a break from the Yarn series today to show you something very special which was made using one of our yarns: the 2ply Lace mentioned in a previous post in the Yarn Series. Shetland designer Sheila Fowlie is an extremely talented knitter who is well-known in Shetland for her bespoke hand knitted Shawls and Scarfs, she often gets commissions for projects and recently she was asked to knit a wedding dress for the wedding of a local couple Rebecca and John!

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

Of course we were very excited when Sheila told us about the project, and now the happy day has been we are pleased to share some photos from which Sheila has sent us. I asked Sheila some questions about knitting the dress:

  •  Were you surprised to be asked to make a knitted wedding dress?

I was, very surprised, wasn’t even sure if I could do it, but couldn’t find anybody else willing to take it on so decided to give it a go myself!

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

  •  How many hours do you think it took you from start to finish?

No idea, I gave up after 100 hours and I hadn’t even finished the bottom frill!

  •  Was it important to you to use Shetland Wool in the design?

It was very important to use Shetland Wool, as I believe it’s a superior product and is what I use in all my knitwear, unless specifically asked for something else.

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

  •  How did you go about putting together the design and was it quite complicated to do?

All I had at the start was a picture of the sort of dress the bride would like, so we began by taking some measurements and I started with the frill at the bottom after experimenting with different sized needles to get the correct tension. We had decided on three different lace patterns for the dress, one for the bottom frill – ‘willow leaf’ pattern; one for the middle bit – ‘print o’ the wave’; one for the body – ‘bird’s eye’ pattern.

I made the bottom in five panels, then sewed them together. The next bit was more complicated as I had to split the back, so that buttons could be added and therefore had to transpose the ‘print o’ the wave’ pattern to make it match on both sides of the opening. That took a few false starts and many, many swearwords before I got it right! I then grafted the middle bit to the bottom frill. From the middle and up was also quite complicated, as I had to insert darts below the bust into the ‘bird’s eye’ pattern in the front. The back had to be split to incorporate the opening and then made in two bits to join at the shoulders. I then had to attach a matching lace edge to each side from the shoulder to the waist. By the time I started the top bit I had the ‘underdress’ to copy for size, so that made it a bit easier!
(Washing the finished dress was a bit of a challenge, but that’s another story!)

I also made a 1-ply shawl to match the dress, which the bride used as her veil and a pair of matching lace ‘dags’.

Sheila the designer and Rebecca the bride.

Sheila the designer and Rebecca the bride. photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

  •  Were you pleased with the finished dress and did you enjoy the wedding?!

I was really pleased with the finished result and thought the bride looked stunning. I really enjoyed seeing her wearing it at the wedding and received lots of compliments, which was nice!

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

Rebecca and John actually live next door to us here at J&S so we were lucky enough to see Rebecca as she left on the wedding day. We are very proud to have played a tiny part in such a special garment and well done to Sheila, and of course congratulations to the happy couple!

til next time, happy knitting!

Yarn Series – 1ply Cobweb and 2ply Lace

Hello everyone and happy Friday to you all, in this post I’m going to share some information on our 1ply Cobweb and 2ply lace woollen spun yarns. As well as Fair Isle knitting Shetland is also famed for its Lace knitting. This is often attributed to Unst, one of the many islands in Shetland but it was popular all over Shetland and there are still many talented lace knitters.

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Our 1ply Cobweb yarn remains one of our best sellers as it is the main yarn bought for knitting 1ply Heriloom and Christening Shawls. As thin as thread this yarn is blended with some lambswool to enable it to be spun so fine, and this results in very fine crisp stitches in lace knitting. We have it in the 4 shades seen above, white is the biggest seller as it creates timeless traditional items like this shawl designed by Gladys Amedro:

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It was in 1977 Jamieson & Smith first asked Gladys Amedro to help provide them with fine lace patterns. Gladys had moved to Yell and in Burravoe she became close friends with with the late Nellie Tulloch, a native Shetlander whose knowledge of Shetland knitting was bred in her bones and she taught the skills to Gladys. Her first design using 1ply Cobweb was published in the Women’s Realm in 1978, many other designs followed including a Christening Robe and Shawl commissioned by Womens Own in 1988 to celebrate the birth of Princess Beatrice, the designs (still available from us as kits here and here) incorporated the Rose of York and an Anchor, to represent the babys Mother and Father. The result of this design led to Jamieson & Smith placiong such a large yarn order for Cobweb that it was queried in case an extra digit had been added..

the next stage thicker is the 2ply Lace Yarn:

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Currently available in over 20 shades our 2ply Lace yarn can also be used in any pattern calling for 3ply Yarn, making it a perfect yarn for Vintage patterns. Like the cobweb it is also blended with Lambswool to give it some added strength. Having the yarn slightly thicker than the 1ply means it gives a bit of substance to lace patterns but also means it will keep you warm in a scarf or stole.

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Perfect for making a lighter weight hap, or a heavier weight shawl 2ply Lace is the medium ground between 1ply and our 2ply Jumper Weight. The different shades we offer and carefully shaded meaning they are just right for blending in Cockleshell or New Shell lace scarves or even this: The Circular Shaded Shawl

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We’ll be back next week with another look at one of our ranges, until then have a good weekend!

(just a note Monday is a bank Holiday in the UK so any orders posted wont be sent til Tuesday)

Ella x