lambing time

IMG_8118

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.

DSCF4284

IMG_8248

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.

DSCF4406_result

IMG_8131

DSCF4292

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.

DSCF4309

IMG_8254

DSCF4305

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.

IMG_8126

DSCF4395_result

IMG_8122

DSCF4288

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

IMG_8032

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.

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

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!

Up Helly Aa 2016

419906_10150640757649673_311634299672_11014589_45401342_n1

We will be closed this Wednesday 27/1 as its a public holiday the day after Lerwick Up Helly Aa, no orders or emails will be dealt with but we’ll be open again on Thursday as normal.

For more information about Up Helly Aa see here, and if your interested in seeing more there is a live broadcast which can be veiwed here

Three Cheers for Up Helly Aa!

Winter Woollies KAL – so far…

We are now less than a month away from the end of the Winter Woollies KAL, and we have been so pleased with the amount of orders going out all over the world!! I thought I’d share some of the finished projects so far..

To see some of the pieces people have already finished have a look at the finished objects thread in our Ravelry group here. Theres also lots of chat and discussion in the general Winter Woollies KAL thread and people are sharing some of their progress shots, you can see that here

Photos taken from the Winter Woollies KAL thread

Photos taken from the Winter Woollies KAL thread

The KAL runs until the 15th December, we are loving seeing all the things people are coming up with so keep it up! The weather has turned in Shetland and on Saturday we had our first bit of Snow, in true Shetland form it is windy and rainy today but it was nice while it lasted and we are beginning to get very thankful for our woollens at Jamieson & Smith, til next time,

Happy Knitting!

wool week friday,saturday and sunday

IMG_6735

On Friday we had another class with Felicity, this time the class were working from another set of inspiration pictures and different shades of 2 ply Jumper Weight.

IMG_6737

IMG_6738

Lots of brilliant swatches again! In the afternoon we had Deborah Gray in doing some drop spindling, we always try and offer at least one spinning class although it is tricky for the space, using the combed tops very quickly everyone was spinning away!

IMG_6751

IMG_6755

IMG_6763

All through the week Oliver was also giving his sorting and grading demonstrations which was busy as always!

IMG_6743

IMG_6758

On Saturday morning Kharis and Amy held the fort at the shop and I went for a look at the Marts Flock Book sale

IMG_6773

IMG_6778

IMG_6782

IMG_6783

IMG_6786

I then headed to the Wool Week Hub at Islesburgh Community Centre, where the Makers Market was being held

IMG_6797

IMG_6798

beautiful pouches by Julia

IMG_6806

Traditional knitting by Patricia Doull

IMG_6800

Scarves and Snoods by Fraser Knitwear

All through the week the Hub was the base for Wool Week and it worked brilliantly as there was plenty of space for people to sit and knit, spin or whatever!

IMG_6814

This map shows all the far flung places people come from to go to Shetland Wool Week, its amazing!

Yesterday to finish off the week we attended the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers Sunday Teas at Tingwall

IMG_6828

Sunday Tea’s is Shetland are a classic and they didn’t disappoint! As well as the cakes and fancy’s there was a great display of the Guild Member’s Work

IMG_6820

IMG_6826

IMG_6817

So that wraps up the J&S coverage of Shetland Wool Week 2015, it is a crazy week for us but we always enjoy it and look forward already to next year!

Happy Knitting xx