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.
Hello everyone, we had a lovely day at the Cunningsburgh Show on Wednesday so I thought I’d share some pictures. Derek and Oliver were down to judge the raw Wool and I came to judge the Colourbox Competition:
You will know by now that every year we choose 8 colours of Jumper Weight which is then used by knitters to create Fair Isle garments and accessories – this year there was also a miscellaneous category which included the blanket you can see in second photo. There were lots of entries again and as always it was extremely hard to judge. The garments were also a very high standard and its amazing how different each one can look using the same colours!
As I was waiting for Amanda and Janet (seen judging the gloves) to finish their bit so we could decide on the trophy winners I took some pictures of the other knitwear. There is always some lovely stuff entered and the lace in particular was very beautiful. At the Cunningsburgh Show you can enter no matter where in Shetland you live so there is always a wide range of entries.
So once we had done our bit I went for a wander around and saw all the other things on show, as has been the case the last couple of years it was a lovely day so it was great to go around and see all the animals and other entries:
So tomorrow me (Ella) and Sandra will be heading to Waas for our final Show visit of the season – phewf! there are still a couple more but these (at the moment) are the only ones with the Colourbox Competition. We hope you enjoy seeing the pictures!
Hello everyone, just a quick post today to show you the new colours we have just got in stock in The Croft wool, you may remember last year we launched the Shetland Tweed yarn which was a group of speckled shades produced in partnership with West Yorkshire Spinners:
The raw wool (of which we purchase over 80% of Shetlands Wool clip) is bought from us and WYS dyes and spins the wool into this yarn. The speckled shades have been very popular and they have just released these 12 new solid shades:
Alongside the yarns a pattern collection has also been released featuring 14 designs by Sarah Hatton. The patterns contain a nice mix of adult and childrens garments and accessories. To see the designs in the book click here. We have also got in stock more of the original Croft Book for the Speckled shades also designed by Sarah.
As you know we put together a lot of colour combinations in our day to day world here at J&S and we couldnt resist putting some together in the new colours:
The yarn is decribed as an Aran weight but we would use it more as a DK/Light Aran but of course swatch and ensure you like the guage you get, you can see all the Croft Wool on our website here.
hello everyone, a quick post today about a new version we have of one of our classic patterns, the Brora Black Cobweb Shawl is another one of Gladys Amedro many Shetland 1ply Shawls which Jamieson & Smith released in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. This pattern was released in 1991 and like all of Gladys patterns was written rather than charted – but recently we had a customer, Heather, who had re charted the pattern for herself and allowed us to use her charts for a charted version of the pattern.
It features lots of tree motif’s – you see a lot of trees in Shetland knitting considering we don’t have very many..! They are often seen in Fair Isle in yokes as you can decrease incredibly successfully around them as you can see here in the Hairst Yoke:
For the type of shawls that this one is the tree motif is quite apt as it is often known as the Tree of Life. There are a number of similar motif’s in Heirloom Knitting by Sharon Miller and they are described as such, a 1ply shawl is also used as a christening shawl and they were/are given to a new baby as a present or to be wrapped around them at their Christening.
This shawl is quite unusual as it was knit in Black, most are made in white but this was also seen to be able to be used as an evening shawl. Regarding the construction you first knit the border to create the scallops then pick up the stitches and work each triangle 4 times at the same time gradually decreasing as you get towards the centre. This means at the end there is no sewing to be done except your ends!
If you would like to knit your own Brora Black we have added the charted pattern kit to the online shop – you can choose to knit it in Cobweb 1 ply available in White and Black or Shetland Supreme 1 ply Available in 5 natural shades and Optic White (Optic is currently out of stock but we are hoping to have it mid August) if you want to know more about the merits of choosing a woollen spun yarn versus a worsted have a look at this post.
We are planning to work our way through many of our written patterns and translate them to also be available as a charted one too, so we hope you like it!
PS.. we recently got some new peerie project bags you can see them here
The tricky part about working with Natural shades is that of course they are different every time depending on the amount and colours of a Shade we take in the Woolstore. I thought the below picture sums it up quite well – I found this fleece in the woolstore and you can see the 4 different colours which are all found in it!
We try to keep the shades as similar as we can but Nature is as Nature does so they can be quite different so for a limited time we are welcoming Dark Fawn into the Heritage Naturals range – it bridges the gap between Fawn and Moorit so well we have decided to get it on ball as well as on cone. It also has a grey undertone so works well with the grey shades too – the coloured Shetland Wool is so precious we couldn’t let this colour go to waste!
You can see here it alongside Fawn and together with the other shades:
This means they are more blending possibilities within the Shetland Heritage Naturals range and we cant wait to see what people do with it! The possibilities for lace and fair isle are endless when you add it in with our Dyed Heritage range…
Hello everyone! we hope your enjoying your Monday, just a quick post today to remind you about Woolfest! we have had lots of lovely weather the past couple of weeks here in Shetland but we have started organising all the lovely Shetland Wool we will be taking down with us to Cockermouth.
We will of course have all our ranges of yarn – from 1ply up to Chunky including the full palette of 2ply Jumper Weight and a small selection of kits for things like the Merrie Dancers Toorie. If there is anything in particular you think we should take with us please leave it in the comments below and we will try to make room in the van.
So you can find us on stall J210 and J211, for more information about the event have a look at the show website here
We had a great time last year so we are looking forward to our trip again and seeing lots of you in Cumbria in a couple of weeks!
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.
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.