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!

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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….

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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Until next time, happy knitting!

Natalia’s Yoke

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Today we have an exciting new pattern to share, we often get asked about childs yoke cardigan patterns, much like our adult Hairst Yoke. This is one of the many kinds of patterns Shetlanders pass down generation to generation which makes it difficult to find a traditional pattern to make, but now Sandra has designed one for us!

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The cardigan is called the Natalia Yoke, named after our very cute model and Kharis’ niece. It is knit using 2ply Jumper Weight and comes in sizes 22 inches up to 28″. It is knit traditionally in the round with a steek but it also includes instructions for if you wanted to knit it flat, the relatively small size makes it a great first steeking project, and as there are only 3 different contrast shades a great first Fair Isle project too.

If you would like to order the kit for the Natalia yoke you can do so on our website here!

happy knitting!

Christmas Posting Dates

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As things begin to cool down get a bit more wintry we always see the orders getting more and more, all our yarns are made from 100% Shetland Wool so they make the perfect projects for this cold weather! You might also be thinking about yarns for presents so I thought I would give you a breakdown of the Royal Mails recommended posting dates for Christmas:

Friday 4th December: Africa, Middle East

Monday 7th December: Asia, Far East, Cyprus, Japan, Eastern Europe

Tuesday 8th December: Caribbean, Central and South America

Thursday 10th December: Australia, Greece, New Zealand

Monday 14th December: Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland

Tuesday 15th December: Canada, Finland, Sweden, USA

Wednesday 16th December: Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal, Spain

Thursday 17th December: France

Friday 18th December: United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Switzerland

As we are located approximately 200 miles off the coast of the Scottish Mainland (you’d be amazed how many people don’t realise!) and we are susceptible to the wild weather there are delays with boats and planes that are outwith our control. We try our best to get everything out as soon as we can but its worth ordering a few days before the limit to be sure. For more information on how we send out our orders see here

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We have got our tree and lights up so its looking very Christmassy in the Shop, that goes along well with the wintry showers we’ve been having!

Happy Knitting!

 

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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