Second post in a series about the people behind Jamieson & Smith.
Jan works in the wool store all year round. Between July to October she grades wool which comes in from over 600 local crofters and farmers. It’s a busy time and there’s never a dull moment! Over the winter Jan continues to sort fleeces as well as carry out any maintenance that needs to be done around the buildings.
It’s great to have Jan as such an integral part of the J&S team as she’s also a crofter and a beautiful knitter! When Ella and Sandra aren’t around in the shop for colour advice for a customer I have often asked for Jan’s help.
What’s the best thing about working at J&S?
“Meeting all the people who come through the big green doors who have as great a passion as I do for the Shetland breed and about what we are doing here at Jamieson & Smith. I also love telling the J&S story.”
Do you have a favourite place in Shetland?
“Shetland as a whole, all of Shetland! I am so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. It never ceases to amaze me, even through the wind and the rain. In the summer it’s mesmerising.”
How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working at J&S?
“At home with the animals in Walls – ‘Waas’ in dialect; knitting (there are always at least two things on the wires at any one time!) whether it’s lace or colourwork. I also like to be out and about when I can find the time away from croft work but I do love lambing time (March to May) and clipping (July to August).”
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!
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….
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..