Fair Isle Designs from Shetland Knitters Vol. 1

In March the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers released their latest book of patterns – Fair Isle Designs from Shetland Knitters Vol 1. The book contains 15 original patterns by designers and knitters in the Guild and based at the time of writing in Shetland. It’s an inspiring group of patterns ranging from small items up to garments and features a good range of adult and children’s items:

Seaness Phone Cover by Irene Copperwheat, Quarwall Triangular Shawl by Lauretta Robertson and Quarry Hat and Mitten Set by Alice Pottinger
Clover Brimmed Hat by Ina Irvine, Jemina Hot Water Bottle/Ipad cover by Wilma Couper and Kae Waistcoat by Susan Johnson

When you think of Shetland knitting the most common weight of yarn used is what we call Jumper Weight – a woollen spun 4ply weight yarn available in lots of colours which make the shading of colourwork pop, these patterns in the book either use our 2ply Jumper Weight or Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight:

Sandison Yoked Jumper by Hazel Tindall and Pole Star Mittens by Joan Poleson
Meenie Wristwarmers by Barbara Cheyne and Hvarfi Gloves by Pearl Johnson
Snow in Kergord Mittens by Outi Kater

There are also three patterns in the book which use our Shetland Heritage yarn, both dyed and natural. The Shetland Heritage is slightly lighter weight than Jumper Weight. As it is Worsted Spun the yarn has a softness and drape which makes it perfect for people who find Shetland Wool slightly itchy – the Vailima Cardigan and Frances Frilly Pixie are both for children which the heritage is great for. The Tangwick Tank top in the Natural Heritage is a lovely lightweight top perfect for warmer days but also for layering in the colder months (more often than not in Shetland!)

Vailima Cardigan by Ruby Williamson
Tangwick Tank Top by Sara Leith
Frances Frilly Pixie Hat by Linda Shearer

Congratulations to the Guild on the publication of the new book, you can purchase it here on our website and we look forward to seeing Volume 2!

Happy Knitting!

Shetland and Shetland Type

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.

Happy knitting!

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.

The Vintage Shetland Project

Hello everyone, today I thought I’d share some pictures and information about the above book ‘The Vintage Shetland Project’ by Susan Crawford which recently came out and uses J&S yarns for a number of the patterns. The book has been many years in the making:

‘The Vintage Shetland Project, is the culmination of eight years of hard work and personal determination. Inspired by the patterns and colours of Shetland knitting, the fashion historian, author, designer and publisher Susan Crawford began a journey into the rich heritage of Shetland knitwear, and in particular the pieces held in the Shetland Museum archive. With the help of Dr Carol Christiansen, the museum’s curator, Susan undertook the task of carefully selecting the most stunning and original designs from the 1920s to the 1950s, transcribed them stitch by stitch, and has here recreated them for the modern knitter, in stunning detail and a range of sizes for women and men. In combination with the collection of 27 comprehensive patterns for garments and accessories are carefully researched essays exploring the stories behind each piece and honouring their creators – some famous, some forgotten. Photographed by Susan on the island of Vaila, situated off the west coast of Shetland, this book also celebrates the untameable beauty of Shetland itself. Compiled with Susan’s trademark attention to detail, this book is a fabulous treasury of Shetland knitting design and a valuable insight into its textile traditions. It offers you the chance to delve into a fascinating era for knitwear design and to bring it to life in stitch-perfect vintage style.’

Sandra and Me (Ella) can remember helping Susan to match up colours at Wool Week in 2013 and its so exciting to see the final book, it is almost half and half history and essays to patterns. The essays focus on many different aspects of Shetland textiles but also focus on specific story’s, people and pieces of knitwear, it’s the kind of book you can dip in and out of but still feel you’ve learnt something! The patterns of course take up a large proportion of the book and focus on unusual or special items which the originals are housed in collections at the Shetland Museum and the Shetland Textile Museum.

left: Highland knit in Shetland Supreme 2ply Lace
right: Margaret knit in 2ply Jumper Weight
photos: Susan Crawford
Munro knit in 2ply Jumper Weight
Photos: Susan Crawford
Petrie knit in 2ply Jumper Weight
Photos: Susan Crawford
Ralph knit in 2ply Jumper Weight and Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight
Photos: Susan Crawford

Unfortunately in the time between the samples and the book being published one of the shades in the Ralph Jumper has been discontinued and finished, the shade is 61 but you could use shade 78 instead.

Suffragette and Twageos knit in 2ply Jumper Weight
Photos: Susan Crawford
Yule knit in Shetland Heritage
Photos: Susan Crawford
left: Vaila knit in Shetland Heritage and Shetland Supreme 2ply Lace right: Peerie Clews knit in 2ply Jumper Weight
Photos: Susan Crawford

And when the Vaila was knit we didn’t have Shetland Heritage in Natural shades so it uses Supreme 2ply Lace Held doubled in Moorit but you can use Shetland Heritage Naturals in Moorit instead.

Harriet knit in 2ply Jumper Weight Photos: Susan Crawford

We are so pleased that so many of the patterns can be knit using our yarns, we have been a yarn producer since the 1960’s and a Wool Broker since the 1930’s so some of the original items may have come from wool handled by J&S which is pretty cool!

There is a good range of patterns in the book including both Fair Isle and Lace and garments and accessories so there is something for everyone interested in Shetland Textiles. Of course the creators of the original garments never made them to be multi sized so the amount of work which has gone into sizing and grading the patterns is amazing.

Unfortunately due to the weight of the book we are not able to sell it on the online shop (its above our contract weight for a single parcel) but you can buy it in the UK from both Ysolda and Susan herself, we have it in the shop so if you are in Shetland or will be visiting you can pick up a copy in Lerwick.

To see more of the patterns in the book and more information visit Susans website, Congratulations Susan on the publication of the Vintage Shetland Project!

Happy Knitting 🙂

New Colours KAL update

Hi Guys, happy Monday! I thought I’d do a quick post to share some of the finished objects that are starting to come in for the New Colours KAL. You may remember from my initial post that to enter the KAL you have to knit something using at least 3 of the newly brought back shades..

1282, 16, FC21, 90 and 32

To make it a bit easier though you can also use as many other colours of Jumper Weight as you like! We are just under a month away from the end of the KAL so I am hoping to see a few more Finished Objects, we have had a lot of orders for the shades so I think thats a good sign. The ones that have come in so far though are fabulous!

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The ability to add other shades means each item can be so different but I love to see the common thread (pardon the pun) running through them.. So if you are knitting away on an entry I hope this encourages you to reach the end and if your still debating getting involved I would say there is plenty of time! If you are in the UK and you order it should arrive in 2/3 working days and if you are based outside the UK have a look at our stockists page, many of the Wholesalers have already purchased the new shades.

Remember to share your project on the Finished Objects thread for the KAL in our Ravelry group – Happy Knitting!

Eva Smith

We are saddened to announce that Jamieson & Smith former co-owner Eva Smith passed away this weekend, Eva and her brother the late Jim Smith took over the running of the family company in 1969 after the passing of the company’s founder, their father the late John ‘Sheepie’  Smith.

Brought up on Berry Farm Scalloway Eva had a great love and passion for all aspects of farm life both at Berry and their farm at Pitmeden, Dyce, and Aberdeenshire. Eva was well-known for her work with Aberdeen Angus cattle and her great love of Shetland Ponies. Berry stud book was renowned for its breeding of special miniature ponies,  Eva in particular was much sought after as a judge in this field and became the youngest judge of her era to judge the Royal Highland Show as seen in the photo above.

Combined with all her hard physical work on the land Eva was sent out by her father to purchase Shetland wool from Shetland crofters and farmers and take it back home to Berry Farm where it provided work for the farm labourer plus Jim & Eva in the winter months.

With the expansion of the wool handling business in 1952 and its move to Lerwick, Eva became more involved in the running of their company and along with their manager Gilbert Johnston was responsible in having the Shetland sorted wool they bought contract spun into knitting yarns at Hunters of Brora in the Scottish Highlands.

Eva was a keen and active knitter and like many Shetland ladies produced her own designs, her understanding helped greatly in the progress of the company moving forwards and establishing Jamieson & Smith as the leading suppliers of Real Shetland knitting yarns in its field built up on the Berry philosophy of trust, respect and humbleness.

At the age of 75 and Jim 81 they decided to retire from the textile trade and concentrate on running both their farms selling the company on to the main buyers of the Shetland wool clip: Curtis Wool Direct in 2005.

Eva was a very private person and resolute in achieving her aims in both her careers as a farmer and wool merchant and even up to her final days was giving out orders and advice as to how J&S should be run, still a passionate and caring person to the end.

We shall all miss her greatly.

Oliver Henry

Eva with her parents John and Florence
Eva and Prince Charles at the Millennium Show, Eva receiving the price for Supreme Champion.
Jim and Eva, photo by Elaine Tait
Eva and Major Walters from Hunters of Brora

Oliver’s Ewan Sweater

Hello everyone! Just a quick post today to show you the jumper Sandra has made for Oliver using our Croft – Shetland Tweed yarn which we launched last year together with West Yorkshire Spinners..

Sandra made Ollie the Ewan Sweater from the Croft – Shetland Tweed pattern book, it contains 14 designs by Sarah Hatton all to be made using the Croft Yarn. The Ewan Sweater is one of two patterns for Mens jumpers in the book and there is a nice selection of other jumpers and cardigans for Women as well as some accessories. Oliver decided on the Boddam colourway for his jumper and I think it looks great!

Sometimes with a very flecked or speckled yarn its hard to imagine how the wool will knit up but this shows how the speckles really work well with the texture and cables in the pattern. Sandra likes to knit in the round as much as she can but she chose to follow the pattern and knit Oliver’s jumper in pieces, the Croft yarn has a good drape and can grow a bit when its washed so a big project like this is best worked in pieces for stabilitly.

I think Oliver is pleased with his Jumper!

You can see the Croft Shetland Tweed yarn on our website here and the pattern book here, you can also see more of the patterns in the book here. I would suggest looking through the projects made with the yarn on Ravelry too, there are some great ones!

Happy Knitting!

EYF and Merrie Dancers

Hello everyone! We are back from a very successful and busy weekend away at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Me (Ella) and Kharis headed down to the capital last week and spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday selling all the Shetland wool to all the knitters!

I didnt get many photos because we we so busy – A great problem to have of course but it means not many pictures for you, we are so pleased with how it went so we hope any of you who bought from us enjoyed yourselves too! We have posted all the orders we took at the show today so if you placed an order its on its way to you now, EYF is now also the place where the Shetland Wool Week hat and patron is announced so this year Elizabeth Johnston of Shetland Handspun is this years patron and her Merrie Dancers pattern is this years hat, we have already seen lots of projects popping up on Ravelry and lots of people were buying the yarn for it at the show.

photo pinched from shetlandwooladventures

So if you would like to pick up a kit for the hat you can do so here, we will try and include a copy of the pattern if we can but you can download it here.

I put together a little video of our trip away, so you can see our journey to Edinburgh and get an idea of how busy it was on the J&S stand, we had a great time away 🙂 happy knitting!