Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Jamieson & Smith, Shetland

The venerable firm of Jamieson & Smith in Lerwick, Shetland has produced a new website: Have a look at their home page and the circulating photographs at the top. The firm is known locally as 'the Wool Brokers' and our visit there is highly anticipated by group members--in fact, you could say it reaches something approaching a fever pitch!

Our first stop is in the receiving area where the farmers bring in their clip, and it is weighed and graded. Oliver Henry, known as 'the wool man' is always there to speak to us about the process of grading. There are enormous bins of different qualities of fleece and Oliver shows us how he decides if the end result should be the fine cobweb yarn or destined for a wool carpet, plus all the gradations in between. He is very obliging and well deserves his reputation as an expert.

The very helpful retail staff are there to give us advice on choosing colours and amounts for any project. Frequently, one visit isn't enough for the tour members and they often make time to go back again if not once, but several times during our five days on Shetland. The staff are also experts in mail order and for those who want to take their yarn back home with them, offer us the courtesy of bundling up the purchases and sending them to our last hotel in Glasgow, thus avoiding the luggage restrictions on our domestic Loganair flights. In fact, mail order is a speciality of the firm and several years ago they won a national postal award for their services. In the office upstairs, the phones seem to be constantly ringing with orders from around the world.

It is amazing to see their stock room with the myriad yarn colours in boxes reaching to the ceiling. J. & S. also carry the famous knitting belts, a woolly board for blocking sweaters, plus a selection of patterns and books. They carry a wide range of yarn weights and colours--from the one-ply lace weight which is used to make the treasured shawls (including the beautiful 'wedding ring shawls), through the 2-ply lace, jumper weight, to the heavier Shetland aran (formerly known as 'Brora Soft Spun'). A range of nine natural shades is found in their 'Shetland Supreme Natural' line, which comes in 2-ply lace and cobweb weights, plus a jumper weight. For spinners, there are 'Shetland Combed' tops which is in white. Have a look at their blankets--completely woven from Shetland yarns. As another option for spinners, depending on the custom import regulations where you live, it could be possible to order a fleece which Oliver will select.

More about yarns from Shetland in another post.

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