Shetland and Yorkshire

I’ve had a few queries about yesterday’s post . . . Jules asked a good question about the relationship between Shetland and Yorkshire, so I thought I’d explain. Jamieson and Smith and the Real Shetland Company exist under the same umbrella. You might have read Oliver Henry’s Wovember post (if you haven’t, do go and have a look) – – Oliver is the linchpin of this relationship. The crofters bring their fleeces to Jamieson & Smith (who, on the Shetland islands, are simply known as “The Woolbrokers”), where Oliver sorts the wool into its different grades. . .


(Oliver Henry, sorting Shetland wool)

After hand sorting, the wool goes on a trip to West Yorkshire (the heart of the British wool industry), to be processed at the Haworth scouring plant that I mentioned yesterday.


YORKSHIRE: wool’s own country.

While the finer grades of Shetland are set aside to make up Jamieson & Smith’s flagship yarns, such as the Supreme laceweight, or jumperweight, that I used for my Rams & Yowes blanket, the lower grades are used for the blankets, rugs, carpeting, and mattresses now produced by the Real Shetland Company. What is great about all of this is that nothing is wasted, and that ultimately, this great range of wool products goes back to supporting the sheep on the Shetland hill, and the crofters that raise them.


(Shetland rams at Lunna Farm)

At a time when many British sheep fleeces aren’t worth the price of the shearing, and are simply being burnt or discarded, what Jamieson and Smith and the Real Shetland Company are doing is to be loudly applauded. I come into the equation simply because I love their wool, I like what they do, and I am proud to support the skills of someone like Oliver — because, in the end, it is these skills (along with the sheep, of course) that enable my enjoyment in my work as a knitter and designer.

Anyway, I’ve also had a few emails and rav messages from some of you who were unable to apply the discount I mentioned – if you contact Adam at the Real Shetland Company (adam@realshetland.com) and tell him which blanket you’d like, he will apply the discount and sort things out for you.

18 responses

  1. Thanks for this Kate. I commend you for your support of these industries and how it encourages other to do so also! Some J & S jumperweight is on my wishlist! As a child I lived next door to the Avoca Handweavers Mill in Ireland, and while the company now exists in another form, the smell of real wool always brings me back to my childhood.

  2. For some time I worked for one of the directors of Haworth Scouring Company – another link between Shetland and Yorkshire!

  3. Dear Kate,
    Thank you for both your lovely patterns and all the knowledge that you are sharing with us about the history and traditions of the wool and knitting industries. I know that you have ended your official role as a professor but have you ever thought of offering an online course? You could continue to educate and inspire—give mini lectures, assign (suggest) readings, share maps, photos, patterns….
    Just a thought.

  4. Thanks for explaining this Kate. I’ve been using Jamieson & Smith yarn since the 80s and had no idea that Yorkshire, the county I live in, played a part in its production.

  5. Kate, I have been reading your blog for a while, but never really comment. I learn SO MUCH from your writings about fiber, knitting and textiles. I agree with Mary Power above! Thank you for being such a great educator. I am from the US and you have inspired me to think about where my wool comes from. Once I get some WIPs off the needles I want to take the plunge and use some real shetland wool to make a “proper jumper.”

  6. Maybe at some point you could help us all understand the difference between J & S and Jamieson’s (as in Spindrift) which is my favorite yarn. What’s the story with that? I love all that you are doing with your promotion of wool. There’s nothing like it.

  7. Your latest design is gorgeous. Very tempted to ask for the pattern and wool for my birthday. That would mean admitting to people how much wool costs though… I did a spinning course last year and was looking at potentially buying some exciting fibre to spin. It turns out there’s a nice shop in Huddersfield (Yorkshire) where I went to college. Might have to go investigate next time I visit my parents:

    http://www.worldofwool.co.uk/natural_wool_tops_and_fleeces.php

  8. Thanks so much for expanding on your last post- really interesting and bloody great to hear that there is a solid use for the lesser grade fleeces. Much similarity with the situation here in Australia where the cost of shearing and processing fleeces is often more than they are worth- crazy!

    I agree with Mary Rowe that, in addition to your writing and designing, if you were interested in putting together an online course combining your skills as teacher, writer, knitter and designer, lots of us knitters would be keen to take part!.

  9. Thank you for your always-informative, always lovely posts!
    I have some shetland (grown here in the US) roving all cleaned up and waiting its turn at my spinning wheel, here in Atlanta, GA. Looking forward to getting my hands on this beautiful, foggy grey stuff.

  10. Great information, thanks for sharing. I am from Yorkshire and always loved wool, i used to buy sweaters knitted by the ¨friends of Yorkshire¨ people. I was really shocked when i read an article about the price of wool paid to the farmers and commend the people like yourself who are supporting the wool industry!
    Nowadays i live in Buenos Aires and my pasion for wool has continued here where i knit, weave and felt with local wool. I wish i could do something to support the British wool industry… if anyone has any ideas please do let me know…..

  11. Would it be wrong to plan a trip to Scotland with the primary purpose being visiting a bunch of sheep farms – or would it be so, so right? :) I love your photos of Mr. Henry and his wool.

  12. I was born and bred in West Yorkshire, from a long line of knitters and, (further back in time), spinners and mill owners all from West Yorkshire. Wool and knitting is in my blood. If I don’t knit everyday, I don’t feel right! :-) A great deal is often written and publicised about the wool and knitting industry of the Shetland Isles. But rarely of West Yorkshire’s history and current struggling industry. I was so pleased to read your info on Yorkshire and particularly West Yorkshire. More please!!!

  13. Is there a reason, other than maybe personal, that you do not mention Jamieson´s yarn company also situated in Shetland as they also carry DK weight which J&S does not have?

    • yes – simply that they aren’t the same company!

      The purpose of this post was to explain the connection of the ‘Real Shetland Company’ (a Yorkshire based business) to Jamieson & Smith, and explain their involvement in the processing of the Shetland wool clip. Jamieson’s is a completely different company, whose yarn is processed differently, and so they lie outside the scope of this post. It may be worth pointing out that I also like and recommend Jamieson’s yarn – for example in my ‘dollheid’ design.

      • Thank you for taking the time to answer. I think my question came about as I often see Jamieson´s mentioned by US people but rarely by UK or other European knitters. J&S on the other hand is often mentioned and then in very positive wordings. If it should be within your scope someday it would be interesting to learn more about Jamieson´s processing vs J&S as it is important to support and value those that process the shetland sheep fleece in a good way. How about encouraging J&S to take up DK weight again as so many items are using sport/DK?

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