Shetland Wool Week is almost upon us! I have much to do in preparation — one pleasing task involves knitting with this lovely stuff.

This is Shetland Heritage yarn. It is the result of an exciting collaboration between the Shetland Museum and Archives, the Shetland Amenity Trust, Curtis Wool Direct, and Jamieson & Smith — the idea being to produce a modern yarn as close as possible to that which was originally used to hand-knit traditional Fair Isle garments.

Some of you may remember a post I wrote last year about this Fair Isle cardigan, that I picked up second hand.

Like most traditional Fair Isle garments produced before the 1940s, the yarn used to knit this cardigan was worsted spun. This process — in which the raw wool is combed rather than carded, then drawn short, and spun so that the fibres sit parallel to one another — produces a yarn with a smooth hand, and a very even finish. Many old Fair Isle garments have a slight ‘sheen’ that is the result of the smooth worsted yarns that have been used to knit them.

Like the vintage yarn used to knit my cardigan, the new Heritage Yarn is worsted spun.

Because of the way the fibre has been prepared and processed, this yarn has a much smoother, softer, and overall less “woolly” feel than contemporary knitter would be used to finding in other “Shetland” or Shetland-type yarns.

The palette — which is based on that of early Fair Isle garments in the Shetland Museum — works really well for traditional colourwork patterns. Just take a look at the beautiful swatch towards the end of Jen’s post here — suggesting the promise of great Jen AC things to come!

I mention this yarn, because it is one of the linchpins of this year’s Shetland Wool Week, and because I am about to knit up a something in it myself, which will hopefully form the basis of my workshop at the Shetland Museum. In the coming days, I intend to knit the something and produce a design. Then the idea is that we – the class and I – will collectively model the something, photograph the something, name the something, then upload the something in pattern form to Ravelry, live from the Shetland Museum. This plan is, of course, contingent upon my producing a successful Wool-Week something with this wonderful yarn. Wish me luck! I’m off to get knitting . . .

45 thoughts on “preparations

  1. I hope this yarn makes it to the States, because I’d love to find a yarn that could work up into something like your vintage cardigan.

    I wish could come to Wool Week this year – “Next year in Shetland” will have to be my vow.


  2. Your workshop sounds amazing! How fun to model and upload the design together and what a lovely, participatory idea for working together.

    Very interesting to read about the collaboration between the Shetland Amenity Trust, Curtis Wool Direct, Jamieson and Smith, and the Shetland Museum & Archives; I think this sort of collaboration between different stakeholders in WOOL is to be thoroughly encouraged as it really does benefit everyone involved, and results in knitting yarns with a rich and cultured provenance.

    I was thrilled when Susan Crawford and John Arbon worked together with a shepherd and at Cold Harbour Mill to produce the semi-worsted Excelana knitting yarn, because it represents a wonderful joining-up of skills along “the wool chain” between designers, professional spinners of yarn, sheep-people, and Susan’s in-depth textile knowledge.

    I love that Excelana benefits from Susan’s practical skills re: designing vintage patterns, too, and from the look of your post here it seems that Heritage Yarn is being put to fantastic use by you and Jen! It’s so awesome when everyone along the WOOL chain – from shepherds to spinning mills to museums to designers – can work together. The results just have so much depth and interest.

    I cannot wait to see what you make with this exciting yarn, and I wish I could come to your workshop! Good Luck with knitting The Something!!!


  3. Kate, thank you so much for a little taster of the treat that’s waiting for us at your workshop on Monday. Good luck with knitting your Wool Week ‘something.’ Looking forward to meeting you in Shetland.


  4. Now I understand the sudden influx of Twitter followers I had yesterday evening! :D I can’t wait to see your “something”. The colours in your Fair Isle cardigan are just beautiful – oh for another shade of blue in the Shetland Heritage…


  5. The colours are indeed beautiful! Since it’s launch I’ve been wanting to get my hands on some of this yarn. I have to order it overseas, as no yarn shop in my country carries Jamieson & Smith (I know!) but I’ve heard so mucht good reviews of this yarn, that it will be worth it!

    Good luck with your class and the something!! ;)


  6. Wishing you all the luck of course ! The yarn and the swatch at Jen’s post look smashing – can’t wait to see that something appear on Ravelry… Happy knitting to you and your class, sounds like you”ll be having some good times :-)


  7. Love this yarn. At the risk of crashing the Ravelry site, I found the pattern for the vintage fair isle cardigan on their site. This is definitely going on my bucket list.


  8. Lucky me, I am going to the Wool Week this year!! I’m writing a packing list – needles, stitch markers, camera, master card, power converter, rain coat – oh yes, passport, tickets, anything else…? Can’t wait to go :-)


  9. Best of good luck in this imaginative endeavor! In 2014, when I have retired from teaching Literature and grading endless essays, I plan to be there for Wool Week. it’s a long time to wait, but I’m excited nonetheless :-).


  10. I have brought home a few balls of the Heritage because I love worsted yarn. I was in Shetland last week and am planning to return to attend Wool Week 2013 with a friend. I hope you will be there next year, Kate. Thanks for all you. Be well. Karen


  11. No estoy segura de comprender todo lo que escribes,probablemente tu no entiendas lo que escribo yo,pero todo lo que haces es maravilloso y te sigo por el placer de ver las cosas preciosas que nos enseñas.Y por supuesto,buena suerte !!


  12. OH, a SOMETHING!!! Wonderful………the collective ‘we’ can hardly wait. Interesting re the worsted spun yarn of old……makes perfect sense.


  13. I have one skein of each color in the new Heritage, and haven’t landed on a plan for it yet. It is absolutely delightful. I am certain the something will be just what this basket of new yarns wants to become… I will really look forward to ‘something’s’ day.


  14. Thank you for giving me Wool Week to dream about, and for the clearest explanation I’ve yet read of “worsted” vs. “woolen” spun fibers. I also love history and authentic-as-possible revivals in any form, so I’m thrilled about the Shetland Heritage yarn. Thank you!


  15. oooh, looking forward to something, something, something :) :) :) btw, Martha, Churchmouse Yarns of Bainbridge in Washington State stock J & S – look for them on ravelry.


  16. Most exciting. All good things for Wool Week Kate. So looking forward to seeing ‘Something’ and your other ‘Somethings’ too. I am wishing you to design a cardigan like the beautiful old one you are wearing. There is something (oh dear) compelling about almost circular fair isle patterns.


  17. I love the yarn and its many colors. Lucky you to be knitting with it. Wonder if its available anywhere in the US? I haven’t seen it yet. Looking forward to you something!


    1. It sounds similar to Shepherd’s Wool, which is a worsted spun yarn. It’s very soft and is great for colorwork. Comes in three weights now (I believe), though my favorite is the fingering.


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