Wool and Water

Our day began with a pre-arranged trip to Jamieson & Smith, a wool broker here in Lerwick.

A wool broker is someone who takes in the raw wool from the crofters (farmers), buys it from them, grades it and sends it off to get made into yarn. Sounds simple, right? Not really. We had a nice hour and a half tour by Jan who works there.



Jamieson & Smith give the crofters the bags to put the fleeces in. Right now, there are lots of bags here as shearing mostly hasn’t begun. Fleeces will start arriving mid-June.


When the fleeces are dropped off they go into the baler. Grading is happening while baling is occurring. Grading is where the fleece is evaluated as to what kind of yarn it can become and they are sorted from super fine to grades 1-4. Two people are grading while one is baling. Graders have 15 seconds per fleece to make their decision! This is the baler.


And they look like this when finished. Weighing about 90 kilos (198 pounds), they are loaded by forklift onto trucks, ferried and trucked to a mill in Bradford, England where it is scoured (washed) and spun into various types of yarn. They process about 260 tons of raw wool each year, about 80% of the wool in Shetland.


Here Jan shows me how she grades the wool. Look how fine this is!




Jan also explained that the Shetland’s have a natural break in their fleece (they call it a rise) between shearings. After the fleece growth is past this rise, it is time to shear. This photo shows the fleece pulled apart at this natural break.


Of course a place with all this wool coming in must sell some yarn! I limited myself to a couple lace scarf patterns and yarn to make them.

We left Jamieson & Smith in the company of the family of one of our Farm Club friends, Stephany. They had generously offered to take us a few places which was nice as we had decided not to try a car hire this time.

One fun place was Burra Bears. It’s founder, Wendy, makes bears out of recycled Fair Isle sweaters and other knitted and fulled materials. They really are adorable.

Our last stop was at St. Ninian’s Isle, a small island tied to the mainland by a tombolo – a gravel bank 500 meters long. It is visible during summer months and can be walked across. Then in the winter, the waves remove all the sand and the tombolo is under water. St. Ninian’s is uninhabited with the last resident leaving in 1796. Viking treasure of 8th century silver was found buried there in 1958.

The area was beautiful and we finally had a sunny day in which to enjoy it.





Hopefully tomorrow we see some more of these!


Published in: on May 11, 2017 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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