Saturday, 19 October 2013

Shetland Wool Week

I just spent an amazing week in Shetland attending the fourth annual Shetland Wool Week. I first heard of this event celebrating Shetland's textile industry and sheep last year and decided I had to go; fortunately one of my knitting friends was equally determined, so we were able to share a cottage and costs.

As it turned out, I spent rather more time exploring the natural beauty of Shetland than participating in wool week events, but I did manage to visit a number of wool shops and factories. Before our trip I informed my husband that I wasn't planning on buying a lot of yarn, because I can get the two main brands of Shetland wool, Jamieson's of Shetland and Jamieson & Smith* from my local yarn stores here in Oxford. He was skeptical, with good reason.

The overwhelming abundance of wool was irresistible, and I came away with over 30 balls of yarn! Fortunately Shetland wool is relatively inexpensive, so I didn't have to spend a fortune. And 10 of those balls are reserved for a sweater for my husband, so he can't complain.

The Jamieson & Smith store is conveniently located in the main city of Lerwick, but I wasn't entirely convinced by their colours, so I picked up a full range of their undyed wools.

Piles of sheep fleeces in a range of natural colours

Some of the skeins I will use to knit a colour work jumper for my husband (with Shetland appropriate Viking-inspired designs) and some I am knitting up into Kate Davie's sheep heid hat.

The perfect souvenir of sheepy Shetland

Jamieson's of Shetland is located on the more remote western side of the main island. During the drive there I soaked up the scenery.

Shetland, where you encounter more sheep than people

When we arrived in the shop in Sandness (attached to the factory where they spin the yarn and make knitted garments) I decided to try to replicate the colours of the landscape we had just passed through.

Jamieson's offers a mind-boggling range of colours

Jamieson's spindrift (fingering or 4-ply weight) comes in over 220 different colours, many of them with Scotland-inspired names like peat, lichen, moorland and grouse.

From top: Yell Sound blue, grouse, Shetland black, spagnum,
bracken, lichen, copper, peat, moorland, fog

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all these colours, but maybe it is about time get serious about designing something of my own. Maybe after my husband's jumper.... Our 10 year anniversary is coming up in February, which should give me just about enough time to complete the mammoth task of finally knitting a man's jumper!

* Rumour has it that these two rival companies are run by estranged members of the same family, but I have not yet heard this confirmed by a reliable source, and as half the population of Shetland seems to be named Jamieson, they could just as easily be unrelated.