Over the hills to Sandness

So having stocked up with yarn and fleece at J&S, yesterday we went over the hills to Sandness, heading for  Jamieson’s mill.

Woolly life in Shetland is definitely more complicated than it could be, due to the names of the two main yarn companies!!  Jamieson and Smith is one; Jamieson is the other.  Jamieson and Smith is basically the same as Shetland Wool Brokers, and is generally called J&S.  Jamieson’s (pronounced Jimmy-son) is a different company.  J&S do 2 ply jumper weight as their main 4 ply/fingering weight;  Jamieson’s does Spindrift.

(And as you are going to ask, both companies produce excellent yarns, and I use both.  They are not the same – they do feel different.  Of the  fingerings, I prefer J&S yarn but Jamieson’s have a wider colour palette….  For lace knitting, J&S have much the better yarns, while for arans, Jamieson have a wider colour range.  J&S tops are fantastic for spinning as well as dyeing and felting.  Jamieson’s carded fibre is coloured and great for felting, but doesn’t spin well.)

Jamieson have their spinning mill over on the ‘West Side’, about 25 miles from Lerwick.  The drive over is spectacular in all weathers – sun, rain, fog….  I have done them all!  This time it was a bit windy, but not gales, and a bit rainy, but not constant.

Once you are out of Lerwick and beyond Weisdale, the road gets narrower, first with sections of single track, and then beyond the turning for Walls, all narrow single track with passing places.  There are several miles without habitation, just peat with stony outcrops and shallow bits of water which dry up if there is no rain for a bit.  Sheep live here, but not much else.

Sandness road

Then you start to come down off the hill to the west coast, with its border of (relatively) good, green farmland, and the village of Sandness.

Jamieson’s not only spin their yarn at the mill but they also make garments from that wool and do some of the finishing there.  (The rest is done in Lerwick.)  As the knitting machines sometimes drop a stitch, or go wrong in others ways, they have scrap pieces which they sell for felting or whatever.  They also have carded ‘remains’ for felting.  This is what we had come for.

We are, as they say, not disappointed!  A huge great box of knitted bits for foraging in.  It is always pot luck as to whether they have any, and if they do, what colours.  This time we had plenty of choice.  We were given a big black plastic sack and told to get on with it.  We did!!

Liz at Jamieson's mill

Katherine and I shared one bag quite happily.  These ‘mistakes’ used to be waste, but since Burra Bears came on the scene, there has been a trend towards using the pieces for a variety of projects.  Very eco-friendly, and fun…

I also wanted some of their carded remains.  This is not nice for spinning, but great for felting.  I have several colours at home and wanted more for use in workshops next year.  Again I was lucky – they had some lovely colours.

Once we got back to the flat, we emptied the bag onto the floor and picked out our own:

Jamieson's scraps

Now all I have to do is get it all in my case….


7 thoughts on “Over the hills to Sandness

  1. What a fabulous day! Oh, but I wish I could join you in real life! Rummaging through those remnants must be even better than playing in a pile of leaves or a snowpile because of the continued joy of your discoveries. I’m so grateful you are sharing this here, though.

  2. Liz, can you clarify something for us Americans? Are all the fleeces used by both bills strictly from Shetland sheep, or are there other breeds of sheep on Shetland that are also used? I must say the millspun “Shetland” wool I’ve fondled in yarn stores was disappointingly un-soft.

    1. Moot point!! And not easy to answer…

      As far as J&S goes, they only use the two 2 grade (Very Fine and Fine) in their wools. They take in other breeds, but these do not have the fine wool so don’t go in to the yarns.

      Remember that the Shetland wool is then processed commercially by both companies, and the process does break the staples. The balled wool also has some spinning oils in it, and doesn’t come into its own until washed.

      Dyed wool will also be less soft than the undyed – the J&S Supreme range of undyed wools is much softer in the ball than the dyed.

      But Shetland wool will never be as soft as, say, merino. Just as merino will never have the bounce and life of Shetland.


  3. What a fun thing to do and much better than throwing “junk” away. Interesting info on the mills also. Thanks for sharing with us. I just bought your pierowall vest pattern and am very impressed with the detailed instructions,looking forward to making it when I finish my Starmore”Tara”.

  4. Ah, but compared with Australia Liz the Shetlands are positively over-populated! Confirmed yarn addicts were travelling 250 miles and more to the Craft Fair this weekend and then turning around and doing the same home again – all in one day.
    What any of us will do for fibre!

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