Shetland: Burra Bears and Jamieson’s

ETA: Please note that the spinning mill “Jamieson’s of Shetland” is a different company than “Shetland Woolbrokers/Jamieson & Smith” aka “Jamieson & Smith” aka “J&S”. I will return to J&S later.

Writing about all of the places I tell you about in this post would make a very heavy post with far too many photos. So I decided to give you links instead. Hope you don’t mind!

I was in northern Sweden in August 2015, meeting up with Swedish spinning and knitting friends for a weekend together. I showed photos from my first trip to Shetland in 2010, and all of a sudden some of us were planning a trip to Shetland Wool Week in 2016! In the end only Kerstin from Sweden and I from Finland were able to go, but others joined in: my friends Sarah Jane from US and Veronica from UK who were also in Shetland in 2010, and Malin and her husband Urban from Sweden. We booked Fort Charlotte Self Catering in the centre of Lerwick in September 2015. Before leaving Shetland in October 2016 we heard it was already booked for Wool Week 2017.

I went to Orkney on Wednesday 21st, and flew to Shetland on Saturday 24th. Four of my friends met me at Sumburgh airport. We then drove to Jarlshof to have a look at the Viking site, but as it was closed we went on to Hoswick Visitor Centre for tea and coffee, and then to Lerwick.



In the Hoswick Visitor Centre we saw this small Shetland spinning wheel. We saw many more of the same kind during the following week. Wheels like this have been used for spinning yarns for lace and sweaters in Shetland. There are still handspinners who know how to spin Shetland wool into the super thin lace yarns.


The Shetland Wool Week Opening Ceremony was a grand show with live music, a fashion show with garments made by renowned Shetland designers, good food and drink. Here’s Nielanell on stage. She designs garments that work like magic: they fit all types of figures.


And then all of a sudden the Guizer Jarl and his Squad marched in! The handsome “Vikings” with their thoroughly made costumes and friendly behaviour were well appreciated and much admired. No one was hurt or killed… Find out more about the fire festival here: Up Helly Aa. You can also watch it live, next year on Tuesday 21st January 2017. The Viking influence is strong in Shetland even without the Jarl Squad, and for a Swedish speaking tourist like me Old Norse is obvious in many place names and in the Shetland dialect.



Kerstin rapidly got used to driving on the left side of the curvy and narrow roads. She kept murmuring “vänster, vänster, Kerstin vänster” in the roundabouts and crossroads (Swedish “vänster” meaning “left” in English”). Following that rule she took us to Burra Bears and Jamieson’s Mill during the first two days.

The crossroad to Houss and Burra Bears. Stonewalls are one of the most common sights in Shetland.


I bought a bear from Burra Bears. I couldn’t get one to fit into my luggage the last time, but now this sheep-bear sits beside me in my spinning room.


The Burra Bears studio is beautifully situated in Houss on East Burra, with sheep grazing on the hill slopes, and with the firth (I hope this is the right word for the bay between East and West Burra) on the west side. I didn’t take photos in the workshop, but here’s one from outside:



Jamieson’s of Shetland produces yarn from Shetland wool. Kerstin and I walked through the mill with it’s big, clean, impressive machines. They also wash and dye wool, but we didn’t see that part of the mill. We had no guide because we weren’t able to book the official tour, but it was still interesting to se the mill. Here Kerstin is trying to choose yarns from the shelves in the shop:


Jamieson’s also produce Shetland knits:


From a hand spinner’s view this looks impressive:


… and complicated…


Jamieson’s also produce weaving yarn:


We had time to drive down to the beach near Jamieson’s, where you can see Papa Stour, one of the biggest islands in the Shetland archipelago. There’s a small church and a church yard, beautifully situated by the sea.



Scalloway is a small town near Lerwick. We drove there on the way home from Burra Bears. We wanted to see the castle, but just like Jarlshof it was closed. Maybe next time… It seems I have to go to Shetland at least once more to see everything that was closed 🙂


New houses in Scalloway are often build from wood, which hasn’t been usual in the treeless Shetland.



Back in Lerwick the stairs up to the self catering almost killed us…


But once you’d gone through that ordeal, you could rest in a comfortable, clean and well equipped apartment.



  1. ElaineChicago.

    Hi, Barbro, is there a “trick” to spinning Shetland wool? I have a few pounds lounging around waiting for me to spin it. I envy you your great trip!!

    • Barbro Heikinmatti

      Not that I know of. Only the usual test spinning to decide what kind of Shetland wool you have. The finer the wool, the finer you spin. The finest shawl yarns are 2-ply and as thin as ordinary sewing thread. The jumper weight yarns are spun thicker from coarser fibers. And then there are the double coated fleeces, where you first decide whether you will separate the fibers, or prepare and spin them together. Also, in each case, you decide the draft: woollen or worsted.

  2. Susan

    I love all the links you send, makes perfect sense. I saw Up Helly Aa this year on the computer and I totally understand the “vänster” but after living there for several years I was say to myself “RIGHT” ! Scary going around corners haha what a great trip and that wall of yarn in J&S would make a strong woman feel faint. Really. And it does appear that you will have to go back. Nice Burra Bear to keep you company. Thank you.

    • Barbro Heikinmatti

      Glad you like the links! Yes, the walls in J&S make you a bit dizzy. Sorry I don’t have any photos, but the shop was full of people every time I went there so I couldn’t take any, and the one time it was almost empty I forgot.

  3. Marilyn F.

    You have treated us all to an armchair tour of the Shetland area through your comments and photos. Did you ever get any rest? The J&S spinning machines are impressive – I wonder how many people they have minding them? Interesting that new homes are built of wood, probably easier than laying stone – looks like a Scandinavian coastal town. And all the cubbies full of J&S yarn? Awesome and so many choices! And the dear Burra Bears. Now you have one to keep watch over your studio. Very sweet. Have you named her/him yet?

    • Barbro Heikinmatti

      Thank you Marilyn! Not much rest I’m afraid, and not much time for eating 🙂 Please read the note I just made at the beginning of this post about the spinning mill “Jamieson’s of Shetland” and “Shetland Woolbrokers/J&S”. They are two different companies.

      • Marilyn F.

        Ah, yes, thank you. I did know they were different companies, but between 5 and 6 a.m. and on my first cup of coffee, I am not always the brightest candle in the shop. LOL.

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