Shetland Wool Week 2016 : Lerwick, and Jamieson & Smith

I fell in love with Lerwick when I first went to Shetland in 2010. Stone, stone, stone everywhere, still the impression of the town is friendly and welcoming. The people are so friendly! I haven’t seen any irritation at all with the whimsical tourists who take photos of everything and are in the way in the narrow streets and shops, and sometimes also shrieking instead of talking, which is considered to be a bit uncivilised in many European countries. More information about Lerwick here.

Kerstin and I had a plan for our Shetland trip, and one of them was to walk in the centre of Lerwick for one day. Of course that had to be the only day it was raining during that week! So we didn’t see all the places I had planned, but it was quite a good day anyway.

Let’s start with a photo I took a couple of days earlier, when it wasn’t raining. This is Commercial Street with our self catering upstairs in the building to the right. I love the bunting!

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And a couple of days later seen from the market square:

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From the other end:

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The Shetland Library. It used to be a church:

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It’s a beautiful library, but as a librarian I can see there’s not enough space. With movable shelves you can easily change the rooms, though.

Shetland Museum and Archives:

When you walk towards the museum you see this, if it happens to be Shetland Wool Week:

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The sea is present everywhere in Shetland, so also in the photo above. An old black ship is anchored next the museum.

I’ll show more from this enchanting place in another post. It has a big and well displayed textile collection. But if you turn around and look in the other direction, you see Hay’s Dock, one of the most beautiful places in Lerwick on a sunny day:

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But back to the old part of Lerwick: Lodberrie. This used to be a private pier. The houses were build in 1730:

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Lodberrie from the other side. All who have watched the Shetland TV series know this building. For your knowledge: Jimmy Perez walks through the green door, but the kitchen you can see inside isn’t in Lodberrie. It’s somewhere in mainland Scotland, Glasgow perhaps?

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And the famous door:

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And now: Shetland Woolbrokers/Jamieson & Smith, aka J&S. The wool room and the shop. And you know what? I forgot to take photos in the shop. I have been talking angrily to myself, but it doesn’t help. So have a look at their site to see what they offer. They ship worldwide.

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When you walk through that door you enter a big room with different qualities of yarns, tops, and literature on shelves that fill the walls. There are also knitwear and knitting equipment, and in the middle a counter with desks on four sides so the nice and service minded, qualified persons inside can serve a lot of customers at a time. At least two skilled designers work at J&S: Sandra Manson and this year’s Wool Week Patron Ella Gordon.

This is the headquarter of Shetland Wool Week, here it was initiated in 2010. It grows bigger and more beautiful with each year.

I’ll take you to the wool room next to the shop, because luckily I remembered to take photos there. First a glimpse of the incredible, lovable Oliver Henry, the man with more knowledge about Shetland wool than anyone else. I was at his last wool talk on September, Friday 30th, and it was just as fascinating as his talk at Stirling University in 2010, and later that same year in this very wool room. Oliver will retire in a near future, which makes many of us a bit sad. But he has an heir, a young lady called Jen, and I’m sure she’s capable, and the work will continue.

Oliver working in the wool room before his talk, moving wool from one place to another:

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Below: Oliver talking about wool, showing us different types of Shetland sheep wool. His fingers are constantly touching the wool, patting it, stroking it, adding fleece after fleece on the table. The audience is so quiet, we try to take in what he’s saying, try to remember as much as possible. Behind him the already classified fleeces from supreme to cross to double coated, all in their designated shelves. In a room downstairs: more fleeces. From one of the piles I pick a supreme fleece for three friends in Finland.

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Two types of fleece: supreme and double.

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Oliver’s hands examine a wool staple from a Shetland supreme fleece. He demonstrates what this fleece will be turned into by showing us the supreme quality top and a ball of Shetland Supreme 1 Ply Lace Weight, a yarn almost as thin as sewing thread. Beside them lace scarves knitted from this yarn.

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A close up of a Shetland supreme fleece. All you spinners out there: don’t we love that crimp?

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Yes, I love Oliver Henry’s great knowledge, the quality of his work, his humble but at the same time confident way to present it. The even quality of the yarns J&S produce depend on the farmers and their work with the sheep, and on experts like Oliver.

One last photo from the wool room. This is a double coated fleece, a quality that is very difficult to turn into yarn in a ordinary modern mill. But handspinners can! Don’t be afraid to buy beautiful fleeces like this. Double coated fleeces have been used for thousands of years. With the right kind of knowledge and skills you can spin them and weave, knit or felt beautiful and much valued sweaters, hats, mittens, blankets, socks, carpets.

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Just now I feel like going back to Shetland.

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8 comments

  1. Susan

    OK, you just made my heart do flip flops……from the city to the green door to the fleeces. Seriously, I don’t know what to say……
    How lucky can one woman be?? That would be you of course! So glad you got a fleece.

  2. Marilyn F.

    Its obvious how much you love this place in your commentaries and photos. Through your blog, we will all know the place well before we visit. Its wonderful to see all the raw wool and what a treat it would be to hear Oliver speak on the subject. I wonder if the company is recording any of his talks? His knowledge must be vast and it would be of historical value to have it on tape.

      • Marilyn F.

        Yes, knowledge in the hands – a great phrase – and many years of experience. Not everyone is tactile – touchy-feelie where you can’t pass by a piece of fabric, a plant, a yarn, fiber, dog or cat – without touching it. LOL. Glad to hear he is teaching someone, so his gift will continue. Thanks for sharing.

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