Thursday, 7 September 2017

Shetland Part 3: Knitting Now. . .

In my last post, I focused on the historical knitting to be found in Shetland's many museums, but of course there is a thriving current knitwear industry as well, and we got to tour a few of the places where Shetland wool and talent is being put to good use.

Our first visit was to the Laurence Odie Knitwear factory in Hoswick which makes jumpers that are sent around the world.

This is a display of just some of the labels they have produced garments for.  I was intrigued to see Simons - one of my favourite clothes retailers in Montreal.  I have bought a number of their wool sweaters over the years - I wonder now if any of them originated here.

The knitting machines are all programmed by computers and here you can see part of a sweater coming out.

One of their staff demonstrated how this sweater was blocked after being washed and shrunk in the industrial machines.

This is a sweater bound for Japan - the customers there actually like this fluffy, felted texture.

It's made even fluffier by going through a machine with teazels attached to agitate the fibres even more.

You can see the difference - the cuff that I have turned up, is actually the inside of the sweater!

We also went to the Jamieson and Smith warehouse in Lerwick and heard the legendary Oliver Henry talk about how the wool is graded and sorted.

Before having a good browse in the shop.

I bought a cone of black J & S jumper weight for a yoked sweater that I'm knitting at the moment. And also got these mitten blockers.

Lerwick is also home to the shop of Jamieson's of Shetland with their famous wall of wool!

They also have a factory in Sandness which we toured.  This may have been the highlight of the trip for me.  We got to see every bit of the process from raw fleece to finished ball of wool,  to machine knitted garment.

Here are the fleeces that have been dyed.  Ooooh, love that fuchsia against the brown.

The wool is getting scoured and cleaned.

And washed again.

After dyeing it is carded.  I could have watched those long strands of fibre twisting and turning all day.

The wool is spun onto cones and then turned into skeins.

And then there's a room full of knitting machines, programmed for fair isle patterns.

There was a huge box full of various bits with flaws. They were selling these by the kilo.  If I'd found two sleeves that matched, I'd have pounced.  These remnants would be great for a fair isle quilt. 

Having seen the raw dyed fleece for the colourway Paprika, I couldn't resist buying a ball of the finished product. It's so clever how very primary colours blend to form this rich, rusty, orange.

The factory in Sandness comes with its own wall of wool, dramatically revealed behind curtains.

I had sworn that I wasn't going to buy a machine knitted sweater but after seeing all the steps in the factory, I then fell in love with the colours of this cardigan.  It is so warm and cozy and was very reasonably priced.  I love it!

There are so many creative people living in Shetland and incorporating knitting into various other art forms. We were lucky enough to stop by Anne Eunson's famous knitted fence, created with big needles and fishing net rope.  She came out for a chat and was just lovely.

I know Shetland will influence my own knitting for many years to come. I'm already planning to knit the sweater on the front of this book.

And I am happy to report that I DID complete my Next Year in Lerwick sweater in time (just) and wore it proudly. When I was wearing it while hiking in the moor land, I could really see the colours in my sweater all around me in the landscape. The brown was the exact colour of the peat; the greens and purples were in the heather and grasses; and the sea and skies were every shade of blue and turquoise. This sweater is so cozy and it really cut out the wind; it's definitely the most challenging but most rewarding piece I have ever knit.

The heather was starting to bloom around the islands and I really wanted to capture the colours in some wool.   Not easy when you see all the purples that are available in Jamieson's but I narrowed the choice down to these - I think I'm going to try and knit a scarf incorporating both fair isle and Shetland lace patterns.

It was truly a wonderful ten days.  I thoroughly recommend visiting Shetland; it's a knitter's paradise and the landscape is truly stunning. Everyone we met was so friendly and kind and relaxed. I loved our tour guide, Andy Ross, who runs textile tours as part of his Global Yell charity - he is embedded in the artistic community and cares deeply about it.  You can find more information about the tours and his weaving studio here.

1 comment:

torirot said...

Thanks for sharing your trip! And your Next year in Lerwick is sooo lovely! I'm going to Shetland for Wool Week, and your blogposts make me look even more forwards to going (if that's possible). I'll share your post in my knitting group on Facebook (torirot design). You're welcome to join :-)