Friday, September 12, 2014

Shetland, land of wooly goodness!

Today, I want to show you a few of the wonderful sheep-related activities we got to experience on the trip.
Shetland sheep. They're small, hardy, cute, and everywhere!

The majority of the fleeces from the sheep we saw grazing all over the island go to one place: Jamieson and Smith Shetland Wool Brokers. We had the great privilege of visiting with Oliver Henry, J&S's master "wool man".

Oliver Henry hard at work

Several people referred to Oliver as the "high priest of wool" and that's pretty much what he is. For over 45 years, his eagle-eye and deft hand have been sorting and grading fleeces for colour and quality.

Raw fleeces

Child's Fair-Isle jumper knit with natural Shetland colours
Oliver explained to us the special properties of Shetland fleece. It's very fine and soft and comes in a great variety of colours. Many of the colours have Shetland dialect names:  light grey, grey, white, emsket (dusky bluish-grey), musket (light greyish-brown), shaela (dark steely-grey), black, fawn, moorit (reddish brown), mioget (honey-toned, yellowish-brown), and dark brown.

Pat listening attentively to the master

It was wonderful to hear Oliver speak. He's a man clearly in love with what he does, with an impressive mastery of his craft (this would be a defining characteristic of so many of the Shetlanders we met all week long).

Next, we visited a croft (a small farm), and got to see some pretty impressing hand-shearing. Here's Ronnie, the crofter, skillfully ridding the sheep of its warm coat. I was struck by how swiftly and gently he handled the sheep. This man knows what he's doing!

Mary Jane was the only one of us brave enough to try her hand at shearing. Way to go Mary Jane!

After all that hard work, we headed back to the family house to have a delicious lunch of soup and bannock (a Scottish version of scones). We all fell hard for the resident cutie, Rowan. And we got to buy some of Ronnie's lovely organic yarn.

Of all the things I loved about Shetland, the warmth and generosity of the people is what left the biggest impression on me.

I have many many more wooly things to tell you about, but I think this post is long enough... Next time, I'll show you all the amazing things that people make with beautiful Shetland wool.




Oh what a wonderful experience! Was it through someone you know that you got to go see all that?
The child's fair isle sweater is beautiful!



Absolutely lovely, Nicole. Am so looking forward to reading more. And you MUST tell us what you brought back! And the pattern for that lovely shawl??



first-time to comment here, but I have been enjoying your details of your trip. Thank you for sharing them for our benefit :)

Kate G.


Living vicariously through you! What a great adventure this is.



What a wonderful experience Nicole! a dream trip!



How wonderful to see exactly how the wool is produced. It sounds like a really fascinating trip. CJ xx

Margie Oomen


i love the natural colours and their names xx



can't wait for the next installment!!!!!! :)

Lori ann


loved this nicole! i'm right back, so wonderful to relive. i do agree about the lovely people. especially the sweet farm family, sue ronny and rowan. ( i would have LOVED to try sheep shearing! wish i would have known we could have!).