6th October 2014: Ninian – Joanna Hunter Knitwear
We started our day by doing some Christmas shopping in Lerwick’s town centre. There are plenty of gift shops to choose from in Lerwick, one of my favourites being the Shetland Soap Company where I purchased some Crofter’s shower gel, I’d definitely recommend it to any crofters out there!
Joanna Hunter and her team in Ninian were allowing a sneak peek into their back room studio as part of the Wool Week programme. Joanna started her business in 1999 with the aim of creating Shetland knitwear which is soft and easy to wear and she certainly has succeeded. The photo above are samples of Joanna Hunter Knitwear pinned up in the studio showing a range of colourways – to see the finished garments please visit here.
Jamieson’s Spinning Mill and Knitwear Factory Tour
I had booked myself on the Wool Week tour of Jamieson’s Mill and so left Lerwick’s Esplanade in a bus packed full with wool enthusiasts, many of whom knitted the whole journey to Sandness. I had been hoping to get my first proper views of Shetland but due the the torrential rain outside the bus windows steamed up completely!
Gary Jamieson gave us a fantastic tour explaining every detail of the wool processing from fleece to finished garment with passion. I was excited to see where the yarn we were planning to use for our “Weave Shetland Tweed” workshop had been dyed and spun.
Most of Jamieson’s yarn is used for knitwear, but it was fantastic to see their looms were also in action weaving Shetland tweed blankets and scarves. Gary Jamieson was very proud to be producing woven products on Shetland as so much of the weaving industry on Shetland has been lost.
7th October 2014: Hoswick Woollen Mill – Laurence Odies Knitwear
We managed to pack lots of visits into Tuesday before catching the ferry over to Yell that evening. We had an early start at the Hoswick Woollen Mill where Laurence Odie gave us a tour of the knitwear factory. We were able to observe the manufacturing process from yarn to finished garments, many of which are exported worldwide. Some of the machinery was new to me such as the linking machines which looked very skilled to use and also the steaming process for finishing the knitwear. I did however recognise the teasels from my visit to Johnstons of Elgin, being used in this case to raise some of the knitwear for a brushed look and feel.
Hoswick Visitor Centre
Inside the Hoswick Visitor centre I instantly spotted the Hattersley loom on display and we were lucky enough to have former weaver Cecil Duncan talk to us about his work at the Hoswick Woollen mill. Sadly weaving no longer takes place at Hoswick but it was once a thriving industry supplying Shetland tweed worldwide. Aswell as talking to us about the weaving history of Hoswick, Cecil also showed us the vast collection of radios (many of which he had donated to the centre and can be seen in the photo below behind the loom) and the haunting photograph display of the Hoswick Whale Caa.
Just Shetland – Julia and Stephen Downing
On our drive back to Lerwick we called by Just Shetland to meet Julia and Stephen Downing. Inside their house we found loom after loom, all set up with a variety of yarns including silk and wool. Julia and Stephen weave a range of products including luxurious scarves and shawls, all beautifully hand finished. Julia also spins some of her yarn, as the photo shows below she is very talented at that too!
Jamieson & Smith
The final visit of the day was to Jamieson and Smith to see Oliver Henry demonstrating wool sorting and grading. It was a fascinating insight into Shetland wool and I particularly liked that some fleeces were graded into natural colours in order to produce a range of undyed yarns.
During the wool sorting demonstation I looked up behind me and was surprised to see a Hattersley Loom perching in the attic space. After the wool sorting I asked Oliver Henry about the loom and he was kind enough to extend our tour, taking us to see the loom. He told us that the loom had been recently rescued, and although it had seen better days he was hopeful it would be restored. I’ll be watching out for it back in action!