Hosiery Companies

There were many hosiery companies in the 1950s/60s so the knitter was spoilt for a choice sadly there are only a few left today.

Our neighbour Jessie Cogle’s family owned one such hosiery business-P.T.Robertson – called after her father. I was fortunate to work with Jessie at Jamieson & Smith at the end of the 1960s.

I am very grateful to Jessie for allowing me access to her family photos and archives and her knowledge of how a hosiery business was run in the past, this was fairly typical of the knitwear trade at that time. P.T.Robertson initially had a business on the Island of Whalsay; a fishing, crofting and knitting community. In 1950, P.T. moved to Lerwick where on he continued his hosiery business albeit on a larger scale. Jessie started work in the business at the age of 15 like most girls of her time knitting was a way of life and Jessie at an early age in Whalsay was a very experienced knitter. Not only did she knit and help run the family business she doubled up as a model displaying the garments purchased by her family business.

P. T. Robertson Shop Premises
First Motor Vehicle in Whalsay

Marketing of the knitwear purchased by the company was vital seeking out markets involved travelling out-with the Shetland Islands. In days gone by the visiting hansietic merchants especially the Dutch involved in the herring reputedly bought a lot of knitting especially fine lace. P.T.Robertson’s first venture is recorded in the attached archive material.

Staff at P. T. Robertson
Press Release
Selection of Various Knitwear

Of course hand-knitters in Shetland also had their own markets and orders out with the Islands. Mam would reply to adverts in publications such as the Peoples Friend and Sunday Post and established her own contacts. I was very fortunate to inherit her order books which makes very interesting reading and was an example of a cottage industry carried out in the home which was common place at that time. It is a very detailed account of how a knitter of that era conducted their business .For example In September 1964 mam received an order from John Morrison ( Highland Outfitters ) Ltd, 461 Lawnmarket, Edinburgh Caledonia 8149 which could be the telephone number? It was for a 44” lumber at 45 shillings – £2.5 shillings todays value = £39.10p. Morrison is her main market; another buyer was W.S. Robertson 13-15 High Street, Hawick, Roxburghshire.

“ Makkin”( knitting) the garments was mainly done by Mam but for a larger order of Fair Isle Yokes she was assisted by my granny, Janie and my younger sister who learned to knit when she was four years old and by the age of thirteen was helping Mam with her hosiery orders knitting in Yokes, finishing garments and sewing in buttons. This was fairly normal at that time in a lot of homes throughout Shetland the women would spin, knit and carry out the croft work while the men were off fishing. In most homes the man of the house would be able to work on the hand frame knitting machine and the woman would knit in the Fair Isle. In fact when we first married my wife Catherine would knit on the machine but lost patience with me when I attempted to learn I was far too heavy handed my garments and would come out in holes!

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