In the absence of local design and patterns other designers further afield started using some of our yarns in their designs, especially in the U.S.A. Household names at that time which helped spread the word. Closer to home we worked with well- known U.K. designers and if my memory serves me well Sasha Kagan featured our yarns in the Silver Birch Scarf around about 1969. Hunters of Brora provided us with some of their patterns which we could use this would also help them as it could mean more work for them in spinning, the designs were called Broraspun. However we still sought out a local designer without success.
There was a massive shift in the knitting sector in the early 1970s with the arrival of “black gold” – the oil industry arrived on our shores brining great wealth to the islands. People flocked to work in the highly paid oil related sector, women could be forgiven for casting aside their knitting needles in favour of a much more lucrative income.
Our yarn sales locally took quite a hit and we also lost a recently recruited wool store employee who told me his wage in the oil had been trebled, “Come with me, it’s easy money, not back-breaking work packing wool”.
I was sorely tempted by the offer, especially as Catherine and I were married in 1972. We were very fortunate indeed to acquire our first home together, virtually next door to the wool store and down the road from her parents. By 1974 we were blessed with our first child Claire; followed by our son Adrian in 1976. On the football front I played my first official game for Shetland in 1973, defeating the Faroe Islands by five goals to one in the North Atlantic Cup. Some of the older local football pundits said it was the greatest result by a Shetland team!
At work it was obvious something had to be done to make up for the loss of income from local sales. In 1977 we had the good fortune to come into contact with a lady that would change the shape of J & S for ever. Gladys Amedro and her husband had retired and set up home in the island of Yell. Gladys had been a knitter and needlewoman all her life. In their home village of Burravoe, Yell she became a close friend of the late Nellie Tulloch (a native Shetlander who was skilled in the art of lace knitting). She taught the craft to Gladys, and J & S commissioned Gladys to design and help market our yarns.
The first design was published in the Woman’s Realm magazine in 1978. Other patterns followed, including a baby robe and shawl commissioned by Woman’s Own magazine in 1988 to celebrate the birth of Princess Beatrice.
Other ladies magazines as well as knitting publications were approached to promote design too many to mention. This new marketing returns made up the lost ground on local orders and yarn sales increased once again. Such was the success of our promotions that another three extra staff were added over a three year period.
Not only did this marketing campaign improve the sales of our fine lace yarns it also help create interest in our other woollen spun yarns such as 2 ply jumper weight. Our first shade cards were introduced in the very early seventies.
As a result of all this positive promotions we were approached by many designers, mostly outside Shetland who wished to use our yarns and mostly these would appear in various publications. This once again would promote us and our wool. This was a great help in increasing the volume of business and in 1979 it was decided to build another store this time it meant erecting a building that would fit in between our yarn store and wool store. When asking my co boss Jim Smith who we would get to build it, “us” was the reply it is the “Berry way”
3 thoughts on “Design & Pattern Support and Added Responsibility (early 1970s)”
I love this history of the wool and lives of the people of Brora and surrounding lslands. I still have some knitting patterns of Broraspun wools in my collection, so you can imagine how I have held onto the patterns I loved in my younger days. I also have a small booklet of the shawls and scarves that I bought from Jamiesons of Lerwick. I have knitted Arun designs for people who asked over the years and have always bought my wool for these many garments from Jamiesons. Buying yarn from Shetland just seems right somehow for me. I have never been to Shetland, the closest I got was Orkney on two occasions and came home with North Ronaldsay yarn and fleece to spin and knit.
I shall keep my eye on your website and follow your news with interest.
Ah yes, $ tempting but glad you hung in ‘there’! I do remember Women’s Realm and have Glady’s book. Lovely. Thanks.
Thank you Ollie for giving us such a wonderful and informative insight into your woolly world. My husband worked with fleeces, wool and talented weavers in Dublin, Ireland in the 1970’s, and has fond memories of that time. I have been reading your wool blog to him, and we have both enjoyed and reminisced about your journey and his, with wool. Thank you.