I have just finished archiving and recording our work with designers since we started retailing knitting yarns. Many who we have featured and worked with I have not had the privilege of meeting and talking to. I would like to mention a few who I have had the pleasure of meeting and sharing some time with on a personal level.
My first experience of a designer was with Sasha Kagan, one of the foremost up and coming knitting designers of that era. The design was first created in 1969 in Jamieson & Smith two ply jumper weight (4 ply) and was called the Silver Birch Scarf. Sasha produced in kit form and featured in Women’s Wear Daily. It was while attending a knitting show in Harrogate in the 1990s; I had the pleasure of meeting Sasha and talking about old times. If my memory is correct shortly after this meeting, Sasha was commissioned to produce design for us, latterly the Chequerboard Leaf Cardigan in our 2ply Heritage & 2ply Jumper yarns. Sasha and I met again at Knit Camp 2010 at Stirling University and she is still producing high quality design.
The first local designer of note I had the good fortune to meet in the mid- 1970s was Gladys Amedro. Of all the designers I worked with, Gladys, for me, was instrumental in turning around the fortunes of the company from a knitting yarn prospective. I have recently archived well over a dozen of her designs which featured in magazines in the 80s/ 90s and had an everlasting impact on J & S. It was our old manager, Gibbie Johnstone who recognised the need for pattern support in order to reach a wider audience. It was therefore with his passing in 1986 that we commissioned a design in his memory; the Gibbie Shawl.
Our first Shetland Fair Isle pattern was produced for us in the 1980s by a friend of Gladys and one of our crofters from the west side of Shetland Patricia Alderson. Her design was in our 2ply jumper yarn and was titled the Hamnavoe, called after my home village. This design featured in the ladies magazine, the Bella, and it would be fair to say was amongst the first of its kind produced by a Shetland knitter in this promotional format.
Another Shetland designer I have worked with in the 1980s/90s and got to know very well is Hazel Hughson from Shetland. She produced a range of Fair Isle patterns for us for hand and machine knitting the Noss and Gletnesss unisex sweaters. One other local designer I worked with at that time was Margaret Stuart, from the village of Walls, who designed for us ladies traditional openwork sweater hand knitted from our lace wool. Another local designer I have worked with since the early 1980s is Mary Kay from Lerwick; she produced a range of fine lace patterns for us. Mary played a key role as one of our main local knitters who tested our new “wirsit” worsted 1 & 2ply lace yarn spun from 100% Shetland wool.