Descriptions or Meanings Used in my Work with Wool & Yarns. Part 4

Scouring.” A washing process which removes dirt and spinning oil from garments. Do not confuse this with milling” Shetland white hill wool which has a grey look to it caused by rubbing into peat banks while sheltering from weather is very difficult to wash and often leaves a natural white yarn looking like a “off white”, in fact I heard that one spinner of Shetland wool had said up to 50% of the fleece weight can be lost. I also remember a spinner say that to produce 1 kilo of yarn you require 2 kilos of wool.

Burn in Full Spate
Hill Sheep
Peat Hill

Shetland. When tasked by my employer to set up aShetland wool week it was obvious the first port of call was to approach the Shetland Flock Book Society who since 1927 safeguards the well- being of the true Shetland sheep. I have judged the society annual show and sale since 1995, the event and was delighted when the society was in agreement to host the event. Shetland wool week is such a positive lucrative experience highlighting our culture and heritage its aim is to raise the profile of Shetland sheep and its wool and bring it to the attention of a world- wide audience. In my life with Shetland wool handling over 80% of the local Shetland wool clip annually for 55 years, I have seen it is also as the most maligned name in the textile trade both near and far. I highlight the issue in a previous blog imitation Shetland wool and yarns in that post I refer to the research carried out by Alistair McDonald. I once again quote below from Alistair’s technical directory.

 “No doubt the real Cheddar owes its flavour to different conditions and ingredients. Because of the local grazing and the particular breed, the local cows must produce milk just a little different from others. The process is special; it is a farm craft. The other so called Cheddar cheeses are made throughout the U.K. & Ireland from milk collected from a host of farms and made in an industrial process.

The comparison between Cheddar and Shetland cries out to be made.

The Shetland yarn you are offered by most suppliers today will contain no Shetland wool from the Shetland breed of sheep. It is somewhat similar in type to the original Shetland which was spun from wool grown in the isles.

 Since writing the blog on imitation Shetland I now have been made aware of a technical testing procedure that can identify the true origins of the fibre used in a particular yarn or textile product. Although this procedure is costly it would be a way for our island’s council to apply it to their brand operation Project Selkie, which was a very good marketing strategy, unfortunately for some reason it was not applied to Shetland wool. In my opinion it would be a worthwhile investment to safeguard our iconic Real Shetland Wool for future generations. Meantime I shall continue to use my social media opportunities through my blogs to tell the Real story.

Judging Wool on the Hoof 1995
Wool Week 2019 Opening Ceremony
Three Ram Logo, Our Registered Brand
Crofter with Selkies (Seals)

Singles. “One ply yarn. If strong enough there is no particular problem in knitting single yarns if they have been produced for the knitter, and are wound properly although there will probably be some wale superagility in the fabric”. Our first singles yarn at J & S was a woollen spun Cobweb yarn supplied by Hunters of Brora in the 1970s. We now stock 100% Real Shetland Supreme single & 2ply lace a undyed worsted ( wirsit) yarn.

Rough Seas Burra Isle
West Sandwick

Skein. “Another name for a hank”. In 1968 when we were supplied with yarns spun from Shetland wool we bought from local crofters my job was to twist 4- 2oz or 8 hanks of yarn into what we called a head which was the most popular method of selling the yarns.

First Yarns on Hanks

Spinning. “Spinning is the production of a continuous length of material suitable for conversion to fabric – woven, knitted lace or braid- or for other industrial uses”. As I have said throughout my blogs on Shetland wool I have never been involved with spinning however I have been closely involved for over 50 years with the mills that have produced our yarns.

Fine Wool Sheep

Spun yarns.” Yarn spun from loose fibre as opposed to continuous filament”. Throughout my working life I have only had experience of spun yarn from our own Shetland wool; however I can distinguish the difference between different wool mills spinning especially from yarns spun from non-Shetland wool.

Hand Spinners Knit Camp 2010

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