Descriptions or Meanings Used in my Work with Wool & Yarns. Part 6

Wool – Dyed. “Yarn which the fibre has been dyed prior to spinning, often in the production of mixtures. At one time wool dyed yarns and garments or fabric made from them were considered to be piece dyed articles and thought to keep their colour longer. Perhaps the source of the expression dyed – in – the –wool”. Our first dyed shades of yarn at J & S in 1967 /8 were naturals which were Moorit, Black, Fawn, Silver Grey, Medium Grey and Dark Grey the reason given was why dyed and not undyed yarns was that the end user required a definite colour shade to match up to when placing an order further down the line. In 1997 we along with Yarns International and Hunters of Brora introduced undyed natural yarns.

2 Ply Jumper Weight
Fitful head in the Snow

Woollen Spun. “In this system the fibres can be of widely varying lengths, are arranged as far as possible to lie in a random criss cross manner. This is the process usually employed for short fibres and typically for Cashmere, Lamb’s wool and Shetland. A woollen spun yarn need not necessarily contain any wool”. Woollen spun yarn has been a major part of my working life in order to sustain employment all year round since we had our own hand sorted Shetland wool spun into hand knitting yarns at T.M.Hunters of Brora.

Hunters Mill Information
Loch Brora

Worsted.”  Yarns which are combed to remove the shortest fibre or fibres and in which the fibres lie parallel to one another. Worsted yarns are stronger and smoother than woollen spun yarns”. One of the most defining moments in my working life not only for me J & S, crofters and knitters and Shetland in general when the late Jeemie Moncrieff from the Shetland Amenity trust asked me if we could help supply the Shetland museum with “ Wirsit “worsted yarn to be used in their museum heritage collection of lace knitwear, and also to try and safeguard the future of lace knitting in the islands. As they say the rest is history I tell more about this subject in my blogs, if it were not for the Amenity Trust and museum and their request for a worsted yarn I sincerely believe Shetland Wool Week and all its positives would not have been the success it is today as this lace project brought us at J & S as the main buyers of Shetland wool together with the aim of marketing Real Shetland wool to a wider global audience. I am very proud to say our new Heritage worsted yarn was used in our 2014 Jarl Squad suit.

Jarl Squad 2014
Whalsay Peerie Makkers 2012 at J&S

Yarn. For textile purposes a continuous strand of fibre or fibres which is capable of being used to produce cloth. The introduction of yarn and the marketing of it not only help employ me in the wool clip off season it created more jobs at J & S from 1969 through the 1970s, staffing levels went up to  eight full time responsible for retail and direct mail sales.

Heritage Yarns
Culswick Sheep

Yorkshire Skeins. “Yorkshire, England woollen spun yarn count system in which the count is the number of 256 yard hanks to one pound weight”. In 2000 with the sad demise of our spinner Hunters of Brora and their Gala count yarns, we were fortunate enough to discover a small Yorkshire wool mill 5th generation spinners who could carry on the mantle of producing high quality Shetland yarns from our own hand sorted Shetland fleece bought from Shetland farmers and crofters.

Mallan Cove
Yorkshire Canal Boat

2 Ply, 3 Ply, Double knitting etc. “These terms used to describe the thickness of hand knitting yarns. The terms are not exact as count numbers, there being slight variations between one spinner and another. The terms are not terminologically correct. For instance a four ply yarn is not necessarily four ends plied together.

Approximate hand knitting equivalents to the metric system are:

2ply — 2/14.nm

4ply — 2/9nm

Double Knitting — 3/7nm

Chunky — 2/3.5 nm

Aran — 3/4nm “

In my early years with Hunters of Brora we were able to supply a very wide and comprehensive range of yarns sadly more than half of them are no longer available, due to fashion changes and managing realistic financial stock levels. From a purely nostalgic view point I miss these shades however with the introduction of several worsted yarns, starting with the Museum lace and Heritage yarns and the possible introduction of other yarns are a positive way forward to add value to the Shetland wool clip we handle.

J&S yarnGala countNew metricHand Knitting equivalent
Cobweb36s 1ply1/14.5 nmSingle 1 ply
2ply Lace2/36s2/14.5 nmFine 3ply
2ply Jumper2/22.52/9. nm4/ply
2ply Jumper2/21s2/8.4 nm4/ply
2ply Jumper2/18s2/7.25 nm4/ply
3ply3/18s3/7.25 nmDouble knitting
3ply Embo3/11s3/4.5 nmChunky
Unst Fleece4/7.54/3. nmHeavy Chunky
Brora soft spun2/9s2/36 nmArran weight
2 ply Spencer2/28s  
2 Ply Hap2/24s  

Unavailable Produce would be marked in red.

At the beginning of his technical directory, Alistair begins with a note of caution!

“In an industry which has evolved from various crafts it should realise that the meaning of some textile terms may vary from company to company, area to area, country to country.

 I am very grateful to Alistair for the use of his technical descriptions of textiles this is only a small part of an extensive directory compiled by Alistair from a life time in the textile world. I have enjoyed revisiting Alistair’s writings it has brought back pleasant memories of my work with wool and yarns throughout my working life. I have been very fortunate  to have come in contact with people such as Alistair for providing me with my limited knowledge of the textile world, sad to say there aren’t many of us older wool people left, I can only hope that these blogs on Alistair’s directory is has been of some use.

Lerwick Harbour


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