Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wool Gathering

As I start to write this post it's 11pm and deep twilight outside, the darkest I've seen it in the almost 2 weeks I've been in Shetland for, it's also delightfully cool so thinking about wool is quite appropriate, the idea of the temperatures back home aren't appealing to me at all at the moment...

One of the many things I love about Shetland (long light summer days and invigorating temperatures are two other things) is wool. Until recently dad kept sheep and as a child their needs punctuated the year (lambing, clipping, dipping, selling) now is clipping time which has given me every opportunity to observe wool from animal to jumper - a process I'm here to share!
It starts with a sheep, the ones at the top are being sheared with something that looks not unlike the clippers a hairdresser might use, but my father who still likes to keep his hand in favours his old clippers. They're a design which has been in use for god knows how long, I've seen identical ones looking ancient in museums.

Next raw wool goes to the wool broker where it will be cleaned, carded, and generally sanitised.

After which it might be dyed... I love these bales of coloured wool, this picture was taken in the loft of the local mill where wool becomes yarn to be turned into knitwear and tweed. It's a magical place for anyone who likes wool.

The lengths of tweed in the top picture are sadly only for sale in the mill and even then only when you ask to be taken up to the loft, they're left overs and sample roles of cloth that make me wish I 
could sew with some level of competence. The yarn in the boxes is mostly destined for knitting machines.

And finally some finished product. Tweed I couldn't resist (it was a bargain as well) and lace shawls on display in the knitwear museum. My favourite wool purveyors are  Here


  1. Shearing is fascinating and quite exciting for an urban dweller like me -- I always go and watch it at our local agricultural show. Such fast and skilled work. Those tweeds are gorgeous - I wouldn't mind a perfectly tailored purple jacket, for instance, but it would almost certainly have to be tailored by someone other than me! ;-)

  2. My sewing skills bode ill for the tweed but it is very lovely. Shearing fascinated me too, I avoided it as a child because the sheep aren't precisely sweet smelling, missed out on it as a younger woman when I might have (ahem) been prepared to get my hands dirty, now it's a skill I envy. Dad still clips by hand which is rather slower than by machine but certainly looks authentic!