Episode 24 – Shetland Wool with Oliver Henry – Fruity Knitting Podcast

Fruity Knitting Podcast Episode 24 brings you Oliver Henry, the “Wool Man” of Shetland’s Jamieson and Smith.  Oliver takes us from the past to the present, sharing his stories of the cultural role of wool and knitting in the community, and telling us about recent developments in the yarns produced and other uses for the wool.  We stay on Shetland for Knitters of the World, where our guest is Ella Gordon, 2016 Patron of the Shetland Wool Week and creator of designs including the Crofthoose Hat.  We get a closer look at a traditional knitting belt, and there’s some progress on Andrew’s Drachenfels Shawl by Melanie Berg.

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Oliver Henry from Jamieson and Smith Shetland Wool Brokers

Oliver Henry was born on Shetland into a fishing family, but quickly moved towards the wool industry after helping out on his uncle’s farm.  A tendency to sea-sickness gave an additional push towards a more land-based occupation.  Oliver found his place at Jamieson and Smith Shetland Wool Brokers, where he has now worked for nearly 50 years.  Oliver is widely respected for his knowledge of Shetland sheep and their fleeces, and is responsible for sorting the fleeces into the various grade for different uses.

Judging the wool "on the hoof"

Judging the wool “on the hoof”

Oliver is passionate about the role of the wool and knitting industry in Shetland and is dedicated to supporting the crofters, or small farmers, on the island.  Jamieson and Smith are the main purchasers of wool grown on Shetland, and all yarns produced by Jamieson and Smith only use locally grown wool.

Oliver Henry is dedicated to supporting the Shetland wool industry and preserving the traditional crofting lifestyle

Shetland sheep are a mixture of two breeds and display significant variation in their fleeces.  Hand sorting is required to ensure the high quality of the finest wools is not affected by guard hairs which can be found on some parts of the sheep.  Coarser wools are now separated and used for applications such as carpets and mats, reducing waste and increasing the returns for the local crofters.

Shetland Heritage Naturals - Using the natural fleece colours

Shetland Heritage Naturals – Using the natural fleece colours

Jamieson and Smith has worked together with the Shetland Museum to analyse garments found in their collections.  The Jamieson and Smith Shetland Heritage yarns are spun to reproduce the characteristics of the handspun yarns found in traditional Fair Isle garments. There are coloured yarns, but the “Naturals” are undyed, using the different natural shades of the Shetland sheep.

A Shetland sheep dog ready for work.

Ready for work.

You can see what Oliver Henry is up to at:

Ella Gordon – Knitters of the World

Ella Gordon is a younger generation Shetlander, and in 2012 graduated from the Shetland Collage with a degree in Contemporary Textiles.  She has set up a small business as a designer and in both machine and hand-knitted garments.

Shetland designer Ella Gordon

Shetland designer Ella Gordon

In 2016 Ella served as Patron to the Shetland Wool Week.  She took her hallmark design of a Shetland farmhouse or “crofthoose” and created the Crofthoose Hat as the Shetland Wool Week 2016 official pattern.

The Crofthoose Hat, official pattern of the 2016 Shetland Wool Week

The Crofthoose Hat, official pattern of the 2016 Shetland Wool Week

Find Ella Gordon at:

Drachenfels Shawl by Melanie Berg

My Drachenfels Shawl is starting to take shape.  I’m enjoying knitting it – there are a few technical bits – increases and decreases, a little concentration to keep track of where I am, but it is a safe step up from what I have done so far.  I’m using the recommended Cheeky Merino Joy from Rosy Green Wool – organic merino wool sourced from Patagonia.

Drachenfels by Melanie Berg

Drachenfels by Melanie Berg

Drachenfels, meaning “Dragon’s Rock” or cliff, is a hill near the Rhine River, just south of Bonn.  It has been quarried for trachyte (a type of stone) since the Roman times, its location close to the river allowing easy transportation by barge.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

One of the places that this rock has ended up is the Cologne Cathedral.  I don’t actually travel a lot, but Cologne is one place that I have passed through fairly frequently.  The Cathedral is worth a visit – it is simply impressive.  If you get a tour you will hear that the two spires that you can see here are actually very different heights – I forget exactly how much, but it’s a lot.  You can’t see the difference from the ground, but that just shows again how high this structure is.  Cologne shows its respect for the Cathedral by not allowing any buildings to approach it in height.

Before you book your flights, be warned that all of Germany’s historic structures generally have some amount of scaffolding on at any time.  I’ve mostly hidden it here, but you can just see a little bit popping out from behind my head.

Catherine Parr and the Knitting Belt

Andrea has acquired a real Shetland knitting belt, together with a set of 40 cm double pointed needles.  Andrea has mentioned that she needs some practice to get them under control and is looking into getting some guidance from an expert.  We’ll keep you informed.

Catherine Parr and the Knitting Belt

Catherine Parr and the Knitting Belt

What you can see here is the sleeves – done two at a time to ensure that the increases match, even if they’re not exactly done as specified by the pattern.

Madeleine gets a blouse

Andrea completed the blouse, but even with a few well-targeted modifications, the verdict was negative.  Officially, the garment has been handed on to Madeleine – see below – although I did notice that it was Andrea wearing it today.  Maybe it just needs a bit of time.  (Update: Andrea has been wearing the blouse the last two days…)

Madeleine making the blouse look good

Madeleine making the blouse look good

Edinburgh Yarn Festival

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2017

Andrea and I will be attending the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and would be thrilled to meet you there.  The Podcaster Lounge is a space set aside where viewers (and listeners) and podcasters can meet up, and we will be there from 1 to 2 pm on Friday and Saturday.  Come and say hello!

Andrea and Madeleine had a short holiday in Scotland shortly after we moved to Germany, but I have never been there.  My great great grandfather migrated from Kilrenny, Scotland to Australia in 1852 (or 1853).

My great-great grandparents William Watson Doig and Margaret Lyall Doig, with my great-grandfather Mitchell Doig.

The Doig Tartan

The Doig Tartan

Music Credits