Monday, November 11, 2019

Not too bad a day  – I’ve read my Ferrante, walked as far as the butcher, attended to some business, and had a good proteinful lunch. Archie was here. That leaves a couple of rows of Dathan hap to be polished off.

I fared reasonably well yesterday with evening television-and-knitting. BBC iPlayer let me down somewhat, but it let me watch half of the arty program I had in mind, and thenI  switched to Attenborough on nature which is of course magnificent.

Trollope behind me for the moment, I have been reading Clara Parkes “Vanishing Fleece”. How I wish I had read it before my Shetland Wool Adventure last May! What actually happens at Jamieson&Smith, and Jamieson’s? They both seem to get their wool not exactly on-the-hoof but not long off it. Then what? How much is done in-house, how much dispatched elsewhere? I could have asked better questions had I read Parkes.

And how were all these complicated-sounding mechanical processes carried out in the Olden Days, by women in their crofts on Unst? I think a few pages on how it was once all done by hand at home – as surely it must have been – would have been useful. But it’s a fascinating book, undoubtedly.


Thank you for your advice. I think I’m pretty strong on protein – there was a poached egg I didn’t mention yesterday, along with my okra stew, and when I snack, I snack on cheese. Three days a week I cook and eat a Mindful Chef meal, and they’re fearfully healthy.


I was struck yesterday, as I occasionally am, at the oddity of the fact that in GB (alone in the world?) the Head of State does not sing the national anthem. The Queen yesterday was between the duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge, two future queens perhaps, who were belting it out while she stood silent.

They say that one of George VI’s daughters – Margaret, surely – asked him once: “What do you sing, Daddy? ‘God Bless Our Gracious Me?’


  1. =Tamar6:49 PM

    Years ago the Yarn Harlot used to write a lot about how she processed wool at home. Perhaps a delve into her online archives would prove enlightening.

  2. Thanks for the laugh re. God Bless Our Gracious Me! I have done a bit of by hand processing purely for the entertainment factor - carding, making the roving, and trying my hand at a drop spindle. i am happy to pop in the the LYS.

  3. 80-85% of the wool in Shetland is sold to the Woolbrokers (J&S), all breeds. It is sorted there and then shipped off to the mainland for processing. The finer grades of Shetland wool are used for the various types of Jamieson and Smith yarns. They are all spun in mainland UK (Bradford?) and then sent back to Shetland. The other breeds are sold on and the lower grades are sold for carpet, etc. Between several talks from Oliver Henry and reading various other things, like their book, I’ve learned all this.

    A small amount of Shetland wool is sold directly to Jamieson’s by some of the crofters and farmers, all steps of the processing from sorting the raw fleece to labelling the yarn balls is done right there at the mill in Sandness. I’ve been on the mill tour three times, once with each tour I was on in Shetland, didn’t you have a tour there with Misa last year?

    Processing raw fleece is done by many hand spinners, not me though! It involves washing the fleece then either carding or combing it. Fleece can also be spun without any processing (“in the grease”) or with minimal processing where you gently hand wash the locks and then spin them directly. I did this in a class with Margaret Stove once, we were spinnning very fine Merino.....

  4. Very pleased to hear about the poached egg!
    As I may have mentioned before, I was born on a Cumbrian sheep farm, with a flock of fell sheep clipped by hand by my father. All of the fleeces were rolled up and sewn into a huge sack before being sent off to the Wool Board. It would never have occurred to my parents to process any of the fleece themselves.
    Fast forward fifty years and hand-spinning is no longer such a mystery. I belong to the local guild of Spinners, Dyers and Weavers, where some of the members process fleece into yarn without being keen knitters, their interest being in producing the yarn as an end in itself. Raw fleece is both dirty and smelly, often full of vegetable matter which needs picking over - lots of scouring and prepping needed before you get to any actual spinning. I'll admit that I prefer to spend my time knitting.

    1. Shandy I have a friend whose mother is a keen spinner. When people see the finished product and then ask her what it is going to be, she replies "Yarn." That's what she enjoys. I'm with you, I'd rather knit.