Thursday, September 26, 2013


Reading Jean and Kristie's posts about their trip to Shetland sets me thinking.  Jamieson and Smith.  How much this name has meant to me over the years. 

I first came across their yarn in Whitby, in a wonderful shop called "The Shepherd's Purse".  They had the full spectrum of 2ply jumper weight hanging on a line across the shop - a glorious sight.  You could buy yarn there or you could order it by mail.  It took me a while to realise that it was possible to order direct from Lerwick.  I bought some bright tones of purples and used a cone of navy to make a cheery striped pullover.  This would have been about 1980.

Then I discovered Sasha Kagan.  Her designs used the 2ply jumper weight alongside touches of lurex and mohair.  Now, Sasha's designs tend to feature flowers and leaves, but in her first book - "The Sasha Kagan Seater Book" -  variety was key  - lots of dynamic movement in the placing of images.  I knitted two of the Ribbons cardigan, buying the yarn from the Art Needlework shop in Oxford.  This was by far the most successful colourway.

Then I knitted Pansies.  This had bands of white mohair and silver lurex.

For myself I knitted a very striking waistcoat with dachshunds running up and down on it.  It was backed with three colours of brown used alternately in a ribbed fabric.  I was very fond of it but eventually it no longer fitted.

This is the image from the book, as I sent my waistcoat to the collection of the Knitter's guild.

Making these projects made me see how inevitably a stock of spare yarn is built up.  When I knitted this Kaffe Fassett waistcoat for my younger sister, I bought in only a few new yarns.  Similarly when I reprised the design for my mother.  Using some blues in a brown mix gave it a lift.  I inherited this waistcoat when my mother no longer needed it.

This waistcoat from the mid-80s is very much of its time.  I had one myself which read "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose", which I was very pleased to find fitted the space without much fudging.  For my mother, who lived near the sea, I chose appropriate imagery .

Somewhere in the 90s I remember travelling north on the train with a J&S shadecard.  Their yarns were so cheap, and the colours so lovely, that it was a real pleasure to pick out a selection of new yarns.  However, when the yarn arrived it was different somehow - the blends a little muddy and the colours in some of them forming slubs rather than blended fibres.  It was many years before I used these yarns. 

In 2000, we visited Shetland and Orkney just after our wedding.  It was at a time when the woolcrop was not in big demand.  There was talk of wool being dumped in the sea:  we certainly saw someone in Cumbria burning wool in an old quarry.  Along the road we saw signs to independent designers and we pulled over to visit.  I bought scarves and gloves in wonderful colour combinations.  Gloves at £9 a pair - who could knit them for that ?  They made great presents.  However, J&S itself was a disappointment.  The yarns were there, but the patterns on offer were distinctly traditional.  So much has changed in the last thirteen years - so many new, young designers, like Kate Davies.   I can feel an urge upon me to call up the online shade card and order some yarn.



kristieinbc said...

I think you are right - much has changed in the past decade or so, and Kate Davies has done much to promote Shetland. Going to J&S was the highlight of the Shetland portion of my time there (although I loved all of it!).

It was fun to see your knitting from the past. As a dachshund owner I am curious about the jacket you knit. Did you use a pattern or make it up yourself?

Thelma Crape said...

Thanks for the photos of your knitting from the past. You made some lovely garments. I agree with you. Maybe you should have a look at the shade card and make something for 2013.

Thelma Crape said...

Thanks for the photos of your knitting from the past. You made some lovely garments. I agree with you. Maybe you should have a look at the shade card and make something for 2013.