herring photos

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I recently bought these two photos from the saleroom, the photos themselves are nice and they cost me the mighty sum of two pounds but what the photos represent was really why I wanted them. Since I bought them they have sparked an interest in me about my family and the role they played in a huge aspect of Shetland history.

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I don’t come from a textile background, I have mentioned that before and it’s why I think I seek out as much Shetland knitwear as I can. But one thing I am connected to which was at a point one of Shetlands largest industries, the Herring industry. Shetlands main industries historically were Crofting, Fishing and Knitting. As times have changed these things have peaked and dipped but from the late 1800’s until the mid 1970’s Herring fishing in Shetland was a big deal.

Gutting Herring at Shearers Station, Lerwick. 1940s, Photo: Shetland Museum and Archives

Gutting Herring at Shearers Station, Lerwick. 1940s, Photo: Shetland Museum and Archives

My Great granddad Magnus Shearer (my dads granddad) alongside his brother Arthur and Uncle James started their Herring fishing company in 1919. Magnus and Arthur were born in Clate, Whalsay in 1890 and 1894 respectively. Their Uncle James was born in 1867 and during this period the Herring Industry was booming. To give you an idea in the year Magnus began his apprenticeship as a cooper (they made the barrels the herring were put into) there were 1783 boats working, over 21,000 people employed (the 2015 Shetland population is approx 22,000 people total!!) producing well over a 1,000,000 barrels of cured herring.

 Women gutting herring in the farlins at Shearer's Station, Whalsay. Photo: Magnie Shearer

Women gutting herring in the farlins at Shearer’s
Station, Whalsay. Photo: Magnie Shearer

 Women gutting herring in the farlins at Shearer's Station, Garthspool. Photo: Magnie Shearer

Women gutting herring in the farlins at Shearer’s
Station, Garthspool. Photo: Magnie Shearer

During the First World War understandably the industry died down and both Magnus and Arthur served with the Gordon Highlanders and after they were demobbed and came home the industry was beginning to grow again, most of Europe was on the brink of starvation after the war and herring was a main food supply. To that end they established J&M Shearer in the Summer of 1919. Initially they set up a small curing station at Scarfskerry where the Lerwick Boating Club is located now. (I worked at the boating club one summer when I was at College) after a few years they moved to Freefield where they rented a jetty from Hay & Co, they also operated a station in Whalsay from 1922. In 1928 they were able to purchase the whole Garthspool property in Lerwick they then were able to also purchase the former whaling station in Collafirth, Northmavine which had been turned into a Herring Station (this is the area my Mams side of the family now stays) This huge growth and additions to the company gives you an idea of how strong this industry was.

Research LK 62 landing herrings at Garthspool, to J&M Shearer. Photo: Magnie Shearer

Research LK 62 landing herrings at Garthspool, to J&M
Shearer. Photo: Magnie Shearer

During this period although there was huge growth the industry fluctuated terribly year on year, Shearers was best placed because it had the three stations and were able to rely on their workforce. Early each season Arthur and latterly Magnus’s son, Magnus M (my Great Uncle, my Grannys brother) would go to Whalsay to hire some of the gutters for the coming season, paying them ‘Arle Money’ this was a rough contract, to show that both parties were committed to working together in that season. Mostly the women worked for Shearers year on year, probably because the men were originally from Whalsay and they had a good relationship with them. The ladies worked in groups of three, two gutters and a packer. In Lerwick there was the need for up to 10 crews of three with Whalsay having roughly half that at its peak. The work was dirty,cold and painful. The two gutters would gut the fish while the packer packed the Herring in tiers of salt in barrels, the rate of gutting was extremely fast with about 30-50 herring a minute so every morning the ladies would tie bandages over their fingers to avoid being nicked or cut by the special sharp knife they used to gut the fish. If they did cut their fingers the salt would enter the wound and make it extremely painful.

 Women gutting herring in the farlins at Shearer's Station, Garthspool. Photo: Magnie Shearer

Women gutting herring in the farlins at Shearer’s
Station, Garthspool. Photo: Magnie Shearer

Herring gutting at Shearer's. Photo: Magnie Shearer

Herring gutting at Shearer’s. Photo: Magnie Shearer

After the outbreak of the Second World War the herring fishing went down dramatically, again my Great Grandad Magnus was enlisted to the Gordon Highlanders but due to his age (49) he remained in Shetland as Movement Control Officer, during this time he also became provost of Lerwick from 1941-1946. To keep things going Arthur stayed on to run the business during the war and he also ran the Whitefish side of the business which had been established to give the coopers extra work during the winter.

James Manson nicknamed 'Yunkers', making a whole barrel in Shearer's Cooperage. Photo: Shetland Museum and Archives

James Manson nicknamed ‘Yunkers’, making a whole barrel in Shearer’s Cooperage. Photo: Shetland Museum and Archives

Some Summer herring fishing still went on at this time but on a much smaller scale as the yard had been taken over as an Army camp. Both the herring and whitefish was controlled by the government and the story goes that all the cured herring during the war was used to feed German Prisoners or War at POW camps throughout the UK.

Packing th gutted herring into the barrels. The cooper on the far right of the photo is Magnus Shearer (Arthur's son) Photo: Magnie Shearer

Packing the gutted herring into the barrels. The cooper
on the far right of the photo is Magnus Shearer (Arthur’s son) Jamieson & Smith can be seen in the background behind one of the boats mast’s. Photo: Magnie Shearer

Gutting mackerel at J. & M. Shearer's station. Lt.-Rt.- Tammie Garriock, James Manson (Yunkers), Bertie Tulloch, Willie Couper. Photo: Shetland Museum and Archives

Gutting mackerel at J. & M. Shearer’s station. Lt.-Rt.- Tammie Garriock, James Manson (Yunkers), Bertie Tulloch, Willie Couper. Photo: Shetland Museum and Archives

After the war my Great Uncle Magnus joined the family firm and his cousin, Arthur’s son, also called Magnus (its a strong family name, what can I say!) went into the cooperage to serve his apprenticeship. In 1945 when all the fishermen returned home from the war Shearers decided to put all their boats back out to the fishing (they had been being used as ‘flitboats’ to transport goods between the stations and then in War service) and built back up the Shetland fleet. The industry never recovered completely after the war and the demand for cured Herring was beginning to fall, however the demand for frozen Herring was beginning to rise and J&M Shearer installed Ice factories in 1945,1948 and the flake ice plant in 1960. (one of these buildings is now the offices of the Shetland Amenity Trust) Gutting machinery was also installed in 1964 which improved the conditions for the workers but quality became more of a problem. The company was bought by HPB (By Products) LTD in 1970 and in 1977 on the 1st of January a complete ban on herring fishing in the British Sector of the North Sea began essentially ending 250 years of Herring Fishing in Shetland and ending the Shearers involvement after over 60 years.

The two men in the foreground are Magnus Shearer Snr, the 'M' of J&M Shearer (my Great Grandad) The other man is the AHM Herring Inspector Photo: Magnie Shearer

The two men in the foreground are Magnus Shearer Snr,
the ‘M’ of J&M Shearer (my Great Grandad) The other man is the
AHM Herring Inspector Photo: Magnie Shearer

 Gutting herring at Shearer's Station, Garthspool, herring drifter 'Research' LK 62 in the background Photo: Magnie Shearer

Gutting herring at Shearer’s Station, Garthspool,
herring drifter ‘Research’ LK 62 in the background Photo: Magnie Shearer

Of course by the time I was born in 1990 this was all long over but there are little reminders of Shearer’s everywhere down on the sea front in Lerwick, I feel a strong connection when I walk along there which I do often. My work at Jamieson & Smith is near to where the stations were located and you can see it in the background of lots of the photos. The herring gutters that came up to work in Shetland were the reason Jamieson & Smith started doing a Mail Order service, one of the first in Shetland, so the gutters that came up to work in Shetland in the season could carry on knitting when they got home. It’s hard for me to appreciate how difficult it must have been for my family when the business began to fail as the industry died. They kept it going in different forms but when I read how parts of the business were broken up and sold off it makes me feel for my not so distant ancestors. I wish my Granny was still here so I could ask her about it, although perhaps it was upsetting which is why I don’t know too much about it all. Or of course I could be being dramatic (me? never..) and that was just how the world was changing. All the information I have and all the photos were kindly given to me by my cousin Young Magnus, my Great Uncle Magnus’s son. He gathered together what he could from memory and research because the official records of the business were lost or destroyed when they were relocated to the offices of the then parent company HBP (By Products) LTD in 1984 when they sold off the business and assets of Shearers. An interesting thing young Magnus also sent me was a transcript of a recommendation letter which my Great Granddad received when he was looking to emigrate to Nova Scotia as a Fisheries Officer after a particularly difficult Herring season in 1920-1921. As he pointed out, who knows if his optimism took over or if he had already met and fallen in love with my Great Granny Flora Stephen as they were married in December 1922. In any case, it’s a good job he didn’t or I likely wouldn’t be here today!

J&M Shearer barrels, Photo: Shetland Museum and Archives

J&M Shearer barrels, Photo: Shetland Museum and Archives

I hope this history is vaguely interesting to some of you, I’m glad I got those £2 photos..! As an aside my nephew is also called Magnus, he’s not a Shearer but his dad is from Whalsay..

Further reading:

Coull, James R. Fishing, Fishermen, Fish Merchants and Curers in Shetland: Episodes in Fishing and Curing Herring and White Fish. Shetland: Shetland Amenity Trust, 2007. Print.

Telford, Susan. ‘In a World a Wir Ane': A Shetland Herring Girl’s Story. Lerwick: Shetland Times, 1998. Print.

Fryer, Linda G. “Knitting by the Fireside and on the Hillside”: A History of the Shetland Hand Knitting Industry C.1600-1950. Lerwick: Shetland Times, 1995. Print.

Abrams, Lynn. Myth and Materiality in a Woman’s World: Shetland 1800-2000. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2010. Print.

 

 

vintage shetland blog tour

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Hello! today I am here to talk about something very exciting, if you know me you know I love vintage knitwear (see my ever growing collection here) and obviously I love Shetland so this project is very interesting to me. The Vintage Shetland Project is going to be a book full of patterns based on items in the Shetland Museums textile collection. Susan Crawford is the author of a number of knitting books and her main area of interest is vintage knitwear, her specialism is recreating and redoing patterns from vintage knitwear and making them into modern patterns ready for todays knitter, Susan is extremely inspired by the fashions and textile of the early to mid 20th century and I cant wait to see this book!!

Haps and Jumpers on stretchers and jumper boards. photo: JD Ratter, Shetland Museum and Archives.

Haps and Jumpers on stretchers and jumper boards. photo: JD Ratter, Shetland Museum and Archives.

Shetland Museum and Archives has a large and brilliant textile collection, Susan has spent the past few years choosing and developing patterns based on items in the collection, this difference between this and what Susan usually does is that there are no patterns for these items so Susan has painstakingly redesigned each item. She says ‘As these garments slowly perish as they unfortunately will do, I hope to extend their life in another way, recording their image, their patterns, their stitches, and their past and enabling knitters to read these histories and to be able to recreate these perfectly flawed knits too’

Fair Isle Scarves in the Museum Collection.

Fair Isle Scarves in the Museum Collection.

The reason we are doing this blog tour is so that you can be involved in the process too, Susan has organised a pubslush campaign which means by contributing to the publishing of this book you can receive rewards and bonuses (like receiving all of Susans books!) depending on how much you put towards the book.

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photo courtesy Susan Crawford

Being in this blog tour has meant a sneaky peek at some of the items featured in the book. Some I have been lucky enough to see myself first hand at the Museum store, but what I like is that Susan has chosen very different and individual pieces from the collection. They all feature interesting or different techniques like the hat shown above. This hat has a crazy open pom pom on the top that I just love!

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photo courtesy of the Shetland Museum and Archives

The hat is actually part of a two piece set alongside an unusual crossover top, It cleverly uses the plain rounds to do the decreasing in the crown enabling the peerie patterns to stay correct. The huge pom pom obstructs most of the lovely crown shaping so Im intriqued to know more about it!

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photo courtesy Susan Crawford

As a Shetlander thats interested in knitting it is quite easy to feel quite smug about the rich culture and heritage I was merely born into, we are so lucky to have these skills passed down to us. Even me who doesn’t come from a textile background, I can ask Sandra who I work with at Jamieson & Smith (she is my personal knitting guru) and you can always find someone or something to inspire you. We, as Shetlanders, have to appreciate the people who have an interest in Shetland and Shetland Knitting and that are willing to publish things like this, I know from my work at J&S that people are constantly looking for books about Shetland knitting and Fair Isle. We are notoriously shy or reluctant (take your pick) to share our knowledge so we must value for those that do so.

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photo courtesy Susan Crawford

At the time of writing the project has already totally surpassed its goal, which is amazing! but Susan plans to use the extra funding to continue improving the book and adding more and more to it – so don’t stop contributing!

To see the posts and people in the blog tour, see the list below! Friday see’s the tour continue on to Jess from Ginger Twist Studios.

Thursday 9th July
  
Saturday 12th July
  
Monday 13th July
    
Wednesday 15th July         
  
Friday 17th July
  
Saturday 18th July
  
Sunday 19th July
   
Monday 20th July
  
Tuesday 21st July
  
Wednesday 22nd July
  
Friday 24th July
  
Saturday 25th July
  
Sunday 26th July
   
Monday 27th July
  
Wednesday 29th July
  
Friday 31st July
  
Sunday 2nd August
  
Monday 3rd August
  
  
Tuesday 4th August
TBC
Wednesday 5th Aug
TBC
Thursday 6th August
   
Friday 7th August

 

hermaness worsted

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we have been suffering from a usual Shetland summer this year for example today pretty much the rest of the UK is going through a heat wave and in Shetland its 14 degrees and raining.. pretty poor to be honest but sometimes, and quite a a lot recently the days have been crap but the nights have been quite nice and last night was one of those nights.

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Since I came back from Iceland I have had a lack of knitting mojo, it think it was over-stimulation! I came back with too many ideas and too many things I wanted to make. I needed something simple and quick, then I saw Karens post about the Fringe Hatalong. The pattern is a worsted weight version of Hermaness, one of Gudrun’s pattern from her book that was released last year.

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The pattern requires one ball of Shelter, I have a few of those lying around..! So I thought I’d give it a go, I still have my jumper weight version on the needles, which I really want to finish.. but for now this was a quick and easy project.

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I used 3.5mm needles for the rib and 4.5 for the main pattern. Since I am over half way through my jumper weight version of the original pattern I caught on again to the pattern repeat pretty quickly so I got the hat worked up over a couple of nights (while I binge watched Orange is the New Black!!) I was disappointed with how much it stretched when I washed it so if I was to make another I might go down a needle size and maybe two for the rib! Its ok as it is a slouchy hat but if it had been more of a beret I would have been disappointed.

Collage The Shelter was lovely to knit with, it has a very odd texture to me, although its 100% wool it nearly feels like chenille or something? Its very loosely spun so it must be all the air making it feel squishy. If you look hard enough on Raverly there are people complaining about how easily it breaks, I don’t find it to be too bad and I think the colour of the yarn makes up for it. They are very complex and dyed in the wool so you get lovely flashes of other colours. I used Hayloft which is a lovely bright orangey yellow. The hat should take one ball but I had used a tiny bit of this ball so I ran out near the end and couldn’t do all the knit rounds between the decreasing or the I-cord bind off.

Thanks to my mam for taking the pictures of me in the hat, I totally turned our walk into a photo-shoot..!

If you would like to knit your own hermaness hat you can download the pattern via Karen’s blog and if you do, remember to use the hashtag #fringehatalong on instagram!

yell and the old haa

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I mentioned in my last post that me and my dad were going up to Yell to set up a small joint exhibition in the Old Haa museum in Yell. Well on Sunday we did that but a few weeks ago we also went up for some inspiration, I thought I’d share some photos from both those trips. Yell is one of the northern isles of Shetland and where my Granny and Grandad on my Mams side are from. Although they left Yell for Ollaberry in the mid 1960’s it still feels like a family place to me.

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Yell is quite a big island (the second largest after the mainland) and some parts are quite empty with concentrated groups of villages, the land goes from peat covered to green and lush from one mile to the next. This large expanses of land also means of course: lots of sheep, and quite a lot of nice coloured sheep too.

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The weather on both days me and dad were up was typical Shetland summer days, rain one minute and sun the next. We got caught in a few showers but when it was sunny it was lovely. There are quite a few abandoned bulidings and crofthouses in Yell as there is everywhere in Shetland but as you know I love any crofthouse, derelict or otherwise as I use them for inspirations for my cushions!

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So, the purpose of our visit on Sunday was to set up the exhibition, my Dad for those who don’t know is a local cartoonist and artist in Shetland, he is best known for his cartoons which he does every week in the local paper (for the past 25+ years!) and he also sells his cartoons at Craft Fairs and the like in Shetland. Although of course I am biased he is really very funny but also very talented and his ‘serious’ pictures are just as good as his cartoons.

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I think my cushions and his pictures go very well together! The exhibition is located in the small gallery room in the Old Haa, a museum located in Burravoe in Yell, it houses a lot of local history about Yell from its nature and geology to the experiences of Yell men going to the whaling and the war. It also has a tea room, with very nice cakes (I can confirm this) For more information about the Old Haa see here.

The exhibition runs until the 12th of July so if you happen to be in Yell, go for a look!

Iceland – the textile museum

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I was really interested in visiting the Textile Museum located in Blönduós, you might know that I am a trustee of the Shetland Textile Museum (see the shiny new website here) so I am always interested in seeing small local museums.. especially if textiles are involved.

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As you probably know if you are as interested/obsessed about Iceland as me the typical Iceland Jumper – the Lopapeysa is a relatively new invention and really took off thanks to the tourist industry, much like a Fair Isle yoke – but the Textile Museum concentrates on Textiles that date from before this time. Helene Magnusson, who ran the tour I was on, has a beautiful book ‘Icelandic Handknits‘ which is all patterns inspired by items in the collection.

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Quite a large part of the museum is dedicated to Halldóra Bjarnadóttir who was a very important person in Icelandic Textiles, you can read more about her here. Many of the items were either knit by her or were in her collection, she had a huge interest in knitting and weaving but also the traditional Icelandic national costume. Quite a lot of the pieces had echoes and similarities to Shetland knitting, especially the lace. Which made me feel nice, I don’t know why..

IMG_5596 IMG_5600 IMG_5602One of the things I found most interesting was the shoe inserts, Helene has done a lot of research into this little knitted objects and another one of her books (see here) is devoted to patterns inspired by this type of knitting. This inserts were knit using garter stitch and intarsia and were designed to go into the traditional fish skin shoes. Something about them just made you really want to have a pair!

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We arrived before the museum had officially opened for the summer season so not all of the exhibitions were up yet but there was also a room filled with embroidery work which was very beautiful. I did quite a bit of embroidery at college but since I am neither patient nor neat I never got that far…

IMG_5604 IMG_5605We also visited the former Womens College which is next door to the Textile Museum. It is now a research centre where people can stay and do residencies and research. As I am a toonie I never had to stay at a hostel for school but it kind of reminded me of the Janet Courtney Hostel in Lerwick were students from outlying islands come to stay through the week for school. It was a bit old school in the decorations though compared to that, just look at the wallpaper in some of the bedrooms!

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Anyway, while we were there we met with the two ladies there that were doing a textile residency, one of them Amanda had actually commented on one of my photos on Instagram a few weeks before I went so it was so nice to meet her. She is a weaver (and knitter too, I’m sure she was wearing an Acer cardigan..) so she showed us some of the things she’d been working on. They had a beautiful weaving room upstairs full of old looms. Now I also did weaving at college and my earlier mentioned personality traits (lace of patience and neatness) also meant I was crap at it but I can appreciate a room full of wooden looms. Even I could have woven there.

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One of my besties (and weaver extraordinaire) Amy Gair would have LOVED it, it was very peaceful and quiet, I loved the window Amanda had a little desk set up with all her lopi and pencils ready for inspiration

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While I’m speaking about people I met on Instagram I also have to mention my friend Lara! She bought a cushion from me a while ago and since then we have kept in touch, she is interested in Shetland and me Iceland so obviously we are a perfect match. Luckily we were able to spend most of a day together on my last full day in Reykjavik and she took me to the National Museum, back to Alafoss to buy wool and we also went to a house museum park type thing that was closed but we had a nice wander around! I was really touched that Lara brought a present she made for me, these beautiful mittens:

IMG_5704 I also took a photo of Lara in her recently finished Gamaldags Cardigan, a design by Helene! circles and roundabouts folks..

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Thank you Lara :)

Although I still have a gabillion photos from Iceland this will probably be the last post about my trip, well I might do more at some point but I need to get back into the present..! On Sunday I am heading up to Yell to set up my first joint exhibition with my Dad who is a local artist. Ill be back next week to tell you more.. til then, have a nice weekend and happy knitting xx

Iceland – glaumbær and the fish tannery

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Hello, today I am back with more photos from my trip to Iceland, this time some pictures from the Glaumbaer Turf House and Folk Museum and the Fish Tannery – very different from each other but very interesting! We first visited the Turf house with its adjacent folk museum, these wood-fronted turf-walled and turf-roofed dwellings were inhabited until 1947. Iceland, much like Shetland is pretty tree-less so these buildings were an answer to the lack of wood available. Many aspects of the house are wood but the roof and walls are all made from turf and turf bricks.

col1Some of the front rooms were quite basic and sparsely decorated, with the open turf walls but other rooms were pretty fancy and you forgot the walls were made from earth!

IMG_5555 IMG_5557 Adjacent to the turf house is a lovely tea room and folk museum, filled with items from the last century or so. The house was moved to the site in 1991 as an example of the kind of house that came after the Turf houses. The house is typical of that of a rural Icelander of the time and it was a very sweet building, I loved the blues and greens that were everywhere.

IMG_5575col2IMG_5573 IMG_5572 IMG_5565 There was even an old knitting machine!

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After we had been to the museum we headed further north to go to the Fish Tannery in Sauðárkrókur. It is the only tannery in Europe that makes fish leather.. yes fish leather, its a thing! (these photos are of animal skins, if you are offended.. sorry!)

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My friend Vivian has done a lot of work with fish skins so I knew it was something that could be done but I was amazed at all the different things they can do with it! As well as working with fish they also make more traditional animal skin products from sheep, horses and cows.

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I’m afraid, well maybe not – I’m allowed my own opinions after all, I really quite like sheepskins and stuff.. not like mink coats or anything but these products which are by-products in fact, of the food industry are lovely. At the end of the day, these animals are raised for meat and if someone can get warmth from the skin which would otherwise be destroyed.. why not? spoken like a true granddaughter of a crofter!

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We were shown around the tannery by one of the ladies who worked in the family business and she showed us all aspects of the process.

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There were huge vats full of water and fish skin which had just come from presumably wherever they used the meat (meat? is that the right word for fish?) for the food industry.

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As we were going around I was thinking that surely you would have to sew together lots of fish to get a big enough piece to do anything with but I was amazed how much the fish skin stretched when it was cured – Amazing!

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The products made from the fish skins are extremely high end and the company travels to many places in the year like Japan and Milan to trade shows to gain contracts for the big fashion houses.

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I thought it was really brilliant what they were doing. The tannery was located in a small fishing town and its great that this unusual technique is happening right there and ending up on the catwalk!

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She also showed us upstairs in their sample room some other examples of things which could be made from animal skin, like polar bears, artic foxes and even a cat! I refrained from taking a picture of that.. I know there is a lot of cat lovers around..!

next time.. the textile museum!

xx

Iceland – istex factory

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Hello, I’m not intentionally dragging out my Iceland posts for dramatic effect, things have been so busy this week but today I am back with some pictures from one of my favourite parts about my trip, the Istex yarn factory! I have a very healthy *ahem* stash of Icelandic yarn so I was really looking forward to seeing where it was produced.

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The factory is just outside Reykjavik and it is where they spin and dye the wool. It is washed in a different part of Iceland, in Blönduós – a town in the north which we also visited and is home to the textile museum.. (can you smell another blog post on the horizon?) Icelandic wool is made of up two types of fibre: a finer,softer inner and a stronger,glossy outer. These two aspects together create a warm, water repellent and windproof yarn which is perfect for Icelandic (and Shetland..) weather.

IMG_5656 As you know, I work for a yarn company (Jamieson & Smith) so as you can imagine, any thing related to wool or wool production I find really interesting. At Jamieson & Smith the yarn is spun and dyed down south so I don’t get to see any of this part. We deal with the raw wool in the wool store and then the finished products in the shop. The factory was smaller than I imagined which I think is quite common for this kind of industry, wool and yarn is such a niche market that we seem to manage to do the work with less staff and space as people would think. (not that the factory was tiny or anything, its just when you know how far reaching a yarn brand is, its always surprising how few people are really involved)

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The washed wool arrives at the factory in bales and then it is spun and dyed from there. The factory was a hub of activity and it was brilliant to see all the wool at its different stages from airing, blending, dyeing, carding, spinning, balling to finished yarn.

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We were shown around the factory by Hulda Hákonardóttir who is the marketing manager for Istex, she told us how the Istex brand was formed after the wool crisis in the 1980s and 4 (of 5..not sure) members of staff joined together to purchase the factory after the bankruptcy of the former company. This was interesting to me as I know we struggled in the 1980s and 1990s in Shetland with the price and value of wool.. Well J&S did, others not so much. Anyway, the company has gone on from strength to strength and now has a staff of about 40 making the yarn, from einband (lace weight) up to bulky.

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I was pleasantly surprised with some of the similarities I found between my work and that of this worldwide brand. They even handmade their shade cards there in the factory, one of my least fave jobs to do..

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I think it is really good how forward thinking they are and Hulda told us about the new Lopi 34 book (of course already purchased..) It is made up of vintage patterns redesigned for a more modern audience. This is the kind of things that keep classic Yarn company’s moving and not being left behind. There is a place for more rustic yarns (read scratchy) and honestly you can train yourself to wear them. I will always support these kind of company’s because they are honest about what they are doing.

Next up! the turf house and folk museum and the fish tannery..!!

(also: I’ve added some more piece to my knitwear collection blog, including a few pieces I bought in Reykjavik)