Here is a particularly timely yarn review. Did you know Shetland Wool Week is currently in progress? If ever Jamieson & Smith’s latest range deserved a closer look, it’s now!
Shetland Heritage is a true historical reproduction yarn, created after studying pieces of traditional 19th century fair isle knitting preserved in the Shetland Museum and Archives. How neat is that? I love my fair isle and I like a good lightweight yarn and I like nerding out about history a little so this yarn already sounded great to me as a concept. Then they had to go and make it available in this blue:
You can see the colour range here, and it is a well-chosen selection of 6 traditional colours, but oh my god that blue would not quit. If I review it then it doesn’t count as an impulse buy right?
So here are the facts. Shetland Heritage is a light fingering weight, or 3-ply equivalent ‘wursit’ spun wool, made from 100% Shetland sheep fleece (of course!). This hard to find weight of yarn is particularly important to vintage knitting fans, as every other jumper pattern up until the 1950s used it.You get 110m/120yds per 25g ball. And the colours are brilliant. Particularly the blue.
This test swatch below uses ‘Indigo’ (the blue!), ‘Flugga White’ (natural cream) and ‘Auld Gold’ (yellow). I had some fun playing around with different needle sizes and patterns, but at some point I had to make myself stop. The gauge for the 3mm stockinette is 7 sts and 9 rws per sq inch, for the fair isle it is 8 sts and 9 rws and for the 2.75mm stockinette it is 8 sts and 10 rws per sq inch.
Shetland Heritage is smooth and very soft on the ball, but feels a little bit crisp running through your fingers. There is a distinct ‘bite’, although it’s so fine and light it’s not uncomfortable. Actually it’s almost necessary to remind yourself you have wool in your hands! I found it a bit hard to keep the stitches even on the plain 3mm section, but then I moved on to the colourwork. Close up time!
Stranded knitting is very enjoyable in this yarn! The smoothness gives it great stitch definition, and makes forming those stitches an absolute breeze. I thought 3mm might be too large, but the yarn sits neatly next to itself. It behaves so well, and it’s easy to unravel as a bonus. Moving on, I was determined to find a good needle size for stockinette stitch. 2.75mm was perfect.
It is a strange fact of wool that it softens considerably with repeated washing and this seems particularly true of Shetland wool. The completed swatch had a stiffness that disappeared after washing. I could happily wear this next to my skin without it itching, especially at the tighter gauges. (I should point out that I don’t have particularly sensitive skin. T does, and he concluded he would not) The drape on the fabric is fantastic at all points, even the tighter end of the square. This is really is the main physical property to keep in mind when considering what to knit with it. Drape, drape and more oh-so-soft drape! It’s not a particularly springy fabric although it resists distortion very well. There is less of that tendency to ‘bloom’ that other woollen yarns have. It very much feels like a piece of knitting, rather than a piece of fabric.
As for wear, it pills a little easier than I would’ve expected, but the stitch definition is extremely hard to muss up. Believe me, I tried!
May I take a little liberty with the descriptions? I would compare this yarn to very good dark chocolate – it’s intense and fine, soft and sharp at the same time. It’s a perfect yarn for vintage lovers. No more do you have to faff around trying to recalculate the gauge of that 1940s cardigan pattern! I’m genuinely looking forward to see what colourwork other knitters use it for. But I’d be just as happy with a fine expanse of that spectacular blue yarn! A vintage blouse on 2.75mm needles maybe?
You can buy Shetland Heritage directly from Jamieson & Smith here.
More of my yarn reviews can be found here.