UK: Lerwick firm creates new finer, smoother and stronger yarn

YORKSHIRE: The Lerwick firm has created a yarn and products that have attracted interest from the American and Italian fashionistas, based on a theme that pleased Queen Victoria too. The company has produced worsted yarn “wirset” which is combed, not carded, replicating a superfine hand spun yarn used in fine shawls. Woolen spun, limits the fineness of the yarn, whereas the yarn produced by the wirset process is finer, smoother and stronger.

The new lines from Jamieson and Smith could soon be appearing in top fashion houses across the globe. THE FASHION hotspots of New York and Milan are not usually linked with Lerwick, but new products from Jamieson and Smith aim to change that.

The wirset, which the firm has produced in one and two-ply, has caught the eye of foreign fashion houses. A one-ply cobweb cockleshell hand knitted scarf sewn with pearls, created by Mary Eunson of Lerwick, a "work of art," plus a machine-knitted scarf made by Shetland College from the same yarn.

There were slightly thicker scarves made in two-ply. Light and soft, yet strong and springy, the scarves demonstrate the possibilities of the yarn, the one-ply version of which, experts think, was used to make a pair of stockings presented to Queen Victoria.

Company boss Oliver Henry said: "The yarn retains its characteristics and is tough enough to go through the college machine." The yarn is at present put onto cones which are large enough to avoid joins in a garment, and, said Mr Henry, they cannot possibly be copied.

All yarns are produced in natural colors and are totally eco-friendly as the sheep from which it comes are grazed on peat moor and heather hills where no fertilizer has been used. Work is continuing with Shetland College to develop new lines. The developing of niche markets is seen as the way forward for the business, said Mr Henry, who celebrated 40 years with the company last month.

The business has started another new venture in carpeting. Tougher clips are used to make wool carpet. The wool is sold to the parent company Curtis Wool Direct, in Yorkshire, where it is sorted and combed, and then to a carpet manufacturer in America. The 100 per cent pure Shetland wool product is then produced all to be marketed with the company's three rams logo.

The heirloom scarves and carpeting follow on from the success of the firm's travel rugs, launched last year. New products have added value to the coloured clip and the price has gone up by 20 pence per kilo since last year.

But prices could be higher if sorting of the clip could be done in Shetland. Mr Henry said that approximately 90 per cent of the Shetland clip, about 800 clips, goes to the firm. If it could be sorted the coarse guard hair separated from the softer hair, a time-consuming process done entirely by hand, the value of the product leaving Shetland would be higher.

The company has identified new premises and submitted a business plan to the council to seek grant aid. Mr Henry said: "This year has been tough for the agricultural sector and I hope our future plans materialize and we increase returns on our wool clip.

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Added: September 1, 2007 Source: Agencies
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