I always feel that the start of a new year gives me a clean slate and an incentive to do something different and fresh in the coming months. Of course, there are lots of things being carried over from the previous year which will all need looking after but I like to look forward to a new challenge or two. 2016 is no different and there are a few projects bubbling under but the first is one that is close to my heart.
We are about to launch the most ambitious range of Real Shetland wool throws ever made and we are very excited to see how they will be received.
I thought I might explain here the various processes involved in getting us to this stage and perhaps give an understanding to readers outside the industry what goes in to making a new bespoke wool product. I will then explain later how we take the product to market and hopefully achieve the level of sales we need to further develop the range.
It all starts with the wool , grown exclusively in the Shetland Islands by crofters and sheep farmers. Every individual fleece is graded and sorted for quality by Jamieson and Smith a.k.a 'The Woolbrokers'. They buy the vast majority of wool that is grown in the Shetland Islands and pay the growers a proper price for it in record time. Fast pay makes friends fast in our world!
The sorted wool goes to our scouring plant in Bradford, Haworth Scouring Ltd, which washes the wool and removes dirt, grease and other unmentionables from the fleeces. Haworth is the most environmentally friendly scour of its type in the world and has more certificates and badges than the Chief Scout! Once scoured the wool goes to our combing department where it is carded and combed into a continuous sliver, called a top, which then goes to the spinner. This is called the worsted route - if you miss out the combing it is the woollen route - the difference is that by combing the wool all the fibres are made parallel and are smoother to the touch. The easiest example is if one compares a Harris Tweed cloth to a fine smooth suiting cloth, the Harris Tweed is woollen and the smooth suiting cloth is worsted. Both processes have their merits and much depends on what sort of a product you want to make as to which one is best. Up to now, our Real Shetland wool throws have been woollen spun but for this brand new bespoke designer range we decided to go the more expensive worsted route.
The spinner will take the combed top and rework it so it is suitable for their plant. The yarn for this range is a 2 ply which means two finer yarns are spun individually and then are twisted together to make a single thicker but strong yarn. The yarn then goes to the dyer and for this range it is dyed to 12 different shades. The thickness of the yarn and the shades it is being dyed to are subject to much discussion and thought and designers have a great deal of input here. We chose to work with the same shades as were developed for the Jamieson and Smith Heritage collection of hand knitting yarns - for 3 primary reasons - they coordinate, the shades look wonderful and it makes it more economical. We love them!
So, at this stage we have yarn on cone in a dozen different shades and we need to get it woven into cloth. However, before we can start weaving we have to know what cloth designs we want and then get those designs translated into a form the weaver can work with. This is where we asked a team of highly talented designers for their help. They had the shades to work with and a blank canvas to create something rather special and befitting of the Heritage of Real Shetland wool! They work for some of the top designer labels in the world (I don't think I can mention their names here but think of the highest high end names and they have probably worked with them!) and we couldn't wait to see their designs. They drew the designs and coloured them in the chosen shades and showed us what they had come up with. I am going to frame the hand painted designs and hang them in my office.
We were not disappointed and the collection is unique and rather fantastic...but I would say that wouldn`t I? I have a couple of favourites but Adam has different ones and the team at Jamieson and Smith have theirs also. I believe we have a wonderful range of throws that will look good in the back of your car, draped over your bed or settee or favourite comfy chair, for taking to the ball game, the 5 star hotel or the log cabin. Our aim was to make a product that we could all be proud of and is also excellent value for money. I believe we have done that and I will let you know how the launch goes in due course. The cost of developing this range runs into many thousands of pounds and is a risk - but what better way to start 2016 than with something fresh and new and rather exciting for the Spring ...
The throws will initially be available from Adam Curtis online, Jamieson and Smith and The Shetland Museum.
PS: Please remember, if something calls itself Shetland wool it probably isn't genuine unless it has the registered trade mark, the 3 Sheep logo on it.
Interested in the wonders of wool - read more blogs by Martin.
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