Day 3 - Part 2 - Jamieson's Spinning Mill Visit

After the frenzied shopping at the Shetland jewelry shop, it was off to the promised land -- we were going to the Jamieson's Spinning Mill in Sandness!

Could the big bus get up the driveway? Sure it could.

We were greeted by Peter Jamieson himself, and his son Gary......and we split into two groups to tour the facilities.

You might not know it, but Jamieson's Spinning is the ONLY spinning mill in Shetland. They purchase fleece from the local crofters, clean, card, dye, and spin it all in their mill at Sandness. In addition to knitting yarns, they weave tweed on special looms. Ordinary looms carry the yarn across the width of the loom. But these looms carry the fiber half way, then it is taken and drawn across the other half -- it's because the Shetland fiber is so fine. Please excuse my obvious lack of weaving knowledge. See all the boxes on the upper level -- full of fleece to be processed! They also machine knit sweaters on computerized Japanese knitting machines -- for designers and department stores. They are all finished on special machines in the mill. You'll see piles of discards -- maybe there is a mistake in the piece, or for whatever it doesn't meet the quality they are waste....or are they?

Nothing has changed in the process from fleece to yarn. Yes the steps are now machine assisted - but it is still a labour intensive process. The raw fleece is fed by hand into "the shaker" where dirt and debris is virtually shaken from the fleece, it goes by pressurized air tube to the scourer where it is washed in hot water and gently agitated by large prongs that go into the water and move the fleece through the water. It's dyed and "blended" before it is processed into yarn.

What I love about the Jamieson's yarns is their depth of colour......this is a handful of blended fleece, ready to be spun -- can you guess what colour this combination makes?Pine!

It is processed into single plys on cones. These single plys are then plyed together to make the various weights of yarn. The finished skeins are rewashed (to remove oil the is applied for the spinning machines), spun and dried -- and that's it! Whew!

It always way labour intensive, and it still is........each step is necessary and there is no way to shorten the process.

The biggest modification to this process is the fairly recent change from skeins to balls. I gather this was an EEC requirement -- that all yarns for export were put up in balls - sized in 25 gram increments (ie 25, 50, 75 or 100 gram balls). Previously, the skeins were wound, hand tied off, and individually twisted on a little machine, the label applied, and then 10 skeins were put into a bag -- all by hand. I took this photo during my 2003 visit!
So Jamieson's has a new ball machine -- they ball all of their yarns on this same machine.
It's done by weight -- and once the ball is complete, the label is put on by hand, and the balls are bagged - 10 balls to a bag. Better, but still pretty labour intensive. We were all pretty amazed at this machine!

After our Mill Tour, we were hosted by the Jamieson's at a luncheon at the local Community Centre -- sorry no pictures -- I never take pictures of people eating -- and then we were back to the Mill Shop for shopping!

I have no pictures of the shopping either -- I did this to protect the innocent -- or not so innocent -- depending on how you looked at it. I didn't want to have documented proof of what everyone bought -- your secrets remain safe with me!

We were later than expected back at the Busta House -- just time for a quick clean up and down for dinner.

Next Report - Day 4 - The South: Scatness, Sumburgh Light House


  1. Fascinating process... so, what happens to the discards?

  2. I think I would have passed out at the sight of all the yarn...

  3. I think I would have passed out at the sight of all the yarn...

  4. Anne,

    Enjoy the trip up to Shetland. Make sure you get to visit Eshaness ( and make sure you get a trip to some of the Islands, Yell, Fetlar, Bressay, etc.

    We've added a link onto - The Shetland Encyclopedia, from our Shetland Blogs page to your blog. Have a look at

    Hope that maybe you can add a link back to our site also. is a non-commercial website, recording and promoting Shetland, it's culture, language and it's people. is based on the popular Wikipedia site, and is a collection of articles, photos and links from everyone. If you have any photos that you would allow us to use then we'd be delighted to use them.

    We have a Shetland Knitwear page on the site

    Which we're looking for additions to. Any photos that you could make available for this page would be gratefully received. Even better, if you wanted to write some information about Shetland Knitwear to use on this page then it would be very useful. is only a few weeks old and there's still a long way to go.

    You may find the Shetland Dictionary page useful and interesting for your trip.

    Lots of Shetland words for you to learn and try out.

    Enjoy your trip to Shetland, and remember to tell everyone about it.

    Best regards
    The team. the Shetland Encyclopedia.

  5. Hi Anne- Shetlopedia- I love it. And I certainly would have had a hard time containing myself at the "holy of holies" Jamieson's Mill.
    I have about half of their stock in my stash.

  6. Ok, 'fess up. Did the discards 'accidently' end up in your bag?

    The most amazing shot? All those knitters lined up at the ball winding machine and *not* snatching up the skeins as they finished.

  7. i am so enjoying your travelogue :-)


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