Pattern | Cluaran Tea Cosy

Cluaran Tea Cosy
Cluaran Tea Cosy

The Cluaran Tea Cosy was released in October last year, following on from the Design Competition for the Glasgow School of Yarn. (The theme was Homecoming in Scotland, can you tell?)

It uses my perennial favourite – Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumperweight; using three shades (although you can get a great effect using just two – more on that in a future post). The pattern comes in four basic sizes, with additional guidance for customising the fit for your own tea pot. The slits for the spout and handle are steeked and finished with an i-cord bind-off. And the best bit in my opinion? The wee thistle tassel at the top!

Full pattern information can be found here.

Notes: Cluaran = Thistle.

Tis’ the Season to be busy…

Time seems to be on fast forward at the moment and I would like to know where exactly this year has gone. It doesn’t seems five minutes since March. Kind of hard to believe that we’ve been across in Edinburgh for almost 9(!) months. How did that happen? Continue reading “Tis’ the Season to be busy…”

Spinning: A Round-Up, February-May 2013

Since I last (ahem) blogged about my spinning, I have – unsurprisingly – spun a fair bit more. The last spinning post, detailing the first month of the handblended club from HilltopCloud, was some time ago.

In the meantime, I’ve had the pleasure of spinning up the following…

From Hilltop Cloud

200g Baby Camel and Tussah Silk blend in ‘Teal’.

100g Teeswater in ‘Winter Sunrise’, from the Best of British (BOB) Club, plied with silver thread.

From SpinPretty

100g Merino and Angora Blend in ‘Shades of Gray’.

From Once A Sheep

200g Merino and Silk Blend in ‘Purple’ and ‘White’. Blended during spinning to create a gradient yarn.

From The Yarn Cake

50g Shetland in ‘Shetland Black’ and ‘Moorit’

From Sue’s Crafts 

150g Shetland in ‘Purple Smoke’

Year of Natural Scotland

Apparently this year is the ‘Year of Natural Scotland’, as advertised on the VisitScotland website:

Come and celebrate Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty throughout 2013. From stunning natural and historic landscapes, art inspired by nature, surprising wildlife and delicious food & drink, you can find nature right on your doorstep. Don’t miss the chance to experience the great Scottish outdoors for yourself, join in the celebrations with a packed programme of events and discover insider tips from across the country during the Year of Natural Scotland.

So how to publicise this? Shetland ponies in Shetland Fair Isle jumpers.

Image (C) The Scotsman, January 22, 2013

ETA And now the Huffington Post ha picked upon this and published more pictures

Fibre: Shetland

Sheep, Wester Quarff, Shetland IslesDascha the Shetland Sheep, photograph (C) Mark Sinclair 2009.


The Shetland sheep belongs to the Northern European short-tailed family, a group which appears to have been present in the area for some considerable time. Romano-sheep breeds began to spread their influence through Britain from approximately 2000 years ago, moving steadily northwards and it seems likely that these sheep impacted on the northern and island stocks.[i] Earliest indications suggest that short-tailed sheep were brought to the islands by Vikings around c.500 AD at the earliest.[ii] It is possible that this Nordic stock interbred with native wild sheep already present on the islands, though this cannot be proven. What is evident is that Shetland Sheep maintain several ‘wild’ characteristics.[iii]

The breeding of these animals continued through the middle ages, with their geographic location encouraging the development of a distinct ‘Shetland’ type.[iv]

The popularity of the Shetland Sheep and its fleece increased in the earlier part of the twentieth century, when Fair Isle and knitwear reached fashionable heights. By 1927 standards had been agreed and the Shetland Flock Book Society was established, which also created the Breed Standard.

The breed was for a time listed on the Rare Breed Survival Trust’s lists; as a Category 3 (Vulnerable) in 1977, then Category 5 (Minority) by 1985/1990s. The breed was removed from the list in 2002.

The Fibre[v]

  • Staple length can vary from 2-4.5 inches up to 10.
  • Diameter of the fiber tends to fall between approximately 20-30 microns, although it can be both finer and coarser depending on the quality of the fleece.
  • The fibre should spin up relatively smoothly.
  • Finished product will reflect the coarsest elements of the original fibre. The fleeces are double coated; with an inner and outer coat.[vi] The longer guard hairs tend to be coarser and for softer yarns – these require removal.[vii]
  • The Joy of Handspinning states that Shetland, along with other ‘down’ fibre types is not suited to the beginner.[viii] Interestingly, in a Knitty article from 2009, the author refers to the negative perception of many spinners concerning Shetland fibre.[ix]


According to the available resources, there are eleven ‘official’ Shetland sheep colours: Black, Shaela, Emsket, Gray, Light Gray, White, Musket, Mioget, Fawn, Moorit and Dark Brown[x]. These also have their own subtle variations – Shaela, for instance, can be applied to different shades depending on the Isle of origin.

The following table lists these colours, with their descriptors and the equivalent colours in fibre and yarn from the two major Shetland wool suppliers in the UK – Jamieson & Smith and Jamieson’s of Shetland.[xi] These equivalents are based on my own observations and on substitutions used on Ravelry for projects utilising the natural Shetland shades. These are therefore subject to my own biases concerning colour perception; others may view these colours very differently.

Official Name


Jamieson & Smith’s Natural Shetland Fibre

Jamieson & Smith’s Shetland Supreme (Formerly Natural Shetland)

Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift

Black Black Black Shetland Black [2005] Shetland Black [101]
Dark Brown Dark Brown Shetland Black [2005] Shetland Black [101]
Emsket Dusky Blue-Gray Gray Yuglet [2009] Shaela [102]
Fawn Fawn Fawn Sholmit [2007] Mogit [107]
Gray Gray Gray Shaela [2003] Sholmit [103]
Light Gray Light Gray Katmollet [2008] Eesit [105]
Mioget Lightest Brown, warm yellowish overtones Gaulmogot [2006] Eesit [105]
Moorit Reddish Brown, ranging from Fawn tones through to Dark Red-Browns Moorit Moorit [2004] Moorit [108]
Musket Pale Gray-Brown, from mixing both Gray and Brown fibres Mooskit [2002] Mooskit [106]
Shaela Dark Gray, two types the name has different meaning in different parts of the Isles Yuglet [2009] Shaela [102]
White White White White [2001] Natural White [104]

Some of these colours are rarer than others. Statistics from 1994 listed in Robson & Ekarius indicate that only two of the eleven colours are common, with the remaining nine shades only being registered for a total of 214 sheep.[xii] More recent statistics concerning the number of Shetland sheep on the islands indicate that there are just over 2000 registered pure bred examples of the breed.[xiii] The rarity of various colours appears to be continuing. Observations placed on a discussion thread on the Ravelry Jamieson & Smith forum provides a good indication behind the reasons for the decline:

The main problem stems back a few years to government legislation. It was thought at that point that certain genotypes were more likely to get scrapie – a sort of sheep brain disease that they thought might be able to pass to humans. So they gave farmers and crofters money to cull sheep with that genotype. At the same time, vast quantities of extra paperwork were put in place.

Now there has never been a case of scrapie in Shetland the place or Shetland the breed. But the extra hassle meant that quite a few people who had been keeping 20 or 30 sheep decided at that point to take the money and give up with their sheep. It was only at the end of the year, when the fleece started to arrive with Oliver, that he realised what was happening. It turned out that a big proportion of the coloured fleece was kept by these folk with small herds. The folk involved didn’t realise they held an important resource – no one knew it at the time.

By the time Oliver realised what was happening and got on to the media, it was too late. Those sheep had been culled. I well remember him saying that there was going to be a shortage for coloured fleece. And he was not wrong.

Now some people are realising that breeding coloured sheep is worthwhile, and with luck, the price increases will mean that more will be bred. But that will take time. And a good percentage of the gene pool has already been lost in Shetland itself. As Oliver has said many times, thank goodness for the hobby breeders down south – they have kept the colours.

From a forum post by Ravelry User NorthernLace[xiv]

In addition to the colours, there are also a significant number of markings associated with Shetland Sheep. These have no impact on the colours available for spinning but certainly demonstrate the variety associated with the breed.[xv]

My Shetland Spinning

  1. Ring-a-Rosie Shetland Top
  2. HilltopCloud Shetland & Kid Mohair

[i] D. Robson & C. Ekarius (2011) The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, p. 184

[ii] S. Adalsteinsson (2000) 1000 Years of Sheep in Shetland. A later date linked to Norwegian rule of Shetland has also been suggested.

[iv] The Shetland Sheep Society – History (2012).

[v] The technical information is derived from D. Robson & C. Ekarius (2011) The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, p.192; The Shetland Sheep Society – Shetland Wool (2012).

[x] See D. Robson & C. Ekarius (2011) The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, p.186-187; The Shetland Sheep Society – Colours & Markings (2012).

[xi] Derived from D. Robson & C. Ekarius (2011) The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, p.186-187; The Shetland Sheep Society – Colours & Markings (2012); Jamieson & Smith Shetland Supreme & Natural Shetland Fibres (2013); Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift (2013).

[xii] D. Robson & C. Ekarius (2011) The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, p.185.

[xiv] Ravelry profile for NorthernLace. For the forum thread (published 2012), see here, particularly pages 6 and 7 of the discussion. The post quoted above is #136 in the thread.

Spin: HilltopCloud Shetland & Kid Mohair

More spinning! This time some Shetland and Mohair, from November issue of HilltopCloud’s Best of British Club. An unusual but extremely lovely combination of fibres in a gorgeous colourway, the very aptly-named (for December) Sitka Spruce.

Again I spun it up before I took a picture of the braid!


I tried something a little different to my normal spinning and opted to aim for a heavier-weight yarn. The colours look great all spun up and sitting in a row though. I got 91 yds of a 2-ply Aran / Bulky weight yarn. It looks and feels fabulous, especially since it was my first time spinning a thicker yarn on the wheel.