Knit Real Shetland Contest!

Posted by Raza Wool on January 03, 2016 10 Comments

Knit Real Shetland is here! To celebrate, we're giving away one copy of Knit Real Shetland along with six skeins of Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper Weight yarn, as shown below:

The shades included are: FC38, 5, 82, 134, FC12, and 125. This is enough to knit either the Muckleberry Gloves or the Muckleberry Hat by Mary Jane Mucklestone. 

This is one of the most popular patterns in the book. (To knit both the hat and the gloves, one additional skein of FC38 is required.) Knit Real Shetland is a compilation of 15 knitting projects using Jamieson & Smith yarns. In addition to this pattern by Mary Jane Mucklestone, there are patterns by Gudrun Johnston, Hazel Tindall, Jared Flood, and other designers, with an introduction by Kate Davies. This book is truly a treasure!

The contest runs from midnight (eastern) January 4, 2016 through midnight (eastern) January 18, 2016. To enter, click here:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can't wait for the contest to end? This yarn is in stock on the site. We have a few more copies of Knit Real Shetland, which are available for $35, including postage. They aren't listed on the site, but email and we can send you an invoice.

Read More

Blacker St. Kilda Laceweight

Posted by Raza Wool on September 26, 2015 0 Comments

We've added our first laceweight yarn, and a very special yarn at that. Blacker St. Kilda Laceweight is named after the St. Kilda Archipelago, the westernmost part of Scotland's Outer Hebrides. Feral Soay and Boreray sheep live on these islands. They are primitive breeds and naturally shed their fleece. The Boreray is listed as Critically endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and the Soay is listed as At Risk. This yarn is a blend of Boreray and Soay, with some Shetland fleece added.

The Boreray ewe in the back shows the more typical coloring of Boreray sheep. The darker coloring of the ewe in the foreground is less common.

Soay sheep are typically a dark brown, though some have lighter fleeces. Like most primitive breed sheep, they are fairly small and very hardy. 

More information about St. Kilda can be found in Elizabeth Lovick's wonderful blog post. Liz has also designed a lovely pattern for St. Kilda yarn that evokes the plaid wraps that the St. Kilda women used to wear. (The last regular inhabitants of St. Kilda left in the 1930's. Other than the sheep and other wildlife, the islands' only other residents now are the researchers who visit and military personnel.)

I love the St. Kilda patterns because the same motif is used in all three variations, and you can choose which you want to knit based on your personal preference, knitting skills, and amount of yarn. The smallest of the projects is a neckerchief, and there is also a scarf. The largest of the projects is a beautiful shawl.

St. Kilda Laceweight is a limited edition yarn - Blacker has been able to acquire these rare fleeces again, but they are not available in large quantities, so once this yarn sells out, it will not be available again until next year (hopefully!). Raza's order for the St. Kilda was put in while the collection of Soay and Boreray fleece was finishing up, months before the yarn was available, so it was a fantastic way for me to learn about how long it takes between fleece being collected and the finished yarn being ready for the consumer market. 

Photos used with kind permission.

Photo credits:

St. Kilda Laceweight: Blacker Yarns

Boreray sheep: Gibbja

Soay sheep: Simon Barnes

St. Kilda shawl: Elizabeth Lovick



Read More

Wonder of Wool at American Textile History Museum

Posted by Raza Wool on June 21, 2015 0 Comments

Today we made a field trip to the American Textile History Museum in Lowell to see the new Wonder of Wool exhibit and revisit the regular exhibits.

What caught our eye on this visit? Surprisingly, it was gloves.

This pair was crocheted in cotton and then embroidered.

This pair was knitted in wool. There isn't a lot of information about them except that they are called shag gloves and they were very popular in New England, but little of their history has survived. Unlike the popular thrummed mittens and gloves, which have the extra fiber on the inside, the additional wool is on the outside of these gloves. Judging by their condition, I'd say these gloves were not used very much.

The museum has machinery for processing wool and cotton, but none of it was running when we were there. There was a loom:

My favorite is the skeining machine:

Notice the way the wall is painted - I remember that from the old mills around here. The top of the wall was always a cream color, and the bottom was always a darker green or grey or brown, to hide the dirt.

Raza is located in the Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts, and the two largest nearby cities, Lowell and Lawrence, were built for textile production in the mid 19th century. Many of my relatives moved to this area to work in the mills. My grandfather was a mule spinner for the American Woolen Company. Mule spinning took a three year apprenticeship and was highly skilled work. I'm hoping to learn more about it so that I can better explain it.

My grandmother worked at the Arlington Mills as a spinner, so I was excited to see this photo from the Wonder of Wool exhibit:

That's not her, but that's when she worked there. They also had an Arlington Mills security guard cap and badge in the regular museum collection.

The guard who donated this worked there at the same time as my grandmother. What they didn't say is that the workers were locked in all day and could not leave. When my other grandfather was a kid, he used to earn pocket money by delivering dinner pails to the workers - he would pick up the hot meals at the workers' homes, run them to the mill gates at dinner time, and pass them through the bars.

Another thing that I have never heard or read about in any histories of the textile mills are the telltale signs that someone worked in the mills. The mills were very, very loud, and there was no hearing protection. Anyone who spent a significant time working in the mills, like my grandparents, lost a good deal of their hearing. (There is a local museum where you can experience that, and I will blog about that in the future.) The other side effect of working in the mills was missing digits. I grew up in a Merrimack Valley where most of the people in my grandparents' generation were missing parts of their fingers. All it took was touching the machine, or the spinning wool, and that was it. Despite working for decades in the mills, my grandparents had all of their fingers. My grandfather's youngest sister, who worked as a spinner in the Arlington Mill with my grandmother, was missing the tip of one index finger, down to the top knuckle.

There are a few more  photos I have from our visit, and I will share them in future posts. The Wonder of Wool exhibit itself is very small (one room), but it's worth visiting the museum to see the many items in the permanent collection.

Read More

October Opening

Posted by Raza Wool on October 20, 2014 1 Comment

We are open! October seemed like a great month to open the shop, with Shetland Wool Week occurring at the beginning of the month and Rhinebeck (officially New York Sheep and Wool) mid-month. 

There weren't a lot of Shetland sheep at Rhinebeck, but we did manage to capture one ram with a lot of personality.

I wish we could have taken him home. He was very vocal, quieting down only when I scratched behind his horns. Even so, he kept stopping me every minute or so to smell my hand before consenting to more scratches.

I also came home with a tiny piece of wool from another sheep, and I'm going to work on sourcing some yarn made from that wool.

That's probably the last of the sheep who will appear on this blog for a while, but there's a lot going on in the knitting world, so look for upcoming posts featuring some new designs using Jamieson & Smith yarn.

Read More