Bags from the North Sea: Part II
Shetland is famous for many things. Most recently, the hit BBC drama, known by the same name, starring Douglas (Douggie) Henshall as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez. (We eagerly await the next installment of the series in 2022. Will Sandy be redeemed and get his former job back?? Will Tosh find true love with her new beau? Will Duncan finally be a successful businessman with Jimmy's financial backing?) Shetland is also famous for its wool week typically held the last week of September when the hairst (harvest) season is coming to an end. Canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic, we look forward to seeing our many friends again at Shetland Wool Week 2022.
Of course, without the famous Shetland sheep, there would be no wool week. And it is to the sheep we now turn our attention. To distinguish the wool from sheep raised in Shetland against those exported around the world, the wool produced in Shetland now has a PDO classification (protected designation of origin) as "Native Shetland Wool". Why does this matter? Isn't the breed the same regardless of where it is exported and raised? To this, Oliver Henry, wool judge and grader for Jamieson and Smith Wool Brokers in Lerwick, would respond with an emphatic, "No!" "Yah see, tis all aboot the terrior" he would say or the growth habitat of the sheep. No matter how hard a farmer in another country tries, according to Henry, it is impossible to duplicate the unique environmental characteristics of Shetland's soil that gives the wool its character. And Oliver should know; he has worked with Shetland wool for more than 52 years.
The Summer Solstice - one side
The Summer Solstice - another side
On the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice (June 21, 2021 @4:32am), Shetland experiences about 19 hours of sunlight. Made with 100% native (real) Shetland wool from Wool Brokers Jamieson and Smith, this bag has been eco-printed with the skins of the humble, yellow onion to give it its sunny character. It is topped off by bamboo cellulose adding a hint of lustre. While interconnecting with the protein fibres, the cellulose remains somewhat aloof - not unlike the sheep - by not absorbing the colour, producing a peerie bit of texture. Dimensions: 8" (h) x 12" (w). Handles: 9" (l). $125 CDN
The Tombolo - one side
The Tombolo - another side
The Tombolo bag is inspired by Shetland's St, Ninian's Tombolo, running between the Mainland and St. Ninian's Isle on the south-west side of Shetland not far from Sumburgh Airport. Running almost 500 metres long, this sliver of beach is the largest tombolo between two salt water bodies in the U.K. Ninian is thought to be an 8th century Christian monk who ministered to the Pictish people of Scotland. A hoard of 8th century silver was found in 1958 in the chapel grounds on the isle under a stone slab in a wooden box. With this magnificent bag, you can keep your silver and other valuables hidden. Measuring: 14" (h) x 16" (w); handles: 26" (l). The Tombolo section is made from 100% native Shetland wool from Jamieson and Smith set between aqua marine merino blue roving. White bamboo cellulose recreates the waves that crash on opposite sides of the tombolo. Flecks of fishing line (orange and turquoise) found while beachcombing, are infused in the brown wool for effect. $350 CDN
St. Ninian's Tombolo Photo credit: Visit Scotland
The Shetland Northerner
The Shetland Northerner -back
This versatile Northerner land or sea bag was inspired by Shetland's endless vistas of treeless hills opening up to voes (inlets) and the ocean. Wet-felted and made with 100% native Shetland wool (natural black, light-grey and brown), then eco-printed with skins of the humble onion. The wee front pocket has also been eco-printed with a variety of leaves and is made of 100% linen. Lined with repurposed patio umbrella cloth, the bag is practically waterproof. Approx. dimensions:12" (h) and 17" (w); handle drop: 6.5", the Northerner will easily hold any beach-combing finds and more. Inserts (seashell and stone in lower right corner) and hand-stitched. $250 CDN
The Peat Bag - one side
The Peat Bag - other side
There is nothing like the smell of a peat fire in a home to welcome family and friends to gather around the hearth. And while peat bogs are no longer dug on a commercial scale, home owners are still allowed to dig out peat bricks from their own property for personal use. This wool roving from Jamieson & Smith woolbrokers in Lerwick was dyed to mimic the colour of peat. The "Peat Bag" is part of the cultural history of both Shetland and Orkney. Without the warmth of a peat fire, many an islander would have frozen to death since trees, due to overgrazing and the high latitude, were extremely scarce or non-existent on the Northern islands of Scotland. A peat fire was not simply a way of life for islanders - it was essential fuel for survival. The green hemp and small stones are a reminder of where the peat comes from, the silky grey, a reference to the lӧmishӧn or oily shine - a sign that the oil of the moor had risen to the top and the flaying of peat could begin. The Peat Bag, lined: $125 CDN SOLD
For the future of peat in Shetland, see: https://www.shetlandwithlaurie.com/blog/working-peats-in-shetland#/
Left: Men and women cutting and gathering peat in Orkney. https://www.shetlandmuseumandarchives.org.uk/blog/why-burn-peats
Look for variations of these themed bags in the near future as well as newly-themed bags.
For every sale of a bag using Shetland wool, the Shetland Textile Museum housed at the Böd of Gremista, Shetland, will receive 15% of the proceeds.