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A skein of Jamieson's DK
Jamieson's DK once knitted up

Yarn Profile: Jamieson Shetland DK

First Impressions
Most of us have had at least one scratchy sweater in our childhood. Chances are that sweater was made with Shetland wool.

As adults, we realized the merits of Shetland-type wools and learned how to minimize the scratch factor. The reward: a strong but lightweight knitted fabric with unbeatable warmth and more colors than there are stars in the sky.

While there are several Shetland wool manufacturers, only one still grows and spins its yarn in the Shetland Islands: Jamieson's.

Jamieson's currently offers Spindrift, DK Shetland, Soft Shetland, and Chunky Shetland. In this review, we look at the DK Shetland.

Knitting Up
At first my cashmere-friendly fingers cringed at Jamieson's rougher texture. But they soon grew tolerant - dare I say fond - of the yarn's strong character. As with all loosely spun Shetland yarns, the DK has good volume but weighs very little.

From a technical standpoint, knitting it up was a breeze. There was no snagging nor twisting. The yarn hugged my needles closely, and the resulting stitches were even in appearance.

Blocking / Washing
Jamieson's went the easy route and recommends that the yarn be dry cleaned. Perhaps this was because of the yarn's high likelihood to felt. Whatever the reason, I disagree.

If you're capable of washing your own hair in the shower, you can take care of this yarn without having to take it to the dry cleaner's.

I immersed the swatches in lukewarm water with a small amount of mild shampoo, moved them around gently until they were saturated, and then let them soak for about five minutes. I then rinsed them in a bath of equally lukewarm water, rolled them up in a towel to remove excess water, and lay them out to dry.

This last step wasn't necessary, however. The swatches dried almost instantly. Depending on where I measured, my swatches expanded by one-half to one stitch per inch, something you should definitely take into account.

The yarn bloomed beautifully with wash, relaxing into a more cohesive fabric. Although there was no bleeding in the wash, the dried swatches looked somewhat lighter because of this bloom. The swatches also were matte in appearance due to the lack of luster in Shetland wool fibers.

Shetlanders aren't frivolous people, nor are their yarns. Jamieson's is a sturdy yarn that will survive years of wear. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the moths would get a Jamieson sweater before the yarn itself gave out.

You will see pills over time, however. Your best bet is to use a sweater shaver (available at most drug stores), which removes the pills without disturbing the surrounding fiber structure.

Jamieson's may not seem unusual or even particularly inventive, but that's not the point. It's a lightweight yet hearty yarn for keeping warm on cold winter days.

You'll find a mind-boggling selection of colors, with delicate variations on every possible hue, including heathers that are simply amazing.

It's no wonder that Jamieson's is often used for multicolored Fair Isle patterns. Limiting yourself to just one color would be a pity indeed.

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Previous Reader Comments
"Dry cleaning sheltand wool garments -- phooey! Have always washed them and as you said, they bloom and get softer and more beautiful. Have never had one bleed either -- which says (IMO) good things about Jamieson's products. Scratchy at first but lovely in the long run." dcwhite, 11/3/2001

"I have also found that after hand washing my Shetland wool garments, if I use a good quality creme rinse (the type you use on your own hair)the garment feels softer." bbraasch, 11/6/2001

"Where have some of my favorite designers gone? To wit: Annabel Fox and Alice Starmore. Both had their own wool, patterns, and addresses. Now I can't find them anywhere." dawn, 11/5/2001

Good news! Alice Starmore has again emerged. In September she and her daughter Jade launched Virtual Yarns. - Clara

"ummm.. I just bought the Jamieson Shetland pattern book but after reading your review using their yarn does not sound very attractive--scratchy? prone to felting? I wonder what a good substitue would be?" tipj, 11/5/2001