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Hand-crafted knitwear is the polar opposite of so-called fast fashion - it is 'slow fashion' at its finest.  Here on Fair Isle our sheep grow their fleeces each year and, each summer, they are clipped (sheared) and their fleeces sent out to Jamieson's of Shetland (the last remaining spinning mill in Shetland) where, along with thousands of other fleeces being sent in by crofters and farmers throughout Shetland, they are scoured, dyed, carded, spun and plied into balls and cones of wool.  These cones are what we then buy, with which to create our distinctive 'Fair Isle' knits.  When so much time and care goes into both producing a fibre and then using it to create a finished piece, you want to look after it so that it will last you if not a lifetime, then a good many years at least!  This is not throwaway fashion, these are investment pieces that may even, in time, become heirlooms, passed down through your family.

Take a walk down the 'laundry' aisle of any supermarket and you will see a variety of products all purporting to be suitable for use on wool, silk and delicates.  Granted, they may do the job of cleaning your clothes but - in my experience - they leave your clothes with a very synthetic-smelling fragrance, aren't particularly kind to your hands and, although they may 'clean', they don't necessarily 'care' for your treasured woollens.

A few years ago I discovered the local Shetland business Shetland Soap Company and their 'Wool Wash' and was instantly won over by it.  Originally an unfragranced product, it is now available in a lovely, delicate apple and coconut fragrance, with the addition of lavender essential oil.  It contains no bleach, phosphates or parabens, is vegan-friendly, comes in fully recyclable PET packaging and is hand-made here in Shetland.  Oh, and it WORKS!

If you have never heard of Shetland Soap Company before, do please check them out and, if you are ever in Lerwick, do make a beeline for their shop on Commercial Street as, not only does it smell divine, but you will be thoroughly spoilt for choice by what they have to offer.  They also do trial sizes of most of their products, which is a great way to try all the different fragrances until you find your favourite!

Not only does Shetland Soap Company make great products but it is part of the multi-award-winning social enterprise, COPE Ltd., based here in Shetland.  Shetland Soap Company works alongside adults with learning disabilities and autism to produce a range of exclusive, hand-made soap and skincare products.  At the heart of everything they do are their values of respect, equality, fairness, excellence and accountability.

I should say that I'm in no way sponsored by either Shetland Soap Company or COPE Ltd., they just make - in my opinion - a fantastic product that deserves to be shared with the wider world!  In fact, I'm so confident that you will love their Wool Wash as much as I do, that I gave away a free, 60ml trial size bottle of their Wool Wash with the first 100 orders of either Bee Croft Wool or knitwear!

Using it couldn't be easier - when I do my hand-washing I fill a basin with just lukewarm water (30℃ or less) and add a squirt of the Wool Wash, swirling it through the water with my hands.  I submerge the woollens and gently massage them so the water permeates all the fibres (note: do not rub or create friction as this may encourage felting).  You can also leave your woollens to soak for 15 minutes or so and then drain the water.  Do NOT wring your woollens or pick them up when they are saturated with water, as this can cause them to stretch or pull out of shape.  Once the water has drained away I start at one side and 'scrunch' my hands along the item to expel excess water from it.  I then fill the basin with same-temperature water for rinsing - repeating the above steps and repeating the process again, if necessary, until you are left with clear water draining away.  In order to get the woollens ready for drying without the risk of pulling them out of shape, I then put them in the washing machine on a SPIN-ONLY (not rinse and spin) cycle at 800 rpm, before drying the woollens on a jumper board.  If your machine doesn't have this cycle then you can always roll your garment in a towel, so you have a 'sausage' shape, then (without footwear on!) tread along the towel to help it absorb the excess water.  If you don't have a jumper board then a flat drying rack is absolutely fine - just make sure your garment is smoothed out to the size it should be.

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