Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Monday, December 8, 2014

1,100 Winters

That's how I've recently seen it described.  What do I mean?  Sheep!  My favorite breed of sheep have been keeping people clothed and warm for 1,100 winters.  Amazing.

Cozy stuff!

It's quite a trip back in time when you think about the Northern European Short Tailed sheep (NESHS).  My favorite breed, Shetlands, are just one member of that family.  Another popular NESHS is the Icelandic.  They, too, are amazing sheep!  Equally amazing is what the Icelandic people accomplished with them.  

There are many different breeds of sheep that can keep you warm, but few have the track record for human clothing quite like the NESHS have.  Most people have no idea.  Never thought about it.  Wouldn't even know to think about it.  Amazing.

One thousand, one hundred winters.  Documented.  Known.  Amazing.  Sheep endure through the ages.  From richest to poorest, sheep endure.  What a story!

Back to the current moment.  We have a few scarf balls left!  Email us if you'd like to know what colors are available, as that's always changing.  Time is running out to give the gift of 1,100 winters!  Don't delay!  Order your yarn today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Staying Warm

 Cats are SMART!
We really ought to follow their lead...

 My favorite sweater.
Have you made a favorite sweater?
I want to make another one...
Yarn for sale!
Limited selection, but perfect for christmas lists.

Time is beginning to run out on shopping for the holidays!  With behind the scenes things happening, I have a pretty low inventory, despite new fleeces coming off the wheel, but we still have some lovely skeins perfect for the holidays.  If you had seen a yarn you liked but didn't see us at the market, just email us.  We also have a few scarf balls left...email for colors.  Actually, I don't have enough of any one fleece left for making a sweater, but will again in the future.  Hope all of you are having a good transition to winter and are making knitwear for your loved ones like mad!  lol

Friday, November 14, 2014

Barn Mittens

Mix it up!  ...do do...mix it up....do do

These barn mittens were a super fun project of mixing up the yarns.  Someone I know had a ton of spun singles of all sorts of lovely fibers, and didn't know what to do with them all.  Singles have rumored reputations that have been unfounded here at this farm.  We decided to trust our instincts and put them to the test of durability and ruggedness by plunging them into daily living on a busy sheep farm to see what would happen.  The results have been very pleasing!

First, we mixed up the colors.  There is no logic behind the design of color in these mittens.  It was literally, knit until the ball runs out kind of thing.  We took multiple colors and just threw them in where needed, with the gray as the overall base color of the mittens.  The red added a nice touch, giving them an almost festive feel.  Several different balls were employed in the making of these mittens.  All yarns were about the same gauge...roughly a worsted weight running a tad on the bulky side.  There were occasional slubs along the way, that simply added warmth and character to these artistic wearables.

The end result is a pair of mittens that has now endured one of the roughest winters ever thrown at us...countless soakings by water buckets, freezing tight to bucket handles and stall latches, smoothing feathers, lugging hay, and occasionally being snatched out of coat pockets by creatures who put EVERYTHING in their mouths ALL OF THE TIME! lol

What have we learned? 
1.  There is no such thing as 'waste yarn'.
2.  There is no such thing as yarn without a purpose
3.  Singles are strong, durable, and warm
4.  Not every knitting project has to be a carefully designed, well thought out, detailed kind of thing
5.  Free-form knitting results in fun and satisfaction

So go ahead and wing it!  See what you can do.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pretty Sheep

Just a couple of fun pictures of pretty sheep.  These are a couple of years old already but so pretty to look back on, I couldn't resist!  (Both these fleeces and the year after's are long sold out.)
 Plain Handsome!
Plain pretty!

We are very low on inventory right now.  The variety is in good shape, with many colors to choose from, but there are only a few skeins of each left, with some colors getting perilously low.  Wheely Wooly Farm will be taking a break from the winter farm market to catch up and plan for the future, as changes are in the works!  (They will take time...)  I will only have one pelt left coming in later at the end of this year, so we are getting too low on nearly everything.  One comment back from a customer recently was about how nice pelts are in the car during the bitter cold of winter.  Turn the pelt fleece side down over the legs for toasty warmth while driving or riding along, sipping coffee and enjoying time with family.  No need to freeze or blast the heat!

Sheep are wonderful animals who have great lives on small sheep farms, and who give us the most amazing array of useful products, both as live animals, and after.  They are personable, have their own unique voices of which you can call them by name, and will be your friend if you are kind to them.  From peace and contentment, to warmth, to healthful eating, sheep give it all!

Winter projects are also lined up.  We are expanding our recordkeeping to a new format, which will be done as the flurries fly.  I'm very excited about all of the changes and am ALMOST...ALMOST! looking forward to snow this year. lol  It will be good time to work on the office side of shepherding.

I was thinking recently of how much wool I was wearing on a day when it was about 35 degrees outside (just above freezing)...realizing how much I rely on wool for daily living.  Of the so many advantages to wool, I realized that wool is unlike any 'engineered' fabric in that it is so much more flexible, with nicer, more forgiving ease when you have to bend over to pick up hoses, barn cats (ya gotta scratch those ears!), and bits of hay dropped along the way.  Wearing wool works for busy shepherds because we need to move our bodies in sheepyyoga types of ways and synthetics just can't compete!  They do not have the give, the ease, the flex that real wool has.  Wool is truly an outstanding, high quality fabric that works for everyone.

But of course, one of the best advantages wool clothing gives, are pretty sheep to look at all year long!  You knew that was coming...right?

P.S.  To Friday Harbor..welcome again!  Oak Lawn...I see you :)  J.J. Keller...well....unspoken! lol

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Variety is the spice of life!

As many of you already know, we love Shetland sheep, but from the very start of our farm, we did not want to limit ourselves to just one breed.  After spending a few years building our Shetland flock to where we most wanted it, it was time to migrate into other kinds of fun, and fun it has been!

An interesting thing about sheep...coarse wool sells.  I'm not sure WHY that is, but it is amazingly so.  We did not carry coarser wools from down breeds until recently.  Yet we noticed that farms that specialize in coarser wools are doing quite well in a down economy.  Why is that?  It was a fun puzzle to look into!

One thing I have longed to do is get into the down breeds of fiber and play around.  What fun we've had!  Here is a sock I made recently with down wool.  A barely carded sample of fluff sits next to it to give you an example of staple length.  Staples run about two and a half inches, fresh off a lamb.  A twelve month clip would be at least double that.

This yarn is a handspun 2-ply of about light worsted weight.  It is very easy to spin this fiber finely, but surprisesuprise!  The very crimpy, cushy nature of the fibers pops the yarn up into a much thicker gauge than one might expect. (Not all down breeds do this.)  Upon learning about it, I went out and bought myself some of these sheep and I've been enthralled with them ever since!  I've already wintered over with socks from this breed and WWOOOWWW!  I'm HOOKED! :)  I guess you'd have to be a yarnie to understand such fun and rewarding obsessions....

Purple Cushy Socks with pink trim, knitted on size 4 dbl pts.
Winter?  What winter? lol

In my early years with Shetlands, I kept hearing a certain group of people fiestly stating nobody WANTS coarser wools.  That always puzzled me because people specializing in breeds that produce coarser wools are doing great...have floored the sheep community in fact.  After years of selling to the public now, I have a more accurate picture of what people go for, and well...that fiesty group was just plain wrong.  So I have made it a point to raise all types of fibers, from cobwebby to coarse.  Variety truly has been the spice of life for this yarnie!!

I do believe that with these socks, you can actually trick your feet into believing winter never came.  My cushy socks were put to the test in one of the coldest winters on record here.  I do believe we had over 60 nights well below zero, and too much snow to boot!  Now Shetland socks are equally awesome, and I rely heavily on them to get my outside chores done, but these socks have the high honors of passing the test, too.

It is always fun to try new fibers and expand your yarnie experiences.  This has been a very fun adventure that is just beginning.  There is much more exploring to do and funny, there just does not seem to be enough time in the day to do it all!  Variety truly is the spice of life.
Blazing yellow/orange maple leaves brighten the autumn landscape.

Coming off the wheel...Honey, who is now all spun, and an old fleece from Starlight, which is spinning up like silk!  Very silky.  Also, lots of down wool for wheely warm winter socks.  Whirly (Wheely Wooly Whirlwind) and Lacey are now sold out.  If you are looking for Whirly-type yarn, Lerwick has two or three skeins left that are similiar.  They are 'brothers'.

Hope you are all knitting the projects of your dreams everyone!  If any of you figure out how to add hours to the day for more yarnie fun, please let us know...will you?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Geese, Fall Color, and Swirly Whirly Mittens

Beautiful fall has come to Wheely Wooly Farm, and a gorgeous one it has been so far!  The grass has been very green, the trees have turned vivid colors rich in reds, oranges, yellows and light greens, and the days have been a calm, peaceful warm.

Today, I'll throw in a picture of the geese, as our geese blog entries have been so popular.  We love our geese.  They are very hardy, cheap to feed, and they clean up under the apple trees first thing in the morning, doing a better job than any human has ever done.  The two vacuum cleaners with them (the ducks) are outstanding on a small farm.  They vacuum up so many bad bugs that I don't know how we got along without them!  Pleasant to have around, cheap to feed, and very hardy, I could only add one complaint...they like to muddy up the hens water, so keep hen water separate from the geese and ducks.


Pommander in front, Hyssop behind, and the vacuum cleaners.
This year, Hyssop gave us 42 eggs!
 After ample moisture this summer, our fall colors are outstanding!

Whirlwind's Swirly Mittens
Made from a purebred Shetland ram (black) and Claire's dyed blue trims.

Whirly (Wheely Wooly Whirlwind...a twin born during a passing tornado) has a rich black color to his fiber, with the brown barely, barely noticable.  His fiber is very soft and ideal for mittens.  His fleece has unbelievable density to it and takes me much more time to shear as the more blows I make, the more the fiber just keeps coming off one spot.  He has sired some beautiful lambs for us that are keepers, including Pansey, the cute little white ewe!  Whirly threw lots of twins himself, and his own twin, Maewyn, has been a valuable addition to our flock.  Whirlwind was named by a family member who was taking shelter in our barn during the passing storm, and asked if he could name this little lamb Whirlwind.  It was quite a day!

The mittens are a pretty basic pattern.  I spun the yarn on my wheel (the whole fleece) into two ply with a bit of a loose twist...typical of my style.  I love soft, warm yarns and I hate to throw too much twist in and tighten up the natural beauty of Shetland yarn too much.  This style makes for a loftier yarn that traps more warmth, so badly needed here in the midwest, where temps in winter can suck every ounce of happiness out of your being in a hurry, like the wind! lol  The swirly blue flowers are crocheted from Claire's yarn.  She is not a Shetland of course, but her yarn paired nicely with Whirly's.  The big swirly flower helps block the wind from that part of the hand.  Someone pointed out that the flowers make perfect nose swipes....giggle giggle.  Ok!  I guess that would work, too!  These high performing mittens were not hard to make and anyone could do it with just two skeins of Wheely Wooly Farm yarn.  Be sure to find yarn that is of light worsted to worsted weight to be warm enough around here.  I knit these mittens on size 4 double points.  If you don't know how to crochet the flowers, we have them made and ready for you in a variety of colors!  Just hand sew them on when the mittens are finished.

(Speaking of Maewyn and looser twist, I made myself a pair of mittens from Maewyn's fleece a couple of years ago.  They are my barn mittens, that take frozen metal stall latches, iced up water bucket handles, stinky creatures, and mud...lots of mud...slimy dog sticks, lambing, and all sorts of other daily barn scenarios.  Despite the looser twist, these mittens are still in perfect, functional use!  Trust me...they go through more than anyone else practically could throw at them! lol  We are confident that your mittens will last you many happy years.)

Customers who have tried on these mittens have described them as 'heavenly', 'soft!', 'cozy', and 'the snuggiest mittens I've ever experienced'.   Try some Wheely Wooly Farm yarns for yourself and make a pair for everyone in your family!  What a wonderful way to love them all, with a cozy, warm pair of mittens!

(Did you know?  Mittens are a fast knit, and patterns are everywhere.  There is plenty of time to make a pair for family members in time for the holidays if you hurry!)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Check out CUTE diaper cover!

Check out the photo of the cute diaper cover sent in by happy customer, Michelle.  Isn't it CUTE! (Right side of blog by customer testimonials)

Wheely Wooly Farm yarns are known for their softness and other wonderful natural qualities.  Come check us out this weekend at the farm market, as we gear up for knitters' favorite season and see for yourself!  We will be bringing old favorites, new yarns, and new colors to select from for scarves.  So browse your patterns, scope out the condition of your worn out hatsglovesmittenssockssweatersetc. and head on down to pick up some new yarn that will replace all the old stuff!

Don't forget your christmas list!  (For others, silly!)  Actually, keep yourself in mind for a sweet christmas gift of yarn for a new pair of mittens or socks or a new hat for yourself!  Knitters so often forget to knit new stuff for themselves, so this holiday season, don't forget your own personal list!  And don't forget to get something for the other knitters and crocheters in your life.  Wheely Wooly Farm yarns have become favorite packages in their lightness under the tree, yet are so special and talked about upon opening...and just like in our booth every weekend...every one's gotta squeeze the yarn!  What a nice gift to give.

Pictures of Whirly's swirly flower mittens coming next, as promised, but we just wanted to point out the world's cutest diaper cover first.

Happy planning for knitting season everyone and we'll see you Saturday!