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.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Forecasting

Well we here at Wheely Wooly Farm hope the new year is finding you fulfilled in satisfying results of your new year's resolutions!  Thank goodness for the fun of this dreamy time of year to help alleviate the winter ills, right?

Speaking of winter ills, our weather has had it's ups and downs.  One week, we are in nasty cold, and the tree frog syndrome of mittens and fingers sticking to everything returns.  That gecko feeling is not my favorite, but you do it and get through it.  The sheep were fine during the cold.  When the wind howled (air temps deep into the teens below zero, with wind chills in the 30's or more below zero), we brought them in to keep their ears warm.  They are VERY appreciative! lol  The next week, things get milder and everyone goes back outside.  Chickadees are hoping around, and an occasional owl is heard hooting off in the far distance.  Sheep are peaceful...laying down, chewing cud, only to occasionally stand and shake out their fleeces, or wander over for a chin scratch and sweet nothings.

Speaking of ups and downs, something that is definitely on the way up is trends in fabrics and food.  There is MUCH excitement out there regarding healthy foods and clothing!  What a wonderful time to be in sheep!  More and more people are coming to appreciate the value of wool.  In fact, some have told me it's like a new discovery for them, having grown up with synthetic clothing.  The discovery of real wool really puts everything else into perspective!  It's like store bought cookies sitting stale in sealed packages, with a chemically after taste verses fresh, gooey homemade cookies hot out of the oven.  Wool performs in ways that astonish.  Some have told me they feel that wearing wool was the first time they ever felt true warmth, and that they won't be without wool ever again!  Funny, that's how I feel! :)

Wool is a sustainably produced product that comes from sheep, who are outstanding in environmental sensitivity to soils, flora and fauna.  In fact, that is another trend to watch, how sheep build and protect soils.  Don't believe a little sheep farmer?  Just take a drive in the country to see all the topsoil in bare, exposed fields blown onto snow, on roads, on houses, cars, and in ditches far from the fields.  It pains us to see such loss.  If you head to the researchers, they are desperately seeking solutions to preserving, and stopping the loss of topsoils.  Sheep are IT!  I love sheep.  Sheep do it all.  You won't see erosion like that on a sheep farm!

So unlike our weather, sheep are on a long run up.  They provide us with a farming model that protects and preserves soils, plants, wildlife, and water.  They happily give us high performance clothing of super high quality.  They feed us incredibly healthful foods.  Have you ever noticed that the most powerful and wealthy cultures on the planet rose out of sheep diets?   Sheep yield important byproducts that all of us would miss (pill casings, buttons, crayons, shampoo, etc.), and don't forget what the image of sheep peacefully grazing on nice pasture does for the mind.  It's an image that has endured through the ages.  Humans love sheep.

The forecasting by trend experts has caught on.  Sheep fever has never gone away.  It will always be with us.  And as more people emerge from synthetic lives and learn the facts, sheep are on the up and up.

Want to support your local sheep farmer?  You can find us at the Appleton Farmer's Market, or contact us for on-farm sales.  We thank you for your support!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy Wool Year!

As wool becomes an increasingly popular fabric of choice for warmth, ease of movement, and good health, we here at Wheely Wooly Farm are stepping up to meet your needs!  Our flock of genuine Shetland sheep work hard grazing, leaping, and chewing cud all year to bring you those amazing yarns that have become your favorites.  In a time of flu troubles and wild climate woes, why wear cold clothes when you can wear warm clothes, right?  Lucky us that have figured that out! lol
 The benefits of wool are black and white, and right before our eyes!

Wheely Wooly Farm has a VERY busy year planned ahead...I think it's pretty safe to say the shepherds will not be ruminating in the pastures with the sheep much this summer.
Wool really does hang from trees around here!

We wish you all a very happy new year full of the fun, hopes and dreams the promise of a new year brings!  Hug every buddy, laugh, snuggle up in your cozy wool, and put those dreams to work till the warmer days return.  It indeed is going to be a Happy Wool Year!

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?