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.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hand Shearing Iris

Here is Iris in full fleece back in June. She was much wider with all that wool! Being a purebred shetland ewe, she has a lovely beaver coat that is long and soft. I first fell in love with Iris when I purchased her fleece two or three years ago. I so enjoyed spinning and knitting with the wool, I went back and bought her fleece the next year. That fleece was so nice, too! It spun so easily on my wheel that it didn't take long to get the huge fleece completely spun. I made many fine pairs of socks from the yarn I spun. Those socks have made winter farm chores far more comfortable! Being a musket in color, the yarn is beautiful undyed. I have also sold some of her yarn for knitting, and have been commissioned to make socks and a lace scarf from her fleece which are finished and sold.

Since I loved her fleece so much, I asked her owners if I could buy her. They said yes! When I brought her home, she was overweight (they had nice pasture!) and really wild. So I penned her in a smaller space for quarantine, and to try to gain her trust. Each day, I worked with her to accept my presence and touch. I believe wild sheep experience too much stress. When you have to handle them, the sheep and handlers are more likely to not enjoy the work, and be more likely to get injured. Plus, stress and wool production do not go together! After a couple of weeks, I could catch her in a reasonable few minutes, and I had her accepting a halter without struggle. A couple more weeks later and she was my best behaved walker on the politely walking along by my side! She accepted me and trusted me that being handled was a positive thing, thus making things safer and less stressful for everybody. This paid off big time at shearing! Here is what she looked like after all that wool came off.
I hand sheared her myself, using scissors around her face and neck, and blades for the rest of her fleece. Shearing beaver coats is a cinch as the wool is so clean next to their bodies, and long. It is easy to get the blades into the wool and do a nice snip without risk of second cuts. She is of good weight now, is trusting and easy to handle when needed, and produced a huge, soft fleece for me this year. I'm proud of my work with her!

Iris has become a valuable addition to our flock and yarn inventory. The garments made from her wool have been a joy to work with and wear. A winter day without a pair of Iris socks to wear is a bad day. We are so glad to have her!

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