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.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Meet Gwendolyn...oops! She is so friendly!

She came here last fall as a lamb, very wild. However it only took three or four days and I was tripping over her each time I went in her enclosure! Once Shetland sheep trust you, you have high honor in their minds. Gwennie is a purebred Shetland ewe who is a moorit blaeget. That means she is a beautiful shade of brown with golden tips NOT caused by sun bleaching or damage. The tips are honey colored and beautiful! I was sooooo excited by her wool! It is very long and strong, yet fine enough to be pleasantly soft. Sock ewe! Being a avid spinner and knitter, I feel I have a better understanding of wool on the hoof. Getting to know fleeces takes a long time, and I still have lots of experience to gain, as we all do. However, this ewe made me happy right away. Turns out, she is of the same line that I've picked visually and by feel in my other sheep. Wooly Bear is the same thing. That amazes me....

Her front legs are not the conformation I'd like to see, but she is nice in all other ways. Good back legs, good topline and size, well sprung (she's standing on a slope here, giving the appearance of being higher in hip than she really is), nice head and tail (she stuck it out here so you can see!).

Her wool is crimpy and a little more consistent neck to tail than I'd like to see. I like britch wool as long as it isn't toooo coarse. Her britch is a little soft. She doesn't really fall into the longish/wavy category as she has good crimp, yet not crimpy enough and too long to be in the kindly category. So she's a......kilong!
One advantage of having a small flock that you shear yourself is that you can shear in the morning, skirt and pick immediately...make your assessments, and put the fleece straight into the tub! By mid-day, the fleece is sheared, skirted, weighed, recorded, washed, and drying. I like that! Then it's time for a coffee break to dream of how I'm going to use the wool! Here are two balls of her yarn I spun up as soon as it was dry. Notice the honey highlights! I loveeeee those! I've learned that in making wool into roving, you'd loose that beautiful honey would get diluted in the carding process. By spinning a freshly washed and dried fleece without carding, you get this beautiful effect. Isn't it pretty?
So of course, I had to make socks right away! First I spun up the whole fleece. That took me a few days. Then it was on to socks! I had spun this wool on my Ashford Kiwi (a no bells and whistles pleasant little wheel that I enjoy very much. Meanwhile, my all bells and whistles Lendrum is sitting...waiting...) I spun a heavier worsted weight singles, then plied two singles for a 2-ply yarn that would be heavy and warm enough for the NEXT brutal winter I'm sure we're about to have. By making the socks sooo warm, I can wear them in my mud boots without need for winter boots. They are also so cushy that I am secretly delighted every time I take a step in them. If you don't have to do winter chores, it's hard to know how unpleasant they can be sometimes. It is such a luxury and pleasant feeling to have these socks on. They really take the bite out of bad weather!!

So not only do I have the pleasure of knowing Gwennie, and watching her playfulness, and enjoying her personably friendly nature, but I have, with a little work, wonderful fiber to make delightful garments with that I've come to treasure. That's worth the work! If you haven't had the opportunity to wear Shetland socks yet, hummm.....don't wait any longer! Get yourself some and see what I mean!


  1. Interesting; I PREFER a very consistent fleece! If you have any very soft and fine ewes that carry polled-ram genetics who are too consistent for you, just send them out this way. (Garrett in MN is actually driving to Oregon next June, so could even provide transportation!)

  2. A trip to OR would be nice! My family used to live in Eugene. Unfortunately, I love her honey colored tips so I probably wouldn't sell her.