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, October 7, 2009

Plenty to do and Tasha Tudor, too!

There is always plenty to do on a farm! Sometimes my fiber work is delayed by other, more urgent duties, such as getting in all the produce we've raised over the summer. With heavy rains predicted, then colder air right behind, I knew I had better get the potatoes dug up. They store so nicely in the garden soil, but come freezing, they won't last. So ultimately, that means back breaking work to dig them all up and get them "cured" for storage. We had five rows of five varieties. Not all of them are in this picture as my back was ready to be done before they were all dug up! In front here are the Red Norlands, behind the reds are the Fingerlings, then the Kennebecs, Blues, and I THINK the front right are the Irish Cobblers. They are "curing" in the shed for a couple of days before being put into storage. (They are on a panel that is larger than a door!)

After sinking into a soft sofa to rest my back, I picked up my knitting again, for I had an important project to finish! Holly has wanted a hat made from her ewe, Sweetie's, wool for awhile now. We waited until she picked out her new winter coat, then made it to match and she is DELIGHTED! I asked her to "design" her own hat. So we looked at hat styles in the stores, and this is the style she liked the most, just a simple round hat with a fold up brim, and a pom on top. We might embroider some lazy daisies or flowers on it yet...after Mom gets some rest! Her doll is modeling the hat for you.

I must say, I'm not very good at knitting hats! The first one I made a few years ago, for a then much smaller Holly, didn't fit. It DID, however, fit her jack-o-lantern pumpkin!!!!

Here are pictures of Esther's yarn. It is very challenging to get nice pictures of black yarn, in pouring rain! Esther is double coated, meaning she has a very fine, luxurious soft downy undercoat, and larger, white fibers mixed in. She's a fine, older ewe who has lambed a few times. The fineness of her wool really amazed me considering her age and lambing record! The yarn is super soft, with very long white fibers mixed in, enough to give the yarn super strength and a beautiful appearance! I wouldn't use this yarn for a neck gator or around my wrists, but it would be excellent for socks, mittens, hats, scarves over turtlenecks, and sweaters. The outcome of the time spinning has been a pleasant surprise. It spun easily and beautifully just from the washed lock.

The grist is about a medium worsted weight. It's not at all like any Icelandic fiber I've worked with. The white fibers are round and softer than the flatter, slippery pointy fibers on the Icelandic coat. They drafted easily and do not "pop out" of the yarn in straight, picky ways, but instead look fuzzy in the yarn. The yarn has a lovely handle to it...light, soft, bouncy, and appealing in some indescribable way. The Icelandic I've spun has felt heavier and sturdier somehow, having less bounce and handle, seemingly flat, like it would make a very strong, flat fabric that is impenatrable by wind or wet, with straight, smooth, pointy hairlike fibers projecting straight out of the yarn nearly a half an inch. Shetland is light, strong, bouncy, and somehow of different handle. I cannot describe it, but Shetland knits like a dream...floating from one needle to the next without requiring a push by a finger, and makes the most ethereal fabric that holds up to hard use.

Finally, I have really admired this shawl that was designed by Nancy Bush. She calls it the Truly Tasha's Shawl, and I've placed a picture of it here on my blog with her permission. The shawl was designed after she had the opportunity to visit Tasha Tudor, an amazing artist who recently passed away. Tasha Tudor illustrated many, many books with her unique watercolor paintings of things found in nature. She created the most amazing garlands around the outer sides of pages by drawing combinations of plants and animals in books (to put it very simplistically!!). If you love Forget-Me-Nots, or wood violets, or wild roses, you'd LOVE Tasha's illustrations! Tasha also loved drawing and painting illustrations of children, often filling sketch books with her drive to draw the images just right. Tasha frequently wore a shawl similiar to this one, and I am very grateful that Nancy had the opportunity to visit her, and design this shawl! If you'd like to order the pattern, you can find Nancy's website at Nancy also wrote the book on Estonian Lace (on her website as well). Such beautiful work! I highly recommend it!


  1. That is such a pretty, yet simple shawl! I may just have to add it to my "to do" list...

    I finally got around to adding you to my blog list! I'm looking forward to following yours...

  2. Thanks! Isn't that shawl lovely! I think Nancy Bush had written somewhere that she uses the shawl in many ways, from a lap robe on a cold airplane to pillow, to on-the-spot dress-up at a moment's notice. I think it would be a handy addition to a wardrobe/suitcase/car! It looks easy to knit, too. My winter project!