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, October 25, 2009

Statue of Liberty

Help! I've started knitting, and I can't stop! I started out making a pair of socks for DH out of a grey Shetland ewe, but soon realized that the yarn didn't behave (again) the way a purebred Shetland fleece would behave, thus the gauge was off, despite careful checking. Rats! Guess they will have to be for me! The light grey socks come from a ewe that I suspect is NOT purebred Shetland; it looks different, handles different, was terribly greasy (I had to rewash the fleece), and the elasticity is different. The tube of the sock ended up being too narrow for DH (even though this gauge works with my "regular" Shetland yarn for him), so I'll have to start over for him. The mittens I made in 23 hours (including my normal life in that time.) They are from a skein of Esther's yarn. A customer wanted to buy all skeins of Esther's yarn at the Helping Hands Craft Fair for a sweater. She didn't have the pattern, and rather than sell her something that may not be enough (I wasn't confidant the skeins would be enough for a large man's sweater), and have an unhappy customer, I talked her into not buying unless she was sure. Later, I couldn't resist using a skein for some new barn mittens for myself!!! :) Not going to sell yarn THAT way! Both the socks and mittens are very simple patterns (actually, the mittens are my "winging it", I read several different patterns then threw together the easiest way I could figure to make my own mittens).

While knitting all this, I kept losing my needles. Sometimes I lose them in sofa cushions, to be found weeks later by an upside down Holly goofing off in the pillows. To resolve this, I started putting them upright in a jar with the pencils on the side table. Sophie would soon saunter along and chomp on the point, leaving little teeth marks to snare fibers!! UGGGHHHHH! Tonight, while working on the thumbs of the mittens, I came up with this plan! Works like a charm!

Took this picture myself, I did! That's my head! Each needle is within ready reach! No more fumbling around in the cushions! No more chewed points! No more lost darning needles (that's the little pink thing)!! Hopefully, I won't forget I did this and head out to the grocery store!!! DH thought I looked like the Statue of Liberty! Thanks Honey! I'll have you're socks done faster this way, dear!

After all that knitting, time to blog! Sophie sees the needles in my hair and wonders if she is safe, so she's staying on the OTHER side of the computer tonight.
Okay, okay... enough of all the goofiness! Knitting those simple and fast socks and mittens makes a person wonder if I ever knit anything else. Yes, I love to knit lace. Here is a hooded scarf I made two or three years ago out of a Sheepy Hollow ewe named Lilac. The white is bright and the fiber is sooo soft! The scarf is knit the long way, so the most daunting task for me was casting on the 371 stitches to get started. Do you know how hard it is to count to 371 on circular needles when you have a small child running around? Took me days just to get all those stitches cast on! After that, it went pretty smoothly, but slowly. It took all summer that year. I remember knitting it by the campfire, on trips, at the pool, and while sitting by the coop, enjoying the chickens as they pecked around on warm summer days. Those memories alone make it a warm garment! I've come to rely on this hooded scarf on wickedly cold winter days when a down hood is just simply not enough warmth. Putting this on sovles everything, and I can stay outside longer.

Now, for Lil' Rainbow! I bought her spontaneously this summer from someone I know. The deal was that she was not registered and was one of a few Shetlands getting through a new fence, causing problems for her owner. I went to look at them all and somehow, this little ewe kept popping as one to bring home. Why I did that, I'll never know, as I am not a spontaneous animal purchaser. I noticed right away that her teeth were not on pad, and some other things. It was the color and wool that drew me.
Her fleece is less than a month past shearing here. (This picture was taken three days after we brought her home...we put a bell on just in case she jumped the fence, so we could find her. The bell came off after a couple of weeks and hasn't been needed since.) Her color is described in the Shetland "language" as iset. She's a black, with white and grey fibers growing out of the black to give her a blue-ish hue when seen from a distance. The fiber is not crimpy, but wavy and more coarse that you'd expect from a Shetland (it's important to note that even coarse Shetland is softer than most breeds). But I knew she wasn't registered before I even went to see the flock. Despite her faults, I'm really looking forward to making some socks out of that fleece! She's also very sweet and trainable, so getting her plugged in here at our farm turned out to be a cinch. She now lives inside a three foot high wooden panel enclosure during the day when they are out on grass, and has proven to be trustworthy. She'll make a great halter practice sheep for kids, as she doesn't seem to mind them at all.
This is not what you'd like to see on a good Shetland sheep in terms of structure, yet I can't wait to shear it, spin it and knit it up! In this next picture, taken from the top, you can see she has a "dorsal stripe" of black (as it would be called in the horse world! :)) Her head, neck, tail, and legs are all black. Only her fleece is whitish-greyish-blueish. Some people have commented that she is a Shetland dressed up as a ghost. A child has asked me if she is wearing someone else's "jacket". She's a fun ewe, and we are tickled to have her, faults and all!
Ducky Update: All's well. Today's swim was delightful! This little "pond" is a temporary fix when their "real" pond is not available. That's Lucky on the ground in the garden, and Lucy in the water. They are very pleasant to have around, make great garden vacuums, and are incredibly friendly and sociable. They tour all around the back of the farm, searching for mud, insects, and old fruit on the ground. At night, they are usually close by and go into the barn for safety. If they are not around, just call "DUCKIES!" They waddle as fast as they can, quacking softly while heading to the barn, where they sleep in a straw-filled stall. Ever hear duck feet on pavement? We love them!

And how could I close a a blog without more clown shots? Goldie loves this weedy box elder maple tree we've allowed to grow and shade our chicken coop. The protection it provides has been a welcoming relief from hot summer days. Of course, with it's slanted trunk, it makes a great kitty jungle-gym! Goldie loves to dangle on this, his favorite branch. Sometimes he purrs and rolls around, falling off, causing the need to dangle from two paws and swinging to get back on top. The birds do not fear him, and usually chatter from the higher branches without alarm calls or scolding. That always amazes me as he is a mighty hunter!

The coop was nearly junk when we moved here. We repaired it using found stuff and painted the trim white again. The curbside window finds all prop outward at the bottom to allow fresh air when needed, while keeping things dry inside. It's a great plan and our chickens have been very healthy living here. Since it is far from the road, they are outside every nice day we have. Life wouldn't be the same around here without "Coopville" as we've dubbed it, and it's clown tree, with the clown sprawled out on the branch!

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