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 28, 2009


This picture was the first picture I put out on my blog last summer. This is my registered, purebred Shetland ewe, Iris. She has fiber that is an absolute delight to spin, and that easily falls into what the women of Shetland had for spinning themselves; long, strong, soft fiber that can be spun up for delicate tiny strands of lace with strength, to clear fair isle knitting, to warm, durable, incredibly cozy socks. This picture was taken moments before I sheared her myself in June of '09. That date was nearly exactly 12 months from her last shearing. She had been outstandingly cared for all winter, and I think the amount of fleece she produced smacks of that. She's had three lambs, all before I owned her. I bought her from sheepy friends of mine, after buying her fleece for two years.

This is me at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in Sept. of '09. This is my ram lamb, Wooly Bear (I'm holding him). Wooly Bear is a beautiful specimen of the Shetland breed. His wool is very fine and long (again, revealing excellent care), but not double coated, and is very black. His top line is straight, his conformation overall is outstanding, his tail is perfect, his fleece very typy Shetland, and his horns are beautiful, are in perfect shape, and will clear just right; not too tight, not too far flung. The judge asked me why I hadn't entered the "Best Fleece on Hoof" class, because he would have won. It sounds silly now, but it had never occurred to me to enter him in that class! These fine fleeces are what I have, and I didn't think I had anything much outside of usual. Even though I've memorized the breed standard, and shopped for about two years before selecting a ram, I knew he was a fine specimen of the breed, and comes from great lines. However, I was surprised at how fine! He has the most amazing brightness in his expression that earns him comments repeatedly. Most people use the word "twinkling".

Experienced Shetland breeders and owners outside "the camp" have gushed over him. He has brought us much attention and compliments. We've had offers for him. People already want his lambs. He has been in several newspapers, and we continue to receive wonderful comments about him. I think he's put our farm on the map! Nobody could be more surprised than me.

Yet, unknowingly to me, these two pictures have caused others to stew. Both of these sheep are not what they think is a Shetland sheep. Both have long fiber. Never mind that both meet most of the criteria of the NASSA Breed Standard (no sheep is absolutely perfect, right?). Never mind that both have very fine, soft fleece. They have long fleece, and that seems to really bother some people!


  1. Another thing that happened to me was an experienced breeder at Jefferson rapidly walked up to Wooly Bear's side just after our Grand Champ. win and before I knew what was happening, swiftly picked him high up off the ground, bounced him a couple times, dropped him, then pronounced what she thought his weight was. ? Then she rapidly placed her hand on the top of his head and held it there a moment (anyone with rams knows that rams are sensitive and proud of their polls/horns and usually resist being petted there, especially when young.) Already scared by her picking up of him, and being the young ram that he is, he lowered his head and moved it sideways, like a ram displeased. She quickly withdrew her hand and loudly pronounced to everyone standing by that he was really mean. ? We were both relieved when she walked away...not sure what her intentions were. Was she jealous? Hurt feelings? I really like this breeder and was deeply surprised by her actions, as I had not seen anything like this from her before. It got better a few days later. I have not figured out where her views sit, as she dabbles in camp life. But you get my point, my sheep have provoked strong reactions!

  2. I like Wooly Bear, of course, but Iris is just gorgeous - I don't follow all the comments about "good fleece length" etc. All I know is my fleeces sell - and I love long fleece and blocky looking sheep - but I don't have any as long and flowing as Iris! (And I do have some of the shorter, single coats, too)

  3. the musket sheep in the photo at the top of this blog looks more icelandic than shetland. In fact this sheep doesn't remotely look like a shetland at all.

  4. Steamroll # ?
    Hi Stephen!! I've been expecting you! I appreciate your opinion. She is wooly, isn't she?
    You know, this is just like last time...even the order is the same!
    :) :)

  5. Hi Amy, I'm so glad that wooly bear(Disco)is doing so well for you. I'm glad he has went to a good home where he will be used. Hope you have nice lambs this spring. Which papers has he been in I would like a picture of him for our farm records. Kim