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, December 30, 2009

From the ground up...2009

Wheely Wooly Farm has had a smashing first year and we wish to thank all of you for helping to make this amazing first year so much fun! Here are some of the milestones we accomplished this year:

First, the start up of this blog! This was a serious milestone for us as so many of you were asking if you could find us online! Pictures of the sheep, fiber, yarn, and other farm life were always requested, and I must say, getting those pictures can be a challenge sometimes, such as when Gwendolyn wants to socialize, rather than pose! We want to thank everyone for the great comments on the blog, emails, and compliments in real person! We sure appreciate all of you!

Second, creating a booth (our first day out shown here) for traveling to events off the farm. It was sure fun drawing up the plans and building our displays and signage! However, you never know what kind of response you'll get when you're all set up and out there! I couldn't have dreamed better! Thank you everyone for the overwhelming response, and the flood of questions and sales of our fiber and yarn! We sooo much look forward to these days and talking with all of you! Without all of you, we wouldn't be able to do this!

Next is the "Grand Opening" of our daughter Holly's Baa-tique! This project has been enormous fun, and the response has been beyond dreams! Holly's Baa-tique sells luxury handspun/handknitted items for dolls created from yarn from our fiber animals. We built the Baa-tique on the spur of the moment just before our sheep festival, and what fun that was! There are still things to add, such as a awesome chandelier and beautiful lamps we found recently. This has been a great way for Holly to have her own business, and so she designed her own business cards to match! What fun giving those out! Thank you to all who stopped to hear Holly share her amazing knowledge (for her age!!) and who supported her entrepreneurial efforts!
Yet another milestone is all the students we've enjoyed teaching over the year! From young kids to grandparents who are retired, we've taught all ages the joy of working with fiber. We also got many of your wheels working, or at least got the problem identified!!! While I consider this the hardest work of our farm, it is the most rewarding! How great it is to see faces light up when a student realizes they can do it! We hope we've spread the love of spinning and knitting to all! Thank you for entrusting us to get you over the beginner's hump!

Then the next big point of our year was our county fair. The past two years now have been amazingly rewarding to see 4-Her's gain skills and confidence to try fiber arts, and to exhibit them at the fair! The look on their faces when they get the blue ribbons? Priceless!!!!!!! From washing fleeces, to spinning on drop spindles, to dyeing yarn and fiber, carding, and knitting....whew! You've learned A LOT!! I've seen concentration grow, and confidence bloom. That is thrilling for me!

But for me, the biggest part of our first year was hands down something that created one of the best moments of my life outside the big stuff like marriage, and children and degrees....and one many of you have come to know of us by....our Grand Champion Ram win with Wooly Bear, and Holly's fourth place ribbon in Youth Showmanship at the Midwest Shetland Sheep Breeders Regional Show in Jefferson, Wisconsin! What a great day that was!!!!
Here the judge had us lined up for the ram lamb class. Wooly Bear really stands out with his black fleece and broomstick straight topline!
This shows the moment when the judge was deciding who'd be Grand Champion. Wooly Bear stood so square and quiet! I halter train all of our sheep, but with Wooly Bear, I treated him like the powerful ram he would become. The result was an experience I'll NEVER forget! He was so obedient, so mature, so relaxed and calm, yet his heart was so connected to mine and I could tell he was quietly needing reassurance from me. Together, we were a team to show our best sides to the judge. It was really, really a great day, and a dream fulfilled for me from way back in my youth. Since this was my first ever day out showing my own sheep, I think that dream was fulfilled! On top of that, the comments from the judge about Wooly Bear and his fleece, and his overall twinkling impression made me soar even more!!! A once in a lifetime moment when many years of dreaming come true!

So! Oh boy! How could year two, or any year after this get any better?!?

All of this would not be possible, however, without our sheep. That day, a few years ago, when someone's little ewe lamb pinged cupid's arrow into my heart while standing in a pen at the show, changed everything. Today, I've built up, by very slow and careful choice, a small but outstanding flock of purebred Shetland sheep that produce outstanding, genuine Shetland wool, that is a dream to handshear, wash, spin, knit, and most importantly, wool that creates genuine soft yet durable, lightweight, etheral garments that will become favorites in your wardrobe, if you can get me to part with it!!!!

Did anything baaa-d (sorry) happen this year? Yes, no lambs. That was a really hard hit. When our lamb window had passed and the ulitmate reality was sinking in, it was hard to take. We had borrowed, trustingly so, a ram from a breeder. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a blessing that took only a short time to reveal! As sad as last spring was, the results of that situation gave us soooooo many more blessings instead!! Things work out in amazing ways!!

Then in April, we lost the last of our three original dogs. I didn't realize I could shed so many tears.

Also, I had the chance to communicate with some Shetland breeders whom I probably would never had the opportunity to communicate with without Wooly Bear's big win. What a learning experience! Some of those experiences were hair-raising! Some were crack-ups! Some were sad. Some were rude! Some were puzzling, and some were scary regarding the future. Some were words I had to look up in the dictionary!! I was kept riveted to my seat! I've learned where some want to take the Shetlands in the future, and where the Shetlands should stay. I've learned about people I dub "The Scientifics", and other people who want to commercialize Shetland fleeces by hiding behind certain words. I've learned that animals become tools of manipulation and greed, even these sweet Shetlands! I've learned that many people who make breeding choices and sell Shetlands don't know how to spin or knit. I've learned our own farm's identity and goals with clearer focus. I've discovered more of who I am as a shepherd, spinner, knitter, and lover of beautiful, high performance garments. I've learned that sheep, especially sweet, leaping little Shetland sheep can change your life, and make you feel you're in love all over again!

Thank you to all for enriching my life in 2009, every one of you! It's been a G-R-R-R-E-A-T year!!!!!


  1. FYI...I learned to knit and spin after I got my sheep. I got my sheep because I adored them and love to care for them. Some people who own Golden Retrievers don't hunt with them..gasp..that would be the VAST MAJORITY of Golden Retriever owners. People own animals for lots of reasons.
    In dog sports we call newbies with some quick success and narrow view"overnight experts."

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    You sound...unhappy! I hope the New Year will cheer you up!

  3. Ha ha ....I am not unhappy. Actually I am VERY happy. And there you go again, being judgemental. Ta Ta, cheerio!

  4. Dear Anonymous,
    Is everything ok?

  5. Happy New Year to you and I hope you get lots of healthy lambs!

  6. Thanks Laura! Same to you...can't wait for all those great pictures! Amy

  7. I've knit socks 3 times before and everytime the toes end up way too pointy.The socks are very comfy, but what's up with the pointy toe thing? Your socks have a beautiful toe. I used the kitchner stich on the toe and it was a basic "socks for boots" pattern. Do you have a favorite sock pattern for beginners? Thanks! Margie

  8. It could be the pattern, or it might be too many decreases down the toe, perhaps with too many knit rounds with the decreases. Without seeing the sock, it's hard to tell. My favorite pattern that I use for my whole family is from Yankee Knitter Designs. I think she has a website you can search for. She writes a very good pattern. Hope that helps! Amy

  9. Thanks...I'll look for the Yankee Knitter Designs website. Happy New Year and happy knitting, too! Thanks! Margie

  10. Here's the link for the Yankee Knitter patterns, so you can copy and paste into your browser. There's 30 patterns here!

    Scroll all the way to the bottom, the socks are #29.

    By the way, I like the looks of the"English Rib Pullover," #16. Something to get an early start on for next Christmas??

    Amy's Husband ;-)