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.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Meet Gretl! :) She's a purebred Shetland ewe that I do not own. Gretl's fleece shows that variation I like to see in a Shetland sheep. These variable fleeces give the fiber nut lots of variety in fiber type, and thus, suitable wool for a variety of fiber projects.

The top wool in the picture is soft neck wool. It is shorter in length and much crimpier. The fleece in the middle was taken midside (along the ribs). Unfortunately, Gretl's fleece has been washed, so the fibers are a little blurred. She has nice crimp midside, with an intermediate length fiber (about 4 inches). Strangely, some tips are nice all the way to the tip, while other locks have about 1/2 " of outer coat on them! The wool is very soft and fine, with a nice crimp. The lower left and lower right locks come from Gretl's back legs, and is called the britch wool. This is typical of Shetlands in that the wool looks and feels very different here. There is a soft, downy under wool, and a longer, stronger, coarser wavy part that can vary in length quite a bit (Gretl's is about 6 inches long). It looks very different than the wool under the sheep's neck or along the ribs.
Here is that fine, crimpy neck wool. It is really short, just over two inches long. (Gretl was what I called "zip" sheared, meaning she was sheared with an electric clipper. I call it "zip shearing" because it is sheared off so quick, as opposed to hand shearing, with hand blades...those garganutian scissors. Zip shearing cuts the fiber at skin level. Handshearing requires leaving some wool on the skin.
Here is the britch wool on top of the neck wool, to really show the contrast. The differences of color here reveal some spotting. Gretl's fleece is nice in that it shows that variation that is so useful.

The socks in my last post are finished. I'll post the pictures in my next blog! We are bracing for our first significant snowfall this winter in the days to come, so I'm sure I'll be wearing them right away!


  1. No, but then again I didn't look at it very hard before it went in the tub, it was so clean!