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.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Blue Sheep?

If you are from my state (Wisconsin), and if you have ever traveled up to Peninsula State Park, you have heard of that super fabulous little theater in the woods...and you have heard of the hilarious little production entitled "Lumberjacks in Love". This exceptionally professional production cracked up audiences for a number of years, including us. It's the story of a bunch of goofball lumberjacks in a rough logging camp of Northern Wisconsin, one of whom gets caught in a commitment to a mailorder bride. The actors were incredibly good with their lines, timing, singing, and cracking up the audience without missing a cue! Of course, the lines and songs themselves were almost more than my laugh lines could handle! In this little play, there is a line about "blue soap".....oh boy, am I deviating! Sadly, one of the key actors of that production, and I believe one of the co-writers died a sudden death while out jogging one beautiful summer afternoon in the park, hours before he was to perform again. He was a young his thirties and FIT! I cannot think of anything blue anymore without thinking about him, this production, and the crack ups he and his fellow actors brought to thousands of people. I still feel sadness about it to this day...

So what does that have to do with blue sheep?? sheep? Yes! Shetland sheep come in a variety of colors ranging from lovely blacks up two color "paths" to white. One color "path" takes a dark brown fleece up through a range of creams, honeys and fawns. The other "path" takes fleece color from black up the grey side from steely grey to soft greys, silver greys and eventually up to whitish. One sheep can manifest any range of colors in it's "path". Well, I feel very fortunate to have found this little fleece I'm working on right now...'s blue!!! I laid it out on the floor and the color coming back was exceptional!! I have seen A LOT of Shetland sheep, but around my area, this color is just not seen much! It actually takes on the color blue. I absolutely cannot wait to spin it! I took this picture before I washed the fleece. It comes from a little ram lamb I met last fall. I really liked him, and found it hard to leave him behind. He was well built and had this lovely fleece on him, but I could see he was going to have that nasty horn issue. One horn looked good, but the other was going to dive inward. So I told his owner I would buy his fleece after shearing. Turns out, the good horn dove inward as well...another Shetland tragedy. Boy, would I ever love to see research done on this to get this problem resolved!!!

The tips in some areas have that lovely cinnamon color. If this fleece was run through a mill, the colors would be lost to one tone. That is why I love handspinning with Shetland wool. You can preserve these amazing color dynamics. It's impossible to get bored!!! The yarn you design ends up being one-of-a-kind; unique to that sheep, unique to that spinner. Just as a memorable production, each fleece becomes a memorable product, designed with skill and commitment, and fond memories of the sheep it came from. Sadly, this fleece comes with the sad memory of those horns and the untimely loss of another beautiful ram.

Oh Sophie! That's clean laundry!! Must you?!?



  1. What a beautiful fleece and I hope you have fun spinning it. That story reminds me that nature is both beautiful and at times (seems) cruel. Margie

  2. Thank you! I've decided to card this little fleece, so it won't be all spun up right away. I'm getting that 'ol freeze-up issue again on this one! It's so pretty, and unusual around my area, I don't want to make any mistakes. Amy