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, May 26, 2010

Sheep can do funny things to you...

It's shearing time on Wheely Wooly Farm. Not only are we busy with getting long awaited fiber off the sheep, but we are busy keeping records of what we raise. These combined processes take much effort, and are not for the large scale producer. As I study over what we've raised and make my notes as I work with the fiber to an end stage product, I have some observations, about me!:

*I really love sheep. I love their temperments. I love their sounds. I love what they require of me, and I love what they give me. Funny. I would not have pegged myself as being a shepherd back in those years of "So what are you going to do when you grow up?" Shepherdess was not even an option. Funny.

*I am thrilled with the sheep I've selected. Before I had my own flock, I spun and knit. I took classes and did all that fun stuff (still do). I wanted to spend the rest of my life learning and growing in knitting and spinning. Funny. (!) Few breeds can do that for you like Shetlands. This breed is going to keep me busy for a very long time! The spinning and knitting skills the Shetlanders had historically are NOT learned overnight!! This is not a breed for one who moves onto new kinds of projects frequently. It never was and still is not today a cull-like-mad-to-improve kind of breed. Fortunately, because it takes time to acquire good Shetland-type knitting skills, I have time to get it right in my flock. My goal is to raise fleeces that mirror what I've learned about in the past. There are some modern things in life I really love. Modern sheep are not one of them. The more I experience modern "breeds" of sheep, the more I've come to realize they've lost their sparkle.

*I've come to learn how intimately linked fiber is with the end product it is used in. If you want to create genuine Shetland knitted garments, you cannot really use a different breed's fiber, or even crossbred fiber. The fiber of other breeds dilutes the special qualities of Shetland. This awareness can turn you into a Shetland fanatic!! Suddenly, you notice lace patterns you would have skipped over before. Things in life around you suddenly get transposed onto grid see if a nice pattern would emerge! You think about clarity in yarn characteristics. And bounce. And elasticity. And strength. You think about things that no one else in your circles're suddenly speaking greek to them!

*I've turned into a scrutinizer of old photos! Me! I love looking back, but I'd rather be outside than study photos! Things can sure change. There are many great old photos to look at. My favorite is of a woman shearing a sheep on her lap while wearing wooden shoes.

*You start thinking a sheep is attractive! Take Lil' Rainbow, for example (previous blog entry). She looks a lot like Dr. James Bowie's tup...a photo taken around 1910. She has that wild Shetland look to her; a sheep from a wild place. Her color is like a sensationally rarely seen. Her fleece is long, soft, fine. It drapes about her. She sparkles.

There is so much more! Sheep really can do funny things to you. Watch out! You might be next!

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