Ok, so after digging like a mole in the darkness, I found some breeders and put in requests for fiber samples representative of that respective breed, and sometimes I felt brave enough to ask for notes on the breed! Air mail!! This was fun!
When packages arrived, I waited to open them for when I could really sit down and document them. After assessing each type of fiber, I slowly began preparing them for spinning, then began to spin. Slowly, in the chill of winter's midst and long into spring's brightness, I carefully drafted the respective cousin's fiber and gained a new appreciation for how diverse the fibers can be!!
This is a lock from the cousin called Rya. It LOOKs like a double coated Shetland lock, except it has much less fine undercoat. Someone not real experienced with Shetland fleece didn't pick up on that when discussing the lock. Another person, who owns Shetlands but doesn't spin thought it was Shetland fiber. It measures just over 7 inches long, and is like our moorit color...both typical of the breed according to the preservationist breeder. The pictures of the Rya sheep stunned me! It was like having Shetland sheep staring back at me in the photos. They were beautiful. I would not have been able to tell the Rya sheep from the Shetland if each was unidentified in a photo, standing side by side. I stared and stared.....Anyway! By looks, you can see lustre, staple length, and many other characteristics typical of Shetland wool. Ok, I thought to myself, they are obviously cousins! But wow! There is nothing to educate a spinner than the spinning itself!!!!!!! I learned that Rya wool LOOKs the same, but sure doesn't FEEL the same in the end! It is a beautiful wool that was quite easy to draft and spin, just like Shetland. However, it has a much different handle to it and the yarn looks and feels much, much different. It behaves strangely to me. as I expected it would be like Shetland. It moves differently, acts differently, drapes, curls, twists, lays differently. I could easily see why this beautiful wool was so valued in centuries past, especially for tapestries and weavings. I suddenly had an interest in finding pictures of tapestries!