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, September 22, 2010

1927 Genuine vs 2002 Appendix A

Wheely Wooly Farm has picked up on the strong tension among the Shetland sheep breeders in America. We can certainly understand the reason! A very small group of people has decided to change the definition of what a Shetland sheep looks like, and they have LOTS of lambs to sell you, so you can have your own "Shetland" sheep. Yet most of the Shetland sheep shepherds in our country like the genuine Shetland sheep we've had all along. The tension comes from this small group driving the changes, and the misinformation they've doled out to unbelieving longtime flock owners.

In picking up on this battle, we have decided that the sheep we want is the one that created the real textiles that made the breed famous. As a spinner and knitter who works professionally with the fiber every day, I've come to exact certain standards on my sheep, fiber, and the textiles we create from our farm and flock. We have decided we want to re-create those genuine textiles as best we can given our abilities. Therefore, we cannot support Appendix A type sheep.

Appendix A is a document that was created by peoples OUTSIDE the Shetland Islands, and does not reflect the ideals of the Shetland Island crofters who raise the genuine Shetland sheep. It is a document that restricts fleece length to a range that would be unsuitable for a premier handspinning breed of the world. It is a document that was accepted by the organization OUTSIDE the Shetland Islands in the year 2002. We do not feel that people OUTSIDE of the Shetland Islands can adequately be "experts" of the breed.

As producers of fine Shetland wool and knitted items, we here at Wheely Wooly Farm believe in bringing you, our customers, the truth. We are not supporters of short fiber that would be:

a) difficult for a sheep to survive in over 100 inches of rainfall and windy conditions,
b) too short to be adequately handspun without milling or additional processing before spinning and
c) create fiber that is too fuzzy for clarity in graphic symmetrical and asymmetrical designs of fair isle knitwear.

Our farm is committed to bringing you fiber that is like the fiber still produced in the Shetland Islands today. We are fully committed to adhering to the Breed Standard of 1927, because it accurately defines the fiber type you need to make excellent quality fair isle garments.

On final note, we have discussed this topic at length with MANY early owners of Shetlands in America. All of them have described fleeces that are long, with waves, extra fine fibers, with drapey fullness that extends down to the knees at 12 month clip time, and bright eyes/expressions, active gaits, and perky, friendly personalities. Some of these shepherds go back to the very first sheep here in North America. So am I inclined to believe a very small group of people, many of whom don't spin or knit, who have very different information than even the shepherds on the hill in the Shetland Island have, or am I inclined to believe the Shetlanders themselves, and all the early American shepherds I had lengthy conversations with?

Rest assured. We are sticking with history. We will continue to strive for the 1927 Genuine Shetland sheep in all it's bright beauty!

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