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.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wool on my bobbin today

The wool on my bobbin today is from a single coated Shetland sheep...well...supposedly a Shetland sheep, but I have my suspicions. It is too wirey. Unfortunately, I paid a LOT of money for this fleece, as I thought I was buying from someone I could trust. The first red flag should have been that the fleece weighs over five pounds. The second red flag was that the fleece had such heavy grease, I had to rewash it. The third red flag is that the yarn is heavy, causing fatigue to set in sooner when knitting, and causing the resulting garment to weigh more. In the end, the socks I made with this fleece didn't last me a whole winter of wear, when I get a good two winters or more of wear from my other Shetland wool. So yes, sometimes a fleece can be a disappointment. The more you work with fleece, the more you will come to know if it's genuine Shetland or not.
Here is some of the wool left (photo below), which I am finishing up spinning today. I spun half the fleece last spring, and found it tiring to spin, for it does not have that light hand I love so much. I really don't think it's pure Shetland. So I left it to finish later. Well, when something isn't as pleasant, later is easy to put off while you work on more pleasant things! Ultimately, you have to face finishing it, because wool doesn't store forever, and I like to keep my inventory revolving in a timely way.
I tried as best I can to get photos showing the grey fleece with my two recent favorites for spinning: MaryBay (nearly white doublecoat) and Iris (musket double coat). Both of these fleeces have given me very soft, fine wool that is extremely light, a dream to spin, etheral in the yarn that I cannot put down, and sooooooo soft and cozy to wear! I've made many pairs of socks out of Iris's wool and they last a long time with super soft, cozy wiggle comfort! I LOVE Iris!!

You can see how the grey looks like wire. This is a single coat with a staple length of 6 inches, and it was advertised as having "lovely crimp". The skirted fleece weighed "five pounds plus". I paid $60. for it...yes...that's $12. a pound. In my area, fleeces sell from $7. to $14. a pound raw. Like I said, I thought I could trust I was getting a good Shetland fleece, for it was advertised as "Shetland ewe". However, after washing, spinning, knitting, and wearing this wool, I think I paid way to much. It is not like my own fleeces at all. It is too large, too heavy, and to weak. And the wirey-ness makes it feel prickly. In the photo above, Iris's unwashed sample is in the lower right (you can see her tips in the photo below). MaryBay is on the upper left...whitish. The two grey samples are from the expensive fleece. This ewe was advertised as "dark grey katmoget". Katmogets, or catmogets have dark under parts from muzzle to tail and legs, so you can see since both samples are grey that I'm using midside wool to show samples, not britch.)
Iris's wool is very, very fine and strong. It has lovely handle and softness, making it a dream to spin and knit (the largest fleece she ever gave me weighed four pounds, with up to nine inch long staple at was a DREAM!). When I ply two singles, I can't get over how soft the yarn feels, slipping through my fingers. It has beautiful lustre, and is stunningly beautiful when combined with other colors, especially my favorite, purply-blues, but any color looks good with Iris's musket color. I've paired it with black, and with orangy colors, and with reds, blues, and purples. I wanted to make myself a sweater from last year's fleece, with black (from my ewe, Mona) crocheted over the edge on cuffs, but I realized it was such a nice fleece, I needed to sell it. Today, I have none left. I made something like 12 skeins of two ply at about....upper laceweight to low sport weight yarn. That's my favorite gauge to spin, for Shetland wool makes it easy to do so.

It's really hard for single coats to compete with the softness, fineness, and strength that double coats easily provide! That's the wool on my bobbin today!

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