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.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Backing up a bit...

It's a cold winter's night here on Wheely Wooly Farm! The chickens are tucked in the coop with their heat lamp while the stars are shining brightly in the deep, cold sky. Snow is headed our way sometime in the night. Wooly Bear is still with his group outside, not ready to end his three weeks of purpose. It has not been the nicest weather for romancing this year. We've had a lot of rain, sleet, snow, wind, and just general unpleasantness in the air much of Wooly Bear's girl time. Each day, we carry lots of frozen water buckets to hard ground, let them fall with a smash to break out the huge "cube", then make the mulitple treks to the hydrant for more fresh water. Truly a labor of love! They are always thankful, though, and often take a nice drink when you step back to observe how everybody is doing. Sophie (below) knows where the best place to be is!
Who's wool this time, Sophie?

So while we snuggle in the warm house, getting warm, warming up, thawing, before the next cold round of bucket smashing, I thought I'd back up a bit for our newer customers. Below is a quick picture of some of our 2010 lambs and ewes. We have achieved a wonderful range of colors within our flock, ranging from black through several lighter shades to white. You will notice the absence of spots in our flock. We love spotted lambs for they are really cute! However, for yarn making, I really like working with fading genetics, which used to be more common. Now, both spots and fading are pretty common. It's nice to have the range of fun.
2010 lambs and ewes

Below is some Shetland wool I spun this spring, which is all sold out. Several ewes have now sold out, in fact. I love this sample because it shows the lovely color changes you can get in a younger, fading fleece. The tips were honey brown, the middle was a lovely dove grey, and the cut ends are a creamy white. This color range makes for lovely yarn!
Shetland wool- notice the color ranges during fading

Next comes some knitted garments some of you have already seen. Below is a pair of half-mitts I designed, using Miss Mona's wool. She has a lovely black fiber that is beautiful paired with purply- blue shades (which is a synthetic accent yarn I happened to have a whole cone of). I wear them a lot! They are three years old now. I should take a picture of what they look like now! I've noticed that with Shetland wool garments, wear enhances the appeal, making the wool bloom and look more appealing, and feel even softer. Sure isn't that way for non-wool garments!!

Miss Mona's Half Mitts knitted three years ago

Next comes the hooded scarf. This is older than the half mitts, and is a staple in my cold weather wardrobe I could no longer live happily without! It gets worn a lot!! It was a challenge for me to knit at the time because you start it by casting on 371 stitches on a 28" circular needle. Getting that magic number right....371....took me a lot of work, because I had lots of distractions at the time! I'll never forget it. The fiber was provided by a Sheepy Hollow ewe, and is soft and cozy today, showing virtually no wear; just added bloom and appeal! I LOVE Shetland wool!

Hooded Scarf knitted years ago with fiber from a Sheepy Hollow ewe

Shetland wool and the knitted garments we've made with them have turned out to be a good deal! They are pretty, comfortable, fun to knit/crochet, cozy warm, and they don't wear out! The projects I have laid out for this winter are very exciting! I'll keep you updated as I get them going!

In the meantime, I was fascinated by the two page spread in Spin-Off Magazine regarding Beatrix Potter's interest in sheep. Who knew?!? So that lead to good snippets of reading and research into the breed of sheep she loved. Fun!! Great way to pass the time in between daily responsibilities and frozen water buckets! Also, Swifty goes in for his big snip surgery next Tuesday. He weighs 42 pounds! Perfect! I am so happy with this little dog! He's my barn buddy/farm buddy. He goes out with me many times a day for walks (now that hunting season is over), work with the sheep, and for bucket smashing. His favorite part? Doggie ice cubes! It doesn't take much to entertain a Border Collie puppy!

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