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.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lil' Rainbow's Socks

Well, here they are! Lil' Rainbow's socks, that I've been waiting for since I bought her summer of '09. Lil' Rainbow is a very sweet ewe with excellent conformation; except for her toothy smile! She has a black head, black legs, and a "ghostly" fleece covering her body. Her fiber is black, with grays and whites mixed in, giving it a blue-ish hue from a distance that is remarkably cool to look at! She adds a lot of color to our flock, and stands out as a visitor favorite, for nearly no one has seen such remarkable color in local, commercial sheep! Actually, she brings gasps, people are so surprised. The Shetland word used to describe her color is actually a Norse word: iset. The colorful Shetland sheep are mostly given color description names that root out of the Norwegian language, for many of the people on the Shetland Islands stretch back to family ties in Norway. My guess (this is just a personal guess!) is that the sheep have such ancestry as well.

Anyway, Lil' Rainbow has this remarkable color to her fleece that would look so nice with jeans! So I couldn't WAIT to shear her and begin spinning!
Lil' Rainbow's Sock with crocheted flower

Below is a photo of her the day after she arrived on our farm. She was a purely spontaneous purchase from a shepherd looking to move into other breeds of sheep. (named after the rainbow we enjoyed the day we bought her, and for the line she's out of) She is perfect size, had been well cared for and was very healthy! She has been the "cleanest" acquisition to our farm we've ever had. She also came with some emotional sadness, for she had lost her little lamb the prior spring. Despite her toothy smile, we bred her to Wheely Wooly Lerwick in hopes of twins from her next spring. I didn't think I''d ever breed her because of that smile, but her fleece convinced me to change my mind! She is also VERY hardy, cheap to feed, and very sweet. She passes all of our picky criteria, EXCEPT that SMILE! :) Notice her perfectly straight topline! I like!
Lil' Rainbow recently sheared; summer of 2009

In the above photo, she was wearing a bell, just in case she jumped the fence and took off. Bells...handy things!!
Lil' Rainbow in full fleece; spring of 2010

By the time spring rolled around, I was drooling with anticipation! She has the classic "soft, fine textured, longish and wavy" fleece our breed standard requires us to maintain. Her fleece draped to her knees and was about 5 1/2 inches long all together, with neck wool slightly shorter, britch being slightly longer.
Close-up of Lil' Rainbow's midside fiber on the hoof

Her fiber has coarser ends, giving her remarkable hardiness. Her fleece sheds water like a duck! Underneath is extremely fine, black softness that makes you pause with surprise! It has very light handle and is very responsive yarn! FUN!!!! I sheared her myself, then washed the fleece. It barely had time to dry before I was spinning it! The skeins I didn't keep for myself all quickly sold in summer. I only have enough for myself to make socks, but I have it!

So while I was working on these socks, Swifty was getting more things to do. Pretty soon, our psychotic Border Collie was getting back to normal and things were calming down around here!

Good boy, Swifty!

I couldn't WAIT to try the socks on! I love to knit in the round on double-pointed needles! It is very relaxing and easy. Here, I just have to close up the toe with the kitchener stitch....very easy once you get the swing of it.

I absolutely LOVE the color dynamic! These are no ordinary, plain socks! Yet they are not the dizzying colors we are all enjoying lately, either! The color is bright, yet subtle; harmonious, peaceful. I like that! It will also never fade, bleed, or wash out...meaning the color will look nice for a very, very long time! I like that, too!

I'm thinking of crocheting a pretty edge along the top of the cuff just for fun. We'll see! The crocheted flower (from our Shetland ewe Iris) is my exclusive design created right here on Wheely Wooly Farm! They make such wonderful accent pieces, add a very nice touch, and are very popular! Iris's flowers have whitish yarn with grey undertones, perfect for harmonious matching with iset fibers! Have I mentioned how much I love Shetland sheep and their fiber????Now it's your turn! A knit-along has been suggested, but I've never done anything like that! And I don't think I'd be much help knitting socks on circulars. I LOVE circular needles and use them a lot, but I knit my socks on wooden doublepoints. Any suggestions on how to get a knit-along going?

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