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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


We made it! It's always a treat to see February 1st come around! February is the month where hearts are floating around everywhere you look. This is what I see over my sheep everyday...

Sorry, but I couldn't resist it! This is little Honey. She's a purebred, registered Shetland lamb. She is just the sweetest little ewe lamb! She frequently comes over for chin scratches. I think she can leap higher and more often than any other sheep I've known. She has these little Tigger-springs in her hooves that take her straight UP without warning! Sometimes I run around near the fence, which gets all the sheep leaping and springing to play along with me...shepherdess fun! (Who needs a health club :) (WARNING: Wait until neighbors have departed for the day before attempting this activity.)

Now the days are getting longer by over 2 minutes a day. That means we are gaining 17-18 minutes of sunlight EACH WEEK! Woooohoooo!
That translates into longer knitting time by the window. I'm working on a sweater to give someone. The body of the sweater is all knit up, as well as one sleeve. This is the second sleeve. The cuff has a garter stitch edge and the sweater is knit in plain stockinette. (This is what the recipient picked out). The pink needles are made out of plastic (gasp!!) but I knit with them because they were my Grandmother's. My preferred needle is made out of wood, but I enjoy knitting on any kind of needles. In this picture, the garter stitch edge is covered over by a sampling of crochet I did with a singles Shetland yarn remnant. I LOVE crocheting those scallops and wavy edges, and flowers, too! I laid the edging over the garter stitch cuff just to play around and see how it would look, but it won't be on the sweater. The yarn from this sweater, is from our ewe, Sweetie (see prior blogs). I sheared her myself, then skirted and washed the fleece, then spun up the yarn on my wheel. I've already made a hat, some mittens, and a pair of socks from this same fleece, and now this sweater. FUN! I love my sheep!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Shetland Showcase

After the great fun we had at the MSSBA Show in Jefferson last year, we took our sheep home and had a good night's sleep. The next day, we strolled around the festival grounds, still in disbelief at what a special day we'd had the day before, as a family. I returned to the barn where the Shetlands are housed, as I often do. But Sundays are so different from Saturdays, the day of the show. Saturdays are bustling (well, used to be...that's a story for some other time) with laughter and baas, hugs and good cheer. Sundays are empty. Quiet. There was only one pen with sheep waiting to be picked up. Nobody was around, even though the festival was in full swing. Shetland people were around, but everyone was scattered, searching for a place in the festival where the action was. In the Shetland barn, there was only the wind.

I sat down on the bleachers and took it all in. The day was warm, pleasant. I could hear announcers and baas faintly in the distance. I could hear cars coming and going onto the grounds. Everything was busy except here. I began thinking what a shame it was that this barn, such a nice barn, was empty and unutilized. The day before, there were endless questions about my sheep. People wanted to know what they were called, what their wool is like, how to care for them, where they came from, how to use the wool, can it be spun, on and on. We were swamped with interest. We had Grandmas. We had vet students. We had mom/daughter pairs searching for something they could do together, we had breeders who wanted to know how to get a sheep to walk nice on a halter, we had new shepherds who had lots of questions. We could barely address them all! Excitement was high.

Sitting there on the bleachers, looking out over the empty show ring, I wondered how our breed could be such a mystery yet to soooo many people, and how even vendors at the festival that weekend were unaware of the Shetland sheep's presence on the grounds. Remembering what a special day we'd had, I wished other families could have such an experience. How nice it would be to see other families with farms and Shetland sheep put together a flock name, come up with sheepy products, and become their own little farm business. What fun it is for families to be together, building, creating, and working; sharing. Then an idea hit me. The Shetland Showcase!

That day, I scribbled notes all the way home. I scribbled notes all through the night. I scribbled notes and drew diagrams for a few more days. I realized I couldn't do something like this alone. I needed help. So in my communications with then NASSA Education Chair, Juliann Budde, and the current NASSA President, Maureen Koch, I boldly shared my thoughts. Juliann referred me to the person in charge of the Midwest Shetland Sheep Breeders Association (MSSBA), Chris Greene. Chris wrote that she really liked the idea.

Well, that was a few months ago. Not much has been discussed. It was a busy time of year, over Christmas and all, but I was surprised at the quietness about the idea. I'm hoping that as the spring picks up, dialogue will return regarding the promotion of the the idea of having a Shetland Showcase event in the Jefferson barn, where families and shepherds can create farm booths, advertise their flock names, and sell their fleeces/wool products. How fun it would be to utilize the barn, and possibly the neighboring barn to put on short seminars (say 45 minutes long) on topics specific to Shetlands such as halter training, how to show your sheep, how to skirt a fleece, how to knit Shetland lace patterns, how to feed your Shetlands, how to trim hooves, how to know! Shetland sheep are not like meat breeds (even though they can be used for meat). We don't show them in the same position, and we to use their wool for handspinning and handknitting. Seminars could also include a mini trip the the Shetland Islands (where enviously, there are no coyotes!), breed history, NASSA history, import history, and the breed standard. Families could design and set up farm booths to advertise their sheep and wool products. There could be a Shetland yarn competition, and a knitted goods competition. There could be two categories: one for adults, one for kids. Maybe more would show their sheep. The ideas are endless, and such fun to think about! There is so much to this breed in rich history, rich textiles! I dream of bringing it all alive!

Well, as I ponder all this excitement, and my desire to bring other families and shepherds into the fun, I've pondered my own geographical area. Over Christmas, my family talked about how to get the word out about Shetlands existing, and what makes them unique. So we put together a plan for the upcoming year as we tour around again to farm markets, craft fairs and festivals. We've decided to begin building the Shetland Showcase right in our own farm booth; from the ground up! What fun! The people of the Shetland Islands gave us a precious gift. We want to express our appreciation! And maybe someday, my dream of a Shetland Showcase can become a happy and bustling reality. Stay tuned for more details!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Things in America's Shetland flocks are about to change in a BIG WAY! So far we've seen:
1. wool that doesn't grow (gets "stuck")
2. super crimp head to tail (worth an average of 55 cents a pound in my local wool pool as it is arguably the most common fleece type in the world)
3. vanishing horns (I decided to keep horns after hearing from a shepherd who's polled ram got in with her ewes unknowingly. She was out walking in the pasture with her ewes and got whacked because she didn't realize he got in there. That whack landed her in the emergency room with a broken leg. Horns tell you a ram is present and to watch him. Someone else had to care for her flock for weeks while she healed.) and
4. conformation that redefines the breed...

...and now we have something new coming! I'm so glad I didn't support all of the above. I'm SOOOOOO thankful MY flock is BIOSECURE!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010 could I title this...

Here are the little crocheted flowers I've been making, and I can't stop! They are so easy, fast and fun! The black (at 4:00) is a remnant singles from Esther, the grey is Icelandic from a 4 oz. ball I bought in Jefferson, the brown under the rose is Gwendolyn 2-ply, the rose is leftover singles from roving, the brownish at 11:00 is an unknown fiber 2-ply found when emptying out my stash. I have many, many more. They are great for embellishments on knitting for clothing, hats, bags, slippers, scarves, lap blankets, or anything. You can just sew them on with either yarn or a strong, matching thread. Or you can felt them!

It's always fun to dye up a small batch of yarn, too. This is Sweetie's wool in pink drink mix. I use drink mix, especially in winter when the house is closed up, because I'm HOPING it is safer. Plus, it's fun for kids. I also worked with my knitting students this week on two separate days. It is soooo rewarding to get new, worried knitters over the start hump and going on the needles! Our weather has been above freezing and the roads have can I put it after being buried up to our ears in snow last year....blissful?!? So it has been easy to go where ever you want. You know, a sort of January thaw, where there is a hint of release in the air and the birds are singing everywhere? The breeze has been refreshing and the trickling water is music to my ears! Today, we found ten eggs from our ten hens.

I've also been catching up on some knitting I wanted to try out, and some new techniques I've been wanting to practice. Big problem...when you sell your yarn, what do you knit with???? Good thing I reserved the rest of Sweetie, and Iris for my own family. (Actually, I saved Miss Mona, too!) DH has a new pair of socks to wear, and he's been bringing up sweater patterns lately! Hummm....ok! Sounds fun! Since he's asking for a sweater, we can plan what it looks like together! Elizabeth Zimmerman's percentage system will be a fun application here....

It also makes me feel really good that some shepherds out there are trying their hands at spinning and knitting and cleaning out their piles and piles of old fleeces. I really wish all of you well in your efforts, and I hope you'll like it enough to grow in your skill. I was hoping to promote this critical shepherd's know what your producing... in time but then the onslaught of criticism I received by a small group of breeders who don't like Wooly Bear's fleece came! Oh Boy!! Nobody even knew me then! I think they were surprised at the chomp in my response! I may not win any popularity contests right now by the promotion of spinning and knitting amongst this group and on my blog, nor for the promotion of excellent soft, fine, long, easy to spin and knit fleeces like Wooly Bear has, but I do think my efforts will bring added credibility to American shepherds in the long run when everyone cools down and starts enjoying their newfound work and making more informed choices in their sheep. That credibility was sorely needed in the Shetland breed here in the USA, mainly in the Midwest. With new people getting started in fiber arts, I'm confident there will be changes down the road of what people breed for, as they'll have a better idea of what they are producing, and what makes sense historically on the animal. All the micron gibberish will fade away, and shepherds will realize handle is so much more important in defining this handspinning breed. Maybe these two things, promotion of credibility in American shepherds, and the understanding of handle will end up being my legacy. And everyone will remember the little black ram that started it all...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Old and new breed...

There have been interesting comments on another blog (Psalm 23 Farm). I've participated in those comments, so if you are interested in reading them, please click that farm's blog on the side of the page here.

I've been aware that there are differences in how people think of Shetland sheep here in the Midwest of the USA. There seem to be two ways of thinking:

1. That Shetland sheep are a primitive, unimproved beautiful breed that produces colorful, diverse fleeces which are easy to handspin and knit. Those fleeces can be used in a range of wool products (because fineness and staple length vary head to tail, as well as "lock structure" if you will. This is well documented in museums, archives, ship logs, and the historical content found in many countries, as the Shetland Islands are frequently passed by ships, and those passengers wrote about their purchases (or longing for those purchases!). For hundreds of years, stockings (socks with leggings) were the fame, and believe it or not, nightcaps! Then, after the women of eastern Europe made ring shawls out of the cashmere goat fiber they had, the Shetland Islands became known for wedding ring shawls made with Shetland wool. Later, the fair isle knitting technique, as well as some distinct patterns, and tams (hats) were the fame. Since most of the shearers, spinners, and knitters were primarily women living in poverty (men had to fish in summer to pay for their presence on their croft...American word I think it was called their tithe? to have their family on a croft.) Therefore, every ounce of wool was worth something, and diversity meant more "income" (coins for hundreds of years, then "trade" when new rules, taxes, and inspections clamped down on the crofters, their sheep, and their wool products.)


2. That Shetland sheep were famous for only ultrafine, super short stapled, single-coated fleeces (a goal they themselves admit seems elusive), and that the sheep looked more like merinos with American corn-fed rump bumps. This group insists this is the wool that created all those famous Shetland wool products.


Ok. So here are more of my thoughts. The people of times past on the Shetland Islands had ponies and dogs (among other animals, of course). The ponies were/are long maned and had/have a real bushiness in their hair. (Forelocks, manes, feathering, bushy tails, thick haircoats, delayed shedding out, etc.) The dogs, Shetland Sheep dogs (Shelties), were/are double-coated dogs, with bushy, thick fur head to tail. Obviously, many crofters loved hairy, bushy, furry, thick fill in the blank (fur, hair, wool), and found these traits to be useful in their climate, and pleasing in their eyes. So if they loved those characteristics on horses and dogs, why would they breed sheep to be the opposite (single coat/short staple)? Especially when more fiber meant more basic needs being met by making more money? (Staple growth = good, desired) So if single and short is recessive (not my term), how could economically challenged people afford to cull so much and be so choosy (getting rid of long and varied to keep short and single)??? How would economically challenged people afford to jacket (and maintain) all their short, single fleeces if those fleeces are harder to keep clean? (while the sheep lounged on sandy beaches, slept against grainy rocks, or brushed past low, bushy vegetation?) Or take the time to pick VM-embedded fleeces clean?

It just doesn't add up....................

Ok. So if those Merinoey-looking "Shetland" sheep of today are the "real" Shetland sheep we need to "return" to, then WHY do those new sheep look sooooo different from the Shetland sheep pictured in the archives?

If those ultrafine single coat fleeces are the real deal, why are they so "recessive" (not my term). And why are the old garments in museums made from long stapled fiber? (Gunnister man's gloves are an example) If short stapled fleeces are the "real deal", why aren't the old garments made from that kind of wool?

I think if a group (above number 2) wants to create a new breed, why not? "Classic" (the word they've chosen to describe their sheep) could mean 20th Century Shetlands crossed with something else (Merino?), under the guise of the Shetland standard, to produce fine, short-stapled yarn for delicate wool products or blended yarns. They admit they blend in mohair or something else for strength in a garment. These yarns can be very nice, but that's not genuine Shetland sheep yarn. This group of breeders highly desires a meaty American-type carcass as well, and crossbreeding. There is nothing wrong with selective breeding to create more sheep with characteristics you desire.


If a group wants to maintain a diverse, primitive, historically documented breed, why not? Genuine, historic, Shetlands mean the unimproved Shetlands known for many centuries, which are written about in many countries' museum archives in obscure ship's logs, passenger diaries, household accounts, parish records, estate records and letters, and of which old garments are carefully kept, with long fibers in them. These sheep were known (and documented) to produce the famed stockings (popular for centuries), nightcaps (best-sellers), jumpers (pullover sweaters), caps and tams, mittens and gloves, ring shawls, working woman's shawls, rugs, and items for the home. All of these things were made from fiber easily spun either inside, or while walking. The fiber required little or no processing or separating before spinning. Blending for strength is not needed. Good Shetland yarn is just that, Shetland fiber... soft, long, strong. If a group wants to raise a breed that doesn't require high rates of discard (culling), why not? Why go to so much work, just to get rid of so much of what you reap? I don't want a breed like that. I desire a breed that produces good lambs nearly every time. That's a real Shetland sheep. We have that right now, today. But some chose to not see them.

I know there is a group of people here in the USA that truly believe the short stapled, ultrafine fleeces are the real Shetland sheep, and that those are the sheep we should all be striving for, and the rest "disqualified" or "removed from the gene pool". Who am I to be the expert? I just raise, train, keep, shear, wash, spin, knit/crochet, sell, show, and wear the wool from my Shetlands in my own humble flock (Dailley and UK), in between a passion for reading everything I can find on the history of these sheep, both within Shetland Island archives, and outside. I've owned a Border collie, a rough coated collie, and a Sheltie over 23 years. I've worked with horses and ponies (including Shetland ponies) for three decades; used to get paid for it. My education emphasized science, a subject I love. Who am I to ponder these things?

The Shetland Islands and the sheep we received from there are so special, unique, and treasured. I want to preserve them, not change them. Why is group 2 hiding behind people like me? Why are they trying to discredit the real Shetland sheep? Why are they the only ones who insist longer fibers are trash? Why are they destroying so many beautiful lambs? Why are they trying to take a natural thing and turn it into a hard thing? Why are they afraid to claim the new breed they are longing and striving for?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Miss Mona

Oh Miss Mona! This picture is so typical! That is my boot in the lower right...and this is where Miss Mona usually is, close by. She is a very special ewe. And she's hard to get a picture of, because we really like each other!

Miss Mona is a purebred Shetland ewe of whose bloodlines are very special now. She carries a lot of emsket in her line, but hasn't yet shown much of that herself. Sometimes she lightens to a little greyishness under her neck, but then it reverts back to blackish again. Some areas of her wool show the brownish color, but upon shearing her and spinning up her yarn, she makes a knockout black yarn that is very, very soft and silky. (See the half-mitts in the picture below.) It is very special know...the kind that locks you up because your afraid of "wrecking it"!

I shear her myself, and usually cannot put the wool in storage for awhile as I find it so personally appealing. Her fleece is crimpy around her neck and very, very fine, then the crimp progresses to more wavy-like at midside with some crimp, and carries on like that to her britch, where the locks are longer and wavier, with a little more brown on the tips. She is sort of a double coat, and her staple length gets quite long, yet is stays incredibly fine, soft, and doesn't take on the clearly distinctive doublecoated dual fiber. It's a fleece that's hard to describe. All I know, is my sensory abilities pick up on it!
I like her conformation. She has a nice topline, well set legs, and a perfect tail. She also has that bright expression with softness added in. Her wool is lustrous. I particularly like that her rump is not overly rounded, like a corn-fed meat sheep. She has wide hips, but has a trimness front to back that is very pleasing to the eye, giving her body a sense of balance. She looks more like the sheep I see in old museum photos in Europe.
This picture was taken a few weeks after I sheared her. You can see how nicely the wool grew back. She roos quite a bit around her head and neck, so catching the right timing to shear is tricky. Last spring, I sheared her in perfect timing for all of her body except the hip! So I had to cut some of the rooed fiber off her new growth in one spot! She is also a special ewe in that she is the leader of my flock. I hate those days when order is being established or someone challenges their place in the flock! I am always as watchful as I can be, and sometimes separate sheep to ensure no one gets knocked too hard. But Mona knows what she's doing, and does her job well, and I've learned that I can trust her instincts. Because she is my head ewe, I can halter her and let all the rest of the sheep run free when they are rotated around the farm. Nobody in the flock goes where Mona doesn't tread. All the sheep respect her, and playfully follow her. I fear what would happen if Mona ever got whole flock would be gone if she decided to go exploring!
Here are the half-mitts. After shearing and washing her fleece, I spun the wool, then knitted these up without a pattern. I double-stranded the cuffs with a fine purply/blue accent yarn. I knit the first round of the cuff in just Mona's wool. The cuffs are K2P2 with one strand Mona, one strand accent yarn, then the mitts are knitted down to the finger line, where I double-stranded again. That double strand gave a nice flexibility to the end of the mitt for nice elasticity, giving the bind off a nice look. When being worn, the mitts stay on your hand nicely, without gaping or being too tight.

Miss Mona is very tame and friendly. She greets all the visitors to our farm and leaves a lasting impression. She seems to have that genuine Shetland character and loves people. Anyone can pet her and feel her fleece. It's Mona that people remember and ask about months after a visit. She was handled a lot as a lamb and it shows...again without compromising her imprint that she's a sheep! :) She is also the most communicative, and always greets me when I step out the door, whether it's the house or car. I love that! She has sort of become the mascot of the farm. I particularly love to take time off, camp out on the lawn in a chair with my knitting, and just sit by her. I always intend to knit during these warm moments! However, I always end up just scratching her chin while she rests her nose in my hand and we talk. Yep, Miss Mona is special!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thinking about fleece...

Hello's me, Wooly Bear. I'm a purebred Shetland ram lamb. I'm a very tender boy with raging hormones...I think I'm growing up. I really don't recognize myself when I see that black sheep looking back at me. In the short 10 months since I was born, I've grown and changed a lot. My horns have grown longer and are getting thicker. My wool is growing longer, too. Plus, I've grown taller, moved to a new home, rode in a vehicle three times, went to a show, learned to be handled, learned to walk on a halter, learned how to walk on ice and deep snow, figured out why the ewes are so interesting, and met my new buddy, Wilbur. The biggest change was my sweet lamby baa turned into this weird, deep, raspy, manly baa! No one was more surprised to hear me than me myself! And I've learned that when I bash walls during intense storms, my back gets wet suddenly....

Wooly Bear has done a lot of growing up this year. My next tip for new shepherds will lean on this topic (Amy speaking here :) In the meantime, it's good to look back and reflect on all the work a shepherd does everyday...little things that all add up. R & R time is good for reflecting. That brings me to the point of the day...fleece!

You know, I just cannot stop thinking about fleece. I love the sheep, I love shearing them, I love taking care of them, and I love dreaming about how I'll use their wool. I love picking the wool clean after shearing, I love washing the wool, and I love spinning the wool. Then, I lovvvveeee knitting the wool! Then the best part comes! I loooovvvveeeee wearing the wool!

So it's no surprise that I love attending to Wooly Bear's wool, just like all the others. However, since he's a ram, and not a pet, I do not clean his wool as diligently as I do the ewes. And he loves to wear his dinner on his head. So! He has what I would call a "mess" around his horn area. Plus, his horns are tangling his beautiful wool when he turns his head, and they rub on the wool. Rats!

Anyway (!), I noticed something when I was out with them lately. It was a nice day, but a stiff wind was blowing. That changed a nice day to a cold day. The boys, Wooly Bear, and buddy Wibur were outside. Wooly Bear was strolling around, watching the chickadees flit about in the trees, sniffing the breeze, and scrounging for blown leaves on the top of the snow. He meandered all around, just enjoying the day. Meanwhile, Wilbur was at the gate, baaing and baaing for me. He wouldn't meander around or relax. So I watched for a bit. Was Wooly Bear pushing him around? No...nothing like that going on.... so what was it? Why was Wilbur so anxious? After observing for awhile, I realized, he was cold! Bonk! Never thought of that!

So then I got to thinking...they were matched well for their personalities and size. Wilbur is taller, and can defend himself a little better if ever needed. They are both very gentle and tender hearts. But they are not a good match, fleece wise. Why? Well, Wooly's fleece is very long, very thick, and is closed shut tight. The weather doesn't faze him, and wetness rolls right off. The ends of his wool are light and wispy, like feathers the tips are so fine. But underneath is a beautifully dense pack of shiny, wavy fibers. Dreamy!!

The fleece drapes around him in the genuinely Shetland way, giving him a very appealing look. This next picture shows how dense and fine his fleece is all the way up over his topline, and down the other side. Nothing is getting in there. He is cozy warm! That's why I always find him sleeping in the coldest, draftiest area he can find.
You can see how tidbits of hay ride on the outer fluff of his fleece. They don't have a chance to fall down into his wool, except up by his horns. There, it's a mess! I think jacketing this ram would create a serious mess. Shetland sheep were never coated with fabric until recent times. I love a coated fleece, but I can see that with Wooly, it's plum not needed.
You can see, he's smaller than Wilbur. They are about the same age. Wilbur is a Shetland/BFL cross.
But look at Wilbur's topline. Not only is his wool "stuck" and not growing, but it's gaping open! Upon a closer look, I realized the wool gapes to his skin. He's cold!
I've noticed I've had to be careful to keep his topline picked because hay slips down in there quickly. The BFL's are nice sheep, but their wool is of shorter staple than most Shetlands. So his wool seems "stuck" to me! How frustrating to have fleece not grow! After watching fleece grow on my other sheep, it's a strange feeling to know you're feeding and caring for this animal, but the fleece is going nowhere. :/
You can see here that he looks cold, and you can see his wool is practically the same length as it was months ago. It dawned on me just then that he always sleeps in the least drafty places at night. I hope the Shetland side of him comes out more and the fiber starts to grow in spring! He's a really nice boy and we love him a lot, but he is an adjustment for me in the fleece department. So Wooly Bear can be out even on nasty days, but Wilbur will do better with protection. I surely know how miserable feeling cold can be! I'm glad I have indoor quarters for him, so he'll be less stressed. He is very quiet there and much more content. Now I know why.

Below is a picture of some fun balls we are knitting up. What a fun project for kids! A simple color change adds a new skill. The green wool is Shetland dyed with limeade drink mix. The ball is stuffed with washed, picked apart fleece. The pink and white ball is still being knitted. Fun!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wheely Wooly Snow Sheep

Have you ever seen a real snow sheep? Neither have I...until this day! What fun they had that day! Someday I might just make a small flock of snow sheep up by the road, just for fun.
Here is a knitting customer, wearing a scarf she made from Wheely Wooly yarn purchased at our booth. She designed and knit the scarf, and I think it is amazingly beautiful! (I don't think the accent yarn is from us, though). I not only think the scarf is beautiful, I think she looks beautiful wearing it! Thank you for sharing these lovely pictures!
I love the colors and softness. On my computor monitor, it almost takes me to a Claude Monet painting of light reflecting off the water and lilies of his pond. This is a great example of what you can do with creativity and some great yarn! Such nice work!
I'm not sure what it is....but I think I'm beginning to notice how much Sophie sleeps! This quilt belongs to Annabelly, the silly puppy. Having just taken it out of the dryer, it was warm and fluffy. I don't think it had been back on the floor more than a couple of minutes when Sophie moved in! Poor Annabelle had to find somewhere else to sleep!
Ah...let's see now...what was I doing again? Oh yeah...back to R&R.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Shepherd's Calendar...R&R Time

A little coffee, some quiet time....I've reserved this quiet January-March time in my head all this past year, when I was too sweaty from outside chores, too tired in my muscles to move another load, or too run-down from endless work both inside and out. It's the shepherd's carrot. Now that the whirlwind of the holidays are over, quiet is in the air. How nice it is! This quiet time in the shepherd's calendar is for contemplation, new projects, time to learn new skills, or catch up on I ever stopped reading....or spinning....or knitting! LOL! Anyways, this is the time for putting feet up and being absorbed in good books. It's time for dreaming about the year ahead. It's time to draw up plans and place orders for the next big garden. And yes, sorry DH, it's time for visualizing that next new project made out of two x two's!! It's time to think about improvements to the barn, cutting holes in walls, and fantasizing when I'll clean out the storage area (sometime after this cup of coffee....)Sophie takes quiet time seriously, every day, all year! Shortly after I took the photo of the socks and scarf on this pretty purple coat, Sophie settled in...again. She is so quick in finding warm spots to sleep!
So the turn of the new year was stimulus to begin our next fair's 4-H projects. Here is a great start! Notice how nice each stitch is, and how even the fabric is. This project was knit by a seven year old! It's a well planned, and documented project for...a bear! Life is so fun!

The project was measured out, a picture was drawn and labeled with dimensions. Yarn and needles were recorded, along with the date. Ready to knit!

Meanwhile, I am fascinated with the history of Shetland sheep and their wool. It used to be well known that Shetland sheep were renowned for producing excellent sock wool. In times past, socks were called stockings, and were knitted longer, so as to cover the kneecap. Since they were knitted higher up the leg, increases and decreases were inserted for comfort over thinner ankles and muscular, thicker calf muscles. The Shetland Isles are located in a place in which much exchange of goods occurred over the centuries, as ships passed by and cultures met. This was a critical outlet for the Shetland wool, and Shetland stockings (among other things). Journals, logs, diaries, etc. of people on ships have been placed in museums and archives around the world with obscure entries regarding the desire for Shetland stockings, their cost, and how they were acquired. Shetland history is not found just there, itself.

So the truth that we can derive from this is that Shetland wool was known in many countries as making very warm, soft, and durable coverings for feet, and that while this has been known for centuries, but is not well known today. Foot coverings were purchased by all levels of society, from hard outdoor laborers to royalty and the wealthy or esteemed. The Shetland wool of the past had no boundaries socially, until laws, taxes, restrictions, and breeding ideals were imposed on the "greater flock" in more recent times. The bottom line is that people wanted it. It was warm. It was comfortable. It was durable and it held up.
As I slip the yarn through my fingers while knitting this grey sock, my mind wanders with this. I don't have to get on a ship to get my socks. I don't have to work on the rolling sea. I don't have to commission my staff to fetch me a pair, nor alert a captain in my fleet to get me socks when he sails into Lerwick. I don't have to wait weeks or months to acquire a pair. I have it right my backyard. I am so very grateful for that.