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, January 28, 2011

Everything You Once Learned, You Learned in Elementary School....

Thank you to the one sane person! Isn't this getting just SICKENING?

It is a shame our breed of sheep has to be manipulated by such a greedy group! I'm so glad our new representatives are committed to sparing us of that shiny new breed (and the nasty people who come with them)!

The Shetland sheep breed organization in North America is under vicious assault right now. Camp roll call!! Who knew sheep could attract such people? Usually, sheep attract gentle people...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

...pardon me everyone...

Dear readers...please excuse me for a minute:

cough, gag, cough, gag................................we all see right through it...............

gag, gag, cough, gag

I don't blame them.....

I really don't blame them! I can understand why school children in the Shetland Islands are no longer being taught knitting techniques in school. SAD!!! no doubt, and a terrible cultural tragedy, but I can certainly understand why! Here in America, we play with our sheep's fiber in liberty and freedom. We are allowed to try, explore, discover what Shetland people have perfected for centuries (it's gonna take me YEARS to "catch up", if that's ever even possible!). It's fun for us. But Shetlanders know realities we cannot really comprehend. Those realities are still so fresh, but I hope that with the infiltration of money into the area's culture in modern times, the people there can come to grips with their cultural treasure and keep it going! As an American far, far away, I can only beg them to find the money! I know I cannot really understand....but I'm gonna beg anyway! Please! Restore knitting to your schools! (would it help to know I'm a professional educator?)

Below is a picture of Lil' Rainbow's finished socks. I crocheted a picot edge around the top of the cuffs loosely, to retain elasticity. Pretty! Then, as soon as the picture taking was done, they were on my feet and I was out the door! Heaven! Warmth! Cush! Lovely! I'm so glad to have them!

Lil' Rainbow's socks with crocheted flower and crocheted picot edge

Notice how the white fades on a darker background? I absolutely love the color dynamics of Shetland fiber! Each sheep changes year to year. Each fleece is different as the colors change, giving the spinner a wealth of color to play with on the wheel! I'm most entertained with how the colors so amazingly pair together. Entertains me for hours! (I'm sorry, but I know I'm the queen of exclamation points!!)

For those of you who know us and correspond with us on our family email, please note our address has changed this week. You can reach us by emailing us for the time being at And one last thing...hey Corey K.! If you're on, give us an email! We'd LOVE to hear from you!

And yes, Carumba is still a possible sale and is as pretty as always. She's having a good winter.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It's my lucky day!

I love it when things happen like this! Today, I found some leftover Lil' Rainbow fiber in a bag. After thinking about it a minute, I remember now that I had some of her britch wool left. Yippee! Below is a picture of her lovely yarn on the bobbin; not britch wool but midside. It is very soft, fine, and alive!

Lil' Rainbow's fiber spun last all sold out

This scarf is knitted with Coopworth handspun yarn I made, which I trimmed with a crocheted picot edge of Lil' Rainbow's handspun yarn. It was really pretty! It sold right away.Handspun, handmade accent scarf with Coopworth and Shetland wool

Below are some shots I just took of her britch wool I found today. The whitish fibers are very characteristically Shetland soft, with amazing life and dynamism to them! It is really amazing fiber! They spin easy, and sit in the yarn nicely...just as you'd expect of Shetland, and the yarn is SOFT!. Notice how, even though it's britch wool, the wave remains in the staple length...body to tip! Wave, the key word on our breed standard, means rounded ups and downs like waves on the ocean, not kinky (more angular or kinked, like merino or rambouillet). It means wavy, not spherical (twisting in a spiral as some other breeds do). It is also not curly. These differences make for lovely movement in the yarn.

Lil' Rainbow's britch wool (on hips and rear legs)
measures 7 to 8 inches long

Every Shetland sheep is a primitive sheep, unless it's been crossbred to have fleece of a more modern type. (That means if you hear people say they have Shetlands, with some primitives, they are saying they have SOME genuine sheep, and who knows what else!) We love the diversity in fiber the genuine breed supplies BECAUSE it's a primitive breed. The more modern fleeces are lovely, too, but they just don't have the handle (movement, dynamism, fineness, softness, lightness) the primitive fibers have. The more modern fiber is a different experience, lovely as well, but different. I've also noticed that other breeds with wavy fiber just don't have the handle the primitive Shetlands have. Other breed's wavy fiber is thicker, heavier, and sometimes spherical. It's just different in a way I cannot always explain.

The tips of Lil' Rainbow's britch wool...notice the wave! :))))

I love to "spin the world". I've now spun Wensleydale, Cotswold, Rya wool, Teeswater, Lincoln, Icelandic, Corriedale, Dorset, German Dike, ramboul., the leicesters, Clun, and other's I'm not remembering immediately off the top of my head. How lucky I feel to have access to this wonderful world of spinning!! I am always amazed at how each type of fiber has such a different feel to them! I didn't make it very long in the other breeds, before I came back to Shetlands! In fact, I've really enjoyed traveling this last two years to many, many fiber shops. As I study the fiber available in these shops (including some Shetland), I've come to realize how lucky I am to have these Shetland sheep! Wait! Dare I BELOVED Shetland sheep!.......
(giggle, giggle!!!)

Thanks to all for the compliments and caring well wishes with Wink in comments! Much appreciated!

Friday, January 21, 2011


We are having a cold snap here on Wheely Wooly Farm. The lowest temps of the winter have quietly fallen upon us. It can get a lot colder than this, but it's about 10 degrees below zero out there through the night. When things get like this, we check on everyone more often and replace water buckets more frequently. Last night, I was out there at 11:30. The moon was sensationally bright and I could see every little thing just fine, it seemed. I noticed little Cosmo was driven away from the other boys and was laying down against the fence some distance away. Worried he couldn't stay warm by the others, I decided to observe for a bit. He was chewing his cud and giving me cute glances, so after watching a while, I decided things were ok. Just as I began turning to walk away, Wink got up....on three legs.....and stood there with his rear tucked way under him in a half sit! Uhoh!!! I watched him a few minutes. He had been sleeping in the middle of a wooly pack of all the rams and Wilbur, seemingly tucked in nice and warm. Why would he be on three legs?? As the others got up and walked around, it was obvious something was wrong with Wink.

So I ran up to the house to get help, just in case. I knew I'd need to do an expert snatch of him to get him out of the pen without getting whacked myself! He's shy, and usually takes a minute for me to catch him, so this was going to have to be well thought out to get him. Silly Wilbur, who is the official greeter of the BoyPen came right over and thankfully, Wink followed just behind. As I scratched Wilbur's chin and petted his back, Wink came closer. Holding my breath, I carefully slipped my hands out of my mittens and let them drop. In this kind of cold, hands can freeze in moments, so this had to be effective! As Wink turned his head to look at Wooly Bear, I quickly reached out and SNATCHED a good, gentle, firm hold of his horn (something I NEVER do unless it's an emergency)!!!! Whew! Got 'im! I quickly walked him sideways, grabbed a chunk of wool above his hip and with his horn and wool, expertly swiped him over the fence before he even knew what was happening!!!!!!!...before anyone else could whack us! Whew!! Carefully, I set him down and put the waiting halter on him, just to make sure he couldn't get loose. He seemed quiet, agreeable, and grateful for the attention. After a sweet chin rub and chest scratch, I carried him into the barn across the path we've worn to the ram pen. He remained very quiet and seemed happy for the attention.

Inside the barn, we checked him over good as he continued to crouch and hold his leg up under his belly, then walked him around slowly to get him warmed up. He began putting weight on his rear again, and started using his hind leg...slowly. There was no evidence of any problems with structure. At first, I had wondered if he had been whacked by someone else and was hurt. I stayed with him for quite awhile to help him warm up. After awhile, he seemed ok again, so after lots of scratches under his chin and all his itchies, I carried him back out to the others, swiftly lifted him over the fence, and let him "leap" off the rock of my arms back to the other boys. All seemed fine, and the other boys acted like nothing had happened.

This morning, things continued to look like nothing had happened, and he seemed fine. Not sure what happened there! I did notice that the snow the boys had slept on overnight had actually melted into egg-shaped depressions with hard ice underneath and on the sides! I guess they are warm out there! Turns out Cosmo was was Winker that needed some help! Observations pay off! So does handling your sheep when there is no emergency, so if something goes wrong, they are not stressed out by the handling! Whatever happened, I'm just glad everything is ok tonight....

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More Pretty Yarns!

I love to spin sooo much, I'll spin nearly anything! In fact, I must confess, I've even eyeballed the fuzzy cows across the cowcowcow...

...once. Ok, ok, sticking to sheep's wool is pretty much what I do, but I have spun lots of angora bunny wool, dog fur, and mohair. I've tried llama. Didn't like it. I've spun alpaca. It's ok, but I don't like that it has no memory and drapes more and more, not keeping it's shape. Sheep's wool has nice memory and will return to shape when washed, if reshaping is ever needed.

Below is some pretty merino wool I spun recently. I like calling the dyed color hyacinth. It's really different from my Shetlands! That reminds day a visitor to my booth came up to us and told us they once had Shetlands, but got rid of them. Why, I

Summer Morning Glories by the chicken coop

asked? Well, she said they shear their sheep themselves, and dreaded all the wrinkles in the Shetland's skin!!!! WHAT??? Shetlands don't have wrinkles, but merinos do! She was sure surprised! I hope I inspired them to try Shetlands again.

Pretty hyacinths

I also spin a lot of Coopworth. It's a very different experience than spinning Shetland, but I like it anyways. This yarn was blue-ish pink and is sold. The yarn was very, very pretty!Handspun Blue-ish Pink Coopworth yarn

Here again is Wheely Wooly Lerwick, walking into the barn one fall day. I just LOVE his fleece! It's so long and soft and fine and wavy! I really hope he comes through and gives us lambs this spring.
In the meantime, the "Statue of Knittery" has returned!

I'm knitting a lot! I was super intimidated at what to make with Wooly Bear's yarn that I spun last spring, right after I sheared him. I wanted to make a pretty lace scarf with it, but didn't know what pattern to choose. Summer and fall would be so busy, I knew I'd need to wait until the quiet of winter to focus on it again. With that time here now, I've taken out the yarn and pondered lace patterns. Stay tuned to find out what I decided, and how it looks!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


KaPOW! Such a strategy! (giggle, giggle)

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Very Pretty Scarf/Shawl!

Winter here on Wheely Wooly Farm makes one long for the color and warmth of the summer garden. So here's picture of lavender that grows in someone's little garden...that of course is thriving because that's just how ALL things grow in that garden!
Summer Lavender

This lovely scarf/shawl has been made out of Mammy's LOVELY wool. I trimmed it with our Angora bunny's luxurious white wool. Have I ever mentioned Zinnie? Her real name is Zinnia, but we call her Zinzie or Zinnie for short. She's a French Angora bunny. Zinnie's wool was used to make a crocheted picot edge on the knitted garment. Lovely! Anyone who has made any Wheely Wooly scarves can add this touch onto your scarves, too, if you know how to crochet.

Mammy's lovely Scarf/Shawl

Here's Zinnie Bun in her cute little home. On nice, dry days, she gets rotated out on the lawn in a pen. I'd have to run out to the barn and look at her little name plate I painted to tell you how old she is...maybe five? She loves to be petted on her cheeks.
Zinnia, the Sweet French Angora Bunny

...wait a minute!
There's a CAT in MY bed!

What should I do about it?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More Pretty Shetland Yarn

Some more pretty Shetland yarn, here on a wheel. It's Honey's yarn, spun very fine, with her mother's yarn (MaryBay) used for the crocheted picot edge. I thought it would be neat to use a mother/daughter ewe pair's fiber together for a simple project to keep. Both sheep are very sweet and have very nice wool that is long and fine and soft and wavy. This piece measures 10 inches wide by 54 inches long, weighs barely an ounce, and will be added to Wheely Wooly Farm's Collection.

Swifty is now eight months old, and finally getting to enjoy dashing around in the snow! It's a great feeling to have him racing around me as I work. He's very good at "holding back" chunks of ice as I work...staring at them to make sure they don't move...
This is a neat photo. I love how the colors pair together! Wheely Wooly Wink is the little guy (a lamb) in the background. He's moorit (color term used to describe a certain brown in Shetland sheep). In front is silly Wilbur. While he's not a purebred Shetland, his color still pairs nicely. My design wheels are turning!
Wooly Bear

Wooly Bear keeps watch over all the spunky little guys! He's been very calm with them all this time since last summer, but they've been spunky! Today, I noticed he has a tiny spot of bare skin on his nose. Somebody must have gotten clunked pretty good. When I was out there, they were all on their best behavior, as though the Principal had just walked into the room.
We've had quite a cold January so their wool has been iced up on the surface. Of course Wooly Bear's habit of wearing his dinner on his head hasn't changed, so he is full of hay around his head. Sigh....
Wheely Wooly Lerwick

The little dark guy here is Wheely Wooly Lerwick. He is a very handsome fellow! Wink is on the left, Wilbur in front on the right.

More pretty yarn to come! (Some not Shetland)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Anchors Away!

The new year is off to a great start here on Wheely Wooly Farm! I've had nice time to spin up lots of new yarn and get some knitting done. The weather outside is crackling cold!! It is very pleasant to be inside working with all the fiber. With the new year comes time to plan out the year ahead. We are hoping Wheely Wooly Lerwick, our little ram lamb out of Wooly Bear and Mona will provide lambs for us this spring. Wooly Bear should also have some lambs. We are planning a very busy itinerary starting in March, going all the way through Christmas.
What's on my bobbin today: lovely roving. I have lots more pictures of what's getting spun up, but a software glitch is keeping postings delayed. Rats!
Perhaps Sophie the kitty knows just the place to be on these crispy, crackly days! Sigh.....
Without my wool on, I'd never be able to stand going out for chores! What a pleasant experience it is to be warm. Growing up, I wore all synthetics and FROZE! How stupid was I?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pretty Shetland Yarn

This is from a lovely little yearling ewe. She's spotted; fading to musket-ish colors. Because she's spotted, some skeins are lighter, some darker, revealing the distinction of moorit-ish spots. (Pictured is a sampling of her yarn.) Below is a picture of her neck wool, unwashed. I spun her wool in the grease, just for fun. Shetland wool has a low grease content, so if the fleece is relatively clean, spinning before any washing is certainly possible, like here. She lives outside 24/7 on drylot with some summer pasture rotation, never jacketed. Her sire's fleece has been a favorite of customers!
Happy wintering everyone!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Thank You! Remembering 2010

All of us here at Wheely Wooly Farm want to express our gratitude to all our sheepy friends, customers, students, and supporters for your contributions in making our 2010 another smashing year! It has been another exciting year filled with fun and growth!

The year started with the busyness of spinning many fleeces in preparation for our sales seasons. January, February, and March were peaceful, contemplative, and orderly. I took the opportunity to learn new skills that resulted in fun new items for customers to expand their own creative energies. We stayed warm in our cozy Shetland wool socks while the snow kept falling, making for nearly the snowiest winter here on record. Blizzards, high winds, and deep drifts kept the sheep inside our pole building, in a large loafing area near a large door that opens on sunny days. Then, spring hit!

First to happen was great thawing and dream duck puddles! Lakes appeared where there are usually none, while we anticipated our lambing season. The girls were prepared weeks ahead and their health closely monitored while we waited....and waited....and waited. As we waited, we learned of major changes made within our breed organization that was quite a shock! We closely followed the story, in disbelief, as things unfolded. Just as things were exploding, I got word that I was about to lose someone very dear to me. A very, very short time later, that loss happened, just as our ewes began getting restless, ready to lamb! All of the events combined made for a very busy spring full of life and death! Saddened by loss, yet thrilled by every lamb being born healthy and strong created emotions so spring-like...first warm, bright sunshine followed by the cool shadowing of a thick dark cloud of sadness suddenly blowing over the bright spring sun. Just as the air rapidly blew pockets of warmth and chill, so too did my feelings blow frequently from delight to change. How does a family adjust when the anchor of an elderly member is gone? What a spring it was!

First born Wheely Wooly Pumpkin, minutes old

As the days warmed, we delighted in our little lambs, especially the last lamb born, whom we named Wheely Wooly Lerwick for the main seaport in the Shetland Islands; a place where Shetland fiber and goods have been traded and transported around the world for centuries. We knew we had something special in this little lamb! His wool is outstanding, his face bright, horns excellent, and his conformation just a dream! We are definitely feeling lucky to have this little guy! Our Grand Champion Ram, Wooly Bear came through for us, passing on his outstanding I gave him a huge, tight hug! (...and later, lots of pumpkins!)

Soon the grass began to grow, and the lettuce became succulent, fresh food, giving us strength as we sheared our flock. Before we knew it, the summer sales season had arrived, and we were ready! We spent the summer and fall traveling frequently, delighting in meeting many new people who also love sheep, fiber, knitting, crocheting, and many other fiber arts! To say Shetland sheep hit the road would be an understatement! Knowledge of our special flock of fiber producers grew rapidly, as many people tried Shetland yarn for the very first time. As the sun trekked across the summer sky, we found ourselves getting to know customers by name as they delighted in the initial yarn they purchased and came back to acquire more. Our yarns traveled all over the country and we heard of gift giving, projects, and pure delight at finding our beautiful handspun yarns!

Honey's fleece, sheared by me

September brought the fun of our Sheep and Wool Festival. The festival was a bundle of excitement this year for us! First was the expansion of the Shetland activities over the weekend spawned by the program I put together last year that I called 'Shetland Showcase'! (To read more about Shetland Showcase, see my earlier blogs starting in Feb. of 2010.) My idea was loved by the planners of the Saturday Shetland much so that they took my ideas, changed the name, wrote me I wasn't welcome, and put on the events themselves! Also in that weekend,

...giggle, giggle...

was a scheduling conflict I had made by mistake, putting our market booth far north of festival grounds Saturday morning! Plus, I had some shopping I really wanted to do, friends to meet up with, and a new Border Collie puppy to train! Whew! That was a lot of excitement for one weekend! So here's what we did! I shopped, yakked and hugged old friends all day Friday, sold yarn Saturday morning from our market booth far away, then swooped back down to the festival first chance we could leave Sunday morning, where we met up with more friends and exposed Swifty the Puppy to dog trials. Driving home Sunday, we engaged in our usual post-festival activity of sipping coffee and reflecting on all the excitement of the weekend while Swifty zonked out on my feet. We came to realize that many people expressed their anger of the hijacking of Shetland Showcase while at the same time feeling a desire to pick up Shetland fiber once again and participate in the activities I had built into Shetland Showcase (now dubbed "Handy Shepherd"). That anger came through later in our annual elections! WOW! Shetland shepherd numbers had been declining here in the midwest, and I've heard nationally as well due to the rough and tumble politics of change. My goal in designing Shetland Showcase was to help alleviate the tension that was reaching explosive levels, and to help restore the fun of the breed by getting the fiber BACK into the hands of fiber artists, with hopes to preserve and protect this stunning breed. Whew! Talk about taking on a lot of fun and exciting stuff! It was a great weekend!

We were barely home when the phone started ringing! Sales of our yarns increased rapidly as we continued to hit the road! Fall went REALLY fast! Again, we delighted in meeting so many fellow fiber artists! We hardly noticed the coming of winter and had to scramble to set up our breeding groups...getting them in just in the nick of planned time! Even Wheely Wooly Farm display of yarn at a summer market

the huge blizzard, which dumped 12.3 inches of snowfall and drifts seemed barely noticed. Only one rough spot came along...keeping one very special and talented Border Collie puppy "quiet" for TWO whole weeks after his little surgery! That was quite a bump in the road but we (and the sofa) got through it ok!
The acquisition of Swifty will require new spinning skills in the year to come!

As the holiday season unfolded, we were able to meet with family and friends, and take the time to dismantle our breeding groups. Worried our rams would give us grief, we planned strategically to be home to handle the problems if necessary. Upon being put together, they played bumper cars without earnst for a bit, then ran circles like race cars around their tight space, taking turns resting in the center and tagging each other with bumps or whacks, then... layed down and napped! Ok! Great!! Works for me! What a laugh I got out of that! Can I dream that all my fall seasons will end like this in the future?!? Makes me giggle.

Thank you, thank you, thank you we now extend to all of you out there who helped us grow with this awesome little breed of sheep! (Yes, that also means those with differing goals and opinions than our own! We appreciate you, too!) Thank you Shetland Island shepherds for giving us the opportunity to enjoy your special little sheep and carry on your treasure to the best of our ability! We LOVE you! And a HUGGGGGEEEEE thank you goes out to those who worked SOOOO hard in the beginning of Shetlands being here on the North American continent to PROTECT AND PRESERVE this unique fiber producer from change and modernization, that pesky ongoing problem that never seems to go away as the decades pass by! We wish our newly elected board members much luck and success at restoring protection and preservation to the organization's mission! Thank you to all our customers, friends, 4-Her's and everyone (!) for trusting us to teach you how to spin, knit, and make treasured heirloom creations for yourselves and your families! We appreciate your business and hope to see you again in 2011! We wish you much success with your projects in the coming year! Happy, Happy New Year everyone!

I got a new camera for Christmas! :) :) :)