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, March 17, 2011

Hear that?!?

AAAHHHH! The sound of spring! It's RAINING today! Everywhere, is the sound of dripping, flowing. After 122 days of freezing, we have finally made it up to a respectable temperature. I tell ya...pure delight at getting out to the barn first thing in the morning to find LIQUID in all the water buckets! It's a beautiful thing!

The birds have literally blown in. We have killdeers, sand hill cranes, Canadian geese, red-winged blackbirds, robins, chickadees, cardinals, finches, those pesty starlings, blue jays, and more! Gives me farmer's ADD whenever I stumble out the door and slide around in the muck in my trip to the barn.

This week marks the beginning of a very busy time here on our farm as lambing approaches. More details later. There have been orders to fill, spinning to do, trees to prune, and fencing to finaggle. The fleece I'm working on now is a dark brown blaeget. Blaeget is an old northern word used long ago by those on the Shetland Islands (and the word stuck) to describe a type of fleece coloring. It's considered a marking and is defined as this: "a lighter shade of the outer part of the wool fiber, especially in moorit and dark brown sheep". The fleece I'm spinning now looks black in evening light, or from a distance, but it's really dark brown. It's most noticable when you hold the fiber near a truly black fiber, such as that of my ewe, Mona. The "blaeget" comes in the tips. The tips are a lovely shade of indescribable color, sort of like a honey-ish silver flaxen! Hard to describe, but it's beautiful!

(Blaeget is different from sun-bleaching on the tips. Tips damaged from the sun will exhibit weakness and be sort of "dried out". Blaeget tips are strong and in excellent condition, if the fleece is like so. Blaeget is a color I love and appreciate, for my moorit ewe, Gwendolyn also has those brightened tips. The yarn is really special!)

What this results in is an incredibly unique, beautiful yarn! But all that beauty and uniqueness would be lost if the fiber was milled and machine spun. Machine processing dilutes the marvelous color in Shetland fiber. However, handspinning preserves it and shows off that lovely, unique color! That's one of the many reasons I work so hard to bring you fine handspun Shetland yarns, so that you, too, may enjoy the lovely colors this breed gives us!

Both yarns, Gwennie's blaeget moorit color which is beginning to fade, and this little ewe's dark brown blaeget yarn, will be for sale soon!

Meanwhile, we have some extremely happy, SWIMMING ducks out there.....

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