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.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Facts don't change.
Shetland sheep have not changed, although there are people out there trying to change them. Shetlands are a very diverse breed full of variety. That's a fact. They exhibit lovely, long, wavy, flowing fleeces. They are small when placed near a typical meat sheep, and even smaller yet when sheared. However, they are not tiny, miniature, or fragile. Shetlands are very personable sheep that are easy to train. They thrive here in the Midwest, where I live.
If someone tries to tell you a longish, wavy fleece is a "throwback", they are changing the facts. If someone tries to tell you to "cull" or not register or breed such a lovely animal, they are changing the facts. If someone tries to tell you Shetlands have short, crimpy fleece head to tail (or even just short, crimpy fleece), they are changing the facts. This breed has always been, and will continue to be a breed with short wool under the neck with delightful crimp, longish and wavy wool midside, and long, usually without crimp wool along the britch.
If someone tries to tell you that long fleeces on a Shetland are coarse, they are changing the facts. Long, soft, wavy fleeces are the very definition of the fleece of Shetlands. It is a pleasure to work with, and to wear. Extra fine, soft textured, longish, wavy wool is what has produced the many types of famous textiles that have made this breed famous. If someone tries to tell you super short, super crimpy wool was used to make such a huge variety of textiles, they are changing the facts. If someone tries to tell you Shetland fiber was only used for delicate lace shawls, they are changing the facts. Delicate lace shawls are only one tiny component of the Shetland textile story. If someone tells you Shetland fiber was never used for household items such as table cloths or rugs, they are changing the facts. If someone tells you Shetland fiber was not used for weaving, they are changing the facts. If someone dismisses the importance of the Shetland textile history and facts, they are changing the facts.
If someone tries to tell you our breed organization, NASSA, was set up to protect and preserve super short, super crimpy, consistent head to tail fleeces, they are changing the facts. NASSA was created out of worry that the Shetland sheep would face the same crazy alterations other species have been subjected to here in the U.S. Protect and preserve means being sentinels for extra fine, soft texture, longish, wavy, and well closed, with bright expressions and good conformation. That means protecting and allowing those lovely long, drapey fleeces to flourish.
If someone tries to tell you all the Shetland sheep on the Shetland Islands today are real Shetland sheep, they are changing the facts. What fact about the Shetland Islands is most true? There has been much change. If someone tries to tell you their market is the same as our market, they are changing the facts. We have freedoms. They don't.
If someone tries to tell you people hate longish, wavy fiber or that it's "scratchy", they are changing the facts. Long, drapey fleeces are the hallmark of the Shetland sheep. Extra fine, soft texture, longish and wavy produces garments you don't want to take off. People love both longish, wavy fleeces and the garments made with them, adore them both, and treasure them both. Extra fine, soft texture, longish and wavy has been a huge contributor to the surge in handspinning, handknitting, and weaving here in the U.S. Shetland sheep and their hallmark longish, wavy fleeces capture people's hearts for life. We are extremely lucky to have them here in North America.