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, July 14, 2011

Colorful Flock

So many lovely colors!!
One of the many joys of keeping Shetland sheep is the natural colors! Shetlands have a variety of colors to them: black, dark brown, many shades of grey, many shades of brown, and into many shades of 'white'. This photo shows some of the colors in our flock. We absolutely love the solid colors that fade as the sheep ages. The color dynamics are outstanding and endless fascination for a busy handspinner like me! Our flock is very similiar to the very first sheep that arrived in North America 30 years ago, all solid colors with varying fleeces of longish, wavy wool. (If you've heard all of the original imported Dailley sheep were all single coated or less than four inches in staple length, someone changed the facts.) The white sheep who's tail is facing the camera is not a pure Shetland, though. She's our half Shetland, half dairy sheep, Posie! Notice her cute tail! Longer than a Shetland's, with a little wool on it...makes a great flyswatter!
Anyway, this picture above has some moms, lambs, and one sheep who was not placed in a breeding group this year.
Below is Honey, with her lamb, Hap. Honey's fleece is very popular and sells out fast. Hap is her first lamb. He's growing remarkably fast! Under his mooritish brown color is bright white and a little soft grey in spots, for Honey carries spots.
Honey with ram lamb, Hap
Hap was named for the famous hap shawls, those working women's shawls that were made from Shetland wool for centuries, and worn by crofting women. The women were responsible for raising their families AND doing the work about the croft (farm) in summer while their husbands were out at sea fishing. To this day, many people in the Shetland Islands will refer to themselves as fishers first, before shepherd. I love this photo, for it shows the closeness a ewe shares with her lamb, even when it grows. Lil'Rainbow and Lacey are inseparable, as are Claire the dairy ewe and her lamb Posie. Mona is much more casual with her parenting. She is excellent in her mothering skills, but lets her lambs take on more responsibility for themselves. For example, her ram lamb Whirly (the one born just before a tornado ripped through a community just northwest of us) will occassionally mistake Lil'Rainbow and Lacey as his mother and sister...while Mona carefully watches and waits patiently for him to figure out he has the wrong family!! Poor little Whirly!
Align LeftLil' Rainbow with lamb, Lacey. Maewyn in background.
Here is Lil' Rainbow, another ewe who's yarn sells out every year, fast! Her softness and coloring are very unusual and hard to replicate with commercial dyes, for the color is very rich and heathery. Her ewe lamb, Lacey has very soft, longish, wavy wool, too! We are so happy for how this turned out for Lil' Rainbow, the ewe who lost her first lamb to vicious weather on another farm. She has absolutely TREASURED her little ewe lamb! Maewyn, the little moorit ewe in the background is Mona's girl. She also has gorgeous longish wavy wool that is very fine! Lot's to look forward to in next year's fleeces!! (Posie is the white sheep in this photo.)
Finally, who says weeds can't be beautiful?!? Here is a little bouquet that was made for me a couple weeks ago...yes, our peonies were blooming at the END of June...the latest I've ever experienced. Isn't it beautiful??
Next time, yarn and fiber photos! Wink's moorit, Esther's fiber, and others!
Pink peony, asiatic lily, obedient plant, smoke tree, 'pinapple weed', bouncing Bet

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