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, September 14, 2011

More Festival Goodies!

Pretty roving, and mitten pattern

Here are some more of the festival goodies I picked up last weekend. The mitten pattern is familiar to many, the original being lingonberries...a very scandinavian design. This pair calls for just 150 yards of the main color, and 100 yards of contrasting color. Fun!!! I've vowed to myself, though, that I'll repair my barn mittens FIRST! (giggle, giggle) My barn mittens need new cuffs, for the angora yarn has worn out and I want to make thicker areas on the thumbs, where water bucket handles tend to freeze to the fiber when I'm carrying them.

The roving is from a new source, so it will be fun to try! This farm has a very cute barn that I've always admired driving past. Well this weekend, I got to meet the human of the barn (and see pictures of the sheep)!

A few other things about the festival I could share. The UK judges talked quite a bit in their presentation about the regulatory climate in their country, and how expensive ram inspections have become, and hard to do. They also talked about how expensive micron testing is there. One judge mentioned very, very briefly that the older members of SSS preferred the longer fleeces, but that the new, younger members are going for really short fleeces. (There were a couple of rams in the barn this weekend that had people wondering why they were sheared right before the show...they looked maybe three weeks out from a shearing. Turns out, that IS their wool growth from last spring!) Also discussed was birth coats (one audience member mentioned that differing birth coats...up to five? I think she said...was well known and common in merinos). The judges replied that any birth coat is fine as long as the wool grows into good Shetland wool. Lambs need time to grow out before decisions can be best made. Horned ewes were also discussed. The judges said horned ewes were not desirable by many SSS members who are older because of less ease in handling the sheep. The other judge said she does not keep the horned ewes on her farm much, nor polled rams. The horns on ewes are typically more upright horns, so I can understand what the judge meant. The same is often felt about goats' horns...upright can cause safety issues. Rams should have nice sized horns that curl in a nice curl along side the head. That's what my rams have. It was truly fun listening to them! By the way, one judge was from mainland Scotland, the other from England. Neither was from the Shetland Islands.

Another point of interest about this festival is did you notice how many people this year in the Country Store were wearing wool?? I was sooo excited to see that! I always wear my wool in my booth when weather permits. It's a great way for people to see how beautiful and warm wool is. I think the most popular garment I saw was little capelets...small shawl-like garments that essentially cover just the tops of the shoulders and maybe a little past along the back. I saw LOTS of beautiful, handmade capelets this weekend! I also saw light scarves in coordinated outfit colors being worn to perfection, with a casual, rustic look that was sophisticated and politely understated. It was quite evident to me that so many people are loving their wool, and the garments they are making from them, yet it's still a little not ok culturally to wear much of it. Despite that, women are having a ball making the most amazing garments! I'm hoping that some day, this excitement will spill over into the public realm where woolen garments are as acceptable as blue jeans! That's why I created my Show Your Shawl Day! I know so many people have really beautiful things stashed away. Time to get those things out and put them to use!!

In years past you can never predict what the weather will be and this year was a real winner! We had 70's and warm sunshine (maybe even low 80's?? Not sure! It was just NICE!) I'll never forget the year the remnants of hurricane Gustav washed through (right Laura??:), and we were trying to get a motorhome through wicked construction over washed out roads, through heavy winds and torrential rains! Truly the most white-knuckle driving we've ever had!! Other years, we nearly froze to death after hot, humid summer weather, then the festival weekend being upper 40's/low 50's, cloudy and rainy. One year, we had horrible heat and humidity...93 degrees and stifling air rich with dew point. This year, beautiful!

Also, I saw a t-shirt design that I totally fell in love with! It was soooo cute! It had a picture of a sheep on it, and instead of the cuts of meat labeled on the various parts of the sheep (like neck, shoulder, midside, hip, etc.) it had what typical type of garment or fiber product might come from that region! So neck was shawls, midside was sweaters, mittens etc., and hips were weaving, belly wool, mulch. Soooo cute!!! What a great way to spread the word about how versatile and useful sheep can be! Excellent sheepy marketing!

And don't forget...taste the sheep cheese!!!! Yummm!!!! We love it! It's rich and creamy and flavorful with a mild, pleasant taste. Ok, so we may have ended up at the free tasting booth more than fact, we suggested a sheepy name for a new product coming out soon....let's see if we inspired a hit! The guy loved it. Bet it'll be on the package next year! We love to inspire people!

And that's not all! More coming! (and Swifty, too!)

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