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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Integrity being restored

What was all the yea's about? It's a good day in the Shetland sheep world here in the U.S.! After struggling the last couple of years with integrity issues within our breed organization, progress is getting into four wheel drive. Integrity is being restored, piece by piece, and Wheely Wooly Farm is pleased to actively assist in this endeavor. We believe an organization must have and maintain integrity to be worthwhile, as old-fashioned as that sounds! Some things just never go out of importance and integrity is certainly one of those things. We believe maintaining the integrity of this amazing, heritage breed of sheep is a much worthwhile effort, for these sheep are worthy of being treasured! You know, it's sort of like apple pie. You can buy apple pie from the store, all modern and easy and like so many other frozen pies and "bakery" pies. They all taste chemically and overly stiff. Or, you can make a scrumptious, fresh homemade apple pie from apples you acquired nearby and fill your home and stomach with mouthwateringly fragrant and soft apples baked to perfection in a flaky crust minus the chemicals. I can just taste the richness and depth of flavor right now of fresh apple, cinnamon and nutmeg! Yum!

Sheep are just like that. You can get sheep, or breed sheep to be just like the modern sheep, all copycats of each other in competition for a narrowly defined, commercial market, or you can raise and breed sheep that are full of richness, softness, liveliness and suitability! Instead of flavor like in apple pie, genuine Shetlands yield an amazing sensory experience in the handle of their fleeces, and in the way they knit up and wear. No other breed can compete with that special uniqueness the Shetlands have! To us, integrity means not only keeping those awesome qualities in the breed, but in managing the organization with human integrity, too.

Enough said, for I think everyone knows where our farm stands! On to what I'm up to lately! Below is a photo of the fleece I'm currently spinning. It's from a young ewe that reminds me a great deal of my little Gracelyn in sweetness and friendliness. This little ewe has a fleece just like her sire's. That sire's fleece is one I've spun pretty much all the years he's produced a fleece, and he's getting old now. He passes on these lovely longish, wavy fleeces with very pleasant density and softness that I cannot get enough of. These are hallmarks of the genuine Shetland sheep. The timing of this photo is not meant to coincide with the announcement from our national organization. Rather, it's just what happens to be on my wheel right now.
Young Shetland Ewe's fleece

This little ewe's staple was taken just behind the rib, near the hip. It shows the lovely density and hence, softness and fineness Shetlands possess. Notice the longish, wavy tip? That wave actually goes to the cut line on the left side, and adds a beautiful feel to the yarn when you knit with it. It's also what gives the fabric that perfect ease when it's worn...nice stretch for ease when you move your body, but not to the point of baggy, saggy. I've spun her britch wool first, and am moving up past the hip now. Up next, I'll be spinning some dyed fiber from a fellow...don't tell him!...with pinks and greens. This popular dyed yarn sold out fast, with many requests for more. That's what I'll be working on next!

Also, today is baby watch and progress is beginning. Thankfully, the wicked cold moved out and nice winter days have returned. The water buckets have barely been frozen on top the last couple of mornings where last week, the bucket would freeze solid through overnight, into a heavy ice cube. I'll be out in the barn a lot the next few days! Sure hope everything goes ok.

And last, I'm working on my annual inventory cleanup. Each year in January, I go through my fleeces and yarns to organize, clean, and see if anything has been forgotten or lost. Not much to go through this year! It feels good to get things reorganized after a busy sales season. This year, I think I managed to stay on top of the organizing pretty good. It helped that I have better storage.

That's all for today, except to say that I'm about to begin a sofa lap blanket with lovely three-ply yarn I made from this little ewe's sire. Those photos will be coming next.

Suddenly, I feel like making a pie. Happy knitting everyone!

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