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, August 29, 2012

Dead Sheep? Stuck? What's going on?

 Giggle, giggle...would I do that to you?  

Here's Wooly Wink, showing us how he is spending his afternoon!  Have you ever wondered how these fellas SLEEP?  Ever wonder how they lay their heads down to rest?  Now you know!

Notice how he's chewing his cud while dozing?  He's got himself all snuggled into a cool depression in the shade of a tree, on a little hill, where the breeze is just right.  He's laying on his side with his hind legs curled up underneath himself.  When he tips over sideways, he feels very safe because the depression in the dirt keeps him from rolling onto his back, which could be deadly.  So he found himself a nice resting spot to doze and chew cud on a hot summer afternoon!  His eyes were following me as I snuck around snapping pictures of him.  I'm sure he was wondering what was so interesting about him!  It really does strike me as funny when you see the rams, big tough boys, all whack and control, dozing with their heads propped up by horns!  Can you imagine sleeping like that???
Sleep tight, Wink!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Minding my S's and Z's

 Lacey's Moorit handspun Socks with Crocheted Flower

Here's the pair of socks I knit for the fair.  They are from our Shetland ewe, Lacey, who is a lamb out of our foundation sire, Wooly Bear.  Wooly Bear now has many ribbons attributed to his name.  All of the fiber exhibited from his lambs, as well as his own, have won blue ribbons!  The fiber comes from three generations of lambs, some of which are Wheely Wooly Pumpkin, Wheely Wooly Twilight, and Wheely Wooly Lacey.

These socks are a simple pattern that I love.  I like reinforcing the heel with two strands of yarn when making the heel flap, for strength when putting on my muck boots many times a day in fall, winter and spring.  There were other socks on exhibit at the fair.  One pair was made with cute intarsia incorporated pictures, such as a gold fish swimming on the heel flap!  Another pair was knitted in a lace pattern in all one color.  The difference in those socks verses the pair I exhibited was that the other pairs were knit with what appeared to be synthetic yarns...i.e. plastic.  The knitters both exhibited much skill and very pretty socks, but the yarn seemed to take something away from their skill.  Plastic yarns just don't look as appealing as the high quality fiber of our Shetland sheep.  I can also say, with plastic yarns, yikes!  You won't like them on your feet if you move around much!!!  They don't breathe, causing rashes and foot odor.  Yuck!  I'm sooooo glad I discovered Shetland wool!  Despite the skill and beauty of the other pairs of socks, I think that's why Lacey's socks had the blue ribbon on them, and the others didn't.  But I didn't know for sure.

Some people ask why I don't blend alpaca fiber into my socks for warmth and softness.  Here's why.  First, our Shetland wools are already very soft, so don't need to be 'softened up' like other types of wools.  Secondly, alpaca does not have the elasticity of wool, which means alpaca fibers become drapey in the socks, causing them to get too large and droopy.  This droopy, bagginess is not corrected by washing, as alpaca fiber doesn't have the 'memory' that sheep's wool has.  The only way you can prevent that is to add synthetic threads to the socks...which in my mind ruins the natural fiber point!  Those synthetic fibers rob the nice feel of the socks, creating sweaty, stinky feet.  Thirdly, alpaca fiber is not wool.  It has different properties about it that make it less desirable for socks, such as being slippery and pilling quite quickly.  Since I move around a lot on my farm, I've come to learn the amazing value of wool that is warm, breathes, retains its shape and continues performing for you after hours of outdoors work, keeping my feet warm and dry despite below zero weather or lots of rain.  I don't have to buy synthetic fibers to blend in, and I can choose from many, many natural colors.  And I almost forgot to mention, wool is cushy!  It's down right luxurious on a cold winter's day in the barn!
Handspun Scarf

This is the scarf I made for the fair and it, too, earned a blue ribbon!  Hand spinning creates a lovely feel to yarn.  The scarf feels very lightweight (so unlike so many scarves in the stores) and is very warm, as warm air gets trapped in the lacey-looking stitches.  It's fun to make things to exhibit at the fair!  The judges always give good feedback and help me learn and grow in my spinning/knitting skills.  The fairs apply to everyone!  Anyone can exhibit something at their fair!  What a great opportunity to learn new skills, exhibit them for peers to discuss, and get great feedback!  I hope all of you out there will consider exhibiting at your county fair next summer, and experience the fun yourself!

So I guess I've been minding my S's and Z's at the wheel as I strive to spin yarn that can be made into lovely clothing for YOU!  I proudly wear the wool I raise on my farm and hope you too will discover the comfort, warmth, and satisfaction of Wheely Wooly Farm yarns!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Wheel is Whirling for Knitters!

Blue Ribbon Hand SpunMittens!

Things have finally settled down after the excitement of fair!  We have caught up on sleep, mowing, and we've gotten re-aquainted with everybody here at the farm.  There were lots of backs to scratch, chins to tickle, and basic clean-up to do such as sweeping cobwebs, weeding, and restocking feed supplies.  Thank you notes have been sent out, pictures taken, and finally, the dust has settled!  

So!  Back to my wheel!  It's whirling full speed to Z's as I strive to catch up.  Yarn has been selling fast despite the heat and drought of this summer and I need to get skeins stocked up again.  This week, I'll be bringing the color you see above, as well as more of the popular purple!  These sell fast so if you've been looking for these colors, don't wait!  I hope to have more as fall progresses.  If you'd like more of Claire's Marigolds, please let me know as it is now all sold out.  I'm hoping to start working on Posie's fleece this week, and I'll have more scarf yarn ready to go.  Stop by to see all of our other pretty colors!  With fall fast approaching, we are ready with lovely blacks that pair so beautifully with other natural colors or dyed colors in mittens, half mitts, scarves, hats and sweaters!

I'll leave you with a photo of Lacey's lovely blue ribbon yarn!  She's Lil' Rainbow's ewe lamb who has grown up into a lovely ewe herself, with longish wavy wool that is oh so soft!  She was born moorit (chocolatey brown) but will fade up the musket favorite!  Some of her skeins are left, and will be available this weekend.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oh boyohboyohboy!!! Trophies!!!

WOW!!!  It was quite a fair!!!

I am just bursting with happiness for my Poygan Go-Getter!!  That's the name of the 4-H Club my Go-Getter belongs to...and a Go-Getter is right!  Please forgive me for bubbling over with happiness!  I know some of you out there are waiting to hear how fair went, so here it is!

It was quite a fair for all of us!  The high point?  Topping all the trophies she got LAST year!  We all thought she had a smashing first year last would one top that???  It's absolutely amazing!   Topping last year is just what happened!  It was an amazing second year!!!!

Here is the LIST! (giggle, giggle!):

Grand Champion Dairy Doe!!!!!!!!!!
Champion of Champions Goat!!!!!!!!!!!  HUGE!!!!!!
Grand Champion Standard Chicken
Reserve Grand Champion Chicken!!!!!!!!!!!
Poultry Showmanship Beginner!!!!!!
Outstanding Poultry Showman!!!!!!!HUGE!!!!!
Outstanding Goat Herdsmanship!!!!!!!!  HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!

ALL of these trophies except one were competition with older 4-Her's who've been in the goat and poultry projects for many years!  In the goat barn, some even had animals of better conformation.  However, Primrose is excellent in the showring, has an outstanding (and unmatched) udder, and truly sparkles with her handler!  

Hard work definitely pays off!  It's been a year of learning, doing, studying, interviewing, practicing, and more doing...and here is the the reward!  These trophies are accompanied by FIVE purple ribbons, SEVENTEEN blue ribbons, two reds and one pink!  It was quite a fair!

On the rough side?  Yes, there was a rough side!  Our truck died just before know...the one that was to haul the animals and stuff TO the fair???  Panic!!  Then, the Sunday evening before fair, I was washing laundry to get ahead when the washing machine died!!!!!!!!!  AUUUGGGGGGG!!!!!  There are always high and low points in life!  I now know it IS possible to go through fair week with NO washing machine!!!!!! I'd rather not ever go without again, though!

I think this might be the most exclamation points in one blog post ever!!! (giggle, giggle)  The Grand Champion Chicken was Sweetie Tweetie, our much loved Golden-Laced Polish hen...I've put pictures of her up on the blog from time to time.  We gave that hen to our Go-Getter as part of her very first flock when she was four years old!  She wanted a yellow chick...and the swap we went to had NO yellow chicks!!!!  Then, I learned that someone had chicks on a heated bus, so I alone went to find a yellow chick (think MOM-MISSION!!!).  I saw two yellow chicks at the back of the very crowded bus where people were grabbing chicks faster than you could imagine.  I elbowed my way to the back of the bus (think MOM-MISSION!), and swiped my hand out for the only yellow chicks on the whole bus...two of them!  As I swiped, a lady near me got one of them, and I barely got the other before her! (think MOM-MISSION!)  Triumph! That little yellow chick was lovingly held and cuddled by my Go-Getter all the way home!  (think MOM-MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!)  That little yellow chick is Sweetie Tweetie, forever titled around here now as Grand Champion Chicken!  

The rooster in that group of four chicks is Eddie.  He went to fair last year and earned a pretty red ribbon that looked so handsome with him!  This year, he earned a blue ribbon!  Muffy, the Ameraucana hen earned the Reserve Grand Champion Chicken.  She was from a batch of chicks the year after Sweetie Tweetie.  We named her Muffy for her lovely muffs and full beard.  The judge loved how the two top winners, Sweetie Tweetie and Muffy were in TOP condition!  The pink ribbon went to sweet little 'Sun Spark', the buff silkie pullet.  "Pink is PERFECT for her Mom!" :)

Primrose won Grand Champion Dairy Doe (and a bunch of blue and purple ribbons!) and Champion of Champions!  Her little doeling and buckling earned blues with her as well.  The dam and daughter class was really fun with those two girls!  My Go-Getter got lots of great help with showing them all in the ring at the same time.
Smile!  It's fair time!

The showmanship classes are the hardest.  You really have to know what you're doing with knowledge and detail.  Poise, interpersonal skills and interview techniques are all a part of it.  You have to have people skills AND skill with your animals...not an easy task!  Yet, my Go-Getter did GREAT!  Please forgive me for bursting with happiness, but she placed over smart and knowledgable HIGH SCHOOLERS!!!!!!!!!  Those of you who know her at the Sheep and Wool Festival and Market will understand! :)

Then, on the last day of fair, certain key awards are handed out...nobody knows who will get them until names are called off.  All exhibitors at the fair gather for this award ceremony, and high school kids clean up the biggest of the biggest awards.  My Go-Getter, who is not a high schooler (!) was called down the second year in a row!!!!!!!!!!!!!  She won the Herdsmanship trophy for the goat barn!!!!  This award is voted on by all the goat exhibitors (makes up 50% of the vote) and secret adults from the public (the other 50%).  The award is based on decorations, pens, animals, cleanliness,and interaction with the public.   It's a HARD award to get and this year's competition for it was tough!  Getting this award was a shocking and amazing last hour of the fair!  Last year, she won the same award for the Poultry barn!  Two years showing animals at the fair...two big trophies!!!!!!

But thatttttsssss not all!!!!!  Inside, on the knitting, she earned a blue ribbon and Best in Show ribbon for her knitting project. It's a poster with several knitting samples on it showing new techniques she learned.  The judge LOVED it!  She did garter stitch, stockinette stitch, 2x2 ribbing, Cat's Paw Shetland Lace, increasing and decreasing.  She was going to put a 4x4 cable on there as well, but didn't get that finished on time.  She also made her very first pair of mittens, and got a BLUE on those as welll!!!!!!!  Get this!  She knit those mittens out of yarn she SPUN!!!!!!  One is a tad larger than the other...but the judge recognized her skill  in learning to spin, knit in the round, knit a 2x2 rib on the cuff, and how to knit the thumbs.  The yarn is not Shetland, but rather fiber from a cute little crossbred ewe who does not live in our flock.  She dyed the yarn with blueberry kool-aid after spinning it for a super pretty pair of mittens!  She also entered a skein of yarn she spun and got another blue ribbon!  Also, she carded some of her Shetland fiber from her little ram Twilight, and got another blue!

Please forgive me for gushing with happiness for this little Go-Getter!  Despite all the trials of the last year with the economy, new fair rules, job cuts, storm damage, rising gas prices, everything breaking, and many many other things and obstacles, goodness prevailed!

And now, I'll leave you with little Hepatica.  Yes, she was sooooo sad after leaving the fair!  She LOVED all the people, all the attention, all the new places to explore, and all the petting, and all the kids!!!!!!!  Her little maaa was soooo forlorn Monday, for she really missed all of her new friends!  Here she is, the last day of the fair...zonked out!
I think we all felt the same way by Monday!  Get rested up and don't worry little Hepatica, for fair will come around again next year!!!!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back from Fair!

Quick update:  we are home from fair...and what a fair it was!!!!!!!!!!  Wait til you see! :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Moorit Shetland Socks

 Beautiful Socks!

Of course, this farm is loaded with cozy socks!  Here is another pair I'm making.  They are from Wheely Wooly Lacey, a ewe born on our farm.  The socks are from Melinda Goodfellow's pattern called "Classic Socks for the family"  You can find the pattern at Yankee Knitter Designs.  However, as usual, I always throw in simple changes depending on my mood and available yarn at my fingertips!  For example, I threw in a color change on the cuff, and I changed the cuff design just a bit.  Then I added the dyed color back in on the heel flap.  This not only reinforces the sock's strength (for slipping feet in and out of muck boots many times a day), but adds a very pretty element when the sock is on the foot.  Sometimes, I add color near the toe as well, but usually, I wear slip on shoes so only the heel has an opportunity to be seen.  The brown color, is of course, the lovely moorit color of the sheep who grew the wool and is all natural.  If you look at the picture closer, you'll see the lovely variation in the color.  THAT is what I love about handspinning!  Spinning this on a wheel preserves that lovely color where machines would wash out the color to a plain brown.  The yarn is a fingering weight and is being knitted on size 3 double point needles. 
Beautiful Ewe!

Here is beautiful Lacey!  This picture was taken last fall, when she was not a year old yet.  She has grown into a lovely ewe!  She is very feminine, long legged, with good bone, level topline, nice tail, and gorgeous fleece.  I also just found out that the reason her mother is not registered with NASSA is because of a dispute her breeder had with other sheep.  The breeder got in trouble and is no longer a breeder.  The ewe I bought has a history I didn't know about.  Turns out, there are other Shetland breeders who have been in trouble as well, some right here in Wisconsin.  I guess that goes with the territory when people try to take the "heirloom" out of a breed and modernize it with short crimpy wool!  If you are not breeding true to the standard, there are consequences!  Lacey is out of Wooly Bear, our top ram.  He is throwing very fine soft fleeces and outstanding friendly temperaments.  Her fleece is longish and wavy, fine and soft.  Her poll and cheeks are nice and woolly, she's clean legged, has proper ears, proper snout, and good conformation.  You'll see LOTS of Lacey's on the hill in the Shetland Islands! 

So...I love sheep!  Can you tell?  Lacey was born on our farm, lives on our farm, I sheared her myself with handblades on June 1st, processed the wool here at home, then spun the yarn (most of which will be on sale this week at market), then knitted a pair of socks with it.  I love every step!  I love the whole process.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Lacey and her cozy socks!  If you'd like to make socks with Wheely Wooly Farm yarn, you'll need two skeins.  Ball up each skein...each ball becomes a sock, with a little usually left over.  Find yourself a nice pattern...simple or lacy or elaborate.  Socks are such a fun garment to make and the designs are endless!  There are patterns everywhere you look!  Find them in books, magazines, the internet, everywhere!  I enjoy Melinda's pattern so much because she wrote it with such clarity and sense that it's easy to follow, easy to modify, and easy to make socks for any size, any need.  Good luck, and see you at the market!