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.

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!

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