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.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Slow clothes and an accidental realization.

Oh, Sophie!

That's a picture of my lap.  One snuggly kitten, and one giggling knitter are in this picture!  How does one shoo her away?  I was knitting on the left front of my Wooly Bear sweater when she came along.  I was only a few stitches into the row.  She can sniff out a knitter in seconds!  I tried to discourage her by putting her down, but discouragement accepted!  She just jumped up again and again, eventually winning her battle for my lap with purring persistence.  Why do I let her do that? lol

The part of the sweater that is behind her and over most of her body is the back of the sweater.  I needed it to measure how many rows to knit on the left front up to the armhole.  As I was comparing back and forth, she became covered more and more.  It didn't take long for me to realize how comfortably warm this sweater will be!  You have a layer of warm air around you yet your skin can still breathe.  How wonderful!  When I folded it up and placed it back in my knitting basket, I instantly felt cold.  

On another thought, I read in today's paper about that terrible garment factory fire overseas.  I really don't want to comment on that as this is sheep blog about sheep and wool farming.  I will say though that my heart really hurts for those people.  How awful.

Of course, you can't help but think of your own clothing supply and sources in light of this horrible news.  As I was thinking about this, I was knitting on my sweater.  Then it slowly dawned on me that just as raising your own food can bring you better nutrition and joy in life, so too can knitting some of your own clothes bring you good things.  I get so frustrated driving around to all the stores, searching for clothing that fit properly and that I like.  Hours and hours are spent on this.  Yet here I am, spending hours working on my sweater, but they are very pleasant hours where I'm warm, my brain can relax, and I can gain joy out of what I'm doing.  I began to realize that slow clothes...that is clothes that take time to make with your own hands...bring many good things, and perhaps stop some bad things.  It was all just an accidental realization.

It takes more than a year to make a sweater like this.  First, it takes a whole year of good and thoughtful care for the sheep to grow high quality wool.  Actually, it took me two years of intense research to decide how to even PICK a ram for my ewes.  The breeding decisions take time and care.  So after the sheep is cared for by you for a whole mud, good nutrition, good hoof care and good social life, you shear him.  That takes me somewhere between 25 minutes to an hour.  It then takes two hours for me to clean the fleece, then three days for it to dry nicely, then a week to spin it.  Then, the yarn is washed again to set the twist, and given three more days to dry.  At that time, I spend an hour balling the skeins up and getting my supplies ready for knitting.  With my pattern and needles ready, I begin many hours of knitting.  This is slow.  And yet, the result is so satisfying!  The quality in the garment is outstanding!  The fibers trap warm air next to my skin, making me feel protected and cozy.  The yarn has proper ease in it, so it moves WITH you, rather than making it feel like you have a layer of snake skin on you, restricting your reaching or bending.  The fibers allow moisture to move out, so that your skin doesn't get clammy and sweaty, thus preventing rashes on the skin and stinky body odor from bacteria growth.  It's a cinch to wash, taking less time than waiting around for the wash machine to finish.  The colors are not dyes, so they don't fade, bleed, or wash out.  In fact, the colors are rich and harmonious.  They are pleasant to look at, and blend nicely with many other colors because they are indeed the colors of nature.  Nature is an amazing thing.

As I was knitting along, Sophie occasionally stretching under the sweater, I was appreciating my accidental realization.  Slow clothes.  Nice!      

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