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.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Look! Wooly Bear's sweater is done!

I guess you readers have to check my blog often to keep up to date! lol  I don't really mean to do multiple posts in one day, but a nice little thunderstorm rolled through this afternoon and kept me inside.  So I used the time to sew the buttons on my sweater and take some pictures!  I am sssooooo DEEE-lighted with my new sweater!  I'm actually wearing it right now as the showers brought much cooler air into our area, with temps dropping from the mid-fifties to about 40 degrees now.

If you are a new reader, this sweater project began late last fall...well actually, it began years ago with the acquisition of a foundation ram for our flock of Shetland sheep.  It took me a long time (2 years) to figure out how to 'shop' for a good ram, as I had never done that before. (I grew up in the city, on a lake, usually in a boat.)  I eventually picked a young black ram lamb...whom we found at 3 pm on my birthday one year.  I hemmed and hawed...should I buy him??  His wool was VERY fine and long.  I ended up bringing him home and haven't looked back since!!!!!  He has changed my life.
 Done!  Notice the blue ribbon to the left?  That's Wooly Bear's Grand Champ. ribbon.
I think it's cute with his sweater hanging next to it!
I LOVE the natural colors!  The yarn was all handspun by me.  
The sweater took one fleece, plus one skein from the prior year's fleece, which I thankfully still had!
The buttons are grey sheep with black faces and white swirls on their wool.
I also shear him myself every year.
He's a very good boy, but don't be fooled!  He is still a powerful whacking machine!!!

Here is a close-up of the cuff detail.
The cuffs are six rows of garter stitch, of which I used Maewyn's fleece for.
Maewyn is one of Wooly Bear's daughters, and she's a moorit color.
Wooly has given us black, grey, moorit, musket, and white lambs!!
After the sleeve was finished, I crocheted over the edge.  Fun!

 Wooly Bear a couple of days after bringing him home.  How to be around our to walk on a halter, etc.
His previous owner hadn't named him yet and papers were part of the deal.  I paid $75. for him.
Don't faint.
His previous owners were not up on the breed standard, so they had NO idea what they had in this fellow.
They thought he was 'wild' because they couldn't catch him.
I decided on the way home to call him "Wooly Bear" after 'woolly boards' of Shetland.
Woolly boards are used to block knitwear in Shetland after they are finished being knit.
I dropped one letter l in the word woolly, to match our farm name: Wooly Bear of Wheely Wooly Farm.
 Here is what his fleece looked like that day.  It was extremely fine, longish and wavy.  Perfect!!
As summer progressed, and he became accustomed to being handled, I realized he could go to the shetland show in Jefferson.  It might be fun!
So the decision was made to take him.  We did nothing to him except trimmed his hooves, and cleaned his breakfast out of his fleece with my fingers the day of the show.
 What????!!!!!????  I've never shown my own animal before, but always wanted to!!!  Here's how we did!
The judge was Letty Klein.  That was in 2009.  He won Grand Champ., AND got his photo in many, many newspapers and sheep publications!  Letty had asked me why I hadn't entered him in Best Fleece on Hoof class...cause he'd have won that, too!  There's a Best Fleece on Hoof class??  Oh!  Didn't realize that, or think of entering it! lol

Coming out of the ring, we met the people we'd bought him from.  Did we receive the papers on him yet?...they asked.  Yes, we had, but I hadn't opened them yet, cause we went to the show, and the letter had just arrived.  Later at home, I opened the envelope, and discovered they'd named him Rocky Swamp Disco!!!!!!!!!!  
 Here's his fleece after I sheared it with these handshears last spring.  This fleece is now my sweater.
It is very soft, was very easy to spin, and has some luster to it.

Someone else LOVED the coziness of this sweater while it was being knit! 
This sweater is kitty tested, and approved!

Wooly Bear has now sired many lambs in our flock.  He has covered EVERY ewe we've given him, even when that ewe could only be with him for less than a week, and I had no idea when she was last in heat.  Not one ewe has been left open.  He lives outside pretty much all year, with his ram lambs, whom he adopts when I give them to him around 7 months of age.  He loves his boys and keeps watch over them, but some days, I can see it in his eyes that he worries that someday, he might not be able to control their powerful, youthful exuberance.  When that day comes, he will get his own pen, with his lifetime buddy Wilbur.  He is king of the flock, and every sheep here knows it.

Wooly Bear today (STILL wearing his breakfast on his head...some things never change!).   He's an amazing ram and has given us so much!  I'm sssooo glad I have keepsakes from him, for I know he won't live forever.  How nice it is to be warm on a cold day, with style!

Some people think livestock are just things to give us a commodity or product.  I would strongly disagree!  Livestock should live with owners who know them and utilize them for what they are and can give us, with care and as much longivity as you can reasonably give them!    They have emotions, feelings, and personalities just like we do.  They can bring so many contributions to our lives!  Wooly Bear is a testament to that.  

I hope you enjoyed this little documentation of his life, and how a Shetland ram can move into our hearts and give us so much!    

I promise I won't do another post today...

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