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, September 30, 2013

Pretty Ewes and Birds

 I think Lil' Rainbow has stunning color.

As you can see, here on Wheely Wooly Farm, we are all about wool!  These old pictures show how fleecy our sheep are.  We love the older breeds, which give such nice fiber for a multitude of end points.  Today's modern sheep are so standardized, it's hard to use the wool for more than one or two things.  Sheep like the older breeds give you endless opportunities for all kinds of things fiber!  That is my style and we love these sheep!
Sweetie looks all white, but her fiber has a touch of honey tones to it sometimes.

We also love the dynamics of Shetland color.  A spinner will never get bored with all the lovely colors these old-style sheep give!  From their first fleeces on, the colors are changing, giving endless possibilities for combinations, pairings, and blends.  Just one more thing to love about Shetland sheep!

We are just home after a weekend away showing poultry.  We came home with Best of Variety and Best of Breed for our seven year old Sweetie Tweetie, who's a bearded Buff-Laced Polish.  This bird has a string of trophies behind her now, although there is no trophy for this weekend's winnings.  
Here she is, out with the other hens one day.

She has a nice sized crest, beautiful slate-blue legs, and lacing all the way through her tail feathers.  She is of good size and always keeps herself neat-as-a-pin.  We also got a blue ribbon for our little black cochin bantam rooster, Chimpy.  We call him Chimpy because he makes monkey noises when you feed him something special like watermelon or cracked corn.  And Blue Belle, our blue standard cochin pullet brought home a third place ribbon.  Her purpose will be to brood eggs for us in the future...hopefully! :) 

Showing poultry is great fun!  The weather was gorgeous, we met up with some special friends and made a few new ones, and had good food all weekend.  And each morning at the hotel, we woke up to crowing...just like home!  It was really nice.

And now, we are back to more spinning, more washing, more knitting!  The breed groups are peacefully together and enjoying the nice weather, too.  I think Lerwick is in heaven, quite frankly!  They are still grazing out there on the special pasture we saved just for them.  It won't be long now before grazing runs out, but we'll have 'compromise' spaces where they will be turned out all day unless it's heavy mud.  These spaces are areas they will graze down to practically nothing, making them slow to regenerate in spring.  That means, they will need a good long rest after the winter, so they have to be planned out ahead and utilized on a rotational basis as well.  

That's about it for now.  Hope you all have a great start to the week!  If you are running out of a knitting project, or are starting your christmas shopping, be sure to come find us at the market this coming weekend!  We are ready for your holiday and winter needs!  Wheely Wooly Farm yarns make GREAT gifts, and we often have recipients coming back for more.  And don't forget about the Wheely Wooly Farm's Finisher's Club discount!  It's a great way to get more yarn for your larger projects such as shawls or blankets.  Happy Monday everyone!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

No market this weekend


No market this weekend!  Oktoberfest is the big event of the day, so the normal market takes a break but we'll be back the week after for your knitting needs.  The weather is going to be gorgeous and everyone is making their plans! 

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Smart Goose...

So while I'm running around trimming hooves, putting up breeding group fencing, sorting sheep, cleaning pens, spinning, planning demos and presentations, washing fleeces, fluffing fleeces that are air drying, running to the mill, attending sheepy events, and knitting things...Pomander the Gander is up to his own busyness...standing under the pear tree, with a branch in his bill....shaking the pear tree as hard as he can to make ripe pears fall to the ground!

That's one smart, silly goose!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Redwood and Posie Lap Robe

Time is sure flying!  I think this is the busiest summer we've had yet.  Since it has been so busy, I've had to keep my knitting simple.  Here is the latest thing off my needles:
 A Shetland Lap Robe, folded in thirds
Redwood provided the brown fibers, Posie the pretty pink

This very simplistic project was super relaxing to work on.  The yarn comes from a Dailley-descended, purebred Shetland ram named Redwood (out of the Sheepy Hollow flock).  His fiber sold like hot cakes, but I put less of it out now as he is definitely getting old.  Despite his age, and a mane (!), his fiber is still really beatuiful!  These pictures don't show the beauty of the fiber and that's too bad!

Anyhoo, I spun this yarn into a good, strong three ply as lap robes tend to get lots of use here in the north.  Knitting every stitch of every row, it measures 27 inches by 26 inches, knit on size 15 circular needles for an open look.  His fiber has the most wonderful ease in it, so the lap robe can stretch.  As the yarn blooms in time, it will be even more appealing for warmth!

The border is crocheted on a large hook using Posie's yarn.  Posie is a Shetland/Friesian cross ewe who's fiber is soft, and comes in every year at about a five inch long staple.  It's a dream to spin!  After spinning a nice little two ply yarn, I dyed it with drink mix, trying to get a nice variegation in the take up of the dye.  It worked!  The yarn has a lovely mottled affect of color, which is really beautiful with the glistening lighter colors in Redwood's yarn.
Blurry, but pretty border

That is pretty much it for Redwood's yarn...I think it is all sold out now.  This pretty pink of Posie's has not been out in the booth yet, so watch for it in the coming week!  There are only a few skeins in this color.  Also, I have more embroidery yarn bags made up and they are beautiful!  The embroidery bags have sold well.  I would love to hear how the yarn is doing for your embroidery projects!  The new bags made up are like the last ones...three complimentary colors....usually with some dyed wool and some natural colored wool.  More scarf boxes are coming in new colors, too!  So be sure to stop by and see the new stuff!

Finally, we've been having some fantastic sheepy adventures lately, but I cannot say yet what those are!  I'm not sure everything will work out yet, but if/when they do, I'll share right away!  Also, I've spun up the Romney fiber I bought from Yorkshire Rose Farm and it was positively LOVELY!  It was like spinning clouds!  I bought an 8 ounce bag of washed fiber, then handcarded it before spinning.  It's not plied yet, but it will be soon, I'm sure.  I love spinning Romney, but haven't worked on any for quite some time.  It was a treat to spin it again.

Hope all is well with all of you and that you are looking up the season's knitting projects you want to work on!   Time is ticking...time to knit! :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Got your pumpkins ready?

One of a kind acorn and pumpkin knitting needles
handmade here at Wheely Wooly Farm!

It's hard to believe it, but pumpkin time has already arrived in the fields around our farm!  As we tour around the countryside, we are already seeing the rows of pumpkins neatly lined up around barns, farmhouses, and hay wagons.  How appealing!  

The hot, humid weather has finally passed with cooler, less humid air here to stay awhile.  As the humidity subsides, my energy grows!!!  I've got fleeces drying, bobbins filling up, knitting at the ready for every spare moment, and of course, my new sheepy coffee mug usually sitting nearby either with steaming coffee in it, or the cooled remnants of relaxing moments now past.  I'm still spinning Iris.  Iris just goes on, and on, and on.  Love it!  There are bouquets of zinnias all around the house.  Outside, the sheep are pleasantly grazing once again.  I had kept them up near the barn for shade a couple of days lately, as it just seemed too hot to be out on pasture.  Today, things were really quiet because their mouths were full of clover buds and green grass.

Our pastures are starting to lag now, even though we've had some rain.  I have one rotation left so I hope the grass will start growing faster soon!  We have managed to graze straight through the slump of summer, with only a few days up at the barn for shade when it was super hot.

I forgot to mention that I also picked up more sheep soap at the festival.  I can't show you that, though because it came home and was opened right away. lol  Sheep soap (made from sheep's milk) is like goat's milk in that it takes the sting away if you happen to get into nettle or have bug bites.  Sometimes when I rotate fence, I'll get into a little nettle.  When I come in to wash up, the milk-based soaps take any sting away almost right away.  Truly, a sheep farmer shouldn't be without the stuff!!  If you'd like to try it, or get some positively SCRUMPTIOUS sheep cheese, click on the link to the right here for the soap.  

Tonight, a friend stopped by with two spinning wheels recently acquired.  Both need to be restored.  Both had beautiful drive wheels, old bobbins, and flyers with old hooks and tiny orifaces!  It was really interesting to study them over.  One had wood on the treadle that didn't match the rest of the wheel.  You could see the original wood was gone, and the repair was worn from use. It must have been a well-loved wheel that was repaired and used some more.  I like to imagine who might have spun at such a wheel.  What did they spin?  Did they knit?  Were children sitting nearby, listening to the wheel spin?  Did the wheel ever travel by covered wagon?  So many people of older years will stop by when I spin for the public, and tell me how one of their best childhood memories takes them back to sitting on the floor near their mother's or grandmother's wheel, listening to it go 'round and 'round.  Just thoughts. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Blissful Time!

Another year of the Sheep and Wool Festival has come and gone and what a fun one it was!  It's a bit hectic for us, as we attend the festival on Friday, then hurry home for market Saturday morning, then after catching up at the farm Sat. night and a good night's sleep, we headed back down to the festival for the day Sunday.

Some of our treasures found at the festival
Purchased from Jan The Village Weaver, and husband, Bob
Thank you Jan and Bob! 

As always, what fun we had catching up with our sheepy friends!  And what fun visiting the country store and sheep barns!  I also LOVE looking at the hooked rug display, and was delighted with the amazing designs the artists come up with.  In my mind ALL those rugs look perfect!  The designs are so creative, with movement and flow in them that shows a real understanding of how color, texture, and pattern can create life and motion in a piece.  It amazes me every year.  I love studying them and learning from the artistry.

Above, you'll find some of the treasures we brought home!  On the left is a knitting bowl....I've been waiting a LONG time for such a find!!!  This bowl is awesome!  It is heavy, so that the ball can roll around inside without pulling the bowl off the table when you pull on the yarn.  There are three holes on the side for different gauges of yarn.  On one side is the image of a saxony wheel, on the other, (not pictured here) is a pretty image of a black-faced sheep's head with the blue sky behind it.  I couldn't wait to get started knitting with it, so I got out some three ply yarn from Ol' Redwood I've been saving up, plopped it in the bowl, and began a very comfortable knitting experience that I've been dreaming about for ages!  How nice to not have the ball in a little plastic bowl, flipping off the table, or in my lap, rolling off onto the floor.  How nice to have it inaccessible to Sophie the kitty, who has a tendency to bite the yarn and not let go unless I pet her!  The yarn slips so nicely through the carefully made nicely in fact, without fear of pulling the whole thing off the table, that I was having a little too much fun pulling! (Read:  Ziiiinnnnnggggg!!  'Look at all the yarn I have!")

On the right is an awesome coffee mug made by the same artist, Bob.  I fell in love with it the first I laid eyes on it because the sheep has little hearts floating above it.  If you look at our logo on the right side of our blog here, you will see I designed floating hearts above the wheel, indicating how much I love working with sheep and wool!  When I saw this mug, I knew it was the mug for me! :)  It was purchased for me as an early christmas gift....lucky me! :)  On the backside, there is another image with floating hearts.  Love it!  Thanks Bob for your work, and I hope you'll sell lots more!

To say we had fun at the festival was an understatement!  I bought new handblades AND a leather case for the blades, which was VERY exciting for me!  This spring, when shearing the flock, it dawned on me that if something happened to my blades, or I accidently lost them,  I'd be in trouble!  Now, I have a back-up pair, with a super nice blade case.  Lucky me! :)  I love sheep.  Now I don't have to worry.

It's so fun to go to the festival every year.  If you get OUT of the Shetland stuff, and into the realm of all the other breeds, you will find the nicest and friendliest people!  Speaking of Shetland people, I noticed that once again, NASSA was not mentioned by anyone or any displays again this year, for the second year in a row.  NASSA is no longer being promoted at our festival, that I saw, despite supporting the festival a great deal for years.  I did get the chance to meander around the Shetland sheep barn on Friday night, which was also fun!  I think it's great that the nasty group of people who tried to steal the registry have finally been motivated to start their own thing.  I genuinely hope they will be happy with their own work, and sense of direction they are pursuing, even if so many find them intolerable people.  I think this was the best outcome for everyone and for the sheep.  Now they can work on their own focus, and take their sheep to new places as appendix breeding will do.  (I did notice that they did not disclose on their advertising that the Appendix A is a modern document.) And while they are busy doing that, the rest of us have the peace of keeping the sheep genuine, just as they were when the Shetland people needed to survive on them all those years ago.

So here we are, back at the farm with lots of fiber treasures, new ideas, new friends, and the refreshing feeling that comes from time spent doing something you love, with like-minded folks.  I have a greater focus of where I'd like to take my fiber skills in the future, as well as a deeper sense of accomplishment after looking back at where we started, and where we are today.  It was a good weekend of reflection, learning, and connecting.  Isn't that just what a good festival should give one?  I think so!  And....the ice cream cones were delicious!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Spinning Iris means joy!

Only once a year does the joy of spinning Iris come around, and now is it for this year.  Iris is getting old but she's in great shape, and gave us a lovely, soft fleece this year!  It's her softest in two years in fact.  I'm working on it now, and can hardly stop.  I could sit at the wheel and spin on and on and on...

But that wouldn't get all the other things done I need to do!  I'll have more scarves in stock by next weekend, and I'm working hard at getting some new colors ready for you!  We have a lot of blacks and browns in our inventory right now, with few lighter colors, so I'm working on lights.  Iris's fleece will be for sale in yarn in about two weeks, so watch for that if you've purchased her yarn in the past and would like more.  Her yarn does sell fast.  If you want it, don't wait.

Late summer is also the time of separating the little ram lambs from the mothers, which is done.  Lark is the biggest of them, and is gorgeous!  He has the brightest eyes and a super nice fleece.  They all are cute!  But then again, I may be just a bit slanted as I know their mothers and they are my flock. :)  Then again, little Shetlands are very cute...

Our breeding group for next year are getting readied and will soon be in with their ram.  We're probably going to use Lerwick on them this year.  He is the handsome fellow we've kept around for his fleece, temperament, prolifacy and good looks.  He's also tall, and will work great for these girls as many of them are not Shetlands, or technically, not even my sheep!  Lerwick will add good growthy-ness to the lamb crop for next year and will be the ideal choice for those non-Shetland ewes.  I wish Polar Bear could get the job this year, but he can't...he's too much a baby yet.  He was the last lamb born on our farm this year, which was May.  That was an excellent strategy in the challenging times of last year's drought, and this year's goofy weather causing problems in hayfields and such this year.  Instead of raising him on hay, he got the rocket fuel of spring grass with his mother's milk, and kapow!  He's growing FAST, but not enough to work for our crosses (that are not technically mine), although he'd work great on the Shetland ewes if I wanted to crossbreed them, which I don't.

So things have been very busy here on the farm, as you can see!  I'll be doing another round of hoof trimming soon, especially before the breeding group goes together.  I've saved them some beautiful pasture just for them, so after getting their feet trimmed, they'll be out there in bliss.

Hope you all had a great holiday weekend, and are ready for getting back to the routine that is fall!  Don't forget to include knitting!  I'll be trying to finish two pairs of mittens (one of each to display in the booth), and I want to make a cowl from a pattern that was generously passed on to me at the last market.  It looks like a fun project to make, and I can't wait!  I'll let you know if I get it done!  And this week, I'm going to try to get my camera out with me!  We are overdue for more sheepy shots! :)