The ‘girls’… my Shetland flock, January 2013. From left to right: Reese, Mystique & Storm (2012 twin sisters), Serendipity (back, is their mama), Blinky (2012 flecket lamb), Bella in front is her mama, and Hilde (back, retired) is mama to Bella and Grandma to Blinky, Dove is next to Hilde and peeking up front right is Snowy (also retired).
Sheep -OR- Goat?? This is BRUTUS, a Pygora (AngoraXPygmy) fiber goat!
I have enjoyed my flock of Shetland sheep for more than a decade. Skip, my senior Shetland wether, and the last Shetland of my ‘original’ flock, has joined his flock-mates in sheep heaven! Recently, we’ve added a new ram lamb, Athos, as our flock sire. During the past 12 months, we have been ‘growing’ a new spinner’s flock, adding several lovely ewe lambs, Dove, Dahlia, Serendipity and Reeces Pieces (Testiamo’s progeny).
Shetlands are the smallest of the “primitive” breeds of sheep related to the Romanov & Icelandic sheep. They were probably brought to the Shetland Islands by Vikings over 1000 years ago. Shetlands are the most colorful of all breeds having 11 main colors (black, shades of gray, browns & whites) and over 30 patterns/markings. Varying from a more primitive dual-coat to a single coat that is fine and crimpy, Shetland is a multi-purpose wool. Traditionally used to make warm rugged fabrics, including Fair Isle knitwear & woven tweeds. Famed handspun Shetland lace yarns are made from selected finer/softer neck wool. The average fleece weighs between 2-4 lbs. with an average 2 to 4.5” staple length. Occasionally, the wool will shed in late spring as it did generations ago when it was “rooed” or plucked off by hand. Spinners find it easy to spin from its open locks either washed or ‘in the grease’ as Shetlands do not produce as much lanolin as some other fine wool breeds.
A very important characteristic of the Shetlands is their beautiful wool, upon which the world-renowned Shetland woolen industry is based. Shetland wool is one of the finest and softest of any British breed, with a Bradford count usually in the upper 50’s to lower 60’s and an average fiber diameter of 23 microns. This soft, yet strong and durable wool is a delight to spin and is ideal for knitting. It was traditionally used in Shetland shawls so fine they could be drawn through a wedding ring!
Shetland wool comes in one of the widest ranges of colors of any breed. Besides the white, which dyes very well, other colors include light grey, grey, emsket (dusky bluish-grey), shaela (dark steely-grey resembling black frost), musket (pale greyish-brown), fawn, moorit (shades between fawn and dark reddish-brown), mioget (light moorit), dark brown and pure black. There are these 11 main colors as well as 30 markings, many still bearing their Shetland dialect names. Unfortunately, many of these colors and markings have become quite rare as white wool is dominant and has historically commanded better prices.
We raise a few bottle fed lambs every Spring…for the Shepherd’s or Shepherdess’ ease of handling! A true delight to raise as well as the beautiful wool fleece for the fiber enthusiast. Our farm store has a small offering of natural and colored Shetland batts, roving and hand-dyed yarns AND one-of-a-kind primitive sheepy folk art. Visit us at www.sheepyhollowherbs.com or my ETSY shop!