Why Knit with Shetland Wool?
Shetland sheep wool is a type of wool that comes from Shetland sheep, which are a breed of sheep native to the Shetland Islands, located off the northeast coast of Scotland. But how have these little wooly darlings created such a reputation? Why is clothing made with Shetland Wool so expensive and highly sought after? The Shetland wool industry is world renowned. Thomas Jefferson owned a small flock of Shetland sheep at Monticello. Designers from Ralph Lauren to Christian Dior have put out lines in Shetland Wool, and for good reason...
Shetland wool is known for being fine and soft, as well as strong and durable. According to the North American Shetland Sheepbreeders Association, it was used to knit delicate lace wedding shawls, that were so fine they could be pulled through a wedding ring! And, despite being fine, it is also known for being very warm, making it a good choice for knitting garments that will be worn in colder climates.
Photograph of Sherwood Lavender and Sheep Farm Shetland Wool, processed to 4 ply bulky weight yarn in white, moor it and black (from left to right). Photograph by Erika Yigzaw.
Shetland wool has a natural luster and drape, which makes it a popular choice for lace knitting and other projects that require a delicate or intricate pattern. Delicate and warm, you say? Can someone knit me a hat?
The Livestock Conservancy reports that Shetland sheep fleeces average two to four pounds and vary in crimp from wavy to straight."Other characteristics of the fleece vary according to recent selection history. Populations of Shetlands in Britain, for example, have been selected for more standardized characteristics. These sheep tend to be single coated with fiber diameter averages of 23 microns and staple lengths of two to five inches. Landrace populations, such as those on the island of Foula, include a greater range of fleece types. These sheep may be double coated, with coarser outer wool of 30 40 microns and finer inner coat wool of 12 20 microns. Eleven colors and thirty color patterns are recognized in the Shetland breed. This diversity is a great asset both to the breed and to the fiber artisans who enjoy using its fleeces."
Shetland sheep are uncommon, although increasing in numbers. At one point they were listed as endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in Britain. The Livestock Conservancey report that the "Shetland breed has prospered in recent years to the extent that it is no longer considered endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in Britain. Despite this success, there are concerns about the loss of genetic diversity within the breed. For example, white sheep now predominate on the British mainland and several of the color varieties have become rare."
Sherwood Lavender and Sheep Farm has Shetland Sheep in white, moorit and dark brown/black colors. Our sheep are sustainably raised and enjoy pasture, local hay, and eating the lavender once we close for the season. They are very tame and eat out of our hands. Our current shearer is an award winning shearer with a degree in animal husbandry. She is very careful to treat our sheep very carefully as she removes their winter coats each spring!
Overall, Shetland wool is a versatile and high-quality choice for knitting projects. We currently have limited amounts of Shetland wool from our flock available at our online store, both in processed bulky weight yarn and in whole raw fleeces.
We also offer an exclusive line of knitted hats by our talented artist on site, who is currently completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Portland State University in a variety of media, including fiber arts.
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We plan to offer several open houses to visit the sheep and pick lavender at specific dates in 2023. Sign up for the newsletter to learn more!