With Shetland Wool Week upon us, we wanted to provide a little more information on the history of Shetland Wool!
The Shetland Islands are a chain of islands in the northern most part of Scotland. The Shetland Islands have been described as glacier scourged, windswept barren land. Yet, these islands have been home to the Shetland Sheep for over a thousand years. They are a hardy breed that lives off the sparse vegetation and seaweed.
The Shetland Sheep belong to the Northern European Short Tail Group. These sheep are considered to be a primitive breed with the characteristic short tail (no docking required). The sheep are thought to have been brought over by the Viking settlers. They are the smallest of the British breeds. They average between 75-125 lb. The rams usually have spiral horns, the ewes are polled (no horns).
Most people are familiar with the Shetland fleeces that are double coated, but there is also a Shetland fleece that is a softer single coat. The softer single coat fleeces are more easily processed in the mills. The fleeces are between 2-4 lbs and the micron count range from 20-25.
Shetland wool has the widest range of natural colors of any other breed. There are 11 main colors and 30 color pattern markings. The crofters traditionally received a higher price for white wool and their breeding programs were adjusted accordingly. Because of the high demand for the white wool, natural colored wool was put at risk of being bred out. One of the goals of the Shetland Week Program is to promote the variety of natural colors and preserve them in the gene pool, keeping the tradition alive.
Throughout the history of the Shetland Islands, the people made their living through fishing, crofting (small farms) and knitting. The Shetland sheep and their wool are rich in tradition having been handed down from generation to generation.
Don’t forget to enter our contest to win Shetland Wool! Winner will be selected October 13th!