Tour de Fleece, Shetland style 

The Tour de Fleece is a spinner’s challenge.  On Ravelry, the spinners all set goals, and try to spin each day during the Tour de France.   They spin, we spin.  Both start today.  I know, I know, it sounds corny, but the goals and inspiration are great.

Guidelines (NOT RULES):

  1. Spin every day the Tour rides, if possible. Saturday July 2nd through Sunday July 24th. Days of rest: Monday July 11th, Monday July 18st. (Just like the actual tour)
  2. Spin something challenging Friday July 22nd. (The Tour’s toughest mountain stage over the Col du Galibier for the second time, and finishing up on Alpe d’Huez.)
  3. Take a button if you want one. Then we can use the button on our blogs in show of solidarity. Take it from here or grab a clean one from the flickr pool. Come join the flickr pool!
  4. Wear yellow on Sunday July 24th to announce victory. Why not wear yellow on any day you feel particularly successful? (Yellow is the color of the race leader in the Tour – but here we are all ‘race leaders’)
  5. Other colors if desired: Green (sprinter – think FAST), Polka-dot (climber – as in uphill), and white (rookie)

I am planning on spinning just Shetland rovings.  It will also be a part of a breed study that I am involved in, where we learn about a spin a different sheep breed (and maybe other animals as well) each month.  This month is Shetland.

Here is what I know so far about Shetland sheep:

  • There are 11 recognized colors of Shetland Sheep (Dan and I would like a hobby farm with one of each color in the pasture)
  • There are 30 recognized markings
  • Shetland sheep are very affectionate, and will even wag their tails.  They have been domesticated since the Bronze age.
  • Shepherd dogs have a difficult time herding them
  • It is one of the “primitive” breeds, dating back more than 1,000 years
  • They are part of the Northern European short-tailed group of sheep, cousins include Finns and Icelandics
  • Shetland’s remained a pure breed for generations because of their geographical isolation
  • The breed fell out of favor when the quest for bright white fleece became popular, and many breeders eliminated the colored variants
  • The soft wool under the neck was favored for lace weight yarn, and used in wedding shawls that were so fine they could be pulled through a wedding ring
  • The Shetland fiber is also popular for Fair Isle projects, as the fiber has a tendency to bloom, thereby concealing colors that have been carried behind
  • If you drop a stitch, it will most likely stay put
  • The staple length is 2-4 1/2″ long
  • The undercoat is fine, the outercoat is smoother often with a curl at the tip
  • Low luster
  • Shetland is usually spun woolen
  • Moderate felting
  • The fiber is good for next to skin, and outerwear depending on the grade of the fiber
  • Shetland’s are smaller than commercial breeds and slow-growing, but long-lived and hardy, able to adapt to difficult conditions
Here is the 2 colors of natural Shetland that I will be spinning.  I have already started on the dark wool (4 oz), and will do the light wool (2 oz) next.  Both from the Illinois Wool and Fiber Mill, a brand new mill outside of  Chicago.
Afterwards, I will work on this deep purple/black Shetland dyed roving by Fiber Optics.  It is actually a darker color than the photograph shows, it was very difficult to capture it’s exact hue.
And, this is my first spinning of Shetland fiber.  It has a lot more loft to it, not as smooth and silky as some others.  I am finding it very easy to draft out, and get a thinner yarn.  I hope that I will be able to maintain consistency with this fiber.  That has been an issue for me with some other fibers.