Saturday, April 7, 2012

Ramblings on Fair Isle knitting...

When you raise Shetland sheep you learn lots of arcane little details about the breed that you would never know otherwise.  Unlike modern breeds of sheep, Shetlands have not had the color genetics breed out of them. These primitive sheep come in 11 official colors and lots of patterns, many with old Norn names.  For example, 'moorit' is old Norn for the color reddish brown.

My small spinners folk of Shetland sheep
If you want to knit a nice thick sweater out of one fleece for someone my size (well let's just say I'm not your average models size 2), one fleece might not be enough.  They come off the sheep weighing about 4 pounds.  But by the time you remove all of the hay, dirt, manure and lanolin you're now down to 2 or 3 pounds of usable wool.  And then there's that little detail about the fleece having a bit of color variation in it...

Elizabeth in 2010 visiting Chris Lubinski's flock - note her sweater
Knitting Fair Isle patterns seems like the perfect way to use these small, soft fleeces.  The subtle shades in color blend really well together.  When you card the colors together, spin and then dye these shades you have an infinite number of color/pattern possibilities...

Elizabeth's undyed handspun Shetland yarn

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