is a variety in the "style" of fleece found in the Shetland
breed. Some of the sheep have a distinct double coat combining coarser outer fibre and
fine inner fibre. Some of the sheep have less variation in the diameter of fibres in
their fleece and are sometimes referred to as " single coated". However, even
the more single coated types often display variation in fibre diameter
The character of Shetland wool can
vary from straight to wavy to evenly crimped.
The fleece is often finer, crimpier and more even
at the neck and then becomes a bit less fine and even towards the back of
Regardless of the style and character
of the fleece, registered Shetlands should still meet the Shetland Breed
Standard fleece requirements and should always have a soft hand.
At Fibre Works Farm, we have carefully selected our
registered foundation stock from Shetland breeders in both the U.S. and Canada in our endeavor to
breed for superior fineness and handle in our fleeces. Many of our Shetlands have the more
crimpy style fibre.
The diameter or fineness of the fibre in Shetland wool
also varies. A Bradford count in the upper 50's to lower 60's is typical, as
is a fiber diameter range of 20 to 30 microns. However, some fleeces can be
much finer and some can be quite coarse. Articles of clothing made from 20
micron fibres can usually be worn next to the skin without "prickling" or
itching. Fibre that is 30 micron and above is often better suited to mittens and outside wear,
rugs and other harder wearing items as it will have much more prickle or
Another aspect of Shetland wool that is a joy to
handspinners is the ease with which the fibres can be drawn from the lock when spinning.
This combines with the remarkably soft "handle" or feel of
good Shetland fleece
to make it very popular with handspinners across North America. Our fleeces usually
weigh between 1 and 1.5 kilos (2 and 4 pounds) and have an average staple length of 7 to
15 cm (3 to 6 inches). Again, there can be variations outside of these ranges. The clean
yield of Shetland wool is quite high, as lanolin content is often much less than that of
other breeds. Visit our Fibre Works
Gallery to see the variety of Shetland raw fleece, rovings and yarn available.
Shetland sheep display a very wide variety of colors.
White is a dominant colour in Shetlands but the sheep can be black, brown toned grey,
shaela (dark silvery grey), medium or light silvery grey, ivory, fawn, mioget (golden
honey coloured), moorit (reddish brown) or dark brown. The Colour Chart in the Fibre Works
Gallery is not an exact match for all of these colours but it does make a good starting
Shetland Sheep can also be patterned and many patterns and colours still have the
Norse or Shetland dialect names. For example, there is mirk faced (white face with black
spots), katmoget (a.k.a. badger, with a dark belly and lighter upper) and gulmoget (light
underneath). Altogether, there are 11 main colours and 30 markings
Some of these colors and patterns have become quite rare. For example
in North America, shaela makes up only about 3% new registrations of Shetland sheep. From
the turn of the century, white wool has been more in demand and obtained a premium in the
commercial markets as it could be dyed any colour. Therefore, white dominated many of the
breeding programs. At present, there is a resurgence of interest in natural coloured wool
and now it is often the more rare colours that command the premium in the handspinners'
and cottage industry markets.
The wonderful range of natural colours and the high quality of Shetland
fleece have traditionally been important to the wool industry of the Shetland Islands.
Natural colours are often used undyed to make outstanding Shetland knitgoods. These range
from colourful and water resistant outdoor type sweaters and jackets to baby items and the
very fine wedding ring shawls; so fine that they can be drawn smoothly through a bride's