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wpe5E.jpg (4970 bytes) General Facts On
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Colours and Patterns
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Shetland Sheep
Photo Album




There 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 and character.

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 the sheep.

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.

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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 itch.

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.

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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 point.

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 or patterns.

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 wedding ring.




| Home | Norwegian Buhunds | Alpacas | Shetland Sheep | Fibre Works Gallery | Step by Step |

Linda Wendelboe
Fibre Works Farm,
Box 43, Site 2, RR#2

Sundre, Alberta, Canada  T0M 1X0

Telephone   403-638-3912
FAX     403-638-8052
E-MAIL     info@fibreworksfarm.com

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Send mail to webmaster@fibreworksfarm.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 1999 Fibre Works Farm
Last modified: February 25, 2005