shetland wool

ben and i stopped by our favorite thrift store monday night and i found a lovely shetland wool sweater (J Crew and cabled, size small). i like that shetland looks so much different than other wools – but the uniqueness of the wool yarn really shows up in this one because of the weight. monday night, when i could bring myself to do nothing else, i ripped it and now have 6 lovely skeins of worstedish shetland to dye.

recycled worsted weight shetland

here it is straightened and in close

up close

why is shetland so different?

it is a down-type wool (as opposed to a fine wool like merino or a long wool like blue faced leister). popular, i think, partially because it is one of the softer down-type wools and because it has such an amazing history of being used in knitting. it’s unusual that we know or find things that are so deeply historical and rooted in this day and age. i am always amazed when i find any sort of garment that specifies the kind of sheep wool it is made out of. that goes to show you how respected shetland wool is. in the book In Sheep’s Clothing: A Handspinner’s Guide to Wool, Nola and Jane Fournier describe it as such:

“Shetland has the finest wool among the British breeds, with a silky but slightly crisp hand. The staples are indistinct with tapered tips; the entire fleece is somewhat open. The wool doesn’t have a noticeable luster and the well-developed crimp gives it a light, airy feel.”

Shetlands are also well known for their rich variety of natural colors, as you can see if you click on the link to dancing heart farm below.

most of the shetland sweaters that i buy to recycle yield yarn of the weight pictured below, but even here you can see the incredible loftiness of this wool.

recycled shetland

i also spun a little shetland at spinning group weekend before last. the sheepy’s name is meghan (she resides at dancing heart farm) and her fleece is lovely. it’s very nice of her to share it with me ;)  i used my drop spindle.  click on that link if you’d like to see what shetlands look like.  baaaaa. here’s the center pull.


i have a theory that shetland exists mostly in thin form because that’s the easiest way to make an even yarn with it. also, it may have to do with the history of how shetland has been used in colorwork and shawls – both requiring a fine yarn. however, i was tickled pink (a phrase my mom would use) to see the wool in thicker form in this sweater because it shows off the unique characteristics a lot better to the naked eye. i do like different textures :) and this new thrifted wool is very different than doubling the thinner stuff (which also gives a nice texture).

p.s. there was a whole flock of shetlands for sale on craigslist last week. how sad was i that i couldn’t buy them? it reads, “Gorgeous flock of Shetland sheep (8) all colors. Great for spinning and yarn work. Registered. Also have 3 Angora goats. $50 each. All must go. Downsizing. Very healthy, innoculated and well cared for.”

p.p.s. i can’t believe the ad’s still up!

7 thoughts on “shetland wool

  1. I love that little ball of shetland. I spun some brown shetland and it looks very similar.

    How do you find small sweaters? I can’t seem to find them anywhere. :(

  2. My first attempt at ripping a sweater failed but you inspire me to try again!! We were supposed to go to a local sheep farm today with my daughters playschool group. It was cancelled because of snow and hopefully we will go Friday-I can’t wait.

  3. I absolutely love Shetland wool, and I love this entry devoted to it! I just bought 4 pounds (2 white, 1 light gray, 1 dark gray) and I’m very excited to spin it. I actually plan to set some aside to make your Old Shale Smoke Ring.

    FYI: Twin Springs Farm in Avonmore (out here in Westmoreland Co.) is shearing their flock of Shetlands on Saturday. I’ll post details on the Rav Pgh board, as I’ve been meaning to do for a few days.

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