Up until last year I had only spun and knit lace yarns from Shetland fibre. Deciding to delve a little deeper, I purchased five pounds of roving in 5 natural colours: white, light grey, dark grey, dark brown and fawn. I spun the whole lot up and set them aside for nature dyeing once I decide on a project.
I also wanted to see what kind of differences my own scouring and fibre preparation methods would make to my handspun. So naturally, I purchased a “few” fleeces from a Shetland sheep breeder on Vancouver Island. The first natural white fleece I scoured was from a sheep called “Happy” and it sure lives up to its name. The lustre in this fleece is incredible….it simply glistens….the first skein taken off the niddy noddy made my heart leap. So, if you have the time and the inclination, starting with fleece is definitely worth your while. Something to keep in mind too is Shetland fleeces are on the smaller side. So scouring is not so large or as intimidating a task as it may seem. I scoured Happy’s fleece in small batches over just a few days. After the fleece was dry, I simply picked and drum carded the fibre as more was needed for spinning.
I am anxious to see how Shetland yarn dyes up too. I recall some time ago reading that the dye process makes Shetland “hard”. I have an inkling, but am not sure what exactly the author meant and am interested to see how my own dyeing fairs….water hardness and pH can be so different between one locale and another…..causing dyers to have very different experiences….even when using the same dyes and fibres. As soon as my lilac tree is ready this spring….I will be dyeing sample skeins of “Happy” a very cheery yellow colour.
In the meantime, the natural coloured Shetland skeins beckoned me. They are so beautiful in and of themselves. Not able to resist, I started a small Allover project, the “Northman Mittens” pattern by David Schultz. This pattern is a great first project as I teach myself knitting techniques for Allover pattern work. I must warn you though working with Shetland has proved addictive……………..I have started on the second mitten of the pair and am already dreaming of which natural colours to use for the next pair as I wait for spring and my lilac tree to leaf.