Shetland sheep are thrifty. They are primitive enough to be efficient foragers only needing supplementation when kept in small lots and over winter and even then require significantly less feed and water than other breeds.
- fine enough to be soft,
- dense enough to keep out the dirt and vegetation and
- has a light lanolin that is pleasant to spin raw or easy to wash out.
Shetland wool/sheep comes in an amazing array of natural colors. I have never learned to really enjoy dying. I do know how, I even know some cool tricks to make great yarns. I even teach a class in coordinating fabric colors and patterns for quilts...but I don't enjoy dying wool and yarn. I discovered a long time ago that natural colors NEVER clash. There is no such thing as natural colors that don't work together. Natural colors don't bleed, fade or rub off. There are 11 main colors with many modified varieties and many more patterns! Shetland knitting is known for it's color work. Most of that wasn't even done with dyes! You can achieve everything from the blackest black to orange-red to sparkling white and every shade in between with just the natural colors of Shetland wool. What's not to love about that?
Shetland sheep also come in a variety of color patterns. Now, from a handspinner's point of view, a patterned animal can be amusing. I didn't say great, I said amusing. The different color areas are very often of distinctly different textures. That can be good...or not. White areas are often much more soft and fine than dark. If I plan to blend or use the fleece together, this might cause quite an issue. Patterned animals in a commercial venture are almost useless. Since there is no consistency of color, the patterned fleece can only be used to overdye black or navy. Remember what I said about limiting my choices? there ya go. For my own handspinning uses, I do enjoy the black variety badger-faced fleeces. In Shetlands this is known as Katmoget. They have a soft range of color from very dark to lightest silver and I enjoy playing with those colors. Aesthetically, patterned animals are pleasing to many people and let's face it, if you look at the critter every day, you might as well enjoy it.
So there is my treatise on why I love Shetland sheep and fleece. If you have interest in working with or learning about these amazing little critters, please do check out the site I mentioned. It includes everything from wool qualities, history, husbandry and breed standards.
Shetland Wool, taking all its properties together, is perhaps the completest
article of the kind in the universe, possessing at the same time, the gloss and
softness of silk, the strength of cotton, the whiteness of linen, and the warmth
Sir John Sinclair
September 22, 1790