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Sheep on Shetland.

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(Sheep watching us in Eshaness)

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(Pair of stunning black rams at Uradale)

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(Lambs at Uradale)

They are everywhere.

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(At Eshaness)

On the road,

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(In Walls. Many roads are single lane so there are these “Passing Place” signs all over the place….along with the sheep!)

By the windmill,

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(In Walls, by Burrastow House)

Posing….

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(Eshaness)

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(In Walls, right by Burrastow House)

According to Ronnie Eunson of Uradale Farm and Gary at Jamieson’s, there are about 150,000-200,000 heads of sheep on Shetland, of which only about 50,000 are Shetland breed.

It still outnumbers the human population of about 22,000!

We think that white is the dominant color in sheep, but in fact, it’s the color that has been bred for and, again according to Ronnie, in a remote place like Foula, the dominant color is moorit.

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(Natural colored Shetland rams at Uradale)

I have been asking everyone I can think about for the last 6 months about this (due to some breeding that is occurring at Shepherd’s Hey Farm) and Judith MacKenzie said that white is not the dominant color for sheep, as well.

(OK, so I went off track. I’m sure I will be writing more about why I care so much about this soon.)

It’s because of this below. But…again, that is CLEARLY not a Shetland sheep and clearly not on Shetland.

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(“BBP”, Corriedale ram at Shepherd’s Hey Farm in Maryland, and Lucy checking him out)

On Shetland, we visited a few sheep  and fleece “experts” on the trip, including Gary at Jamieson’s;

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(Hi, Gary)

Oliver at Jamieson & Smith, who is a wool classer and has been working at Jamieson & Smith for 49 years (he writes for the J&S blog and there is a great post here about Shetland sheep and here about sorting and classing the wool);

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See? He’s showing us what is not desirable in yarn for handknitting (guard hair/kemp!) but perfectly fine for other uses.

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And Ronnie Eunson of Uradale Farm.

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When we visited Uradale, Ronnie had rounded up some beautiful natural colored Shetland sheep (mostly rams but there was at least one girl in there!) from his flock.

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So he can hand shear a couple for us.

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I know what you are thinking. How could I be in presence of so many sheep and not even talk about yarn? Stay tuned!!

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(Photo: at Eshaness)

One of my friends said, “I didn’t know there are pilgrimages in World of Yarn (WoY)”.

I didn’t know, either.

But, I would have to say Shetland, with its strong tradition in fair isle sweaters, lace shawls and the sheep, has to rank as one of the top 10 “WoY” pilgrimage destinations.

I have wanted to go to the Shetland Islands for a very long time. And, I am lucky enough to say that I have just returned from a marvelous trip.

IMG_1227 (Photo: Mary Jane knitting her latest fair isle hat. Pattern to be released soon, right, MJ?)

Knitting designers/gurus Gudrun Johnston and Mary Jane Mucklestone started running these fiber-centric tours to Shetland last summer. The moment the notice for this year’s trip was mailed out, I had my deposit down and flights purchased.

They took me, and 12 other knitters on a week-long journey through the islands, enjoying the fantastic landscape,

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(Photo: Da Grind o’ da Navir in Eshaness)

the knitting tradition,

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(Photo: Beautiful handspun, handknit sweater by Elizabeth Johnston)

and the current craft industry as it stands today.

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(Photo: The beautiful studio of Morwenna Garrick, a textile designer)

We were based at the gorgeous Burrastow House, in Walls, where we were spoiled by Pierre’s fabulous cooking.

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We saw a lot, crafted a lot, and had a grand time. More about the sheep we met during out Shetland adventure next time.