Shetland Sheep: Hardy & Fine

Of the British breeds, Shetland sheep are one of the smallest with distinguishing features such as small, erect ears and a short, fluke-shaped tail that is broad at the base, tapers to a point, and is covered at the tip in hair, not wool. The breed is hardy, thrifty, adaptable, and long-lived, making them ideal for life on the isles of Shetland. There are eleven main colours recognized by the breed association and thirty different coat patterns and markings associated with the sheep. The Shetland breed is noted for its very fine wool.

In visiting with various makers on the isles, I have seen knitwear and tweed made from Shetland wool that is soft to the touch and keeps the cold wind at bay. While visiting the Jamieson’s of Shetland mill in Sandness, one cannot help but notice their multi-patterned and colourful knits as well as their wonderfully soft and durable tweeds. And then there is the beautiful and uniquely designed hand-woven tweeds produced by the joint-effort of The Shetland Tweed Company and GlobalYell. Commercial weaving was developed in Shetland by 1900 and Shetland tweed has been exported world-wide since. Because of the wool’s durability, softness, and diversity in colour, you cannot help but fall in love with Shetland knitwear and tweed.

Recently, I had the opportunity to mingle with these good-natured sheep at the croft of Quam B&B and near the Gloup Memorial. The collage pictured above includes just some of the wonderful faces I saw looking back at me while I wandered around in the fields. Of course, there always has to be one who is difficult and not giving me a full-on look!

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