The Shetland sheep is a small, fine-wooled breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles where their fleece was roved and spun into fine yarn. Shetland sweaters, hats, etc. were knit in an infinite variety of colored Fair Isle design patterns. Today, in North America, there is a resurgence of interest in mastering these old skills.
One of the marvelous aspects of the Shetland is its variability within the breed. A small spinner’s flock can produce ultra-fine Shetland yarn for handknits as well as coarser, but equally gorgeous yarns suitable for sturdy socks and warm outer garments and remarkable tapestry yarns.
Shetland sheep can show almost all possible sheep colors and patterns, although solid white and solid moorit (reddish brown) are most common. Many of the colors and patterns have Shetland dialect names derived from the Norn language formerly spoken in Shetland. Eleven main colours are recognised (most including many different shades): light grey, grey, white, emsket (dusky bluish-grey), musket (light greyish-brown), shaela (dark steely-grey), black, fawn, moorit (reddish brown), mioget (honey-toned, yellowish-brown), dark brown.
The Border Leicester is a British breed of sheep. It is a polled, long-wool sheep. Border Leicester wool falls in long, shining locks that are popular with hand spinners.
Natural home grown wool produced by Shetland sheep
Shetland wool is very soft and fine, with one of the widest ranges of natural colors of any sheep in the world. Most Shetland sheep are a single color however some have exciting marking patterns. Some are snow white while others are various shades of silvery gray to coal black. Still others are shades of brown ranging from a light champagne color through medium brown to a dark Hershey bar color.