Mogul-jumping sheep!

Icelandic sheep in Grand Mound, WA waiting to be shorn.

Hello readers!  This is my first time producing a blog. It feels like riding a bike for the first time without training wheels, a little exhilarating and a whole lot scarey. Please have patience while I adjust to the idea of publishing my words for the viewing public!A few words about “my” sheep. I do not own a flock myself, but I feel like an owner because of the investment I make in taking the wonderful wool from local flocks and turn it into drool-worthy yarn.

My first source as a yarn company is from icelandic sheep grown in Grand Mound, Washington. If you’ve never heard of Grand Mound you are  not alone I am sure. It is a small rural community south of Olympia, and its pastures and rolling hills are literally covered in places with small mounds.  There are various theories about this geologic feature, one tale is that large prehistoric gophers built underground homes and then abandoned them (no kidding!). The resulting mounds that look like green moguls  make for uneven ground for grazing animals.  To see a picture of a field of these mounds click on this link:  http://www.perigeezero.org/treatise/Enigmas/geologic/mima_mounds/index.html

The icelandic sheep that make up the source for my current stock of yarn are looked after by a shepherd that is devoted to their welfare. They live on a ridge overlooking a lush valley, and share company with highland cattle, pigs, and chickens.  They are healthy, happy, and big producers of fiber.  Some of the lambs born in the spring have nearly as large a fleece by the fall as an adult sheep!  The fleece from this flock range from cream to grey to butter colored.  A good number of them have brown “spots” or “ruffs” around the neck, so that these sheep can produce a wide variety of natural colors.   Read more, and see pictures of icelandic sheep here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_sheep

Icelandic sheep are known as a “primitive” breed of sheep.  This means they are genetically closely related to the first domesticated sheep, and still have some of the early traits that make them hardy and sometimes independent minded.  They have a double coat, meaning they have a courser layer of hair with a downy undercoat.  The lambswool has less hair than adults, yielding a very soft downy wool.

Books about sheep and wool talk about the two-coated sheep as if the fleece is only good for the coarsest use, such as rugs or outer wear.  I do not agree!  Good nutrition and care make these healthy sheep capable of yielding a fleece that can be just as soft as any medium weight sheep’s wool.  I have also found a mill that will de-hair a double-coated fleece, leaving the downy undercoat to be used for a variety of yarn and projects.  For me this means icelandic fleece is very veratile.

Another pleasant surprise is the lively “hand” and amazing texture of this wool.  The fibers have life and character, providing features in a yarn that produce crisp, textured stitches, and possess a springiness not found in ultra soft fibers such as merino.  Bringing out the best in this wool calls for minimal processing and careful dyeing so that the fibers are not over worked.

Icelandic wool is easy to dye and takes non-toxic chemical dyes readily.  I particularly enjoy dyeing the grey wool because the colors take on rich hues and a wonderful intensity.  At the same time the natural greys from the fleece are so beautiful it is difficult to bring myself to dye them!  My experiments so far have resulted in some incredible reds, intense blues, deeply complex orange and bronze, and my favorite, greens.  My next post will contain pictures of these dye samples so you don’t have to take my word for it.

Again, welcome to my blog and I look forward to posting more photos of my work!