Shetlands can produce wonderful hand spinning wool. As a hand spinner and shepherd of this wonderful breed my main goal is to produce a fabulous end product that I would be excited to use. At McTavish Farm we strive for a soft, lustrous fleece with a micron count generally between 23-30. In addition, we make efforts to keep our adventurous sheep out of the weeds and blackberries as well as keeping the hay off their backs at feeding time so their fleeces are as free of debris as possible.
Shetland sheep come in a variety of natural colors including black, brown, gray, white and all the colors in between. As Shetlands are concidered an "unimproved" breed they vary in fleece type, some are classified as "beaver" type, while others have a more "kindly" fleece. The "beaver" type fleece has a more tippy end to the lock structure. This fleece type tends to have a longer staple length (6-8") and is made up of two fiber types, a longer, slightly coarser group of fibers (can still be below 30 microns) and shorter downy fibers. It serves the sheep well by shedding the rain off the tippy ends while the soft undercoat provides warmth. In spinning, the long fibers can be easily pulled out leaving the softer undercoat. Or, if the longer fibers are fine, they can be left in to spin. In the “kindly” type fleece the lock structure tends to be a bit shorter (2-4”) with a more uniform fiber diameter and length. Both are a joy to spin in their own ways.
Shetlands produce about a 2-5 pound fleece that is low in lanolin (or oils). This is a nice, manageable amount for the hand spinner and easy to clean. It’s size provides enough fleece for a sweater but not too much to make one feel overwhelmed. If you are interested in purchasing a fleece, roving (ready to spin) or yarn from our flock please write or call for availability. Our price for fleeces ranges from $10-20 per pound depending on their quality and cleanliness. We would be happy to send you a sample upon request. Please see our blog for current raw fleeces for sale.