Friday, October 23, 2015

Sea Sheep Love

Do you love Seaweed? Did you know that there are sheep who do? Today's update is all about a very special rare breed sheep on the Scottish Isle of North Ronaldsay.

The North Ronaldsay Sheep are the only animals in the world, aside from a certain Galapagos lizard, to be able to subsist entirely on seaweed, leading to its nickname ‘seaweed sheep’. The breed is thought to be over 5000 years old. The breed is farmed within the Northern Ronaldsay Islands, Orkney and kept nearby the seashore for most of the year. In 1832 the Laird of North Ronaldsay decided that his pastureland should not be wasted on native sheep and a dyke was built round the island to keep them on the shore and off the land. It was most probably this separation that resulted in the preservation of the North Ronaldsay, as it prevented cross breeding which had been the downfall of other Orkney sheep.

The North Ronaldsay is one of the Northern Shorttailed primitive group of breeds that also includes the Manx Loghtan, Soay, Shetland and Icelandic . The North Ronaldsay is still mainly found on its native island, the northernmost of the Orkneys. The sheep keeping system on North Ronaldsay is unique and involves a stone wall which keeps the sheep on the seashore and away from the cultivated land for most of the year. This wall was built in 1832 and since then the breed has evolved to survive primarily on seaweed. The sheep live on the seashore most of the year around and are only brought onto the better land for lambing.

The North Ronaldsay is one of group of primitive Northern Short-tailed sheep and represents a very early stage in the evolution of domestic sheep. DNA studies have shown a close relationship to sheep found in the Stone Age village of Skara Brae on mainland Orkney, which dates from 3000 BC. In 1832 a wall was built around their native island to confine the animals to the foreshore for most of the year in order to conserve the inland grazing. Since then the breed has developed its distinctive metabolism due to its diet of seaweed, which also renders it susceptible to copper poisoning under standard sheep management systems. North Ronaldsays are very sensitive to copper and will die of copper toxicity if put on the wrong type of grazing. This is due to their seaweed diet and the unique metabolism they have evolved. They should not be fed commercial sheep mixes as despite the label saying “No Added Copper” the normal ingredients used will often have a background level high enough to be toxic (ten parts per million is too high). The North Ronaldsay is capable of surving on less than larger breeds and is an active browser, used to ranging over long distances in search of food.

Colours of their fleece are variable: including white, various shades of grey, black and moorit (deep brown). The double fleece has coarse outer guard hairs and a fine soft inner coat. I have never ever felt and dyed something as extraordinary as this sheeps fleece. It is springy, almost feels moist even after its scouring and washing. It almost feels like it resists the dye when you pour the pigments on and everything immediately flows to the bottom, leaving the top layer of the fibre springy and almost without dye. At least, that is what appears to happen…it takes the dye beautifully and retains its springy texture and openness.

Before dyeing and spinning though was the rather painful process of getting rid of the guardhairs !

 Here’s a view of the raw fleece :
After all of the cleaning and carding you get what I am offering you today !

It is a dream to spin and work with. You can make a yarn that is strong and still soft to wear. It is very very special ! There are only about 600 of these seaweed sheep left in the world. Only through our effort of conservation of the environment and conservation through appreciation of this rare breed by spinning and knitting its fleece, can we hold on to one of the oldest and most special breeds in the world alive today.

There is a documentary about the island with its seaweed eating sheep on youtube for you to see; It shows you what the island looks like, the important wild life : Seals ! (warning ! Cute overload !) bird populations and of course its most famous inhabitants:" the seaweed sheep ! (another cute overload ! @ 16:50 mins in) :

Please understand that I do not have a lot of stock of this exceptional rare breed fibre. Do not wait too long to pounce on this week’s update to avoid disappointment. These tops  are an amazing spinning experience.

Please don't hesitate to contact me at any time if you have any questions okay? Always happy to enable. All my contact details are to be found at the end of this weeks blog entry. Have fun !!!

Pure North Ronaldsay Tops   

100 gram tops $22

Autumn leaves-sold-


Coffee In Winter-sold-

Don’t go-sold-

Feels like heaven-sold-


Indigo Dream-sold-

Love will tear us apart-sold-

Pop Musik-sold-

Promised you a Miracle-sold-

Rainbow Child-sold-

Rose Absolut-sold-

Soft Glow-sold-


Have a fun weekend Creating your Dreams!

Please don't hesitate to contact me at any time if you have any questions okay? Always happy to enable.

All my contact details are to be found at the end of this week’s blog entry.
Have fun !!!

Dates to put in your Calendar !!

The last two months of this year I have private workshops and spinning lessons on the calendar,  fibre art projects and exciting work for the Home of HoP Couture ;-)

I will let you all know when there are pop up market stalls or spin ins planned again for next year as soon as I know them.

How To Order:
1. You can email me on ixchel at rabbit dot com dot au or ixchelbunny at yahoo dot com dot au
2. message me on facebook or ravelry where I am Ixchelbunny.

I will email you right back with all your order details and payment methods.

Any questions? Any custom orders for yarn or dyeing fibre? Please don’t hesitate to ask! Always happy to enable.
Thank you so much for your help and support !


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