Friday, January 15, 2021

Shetland Magic

Happy Shetlands in a magical landscape:
no wornder they make wonderful wool !

These last two weeks were filled with a huge amount of dyeing ! All the clubs have been dyed and drying while I type this and this weekend I will do heaps of carding to get all the funky bunny batts done plus some angora bunny yarn spinning for custom orders. I sure have my weekend sorted! How about you? I am also still working on my colourwork cowl design knitting, but with so much dyeing that needed to be done, I just did not seem to have any time left! I really need somebody to invent more time….lol While doing lots of dyeing there’s obviously no way I can read at the same time, like I do when I spin yarn (yes I can spin yarn and read at the same time : you just need to be a fast page turner…lol), but I am listening to audiobooks then or the news. The latest audiobook I have listened to is “A life on our planet” by David Attenborough narrated by himself. It was a brilliant book and even better to listen to for 6 hours. What a life he has had and still has ! The changes he has witnessed over the times to our environment is shocking. We so need to do more to preserve what is left and make sure not mire species go extinct. The next on the list was “A promised Land” By Barack Obama. Totally different but also narrated by someone with a very distinctive and beautiful voice. I am still working on that one, because this one is a full 30 hours ! < br />

Now, for the update of tonight is an amazing new blend of a super soft batch of Shetland wool blended with ultra shiny Mulberry Silk and a dash of Australian Cashmere.

Sheep have lived on the Shetland Islands for well over 1,000 years, adapting to the harsh environment and thriving in the cold, wet climate.

The sheep of Shetland were an important part of subsistence agriculture of the islands, and the rugged habitat and geographical isolation produced a breed that is distinct and significant. The Shetland breed likely descends from ancient Scandinavian sheep, and it is a member of the northern short tailed sheep breed family. Historically, only a few Shetland sheep were exported, and it was not until recently that large populations were established on the British mainland and in other countries. Though fleece continues to be the breed’s primary product today,

Shetland sheep are fine boned and small in size. Rams weigh 90–125 pounds, and ewes weigh 75–100 pounds. Most rams have spiraled horns, while most ewes are polled. Shetland sheep are calm and charming in disposition, docile, and intelligent. The Shetland breed is especially prized for its wool, which is fine, soft, and strong. Fleeces average two to four pounds and vary in crimp from wavy to straight. Other characteristics of the fleece vary according to recent selection history.
Populations of Shetlands in Britain, for example, have been selected for more standardized characteristics. These sheep tend to be single coated with fiber diameter averages of 23 microns and staple lengths of two to five inches.

Landrace populations, such as those on the island of Foula, include a greater range of fleece types. These sheep may be double coated, with coarser outer wool of 30-40 microns and finer inner coat wool of 12-20 microns.

Eleven colors and thirty color patterns are recognized in the Shetland breed. This diversity is a great asset both to the breed and to the fiber artisans who enjoy using its fleeces. A few importations of Shetland sheep are documented in North America during the past two centuries. For example, Thomas Jefferson, owned a small flock of Shetland sheep at Monticello. None of the historic flocks, however, survived as purebred populations. Most Shetland sheep in North America descend from a 1980 importation of 32 sheep by the late G.D. Dailley of Ontario, Canada.

Unfortunately there are no Shetland Sheep in Australia. I have been very fortunate to secure this supersoft batch of 18,4 micron Shetland which is truly extraordinary to spin, felt, knit and wear.

The Shetland Islands were originally settled by Neolithic farmers over 4500 years ago. The horns of the sheep they raised have been found in archaeological digs on the islands, providing evidence of their presence. 

When the Vikings invaded and settled the Shetland Islands around the year 800, they brought over some short-tailed sheep from their continental herds, which interbred with the local sheep to produce further variation in an already hardy breed. 

By the year 1200, farmers began breeding the sheep of the Shetland Islands with some of the long-woolled sheep that had been brought north by the Romans. Either by accident or on purpose, this developed wool that was both longer and softer, and was therefore quite desirable for woolen goods that could both be used at home and that could be traded. 

 In 1468, the Shetland Islands were mortgaged to Scotland to raise a dowry for the marriage of Margaret, a Danish princess, to James III of Scotland. A few years following the marriage, the Scottish decided to just go ahead and annex the islands. Despite the protests of the Danes, they succeeded and the Shetland Islands became a part of Scotland. Trade in wool from the Shetland Islands was already occurring by this point, although it was likely happening only with Scotland and the Nordic countries. However, by the early 1600s knitted stockings from Shetland sheep wool, well known by then for its softness and comfort, were available through trade to the English and the Dutch populations. 

 In 1707 the Shetland Islands officially became a part of the Kingdom of Great Britain when the Acts of Union united England and Scotland as one country. At this time, wool from Shetland sheep was already widely known as a quality wool that was already softer than much of the other wool that was available. Except, of course, for the wool from Spain’s Merino sheep, which was highly regarded throughout Europe as the softest wool available on the market. 
As the late 1700s arrived, Great Britain set their sights on disrupting Spain’s firm grip on fine wool market. It is important to understand that the wool industry in Europe during the 1700s and early 1800s was as beneficial to a country’s economy as industries such as steel, aluminum and technology are today. A country that could produce fine wool in great quantities was a country that would have a solid financial base, and with a solid financial base came power and influence. Great Britain wanted to be that country, and believed that by acquiring Spain’s Merino sheep to breed with their own, the British wool industry would as least be equal to Spain’s – if not outright exceed that of Spain’s. Unfortunately for Great Britain, Spain simply didn’t want to give them any Merino sheep. Spain tightly controlled their Merino sheep and while Spain had made gifts of Merino sheep to some countries beginning in 1735, England was not on their list. Who could blame them? Prior to Spain’s development of Merino sheep, the English had been dominant players in Europe’s wool industry and Spain certainly did not want them to regain their position in the wool market. Enter King George III of Great Britain, Sir Joseph Banks, and Sir John Sinclair. 

By the 1880s, King George III had commanded Sir Joseph Banks to either find or develop a sheep that could compete the Spanish Merinos. At this point in history, a revolution in English sheep breeding using methodical, scientific and selective techniques had been going on within Great Britain for a couple of decades (see the article on Bluefaced Leicester). So, King George III and Banks had good reason to believe that by identifying and breeding just the right sheep, they could come up with something that would allow Great Britain to compete with Spain’s wool industry. With Merinos unavailable, Banks looked around the globe for sheep that would be suitable for wool-improvement purposes, even going so far as to examine sheep from Tibet. Sir John Sinclair of Scotland, a friend of Banks, had identified Shetland sheep as a promising breed. King George III was already a fan of having his stockings made of Shetland wool. The question was, could Shetland sheep be bred for the qualities the British wanted to have without Merinos, or would Merinos be required? Banks and Sinclair began a long correspondence by letters during the late 1780s through the 1790s exploring the possibilities. Sinclair sent samples of Shetland wool to Banks, but Banks was doubtful that the samples being sent to him, while fine and soft, were representative of the entire breed. He had noted that “stichel hairs,” longer and coarser hairs, were found in samples procured elsewhere. In fact, this was because many of the Shetland sheep of the time, like Icelandic sheep, were double coated and could produce both fine and thicker wool. Some Shetland sheep today still retain this trait. 

 Sinclair pressed Banks for many years to consider Shetland sheep as what Great Britain needed to breed for fine wool, describing what he referred to as the “kindly breed” of Shetland, or Shetland sheep that did not have the double coat with longer hairs that Banks disliked. He gifted Shetland wool to Banks that was “properly dressed and prepared” to exclude the long, rough hairs, making sure to include separate samples for Banks’ wife. He continually sent letters to Banks reassuring him that many of the Shetland sheep were free from the dreaded “stitchel hairs,” and then sent more letters discussing how he was looking at sheep from Denmark without long, coarse wool that might be bred with the Shetland to further reduce that trait. In another letter he describes how it is the method of gathering wool that produces the soft locks that Sinclair is looking for – Shetland sheep at the time, and many even today, will molt which allows the wool to be plucked off of the sheep. Sinclair let Banks know that this process, called rooing, meant that the wool was sorted between the fine wool and coarse wool as the plucking occurred. Despite all of Sinclair’s efforts, Banks was unconvinced that Shetland sheep were the answer. He continued to look for ways to get Merino sheep to breed with the sheep of Great Britain, which he was certain was the solution to improve the wool qualities in British flocks. 

In 1787, Banks managed to get two Merino rams and four Merino ewes out of Portugal, which became the base of the royal flock. Around this time, it can been seen from Sinclair’s letters that he gave up on the quest to convince Banks that Shetland sheep were the way of Great Britain’s future. Instead, Sinclair began to focus on breeding newly acquired Merinos from the royal flock to other sheep, and the Shetlands’ moment of glory began to fade. The Shetlands, like several other breeds of British sheep from that time, started to disappear as interbreeding for wool improvement resulting in the development of other lines of sheep. 

By the early 1920s, there were not many purebred Shetland sheep left. The wearing of Fair Isle sweaters by the British royal family in the early 1920 may have saved Shetland sheep from extinction. Fair Isle knitting is a stranded colourwork technique named after Fair Isle, one of the Shetland Islands, where distinctively patterned sweaters were knit using the technique. 

These sweaters began their rise to popularity in 1921, when the Prince of Wales (later Edward III) wore his in public. Knitted mainly with the many hues of naturally colored wool produced by the sheep of the Shetland Islands, along with some dyed wool accents, these sweaters began to become immensely popular with the broader public. 

The Fair Isle sweater hit the height of its popularity in the 1950s, although by that point it was often just the technique and design that made a sweater a Fair Isle sweater; it was no longer necessarily expected that the wool of the sweater be from the Shetland Islands, although if it was it did give the sweater that extra authenticity. With the burgeoning popularity of Fair Isle sweaters, it is perhaps not surprising that a group of 1920s Shetland islanders were motivated to preserve the few remaining lines of Shetland sheep. 

The Shetland Flock Book Society started in 1927, and around the same time the government was approached for assistance. The Department of Agriculture for Scotland agreed to support the effort by providing subsidies for purebred Shetland rams. The breed recovered slowly, though. Even the Fair Isle sweaters that were still knitted in the Shetland Islands during the 1950s did not necessarily use wool from the Shetland breed of sheep – there were still too few purebred Shetland sheep around, and the style of the day required bright dyed colors rather than the variety of natural colors provided by Shetland sheep – and dyed wool could be gotten from any sheep with white wool, not just white-wooled Shetland sheep. 

 By 1977, Shetland sheep were still listed as an endangered breed by the Rare Breed Survival Trust. However, interest in the sheep blossomed over the next several years, and by 1985 Shetland sheep were removed from the endangered breed list. It was perhaps not coincidental that the 1980s also marked the time during which Shetland sheep became popular among small farmers in United States. Although a few Shetland flocks had existed in the U.S. prior to the 1920s, it wasn’t a popular breed in the country until the 1980s, a time when many farmers in the U.S. were experiencing a renewed interest in rare breeds. 

A few Shetland flocks are on record as having existed in the United States during the early 1900s. However, from 1921 until the 1980s, Shetland sheep were not allowed to be imported to the United States, which prevented U.S. farmers from acquiring Shetland sheep during those decades. Today, though, a number of U.S. farmers are making up for lost time by raising Shetland sheep. It is a rare county fair, state fair, or fiber animal show that does not include these adorable little sheep among its ranks of livestock. 

Shetland sheep come in a wide variety of marking and colors – they include white sheep, black sheep, and a wide range of browns and grays. As a heritage, unimproved breed, Shetland sheep have one of three different kinds of fleeces: kindly/single-coated, long, and double-coated. The kindly/single-coated is the finest and shortest of the fleeces at only about 2-4 inches in length; it is used for fine knits such as lace, shawls and finely worked socks. The long fleeced Shetlands with soft and long staple wool between 4-8 inches in length are the most common these days, and much of the available yarn on the market is spun from their fleeces. 

The double-coated Shetland sheep are even more versatile than that of either of the other types, having a remarkably soft undercoat of wool and long and lustrous outercoat of wool that can reach lengths between 6-10 inches or more. The coats of the double-coated sheep can be separated, or spun together. Generally, Shetland wool has a thickness of 23-25 microns, but is can be even finer or thicker depending upon where it is gathered from the sheep. Wool between 10-20 microns can be gathered from the neck and shoulders, while wool between 25-30 microns can be gathered from the britches. Like Merino, many people who find wool to be irritating to their skin discover that wearing clothing made from the wool of Shetland sheep to be quite comfortable and not itchy at all. The wool is graded from Fine at its smallest diameter of 10 microns to Medium at its largest diameter of 30 microns, making it a very comfortable wool to wear.

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 !!!

IxCHeL Shetland Dream Tops

Shetland sheep, Mulberry silk , Cashmere (70/25/5)

100+gram top    AU$25

Natural    SOLD

Blue Men of Minch (dyed with Indigo)    SOLD

(also known as storm kelpies),
 who occupy the stretch of water between Lewis and mainland Scotland, 
looking for sailors to drown and stricken boats to sink.

Woad Sky     SOLD
 (Dyed with homegrown woad plants)

Changeling Child    2 LEFT
(There was a myth that fairies would kidnap a baby and then replace it with a fairy child, a changeling, that looked identical so the parents would never know but for tiny little differences in behaviour. )

Kelpies  SOLD
(Kelpies are fabled water-spirits in the Lowland Scotland which are said to assume different shapes. Normally, they appear in the form of a horse. 
There is another spirit known as water-kelpie 
which reportedly "haunts" lakes and rivers,
 and indulge in drowning people. 
It is also reported to help running mills during night hours.)

Wulvers    SOLD
(Wulvers are good natured creatures, similar to werewolves. 
They are said to leave food for poor families)

Seonaidh SOLD

(Seonaidh was a Celtic water-spirit which the residents of Lewis used to worship with offer of a glass of ale. According to Dr. Martin, one night the people of Lewis appeased Seonaidh. They assembled at the church of St. Mulway, each person carried food and necessities needed for the worship. Then, from the bag of malt collected from each family, ale was brewed. Then a chosen member of the congregation waded into the sea to waist deep level holding the ale filled cup, and offered ale to Seonaidh with the prayer: "I give thee this cup of ale, hoping that thou wilt be so good as to send us plenty of seaware for enriching our ground during the coming year". This event occurred in the night. After performing the offering the person who made the offering returned to the beach, and all the assembled people moved to the church where at the altar a lighted candle was shining. After some time, when the time was appropriate, the candle was put out. The inhabitants then assembled in a field behind the church and celebrated by drinking ale. They then went back home with the hope that they would be blessed with a surfeit of crops in the coming season.) 

Selkies        SOLD

(Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land, 
often to dance in the light of the full moon. 
If they lose their skin whilst in human form, they will however, 
be stuck in their human form forever. 
When taking human form they are said to have beautiful green hair. 
They will often reside on rocks and islands that are hidden among the waves, 
in order to protect themselves from humans. 
Selkies are mortal creatures.
The legend is apparently most common in Orkney and Shetland)

Up Helly Aa   SOLD

(Up Helly Aa is a type of fire festival held annually from January to March in various communities in Shetland, Scotland to mark the end of the yule season. Each festival involves a torchlit procession by squads of costumed participants (known as guizers) that culminates in the burning of an imitation Viking galley. The largest festival held in Lerwick, Shetland's capital, involves a procession of up to a thousand guizers who march through the streets of Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January.) 

Dragonfly in Amber      2 LEFT

Sithchean Faeries       sold

The Sithchean (or fairies) are a morally ambiguous supernatural race of 

small humanoid creatures that inhabit knolls and places of 

special significance across the Hebrides. 

Evidence of the Sithche are found throughout the Hebrides interwoven 

within its landscape, stories, music and 

traditional healing beliefs of the native Hebridean people.

To order: email or message me on facebook or Instagram, quoting the colourway and the quantity you would like, together with your postal address and I will get right back to you with all the payment details.

IxCHeL Tweed Yarn  

Hand dyed

Super soft lambs wool 70% and Kid Mohair 30%

Spun singles, fingering or sock weight yarn

+/- 200meters/218yards

50grams      1.76oz


Botanical dyes 
(dyed with Eucalypt, Madder root, Walnut, Elderberry, Indigo,Acorn)


Unicorn Speckles


NEW NEW NEW NEW colours !!! 

 IxCHeL Tweed Yarn 

Super soft lambs wool 70% and Kid Mohair 30%

Spun singles, fingering or sock weight yarn

+/- 200meters/218yards

50grams      1.76oz


Nephrite Jade 
 (A beautiful deep sage green colour with fun blue, lime and salmon speckles)

Grevillea + new ! 
 A vibrant raspberry pink tweed with deep purple, lime and soft pink speckles)

To order: email or message me on facebook, Ravelry or Instagram, quoting the colourway and the quantity you would like, together with your postal address and I will get right back to you with all the payment details.

IxCHeL Tweed fingering weight yarn

Super soft lambs wool 70% and Kid Mohair 30%

Spun singles, fingering or sock weight yarn

+/- 200meters/218yards

50grams      1.76oz


Great Barrier Reef

Leafy Seadragon

Flying Fox

Airlie Beach

Sea Mist


(A beautiful sunshine yellow that goes so well with the kookaburra the silver grey)

Kata Tjuta           BACK IN STOCK !!!
(an intense pure red that goes well with the Kookaburra and the Wattle and the Amethyst colourway and soooooo  many others)

(a beautiful silver grey with ochre accents that complement the dingo colourway)

( A beautiful warm honey ochre with pops of royal bluebell, kingfisher and kangaroo paw)

Dusky Grevillea
(a gorgeous raspberry base with pops of royal bluebell, flowering gum, grey and daintree)

Flowering Gum
( a gorgeous medieval warm red with bright red, kookaburra and fern forest accents)

Fern Forest
( a deep forest green with accents of bright red, dusky purple and daintree) )

( a fabulous deep purple with accents of royal bluebell, daintree, grevillea and kingfisher )

( a fabulous deep walnut brown with accents of dingo and kookaburra)

Kangaroo Paw 
( a fabulous warm orange with accents of fern forest, royal bluebell and grevillea and dingo )

isn’t it gorgeous how the Kangaroo paw knits up?! )

Royal Bluebell 
( a deep blue with accents of flowering gum, kookaburra and fern forest )

( a warm light brown with accents of soft blue and kookaburra)

Daintree ( a soft green with accents of fern forest and dingo)

( a fabulous Turquoise blue with accents of fern forest, kangaroo paw, Jacaranda and Grevillea)

Landscape dyes

 100g tubs   AU$12
250 g tubs AU$27

Want to dye your own with easy to use acid dyes? I have been selling these Landscape dyes at my workshops and shows for a long time :  They are extremely easy to use and come in great shades.
Just contact me with the name of the colour you are after and I will get right back to you.

All my contact details are here:

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 a fun weekend !!!

How To Order:
1. You can email me on ixchelbunnyart at gmail dot com  or ixchelbunny at yahoo dot com dot au
2. Message me on facebook or 
3. Message me on  where I am ixchelbunny.
4. message me on Instagram 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.

Keep your eyes out for any news on the 

ixchelbunny Instagram feed and the IxCHeL facebook page!!


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