Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Shetland fleece tutorial

Friday morning I got up early and drove north to Puyallup, WA for the Shepherd's Extravaganza. Thanks to Shetland breeder Franna Pitt, a specific breed was featured for the first time - Shetland! With Franna's encouragement and assistance, I entered my four fleeces and volunteered to help so I could get up close and personal with each entry and hear what judge Ingrid Painter had to say.

It was a great experience. There were 39 Shetland fleeces entered - including two of Linda Wendelboe's from Canada! One of hers was a lovely pewter fleece, a rare modified color. I got to play "touchy-feely" with it and all the other Shetland fleeces, striving to educate my hand and eye while listening to the judge's comments.

Ms. Painter also talked about the Shetland breed's history from hundreds of years ago through the present day. This information became especially pertinent when she evaluated Dinah's and Bella's fleeces. Both of them, she felt, were too long and heavy (the biggest fleeces in their respective groups!) for "historic Shetlands" (my term, not hers), indicating effects of "up-breeding" done from about 200 years ago to the 1920s. (She still deemed them nice fleeces and very spinnable, awarding them blue ribbons using the Danish system.)

Rechel's fleece got a red ribbon; Valentine's was a top blue. That meant Valentine's was in contention for the top adult ewe and the top three Shetland fleeces overall. It didn't win anything in the end, but I was thrilled nonetheless. (That's hers in the foreground bag; the judge is on the left.)
In the final tally, I learned a lot about one judge's opinion of my girls and Shetland fleeces in general, got an education on fleece types and skirting for show, reveled in seeing and handling dozens of fleeces, put faces with the names of three NW Shetland breeders - AND sold one fleece. While I would have liked to have sold more, this means I have fleeces to spin. Two women from my church have expressed a desire to purchase some of my handspun, so I'm kind of excited! (Does anyone know where I can order more hours in my days?)

This is Franna Pitt, left, and Donna Schoonover holding the NASSA Tartan.

That's it for now at . . .


Franna said...

Michelle, What great photos! I'm sure glad you took the time to drive up, it was great fun learning and visiting with you. I thought your fleeces were quite nice. :-)

melanie said...


Congratulations on your fleeces! You can tell from the photos you do an exceptional job with your girls.

When you finally do find the time to spin, perhaps you can let us readers know - I would love to purchase some handspun yarn.

If nothing else, to give me inspiration and a goal to work toward as I wrestle with my spinning lessons!

Lauren said...

Fascinating! I wish I had been there. When I go to Taos in October, and yes, I am definitely going this year David, I will have to pay more attention to the fleece judging.

Thanks for sharing!

Kathy L. said...

This is a great entry Michelle! I suggest you write this up for an article in the NASSA News! We all aren't in areas where judging occurs, so it would be really great to have your input out there for everyone!
Write, write, write, write, write........................

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I'm dubious, Kathy. There are SOOOO many Shetland breeders out there with more knowledge than me -- and many of them probably wouldn't agree with me OR the judge! (Remember, with you I'm preaching to the choir!)