Welcome to my woolly little blog!!

Welcome to my woolly little blog!!
You are welcome to browse, comment, ask questions,
seek advice on a knitting issue and find out more about Shetland and it's world renowned wool.
Plus, some snippets and snaps from my everyday life.
So pull up a chair and sit awhile, away from the rush of the world.
Please do not use any images from my blog as most of them, unless otherwise stated, are my own work.
You are more than welcome to read, comment and follow!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Shetland Shawls for Sale in 2 Ply Shetland Lace Wool

Well, Christmas is coming upon us faster than ever and I'm not very organized this year. Last year I had about everything done and dusted by September but sadly this year I'm still in 'last minute mode'!
I have to let myself off a little bit though because I've been trying to start a small business from home called Croft Cottons. You can find my shop at www.croftcottons.etsy.com. At the moment there are some fabric covered buttons I made myself, pincushions, small cotton zippy pouch bags to hold your bits and pieces and also details of Shetland lace shawls you can pre-order. I am happy to discuss colours with customers and give an idea of time scale.
The shawls you see below are two 'in the making'. The shawl in natural colours is for a customer. The one in grey, blue, black and white is one I began before I got my latest commission and can be pre-ordered right now if you feel you would like it. It is available in my Etsy shop but you can also email me via my blog by clicking on the email sign top right.
There are various other colours I could do for you, eg, blues, reds, purple and lilac and green. Or you may prefer one colour such as black, white, pink, blue etc. If the shop has the colour then you can have a shawl!
Here are the two shawls I mentioned.......

I think the above shawl would make a lovely heirloom shawl for a spring baby boy. Here is the natural shawl colour arrangement......

Here are a few more colours readily available for me to knit with. There are plenty more.

Those are just a sample of colours available. If you would like more information or have something in mind please contact me and I will do my best to meet your requirements. Perhaps you've found a pattern for a shawl that you love but can't knit it for one reason or another. I'm keen to have a go for you! Just email me.

Now I'm off to get a cup of tea and get ready to wrap the last of the presents tomorrow. I hear we are in for some nasty weather so I'll batten down the hatches and tape down the wrapping paper!!
Until next time folks, take care and I hope you have a great Christmas and good year to come.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Snow has Gone.....For Now

Well, woke up to not a sign of snow or ice this morning. It hadn't stayed long anyway, perhaps about four days, and then the rain set in yesterday and seemed to not stop til this morning, although today has been more showery than constant rain. I may be able to get the sheep shelter up now before the next blast of bad weather comes. It's not so bad for the Shetland sheep. They are hardy and can withstand extremely bitter weather but the Soays are not so good in wind and rain and we can get more than our fair share of that in the winter. The climate's slightly warmer than the Gulf of Alaska, which lies on the same 60th parallel of latitude. At the moment we're not having too many hours of daylight either. Shetland winter will normally give us only about 6 hours of daylight. I'm feeding the sheep at about 1.00pm at the moment because after that the sky begins to darken and any 'good light' is all but past.

This has been a notable season in Shetland for that beautiful bird the waxwing.This is a photo I got last year in a friend's garden. Not a good photo I confess but it was taken through a window quickly!

Waxwings love apples!

Waxwings are scarce migrants to Shetland but will head here from Scandinavia if there is a shortage of berries there. They can normally be seen in October and November. On November 1st this year a flock of 55 were seen at a school in one of the northern Shetland Isles, Unst. That very same day, at the other end of the Shetland mainland, a group of about 40 was recorded. It was decided that it may be an interesting project to try to count how many waxwings were seen over that weekend. The estimated count, as near as possible for that 3 day 'weekend watch' was 975. The largest number ever recorded on one day was in 2004 and was 950. That season also saw the largest flock of 80 waxwings. I can't wait til' next year. We HAVE to beat that record again! The most we had in our garden at one time was five, but we are only establishing our garden. I think next year we could put some apples in the hedge, or other fruit. We are beginning to get more unusual birds now that my husband has made the garden bird friendly. It takes time to establish a garden properly.

I'll leave you with a couple of flower photos that I took in the garden this year. I am no use with flowers but my husband is a green-fingered genius!! I'm so glad!

I'll be back soon. Hopefully by then the sheep shelter will have been put up and I'll have a photo to post.
Take care and come back soon.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Today I went to visit a friend who has been doing a scaled diagram of a sheep shelter for me. Well, it took me about 15 minutes to get the car de-iced before I could go anywhere! This is the first day this winter that we've woken up to so much ice. I heard later in the day that even the gritting lorry went off the road!! Also, a school bus, but thankfully there were no children in it and the driver was unhurt. The half hour drive to my friend's house took a little longer than usual because there were icy spots on the road. I also noticed a thin layer of snow on the highest hills.
Shetland can be very beautiful in the snow. here are a couple of photos to let you see what I mean.......

But getting back to my sheep shelter, I was very pleased with what he came up with. I had bought 14 sheets of corrugated iron and wanted to put them to good use on the shelter. Here is the plan. It's based on how he built the shelter for his own animals.

This diagram © Colin Arnot 2012

Having two openings means I can also have a dividing wall between the two ends if I need to and still have sheep separated, which is a good thing if I perhaps plan to have lambs born on the land in the future. The open end has only been left open to see the internal part of the diagram. This will be closed like the other end when the shelter is built.
I'm very pleased with the plan and can't wait to have it up in the field especially now as the weather is turning wintry. Shetland sheep are very hardy. Soays need more shelter in adverse weather conditions.
Well, that's really my news for today. Tomorrow the sheets should arrive in the field, so hopefully it won't be long til building time begins!!. I'll leave you with a favourite Soay photo of mine.

Hand feeding Yaisah, twin sister of Shulah.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Well, it's been several months now since I updated my blog. The summer seems to have flown by and through one thing and another I've just felt unable to get stuck into writing.
I've been setting up a small business from home called Croft Cottons and have opened an Etsy shop of that name.
I haven't got all the stock listed yet. It's a busy time of year! I am making things from excellent quality cotton such as wedding and baby bunting, pillowcases, cushion covers, hand made fabric covered buttons, toddler to teen clothing, purses, bags...........it's an ongoing project shall we say!
One piece of very good news is that my lace shawl took 1st prize at our local show and I also won 12 other rosettes for various things including photos, jam, pickles and the like.
I was very proud when a photo of my Soay sheep Shulah took 1st prize in the animal photograph section and my lovely cat Magda got 2nd prize in a photo of her. You may have noticed, it's not my photography I'm proud of, it's my sheep and my cats!! And that's just how it should be.

Since last posting on here I have bought two more Soays. They are wethers. One is 2 and a half and the other 1 and a half. here are a couple of photos of them. First is Bram................

And here's little dark faced Brok

And last, but by no means least my 'grey sneedled specky faced' Shetland called Beulah........

Believe it or not, that is the name given to a Shetland yow (ewe) of this colour. She has a beautiful face. Here's a closer one of her face......

My final piece of news is that I have my own piece of land now to put my sheep on. Well, technically it's not mine but I have use of it for the unforeseeable future, so it's much better. I can actually see the sheep out the bedroom window if they're grazing in the middle of the park. When I come out the front door with the food bucket they see me and all start running towards the gate. Most of them can now be hand fed, which is great if you need to get hold of one for any particular reason! Brok is always first at the gate and has now started arriving with a piece of long grass hanging out each side of his mouth. Perhaps his way of saying thanks for the ewe nuts I bring!

Well, it's gone 1.00am and I should be in bed so I'm going to sign off now. I will update you soon. Will be building a sheep shelter very soon before our winter weather sets in. You never know here in Shetland just how good or bad it will be and Soays in particular do not cope well with the wind and rain. Shetland sheep are very hardy and cope much better.

Oh, I almost forgot. I got a new arrival in the field a few weeks ago. A little lamb, which would appear to be last year's lamb, just arrived one day. No ear tags or paint marks. Nothing to tell me where she came from or who she belongs to. So she's still with me and her name is Landiah. Isn't she a little sweetheart...........

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Shawl is Finished and on The Stretcher!

I am happy to tell you I have FINALLY finished knitting the shaded shawl in the natural colours of Shetland fleece and last night me and hubby put it on the stretcher. (We ALMOST fell out at one point, but managed to stay friends!!) I just have one scarf to finish now for the local show at the beginning of August. The other two scarves are done. One is already washed and 'dressed', (I'll post a photo of that as well.) The other just needs that final treatment.
I've got one of 3 jars of different types of chutney made, my strawberry jam which I hope will do well again this year after taking the best in show trophy a couple of years ago. My rhubarb jam is also made, which now just leaves 7 jams and preserves to make.
I am submitting 12 photographs which have been ordered and should arrive soon.
Phew!! I'm exhausted just writing about it!!! lol
So I maybe won't get another post on here til after the show, which is the first Saturday in August. I'm hoping to have something to report back about by then!
In the meantime, thanks for stopping by, please comment or say you've been and where you came from. I love visiting other peoples' blogs too.

And this is the photo I'm submitting in the 'digitally enhanced photo' section of the show........

Stay cool and creative folks!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Two New Soays and an Oyster Catcher

I am thrilled to tell you I collected my two new Soays last night. These two are wethers (castrated rams) and are the same age as my two females Yaisah and Shulah.
I wasn't sure what to call these two as I'd been so used to finding girl's names for the rest of my sheep. I must have looked through most of the boy name sites Google could offer and eventually the decision was made.
Well, I actually used a name my hubby really liked as he had not named any of my other sheep.
So, may I present to you.......


and KIPP

As I said, my hubby chose the name Ivan which means "God is gracious". The name Kipp means "dweller on the pointed hill". This is so appropriate for where I have my sheep I couldn't quite believe I'd found it while I was going through every list from A to Z.
It's amazing how important it is to find the right name for a pet, just as it is with our children!
If you scroll back up and look closely at Ivan's photo you will see he has distinctive lines down each side of his face, not unlike a gazelle. It is often said that Soay sheep resemble gazelle and goats more than they do sheep.
Here is a photo of a baby Soay I took the other week and also a photo of a baby gazelle (which I didn't take!). I think you'll agree that, apart from the length of their ears, there is a strong similarity between the facial features and head shape of these two beautiful animals. Have a look.......

Baby Soay

Baby Gazelle

I found it very interesting and also quite amazing!

One difference you may have noticed between Ivan and Kipp is that Ivan has longer and more pointed horns than Kipp. There is nothing wrong with this. Ivan may just be maturing slightly quicker or just naturally have larger horns. Soays are very slow maturing sheep and if you see the difference between one that's a year old and one that two year old there is far more difference than you would see on general sheep types. I look forward to seeing how big my Soays are this time next year. I'll maybe even have had lambs from my two females if I get them mated at the end of this year. That may be a problem because I don't have a separate field to put them in with a ram. I would need to start asking around now so I am well organized before the time comes.

I'm going to finish today with a photo of a very unusual sight. This is an Oyster Catcher (known in Shetland as a Shalder). Believe it or not she has made her nest on top of a fence post, right at the side of a busy, noisy road and about 100 yards from my sheep park! How cool is that? I didn't even realize to begin with that she was nesting there. I thought she was just sitting watching the traffic go by or something! But no, it would seem she is on some eggs, although I've never crossed the road to find out. I'm just assuming she is. I would never disturb nature at any point or for any reason unless to take an animal out of danger. When I went up to the sheep park she was resting with her head under her wing. When I came back just over an hour later she was more alert. So here's Mrs Shalder........

The second photo is not very good. The sun was not in the best place by the time I was leaving the sheep park. My excuse and I use it all the time!!! Ha ha!
OK that's it for today folks. I hope you found something of interest there. Please feel free to comment, tell me what you else you want me to write about, I'll always do my best to keep this little blog interesting.
Until next time, remember joy is found in the simplest of things in this life.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Washing My Soay Fleece

They say there's a first time for everything and for me this was definitely the first time ever for washing fleece, made all the more exciting because it came from one of my own Soay sheep. As I've mentioned before, Soays shed their own fleece so there is no need for clipping, but you have to be vigilant if you want to get as much of the fleece off as possible. My Soay, Yaisah, had shed almost half of her fleece before I got the rest off. I did, however, get most of Shulah's fleece.
So follow me with words and photos as I take you through my first tentative wool wash!
I started at about 12.45 pm and looked out all the things I would need. I wasn't sure whether to use detergent or soap flakes as I'd read that either is acceptable, but in the end I settled on one of my favourite detergents......

Fleece smelling like apples? Hmmm..

Please comment below this post if you have found that one particular soap or detergent works well for you personally. I'd be very interested to hear your views on this.
I weighed the fleece just out of curiosity and this was the result. Remember, this is roughly HALF a fleece from a year old Soay lamb. Next year the sheep will yield a thicker and heavier fleece.

So I filled a small bowl full of lukewarm water and the detergent and gently pressed the fleece down until it sank down into the bowl.....

Soay fleece is VERY greasy but I wanted to keep some of that in the wool to assist with the spinning process so I felt that lukewarm water was the best. Next time I will make the water a little hotter though. This is all a learning process and I'm enjoying the learning as much as the process itself!
As all my sheep are on a heathery hill apportionment with some marshy areas among it, I was not surprised to find that the water soon became very dirty. This photo is actually the second blot. In my excitement I forgot to take a photo of the first!

I was timing these washes carefully because it's important not to let the water temperatures vary, so I didn't keep it in the basin long enough for the water to cool too much.By this time the clock said......

I took three photos of the fleece after the second wash while it was on the draining board. You may be able to see the amount of lanolin in the fleece. When wet it appears almost like a hoard of tiny wet particles of rice. If you squash it between your fingers it is just a greasy mess and quite unpleasant but very good for the skin on your hands! Here are the photos I took......

And then I got distracted and took a couple of random kitchen shots!!!

I love these bull plates. I have five of them and paid only £2 each for them. They measure approx. 11 x 9 inches and I like them very much.

I'd never actually keep pigs ( unless they stayed tiny piglet size!!) but I do love paintings of farm animals. This pig painting isn't very big and is painted onto a block. It looks nice in our kitchen.

Oops no, that was the time after the first wash! Sorry!

Nothing I own is worth a lot of money. If I like it, I buy it, and most of what I love is either presents from much loved family members (those things I DO treasure!) or items picked up at car boots or other sales. After all, we can't take our possessions with us when we leave this earth. Enjoy what you have, even if it cost more in car fuel to bring it home!
Back to the draining board!
The first rinse obviously showed detergent and a little dirty water coming through but after a few rinses it was beginning to look clear and I was satisfied that I'd got enough dirt and lanolin out of the fleece to think about getting it completely rinsed and on the 'screen' for drying. Here you can see the water is clear where I've moved the fleece aside....

The book I was using to direct me in this whole process suggested using a colander to get most of the water out of the fleece and then to get a fluffy towel and lay the fleece in it and squeeze down on it to get more water out. My colander has lots of ideas of what to drain in it but fleece is not one of them!

From the colander to the towel......

Now can I ask you something?
What do you use as a 'rust proof screen' when drying your fleece? I don't really have anything that I would consider totally suitable for this purpose so I actually used a kitchen cutting 'mat' made of reinforced glass. The ones you use for chopping veg and cutting meat. I won't use it again as I wasn't totally happy with it. I found the fleece took too long to dry (but then I did have to dry it indoors). Please let me know what works for you. Just write in the comment box below. I'd be very interested to know.

Well, I hope I haven't bored the fleece off you!!! Please let me know you called by my blog. If you have your own blog I will certainly visit yours too.
Now I'm off to have a roast chicken dinner! Until next time, keep calm and read lots of blogs!