I'd like to stop and say thank you to all the Sheep out there. Without them, we'd be left cold and without any decent yarn.
I'm sad when I hear someone is allergic to wool. I don't know of anything more satisfying to knit. I love the natural elasticity which is impossible to imitate. The slight bit of "grease" that naturally repels water. I even enjoy picking vegetable matter out of roving and yarn, knowing that means it hasn't been overly processed.
My appreciation and growing obsession of sheep was fed by my visit to the Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck this past October. The vendor booths made my head spin with their colorful displays of yarn and roving, but the stalls full of sheep is what captivated me.
Sheep are notoriously docile, but I didn't appreciate it until I met them in person. I approached a ewe in her stall and went to pet her on the head between the eyes. I didn't know what to expect. Maybe she'd nip me. Maybe she'd back away.
Instead, she just closed her eyes and raised her head to meet my hand. I could swear she was smiling. And, she had me at hello.
As I walked around all the booths, I was determined to find some wool I had never heard of before. I stumbled upon the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth (new to me, but a favorite amongst knitters) and picked up some roving donated by the North Ronaldsay sheep from Scotland. I had never heard of this breed and ran home to do a little research.
These amazing sheep are from the North Ronaldsay island which is part of the Orkney Islands. It is the northernmost island in all of Scotland, so these sheep have wool very close to Shetland and Icelandic sheep. They have a soft downy wool, with guard hairs (coarse protective hairs) mixed in. The most interesting fact, to me, is that they primarily live off of seaweed. Yes, seaweed. I couldn't believe it.
I also stumbled upon a video featuring Deborah Robson talking about this breed as part of the Interweave SpinKnit Fall 2011 issue:
All this love of wool had me curious about the actual process of shearing sheep. I kept missing the demonstration at the Sheep & Wool Festival, so I pulled up the ever-handy youtube and found this video. I'm totally hypnotized:
I'll leave you with a picture of the Babydoll Sheep. They're about the same size as a mid-sized dog and can help you weed your lawn! I don't have a lawn... but I want a Babydoll!
Happy Thanksgiving! This year I'm especially thankful there's a turkey on the dinner table, and not lamb.