I just finished attending a 4 day retreat focusing on Shetland wool. It was at Lakedale Resort near Friday Harbor and taught by Deb Robson. There were some shepherds in attendance as well as amazing fiber artists. There was also one dog sporting a handmade Fair Isle Sweater.
After breakfast we were given three samples of Shetland fleece each of the four days as well as a talk related to Shetland sheep in the mornings. I would prepare the wool and spin the samples into skeins finishing them in the afternoon. I would wash them and then dry them by the fireplace in my room.
We had amazing catered lunches and dinners. After dinner we had video presentations related to the Shetland Islands and its culture. There were many bottles of wine at the evening events. I would then go to my lodge room to check on my skeins, take a Jacuzzi bath, read a book about Shetland textiles and then fall into a deep sleep. In the morning, this was the view from my balcony.
There were many samples of Shetland and other wools as well as swatch samples of commercial Shetland yarns.
There was sharing between the participants including impromptu spindle lessons.
The fibers were gorgeous and very different from the ones from my flock. I combed most of them and produced lovely fiber for spinning on my miniSpinner.
I was able to finished 10 skeins and have three yet to go. My hope is to make a small hap shawl with these yarns.
What a wonderful, relaxing, educational, decadent retreat this was. I will never forget it.
PS I finished spinning my samples into skeins and photographed them. Here they are in order:
The second to the last one (#114) was the softest of the 4 days, and the last one (#84) was the second softest.
Those four days sound like the stuff of dreams. I hope that Deb has another Shetland retreat next year…I will move heaven and earth to be there!
It was the stuff of dreams Lois, in more ways than one. I do not think she is going to do an all Shetland retreat again. It sounds like she is planning on moving on to other breeds.
I so wanted to go to this, but my weak (nearly non-existant) spinning skills combined with the logistics for time away from the farm, fees for farm sitter, retreat, lodging…sigh, it was just too much of a stretch for me this time.
I was wondering about the fleeces she brought; how were they different from your sheep?
They were different in a lot of ways. Several were white and very fine, finer than my Lonny’s. These I combed and spun worsted and kept as singles for lace knitting (which I have never done before). Some were fine, crimpy and springy too, different from mine. Many were quite coarse to touch initially but when I pulled off the tips and combed them turned into fluffy goodness which was a joy to spin woolen. Some had peat in them which I have not had to deal with before. To me there was a surprising amount of VM and some flakes, which are fleeces I would ever sell. Some were very short, between 1-2 inches and a little challenging to prepare because of its shortness. The color range was less broad than mine, no moorit, no mioget, no flecket. There as a lot of white, very light grey and black. One dark brown. The fines were from the Shetlands, the UK and the Midwest. The coarse double-coated ones were from Shetland, Oregon and Montana. There were not any I would consider intermediate fleeces, which is mostly what I have. I need to find time today or tomorrow to finish spinning the last three samples, get them plied, washed and dried. Then I was going to take photos of the individual skeins with information about their origin. I could post these photos, if it would be helpful. Interesting that Oliver Henry of Jamiesons says there are no double-coated Shetland fleeces. He calls them “toppy”.
(I posted this answer to the NW Shetland email too. I did not want to type the same stuff again so copied and pasted it here.)
And it was a stretch to go and put a lot of pressure on Tom to work full time and take care of the farm. But I am so glad I went.
Thanks, Donna – this is great info! I’ve always been reluctant to sell my fleeces because of the VM, so it’s good to hear your feedback. I talked to Sally tonight and she said it was great as well. I’m hoping to check out some of her samples in the near future. And someday get spinning for real! (when there are a few more hours in the day, perhaps)
I know what you mean about working full time and caring for the farm, though I have fewer critters than you, too. No cattle, goats, llamas, donkeys, turkeys, pigs, or ducks here – just 17 Shetlands, 3 dogs, 4 cats, ~25 chickens, and 2 beehives. 🙂 Even so, it’s a lot of work some days. Coming home after a full day on the job to do another couple hours of farm chores and garden work is the best part of my day, but I’m stretched pretty thin sometimes. Good thing we love it, right?
Thanks Maureen! Glad to hear Sally enjoyed it as well. And the farm is a labor of love, most days anyway.
Your spun skeins are really beautiful. You can see how the different fibers react, from fine, silky,bouncy, smooth, structured. Glad You were able to have such a wonderful experience.
Thanks Eliz! I was not sure the photos were going to do them justice. They are all different and could service a variety of purposes between them.