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Natural Coloured Yarns

Breeds of sheep

This page will give you more information on the breeds of sheep used in creating the yarns I sell. 

The rest of the page will be updated soon.

Shetland Sheep

Shetland sheep, as the name suggests originate from Shetland, they are part of a group of sheep known as Northern short-tailed, all the sheep in this group are primitive sheep, this means they are hardy and adapted to living in harsh environments, they are of small stature and have much shorter tails than modern breeds of sheep. Most Shetland sheep produce incredibly fine soft fleeces, which are much sought after, although not every fleece from Shetland sheep is of such good quality. The fleece weighs between 1 - 1.5 kgs with a staple length of 5 -10cms 

Shetland sheep come in a variety of different colours and pattern markings, there are eleven solid fleece colours and more than thirty different patterns, the combination of colour and patterns all have Shetland dialect names.

Oppisite are two different patterns, the top one is called gulmoget, it has a dark body colour with a lighter colour stripe running from between the front legs along the belly and up to the tail this one would be called a black gulmoget. The lower picture shows a katmoget which has a lighter body and darker stripe, katmogets also have a pattern on their face which is darker around the sides of the face and lighter down the front of the face, this one is a fawn katmoget.

Cheviot Sheep

Cheviot Sheep, (pronounced chee-viot) are native to the Cheviot hills, which straddles the border of Northumberland and the Scottish Border. 

Cheviot sheep are predominately white, although there are a very small number of black cheviots in the national flock. There are now two different types of cheviot sheep, the north country cheviot and the south country cheviot, the main difference between the two types being size, the north country cheviot is much larger having been bred and developed on the lush pastures in Caithness in the very North of Scotland, where as the south country cheviot remained on the much harsher environment of the Border hill lands.

The fleece usually weighs between 1.5kg - 3kg, with a staple length between 6 -12cm. The fleeces vary enormously in quality, some being soft and relatively fine through to those which are very coarse and full of kemp.

Lambing Season

The sheep are next gathered in mid-to-late March. At this time, they are provided with a vaccination to protect them and their unborn lambs from clostridia, a bacterium that can be fatal to sheep. The sheep also have their routine doses of wormer, vitamins, and minerals. After this, the sheep are turned out into what are known as the hill parks.

These are large, fenced-in areas of highland measuring roughly 200 acres each. When the sheep are within a few weeks of the first due date, they are brought in from the hill parks. Their udders are checked and those sheep which are closest to lambing are brought into the fields closer to the farm. The rest are released back into the hill parks. As the sheep in the fields lamb, the lambs are ear-tagged and their parentage is logged. Following this, they are released to the hill parks and more sheep close to lambing are brought into the fields. This process continues until all lambing is finished – usually in the middle or end of May.

Clipping the Fleeces

The next gathering is for clipping, which may take place any time between the end of June and the middle of July – depending on the weather. At this point, the lambs receive their first dose of wormer. Once the ewes have been clipped, they stay in the hill parks for a couple of weeks while they grow a covering of fleece. Then, every sheep receives a pour-on treatment to protect them from blowflies and ticks. At this stage, any unusable bits of fleece are taken away. The remaining fleece is rolled up and placed into wool bags, ready to be sorted thoroughly at a later date. Again, the ewes and lambs are released back onto the open hills.

Sorting the flock

The last routine gather is at the end of August, this is the time we separate the lambs from their mothers. First we sort through the ewes, and take out the oldest ewes, ours will be 6 years old, these ewes will be sold to someone that has lowland ground, as although our sheep are extremely hardy, the older girls deserve to live out their latter years somewhere that isn’t as harsh, they will still be capable of producing lambs for another 4 or 5 years. Next we sort out the lambs into male and female groups.

The female lambs will be registered with the  relevant breed society, but there may be some that do not meet the breed standards so these will be put in with the male sheep and turned out into a hill park, to be sold at a later date. 

The female lambs that we are retaining for breeding, have the tag numbers recorded, so we can fill in the registration papers for their pedigree certificates. They are then turned back out onto the hill with their Mothers until November, when the shepherds year begins again.