Friday, December 23, 2011

Fiber Friday Spotlight - Natural Colored Wool

One of the main reasons we raise Shetlands is the natural color of their fleece.  Shetland sheep can be black, brown toned grey, dark silvery grey, medium or light silver grey, ivory, fawn, golden honey color, a broad range of reddish moorit or dark brown.  I love the variations of the natural greys, browns and blacks.  Yes there are white Shetlands, white is a dominant color in the breed, however we chose to breed for color and spots in Shetlands.

Some of our natural colored woolie boys. Grey, black and moorit brown.

You see thousands of years ago, all sheep were natural colored. Like many animals, their coats blended in with the colors of their environment, to help protect them from predators. Over the years when people found they could dye white wool a rainbow of colors, natural colored sheep became less common.

Primitive breeds such as the Shetland and Icelandic sheep have few dye sites.   Dye sites are the places on the fiber that will accept and lock in the color with the least amount of dye. How well a fiber dyes, depends on how many dye sites or absence of color there are in the fiber.  Very white animals dye easier than natural colored.  Many modern breeds of white sheep have been bred for this specific very white wool to increase dyeing properties with more dye sites.   Natural colored wool will over dye nicely, creating a more muted tone in color. 

 The green yarn in the photo above is over dyed emerald green on a natural light grey wool, the orange is white domestic wool dyed orange, the bottom three skeins of yarn are natural colored Shetland wool.  Moorit brown, grey and fawn colored wool.

 Natural colored Fawn brown hand spun Shetland yarn

 Natural colored grey hand spun Shetland yarn

Natural colored black and white spotted Shetland drum carded batt.

Now if you really want color ~ a natural colored white Shetland
will give you a beautifully dyed rainbow!

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