Tuesday, December 05, 2006

the perfect sheep

Have I mentioned my recent obsession with Icelandic sheep? I've already been doing somersaults over fine alpaca fleeces, and the raw billy goat pygora fleece I acquired a while back is amazingly lustrous and beautiful (with a bearable odor) after several washes and a run through my new (to me) 5 pitch combs. That's two species that I want to live with on the farm in my mind, but no sheep breed had been highly appealing. I do love Blue-Faced Leicester wool (ok I admit it's partially because of the name), but after working with so much alpaca, it doesn't feel as fine as it once did. Merino is an obvious soft and fine wool choice, but so full of lanolin that washing the fleece is rather taxing.

Enter the Icelandic sheep: a triple purpose, double coated breed. I haven't experienced the milk or meat, both of which are reportedly quite tasty, but the fleece is fast becoming an obsession. Ok, it has fast become an obsession; I'm hooked. The undercoat (thel) is as soft as merino and the outercoat (tog) is strong and lustrous, seeming somewhat like mohair or suri alpaca.

upper skein is thel spun wollen from rolags--soft and lofty.
lower skein is tog spun worsted from hand-combed roving, strong and shiny.
fleece is from Ridge Top Icelandics

Icelandic fleece come in a huge range of natural colors, and to top it all off, they're quite cute and seem very personable. I went out to the Valhalla Icelandic Farm in Shingle Springs today to check out their fleeces and meet the sheep. I'd already fallen in love with several fleeces from Ridge Top Icelandics in Wisconsin, but one cannot have too much wool, plus this was local. I was a little surprised that the sheep were smaller than I'd expected. Unlike the few sheep I handled as a vet student (which had an intelligent mistrust of all beings in tan coveralls or blue scrubs), these came up to the fence to see what was going on as we approached. The boys in their separate areas had amazing curving horns.

Pattie had a gorgeous selection of fleeces in the yurt (a yurt being my dream studio on the farm in my head). It was difficult to pick, but she kindly let me split a couple fleeces so I left with a pound and a half of a dark brown lamb fleece with tan tips and a pound and a half of a medium grey-brown ewe fleece.

Then it was off to Arrow Springs to replenish my glass supply. I can't seem to work fast enough to whittle down my glass supply significantly, yet I'm always running out of certain needed colors and plain clear glass. I can use all the little scraps of colored glass for knitting needles, buttons and pendants, but for my figures I need larger and several pieces of single colors. They were out of a couple colors I really needed/wanted, but oh well. I stocked up on blue caramel, caramel and am trying out triple passion since they don't have my favorite persimmon. I didn't have much time to work in the studio by the time I got back to Davis, but I made a few pendants and some cane. The hen and rooster knitting needles I made yesterday turned out well.

Finished off the day rocking out in rehearsing for an ecology department party coming up on Friday. I'm joining a drummer and guitarist in playing a short set, apparently while a cookie judging contest is going on. I've heard Def Leppard goes down well with the sweet-tooth crowd--"pour some sugar on me." I'd forgotten how fun it is to play rock covers. And you ain't heard nothin' til you've heard our funkified version of Venus. My poor fingertips are soft from playing piano...more bass playing needed, especially since calluses seem to protect my fingers when I stick them in the flame.

My new 5 pitch indigo hound wool combs loaded with soft tog from a Ridge Top Icelandics fleece.
The resulting roving.

1 comment:

me talking said...

I love that you are passionate about sheep