In my big box of goodies from Louet, I had a bag of Fine White Shetland Top and a bag of Shetland Sliver. I am the first to admit that I knew relatively little about Shetland wool — I had never spun it and had only ever knit with it for the kit I ordered from Kate Davies, the First Footing Socks. Before sitting down to my wheel, I did a little research and what I discovered is that Shetland wool is very special.
Shetland sheep have been evolving for over a thousand years on the Shetland Islands, the northernmost islands of Great Britain. Much effort has gone into and continues to go into tracing the genetic line of this sheep breed. It is a tangled web, however, with this age-old breed that has not only grown to adapt to the harsh climate where it exists (the island lie at a latitude roughly similar to that of Fairbanks, Alaska), but been bred at times for meat and at times for wool. All the genetic push & pull has created a breed that includes a lot of variation. The wool ranges from incredibly coarse to insanely fine. It even has its own 11 color rainbow — an element that is actively being preserved today.
Being far from an expert on exactly what type of Shetland wool I had, I decided that I would do a direct comparison between the top & sliver that I had. For both, I decided to spin a standard 3-ply, ultimately getting a chunky or bulky weight yarn.
First, the top. The fiber itself — much like the Jacob top I spun recently — was super soft.
It is a bit uneven just because the finer top was slightly harder for me to regulate the weight on the singles and heavier weight yarns tend to come less naturally to me (hence the practice, practice, practice!).
All in all though, it was a luscious in my hands at the wheel as it was as fiber. In its finished state, it is a soft, almost silky barely cream colored 3-play that will undoubtedly make a beautiful little winter hat for me or my daughter. It is a relatively dense yarn, so I can tell it will be nice & warm and it’s even soft enough to be against my little girl’s skin.
The sliver… well, take a look at the difference…
Can you see it? It is that sliver gift of a little extra air in those fibers. Less processing = more air = more fullness. It is deliciously squishy! Exactly like the Jacob, I also found the Shetland sliver to have those built in brakes, that naturally slower spinning speed. T sliver yarn a bit rougher to the touch that the top. While I probably wouldn’t use it as a cowl, I still find it to be quite comfortable against my skin. I definitely look forward to knitting this up into a smart winter hat for myself.
Side by side….
You can see the sliver on the right is a slightly heavier, fuller yarn. Believe it or not, I started with the same amount of fiber and finished with two 60yard skeins. It’s a spot-on comparison as to the difference between top & sliver for which I’ve learned a lot not just about handling these fibers, but also what type of yarn they are best suited for. I think I would happily stick to this bulky weight with the sliver, but might try a finer weight yarn with the top. Regardless, this adventure with Shetland has been my favourite yet. Not only is this a beautiful, fun to spin fiber — it is a fiber with endless possibilities & variations. The only question left on my mind is which color of the rainbow will be next?