A lesson in Icelandic wool

Today I had the chance to visit a local farm. Of course I jumped at the chance.

Queso Cabeza Farm, run by Laura and Rick, has Icelandic sheep, geese, ducks, chickens and a couple very friendly llamas. Laura was kind enough to welcome us into her home and farm today.

Since we were going to see sheep on the farm, I thought it appropriate for my Baa-ble Hat (requires a free Ravelry account to view) to make its debut.

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My previous experience with Icelandic wool was some Icelandic wool I bought on a visit to Iceland (as you do). Icelandic sheep are dual coated and the longer wool is very coarse, which has deterred me from doing anything with it. Several years later it still sits in the packaging it came in. I must admit that this has made me skeptical that Icelandic can give a nice, soft yarn without separating the two coats. Wow was I wrong! Now I need to dig that Icelandic back out so I can compare the two.

When we first walked into the house, there was a pile of pelts on the table. The one on top was this gorgeous pelt. It is a Suffolk/Icelandic cross. The picture just doesn’t do it justice. It was gorgeous! I wish you all could feel it, it was so soft and thick!

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My education about Icelandic sheep began with these pelts, but began to make more sense as we hung out with the herd. I definitely needed to get back into my geneticist brain to take it all in.

Ryder, the llama, met us at the gate. He knew what Mom was up to.

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As soon as we walked around the barn, the sheep saw us and came running.

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This is when I received a lesson in Icelandic colors and patterns. I think I understood most of it. The biggest thing was that there was no such thing as a white Icelandic sheep. The sheep is either black or moorit (brown) and the white is a “pattern”. Perhaps I’ll try to explain some of the Icelandic sheep colors and patterns in my next post. On my next visit to the farm, I hope to be able to identify the colors and patterns of Laura’s sheep.

I also learned that having black sheep is a good way to determine if the sheep are getting all the nutrients they need. The wool won’t be properly black if they’re missing something.

Sterling, who had remained guarding the flock, came in with the sheep. She’s a gorgeous llama who resembles her name, but isn’t quite as “in your face” as Ryder.

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While we were out we collected a few eggs. I’m not used to farm fresh eggs, so I’m looking forward to an omelette tomorrow! Laura has a nice flock of chickens, geese and a few ducks. Some of them are quite beautiful.

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When we returned to the house, I learned how to skirt a fleece, while helping Laura work on this task. The fleece was mostly white with the yellow of lanolin. My hands felt nice afterward. I was very impressed with the lack coarseness of the wool. I was definitely learning that Icelandic can be rather dreamy.

Here we see the unwashed and washed fleece that shows how white it will be after washing. It will be great for turning into dyed yarn.

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Then she pulled out this “almost black” lamb’s fleece. I was in love. I was impressed with the length of the Tog (the longer of the two coats) and the overall softness of the fleece. I love the darker natural colored fleeces. We managed to get over half way through skirting this fleece before we had to leave.

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I believe that this fleece is from the ewe lamb labeled Cherri x Jones pictured on the Queso Cabeza Farm website, about two thirds of the way down the page.  She’s a beauty!

This fleece followed me home. I’m excited to start working with it!

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