What is Hilltop Shetland? An artisan yarn that is designed from the hoof on up. Are you into both earthy natural colors and luminous hand dyed colors? Do you love lace and Fair Isle, stitch definition and soft handle? Do you love yarn that highlights the simplicity of a primitive breed of sheep and a joy to knit with? Do you want to know how your wool is raised? Hilltop Shetland celebrates the history of the Shetland breed in all it’s qualities that make it special. With it’s soft undercoat and wispy guard hairs, the yarn softens over time, resists pilling and is durable. These attributes are best reserved for your heirloom knitting, but also utilitarian knitting like socks. Unlike most over processed sock yarn, this yarn will give you lasting socks.
So how does the yarn begin? It begins with the sheep. Our registered Shetland sheep are bred with the yarn in mind and the conformation of the animal. As the shepherd, much goes into breeding decisions. I strive for color, softness and soundness of the wool and body of the sheep. And the next consideration is the nutrition. Over time, we have developed our 20 acres into 4 separate paddocks so we can exercise rotational grazing. This practice ensures not only good nutrition, but also sustains the grasses and clover, keeping the pastures in lush condition. Without rotational grazing, the pastures would seed and would stop producing. This practice ensures the sheep have fresh grass most but the coldest months of the year. Then they are fed locally grown hay from 3rd generation farmers.
The next phase is harvesting the fleeces. Each sheep is carefully sheered with the comfort of the sheep in mind, so we bring in the best shearers. And we are so thankful to have Jonathon Hearne and his apprentice Charlotte to come 2 to 3 times a year and shear those sheep ready for harvest. Fleeces have 3-5 inch staple length. They are skirted and evaluated each by hand. They are sorted and bagged, ready to be shipped or driven to our mill, Gurdy Run Fiber Mill in Pennsylvania. Lydia, the mill owner, specializes in fingering weight and does a consistently amazing job. She blends in a bit of nylon for added strength and durability. She puts the yarn on cones, and sends it back to me.
Then I skein up the yarn, give the skeins a light bath in our spring water to wash away any spinning oil and label. Some of the yarn is hand dyed, using the gentle Landscapes Dye we distribute for the Kraft Kolours company from Australia. The inspirations for our colors come from our gardens, foods, and places I have traveled to. Colors of Shetland yarn should always be based on nature. Some of the natural colors, such as Dove Grey, are over dyed to give a heathered look and extra depth.
So the last step is to provide inspirational ideas for you, to use and enjoy this yarn lovingly created. I am designing patterns, and listening to your ideas as well.
One idea I received, was to offer yarn weights in addition to fingering. So we are working on that idea and should have worsted weight available in Fall of 2019. I invite your input and your ideas in using the yarn, pattern inspiration, colors you would like to see. Please comment here or on our FaceBook page. I would love to hear your thoughts.