Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Black Hole of Shetland Colour Genetics

I love thinking about Shetland colour and pattern genetics. The more I read, ponder, and observe, the more I am willing to accept that we just don't have words for the endless variations in colour shades, other than "Wow, isn't that gorgeous!"  There are eleven named main colours of Shetland fleece, but in fact those colours are just points on a continuous wheel of colour. I have a project in mind to take samples of all our fleeces and felt them into a sampler showing some of the range in our flock. Oh right, first I have to get the rest of last year's fleeces actually washed.

Below are three of the girls who we hope are growing lambs right now. You may be surprised to hear that all three are genetically black sheep. 

Each of these ewes is black based, with a different pattern or modification affecting the fleece colour. Shirley, on the left, shows the grey pattern. Her fleece is a mix of black and white fibres appearing light grey. Kir, at the back, is registered as shaela in colour. Shaela, in my understanding, is a solid dark grey, probably caused by a modifier gene. Because Kir also carries the recessive gene for brown her actual fleece colour is -- well, I just don't have a word for it yet -- kind of a delicious dark brownish grey. Bryn, on the right, is a grey katmoget, with typical dark underside and interesting facial markings. Her fleece is a mottled grey. We know she also carries the brown or moorit colour because her first lamb, when bred to our ram Nonsuch (Sunny) is our beautiful Daphne, a fawn katmoget. Happily, Daphne has a much more correct tail than her mother.

Let's just take a moment to admire Daphne's adorable lamb butt, and remember the green grass of summer. Ahh.

Her front end is pretty charming, too. This picture illustrates the katmoget facial pattern, but really I just want to look at lamb pictures. 
Happily, Daphne has stayed this friendly and is always ready for a scratch and a fleece fondle.

The other two ewes have also been bred to Sunny before. Both Shirley and Kir produced twins in more or less the same colour/pattern as themselves. But what will they give us this year? The possibilities include black, grey, moorit, shaela, emsket, mioget, katmoget, and more. And there are two more ewes in the breeding group still to consider. Cairo and Beatrix add white, gulmoget, and spots to the mix! No wonder I love to think about this. The genetics are fascinating and each experiment is embodied in the sheer joy and wonder of lambs. 
Erica and Emaleigh, Cairo's twins from last May. Now that's it, no more lamb pictures until spring. Happy new year from the whole flock.

- Margaret

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Breaking Colour Rules

Margaret goes on (and on) about dyeing --

I dye small batches of fibre in a slow cooker. Using the crock pot method means less worry about boiling the dye pot too hard or too long. Also I am less likely to poke and prod and stir -- too much agitation will felt the fibres together.

Linda's artwork requires many shades of colour so that she can achieve the depth and texture she wants.

In order to get the widest range of shades out of one dye pot, I need to ignore all the dyeing rules aimed at achieving smooth even colour. I don't pre-soak the fibre, and I cram it into the dye pot so that there is little room for it to move. Different natural colours of fibre go into the pot for an assortment of heathery tones.
This batch started out with a medium grey and some white fleece. When it was nearly done I added some more white fleece to absorb the last of the colour.  This low immersion method of dyeing uses little water, and all the dye ends up in the fibre. When the fibre is removed the dye pot is clear and ready to be re-used for a different colour.
Again, this pot of orange/gold dye held both grey and white fleece.

The two examples above are commercial acid dyes, fixed with vinegar. Here is a sample of white fleece dyed with goldenrod. The colours from natural dyes are so  wonderfully soft!

It's always exciting to see the transformation of colourful fluff into something unique and magical.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Summer Shopping in the Exchange

We are excited to be part of this pop-up shop project opening tomorrow on McDermot Avenue, in the historical Exchange District in Winnipeg. The Exchange Uporium comprises an eclectic mix of local, hand made, and vintage treasures. Thank you to Patty and Eve who have imagined, curated, organized and inspired this beautiful ephemeral space.

We love our wall space in the shop where some of Linda's wall hangings can be displayed.   (My hurried photo does not begin to do it justice.) Stop in often throughout the summer. This will be a vibrant and ever changing venue. Open Monday to Saturday 11 - 7; Sunday 12-5; and open later during First Fridays and festivals.  Closed on Victoria Day, Monday May 19.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On Tour

Linda's felt wall hanging "Storm of Myth and Magic" is on tour!

"For the Love of Craft" makes its debut at the Heritage North Museum in Thompson, Manitoba for the month of May, 2014. Curated through a collaboration between the Manitoba ArtsNetwork and the Manitoba Craft Council, the exhibition comprises 15 works by 15 artists in a variety of mediums, including glass, ceramics, metal, fiber, wood and paper which were selected by jury from the Manitoba Craft Council's 2014 Member Exhibition and Sale held at the Cre8ery Gallery in Winnipeg. From Thompson, the exhibition moves to the Carberry/North Cypress Library in Carberry, Manitoba for the month of June 2014.

That's a detail from the hanging in the upper right corner of the poster.

Here is an overall view of the piece:

Friday, May 2, 2014

It Really is Spring, Now

Lambing season in our little flock has begun, right on schedule. First-time mother Bluebelle (Belle) delivered twins in the early hours this morning, a black ram and a moorit ewe.

This little girl has already figured out how nice it is to get a few scratches in between feeding and napping. Her mother is one of our friendliest sheep and we are delighted to see that characteristic handed down to the babies. It doesn't always work out that way. 

His fleece is such a rich black now, but will likely fade to a grey more like his mother's eventually.

Cairo, waiting patiently for her turn … we are hoping to see spots soon.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A New Dragon Emerges

Well, now we know what Linda has been doing in between shovelling snow, feeding the sheep, and stoking the fire …
"Rise of the Ice Drake" 2014
This new wall hanging is BIG, about two feet by three feet.  

Zoom in and take a closer look at some of this detail.

Ice-breathing dragons. That accounts for the weather the past couple of months. I'm sure glad this piece is finished!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Our Ladies in Waiting

This is our little breeding group for 2014. Our ram Fibre Works Nonsuch (Sunny) is all grown up now, and very handsome, but he still has his baby habit of hiding behind the girls! I'm not sure he would be much use protecting his flock. He sure gave us some lovely lambs last spring though and we are very hopeful for this group. These four ewes are all so different in colour and fleece types and personalities. They will all benefit from Sunny's good square conformation.

In the back is the Willow Garden Shirley Booth, from Bill Stearman in Ontario. She has a nice compact  build, a steady demeanour, and a very nice solid grey fleece. Beside her is our own Leafhaven Betula, more commonly known as Crazy Betty. See how she holds her head up so high? She is always ready to bolt. If there is a stampede in the flock, Betty probably started it. She is very fine boned but a bit narrowly built, more like a deer than a sheep. Her best quality is her non-fading black fleece. We are hoping that motherhood may have a calming effect on her.

In left front is our loveable, cuddly, friendly Leafhaven Bluebelle. She produces a mountain of faded black fleece that is good for felting. The spotted ewe is Windy Grange Cairo. We know that Sunny carries spots so there is the possibility of some spotted babies with this pairing.

It sure was great to have a break from the frigid weather and get back to winter as we know and love it!

Laddie and Jaeger enjoying wrestling in the snow.