(The Icelandic sheep is an ancient Northern European breed that was brought to Iceland by the Vikings in the Middle Ages. It is possibly the oldest and purest domesticated breed of sheep in the world today.
Their double-layered coat is well suited to cold and wet conditions. While they are usually raised mainly for meat, their wool is a valuable by product. The inner layer is light and insulating while the outer layer is long, strong and water repellent. Carded together these layers make lopi, a versatile wool used to knit traditional Icelandic sweaters.
The spring shearing yields wool that is coarse and generally used to make carpets while prized lopi wool comes from the autumn shearing. Deanna, Heather)
Last week I had the privilege of spending time with Leila at her organic farm just outside of Port Melon. The 58 acre site includes greenhouses with the most amazing organic produce sold primarily at farmers’ markets and there are plans for much more.
Currently, Leila’s small flock of hens create a colourful display as well as laying eggs. They’re enjoying the additional green vegetation.
Leila acquired 4 Icelandic sheep this spring – Prince, the ram; and Belle, Roxie and Ginger, the ewes. Their first clip happened a few weeks ago and I had the privilege of taking some sample fibres for washing and evaluating. The original owners fed from a hay rick so there is a lot of vegetable matter in this fleece, however, Leila will be feeding differently and the fall clip will be cleaner. (Oh, yes, two shearings a year!)
The lambs (3 of them) are all male and will become lamb chops, so we will have access to some lamb fleeces if Leila can bear to part with them.
Prince – he loves the camera and showing off his wonderful horns!
Belle is a lovely grey – very “traditional” Icelandic sheep colouring.
Roxie and Ginger are light, warm colours.
Sam. the llama keeps an eye out for predators.
Text and photos by Yvonne, FibreWorks Studio and Gallery