One of the highlights of this year's trip to Shetland was the chance to visit Uradale Farm. Uradale Farm is located in Scalloway, Shetland and focuses on organic farming of Shetland sheep and cows for meat and fiber.
We had the pleasure of meeting and talking with the owners, Ronnie and Sue. Ronnie used his two Australian Sheepdogs to bring in part of his flock so we could see the sheep closer up. He raises Shetland sheep organically which means they don't get fed supplements and they graze naturally on heather moorlands behind his farm as well as along the coast eating from grassy pastures and seaweed. He has about 700 sheep and they are a variety of beautiful natural colors.
While their original impetus for going organic was to raise the value of their meat, the organic wool is a natural by-product that they have recently been focused on. In order to have the yarn organically milled, they have to ship the fiber to Scotland where there is a mill that will scour, spin and dye it according to organic certification standards. The natural colors of yarn are un-dyed colors of the wool and the dyed colors are achieved using low-impact, environmentally friendly dyes. The finished yarn tends to retain a bit more of the natural lanolin that exists in the wool due to the minimal processing.
After Ronnie showed us his flock and some of his fleeces, he invited us into his house where he and his wife, Sue fed us tea and cake. It was so lovely! Getting the opportunity to get to know the wool producers of Shetland and hear their stories was an amazing experience. While it is hard work, Ronnie and Sue are grateful for the hand-knitting community as it continues to explore the hows and whys of where the yarn we use comes from. They are actively involved in the Shetland Wool Week as a way to talk about and promote organic farming to the hand-knitting community.
I picked up a few skeins of jumper weight yarn from Uradale farm - two undyed colors and one dyed mossy green - I'll show you what I knit with it on Saturday!