Here at Blacker Yarns we try not to have favourites amongst the sheep breeds, but Gotland sheep do have a rather special place in our hearts. Perhaps because they’re the sheep Sue Blacker herself keeps?
We’re really excited to be launching a brand new colour palette in our 100% Gotland DK yarn on August 9th, and thought this would be a great opportunity to talk about this very special breed in more detail.
The Gotland breed is a native species of the Gotland Island, Sweden and derives from two of the oldest sheep breeds, the Karakul and Romanov, which originated during the Viking reign in Russia. The Gotland we know and love today was developed in the early 20th Century from the more primitive Gute Far sheep, which also still survive in Scandinavia. Gotland sheep are bred for their many different qualities – namely good meat, fleece and skins and are sometimes know as the three-crop sheep! The modern breed remains relatively close to their early ancestors, so for this reason they are considered to be a primitive breed, of the Northern Short-Tail group, akin to Shetland, Hebridean, Soay and Boreray sheep. Primitive sheep breeds are often more instinctive (intelligent!) and tend to be naturally coloured and our MD, Sue Blacker, believes that Gotland are a little more mischievous than others.
Image curtesy of Hotel Specials
Gotland wool grows in long ringlet curls in varying shades of grey, from pale silver to a dark charcoal, almost black. The lustrous fibre has a dense and wavy crimp, making a more resilient fibre with a slight drape. Gotland lambs change colour throughout their first year. Almost all lambs are born black and then begin to pale as they grow. Like with all sheep, the paler fibre tends to have a the finer micron count.
Our Gotland yarn has been woollen spun, giving it a more interesting texture and halo. It is, of course, possible to worsted spin this fibre as well, but we find that it can be a little too lean and lack bounce, as well as having an unfortunate tendency to shed. Plus, our favourite thing about Gotland yarn is the glorious halo of fibres which hover just above the fabric, and woollen spinning really helps to enhance this quality. As your Gotland knits wear, you’ll find that halo will become ever more present, really helping to soften the feel of the finished item over time.
Gotland wool takes dye like no other sheep fleece and is also sometimes considered to be the mohair of sheep wool. This is largely because of the many shades of grey which are present in their coats – the dark fibres add a depth to the colour while the very pale silver fibres pick up the colour very intensely. When combined, the resulting yarn really glistens. With names inspired (?!) by the winter weather in our dramatic little corner of Cornwall, we’ve created 11 deeply saturated shades, and one undyed shade to complement them.
Although these shades are a little darker than some of our other ranges, we made sure that there is still more than enough contrast for colour-work. Our soon-to-launch reworked Azurite Mittens pattern uses our Gotland DK for some delicate colour-work in the shades Shower and Lightning, and the palette offers a whole host of other beautiful combinations.
Thunder, Shower and Lightning
Mizzle, Thaw and Hoar Frost
Dusk, Mist and Dew
We’re so looking forward to our new Gotland palette launching on August 9th. We can’t wait to see which colours you choose for your projects in this wonderfully rustic and hard wearing yarn!