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Shetland Wool Travel Rugs

Listed under Original Gifts in Scotland, United Kingdom.

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Cunning, opinionated little Shetland Ponies are not the only tough, diminutive animals indigenous to these islands, which are hemmed in on all sides by the chilly North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Shetland cattle, sheep and sheepdogs are all thought to be descended, either directly or through interbreeding with other, indigenous species, from the animals that arrived with the Vikings in the 9th century, with the result that the species which exist today differ from those found elsewhere in Europe.

The Shetland sheep in particular has a number of useful characteristics which seem to have evolved in response to the harsh conditions on the islands. They are small, strong, adaptable, long-lived, can cope well with bad weather and poor grazing, and rarely have problems with lambing.

However, they also have unexpectedly soft, fine wool which, although dense and warm, can be woven into very thin, smooth yarn. They are usually white, deep red-brown, pale grey, chocolate brown or fawn, and the natural fleece colours are so intense that they are often used undyed. The resulting garments are therefore very useful against island weather, but also very luxurious - so much so, in fact, that the woollen lace 'wedding ring shawl' is one of the Shetland Islands' most celebrated exports: six foot square, but so delicate that it can be pulled smoothly through a wedding ring.

Farming, particularly in the form of crofting, has long been the largest industry in the Shetland Islands and is regarded as the traditional occupation among the locals. It involves the management of small plots of land by individual families, and is still widely practised, though legislation eventually had to be introduced to prevent land being sold off to larger companies.

The famous woollen products are still produced by the Shetland islanders today, from fleece shorn from their own flocks, and sold through local businesses, one of which is Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers. They are based in Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, and all their wool is "Shetland grown". As well as selling the yarn itself, they also supply Shetland lace, some adorable vintage knitting patterns and a selection of soft, snug, locally-made travel rugs in traditional designs.

Available online here.

Written by  larapiegeler.

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