Fancy Tiger Travels to the Faroe Islands, Part 3: Sheep and Wool
This is the part you've all been waiting for: the sheep and wool of Faroe! There are over 80k sheep on Faroe, outnumbering the 50k humans that reside on the islands. The name Faroe means "sheep island", named by the Vikings who arrived in the 9th century and found sheep already on the island. The sheep are a small, hardy breed of sheep who have lived for centuries on the harsh landscape of Faroe. Their wool is a dual coated wool (similar to Icelandic and Shetland) with a long, waterproof, outer layer and a softer, downy undercoat. Faroe sheep come in a ton of different colors, often with multiple colors on one sheep. The Faroese language has words to describe all the different colors and patterns of the sheep.
Like Iceland and Shetland, there are no predators on Faroe so the sheep run and graze wild on the land. They are everywhere. On every hike, in every town, even in the front yard of our Airbnb house. The sheep are an integral part of Faroe culture, providing food and wool for the people of Faroe for centuries. The Faroese wool is a sturdy, fairly coarse wool - perfect for outerwear and hard-working knits. The wool is often mixed with British lambswool to make a softer yarn for hand knitters.
We were traveling with our friends at Kelbourne Woolens, who are now distributing the Faroese yarn, Navia to the US. Because of this, we had the pleasure of getting to know Kris who owns Navia. Kris is a 6th generation sheep farmer and still has 200 sheep. We met him at the Navia headquarters in Toftir where he and his family live. We were able to see all the yarns as well as the finished goods made from the Faroese wool. Kris told us his story of how he got into wool (his grandfather owned a spinning mill which started his interest). After we had tea and talked at his shop, Kris took us to meet his sheep!
Every village of Faroe has a sheep house. The local shepherds of the village will bring their sheep in every evening around to feed them. The sheep mostly graze on the mountains so they just get a little hay or grain (if its lambing season) to supplement and it gives the farmer a chance to check out his flock. The sheep then go back out to graze until the next evening. Some sheep don't come down from the mountains and have to be gathered in July for shearing. The whole community will help the sheep farmers gather all of their sheep at this time. Kris let us meet his sheep and help feed them. They are all so beautiful! Afterward, he and his wife invited us into their home for dinner. The hospitality of the Faroese people is incredible.
Kris has been working with farmers in Faroe to purchase enough wool to make a 100% Faroese yarn which is currently being spun into the next batch of Navia Tradition. We currently carry Tradition, a beautiful yarn that we are proud to offer at Fancy Tiger Crafts. Jaime just finished a sweater in Tradition that we'll share with you on Monday, along with more information about this special yarn!
Tomorrow, check back for our post about the hikes and beautiful landscapes of Faroe!