We're All About That Lace...May’s Barn Box, we were excited to share a legend in the wool world: Gotland Lace. This luminous 2-ply lace-weight yarn is a blend of 80% glorious Gotland wool with a 20% dash of Merino wool. This month's offering has an extended history whose origins took our Wool School back in time, across the Atlantic.
The Gotland breed is believed to descend from flocks established during the Viking era on the Swedish island of Gotland. Set in the Baltic Sea, the island has been continuously occupied by humans for 6000-8000 years. While the exact time and type of sheep introduced to Gotland is unknown, it is not implausible that sheep arrived with the Neolithic or Bronze Age settlers.
We do know Vikings and other Nordic settlers brought their horned, short-tailed sheep with them for food and wool to make clothing and sails while exploring and settling Northern Europe. It is from these ancient sheep that the Gute (and eventually Gotland sheep) descended.
Fårö Island, at the northernmost tip of Gotland, is home to the native breed of Gutefår (Gute sheep). Gutefår rams and ewes have horns that curl majestically around their faces which, along with legs and bellies, are free from wool. The faces have a characteristic white nose and white circles around the eyes. Gute sheep are a product of their natural surroundings, grazing up to the water’s edge on scrubby juniper, pine, and wild thyme, while drinking seawater, which is much less salty there than in more southerly climates. These primitive horned Gute sheep endure on the island today.
Our Barn Box chat group is in agreement that the "fairytale" island of Gotland is a must on our wool origins travel exploration list. An island with beautiful scenery, historic charm, gorgeous sheep, and captivating sheep statuary? Perfect for all wool enthusiasts!
Legend has it that the breed as we know it today began with one farm in the early 1920s. Shepherds in the area wanted a variety of sheep with no horns and a higher-quality fleece. A particular farmer saw a ram on the train headed for slaughter, liked the looks of him, pulled him off the train, and bought him on the spot. He crossed this ram to his Gute ewes, selectively breeding for polled (hornless) sheep with characteristic curly gray fleeces to produce the modern Gotland Peltsheep (Pälsfår).
Gotland sheep are famous for their luminous clear grey, lusciously soft and curly pelts. A dual-purpose breed, Gotlands are both handsome and friendly medium-sized sheep. Fine-boned and polled (hornless), these marvelous beauties have no wool on their bare black heads and legs, though occasionally a white marking speckles the top of their head or is found near their nose and mouth.
Flocks of Gotland sheep pepper the namesake island, some with with up to 600 ewes. While Sweden has the largest population, purebred Gotlands are also found in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, and several European countries. Utilizing genetics from several different countries provides a high degree of genetic diversity in the small pool of Gotland sheep in the USA. American breeders to select for valuable Gotland qualities within their flocks: Swedish/British genetics for curl definition and luster in their fleeces and New Zealand genetics for fineness in fleece.
Fine, long, glossy, dense Gotland wool can vary in shades of gray, from pale silver to a rich blue-gray to dark charcoal or almost black, and typically does not discolor from sun exposure. The fleece grows in distinctive lustrous elongated curls to as much as 12 inches per year. Soft to the touch, the smooth silky curls feel clean, having little lanolin.
It’s easy to see why our Gotland Lace yarn knits into a light, delicate fabric with such a lovely drape. Gotland Lace is featured in the Lilac Season shawl where the yarn’s soft halo is showcased in ethereal loftiness and beauty with subtle warmth. May Barn Box’s Gotland Lace is perfect for the cool spring breezes. The elegant neutral gray tones add a luminous flourish to any outfit.
Gorgeous Gotland Lace is a available for a limited time in at Bare Naked Wools (Barn Box members always get early access and first dibs). Check to see if skeins are still available to use in your project or add to your stash. While we recommend Lilac Season, Gotland Lace would be exquisite in many projects. We would love to see where you take this legendary yarn!