This will, no doubt, come as a huge surprise to those of you who have been raising Shetlands and spinning their, um, well, whatever they grow on their bodies. No, seriously, Katherine and I were at one of our little events yesterday where they pay us to sit and spin, knit, make soap, and attempt to educate city slickers about what we're doing. A woman felt one of my Shetland lambskins and said, "What is this?"
"A Shetland lambskin," I said.
At this point, her all-knowing husband pops up, "Well, they're not real sheep like the white ones," and which point I interrupt.
"Oh, yes, they are sheep. Just as there are many breeds of dogs, there are many breeds of sheep that are all different sizes and colors."
He cuts me off with, "Yeah, but they don't have wool. They have hair."
Eeeeeeek!!! For the five years that my daughters and I have been doing this, I've been telling them that you have to be nice to people, regardless of how misinformed they are. After all, we're here to educate people. So, if they say, "Look, kids, she's weaving on a loom," or "She's making cotton," you just smile sweetly and say to the children, "Well, actually it's a spinning wheel, and I'm spinning yarn from wool." (Yes, we really have heard these more than once.)
And I have always done a good job practicing what I preached, never getting upset when people say the silliest things. I even continued smiling yesterday when at least three people saw my spotted lambskins and said, "Hey look, cows." It's pretty easy to keep smiling at a comment like that because I'm chuckling to myself as I correct them and say, "No, they're sheep." Because 99.9% of people believe me! They're fascinated to learn that sheep can grow wool in many different colors -- and that they can even have spots. They swoon over the silky softness of the Shetland wool and say, "Wow, this isn't scratchy at all!" And voila, they have a new appreciation for premium wool.
But when this man tried to say that Shetlands aren't real sheep and don't have wool even after I'd attempted to tell him and his wife about the breed, I was seriously annoyed and briefly insulted until I realized that he was just clueless. I tried again to tell them about the sheep, and he turned around and walked off in a huff. His wife stayed, however, and listened to my spiel. Later, of course, I thought of all sorts of clever comebacks, but it was too late. And he still might have walked off in a huff, thinking that I know absolutely nothing about these sheep that I've been raising for the past six years. Still, a part of me wishes I had asked him, "So, if it's not wool, what is my daughter spinning there?"