Choosing Raw Fleece
Spin Off’s Spring 2017 issue is all about making choices. In “Facing Fleece Decisions: How I Choose to Process Raw Fleece,” Devin Helmen breaks down how each choice, from choosing raw fleece to processing, directly influences the end product—the yarn. We asked Devin to fill us in on how he came up with the idea for the article.
What first made you think about this article?
“Talking with my fiber friends about how I tend to go crazy at fiber festival purchasing fleece, and how I deal with overabundant purchases.”
What was your favorite part?
“My favorite part about writing it is imagining people having fun purchasing amazing fiber and using it!”
What do you think people will be most surprised by?
“How easy it is to wash wool!”
Devin loves raw fleece! Case in point: he walked away with nine fleeces after attending his first sheep and wool festival, Minnesota’s Shepherd’s Harvest Festival held each May. In his own defense, Devin pleads “wool intoxication.” (We’ve all been there!) He left the festival with a bounty of fleece but little in the way of variety. Devin realized, “It might have been better to buy a wider range than I had gotten.”
Now, Devin shops for fleece keeping these three criteria in mind:
1. Fleece for projects
2. New-to-him breeds or fleece he wants to try
3. Fleece that he just can’t leave behind
Devin explains, “The next year, I had learned my lesson and was able to exercise restraint . . . I bought only six fleeces. Of those six, though, I brought four home. The other two I left with a fleece processor to wash and card into pin-drafted roving. I had learned that I should focus my time and effort on fleeces I really want to prepare by hand and send the others off to a trusted processor who will take care of the cleaning and prep and send me back bags of beautiful ready-to-spin roving.”
Do you have a great idea or story that you’d like to share with your handspinning community? Contribute to an upcoming issue of Spin Off. Check out how on our submissions guidelines page.
Featured Image: Devin Helmen breaks down his options when choosing and processing a raw fleece. Photo by George Boe.
Learn more about making choices, from sheep’s fleece to yarn!