Farm Fresh Fleece

Kate Larson tending to her Border Leicester ewes. Photo by Maggie Smith

Kate Larson tending to her Border Leicester ewes. Photo by Maggie Smith

There are two ways to grow wool: standardized and in great quantity, which is perfect for commercial use, or fleece by fleece, in what’s called a “handspinner’s flock.” Commercial doesn’t have to mean bad or lifeless–there is great wool to be found in repeatable lots, and those sheep can produce a lot of wool to do with what you please. But a fleece from a spinner’s flock is something special.

When Kate Larson wrote her book Practical Spinner’s Guide: Wool, she decided to give her readers a sense of not only the different breeds of wool available, but also the shepherds who cultivate these fleeces lamb by lamb. You can meet some of the shepherds in the book, and you can “meet” some of their wool in the new Wool Breeder’s Premium Spinning Collection.

Kate was here in Colorado filming video in the month of January, and although it was hard for her to be away from her farm, she didn’t mind taking a break from washing wool. You see, of the five wool samples included in this special kit, Kate herself washed and packaged three! Two of the samples come as roving or top that is no less lovingly prepared. I have one of the kits on my desk and it is one of the loveliest things I’ve seen in a long time.

A pair of lambs at Beech Grove Fiberworks. Photo by Kate Larson

A pair of lambs at Beech Grove Fiberworks. Photo by Kate Larson

Kate also includes information on each of the breeds and the farm, so when you can take a break from sheer wool huffing you can learn about the very special locks and rovings you are about to spin. (About the huffing: All this fiber is washed, so the sheep-sniffing experience gives way to the tactile pleasure of clean, springy locks and rovings.)

Spin them woolen, spin them worsted, but above all make sure you spin these treasures. The books and information will stay with you for years–and the carefully washed wool could, too, but don’t keep it. Spin it up. Every year the breeders hone their flocks and the sheep produce more glorious wool. Enjoy the handmade quality of this collection the way it was meant to be savored: fresh.

Anne Merrow

 

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