Spinning Yarn of Our Grandmother’s Dreams

Kate Larson with Lamb

Border Leicesters are the sheep of Kate Larson’s heart. Photo courtesy of Kate Larson.

While working in a yarn shop, Kate Larson used to spin yarn on commission, her clients providing spinning fiber for her to transform into specific yarns. Using someone else’s fiber was economical but also high-pressure: There was no room for error or experimentation.

So when she became more established as a spinner, Kate finally got to spend more time doing something that seemed decadent.

Sampling. For pleasure. No, really.

Asked for the advice she most loves to share, Kate says, “One of the things that I really teach a lot and try to hammer home is sampling, which is what everybody doesn’t want to hear. That was the thing I didn’t want to learn either, so I decided to make sampling its own project instead of preparation for other work.”

Spinning for necessity involves making the most of every ounce of fiber, but spinning for fun can mean experimentation, creativity, and the sensory joys of making yarn. Instead of forgotten mini-skeins and tiny swatches forgotten in the bottom of a bin, Kate’s samples become part of a beautiful notebook that tells its own story. She describes how she makes it in her video How to Spin Yarn to Knit.

Spinning Notebook

Kate’s spinning notebook is a joy, not a chore.

The Making of a Shepherd

Growing up on a farm in Indiana, Kate Larson’s heritage was four-legged and wooly.  When she was a child, the farm that her family has worked for six generations was home to a flock of Columbias, and her father currently raises Horned Dorsets. Kate studied soil science at university, preparing to raise grass-fed sheep through intensive grazing. During finals week her senior year, she decided to learn to use the wool that she’d soon be producing.


Intensive grazing is the basis of Kate’s farming practices. Photo by Kate Larson.

Kate taught herself to knit from a book, and she drove over two hours each way to learn how to spin wool from the only teacher she could find. She moved to a farm in Vermont and fell in love with the sheep that would make up her flock: Border Leicesters. This spring, she raced home from Interweave Yarn Fest just as the year’s first lambs were born. The flock of bouncing beauties is inquisitive, sweet, and covered with the gorgeous wool fleece that Kate has been breeding for over the last decade.


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