Wool from the Ground Up

  Kate's passion for all things sheep-related is deeply rooted in farming. Photos by Kate Larson.

We love wool. I’m hard pressed to find a spinner who isn’t a fan of fluffy, crimpy, wool locks. But beyond the romance of sweet lamby faces and fleece huffing is a very real science, industry, and agriculture.

No one knows this better than Kate Larson. You see, behind her drop-dead-gorgeous spinning and impeccably crafted knitting and weaving, Kate gets her hands dirty in the sheep pen.

If you think of a shepherd as an old man with a crook on a mountain hillside and a modern sheep farmer calls to mind a gruff Western rancher, then you might be surprised to know that Kate breathes sheep genetics and grazing programs. On her family’s farm in Indiana, she raises a flock of 40 Border Leicesters and tends to her father’s flock of 30 Horned Dorsets. With a degree in agriculture and a passion for soil and grass, she is the model of today’s small-scale sheep farmer.

  Kate loves sheep not only for their intelligence and personality, but also for their luxurious wool.

And she does it all in service of wool.

Kate loves her sheep for their intelligence and personality, but her eyes light up when she talks about the long, lustrous locks that she is managing her flock to produce. Just a few weeks ago, she mentioned that after years of careful breeding, she’s finally achieved fleeces that she’s truly satisfied with.

When it came time to create the wool entry in our Practical Spinner’s Guide series, there was no question whom we’d ask to write the book. Kate shares not only the wonder of a spinner in love with wool but also the nitty-gritty of every step of spinning it. She demonstrates how to skirt and roll a fleece, how to wash wool, how to prepare and spin it, and how to finish it. (As she remarked recently, “I’m surprised how many opinions I have about finishing yarn!”)

In The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Wool, Kate also discusses 17 sheep breeds and profiles breeders of each, giving you a look into the lives of other successful, practical wool growers.

Even if you never aspire to prepare your own wool from fleece, there’s something here for you: advice on spotting (and sometimes correcting) problems in prepared fibers and a look at the mills where your processed fiber comes from as well as wonderful spinning how-to information. (Heck, I just want to learn to make a ball of yarn the way Kate does.)


imageplaceholder Anne Merrow
Editor, Spin-Off

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