Spring is here! In the fiber world, we know that means more than just warm temperatures; spring is the time that many sheep are shorn, giving us their beautiful fleece to spin, weave, knit, or crochet. It's also a great time for fiber artists to branch out and try working with a new-to-them breed of sheep. If you're wondering how to get started, here is a handy guide to begin your journey in to the wonderful world of sheep:
Your local fiber festival is a great place to start! You might be surprised at how many sheep are raised in your region, and fiber festivals are an excellent way to support small farms and purchase fleece and fiber that you might not encounter anywhere else. You can often find breed-specific yarns in addition to raw fleece or prepared top, many of which can be purchased directly from the producer. We have several upcoming fiber festivals listed here on our website.
Sheep Breeder Associations
If you've encountered a breed of sheep you've never heard of, chances are there is an association dedicated to that particular breed which can be found with a simple web search. For example, if you came across a Border Leicester fleece, the American Border Leicester Association would be a great place to see photos of the sheep, learn about the breed's history and read up on the characteristics of the fleece. Some association websites have classified sections where members can post sheep or sheep products for sale; you can also check for upcoming events to find out when and where the sheep will be shown!
There are many wonderful books dedicated to all things sheep, but one of our favorites is The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deb Robson and Carol Ekarious. This comprehensive photographic encyclopedia features more than 200 animals and the fibers they produce, covering almost every sheep breed in the world from the longwool breeds of the United Kingdom to the Tasmanian merino, the Navajo churro, the northern European Faroese, and dozens more.
Another fantastic book is Clara Parkes' Knitter's Book of Wool, which focuses on how to best use the yarns created from specific breeds of wool and gives an excellent introduction to many breeds of sheep along the way.
All the best,
Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team