A knitting friend of mine told me that she never thought about where her yarn comes from until she started coming to my shop and watching the spinners. So let’s take some time to get back to basics and look at yarn from the beginning.
For the sake of simplicity, we will begin with the world’s most popular type of yarn… wool. By the end of the series we will talk about other fibers and forms of making yarn too…. but first things first.
Yes, it starts with the sheep… or llama, or goat , or rabbit, or camel, or bison, or some type of wool producing creature. (Veggie fibers are coming up later).
There are many different breeds and kinds of sheep fibers that can be spun into yarn. Two of the major considerations when determining the use of a wool fiber is the coarseness (measured in microns) and the staple length. A very soft fiber has a micron of 22 or less. We’ll look at staple length more later.
Sheep must be shorn to harvest the wool fiber. It doesn’t hurt them, and if it wasn’t done they could have serious health problems. That is why sheep have always been cared for by a shepherd. Domestic breeds of sheep are not likely to survive long without the care of people.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Shady Side Farm on Shearing Day! It was very interesting. Read about the process of shearing the sheep on their blog. http://shadysidefarm.blogspot.com/2009/03/shearing-day-photo-report.html
The next in this series will cover the washing and preparing of the shorn fibers.
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