Sheepspot

Behind the Scenes: Finding new fibers

behind the scenes, mission, what we doSasha TorresComment

Sheepspot is a small (tiny!) company that specializes in breed-specific yarns and fibers; that is, yarns and fibers made from the wool of only one breed of sheep. We try to find unusual or even endangered breeds, and we prefer to source our wool as close to home as possible. Over the next few weeks, I thought I'd take you on a tour of how I find breed-specific wools and bring them to you. 

Columbia Aran in Lipstick. Columbia sheep were developed in Wyoming at the turn of the century to create a breed that was well-adapted to the American West.

Columbia Aran in Lipstick. Columbia sheep were developed in Wyoming at the turn of the century to create a breed that was well-adapted to the American West.

This week, I'm sharing how I find wools that you may have never heard of.

Most big yarn companies buy wool in huge lots that have been classed by fineness and color; with the exception of Merino, the vast majority of these lots combine wools from many different breeds. But at Sheepspot, we like to offer yarns and spinning fibers that make the most of the qualities of specific breeds that I've fallen in love with by spinning them by hand. Taking courses with Deb Robson, co-author of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebookand Beth Smith, author of The Spinner's Book of Fleeceopened my eyes to the variety of wools available—and taught me how much I love them all!

Cheviot Top in Splash. Cheviot has a unique three-dimensional crimp, which spins up into crisp, bouncy yarns.

Cheviot Top in Splash. Cheviot has a unique three-dimensional crimp, which spins up into crisp, bouncy yarns.

Deb's class focused on rare breeds, and got me thinking about how much we would lose if we lose these wonderful wools and the animals that grow them. Beth's class showed me how to spin different types of wool--fine, long, Down (named for the English Downs) and primitive/multicoated--by mixing and matching different preparation and drafting techniques. 

I'm constantly experimenting with fleeces from different breeds on my own (and I have the fleece stash to prove it)! When I want to add a new yarn or fiber to Sheepspot's line, I start with a Google search and a visit to the Canadian Wool Growers' Cooperative Board, which has a listing of shepherds and the breeds they raise. Then I get in touch with shepherds and visit the flocks.

Clun Forest ewes, a threatened species, from a family farm on the Québec-Ontario border.

Clun Forest ewes, a threatened species, from a family farm on the Québec-Ontario border.

Next week I'll share the process of picking the perfect flock and fleeces for Sheepspot. Stay tuned!