Every year I like to write a post chronicling what I sent out to the fiber club. If you're considering joining the Fiber Club this year, looking through these will give you some idea of the kinds of fiber I send out and the colorways I come up with.
When I'm thinking about new colorways for the club, I always start by making a moodboard. I just grab a lot of images from Pinterest that have similar colors and group them together. Below I've posted the moodboards and some pictures of the fiber (and in some cases yarn) that the moodboards became.
Despite the fact that I took a huge number of photographs this year, I did not do a very consistent job of documenting the club fiber. There are lots of colorways I didn't photograph, for whatever reason. So lots of the pics below are club members' photos, from Instagram. I'm so grateful to them for giving me permission to use them here. And seriously, folks, go check out their wonderfully fiber-centric feeds.
Along with the multicolored colorways I design for the club, I also offer coordinating semisolids; some of those are pictured below, but I'm focusing on the multis here.
July 2016: Shetland
I was pleased with how both of these turned out. I love how the sweetness of the pastels in Austen is tempered by the cool gray; you'll definitely see this colorway on other fibers in the future. Below are two shots from Instagram to give you a sense of the fiber.
September 2016: Whitefaced Woodland
These I have pictures of! I absolutely loved both of these colorways, and they are both going into the regular rotation. Love, love, love. (And the Whitefaced Woodland was dreamy.)
November 2016: Southdown
I liked both of these quite a bit, though I'll probably tweak the lime green in
Mexico a bit going forward to make it a little greener.
Club member Laura Walters spun her Southdown into a three-ply yarn and knit it into these stunning socks.
January 2017: Rambouillet
OMG, guys, this was my favorite pair of the year! I loved them. And they both spun up beautifully. These will both go into my regular repertoire.
March 2017: Teeswater
Finally, some of my own pictures! Because the Teeswater takes color so intensely, Lavenderia wasn't nearly as pastel-y as I originally intended. I'm excited to try it on a different wool. I wasn't sure about Mardi Gras until I saw Janelle's yarn (pictured below). Spinning this colorway as a singles was a brilliant choice, because the reds and greens aren't competing with one another, as they likely would in a plied yarn.
May 2017: Polwarth/Silk
I always want to go with something summery for May. I loved the simplicity of the blues and yellow in Nantucket, and, as usual, threw in a bit of that de-saturated blue gray to complicate things a bit. And I love the combinations of the slightly desaturated not-quite-pastels in Cape May.
Of course, if you're a white-wool purist like Beth Smith, you always have the options to get your club fiber undyed, like Penny, whose collection is below. ;-)
Every year I try to think of a new way to explain the Fiber Club options to all you visual learners this year. Here is this year's attempt!
1. It will make you a better spinner.
We all get into ruts in our spinning, making the same yarns over and over again. Spinning teachers call these ruts "default yarns." Mine is two-ply, about a dk weight, spun short forward draw with twist between my hands. It's an easy, fast spin that I don't have to think about very much.
But if my experience is any guide, spinning the same yarns doesn't make us better spinners. Every aspect of my yarns improve when I force myself out of my rut and try new things, whether they're new techniques or new fibers.
There is an astounding range of breeds of sheep, and they grow an equally astounding range of wools. And each of them is best spun a little differently. That's how breed study makes you a better spinner: by giving your brain and your hands new materials to work with and new problems to solve.
2. As a spinner, it dramatically increases the range of yarns you can make.
Want elasticity? Choose a down breed, like Suffolk or Dorset Down. Want drape and sheen? Choose a longwool like BFL or Teeswater. Want something that won't make your neck itch? Choose a fine wool, like Cormo or Rambouillet. Want to spin a marled yarn in soft natural colors? Choose Jacob or CVM.
3. As a fiber artist, it lets you use precisely the right tool for the job. Every time.
If you walk into a yarn store, you're likely to find two kinds of wool yarns: the ones labeled "Merino" and the ones that give no indication at all as to the breeds that grew the wool (and usually no indication of where the yarn was made, or how, but that's a topic for another day). But as a spinner with knowledge of wool types and the breeds that grow them, you can match the yarn you make to the project you envision, with a precision non-spinners can only dream of. You can control both the hand of the yarn and how durable it is through your choices of fiber and technique. As spinning teacher Maggie Casey always says, with a twinkle in her eye, "Spinners can be the ultimate control freaks!"
4. It connects you to the real source of your materials. And it's not your LYS.
Spinning for a breed study links you to the shepherds who raise the sheep and the flocks that grow the wool. For those of us who want to live—and craft—in ways that acknowledge and celebrate our interdependence with the natural world, working with wool and other natural fibers can be a deeply satisfying part of making.
5. It ensures that those materials continue to exist
Breed study will require you to use kinds of wool that are likely not widely available commercially. So if you think that small, sustainable agriculture is important, or if you want to support North American mills and processors, breed study can be a great way to put your money where your mouth is.
In addition, breed study will likely lead you to rare and endangered breeds, precious resources with wonderful characteristics that, for one reason or another, have been passed over by large-scale agribusiness. These rare breeds are the living repositories of genetic resources that may be crucial to us in the future. (To read more about threats to genetic diversity in livestock animals, see my posts here, here, and here.
As Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius note in The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, "in order to continue to have these irreplaceable resources available for our pleasure and delight, we need to support the living infrastructure of animals and people that makes their existence possible."
What's stopping you?
Breed study usually means buying raw fleece. And that can be a daunting prospect. Where do you find the fleece? How do you know that it's high quality? How do you wash it without felting it?
Then there's the preparation. Do you have hand cards? Combs? A flick carder? Are your tools appropriate for the kinds of fleece you have? Do you know how to use them?
And do you have time for all this?
Breed study in the past has been expensive and time-consuming. Because I feel so passionate about its importance, though, I've come up with another way: the Sheepspot Fiber Club.
It's breed study without the prep, for committed, inquisitive spinners who just don't have the time to work from fleeces. Members get wool from a new breed every other month. I also spin every fiber myself in lots of different ways, and include detailed sampling notes (about wheel setup, drafting technique, and which yarns I liked best) with each shipment to help you get started with the fiber.
Memberships go on sale June 21. You can find complete details about the club, including prices and options (and there are lots of 'em) here.
You may be wondering exactly how the color selection process for the Fiber Club works. It's pretty simple, just three easy steps:
- I send you an email with the moodboards and semisolid selections for the next shipment, and a link to a site called Typeform, which I use to tabulate everyone's picks.
- You go to Typeform, fill in a bit of information, and make your choices. You may choose any of the four colorways offered. If you have signed up for the extra fiber option, you will choose the colorway you want separately for each of the two bumps of fiber.
- I lovingly and carefully dye up your fiber and send it to you!
Here are a few more of last year's colorways. Club colorways are exclusive to the club for six months. (After that, some of my favorites make their way into the shop.)
Last year's members were able to choose between two colorways for each shipment. This year, I've expanded the choices. If you select dyed fiber for your membership, you'll be able to choose among two multicolored colorways and two semisolids that each coordinate with one of the multis. Here are the choices for July:
Signups for this year's club end in just two days! Don't miss out on your chance to become a better, more confident, and knowledgeable spinner. Remember, you can customize your membership to fit your needs and budget perfectly.
If you have looked closely at the prices for the Fiber Club (and I hope you have!) you may have wondered about the differences in prices for shipments to the US and within Canada.
These differences reflect the fact that, on average, it costs Sheepspot about $2 more to ship 100 grams of something within Canada than to the US. Strange, but true. (If it seems to you that this fact is in conflict with Canada Post's obligation to serve Canadians, I entirely agree with you.) So that's why the basic club membership costs Canadians more.
On the other hand, when shipping 200 grams to the US, the price goes up. Again, the difference is about two dollars. But the price within Canada generally doesn't increase. This is why the prices for extra fiber are lower for Canadians.
Hope this helps.
Hi there! Here's another video for you—and you can actually see me in this one! I thought it might be useful for those of you considering joining the fiber club to learn a bit more about how I choose the wool I send to club members, so here goes:
Sasha here. I'm thrilled to have Kat, the blogger over at AsKatKnits and a Fiber Club member, as a guest here on the blog to talk about her experience with the club. Take it away, Kat!
Hello Sheepspot Readers! I am Kat of AsKatKnits and I was a member of the Sheepspot Fiber Club this year. I want to take a moment to share with you a little bit about my experiences in the club.
While I have been spinning for about 10 years, I would not classify myself as an experienced spinner. I think I still have a great deal to learn and, until recently, have mostly spun the “over the counter” wools that are available at the various fiber festivals or through Etsy. I began to spin some different breeds when I joined some other fiber clubs, but I really wanted to spin “all the wools.” My dilemma was how to accomplish that without buying a multitude of fleeces and processing them myself.
But, then I heard about Sheepspot from a couple of very dear friends and Sasha had some very different breeds available in her online shop, but what really intrigued me was the Fiber Club she was offering. It sounded like it was going to be a very different sort of club!
While I enjoyed participating in other fiber clubs, frequently the color was not something I would have selected. This is one area where the Sheepspot club differs entirely – you are able to pick a colorway from two choices (or you can select undyed fiber!) I initially worried about how the color images Sasha sent to us would translate to fiber, but it was something I did not need to worry about at all! Her sense of color and her talent for dyeing are excellent! I have not been disappointed in a single color selection. The ability to select the colorway was one factor that helped me in my decision to participate in the inaugural club.
I also liked the fact that you could sign up for additional fiber. I selected to get dyed fiber bi-monthly for a year (or six installments) and Sasha accommodated me by letting me get extra fiber bi-monthly for half a year (or 3 installments). She made the process easy to fit my budget.
However, the key factor in my decision to sign up was the Breed School option (which is now part of every 12-month club membership!). What I knew about spinning different breeds prior to the club was sadly, very limited. Yes, I had read things about different breeds and had books explaining the differences between breeds, but that is not the same as receiving fiber that is processed for the best use of a particular breed. The already processed part was especially nice – I work and don’t have unlimited time, so this was a huge benefit for me.
Each Breed School shipment included detailed breed information, spinning notes compiled by Sasha about her sampling of the fiber, a sample of raw and washed locks, and a worksheet to help guide me through the spinning process. It also included an online Breed School chat with other club members and Sasha! I learned so much about fiber over the past year – especially during the chat times, hearing what other spinners were struggling with or what worked well for them, sharing my questions and getting real time answers was invaluable. Making new spinning friends was also a huge benefit!
More importantly, what I learned over the past year has dramatically improved my spinning – both in technique and outcome. Spinning with the best fiber allows you to focus on your technique and when you can focus on that – your outcome is much improved! At least it was for me – this year I spun some of the best yarn I had ever spun.
This past year’s offerings were all new to me except one; however, that familiar fiber was in a preparation that was different than I had spun before. The breeds included this year were Dorset Down, Montadale, Coopworth, Cormo, and Perendale. As I write this, I am eagerly awaiting the final installment.
As the inaugural year draws to a close, I am eagerly anticipating signups for year two of the Sheepspot Fiber Club – I will be participating again, and I really hope you will be joining me!
Sasha again. Thanks so much for the post, Kat! Club memberships go on sale June 22. You can find complete details about the club, including prices and options (and there are lots of 'em) here. Be sure to sign up to get an email reminder so you don't miss out.
If you're interested in joining the Fiber Club, but a bit confused by all the options, I walk you through them in this handy video!
Once you've seen it, please sign up to be notified when memberships open so you don't miss out! Just go here and click on the big black box under the picture!