Know Your Wool
Know your wool. What? It was not until I tried to get my first sheep that I stopped to think, wait what, wool comes off that animal! It sounds so naive given the culture I live in now, but at the time it was mind blowing. Prior to that I had walked into a yarn shop, felt for the softest, prettiest colored yarns and was on my way. So really it is not so strange that I hadn't given any thought to where the wool came from. I did not even think of it as wool, it was yarn. Wow how times have changed. I of course still walk into yarn shops, but these days I am looking for locally grown yarns as they always have a uniqueness that will allow me to remember where I got it and supports the agricultural local businesses! I have obviously become very passionate about using what I call "real wool" and love to educate others on the importance of knowing where their wool is coming from. While tracking yarn back to a specific animal is a big ask, it is less difficult to find out the region your wool came from and where it was milled.
I am currently working on restocking a new batch of our Jacob yarn so thought this would be a great time to introduce where the wool came from so you too could know your wool and understand a little bit behind the yarn.
The wool from this yarn comes from a small farm not too far from us, just east of Salem. I connected with Julia of WileyJo Farms several years ago via Instagram. They have a small family farm where they raise beautiful Jacob sheep in addition to other farm products and produce. Every year I am lucky enough to be able to purchase all of their Jacob fleeces from them. Even more lucky it gets delivered to me straight from the source which gives us a few minutes every year to catch up! Priceless. You can check out their farm at wileyjofarms.com or on Instagram follow them at wileyjofarms.
Jacob sheep are a heritage breed sheep which makes them a very hardy sheep. Taken from the Livestock Conservancy website: "Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers. These are the breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. These breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture."
The thing about heritage sheep (and livestock in general) is that the reason they tend to be heritage - meaning they have been around for a very long time - is because they are fairly self-sufficient and dare I say tough? For the most part they lamb without needing our help, their feet can tolerate our wet soil, their fleeces can handle the seemingly endless moisture and in general they are pretty self-sufficient animals. All of that said, as with a lot of heritage breeds, their numbers are dwindling so there is a very real effort to breed and preserve all of the heritage breeds. You can get more information about preservation efforts at livestockconservancy.org
Truth about Jacob wool is that it is not the softest you are ever going to feel. The wool, just like the sheep, is hardy. But it is beautiful, strong, warm and is suitable for making outerwear sweaters, hats, shawls and mittens. It is rustic and that has its own beauty. As I have come to learn and appreciate over the years, not all wool has to be the super softest and in fact the finished products from heritage wool tend to wear better and longer.
So there you go. A little about this yarn, where the wool came from and the business and farm you have supported along the way. I have recently restocked our light gray and will be adding dyed, dark gray and Jacob white over the next couple weeks.
Stay healthy, wear a mask, craft on and listen and learn from all different voices.
Thank you for reading!
7/8/2020 11:15:56 am
Very interesting to learn about heritage sheep—I had no clue! I have a whole new appreciation for that type of wool and yarn now☺️
7/9/2020 10:51:24 am
Hi Robin! So glad I could educate you a little bit! It is lovely wool, you just have to use it a little differently than a super soft merino. All the breeds really have such different wool. It's pretty cool!
7/10/2020 02:55:28 pm
I love this! Thank you so much for including us in this well written and thoughtful discussion. We feel incredibly grateful that you transform our sheep’s fleeces into beautiful yarn! And I too enjoy our quick catch ups each year! Thanks again and stay safe!
7/11/2020 09:54:43 am
Well thanks Julia! You all stay safe as well!
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I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill, along with my husband Mitch - my steadfast supporter, enabler, grass seed farmer, maintenance guy and all around love of my life! Visit the Mill's website for more about us and well, to shop for fiber of course! ewethfulfiberfarm.com