One of the best ways to spin yarn on a budget and support local family farms is to buy raw fleece for spinning. Instead of paying several dollars per ounce, you will pay about $10 – $20 dollars per pound average (varies depending on the breed).
By purchasing local, raw fleeces from farmers in your area or online family farms, you are helping these families provide feed and quality medical care for their fiber animals.
Raw wool for spinning
What to look for in a raw wool fleece:
1. Find a fleece with a staple length of at least 2.5 inches.
This will make spinning much easier. If you are looking for fleeces for yarn felting, you can purchase shorter staple lengths.
2. Ask the farmer if the fleece has been coated.
This means the sheep wore a coat during the winter, which protected the fleece from hay and vegetable matter (VM). These fleeces will be significantly cleaner than most other fleeces, and easier to wash.
3. Check the fleece for breaks.
Take a lock from the fleece and gently pull on the ends to make sure the wool doesn’t break apart. Listen for a tearing sound. Fleeces with breaks will create fuzzy, pilling yarns due to all the split ends. Most spinners do not purchase fleeces with breaks, but felters may find them useable.
4. Ask the farmer if the fleece has been skirted.
This means the farmer took all the dirtiest parts (belly, legs) out of the fleece, and removed all the poo “tags.” “Heavily skirted” means only the highest quality fiber has been left. Most spinners prefer heavily skirted fleeces to save processing time.
5. Check for second cuts.
These are the tiny chunks of fiber from a shearer who sheared the fleece off and then went back over the sheep with the shearers to make the sheep look tidy. These second cuts cannot be spun and are sometimes a result of an inexperienced shearer. Most spinners prefer a fleece with few to no second cuts to guarantee they are getting a well shorn fleece.
Where to buy raw fleece for spinning:
For spinners and fiber artists who live in an area where sheep can be raised, here are some ideas to for fleece shopping and finding your local farms.
- Google search “wool farms” or “wool for sale” in your area (try searching by state, or the largest city close to you)
- Google search “sheep and wool festivals” and “fiber fairs” in your area.
- Knitters Review has a list of festivals by date and location.
- Ask other spinners where they purchase raw fleeces
- Ask yarn shops if they know of any sheep/wool farms in the area where you could purchase fleeces
Buying from family farms online:
Not everyone lives in an area where sheep can be raised. In this case you can purchase wool online from small family farms, which is just as rewarding and fun as finding a fleece at a wool festival. Here are some websites where you can find wool for sale:
- Raw Wool for Sale on Facebook (must be a member of Facebook to purchase)
- Raw Wool for Sale on Etsy
- Raw Wool for Sale on eBay
- Raw Wool for Sale on Ravelry (must be a member of Facebook to purchase)
If you are nervous about the learning process of washing fleeces, you can purchase washed wool on all the websites above. Simply searched for “washed wool locks” or “washed fleece” or “washed wool.” You will spend more per pound, but you will save yourself the time of soaking and washing and drying the wool.
To learn how to wash a greasy wool fleece, you can watch my How to Wash Wool video tutorial on YouTube!