From Sheep to Shawl


Shearing a sheep

In our last blog post, we shared some ideas for crafty resolutions in 2014. On today’s post, we have one more to add to your to-do list for 2014: make a project from start to finish as only a die-hard fiber fanatic can….from sheep to shawl! ‘Sheep to Shawl’ is an expression that means you learn everything you need to know to make a shawl from start to finish, from raw fleece to a finished fabric. Of course, you don’t have to make a shawl from your finished handspun. You could just as easily go sheep to shoe or sheep to chapeau!

If you’d like to give this a try in the new year, we’ve created this easy guide to making your sheep to shawl dreams come true in 5 easy steps:

1. Select Your Fleece
We’ve blogged about various breeds of sheep, and there are plenty of fantastic books dedicated to the subject as well. Perhaps you have a favorite breed of sheep to spin with, or would like to experiment with a new-to-you breed for this project.

Most likely, you will need to wash your fleece before you begin preparing it to spin. If you are new to this process, here is a quick tutorial video to walk you through each step: 

2. Prepare Your Fleece
Now it’s time to card or comb your fleece to open up the locks and prepare for easy spinning. The process you select will depend on what type of yarn you’d like to make and what type of fleece you are working with:


Carding processes raw or washed fibers to present them in a spiral fashion. This traps more air and makes a springier Woolen yarn which is more insulating, though it is not as long-wearing as a Worsted yarn. The most common fibers to be carded are cotton or wool, but a variety of fibers can be carded: alpaca, llama, soy fiber, and even dog hair!


Combing produces a parallel presentation of fibers for Worsted or Semi-Worsted yarns. These yarns are longer wearing, smoother, and less insulating than woolen yarns. You can use a pair of hand combs or a single hackle; in particular, hackles are used for dehairing fleece and blending dyed prepared fibers.

You can also watch this short tutorial video to learn more about the differences between combing and carding!

3. Get Spinning
Now it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: time to spin your yarn! As we mentioned above, your method of processing the fleece will play a role in the finished yarn’s outcome, but how you spin it will also play a part. While there is a lot more technical information on this subject which is covered in books, DVDs, and classes, we would like to touch on one subject: long draw vs. short draw methods of spinning. In general, the short draw method gives most spinners more control, whereas the long draw allows spinners to spin more consistently because they have a better view of the process as they work. We encourage you to experiment to see which method you prefer!longdrawspinning

4. To Dye or Not to Dye
You may wish to dye your handspun yarn before knitting or weaving with it (click here for more information on DIY yarn dyeing on this blog), or you may decide that the natural color of the fleece is perfect the way it is!

5. Weave, Knit, or Crochet
Now it’s time to find the perfect project for your handspun creation! Some of our favorite resources include KnittySpin, Weaving Today and Ravelry. We’d love to hear about your projects using handspun yarns over in our Ravelry group!

We look forward to hearing about your sheep to shawl adventures in 2014!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team


7 responses to “From Sheep to Shawl

  1. I am working on a “sheep to shawl” project myself this year. Only mine is more like Alpaca to shawl :-). I bought some beautiful gray Alpaca fiber (I have a white blanket and a brown and white spotted one too) that I am working up from a raw state to a lovely lace shawl. I need to be spinning instead of playing on the computer!!

  2. Me, too! Alpaca to … whatever. A friend of mine at work has three alpaca whose fleece she usually sells. She didn’t know I spun, I didn’t know she had alpaca. Now we’re fibre buds! So we really will be taking our fibre from the field to the … wherever.

    I know we’ll be looking at lots of woolery products to keep us moving forward. Are there any modifications to the above videos that would need to be considered for working up an alpaca fleece? I assume the unicorn scour is fine. I have Deb Robson’s books. Would you have any specific carding/combing advice for alpaca? I assume there will be de-hairing required. Thanks! Should be a fun year!

    • This is more than we can get into thru email. May I suggest that you give us a call?

      With Joy! Chris Miller The Woolery 315 St Clair St. Frankfort, KY 40601 Phone 502-352-9800 Fax 502-352-9802 Smile Today – smile at people and live to put smiles on others’ faces.

    • Itsekin olen tienannut jopa alle 300e kuukaudessa vufisatyövokmaoirmasra, joten on turha väittää, etteikö surkeapalkkaisia töitä olisi jo tarjolla meille “tyhmemmille”.Ja: jos sääntely on myrkkyä taloudelle, miksi Kiinan kaltainen “alkukantainen kommunistimaa” menestyy ja suorastaan imuroi investointeja? Näkisin mielelläni muutaman esimerkin valtiosta, jossa talouden sääntelyn lopettaminen on saanut aikaan täystyöllisyyden. Näitähän pitäisi löytyä, koska “työttömyyden ainoat syyt ovat regulointi ja minimipalkka”.

  3. Help! I am trying to weave on a table tapestry loom. It’s my first loom (and my first blog). I have warped the loom, and put a few bottom rows in to even out the warp, but every time I weave my first few rows of yarn for the actual weaving, the warp continues to show. I don’t know what else to try! Why is the warp showing? I should be able to pat the weft down but the weft won’t go down any farther…????

  4. Hello Barb. In my very limited experience with several home-made lap looms I have found that the type and spacing of the warp can make a difference and what you are using for weft. I have used a twine and pearl cotton, both do need to pack down after I get going. Don’t look for perfection the first time, just enjoy the process and learn as you go! Be careful, it is addicting. 🙂

    • Thank you! I fiddled with the loom/warp for a few hours and got it to work!!!! I figured it had to be something with the warp spacing and tension which was forcing the weft to be too rigid. So happy about this, and thank you for your prompt reply. I know about weaving addiction as well 🙂

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