A Season for Wool

When you’re a knitter who loves working with wool, every month of the year brings something special.

Hannah Thiessen Howard Mar 4, 2024 - 5 min read

A Season for Wool Primary Image

For every season, there is wool. Photo by Jenn Bakos, courtesy of By Hand Serial

Deeply entrenched in mid-winter, January is not marked by any natural fanfare: no flowers blooming, no lengthening or shortening of the days, and no change in weather. Placing the start of the year in the middle of a season that calls for us to hibernate seems like some cruel joke! Luckily, we fiber folk have a different seasonal flow we can follow–even when it doesn’t match the calendar.

Nestled in Wool

Winter is the ultimate fiber crafting season. While Autumn kicks off knitting season for many of us every year with fall festivals, new pattern releases, and more indoor time, winter is a time for making. I love spending my evenings wrapped in a cozy blanket and stitching. Fiber crafts give me a respite from the cold and cure my cabin fever. The bodies of friends and family become walking testimonials to the usefulness and cleverness of our craft, adorned in cozy sweaters, scarves, hats, and mittens.

White kitten on blue yarn Like kitten fluff, wool yarn can be the perfect comfort on cold winter days. Photo by Hannah Thiessen Howard

Incoming: Lambs

While we’re snug as squirrels in our little home nests, farmers are already planning ahead to the upcoming spring. Sheep have an average gestation period of 5 months, making winter the perfect period for breeding. Although many farmers winter their flocks at least part of the time in warm barns, babies in many parts of the country have the best chance of success if born in early to mid-spring. This also aligns well with the first spring shearing, which generally happens before lambing season for hygiene and simplicity. Ewes present visibly when they’re ready to “drop,” and it’s easier to see and keep the area clean post-shearing if there are any complications.

Once baby lambs are bouncing in the fields and shearing days are finished, the fiber fun begins. Fleeces are either skirted and sold to spinners or sent off to be processed at fiber mills, where they’ll go through various steps to become spinning fiber or yarn. This process can take anywhere from four months to a year, so it’s important to plan ahead. A perfect schedule might involve sending a clip in fall to receive back in spring, or sending a spring clip to receive ahead of fall shows and events. Depending on breed, sheep might be shorn once or twice per year, and how much yarn the farm gets back depends on the quality of the wool and size of the fleeces.

White wool on carding machine Shepherds send off the wool collected from their flocks for processing into spinning fiber or yarn, turning the raw fleeces into knitter-ready yarns. Photo by Jenn Bakos, courtesy of By Hand Serial

Dreaming of Cooler Days

In summer, many crafters are wrapping up their winter projects and looking forward to more time outdoors in the garden or traveling. This is my favorite time to clean and sort through my stash, reclaim yarns for new projects, or unravel pieces that are no longer inspiring me. I may be thinking ahead to new color palettes or lightening up the weight of yarn I’m using, transitioning to smaller and lighter projects. While I’m exploring different crafts, the same sheep that will soon produce fall wool are busy getting fat, happy, and fuzzy in green fields and meadows.

Sweater Weather Again

Fall rolls around again, and with it, another shearing season and the exciting start of fiber festivals and crafting excitement. With fervor, crafters once again pick up their needles and begin looking for something enticing to put on them. Farmers get the spring clip returned and label, dye, and display at markets and craft fairs, exchanging skeins with enthusiastic makers. At home, I begin dreaming of ribbed edges and cozy shawl collar cardigans in the wooliest of wools, and the cycle begins anew.

Hannah Thiessen Howard is the author of Slow Knitting and Seasonal Slow Knitting. She is a teacher, knitwear designer, and consultant with knitting and fiber companies. She knits, spins, and writes in Nashville, Tennessee. Find her online at and on Instagram as @hannahbelleknits.