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Farm-fresh Yarn

How did that skein of yarn in a farmer’s booth get so dreamy? Through years of sampling, listening to knitters, and collaborating with mills. One shepherd shares the journey to her perfect yarn.

Anne Sammons Apr 18, 2024 - 7 min read

Farm-fresh Yarn Primary Image

It took several experiments for Anne Sammons of Leaf Livestock to create her dream yarn. This one combines combed top from one mill with a semiworsted spinning process at another. Photos by Anne Sammons/Leaf Livestock

There’s nothing better than a fresh-from-the-mill delivery of farm yarn. The satisfaction of about 2 years of work reveals itself as I open the box. Shepherds who create farm yarn know how special this moment is. Many of you who create with farm yarn can also relate.

That yarn starts in the hot summer months as we bale hay. It continues in the coldest months as we keep our sheep waterers thawed. Most sheep breeds take a full year to grow a fleece with a staple long enough to make yarn. Did you know mills need at least a 3½-inch staple length to create yarn? The shearers shear, the shearing team skirts, bags and tags, the shepherds skirt some more. Finally, the wool is packaged for delivery to the mill. Then the waiting starts. I’ve waited up to a full year for yarn to return from the mill to the farm, where I dye it in a range of colors.

Decisions and Worries

Really, though, there’s so much more than waiting. Many decisions go into making farm yarn. Should I have the mill make DK, sport, worsted, or a different weight? Is 3-ply or 2-ply a better option? Should I make 4-ounce skeins or 2-ounce skeins? Wait, what about 100-gram skeins? I had no idea what kind of yarn customers would prefer.

When I started making farm yarn, I was a new spinner and weaver with very little personal experience with yarn, so this was a straight-up learning curve. I didn’t know what ply or weight yarn I preferred to create with, and this added to my uncertainty of what yarn to order. This is where forging a relationship with the miller is important! Five years ago when I was a novice at making farm yarn, I asked a lot of questions. Fortunately, the millers graciously guided me.

Yellow, green, and blue yarn with silk fiber blended in. A nearby mill combined wool from Leaf Livestock with colorful silk to create this bright confetti yarn.

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