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How Many Colors Can One Sheep Grow?

Merinos and other sheep were bred for centuries for bright-white fleece, but some shepherds are working to add color to their flocks.

Lisa Mitchell Sep 12, 2023 - 8 min read

How Many Colors Can One Sheep Grow? Primary Image

Before my dear friend Jennifer Denning proposed that she find me some Merino sheep, I was a naïve but passionate knitter. I would go to my local yarn store and look for something in the right weight that was soft and a good color. I literally thought my projects began with the yarn—I didn’t think about the sheep, or the farmers that raised them. I certainly didn’t know that Merino came in colors other than white, or that people like Jen could raise their own Merino fiber. I never really thought about the origins of any of the balls of yarn I bought. I just thought that all wool came from big companies who had thousands of sheep, and that wool was sent out somewhere to a factory where balls of yarn were manufactured on a scale like peanut butter or ice cream.

But in 2018, Jen found Laurel Stone of Apple Creek Merinos and bought four ewes, which Jen would keep for me at Blossom’s Farm, her place in Eugene, Oregon. Our plan was to blend the fine Merino with the fiber from other exotic animals I had just begun raising in the Pacific Northwest. The ewes now live with Jen on her farm, where it is arid and well suited to coated fleece. One of the ewes, Precious, produces fleece that is divinely soft and full of bold crimp. From that one beautiful ewe I get a range of exciting colors—dark gray-brown to light silver gray to white—all in one fleece.

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