Guest Post: On the Fiber Farm with Sharon Tree

On today’s guest post, Sharon Tree shares a typical day on her own fiber farm with our readers. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to raise fiber-producing animals, today’s post will give you a peek inside (and outside) the barn!

On my fiber farm, I raise sheep, llamas, alpacas, goats and Angora rabbits for fiber. Each day begins by checking on the animals to make sure that no one is caught in the fence or needs to have their coats adjusted. Many fiber farmers will jacket their sheep (and other animals) to keep the fiber clean and protected from the outside elements; un-jacketed sheep can get into quite a few messes!
If an animal is moving slowly, that means it’s time to corral the herd and check for pale eyelids. This in an indicator which means that worming medicine must be administered by injection, a process which is quite time-consuming. After that, it’s time for breakfast, which is either grain or hay from the barn.
While the sheep eat, I dump over the troughs and clean them out, then check the waterers in the pasture to remove any debris which may have fallen in since the day before. Occasionally, it’s necessary to empty the waterers out completely in order to scrub out algae that has formed – clean water is always a must!
A typical morning of checking and feeding animals and cleaning their surroundings begins with the ewes, followed by the rams, llamas, goats and alpacas. After that, it’s time to check on the chickens to collect eggs and clean their waterer.
The next stop is to check on the angora rabbits to make sure they are fed and have plenty of water. Each bunny is checked for mats, mites and weight. If they are plump, I know that they are eating well; if a bunny has matted hair or longer fiber, that means it’s time for a shearing!
If I have a request for a purchase of washed wool, I will then pick the fleece and start a soak. While washing the fleece can be time-consuming (one fleece typically takes four hours), I have found that it is much more cost-effective to wash your own wool rather than having others do it for you. The soaking time can be spent spinning or tending to other tasks such as feeding the dogs and barn cats, the studio guinea pig, or doing some gardening or house work.
Barns are cleaned on an as-needed basis, but I make a point to clean them before lambing, during labor (which can last two hours) and every day after the last lamb is born so that each stall is fresh and clean. Lambing goes on for at least two months in the spring, but it it worth it to spend the extra time cleaning during those two months, as it keeps the lambs and ewes much healthier.
Once the lambs are born, it’s necessary to check on them several times each day to make sure their tummies are full. If one doesn’t seem to be thriving, I will milk mom and give the lamb at various times throughout the day; if the lamb is not nursing at all, it gets to wear a diaper and live in the house where’s it’s bottle fed and easier to keep an eye on its progress. Once it’s good and strong, it will start getting into trouble, which means it’s ready to join the rest of the lambs outside!
My flock is cormo sheep, a breed I chose for its fine fleece and hardy nature – cormo sheep are known for having very few health issues in general. Each year, I cross some of my white cormos with a colored ram or a BFL ram to introduce variety and color into some of the fleeces. Not only does it provide new genetics when needed for a proven ewe, it’s also a bit like playing Dr. Frankenstein, as you’re never totally sure what you’ll get!
Life on the fiber farm is always filled with surprises and ups and downs. It’s a thrill to welcome new animals to the world, and sad when we lose one to old age or illness (luckily for us, the latter happens infrequently). It’s a true pleasure to share the fibers we raise with fiber-loving folk, and nothing beats being able to spin with fiber we have collected from these wonderful animals who bring us so much joy each day!
Sharon Tree is a passionate fiber farmer who designs yarns & patterns and judges and sells fleeces. She is also a teacher and share many spinning tutorials here on her YouTube channel.

Post-Spinzilla Wrapup: Handspun Project Inspiration

Spinzilla has come and gone, and we’re pleased to report that this year’s event raised over $13,000 to benefit the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP), which fosters the spinners of tomorrow through education and outreach efforts! Team Woolery spun an impressive 121,710.260 yards collectively, which put us in the #6 position of the top ten teams! We’d also like to congratulate Tracy Hammond of Team Woolery, who spun the most yardage of any Spinzilla Spinner with a whopping 30,830.76 yards – what a superstar!  We couldn’t be more proud of everyone who spun with us for this year’s event; thanks for being a part of Team Woolery! You can view more Spinzilla results for 2014 here.

Of course, now the question remains: what do I make with all of the yarn I just spun!?

To answer that question, we’ve selected a few great patterns to knit, crochet or weave, and we’ve also included additional resources to help you find the perfect project for your handspun yarns!



Top Left: Happy Handspun Hat by Tara Swiger; written for 7 WPI handspun yarn. Available here on Ravelry.

Top Right: Quaker Yarn Stretcher Boomerang by Susan Ashcroft; written for 9 WPI handspun yarn. Available here on Ravelry.

Bottom: Handspun Spiral Rug by Donna Druchunas; written for 8 WPI handspun yarn. Available here on Ravelry.



Top Left: Easy Handspun Shawl by Joanna Stephens; written for 9 WPI yarn. Available here on Ravelry.

Top Right: Artfully Simple Infinity Scarf by Tamara Kelly; written for 9 WPI yarn. Available here on Ravelry.

Bottom: Simple Beanie/Cloche by Mirtooli Golino; written for 9 WPI yarn. Available here on Ravelry.



Top Left: FatCatKnits’ Nerds Li’l Lizzy Tote Bag on Ravelry.

Top Right: Chinders’ Mallard Scarf on Ravelry.

Bottom: SerialSpinner’s Collapse Weave Handspun Scarf on Craftsy.

Additional resources for patterns & inspiration:

2014 Fiber Toys of Christmas


Our annual holiday promotion, the 12 Fiber Toys of Christmas, is in full swing! Each Friday, we feature a favorite fiber toy with a special deal and a chance to win that particular toy (tool). Weekly specials and giveaways will be posted on our Facebook pageTwitter feed, and it will also be included in our newsletter.

These are weekly specials which expire every Friday (when the new one starts), so be sure to check the links above so you don’t miss out!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Measuring & Keeping Track of Spinzilla Skeins


How much yarn will you spin during Spinzilla?

Spinzilla is here! The spinning frenzy has begun as each team vies for the Golden Niddy Noddy. We’d like to take a few moments to share some of our best methods for measuring handspun yarn during this week’s event; there is sure to be an option listed below which works best for you!

Some common ways of measuring yarn include:

Also, don’t forget that that this year, plying will count towards your total yardage. The formula for calculating your plied yardage is:

plied yardage + [plied yardage x # of plies] = yardage for which you can claim credit

Note: chain plied and navajo plied yarns count as 3-ply. 

IMG_7887Label those skeins!

We’d like to make it easy for our fellow spinners to keep track of their finished Spinzilla skeins by providing some handy free printable labels for your finished handspun yarns! Not only can you view the yardage and number of plies at a glance, which will make it easy to calculate your grand total at the end of Spinzilla, but you can also make note of the tools, settings and fibers you used for future reference!

SpinzillaLabelsClick here to download your printable PDF labels!

Join us for the 2014 edition of the Fiber Toys of Christmas


Have you heard about our annual holiday promotion, the 12 Fiber Toys of Christmas? Each Friday, we will feature a favorite fiber toy with a special deal and a chance to win that particular toy (tool). Weekly specials and giveaways will be posted on our Facebook pageTwitter feed, and it will also be included in our newsletter.

These are weekly specials which expire every Friday (when the new one starts), so be sure to check the links above so you don’t miss out!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

6 Ways to Get Ready for Spinzilla!

Spinzilla will be here in just a few short weeks, and all of us on #TeamWoolery are gearing up for a successful event! As we all know, practice makes perfect, and Spinzilla is the perfect way to challenge yourself to take your spinning to the next level!

Last month, we shared some suggestions for goals to set during Spinzilla; today, we’d like to share our top 6 suggestions to help you prepare for a monster of a spinning week!

Ravtar-spinzilla-transparent_FAQ-answers1. Check out the Spinzilla Blog Tour & FAQs. This year’s blog tour topics include plying, estimating how much fiber to have on hand, photographing your finished skeins of handspun yarn, and more. We also recommend reading over the Spinzilla FAQ‘s to make sure you are familiar with the rules, especially since there have been a few changes since last year’s event. Most notably, spinners who choose to ply their yarn this year will receive a plying credit to count towards their total yardage (more on that here). You can review the entire Spinzilla FAQ here.

2. Clear Those Bobbins! Now is a great time to make sure that all of your bobbins are free of leftover singles and ready for use. Depending on whether or not you plan on plying your yarn during the event, you may also wish to stock up on extra bobbins or storage bobbins to accommodate all of your singles. For those of you who plan on plying throughout Spinzilla, click here to read our blog post from earlier this year which discusses various plying options!

3.  Prepare Your Fiber. Doing your prep work ahead of time will make it a breeze to spin like the wind! Here are some common preparations you may wish to try:

  • Predraft Roving: Perhaps the easiest of these three options, predrafting your roving ahead of time will allow you to run it through your wheel quickly. There is a fantastic photo tutorial demonstrating 3 ways to predraft roving here on the Craftsy blog.
  • Hand Cards

    Hand Cards

    Rolags or Punis: An ideal preparation for woolen-style spinning, rolags or punis can be made with the use of hand cards or a blending board. Another benefit of spinning from rolags or punis is that they are easy to take on-the-go!

  • Batts: If you have access to a drum carder, batts are a rather versatile option to explore for spinzilla. There are number of ways you can spin with the resulting sheet of fiber created, and they are also a great way to use up leftover bits and bobs of fibers from your stash (click here for an excellent article from the KnittySpin archives to explore this topic a little more).


4. Be a Master of Measuring Yarn. There are many ways to efficiently measure your handspun yarn such as a yarn meter,  yarn balance or niddy noddy. Below you’ll find each of these three options, plus links to tutorials to help you learn how how to use each one to measure your yardage!

5. Perform Routine Maintenance. You’re about to ask your wheel to do a lot more work than it’s probably used to, so make sure it’s up to the challenge by performing a little routine maintenance beforehand! We have an easy-to-follow guide to spinning wheel maintenance here in our blog archives; at the very least, we recommend oiling your spinning wheel throughout the week of Spinzilla to keep things running smoothly – watch our video below for a quick demonstration!

6. Clear Your Schedule! Before Spinzilla starts on October 6, make sure you’ve taken care of as many chores and other tasks as possible. Clean the house, prepare some meals in advance, or arrange to have planned activities for the kiddos to allow maximum spinning time during the week of Spinzilla.

Avec Joie,
Chris, Nancy and the entire Woolery team

Rug Hooking Materials: Backings

Rug hooking is a simple technique that has been around for for many years.  It started as a way for people to use the thrums left over from weaving and any scraps of material they had around the house. Traditionally burlap was used as feed bags were recycled into the backing material for the rugs. These very frugal rugs varied from utilitarian pieces to works of art. Today the rug hooking technique isn’t just used for rugs; it is also used to create ornaments, button covers, chair pads, wall hangings, bags, and much more. Your imagination is your only limit on what you can create using the rug hooking technique. However, in order to look outside the traditional uses you have to understand how different materials impact the final result.


The first thing you have to look at is the backing you pick.  Even today, burlap is the most economical choice as it is easy to find and inexpensive to purchase. However, it is also the least sturdy of all of the backing choices you have today.

Burlap Backing


Burlap is made of jute and when it gets wet (and rugs do tend to get wet!), it will degrade faster than the other backing options. So, if you want to make a rug that you can pass down for generations, burlap is not your best choice. However, if you want to make a wall hanging, ornament, or something else that isn’t going to see much wear and tear, burlap is an excellent choice for a backing. One thing to keep in mind with burlap is that the weave is not perfectly even; the holes will vary in size and the ditch may not run exactly straight. If you are wanting to create a geometric piece where consistency is key to the finished object, burlap is not a good choice for that type of project.

monk's cloth

monk’s cloth

The next step up from burlap is monk’s cloth.  This cloth is a bit sturdier and more expensive than burlap; it tends to have some type of marking system woven into the cloth, either vertical lines or a 2”x2” grid of white lines against the base cream color of the cloth. This makes it very easy to transfer patterns and to keep your rug hooking square in the frame. Each hole in this cloth is framed by a square of two threads on each side. New rug hookers sometimes find that when they go to push their hook through the hole that they split the threads with their hook instead. While it is something that a rug hooker will adapt to, it can certainly be frustrating at first! Monk’s cloth is made of cotton and is decently sturdy, but not stiff.  It makes it a good choice for bags, pillows, and other items which need flexibility in the final product.

rug warp

rug warp

The next choice for backings is rug warp. Rug warp is also made of cotton, but each square is made of a thicker, sturdier thread than monk’s cloth. Again, this is more expensive than the previous two choices, but when you compare the three you can easily see why: rug warp is much heavier than monk’s cloth or burlap, making it a good option for rugs and other items that will see a heavy use. It is easy to hook into as the holes are clearly defined and always run in a straight line.



The last, and most expensive type of backing, is linen.  Linen is light weight, flexible, and sturdy.  The weave is not quite as uniform as rug warp, but it is considerably more uniform than burlap is.  Linen is a good choice for any project as it has all the best qualities of the other backings put together.  If you want to make a heirloom quality item, then linen is the best choice for that piece because linen lasts.


All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Setting Goals for Spinzilla!

Spinzilla is returning this fall, and we’re counting down the days til the festivities begin on October 6. Spinner signups are happening now through September 22, and the proceeds benefit the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP), which provides volunteer mentors with supplies and educational materials to share the joy of handspinning with children. In 2013, the event raised nearly $6,000 for NAMP to fund the addition of a spinning component to their program; this year, they seek raise even more funds to double the number of children served in the years ahead.

The Woolery is proud to be a Yak Sponsor for Spinzilla this year; sponsor donations such as ours help to underwrite the costs associated with running the event. This ensures that spinner registration fees go directly towards supporting NAMP, and that will help them reach their goal of doubling the number of children served in 2014.


In addition to fundraising, Spinzilla’s goal is to empower spinners to learn more about the craft through hands-on experience. By spinning as much yarn as possible, Spinzilla aims for each participant to surpass their own expectations and break down the their inhibitions about spinning yarn, giving them a sense of accomplishment and perhaps even mastery!

Last year, #TeamWoolery spun a total of 74,593 yards and was in the top 5 teams for most yardage spun. We offered some fantastic, fibery prizes for our team members last year, and this year we’re planning even more exciting events and prizes for those of you spinning on #TeamWoolery!

Team Woolery 2013

Team Woolery 2013

It’s never too early to start preparing for Spinzilla. If this is your first time doing this event, it may seem overwhelming. However, we’re all about setting manageable goals to ensure spinning success this fall! You may choose to set your Spinzilla goals by distance, by weight, or by the clock:

niddynoddySpinning the Distance
This year, each spinner is being challenged to join the Monster Mile Club, which is a new award category for 2014. Any participant who spins a mile of yarn (1,760 yards) will be automatically entered in a special prize drawing for Monster Mile Cub members! Many of our teammates from 2013 spun more than a mile of yarn, so rest assured that this is a very attainable goal! For added insurance, we have created special Monster Mile Spinning Fiber Packs which include 2 pounds of high-quality, easy-to-spin fiber at a great price!

fiberscaleSpinning by Weight
For those who are concerned about running out of fiber during the event (or for anyone with an extensive fiber stash they want to spin through), setting daily goals for Spinzilla by weight is the way to go! Whether your goal is to spin through a 4oz braid of roving or a pound of fiber, outlining these goals now will help you stay focused during the event.

clockSpinning by the Clock
For those of you who are concerned about time management, setting a daily goal in hours or minutes is a stress-free approach to spinning sanity! Weaver and spinner Sara Lamb recently blogged about her experiment with spinning for one hour each day and found that she was able to spin 2,000 yards in that time. Now is a great time to do your own experiments to see how long it takes you to fill a bobbin or spin through a braid of roving, all of which will help you plan your spinning schedule for Spinzilla.

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team


Guest Post: Pin Loom Weaving with Meg Stump

IMG_7553When we think of easy-to-handle, portable fiber arts, weaving does not immediately spring to mind. However,  a pin loom (and all the tools needed to weave on it) can be carried in a small bag!

Not only that, but weaving on a pin loom offers an immediate payoff. Unlike a standard loom, there is barely any setup, and with a little practice a square can be woven in ten to fifteen minutes. It is thrilling and fulfilling all at once. Weaving the squares can offer an incredibly effective way to unwind, relax, and focus. The repetitive movements ( as with other forms of weaving) can deliver a state of calm, relaxed alertness.  This is the state of awareness that allows your body and mind to regroup and restore. This is where focus and creativity live. And who isn’t interested in a bit more of that?

A Brief History

Pin looms have changed a lot over the years, but they still remain true to their basic function: weaving.

"The Weave-It Book." Medford, Massachusetts: Donar Products, Corp., 1936.

“The Weave-It Book.” Medford, Massachusetts: Donar Products, Corp., 1936.

The first books of pin loom patterns came out in 1936. This was at a time when a lot of women’s clothes were still being made at home. The primary focus in the early books was on clothing for adults and children with home decor items coming in second.

You can see a wonderful sample of these early books and patterns at as well as access an incredible reserve of pin loom information.  You can purchase a Pin Loom at the Woolery here.

Looking at the early books, its hard to remember that folks were just as interested in color and style as today’s weaver, they just didn’t have access to affordable color printing – so you have to use your imagination.

Pin looms and pin loom pattern books seem to have been an active part of the handcrafting scene through the 40′s and 50′s. Life Magazine had illustrations of World War II soldiers using pin loom weaving as part of their rehabilitation. At least a few of the Minnesota county fairs had specific categories for pin loomed items. But then the 60′s came along, and the pin loom’s popularity fell away and the Scoville factory that manufactured the pin looms burned down. There did not seem to be any reason to rebuild it.

That might have been the end of the story for pin looms except that even as interest in old fashioned home arts faded, a new passion for self sufficiency was taking off. This included raising fleece animals and spinning.  As the move toward natural, hand crafted items took off, the pin loom was discovered to be a perfect sample loom.


The perfect sample loom.

A third pin loom transformation occurred very recently with Schacht Spindle’s decision to work with John Mullarkey to design and construct the Zoom Loom, a pin loom which incorporates all the original functionality of the pin loom with an updated, easy to use style.  The Zoom Loom has been largely responsible for reintroducing the pin loom to an avid fiber audience, and  has helped me to share my pin loom patterns with both experienced and novice pin loom weavers.

Technique: Joining Squares

One of the challenges for many new pin loom weavers is that while it is easy to weave the square, it is not always clear how the squares can be joined  together to create a larger project. There are a number of ways that all work very well, depending upon the purpose of the item, and you can find a number of basic joining techniques here.


For example, this tablet case was joined using a mattress stitch. It offers a swift, smooth way to join squares, but  the caveat is that it works best on seams that are not going to get a great deal of stress.

Sheep and cow

On the other hand, these sheep and cow toys were joined by using a single crochet stitch to join the seams, which were then turned to the inside.  I will use a single crochet join anywhere where its okay to have a very noticeable or protruding seam, for example if the seam is to be a part of a purse embellishment, or when the crochet join is going to be turned to the inside and will not show at all, like with stuffed animals.

Pin looms have a rich history and an exciting future as artists and craftspersons begin to express themselves in this new medium, finding her or her own pin loom “voice.”

megstumpMargaret Stump is the author of the newly published, Pin Loom Weaving; 40 Projects for Tiny Hand Looms. She lives with her husband, Jerry, in Mankato, MN, and spends far too much time thinking about what she is making and what she might make on her pin looms.

Margaret, also known as Meg, can be found at where she is attempting to compile everything she knows about pin looms as well as everything that she can request from others to share. For example, Meg is very interested in posting examples of other people’s finished and unfinished pin loom projects, along with any comments on their own weaving/creative process. These will go up in a Gallery Page as soon as there are a number of examples. She can be reached at and would be happy to chat about pin loom weaving.