Our flock continues to grow lamb by lamb as the Lambing season winds to a close. Lambing is exhausting but fills me with hope and optimism in the way only new life can do.
Lambing also makes me nostalgic for the early days. There was a time, many years ago, where we just had a few head of sheep instead of the more than 100 adults we now raise. For me, it’s always top of mind that we didn’t expand our flock just to have sheep. No, from the very beginning, our flock supported our fiber arts, and our fiber arts drew from our sheep.
When my daughter and I were introduced to needle felting, I immediately felt a deep connection to the sheep who had provided the wool through their fleece. I wanted to understand every aspect – from raising the sheep to shearing them to spinning the fiber and finally creating beautiful clothing and art that would last the test of time. I’ve always wanted to honor every facet of this centuries-old tradition.
Fiber Arts and Bunnies
When you buy a complete kit from Bear Creek, every fiber began as fleece from one of our sheep. Whether you are making a scarf for a snowman or adding a dress to a bunny, that beautiful wool was first a walking, eating, bleating member of our flock.
We shear our sheep annually, relieving them of their heavy fleece before summer gets too hot. We bring in a professional who makes the process look easy and minimizes any stress on our animals. The fleece is collected, shaken to remove debris, skirted, and prepared it to head to my friend and partner, Chris Armbrust.
Chris is also my partner in the Nome Schoolhouse project, and she is the owner of Dakota Fiber Mill. Chris’ mill is the only full-service fiber processing mill in the state, and she has been making yarn and roving from sheep, alpaca, goat, camel, bison, and more since 2010. Chris shares my passion for ensuring the fleece provided from my sheep is processed thoughtfully and with the highest standards.
Her mill washes, dries, and cards the fleece to create roving for Bear Creek and me. For yarn, the roving goes through additional processes, including spinning, plying, skeining, and finishing the wool to set the twist we associate with yarn.
Check out the process in this video.
From Natural to Watermelon
I think that wool is gorgeous in its natural color, and for some projects, this makes sense. However, I just love playing with pigments as Chris, and I collaborate to dye the wool in a rainbow of colors. Different wool accepts different pigments in its unique, and often surprising, way. Yet, after all these years, we are pretty good at predicting how the wool will accept the dyes.
Inspiration strikes each of us as we might have a project that calls for the perfect shade of green, or I have a bunny who just has to have a watermelon dress. It’s fun to push the boundaries of what we can create when we combine pigments and freshly processed wool.
Of course, Chris and her Dakota Fiber Mill process more than just my fleece. Chris and I both have a passion for fiber arts and a reverence for the animals who generously provide us with such amazing fleece. Turning that raw fleece into luxurious roving and yarn is Chris’s special talent.
Bear Creek Sheep
I love connecting the steps for people who ask about our sheep. Most are surprised to learn that every kit, every handful of roving we sell, we helped bring into the world as a stumbling lamb. In a way, I know what your dragon ate when it was on the back of a Romney grazing in our fields!
One day our new baby lambs will become adults with thick fleece ready to be sheared. Who knows? That one lamb may create hundreds of smiles as people enjoy her wool!
By the way, our Nome Schoolhouse will be ready for summer visits! Stay tuned for more updates as we put the finishing touches on our dream to devote this special space to fiber arts! I hope someday you’ll come to visit!!
While most people rang-n 2020 back in January, when you live on a farm, Spring is the true start to a new year! And absolutely nothing marks a new season quite like bringing life into the world. Read More