So over the past couple of weeks, we’ve gotten a few emails like this: “Help! I’m not a spinner and my FibreShare partner spins!” If you’re going through this, don’t panic! We’re here for you! The reason you may have been matched up with a spinner is because we try our best to match first by fibre preference and second by craft. We promise it’s not as daunting as it sounds. And who knows?? You may learn that you want to try spinning yourself! Read on for a quick crash course to curating a spinning package, by our co-host: Beth Meyer.
Hi #fibrefriends! I’m Beth, and I spin + dye yarn for weavers. I’m also a co-host of FibreShare! You may have seen me around Instagram (@beth_e_meyer) or as a #mondaymaker with my yarn business called Ugly Hank. Hopefully I can give you a few tips on how to make a great FibreShare package for a spinner! It’s not as intimidating as it seems – I promise.
Now, I definitely am not an expert spinner. I only started spinning about two years ago. So my tips will be very basic and for folks who are total newbies to the spinning world! If that’s you – then read on, love.
Here’s a quick crash course in the basic ways you can buy fiber for spinning. I’ll start from the very beginning with raw fleece and work my way through all the lovely batts and such that you’ll see for sale in spinning supply shops. And at the end, I’ll give you a big list of my very favorite spinning supply shops. Here it goes!
So here’s a picture of me processing a raw fleece. This is the most basic you can get. As you can see, this bad boy came straight off the sheep. There’s still icky bits in there like straw, burrs, and.. yes.. poop. All these icky things are bundled into one fun little euphemism called: VM (vegetable matter). That sounds nicer, yeah? When I buy raw fleece, I have to wash it a few times with special soap, let it dry in the sun, then use combs or fancy tools called “carders” to get the fibre ready for spinning. Now… you really don’t need to know all this. When you buy something for your FibreShare partner, you’ll be getting something that has already been processed. No VM for you. I’m just starting here so you can see the process and imagine this a little better. Let’s move on to locks.
Washed Fleece + Locks
You can totally purchase wool that has already been washed. You can buy it in bulk as a whole washed fleece, or you can buy it in little bundles of washed “locks” (see locks explained below). If your FibreShare partner is a spinner who likes to comb/card/blend her own fleece, this might be a good option! You can ask your FibreShare partner if she knows how to make stuff straight from a fleece. Chances are – she does! There are a TON of sheep breeds out there. You can always ask your FibreShare partner if there is a certain breed she loves to work with!
So here’s a picture of some hand dyed locks. Locks are curly bundles of wool. You can buy locks that are already wash and dyed like the ones in the picture. You can buy locks grown by sheep, goats, alpaca, llamas… the list is long. You can buy locks that are short, or that are super long – like over 10 inches! Usually, the longer they are, the most fun they are to use. But the long ones can also get pretty pricey. Of course, I think all locks are yummy.
Spinners sometimes make art yarn straight from spinning the locks alone. The yarn looks super curly and fun and textured. Or, sometimes spinners will blend locks with other materials so the locks are like little pops of curly color throughout a hank of yarn! Really, spinners love locks and will know exactly how to play with them. Locks are a great gift to add to a FibreShare package because they come in small quantities and won’t break the bank. You can search Etsy for “dyed locks” and TONS of results come up. I’ll share my favorite lock sources at the end, though! 😉
Roving and Top
Okay, this category is BIG. When I started spinning, I was super confused. It’s really not that hard though. Here’s my quick explanation:
Roving: Wool that has been carded so that the fibers face MOSTLY the same direction. Carding machines have hundreds of tiny sharp teeth that align the fiber into a long strip. Roving can be made by hand or made with machines. It can be bought dyed or undyed. Of course there are like a million ways it is prepped/sold (*rolls eyes*) so I’ll try to break it all down here simply:
Regular Roving: Looks like a long thick strip of fiber about the circumference of your wrist. Of course you won’t see it listed in shops as “regular roving” … I just called it that for clarity.
Pencil Roving: Roving that is really skinny looking. It has already been split into thin strips.
Pin Drafted Roving: Roving that is thin has been kind of pulled apart a bit so that it’s fluffy and skinny and ready to spin.
Top: (pictured above) So for the longest time I really couldn’t understand the difference between Roving and Top. They look pretty much the same at a glance. But they’re super different to use and they’re made a lot differently. Top is combed, so that ALL the fibers face the same direction.
I think top is nicest to use when it’s made by hand. You can also buy it from companies who make it with big huge machines, but usually commercial top goes through chemical processes that make it feel weird to spin. Plus I always say – support local farms + makers!!! I’ll list my favorite roving and top sources at the end 😉
Batts are the most fun ever. If you really like your FibreShare partner and want to spoil her (#duh), get her an art batt. A batt is made by mixing and blending lots of funky fiber elements together with a carder, so that the fibers face in generally the same direction. Batts look like big fluffy rectangles that come rolled up in a cylinder shape. Or sometimes people sell “mini batts,” which is just a big rectangle batt that has already been stripped into sections and bundles. Mini Batts look like small, loose, fluffy knots. I’ll list some good batt sources at the end… there are so many it’s hard to choose!
Rolags are kind of similar to batts. They’re made by carding fiber is a similar direction, BUT then they’re rolled up into a thin tube. Usually you see them packaged in little tube spirals – like a cinnamon roll.
When you spin them up, you pull from the tip of the tube, so the fiber isn’t pulling from one direction – it’s kind of swirled. (Hope that makes sense haha). They’re one of my all time favorite things to spin! Also, you may see the name “punis” floating around when shopping for rolags. They’re basically the same but super skinny. I like rolags better. But that’s just me.
Where to Buy All These Things!
Now that you know a bit about spinning supplies, here’s a list of some places where I already like to shop, and where I plan to shop in the future. I prefer to shop with makers and with farms, because I’m really passionate about sourcing responsibly from folks who treat animals with kindness and respect. So if you feel the same way (I hope you do!) then here are some great sources for you + your FibreShare partner!
Remember, FibreShare is about giving and making friendships, so please don’t feel pressure to spend a lot of money or to put together the most mind blowing package. Your new #fibrefriend will LOVE whatever you put together, as long as it’s thoughtful. And let’s be honest… if you made it through this looooooong article, you’re a pretty thoughtful FibreShare partner LOL!
1. Classy Squid Fiber Co: This shop has amazing rolags. I’m actually about to spin up some of her epic “Exploding Tardis” rolags (pictured). …My husband is a big fan of Dr. Who and is very excited to have a Tardis Scarf this fall! I also love this shop’s art batts, but I’m a rolag girl haha. Truly though, anything from this shop would be an awesome choice!
2. Spun Right Round: This shop is one of my favorites, and it’s also one of our beloved #mondaymaker shops who provided a special FibreShare participant discount code! (Refer to your top secret email for the code!) The hand dyed top is aaaaaaaamazing. This summer I spun up a braid of her blended Merino Top called “Fright Night” (pictured) and it was so soft and lovely – just a dream to work with!
3. Nessaland Fibers: This shop is dangerous to me. I love everything about it. The fiber is sourced responsibly, the colors and blends are gorgeous, and as a texture junky… I am just crazy for allllll the art batts! Now, a lot of the art batts come in pretty big sizes and might be cost prohibitive. HOWEVER, there are some amazing listings for “Stash Enhancers” (pictured) filled with great odds and ends. Those listings are usually more approachable price-wise and are beautiful! I think they’d make an amazing gift for any spinner.
4. Seitview Farm: This is a small farm that I’ve shopped with in the past, and I love their roving! Plus, the shop owner is super sweet and helpful, so I really like supporting her farm. I’ve used the Rambouillet roving myself (which was awesome!), and I feel like I need some of that Leicester Longwool roving in my life. Also her washed locks look gorgeous!
5. Alpaca Meadows: I’m pretty sure if I won the lottery, half of the money would go to this farm. First of all, it’s in my home state of Ohio (woo!). Second, the hand dyed Suri Alpaca locks look heavenly. …In fact I know that they’re heavenly because I ordered the locks pictured above to make a surprise for my own FibreShare partner 😉
6. Herman Hills Farm: So I haven’t actually purchased anything from this shop yet, but it’s totally inevitable. I’ve been in touch with the farmer (who is so kind!) and I’m kind of stalking her Etsy LOL. I love that this farm is close to my hometown of Cincinnati, OH, and their sweet sheep are lovingly cared for, which is super important to me. All the hand dyed locks are just stunning, but I really want to order some of their Wensleydale locks. YUM.
7. Hey Lady Hey: Melissa of Hey Lady Hey is a super talented artisan yarn + fiber supplier, AND she is one of our beloved #mondaymakers! (So remember to use the discount code from your fancy FibreShare email 😉 ). I am crushing pretty hard on these hand dyed “Crocus” mini batts!
8. North Star Alpacas: This shop has the best base yarn of all time. I’m obsessed with their Alpaca + Cormo blend. But they also have great fleeces and spinning supplies! I recommend their roving 100%. And the lady who runs the shop is really lovely to work with. Yay for supporting farms!
9. Pure Angora Knits: Okay. This shop? This shop has my heart. It’s run by my friend Melanie, in my hometown of Cincinnati, OH, and all the fiber is grown by SUPER SPOILED BUNNIES! When you order fiber, the order comes with a photo + details about the sweet bunny who grew that specific fiber. (Gah! My heart!) I love everything about Pure Angora Knits, and spinning this fiber is a dream. Also, Melanie has kindly offered 10% off all orders by FibreShare participants – so remember to refer back to your email with #mondaymaker discount codes!
10. Phoenix Farm Fiber: Here’s a shop I haven’t yet tried, but I plan to try soon. I love that their materials are sourced from their own animals or from other small farms, and these guys seem pretty passionate about treating animals with kindness! Plus I’m always a sucker for hand dyed locks, and gosh, just look at these beauties!
11. Rare Breeds | Buckeye View Farm: So my favorite fleece to date came from this farm. It was a Leicester Longwool fleece grown by a sweet little guy named Micro Man. I loved the wool – I loved the kind farmer who runs the shop – I love it all! She’s got some Leicester Longwool roving for sale right now, and I’m willing to bet that it’s amazing. It would seriously make a great gift for any spinner!
12. Bakewell Hearts: Here’s a great one-stop-shop for any spinner! It’s filled with beautiful rolags, art batts, all kinds of exciting stuff! Plus, this shop is one of the super generous #mondaymakers who has offered a discount code! Woo! Can’t get much better than that!
13. Katka Meadows Sheep Farm: I ordered a whole bunch of Coopworth roving from this farm recently and it was gone in a snap. I just couldn’t stop spinning it! So fluffy, soft, and clean. And it just feels good to support a farm – especially when you can see photos of the happy sheep who grew the fiber! <3
14. Wild Rose Farm Fibers: So here’s another shop I haven’t tried YET, but I’ve been creepin’ pretty regularly on their Etsy shop haha. The whole farm just looks heavenly, and all the natural rovings look divine. As a spinner myself, I feel confident saying that anything from this shop would make a fantastic gift for your spinning #fibrefriends!
15. Serene Fiber Arts: Last but certainly not least – this shop is known for the most beautiful yarn, but you can also find some great spinning fiber here! The gal who runs the shop, Amanda, was actually my FibreShare partner last round, and she sent me some stunning yarns + fibers! So I know from personal experience that any spinner would love her rolags, combed top, or anything else she makes! 😉 Plus, remember to use your secret FibreShare discount code here, as Serene Fiber Arts is one of our sweet #mondaymakers!
Extra Gift Ideas for Spinners
Wondering what other little things you could add to your FibreShare package? There are lots of things spinners would love that aren’t too expensive, or that you could find around your home. Here’s a list of little goodies that you could send to a spinner:
1. Sari Silk Threads: Felt Better is one of my favorite sources for recycled sari silk! The shop owner is great and sources everything responsibly. Sari silk threads are awesome to blend with other fibers when making art batts. If your FibreShare partner has a drum carder, this is a good gift for him/her!
2. Dye: If your FibreShare partner likes to spin AND dye yarn, maybe you could send her some dye! I love all dyes: acid dyes and natural dyes. But I’ve been on a natural dye kick lately, and my current favorite is logwood! I buy my dyes (of all kinds) from The Woolery. It’s an awesome supply store that has super fast shipping and amazing customer service. I highly recommend them for all things fiber!!!
3. Feathers: Feathers are great for art yarns. If your FibreShare partner spins a lot of funky, textured art yarns then she might like adding feathers to her next hank! Personally, I’ve got my eye on these lovely Chicken Feathers from Witch Hazel Feltworks. If you have chickens yourself, you could always gather some feathers from your own backyard! Or if you have a friend with birds, you could ask her for some spare feathers.
4. Tiny Scissors: I’m just going to put this right here, because every crafter, spinning or no spinning, is ALWAYS in need of tiny scissors!!! Am I right or am I right?! I’m always a fan of Fringe Supply‘s scissors. But your LYS (Local Yarn Shop) should have a ton of great options as well!
5. Orifice Hook: If you’re pretty good with DIY projects, you might consider making your partner a small orifice hook! A quick google search will bring up some neat tutorials. Or if you’re looking to buy one already made, here’s a nice affordable one I found on Etsy by Thomas Wood and Wool.
6. Beads: You can send a bunch beads to your FibreShare partner if you think she’d like to spin fun art yarns! Usually beads that have pretty wide opening are good, and it would be nice to send a big handful so that the beads could be distributed throughout a whole hank of handspun yarn. You can shop for beads at local bead stores, on Etsy, at thrift stores, antique stores, or maybe find some in your own stash to send along for free 😉
7. Lavender Sachet: I am a lavender freak. I use lavender essential oils every day. I have sachets all over. I send farm fresh lavender in muslin pouches with my Ugly Hank orders. I love the stuff. But it’s actually great for spinners because lavender is a natural bug repellent and will help keep pests away from your fiber stash! You can find individual sachets for sale all over Etsy. But if you’re good at sewing, you could make your own! My favorite source for lavender is Lima Huli Lavender Farm (pictured at top of section). I buy their dried flowers by the gallon – it’s under $20 and smells like heaven. If you go that route, you’d definitely have enough lavender to make sachets for your FibreShare partner, for yourself, and for all your family members this Christmas haha!
Well, this should definitely get you started! Hopefully you feel excited and confident about curating a FibreShare package for a spinning partner! And of course I hope you feel inspired to try spinning yourself as well. If you have questions, please email us anytime, and I’ll do my best to help!
Happy shopping and happy sharing!
xx Beth (@beth_e_meyer)