The other week when I visited Claudia and her sheep flock, I realized that I have a seasonal cycle when I create yarn and textiles. In a year in wool, autumn is the beginning.
In October, when most of the vegetables in the allotment have been harvested, a majority of Swedish wool is also harvested. For the sake of sheep health, the law says sheep are to be shorn at least once a year. Still, many sheep farmers shear their sheep twice a year: In the autumn, before the ram serves the ewes, and in the spring before the lambs are born. The autumn harvest is when my wool year begins.
The autumn wool usually has the highest quality. During the winter the sheep has been pregnant and the lamb hogs a lot of the nutrition. The winter in Sweden is cold and the fleece is extra lanoliny, not much different from our own hair in the winter. Perhaps the sheep have been indoors a lot of the time, leaving time for lots of dirt, straw and bedding to find its way in between the fibers. This leaves a winter fleece that can be dirtier, in poorer condition and with more and heavier lanolin in it.
After that winter coat has been shorn off in the spring shearing, the lambs are born, and soon after the sheep gets access to lots of nutritious grass and fresh air, leaving the fleece in a better state for the autumn shearing.
The sound of moving shears sparks my year in wool: I look for fleece to buy, just like on any autumn farmer’s market. Or, rather, fleeces sort of find me and look at me with roe deer eyes and whisper: ”Spin me, spin me!”. And so, in late October I find myself with a compost grid on the floor with drying fleece, another fleece in the wash tub and a third dried and waiting to be picked.
This means that I do a lot of wool preparation and spinning during October, November and the first weeks of December. When the pantry is filled to the brim with newly harvested vegetables, I do my best to take care of the oldest fleeces before I dive into the freshly shorn. It is hard, but sometimes I succeed.
In late december a tree with glittering ornaments moves into the house, right where my spinning wheel usually stands. This is a quite time of year when I like to turn to weaving in the local weaving room. I get to destash and get out of the house during my two weeks or so of holidays.
When the tree is all glistened out and transformed to fire logs I get my spinning wheel back, and return to spinning. The sun is slowly coming back and lights up the living room again. I plan what to sow in the community garden allotment, alongside planning my spinning projects for the spring.
When the sun returns
The returning sun brings sprouts out of the soil and new inspiration into my mind. At this point I want to do everything at once. Weave! Nalbind! Two-end knit! Weave some more! I want to get outside and create textiles, and the spinning wheel gets a little dusty. My life moves outdoors step by step.
At the same time the fleeces in my wool queue start to squeak in the back of my mind and I get a bit concerned about the risk of the oldest fleeces going brittle.
Make room for flax
In the summer when the temperature rises and the crops are more independent than the tiny sprouts just a couple of weeks earlier, I like to take my spinning outdoors in one shape or form. I dust off my flax wheel and spin on the balcony in the afternoon shade.
I also prepare smaller projects to bring to vacations and excursions – spindle spinning projects, band weaving, two-end knitting and nalbinding. Usually around five parallel projects or more.
Late summer collision
Towards the end of the summer, a lot of the vegetables in the garden need picking, all the while work has started after the summer holidays. I have harvested the flax, started lots of textile projects and need to finish some to ease my mind.
When autumn has settled and the most critical vegetables are taken care of, I have finished some of the parallel projects that sprouted in the spring. The wool queue is shorter and neater and I forget all about it when shearing season is back again.
What is your year in wool like?
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- Read the book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
- I am writing a book! In the later half of 2025 Listen to the wool: A why-to guide for mindful spinning will be available. Read more about the book here.
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