Learning to Spin: Turning Wool into Yarn

Final report for YNC10-062

Project Type: Youth
Funds awarded in 2010: $393.90
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Nelson Morlock
Seven Story Farm
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Project Information


I live on a 67-acre farm in Belle Plaine Township, Minnesota. We practice sustainable agriculture in many ways. My mom rotationally grazes cattle and sheep on permanent pasture. When we first moved onto the farm in 2000, we reconstructed wetlands and planted windbreaks. We have also increased biodiversity on our farm by planting 11 acres of hardwoods and 4 acres of native grasses and forbs. Finally, we grow and preserve most of our own fruits and vegetables in a large garden and orchard.

1. To learn how to spin.
2. To show others.
3. To add value into our sheep’s wool.

First I went to a spinning workshop in Wisconsin with my mom over a three-day weekend. The instructor taught me how to pick, wash, card, and spin my wool. I learned both hand carding and drum carding, but I found the drum carder to be much more efficient. We purchased a drum carder and spinning wheel to take home. Over the long winter I practiced spinning and perfected my technique.


Photos of kids watching slide show of sheep and spinning and trying their hands at carding and weaving.

• Heidi Morlock- supported me, drove me to The Fiber Garden, and helped me financially ( i.e purchased a spinning wheel and drum carder)
• Mary Warden- 2nd grade teacher who hosted my workshop
• Lori Pint- a neighboring sheep farmer who sheared our sheep, provided wool and insight.
• Deb Jones from The Fiber Garden- taught me how to spin and gave me ideas for the workshop
• Shepherd’s Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival- provided me with supplies for my workshop and showed me how to market hand spun wool.

I thought that it would take way longer to learn how to spin but I picked it up quickly. The whole process of spinning takes a lot of work and time. Subsequently, some parts are more enjoyable than others. I really enjoy the spinning, carding and plying part but picking, washing, and getting the wool ready to sell are parts that are very tedious.

At my workshop the students surprised me because they were quiet and engaged during the whole workshop. They are normally rowdy kids but they were silent and engaged in the book, slideshow, and hands-on process.

I have learned about the aspect of adding value to my sheep’s wool. I have made some money by selling my wool to an artist. She needed hand spun wool to match an art project she was working on but ran out of wool. I think that it would be very hard to run a business because with all the work, time, and resources put in I would have to sell it for $100 a skein to make it worth my while. I will probably not sell any more wool but just use it for my family’s purposes.

My mom is affected also because she now has hand-spun wool to use for knitting. She made a hat out of my yarn. It is red and white as seen in the picture above. The white is from our sheep and everything was what I spun.

To teach what I had learned, I asked my brother’s second grade teacher if her students would benefit from a wool workshop. She was very excited about the idea, so I planned out the day.

At the workshop I showed the students some un-cleaned wool from our own sheep and let them help pick it. Then I explained how to wash and clean the wool. With wool that I had already washed, I let the class card the wool on a drum and hand carder. Then I showed them how to spin the carded wool into yarn. I also showed them a hat my mom knitted, using my own wool. Lastly, I showed the students different fibers that can be spun such as angora rabbit, bamboo, flax, and cotton.

I shared my information about sheep, spinning, and wool through a workshop. I was trying to reach second graders. At the workshop there were 20 children and one teacher. The agenda:

Wool Workshop

Split the class into two groups

1. Read Pelle’s New Suit to all ten students. --- 5-10 minutes

Split the ten students into two groups.

2. Explain the whole process to one group. (Nelson) 30 minutes
a) Show them different fibers and let them touch and guess what they are.
b) Show the students the un-cleaned wool.
c) Let them help pick it.
d) Tell them how to wash and clean the wool
e) Show them how to hand card.
f) Let them help use the drum carder.
g) Watch Nelson spin the wool into yarn.
h) Let the students wind the wool.
i) Show them the knitted hat.

3. Show the other group how to weave bookmark and let them help while telling about our sheep and showing them pictures. (Heidi)

I thought this was a very good program. If I could change anything I would like the money limit to be higher. It was hard to purchase all the supplies I needed with only 400 dollars. I understand that you only have so much money but maybe you could have less grants with more money.


Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.