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Buying fibres from happy animals and small farmers

By Heide Tieleman from Viva Felt

Good thoughts

Buying fibres from small farmers, instead of large production farms, has many


Many hobby farmers with small flock are in it for the love of the animals, not for

commercial gain.

In small flocks, the health and wellness of each animal is important to their keepers.

Good nutrition, veterinary care, pasture grazing, spacious pens, healthy breeds, regular

sheering, and lifespan are important. There is less pressure on lambing or producing

large quantities of wool. At the end of their lives, the animals won’t be transported for

days in full cattle trailers or shipped overseas in cramped containers. Natural, un-dyed

wool has not gone through the cheap process of chemical cleaning, dyeing or anti-shrinkage

with low-environmental standards, such as used in China and India.

(American environmental codes for this process are higher, but the European codes are

the highest).

Tending to a small flock is costly and time consuming. Farmers sell their wool raw,

sometimes already cleaned, as fleeces or bundles of locks, or processed, as roving,

batting or top. The processing can be done professionally in a (local) wool mill, or by

hand. This takes time and money, so raw fleeces are always cheaper, but you have to

do the work yourself.

Good questions

- In case of a full fleece: is it skirted (dirty parts cut away)

- In case of part only: which part? (Neck is often best, then back and sides. Back legs/

belly worst)

- Is it greasy or yolky? (Prolongs your time cleaning the wool)

- Are there second cuts? (Short, useless bits that can come with shaving)

- Is it skirted (dirty parts of the fleece cut away)

- Is it matted (felted in locks or clumps)

- Is there vm (vegetable matter)? Will take time to pick and clean

- Is the vm alfalfa? Will take a whole lot of time to pick

- Is it dirty? Dirt does come out easily

- Is there guard hair (coarser hair that doesn’t felt and is itchy, but provides strength for

boot liners, carpets, horse blankets etc)


Postage within Canada, either provincial or national, is expensive. If buying local is not

more important for you than buying from small farmers with good practices, it’s often

worth looking at wool in the US. Postage is often cheaper but you may pay a tax (unless

you have an agreement with your supplier). Shipping within North America, even when it

comes to raw wool, seems to cause no problems in terms of customs.

Shipping raw wool from Europe can cause trouble with customs. The supplier doesn’t

always know or has had luck so far, so he/she may tell you it’s never a problem. But

yes, wool can be send back, so agree with the supplier to get your money back if this

happens. Clean wool has no custom regulations. Each European country has their own

shipping prices. Yes, you will pay extra for shipping overseas. And yes, European

farmers often value and price their fibres higher than North-Americans. But keep in mind

that morality is priceless.


To buy fibres from happy animals, check these resources. There are many more ready yarn

options than unprocessed fibres, but the latter are not included here. This list is just

a selection from the author.

Wool Mills Alberta:

Canada and US

Facebook: (you don’t need an account to access a public page)

Fleece Canada Groomed or Greasy

Farm to Fibre

Canadian Fibre Market

Fleece and Fiber for Sale

Raw wool for sale

Raw Wool 4 All Dirty to Prime

Western Canada Small Sheep Producers

Canadian yarn, roving & fleece buy sell iso

American Gotland Sheep wool and fiber for sale

Small Farm Alberta buy sell trade

Fibers and spinning items for sale

Canadian Fibre festivals and yarn events

Raw alpaca fiber for sale or trade

Canadian yarn and fibre marketplace

Fleeces and Fibers

Fiber for sale

Mohair for sale

Fiber animals and fiber for sale

The art of wool and fibre prep

Romeldale CVM


Wolkol (Netherlands)

All nova of Slöjda (Sweden)