The Shepherd and The Shearer

I'm taking a break from my efforts to sort out the Norwegian spaelsaus (short-tailed sheep) to highlight a wonderful project that is right in line with the celebration of wool known as Wovember. It's The Shepherd and The Shearer, and if you want to be part of it here's the sign-up page, which I'm posting at the beginning since in the first twenty-four hours after the announcement at least half of the available two hundred spaces sold out.

Now I'll back up and give you part of the story, with links later to more details.



The gist:

1. Shepherd grows wool.

2. Shearer shears.

3. Special yarn is spun.

4. Two exceptional designers develop patterns for the sweater you just naturally wear all the time for work, play, and comfort.

5. A limited number of people, who have signed up in advance, get the results of all this next fall: special pattern booklet, enough yarn to knit one of the sweaters (they're thinking about an add-on for enough yarn to knit both), and, at the end,

6. Knitter knits: a classy, classic, year-in/year-out, wearable sweater (maybe two).

Oh, and there'll be a bag with that fantastic logo on it.

This is the sweater that inspired it all, on Susan Gibbs, one of the initiators of the project (and a shepherd):


The shearer is Emily Chamelin. She specializes in shearing sheep these days, and has to refer out to other shearers for alpacas, llamas, and goats because just doing sheep she has about four hundred shearing customers in a season. She works hard. She does fine work.

There aren't enough shearers working these days, and one of the side benefits of this project will be the establishment of a scholarship fund to get women to sheep-shearing school. Learning to shear doesn't involve huge expense, but it takes physical, psychological, and intellectual strength, as well as a love for animals, and folks who have that combination of attributes may not have the resources to get themselves over the hurdle of training, for one reason or other. In addition, women may not think of this as work that's open to them, and there's (obviously) no reason they shouldn't. This scholarship idea embodies focused encouragement to solve a few problems with just one of the extra goodies wrapped up in The Shepherd and The Shearer.

Moving on to the exceptional designers of the patterns:

Kate Davies, who has produced (among other things) Sheep Heid and Rams and Yowes and Deco and my particular favorite, Sheep Carousel, and a new book (available in about ten days)

Kirsten Kapur, whose Fractured Light mitts and hat are in a new Knitty, and check out Washington Square and, if you like mitts as I do (they're super for testing yarns), Twizz and Genmaicha.

If you'd like the back story, check out these links:

Susan's announcement

Susan's additional information

Kate's blog post

I'm looking forward to following the progress of this super idea! A whole year of delicious anticipation, and sweaters that will warm next winter in the knitting . . . and probably decades beyond in the wearing, because of the care with which the fibers have been grown and processed and the yarns have been constructed.







20 thoughts on “The Shepherd and The Shearer”

  1. Wow! What a brilliant idea. I clicked through to Susan’s announcement and then spent a happy half-hour reading about Juniper Hill Farm. I love the scholarship to get more women into shearing school especially. Having helped out with lambing (always at two in the morning, always in a blizzard–what’s with that?) and shearing earlier in my life, I can say that once you get involved with sheep intimately, they do tend to take hold of your heart. Thanks for the post about this, Deb!

  2. Isn't it wonderful, Susan T? Susan G has brilliant ideas, indeed, and she carries them through. I know someone who would be a good, young, strong shearing woman, although I have no idea whether she's interested. I know she hasn't thought of it. There's such a dearth of good shearers. My shearing has been limited to goat. Plain goat, not angora or cashmere. If I were younger, I'd be so tempted to work with sheep.

  3. Been trying to find a way to contact you, hope you read your comments. Recently spoke with Dr. Lyle McNeal of Utah State University, he said he knew of a breeder of Panama sheep, if you are interested you can contact him I do have his phone number, he is a good friend, taught me everything I know about sheep.

  4. Marenscott: Oh, WONDERFUL! I've been out of touch with Lyle for way too long. I'm interested in both the Panamas and reconnecting. I'm running out the door right now (not holiday shopping: need plastic wood and strap clamps for the shelf-building project), but will jump over to your blog and see if we can figure out how to get in touch. I don't put my e-mail out in the wild any more than I have to.

  5. good to hear from you! Lyle and Nancy are good friends, he helped me so much when I had Southdowns and Icelandics. I am Sheeperson on Ravlery but I don’t check there very often if you want to contact me you can on my blog,

    I sold the sheep four years ago and miss them terribly, Lyle will help me get Cormos when I can get pasture somewhere. Cormos and or Finns, can’t decide since I love them all! also I am on Facebook so is Lyle actually. the Mcneals were up in Alaska not to long ago and saw the most adorable musk ox babies, I tried to tell Lyle he could fit one in the back of the car and bring it home to me but he didn’t go for it, sigh.

  6. By the way, I ADORE your book and have poured over it at least three times so far, soon I shall have the thing memorized. THe amount of work you put into that thing is staggering, as I am sure you are well aware:) just staggering! and much appreciated.

  7. Thanks for all the good words, Maren, and for getting in touch. I've just e-mailed you by way of your blog, and will look for you and Lyle on Facebook. I've been following his and Nancy's work since 1985, and have met them in various places, but not seen them in over a decade, I'm sure.

    Yeah, the book. SO glad you like it. That's what makes all the work worthwhile.

  8. I jumped on this when it was first announced and can hardly wait!! What an exciting opportunity. I started following Wovember last November and eagerly look for it every day this November. Your Fleece and Fiber book is great and I’ve re-read it few times!! Kate Davies Rocks–I have a special binder for her patterns and booklets.

  9. D, you are very smart and have excellent taste {grin}. 

    I love what they're doing at Wovember in raising awareness of wool. I hope they make some sort of catalog of posts–in fact, I think I'll recommend that to them–so that it's easy to go back and find them later, from a main page.

  10. Devin! So good to hear from you, and you'll *love* this endeavor, every minute of it.

    Santa Cruz: a serious spinnerly challenge, as you know, but one that can reward the patient and determined with amazing (I mean *amazing*) elasticity. I hope we fiber folk can, over the next few years, support and encourage the shepherds to help the sheep produce the wool I know they're capable of growing (because I *saw* and *felt* it in the Save the Sheep project, thanks to Nancy Van Tassel's terrific contribution).

  11. I'll try anything with a wool, seeing what I think will give me the results. SO counterintuitive how I got the Santa Cruz samples for the book to hint at what I'd seen in Nancy Van Tassel's work. I *combed* the really short fibers and spun them worsted-style from the combs (Louet 2-row minis). The obvious, natural, logical way to have prepared that wool was by carding, which didn't work well at all. It was hard to do, the results were uninspiring, and he yarn ended up cottony and full of neps. Combing (a total experiment, of course) gave me access to the magic I knew was there.

  12. Hello, Typepad or Deb or whomever is there!!
    I was trying to be on Deb's list and never found out how to sign up.  The initial "D" was already on there but it's not me.  I'm Elaine.  Please tell me how to sign up for her newsletters.  I have her on my favorites to read her blogs.
    Thanks so much.

  13. This is Deb. Elaine, the commenter name on this and one of the previous messages says "D" is the person who posted the message. Thus I'm confused!

    It sounds like I need a list and a newsletter {wry grin}. I recently connected with a virtual assistant who I think should be able to help me figure that stuff out (I'm interested, but haven't had time), but she's had a family emergency that she needs to be present for; we got started at working together, and then had to pause for a while.

    Do you want a newsletter? Should I make a list?

    I'll need help to pull it off, so it won't happen immediately. I'm struggling right now with balancing the work I want and need to do with ways to connect it to the community. While continuing to meet deadlines.

  14. Thanks for letting me know, Devin. I keep discovering things that people like you would be interested in, and the blog is a way to share part of that, but definitely not all.

  15. How wonderful!

    I'm teaching at Maryland next year. MAYBE I'll not be teaching when the sheep-to-shawl shearing takes place, and MAYBE Emily will be shearing again?

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