A Swatch for a Shepherd

Occasionally I let people know that I am interested in fleeces. What follows can be delightful for everyone.

A. Sabine Schröder-Gravendyck Jul 5, 2021 - 4 min read

A Swatch for a Shepherd Primary Image

Bundles of freshly shorn fleece—happiness for shepherd, spinner, and sheep. Photos by the author

Last summer, a young farmer brought me two bags with the freshly shorn fleeces of his two sheep. I took the fleeces out of the bag and laid them on a sheet to check them out. They were quite lovely: pretty fine, with a good crimp, vivid gray and brown, with a bit of VM and some second cuts. I said “deal,” paid for the fleeces, and packed them into sheets.

The farmer could barely believe that he received money for the wool. In recent years the shearer had taken the fleeces, but last year he would not. The prices were so low that he did not even want them for free.

The next day, I washed a portion of the fleece. I’m always curious to see how the wool turns out after washing. It’s the feeling of unwrapping a present. Furthermore, I wanted to spin a quick skein and knit a swatch. The wool washed nicely and was fun to spin. With a 3-ply yarn, I made a plain knit-purl swatch and a little skein and packed it in a bag.

A swatch for a Shepherd 1-Hi Alex, here's a swatch and a mini skein from your sheep's wool. I enjoyed processing and spinning it! Beautiful, isn't it?

"Hi Alex, here's a swatch and a mini skein from your sheep's wool. I enjoyed processing and spinning it! Beautiful, isn't it?"

When I gave the bag to the farmer, it seemed to be an eye-opener for him. He was speechless. It was the first time he saw the wool of his sheep used and turned into something soft and warm.

Earlier last year I attended a shearing. The owner of the sheep had invited me after I bought fleeces from her the year before, and I gave her a swatch and a little skein made from one of last year’s fleeces. It was the first time she saw the wool of her sheep processed and used. She was impressed with how beautiful it was. She had thought that the wool of her sheep wasn’t good enough to be spun and knitted.

It was an afternoon with coffee, chat, and the shearing of 5 cuddly sheep. They walked to the shearing area on a leash, like dogs.

A swatch for a Shepherd 2-waiting for the shearing

These cuddly sheep walk on leashes like pets but produce very nice wool.

May I call her a shepherdess? Her sheep are like pets. They mow the lawn and the few remaining pastures around the beautiful old farmhouse she lives in. It’s not a farm anymore; her day job is at the harbor. When she gets home, her sheep run to the fence and welcome her. Later in the evening, she walks them into the barn to keep them safe at night.

One way to appreciate a fleece is by paying for it. And giving a little swatch from their own wool to the sheep’s owner is an appreciation that speaks louder than words.

P.S. I bought all 5 fleeces. I’ll use 2 for spinning and 3 in the garden.

A swatch for a Shepherd 4, 5 fleeces-one year's harvest

Five fleeces—one year's harvest.

A. Sabine Schröder-Gravendyck, DVM, makes her home on Germany’s North Sea coast, where she works as a naturalist and educator in sustainability and ecology. She is always looking for new ways to help people merge their personal spaces with nature. You can find more about Sabine on her website,