Wool Show Shopping: A Spinner’s Strategy

Devin Helmen’s tips for not getting overwhelmed when shopping for fleece at festivals.

Spin Off Editorial Staff Mar 16, 2022 - 3 min read

Wool Show Shopping: A Spinner’s Strategy Primary Image

Devin discusses choosing fibers at festivals and methods for spinning preparation in their article from Spin Off Spring 2017. Photo by George Boe

Spin Off’s Spring 2017 issue is all about making choices. In “Facing Fleece Decisions: How I Choose to Process Raw Fleece,” Devin Helmen breaks down how each choice, from choosing raw fleece to processing, directly influences the end product—the yarn. Devin said the idea for the article developed after “talking with my fiber friends about how I tend to go crazy at fiber festivals purchasing fleece, and how I deal with overabundant purchases.” Many of us can relate! So, how does Devin shop for fleeces at fiber festivals now?

Devin Helmen spinning and strolling.

Devin Helmen spinning and strolling. Photo by Anne Merrow

Devin loves raw fleece. Case in point: they walked away with nine fleeces after attending their first sheep and wool festival, Minnesota’s Shepherd’s Harvest Festival typically held in May. In their own defense, Devin pleads “wool intoxication.” (We’ve all been there!) They left the festival with a bounty of fleece but little in the way of variety. Devin realized, “It might have been better to buy a wider range than I had gotten.”

Things to consider when shopping

After that first festival Devin now shops for fleece keeping these three criteria in mind:

  1. Fleece for specific projects
  2. New-to-me breeds or fleece I want to try
  3. Fleece that I just can’t leave behind

Devin explains, “The next year, I had learned my lesson and was able to exercise restraint . . . I bought only six fleeces. Of those six, though, I brought four home. The other two I left with a fleece processor to wash and card into pin-drafted roving. I had learned that I should focus my time and effort on fleeces I really want to prepare by hand and send the others off to a trusted processor who will take care of the cleaning and prep and send me back bags of beautiful ready-to-spin roving.”

Read the full article in Spin Off Spring 2017 to learn more about how Devin decides which fleeces to send to the mill for processing and which fleeces to handwash.

Also, remember that if you are an active subscriber to Spin Off magazine, you have unlimited access to previous issues, including Spring 2017. See our help center for the step-by-step process on how to access them.

Originally published October 16, 2017; updated March 16, 2022.