How to market fibre to artists and crafters
Handspinners, rug hookers, tanners and felters are all looking for different things in a fleece. Among spinners, it even depends on what you are spinning for—e.g. a firm outer sweater, say a fisherman’s sweater, requires a different fleece from something that will be worn next to the skin, like a scarf. A rug or afghan can handle a much coarser fleece than clothing. Laceweight requires a different fleece from super-bulky. Refer to the Fibre Types section of this site for more information on the suitability of different fibres for different projects.
The biggest thing all crafters are looking for is clean, clean, clean! Dust and urine discolouration around the haunches and lower sides where the animal lies on its wool is not a problem; that comes out in the first wash. If in doubt, take a lock and rinse it under the barn tap. The discolouration should come out and not leave a deeper stain. However, no one wants to unfold a fleece and find manure or blood, and it’s a bad use of the crafter’s time to spend hours picking out bits of vegetable matter. You can sell raw fleece, roving or yarn online through Etsy, Kijiji or Facebook, or face-to-face at sales where wool crafters are likely to be, especially spinning retreats. If the gathering is not likely to have people who spin their own yarn, likely only finished yarn would sell. Wool shops require yarn and some rovings, clean and well-processed, packaged and labelled. Even then, it’s a good idea to consult with them before going ahead. They know exactly what they can sell, and don’t forget that they need to buy at wholesale prices because they need to add a markup to cover their overhead.
All of the fibre shops have knitting and sometimes spinning, weaving and hooking groups and classes—really good places for a poster advertising what you have to offer. Other good places to make contacts are the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival, held in Amherst each October. Any of the spinning retreats, knitting and rug hooking events, fibre festivals or fleece shows are a good place to make contacts with crafters.
Customers love it if you include photos of the animal that grew the fleece. They often refer to their particular friends by name in the next round of correspondence—ie asking how the animal is doing. This can be a bit of a problem when the animal has gone to the butcher! You figure out pretty quickly which customers understand that reality and which want a euphemism, like “no longer with us.” The ones that engage with the story, especially the animals’ names, are the ones that come back for another fleece the next year. You can price your fibre products by researching what else is in the marketplace. For example, a review of Etsy prices this past spring found that raw fleeces sold directly from farms ranged from $15 to $40 a pound. From shops with overhead the price was $40 to $60 a pound. For the roving or yarn, add the price of the raw fleece and the price of the processing.