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Kool Sheep Soakers are knit with 100% wool yarn in beautifully hand-painted colors. I have two sources for my yarn, one domestic, from California, and one imported from England.

My first source is Full Belly Farm, a certified organic vegetable farm where the sheep fulfill their niche in the natural cycle -- consuming unsaleable vegetables, and providing fertilizer for the crops. This is a quote from Dru Rivers, one of the farm owners:

We have about 200 sheep at our farm at the present moment. We breed about 75 ewes and they birthed 125 lambs this year. They have an incredibly spoiled and good life! Because we are primarily a vegetable farm they are moved around our farm eating down all of the old crops and get fed the best organic vegetables on the planet! In the summer they are fed bins of melons and heirloom tomatoes that we cannot sell wholesale. What a life! There are only a few months when they are fed hay ( December, January and February) and we make all of our own organic hay here at the farm... We shear once per year (in May) and all of the yarn is wool from our own sheep.

The sheep are raised domestically, and the yarn is also washed and spun in the US, using organic processes. That means absolutely no environmentally harmful chemicals are applied to the wool, or used in any step of its production. I should note, though, that the dyes I use are not organic. They are, however, non-toxic, and the process I use ensures that all of the dye is exhausted into the yarn, and is not washed down the drain.

Beyond the treatment of the sheep, is the yarn itself. First of all, it's the perfect weight for soakers -- thin and trim, while still having absolutely no problems making it through an overnight stint with a heavy wetter (just ask my son Isaac how I know ;) ). Secondly, it combines the softness of Ramboillet and Merino with the strength and luster of Lincoln and Suffolk. It passes my own personal strength test (I grab either end of a strand of yarn and give it a good, hard tug and see whether it breaks. Not many small-farm yarns pass this test). The special sheen it has only becomes apparent after it's been dyed. It gives the colors a depth and luminosity that I can stare at for hours. And finally, this yarn is a dream to knit with. It resembles a hand-spun yarn, with the thickness varying along its length. It glides over the needles, and through my hands, to create a beautiful, stretchy fabric with a wonderful drape.

Of course, in order to support these sustainable and responsible farming practices, higher costs are involved, but I hope you agree that the extra costs are more than offset by the superior nature of this yarn, and the knowledge that the sheep are well cared for.

Next, is Bluefaced Leicester yarn from Northern England. Those of you who have gotten a chance to see this yarn in person have experienced it's cashmere-like softness and beautiful sheen. In it's undyed state, the luster of the yarn makes me think of moonlight. It is the perfect weight for soakers and pants and a joy to knit with. Because of its softness, I highly recommend this yarn for newborn items as well as shorts and pants.

Typically, in England, rather than spinning and selling their own fibers, farms will sell their fleeces to the British Wool Marketing Board where the wool is graded, then auctioned to merchants to be processed and spun. This means that there is no way to trace back the exact origins of a given lot of yarn. What I have done to assure myself that the wool is shorn from humanely treated sheep is to research British wool raising practices in general.

This is a quote from Tim Booth of the BWMB Head Office:

I hope I can put your concerns to rest. Most farms in the UK let their sheep roam in the fields and the hills. In some cases only cattle grids stop the sheep from encroaching onto main roads and built up areas. So they are basically free to wander about and eat the grass. Sheep are dipped a few months prior to shearing, this is to stop various nasties ie parasites, flys etc... from harming the animal. The sheep are shorn in Springtime using the best shearing techniques again to put as little stress on the sheep as possible. In fact some of our shearers are going to New Zealand and Australia to train shearers there! Once the sheep is sheared it is again dipped and then put back to the fields / hills to wander around freely. As for the pesticides, a lot are naturally washed off in the few months before shearing. The fleeces then go to a scouring plant where they are scoured using environmentally friendly liquors / techniques.

In addition, I have learned that when under stress or raised in unhealthy conditions, sheep produce short, brittle fibers which are unsuitable to be processed into yarn. This further convinces me that the sheep who produce these long, lustrous fibers are well-treated.

Either yarn is an exceptionally beautiful choice for your KSS item. If you are concerned that the yarn be completely chemical-free and like to know the exact origins of the fiber, the Full Belly Farms is the clear choice. For the utmost in softness, Bluefaced Leicester wins out. If you are purchasing an in-stock soaker, I will always state the origins of the wool. It is extremely important to me to know that the wool I use in creating my soakers comes from humanely treated sheep. I have done my best, through hours of research, to find yarn that is not only effective for soakers, but also fits this criterion.

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Last updated 12/24/05