Friday, April 12, 2019

Fiber Artist Profile: Fran Stafford

This is the first in a series of posts profiling fiber artists who are participating in Shave 'Em to Save 'Em. Fran Stafford is one of only two people who have already spun at least 15 of the wools on the Conservation Priority List. You can find her online at her blog.

What fiber art(s) do you participate in and for how long have you done each one?
Crochet, started about 57 years ago and now only use it rarely.
Knitting, started about 58 years ago, made one sweater poorly, quit until 15 years ago and took it up again, knitting mill spun yarn.
Spinning with a drop spindle about 10 years ago, added a wheel, then more wheels beginning about 6 years ago. My preferred fiber art.
Weaving on a small rigid heddle loom about 3 years ago, did not like it and sold it, but started Revolutionary War reenactment and built and weave on a box/tape loom, got a 5' tri-loom for Christmas and have made two shawls.

Fran spinning at her village's
centennial celebration of its
covered bridge
When did you start working with fiber from rare breeds of sheep?
Without knowing they were rare breeds, I have been using Jacob, Shetland, and Leicester Longwool since I started spinning.

What was your biggest surprise when you purchased your first rare breed wool? 
No real surprises until I started SE2SE and realized how different the micron count, staple length, and softness or lack of there was.

Have you had any challenges purchasing wool directly from shepherds? 
Most have been prompt and very courteous about responding to either let me know how to order from them directly or where their online shop was, but there have been a couple that were private messaged on FB and never received a response.

What do you love most about working with rare breeds?
The difference in texture requiring me to up my spinning skills to accommodate.

Hap shawl in progress using the 15 breeds already spun

What is your favorite wool from sheep on the Conservation Priority List and why?
I really, really love Jacob for its color variation on each fleece and it's crisp texture spinning and knitting, but Shetland is a close second.

What bit of advice would you give another fiber artists who is just starting to explore the world of rare breed wools?
Don't feel like you have to do an entire raw fleece from each breed, try a few ounces from a couple of breeders as they will be different. Use undyed wool, it feels entirely different than dyed wools. This is an experiment to try different ones. A blanket or large shawl will allow you to use the single skeins you purchase or spin. I am indebted to my friend and shepherd, Gail Groot who told me about this challenge last summer and let me know when it was about to actually start.

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