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angora goatsSpinning Wool into Cash
by staff writer

Enjoying the tranquility and serenity of the homestead is easy; paying for it all usually isn't. Keeping animals on your homestead can offer many benefits, and can even put a little cash in your pocket. Consider raising animals for their fiber. The wool, hair, or fur can be sold raw or spun into yarn. The yarn can then be dyed and woven into clothing, blankets, or any type of home décor to further increase its value. This partnership is great for those who want animals but need them to earn their own keep.

Before becoming a fiber farmer, you need to consider the selection of your fiber bearers. Those with plenty of space out in the country can take their pick as long as they can stand the cost of feed and veterinary bills. Those in the city can still raise their own fiber by selecting an Angora rabbit or one of the other fiber-bearing rabbit breeds. Buffalo are becoming an increasingly popular source of artisan fiber due to buffalo wool's efficiency as an insulator and its unique source. If you're looking for something easier to catch and shear, goats and sheep remain popular sources for fiber and require less acreage and smaller fences. An immature goat can provide two pounds of fiber, while an adult can provide five pounds or more, so the production of a small flock will add up fast.

Along with the suitability of the animal to your homestead, you should also keep in mind that different types of fiber have different qualities. Make sure you know what fiber qualities are important to you and that you select an appropriate fiber source. Wool is one of the most common fiber sources because it is one of the easiest to spin and is widely available.

hand spun wool yarn Shearing is an art unto itself, and can be done by the owner or farmed out to others. Always get help from an experienced shearer when starting out to prevent injury to yourself and your animals. Remember to take the temperature into consideration when shearing your animals. Some animals are hardier than others, but many will require shelter until their natural coat grows back.

The sheared fiber should be trimmed to remove matted fur, debris, and any vegetable matter. It can then be gently washed in hot water with dish soap. The fiber should be added to the water; don’t add the fiber and fill with water, or it could felt. After a long soak, remove it from the water and place on a towel in a warm area. Once the fiber is dry, you have a marketable product.

To earn a higher return, the raw fiber can be turned into yarn by hand spinning. Spinning can be time consuming, but it is relaxing and is a great way to pass away the cold winter months. The yarn can be dyed, or sold in its natural colors. To continue adding value to your product, consider weaving it into warm handmade clothing, a beautiful blanket, or an artistic wall hanging. All of these skills can be learned with a little practice, and you don’t have to be an artist to turn raw fiber into a beautiful creation. Now that you have a new product to sell, take your wares to local arts and crafts shows and don’t forget to mention that you spun the yarn!