Whether you are a large-scale sheep operation or a small hobby farm, questions arise such as “how can I bring more value to my wool clip” or “what is the best product to make with my fiber”. I get asked these questions more times than I can count and decided it was time to put a blog together that highlights some of the key points to consider on your journey to the creation of a quality, custom product whether it be roving, yarn, a finished blanket, hat, sweater, or other apparel.
Have a clear goal in mind
Motivations for custom processing are numerous but here are a couple big ones:
- FUN: looking for fun, unique, products for personal use, gifts, giveaways, etc
- BUSINESS: looking to create a custom product with your fiber with the intention of selling it as part of your business. Either as a hobby/craft fair/farmer’s market or as a dedicated retail and possibly wholesale business
Photo: MMW Processing Line
Amazing products can be made in each of these categories, but your strategy and approach will be drastically different. For value-added business decisions remember that processing costs are directly related to production volume (ie smaller lot sizes and more customization = greater cost) and keep in mind marketing is equally as important as production (have a written marketing plan before you begin production)
Learn from others
I’ve worked with numerous producers who have done a fantastic job of adding value to their wool and creating beautiful products but I also see people make many mistakes. Here are a few of the top mistakes that we want to help you avoid:
- Lack of understanding regarding the sales/market side of the business
- Underestimating production costs
- Looking for an easy fix to an existing financial problem
The biggest lesson from others…. those who are successful have invested a lot of time, money, and grit to bring their products to life.
Photo: Watching the sun set in Wyoming
Take pride in what you have to offer
Less than 1% of the US population are farmers/ranchers (USDA-NASS ACH12-3) but you carry a tremendous responsibility to feed and clothe society. You have a great story to tell. Consumers are growing more and more conscience of where their food and clothing originates. Here are a couple things consumers are looking for:
- 100% traceability of fiber origin
- Best-In-Class: sustainability, animal welfare, land management, and fiber quality
Poor Quality Control is Costly
Quality starts with genetics and breeding but animal nutrition, mitigation of environmental factors, and control of contaminants such as dirt, vegetation (burrs, seeds), hay/straw, paint, twine and others are all important. Skirt your fleeces heavily prior to sending your fiber for processing to save money and improve your finished product quality.
Photo: Heavy vegetation contamination (this will be picked out prior to scouring)
Custom processing is “custom” by its very nature. Sheep breeds, fiber blends, lot sizes, type of product being made etc all play a factor in processing costs. As a general rule-of-thumb we price lot sizes <100lbs based on the incoming weight and lot sizes >100 lbs have a scouring (washing) charge based on incoming weight and a spinning charge based on finished yarn weight. Take a look at the finished product price sheet for items such as hats/scarves/blankets which are shown with a price/each item with quantity discounts. Note: for 100 lb and larger lot sizes contact us directly and we can create a custom price breakdown based on your particular breed/blend.
Click for Yarn Pricing
Click for Finished Product Pricing
We are here to help:
Making a new product with your wool is an exciting endeavor and we are here to help with any questions along the way. Call or email us with any questions. If a standard product doesn’t fit what you are looking for let us know and we can work with you to price out other custom products and evaluate your best options forward.
Email Us: firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to working with you!