Value added wool products

A place to discuss where and how to market our products. Users can share experiences with value-added enterprises, ask for information on costs, and find out who's paying what for what kind of lambs.
NOTE: If you have a service or product to advertise, please see the Marketplace section below.
KristinK
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Value added wool products

Postby KristinK » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:32 am

I'm trying some value added wool projects for the first time this year. I have meat breeds (Dorset/Ille de France + some legacy Polypay) but their fleeces were surprisingly good, according to the guy at the fiber mill in Vermont, where I dropped them off this week. I had about 150lbs raw skirted fleece, and thinking I'll have 2/3's of it made into yarn and the remaining 1/3 into batting, to use as filling for pillows, blankets, etc. We have an on-farm retail store so that will be my primary market, then, maybe, some online sales, and some wholesale to the neighboring farmers for sale in their on-farm stores.

I had a bit of sticker shock when I was doing my research and realized that the milling cost from raw wool to yarn will be about $40/lb. at this volume but if I can get $18 per 4 oz skein at the store (tourist traffic) it makes it worth the while. It's good for us to have non-perishable items to sell and plus it has been fun.

Anyone who has done value added wool products have advice for me? Are there products that you find sell well or don't sell at all? Thanks, gang.

Kristin K
Essex Farm
A full diet, year round, draft horse powered CSA
http://www.kristinkimball.com

Bill Fosher
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Re: Value added wool products

Postby Bill Fosher » Thu Apr 02, 2015 7:09 am

Are you having it done at Green Mountain Spinnery? They do really nice work. I had a batch done many many years ago, and it took me forever to sell it. But I didn't have a farm stand. We dyed some of the yarn and it made an attractive display at the market. About seven or eight women would come into the booth each week, pick up a skein of yarn, sniff it, and tell me about how much yarn they have at home and how they never get time to knit. None of them bought anything -- wool or otherwise.

I never understood the sniffing then, but at least three quarters of the non-buying wool fondlers did it.

Anyway, if the cost of carrying the inventory was included in the p&l from that enterprise, I really don't think it was value-added in my circumstances.
Bill Fosher
Westmoreland, NH

KristinK
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Re: Value added wool products

Postby KristinK » Thu Apr 02, 2015 11:45 am

Bill, the sniffers are hilarious. I like the smell of sheep but I thought I was the only one. I'm using Hampton Fiber Mill -- it's a one-person mill in Richmond, newish and closer to me than Green Mountain. One downside is that he has a 6 month backlog; if I had known that ahead of time I might have looked for some place larger and faster. But then, I am told nobody buys yarn during the summer. Maybe that should be edited to read nobody buys yarn... but they do sniff it.
Essex Farm
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http://www.kristinkimball.com

Sylvia Murray
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Re: Value added wool products

Postby Sylvia Murray » Fri Apr 03, 2015 6:36 am

I have never figured out the sniffers as the wool has been scoured in the process and doesn't smell like a sheep. Maybe they are sniffing to make sure it doesn't carry a hint of mothballs? I had Green Mt do a bunch a VERY long time ago when 3 of us got together. We had some dyed and it was a beautiful shade of grayish blue. I still have a sweater of it and a couple of skeins. I do have much better luck selling yarn in the fall. We bring the goods with us to two of the sheep herding demos we do in the fall and then when the CT Blankets come in late November a few customers round out their blanket order with yarn. One advantage of not having the yarn dyed is that you, depending upon the scouring process, can say it is all natural whereas once you've dyed it people sometimes become leary about the chemical aspect of it plus you'll never have the "right" color. I direct people to a couple of sources for dyes and they can do their own which catches their fancy.
Sylvia Murray
Alder Brook Farm
www.alderbrookromneys.com

Bill Fosher
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Re: Value added wool products

Postby Bill Fosher » Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:52 am

I think the farmers' market is the wrong place to sell yarn -- at least ours is. We used to have one vendor who sold hand spun yarns, and would spin during the market. It was an attractive display, and her being there spinning was a novelty. But she might not sell more than a skein a week. My yarn sold mostly in the fall and winter, and most of the people who bought it were buying it as a gift for someone else, and seldom bought more than two skeins at a time.

I doubt you'd get faster turnaround at Green Mountain or anywhere else for that matter.

If your area has a fiber arts community, see if they would be interested in setting up a fiber farm day in your region. There's one just south of us in Franklin County, Mass., that is supposed to be a pretty big day for the farms that participate.
Bill Fosher

Westmoreland, NH

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Re: Value added wool products

Postby Island Shepherd » Sat Apr 04, 2015 6:06 am

Kristin,

I ran this by my wife. She and one of the daughters have a very successful value added wool businesses. She said there is no profit in going through mini mills. Even some of the big mills are getting very expensive. We are fortunate in that our local mill is reasonable, but you have to have a good volume of raw fleece.

If the goal is to have yarn to sell in your shop, she recommended the Face Book group: "Spin a pound get a pound". You offer it by the fleece or in whatever amount you want. You describe your wool in detail photos help, you say what you want for a deal (how many lbs, time frame etc.). People respond, you can ask them for an example of their work. They spin your wool, keep half, and give you back half. There is some shipping expense involved but the margins are much better than going through a mill. When you go to the site this will all make more sense. She said this is just one site, there are others to check out if you look around.

She is very diversified, she sells it all from; raw fleece, roving, pencil roving, batts, handspun yarn, hand dyed yarn, commercial yarn, knitted items, and custom work so they are always busy. She said she doesn't have any trouble selling yarn year round but the busiest season is August - Christmas, then she slows down advertising to get a break so she can make up more products to sell. Then she starts going to craft fairs in April and it all starts up again. She keeps a pretty steady cash flow coming in with some real nice peaks during the busiest seasons. They sell a ton of stuff online, and have shipped literally all over the world: from NYC to Hawaii, and Spain to Tasmania believe it or not!

Perhaps you could hook up with some knitters so that in addition to some of your select fleeces, and yarn you could offer some finished products made from your sheep in your shop. Tourists and even local people like to have items that have a story to then. If they are going by and enjoy seeing your flock they might like to have a garment that they can say came from your sheep. As with your lamb keep the quality high, and you can command a premium price, and get repeat business.

People sniff wool because it smells good. It smells like $MONEY$ to me!

Good luck,

Dave

KristinK
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Re: Value added wool products

Postby KristinK » Wed Apr 08, 2015 10:12 am

Dave thanks very much to you and your wife for the info. I will check out the spin one/get one pages. What a great idea. Would you mind sharing the name of the mill you use and what kind of volume you need in order for them to work with you?

I think I'm also going to pursue some custom natural bedding projects. Of course, I'm always more sanguine about things like this before the rush of spring hits in full force. If I get any traction with them I'll post about it here.

all best
Kristin
Essex Farm
A full diet, year round, draft horse powered CSA
http://www.kristinkimball.com

Island Shepherd
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Re: Value added wool products

Postby Island Shepherd » Wed Apr 08, 2015 5:58 pm

http://www.briggsandlittle.com/ I believe it is around 1200 lbs to make a run to get your own wool back in yarn. If you have less than that or don't care about getting your wool back you can sell them your raw wool for a percentage off the regular price of their yarn. Heather can explain how that works.

For bedding you might want to try: http://www.zwool.com/


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