Shearing Time - sell your raw fleece to crafters.
As we become aware of the need to live more sustainably, artists and craftspeople are turning back to basics and are looking to source their materials locally and from more sustainable sources.
Spinners and felters use wool as their base material and as the owner of sheep you are in the ideal position to help them in their search.
All sheep breeds have a fleece that may be of interest from the softest Shetlands to the coarsest Herdwick – even felted fleeces like the one shown have a value.
You can sell at craft fairs, country shows and markets but your biggest audience by far will be online. Social media allows you to get the word out free of charge, with just a little time required to get your fleeces ready for sale.
Once your fleeces are in the hands of happy craftspeople, they are likely to return to you year after year and a little preparation may help you to get a better price for your fleece and increase its market potential.
Here are a few tips to help maximise your returns:
1. Ensure that the shearing area is clean and free from shavings or straw. A fleece contaminated with such material will be of lower value than a clean fleece as the bits of vegetable matter [VM] are time consuming to remove.
2. When you post a for sale advert online, it’s useful to include as much information as possible. This not only allows any potential customers to make an informed decision to purchase, it will also stop you from being bombarded with questions. Customers will want to know:
- the breed, if it’s a cross state what the cross is. If its an unknown, just say so.
- the age of the sheep – is this fleece a first shear for example.
- staple length – a photo of the staple on your hand gives a clear indication but a measurement in inches and or centimetres is useful too.
- How coarse or soft it is.
3. If you have a lot of fleece to sell, or plan to sell every year, making yourself a little sales information template will save you loads of time.
4. Include a photo of the whole fleece, cut side down and a close up to show the crimp and staple length.
5. If the fleece has raddle or identification marks on it, make this clear. Some people don’t mind it, but it will definitely lower the value and the potential number of buyers.
6. If you don’t use any chemicals in your sheep husbandry, let potential buyers know this.
7. If the fleece is from a named sheep, tell people the name. Sharing details like this connects the crafter to the sheep and suggests a higher level of animal welfare.
8. Remove any large pieces of hay, twigs etc and any poop and lumps of mud from around the skirt edge of the fleece. If the fleece does have vegetable matter in it, state how much, though your photos should show this. Also remove as many of the short second cuts as possible. These can spoil a good fleece if they get mixed in.
9. State the price of the fleece clearly. Asking people to ‘contact me for prices’ will drastically reduce your customer base as many people don’t like to ask for fear it might be more than they can afford.
10. Also very important to state is whether you are willing to post. Offering postage will massively increase your chances of a sale as your customer base becomes nationwide instead of local. An inside out feed bag taped up is enough and the buyer pays for postage.
11. If you are new to selling your fleece, offer small amounts to a few experienced crafters to try free of charge in return for honest feedback. One whole fleece shared between four people in this way will give you very valuable feedback and a variety of descriptive terms that you can then use in your future marketing. You might even get a few photos of your fleece being processed, spun up or felted and made into a finished item. [contact me if you need help finding experienced crafters for this]
12. Identify your point of difference and use it in your marketing. Are your sheep a rare or minority breed? Tell the customer that – many crafters like to know that they are supporting rare breeds. Is your sheep breed specific to the area they live in? this could be useful to local crafters who make items to sell to tourists in the area. Maybe you farm organically, or do not use chemicals routinely on your sheep. Have your sheep won rosettes? Do you run a conservation flock helping to manage land in a more sustainable way? All these points will help to differentiate you and your fleeces from others that might be for sale.
13. If you are honest and open about your fleece, the buyer will be happy. Happy buyers will tell others and you’ll have no problems selling future fleeces.