September 22, 2015


THE EVOLUTION OF WOOL, Understanding Fleece from Mountain Goat to Merino
with Judith MacKenzie [sadly not in person, but in a great DVD Video]

As a kick-off to our Sheep Breed Study this year, Judith on video takes us on a journey not only through the history of the sheep, but also from cut end to tip end of the all important wool staple. We will learn:
  • How individual wool fibers grow
  • Why fleece has changed over the millennia
  • What differences have developed between wild ancient sheep,  primitive breeds, and improved breeds
  • What makes some wool soft, some silky and some itchy
Also this month:
Vilija Deutschman talking about Dorset Horn Sheep and Dorset Down Sheep

The Sheep Breed Study
Most of us are already somewhat familiar with the "luxury" wool fibers such as Merino, Rambouillet, BFL, Romney, Columbia, Corriedale, and the various crosses. Many times when spinners buy already prepared fiber for spinning, it simply says "wool" or "Merino X [cross]".

This year we will focus on specific, mostly older, somewhat rare breeds. Not all sheep in our study will yield a soft, next to the skin, wearable yarn. But ALL sheep have fibers that can have a real purpose in our lives for very specific projects. You may never want to spin yarn that is not baby soft, but learning about the sustainability of various breeds of sheep is important to the survival of all sheep.

Many old breeds have not undergone intensive trait selection by breeders, so they generally have greater genetic variability and are always well adapted to the place where they developed. Traditional breeds work well in sustainable and small sale agriculture and thrive in more natural farming systems. They help support rural and regional communities by enhancing the profitability of small farmers here and around the world.

In this age where agriculture needs to produce great quantities of a product,  many animals are bred for genetic uniformity. These animals [and plants] are highly productive, but are also more unlikely to adapt quickly to climate or environmental change. So the more diversity there is in a gene pool, the better the shot at adapting to changing conditions. By seeking fibers produced by rare and endangered sheep, we help to maintain them. And, sometimes they are just darned cute.

The fifteen breeds you will hear about this year are:
  1. Dorset Horn
  2. Swalesdale
  3. Falkland
  4. Manx Loaghtan
  5. Cheviot [no, not endangered, but one of the oldest breeds in the world]
  6. Shetland [mooritt]
  7. Masham
  8. Icelandic
  9. Cotswold
  10. Finn
  11. Norwegian 
  12. Gotland
  13. Black Welsh Mountain
  14. Wenslydale
  15. Dorset Down - a new addition to our list
One, two, or three breeds will be presented at most of the meetings this year. There are 29 participants who have signed up to get 1 oz. packets of each fleece with each presentation. All of the wool has been ordered and has come in. Its quite a wonderful variety to see it all in person. There is still room for a few more to take part. A $25 check to our Treasurer, Pam, will get you in, otherwise you will still hear and learn all about these wonderful breeds.

A big thank you to member Marianne who ordered most of the wool through her shop The Yarn Boutique, and then gave Treadles a generous discount. Thanks Marianne! We got a total of 37.5 lbs. of wool.

A reminder from the treasurer:  if you haven't paid your dues, now is the time!  Treadles must pay it's dues to CNCH soon. If you are not able to attend the meeting, please mail a $25 check, payable to TREADLES TO THREADS, to Pam Murdock.

  • Sept. 29, Treadles meeting [Date change]
  • Oct. 3-4  Lambtown, in Dixon CA. Check the link in the column on the right.
  • Oct. 5 thru 12 SPINZILLA, One monster of a spinning week! Get ready to spin your mile of yarn that week.
  • Oct. 10-114th Annual Fiber Fusion in Durham, CA [2 miles south of Chico] Fiber animals, marketplace, mini-workshops, classes, lectures, SHEEP TO SHAWL COMPETITION, sheep dog trials. for more info. They are actively seeking sheep to shawl teams.
  • Oct. 28Treadles meeting
  • November 6-8, 5th Annual Gorge Fiber Festival at The Dalles, Oregon. Marketplace, workshops in knitting, spinning, weaving, drop spindling and wet felting.
  • Nov. 19Treadles Meeting [date change]

Spinzilla is coming again!

Last year, a number of T2T members participated in Spinzilla, the one-week spinning extravaganza that challenges us to spin and have fun spinning.  We had a ton of fun and created miles of yarn. We have too many spinners for one team, so this year, The Yarn Boutique in Lafayette is hosting a Spinzilla team also. This team is open to everyone, whether you plan to spin up a storm or just a little drizzle. Our focus will be on fun. There will be prizes for everyone who participates.

Spinzilla’s Goals
● To raise awareness about the joy of spinning yarn by hand
● To empower spinners to spin more
● To connect spinners locally and globally
● To fund educational programs for the spinners and weavers of tomorrow
● To support small fiber-related businesses
● To spin enough yarn to reach around the globe in five years!

To register, go to and select Team Yarn Boutique Lafayette. Your $10 fee goes to a good cause, the TNNA Needlearts Mentoring Program.

Questions? Call Marianne Adams at The Yarn Boutique in Lafayette, 925-283-7377, or email

From member Wendy:
In preparation for Spinzilla we will be holding an informal SMACKDOWN at LAMBTOWN in Dixon on Saturday October 3 at 4 pm near the Sheep to Shawl competition. The sheep to shawl will be over and their wheels and looms will be in cool down mode! All are welcome to the Smackdown no matter what team they are on… There will be prizes : )

We will be gathering together at Round Table Pizza in Pleasant Hill (Oak Park Blvd.) on Friday October 9th at 6 pm for a Spinzilla Spinning and Pizza Night. There will be fiber PRIZES awarded at random for this event. Please come and enjoy the food and fun!

We will also have a Spinzilla gathering at Amy's house on Saturday October 10 from 11 am - 4 pm to spin, spin, spin. This gathering is a byo lunch. We will have drinks available.


From member Mindy who follows on Facebook one of our favorite spinning teachers, Stephanie Gausted. Stephanie lives near Sonora where firefighters are still battling [as of this writing] one of the fires we have here in Northern California. She posted that she, Alden, daughter, assorted chickens and critters are safe and well. Apparently the fire came to within 1/2 mile of their home. What an amazing huge group of firefighters we have. They persevere in horrible conditions to try and save whatever they can. We are so grateful.


In this initial 4-session workshop, Sultana will guide you through the process of creating a top down, circular yoke cardigan/pullover sweater that fits your unique and beautiful body!  You'll take accurate body measurements and translate them into a schematic, which you'll use to create a basic
recipe for your customized sweater pattern.  On the way, you'll explore various sweater styles and construction, you'll learn about gauge, yarn fibers, ease, fit, picking up stitches, buttonholes, finishing, and blocking.  We have 5 spots available in this unique class.  For more information please contact Treadles member, Sultana at    


Silk is usually made from the cocoons spun by silkworms - but there is another, much rarer, cloth known as sea silk or byssus, which comes from a clam. Chiara Vigo is thought to be the only person left who can harvest it, spin it and make it shine like gold. Read this interesting article shared by member Mary B.  

"What?. . . You spin, I get comfy. Life is good."