12 Months of Mindful Fiber: May with O-Wool

To date, the wool aspect of Mindful Fiber has been focused on small farms and unique handspun yarns. But what if you are in the mood for a more ‘predictable’ yarn? A yarn that will define each stitch and highlight every cable. Something with the smooth texture that only a commercially mill spun yarn can provide. All that and sheep-friendly too? It’s not impossible. I’d like to share one of my all-time favorite organic yarn producers:

Begun by the Vermont Organic Fiber Company in 2000, O-Wool is now distributed by the Tunney Wool Company in Philadelphia where the yarn is also skeined and dyed. Fleece is spun by mills in Wisconsin and Massachusetts and grown by free-range sheep in South America and Australia. Sheep that are not mulesed.

That needs a little bit of an explanation.

Mulesing is when strips of skin are cut off of a Merino sheep’s bottom (typically without anesthesia) in an effort to control blowfly infestations called ‘flystrike’. Mulesing is common practice in Australia where blowflies like to lay their eggs in moist, stinky, woolly places like the wrinkly bottoms of merino sheep. When those eggs hatch, the maggots eat the live animal’s flesh. So why not just hack the wrinkles off every single sheep? Shiny scar tissue is blowfly resistant. The Australian Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advises that mulesling (with anesthesia) is a method of last resort to save an animal and shouldn’t be used in all-purpose animal husbandry. PETA organized a boycott of Australian wool over the practice in 2004. In spite of retracting a promise to “phase out” mulesing by 2010, Australian wool growers are slowly turning to other more humane methods of preventing flystrike. Possibly because alternatives are better publicized or possibly because the public is becoming better educated about how domestic animals are systematically abused by growers and farmers. And now you know more than you ever wanted to know about sheep bottoms.

toy stash

Representatives of the colors in my O-Wool toy stash. To take the edge off.

I really didn’t mean to tell you all about mulesing and how O-Wool is very very conscious and very very careful to pick wool from animals that haven’t been tortured this way. I meant to talk about the advantages of scouring fleece with biodegradable soaps to clean it rather than “carbonizing” it with an acid bath that burns the vegetable matter away. I meant to talk about how super soft merino is super soft because of chemical softeners, not because of the quality of the wool. With minimally processed merino, the act of knitting and that first bath in a mild soap before blocking are the final steps in ‘finishing’ the yarn. I meant to talk about low-impact dyes and testing waste water to reduce the environmental impact of the dye process. But by now you know that I tend to default to the animals so you get what you get.

Speaking of what you get…

O-Wool produces three yarn lines (although I just saw a sneak peek of a new yarn on their blog): Classic, Legacy and my personal favorite, Balance. Made with a 50/50 blend of organic cotton and organic merino, Balance is the perfect all-season yarn. I’ve used the bulky weight for toys and the worsted for Ellie’s pink cardigan (Did I show you that finished?). It wears fabulously – since it’s combed during processing, the short fibers are removed to minimize pilling. Plus it comes in some really fabulous colors. I picked three in May flower shades for this giveaway.


Rhodonite, Uvarovite and Zircon.

**This giveaway is closed! Come back in June for more Mindful Fiber!**

Three winners will each receive one skein of Balance Bulky in one of the colors above. It’ll be a surprise as to who gets what – I’ll seal the packages before I add the mailing labels. But what can you do with a single skein of Balance Bulky? Two things:


One! Two! Ysolda Teague’s Not-So-Tiny Slippers!

A quick knit to keep those toes covered when the air conditioner is just a tiny bit chilly. With Balance, you’ll have just the right about of warmth. So three winners, one slipper ‘kit’ to each – just add needles.

To win May’s Mindful Fiber Giveaway, just leave a comment on this post. The random number generator will take it from there. For more chances to win, refer your friends and have them mention your name in their comment (this is to raise awareness after all). May’s Mindful Fiber Giveaway will be open for almost two weeks (until Thursday, May 31).

**This giveaway is closed! Come back in June for more Mindful Fiber!**

All the yarn pictures are mine, the Not-So-Tiny Slippers pictures are copyright Ysolda Teague.

33 thoughts on “12 Months of Mindful Fiber: May with O-Wool

  1. melissa

    You know, it’s funny. When I first started knitting I was desperate to get to this one yarn store in town that has wonky hours and is far from my house. Why? Because their website said they stocked O-Wool. It was all I ever wanted to try. After several times of getting there only to find the door locked (despite the hours clearly stating that they ought to be open), I finally made it into the store. And lo! They no longer carried O-Wool.

    So, I’ve been desperate to try some for a couple of years. I have this problem where I don’t like to buy yarn that I haven’t gotten to feel first. Needless to say, I’ve got my fingers crossed for this one. (:

  2. Susan

    Oh, how yummy! (I mean the yarn and colors, not the mental image of sheep with flystrike.) And hurrah for humane yarn with widespread availability!

  3. Sarah

    This yarn looks amazing! I love your mindful fiber posts – they keep on introducing me to new yarns. 🙂 Thanks for the chance to win!

  4. Barbara

    You have the best give-aways! I love O-Wool. I have a sweater’s worth in both classic 2-ply and balance (although, goodness knows when I’ll have time to knit myself even 1 sweater). I’m glad to hear the company is even nicer than I knew before!

  5. Becky

    I learned something new today. In fact so far I’ve learned something new every month with your mindful fiber post. I’ve always been a buy because it’s pretty yarn without thinking of how my buying affects animals and the environment. Thanks for your thoughtful, informative post. 🙂

  6. Eli

    This looks lovely, and the slippers look perfect for our home in the summer. Thanks for hosting great giveaways!

  7. Kim

    I had heard of mulesing before, but stashed it away in the “Don’t-Want-To-Think-About-That-Again” part of my brain. I’m so sad to hear that it still goes on.

  8. Andrea W

    I could have used those slippers last night. Too warm for socks but needed something. The wool and colors are fabulous. Yippee another knitting blog to follow! Thank you and would love to entered to win!

  9. dawn

    O-Wool yarn looks and sounds so lovely. Can’t wait to find some to try, plus I see many pairs of slippers being made for gifts. Thank you for highlighting such wonderful yarns.

  10. Margaret Williams

    I love your mindful fiber part of the month awesome. I love that you bring things to our attention. I researched this topic a few years ago and I was mortified. I am picky now of the yarn I buy and how they treat thier animals.

  11. Toni

    Oh. My. Word. I had no idea there were such brutal goings on in the wool industry. Thanks for the enlightenment.
    Oh, and the yarn looks truly awesome.

  12. April

    Thank you for this information. I was fairly uninformed, and now sufficiently horrified, to hear about this cruel practice. I will keep an eye out for o-wool and keep my fingers crossed that the automatic number generator will pick me.

  13. Pingback: Yarn Miracle » Blog Archive » What I’ve Been Doing

  14. Christy

    I had no idea! I will have to make sure that I find some O-wool close to me. Both LYS are at least 40 minutes in either direction from me. 🙁

  15. cjj

    Love these monthly newsy give aways, thanks so much for doing it. The slippers are so cute, and the colors are gggggreat!

  16. Amanda

    It’s so fun to read your blog. I’m in AZ where the A/C is on 6 months out of the year so it would be fun to win the slipper pattern. Have a great week.

  17. Cece

    Wow. That is super pretty yarn…. I’m glad I clicked over today! Off to see what pattern support they have…

  18. Lucy

    Great giveaway! I had no clue about all the sheeply problems…thanks for te continuing education.

  19. Carla (from Alabama)

    I have never heard of Mulesing before. That is awful! Glad some yarn producers do not find it necessary to do such things to the sheep.

    The yarn you have pictured is beautiful! I would love to wind a skein of it along with a slipper pattern. Please be on my side number generator!!

  20. Amanda Page

    Lifts head up from moving madness: ooh, pretty wool! I love those slippers too. Count me in! ( and I have an elephant pattern too for when I eventually get back into full knitting mode. Right now, it’s crocheting coasters in little time gaps, and of course, knitting washcloths. 🙂

  21. Kavya

    I never knew about mulesing. Thank you for the info! Is this only an issue in Australia? I’d love to try o-wool and the colors you picked are just lovely.

  22. Sheila

    Only from Emily can you learn so much about the bum of a sheep! Would love to try this yarn! Imagine…every time you slip on the luscious slippers made from this wool… thoughts of Emily and a sheep bottom come to mind! 🙂 I ALWAYS love your posts Emily! You would SO be my “phone a friend” !

    Have a great weekend!


Comments are closed.