Shearing sheep for fiber artists

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Some sheep on Long Island had a spa day.

Twice a year, professional shearer Tabbethia Haubold visits Browder's Birds on the East End of Long Island. One by one, the flock is getting sheared for the summer.

"They're itching, scratching, there's moisture under there," Haubold said. "They'll feel good after this."

But hundreds of pounds of wool can cost tens of thousands of dollars to be spun into yarn. Unsure of what to do with it all, Holly Browder and her husband Chris decided to take part in the Shave 'Em to Save 'Em challenge sponsored by the Livestock Conservancy.

The goal is for fiber artists to buy directly from farms that raise purebred sheep on the endangered list. Cotswold sheep, the breed that the Browder's Birds raises, is known for long curls and strong wool.

"It's amazing how much wool a single sheep can produce," said Holly Browder, co-owner of Browder's Birds. "And when you're growing a flock it multiplies so we're talking about hundreds of pounds of wool every season."

"We've shipped wool all over the country," Chris Browder said. "It can be in as little as four ounces or several pounds."

The wool is skirted and then bagged. It is either sold raw to fiber artists across the country or sent to an upstate mill that spins yarn to be processed into clothes and accessories.

"We're looking to get the fleece off in one piece and trying to get as close to the skin as possible so the fleece is a consistent staple for them to turn it into yarn or a finished product," Haubold said.

It's farm to fashion. Cotswold wool sells for about $12 to $15 a pound.

Browder's Birds also sells hand-knit sweaters and cable-knit blankets starting at $150 at the farm stand.