I love a good challenge, even more so when it’s for a good cause. Shave ’em to Save ’em is a Livestock Conservancy initiative that’s working to make heritage breeds of sheep more viable to shepherds. There are 22 breeds of sheep on the conservancy’s priority list, four of which are listed as critical (which includes two breeds that developed in Florida!).
The challenge works like this: A fiber artist registers for $15. For this, you get a lapel pin, a wool “passport” that has a page for each of the heritage breeds, and access to a directory of conservancy members that raise the different breeds. Then you buy at least four ounces of raw fleece, top, roving, locks, or yarn from these members to make whatever project you like. Finish projects with five different heritage breeds, you get a prize. Finish projects with ten different heritage breeds, you get another prize. Finish projects with 15 different heritage breeds, you get yet another prize. You have until the end of 2021 to finish all those projects to win the prizes, and there will be a catalogue to choose from. So far, at that five-project level, some of the options will be a fancy tote bag, Unicorn Clean Fibre Wash, or one pound of Florida Cracker fleece (yes, that’s one of the breeds on the critical list).
Sounds fun right? Well unfortunately, I’ve already seen some negativity around this challenge: “I don’t know anything about these breeds, what if they’re more than 30 microns?” Some of them might be, if so, make something that’s not worn next to the skin. Merino is wonderful, but there is a reason these sheep are going extinct. The “Merino or bust!” mentality is probably it. Every breed listed as critical is unique to North America. Do we want to doom those fuzzy little guys to extinction just because they might not be cashmere soft? So make a rug, outerwear, or something decorative you’ll be able to hand down to your grandkids, things that would fall apart if you made them out of merino. If you need help, The Field Guide to Fleece is an amazing resource. Along with general information about 100 different sheep breeds, it’ll tell you which projects would let a specific breed shine.
Fellow fiber artists, I hope you will join me in this challenge. If you’re interested, check out their Facebook and Ravelry pages. My non-fiber-artist friends, if you too are passionate about saving some North American sheep, take a look at that list of heritage breeds, and look for them when you purchase wool products or support artists who use them!