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Sculpting, sheep and spinning

The sheep are shorn once a year, so some wool can be as long as 10 inches long. Andrea Myklebust owns mainly northern European and Scandinavian primitive breeds including Shetland Icelandic and a new Gotland ram. All the animals have different fleece characteristics. “You have a year’s worth of care going into the sheep,” she said. “Their diet and well-being shows in the fleece.” (Republican Eagle photos by Stacy Bengs)1 / 8
The raw fleece is collected and stored in burlap sacks or baskets until it is ready to be washed to get rid of bits of hay, seed heads and everything the sheep has picked up over the course of a year. 2 / 8
The washed fiber, which can be dyed, is rolled through a drum carder – a mechanized process that detangles and can intermix fibers. “This opens up, separates and aligns the fiber in the same directions,” Myklebust said. “Short bits will also get caught.”3 / 8
After the fiber prep is done, Myklebust gathers the wool from the carding process. The wool is then ready to spin. 4 / 8
There are a variety of ways to spin wool into yarn. Here Myklebust uses one of her antique wheels. “The wheels give you a way to draft your fiber out,” she said, “and control the twist.” The fiber is continuously stretched and pulled out. The stick provides a place to store the yarn as the drive wheel spins. “A good spinner can do about 300 yards in an hour,” Myklebust added. 5 / 8
After the wool is spun to the desired length, it is gathered and winded onto a hand reel and make into a skein. The hand reel allows for more control of the spun fiber. From there, it can also be plied together with other types of fiber, creating textured yarn. 6 / 8
The skein of spun wool is twisted and sellable yarn for a multitude of uses. Myklebust explains there is no huge financial commitment for fiber art beginners. Affordable fiber and a hand held spindle can be purchased for anyone that is curious about the practice. She sells most of her yarn and art yarn.7 / 8
Sculptor Andrea Myklebust has become involved in fiber art over the last few years. She owns and operates Black Cat Farmstead, her studio in rural Stockholm. 8 / 8

STOCKHOLM, Wis. — In the summer of 2012, sculptors Andrea Myklebust and Stanton Sears moved an old decaying building one mile down the road to their piece of the property in rural Stockholm.

The structure came from the homesteaded land of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s grandparents, giving the duo all the more incentive to try and save it.

Today, the building works as functional fiber art studio, known as Black Cat Farmstead. There Myklebust spins wool straight from her herd of sheep into unique fiber.

Although was the big sculpture work that brought the Twin Cities-based artists out to the country where they now have a 2,200-square-foot studio, farm life and fiber art slowly made their way into Myklebust’s world.

“About three years ago I got some sheep,” she explained with laughter. “It was my mid-life crisis.”

She says she was aiming at cheese-making, but then the sheep were shorn. Once Myklebust got the wool in her hands she said it was like a switch went off.

“I completely went down the rabbit hole of traditional fiber art and got fascinated by both the processes, materials and tools. Over the past several years, I’ve been doing more of that kind of work.”

As a sub-culture spinning is still prevalent. Myklebust meets with a handful of other local spinners monthly.

“It’s crazy,” she says of the resurrection of the yarn-making culture. “There are people that are still doing it.”

Black Cat Farmstead is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, plus 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays from May to October. Find more information about her fiber art at www.blackcatfarmstead.com or for Myklebust and Sears’ civic artworks at www.myklebustsears.com.

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

(651) 301-7880
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