Have you ever looked at fleece-covered sheep as you drive by farms and wonder how that filthy wool becomes the warm, cozy sweater you love? Or why do high-quality wool sweaters cost so much? Maybe you have even thought of getting some sheep or purchasing raw wool and learning how to make your own sweater or socks. Perhaps you just need some yarn for your next crochet project. Whatever is it about wool that has drawn you in, Ewe and I in Chehalis is the place to go to satisfy your curiosity and creativity.
Meg and Brad Gregory started their sheep journey in 2004 with the advent of the Black Sheep Creamery. “Our middle son had a sensitivity to cow’s milk when he was a baby,” shares Meg. “We tried him on sheep milk, and he did very well.” The Gregory family raises East Freisian-Lacuane crosses, which they use for milking and fiber. In fact, head into the Ewe and I, and you can purchase items made from their sheep’s milk! It’s just one of the ways the family is helping keep sheep tending alive and well in Lewis County.
The other, of course, is fiber. “Our goal was to have a LYS—Local Yarn Store—for people who do fiber crafts,” shares Meg. “The local store in Chehalis closed in 2014, and we opened in 2015. We also wanted to create a space for a knitting group, which we did, until COVID came along, and we will again when it is safe.”
It’s easy to think of knitting and picture your grandmother or even your great-grandmother. But the fact is, fiber arts are trendy—just check out mcbride_house on Instagram as one example–and there is just something really cool about making your own items, whether a work of art or a piece of clothing, that feeds our primitive souls. For Meg and her team, it’s also about teaching respect for natural resources and promoting their use over unnatural or synthetic materials that sit in landfills.
“Fibers create our clothing and many other items we use daily,” explains Meg. “Historically, one had to harvest the cotton, linen, or wool and create yarn to create fabric. It was a huge undertaking, and therefore clothing was not taken for granted. Now, we can purchase a cheaply made article wear it briefly and then it is outdated. But the cost to the environment is quite high when you consider the chemicals and water it takes to make textiles.” She goes on to explain that most off-the-rack clothes contain plastics and chemical treatments that do not allow them to biodegrade. Even natural fiber clothing, like wool that has been treated so it can be washed, now will not break down in the landfill.
“That said, I do have fibers that are not made in an environmentally friendly way in the store,” she continues. “Sometimes a washable item is important, but I like to educate people on the properties of wool. Wool keeps you warm when wet, sheds smell if hung up to air out and sheds water if it still has lanolin in it. Wool is a renewable resource.”
Meg wants people to learn not just the art of knitting or crocheting or how to turn raw wool into yarn but also to learn or relearn that milk and meat do not come from the grocery store. And neither do clothes. “They come from somewhere. Fibers are harvested or created by people,” she says. “Spun, woven, knit, or crocheted into clothing found in a store. Understanding the impact of the clothes we wear on the earth’s resources is important. My part is sharing how they are made.”
The Ewe and I offers all kinds of fiber craft classes, from spinning (with a real, old-fashioned spinner’s wheel!) and weaving to knitting and fiber prep. The Fiber Prep course is taught by one of their talented teachers, Wendy Clark. Wendy has been knitting for 16 years, spinning for six and is getting her Masters Spinner Certificate from Old’s College in Canada.
During the four-hour class, Wendy takes you through everything from the different types of wool various breeds of sheep produce to prepping a fleece to turn into yarn. This includes cleaning it, how to tell the bad bits from the good, and the different ways you can card or comb it to get the fiber ready for the next step, spinning it into yarn, which is covered in another class.
Even if you have no desire to own sheep or buy raw wool, this class will give you an intimate look into how much work it takes to make something we often take for granted. If nothing else, you will leave this class with an appreciation and understanding of why that wool sweater costs $300. Personally, I wouldn’t make one for that cheap after seeing the work it takes just to prepare the wool. That doesn’t even include the hours of spinning into yarn and then knitting!
If you’re thinking fiber art sounds fun, you’re right. It is! But not sure where to start? Meg says people seem to really like the knitting classes as well as felting. “Felting is a fun way to use fibers and be creative,” she explains. “One can make a small object that is needle felted or wet felt wool into fabric. Felting designs onto a silk background is a quick and easy way to create something beautiful in a few hours.”
Learn more about upcoming classes and events at the Ewe and I website or pop in and talk to the customers and employees. All are eager to share their passion. And if you just need supplies, ewe have come to the right place, Ewe and I have all the yarn, needles, hooks and patterns you could possibly want. Be sure to keep an eye out for Shuan the Sheep, too.
Ewe and I
566 N Market Boulevard, Chehalis