Filling the Creative Well

Kathryn Albright
Enjoying a day on a sheep ranch.

I need to take time to “refill the creative well” every once in a while. Constantly pouring out words on paper can slowly drain my creativity. Every writer is different in how they go about this, but for me, a get-away trip always turns my thoughts to new story-lines and ideas.

When I learned last week, that one of the sheep and carding farms nearby in southern Wisconsin was having an open house and spring shearing event, I seized the chance to see firsthand how those fluffy coats became skeins of yarn. It was the first warm, dry weekend of the spring and I was itching for a road trip. (My husband likes to drive. I like to ride. It’s a win-win!)

Merino Sheep

We traveled the hills and hollers of southern Wisconsin and finally came to Rainbow Fleece Farm and Carding Company. It is a small operation near Madison, Wisconsin. The owners sell their yarn and wool throughout the United States.

The steps from the wool on the sheep to a skein of yarn at this particular farm are ~

  • When the wool is about four inches long or more, the sheep is sheared. A years growth equals about 8 pounds of wool.
  • Wool straight off a sheep is known as “greasy wool” or “wool in the grease.” It contains a high level of valuable lanolin (used in hand creams and cosmetics.)

    Shearing Sheep
    B. Jones shearing a Merino ram.
  • The wool weighed and then picked clean by hand as best as possible.
  • The wool is washed until the rinse water runs clean—usually about three washings. This is called scouring and on this “green” farm it is done with a mild soap.
  • It is spread out to dry in a warm area out of direct sunlight.
  • At this point or any hereafter, the wool can be dyed.
  • A blending or carding board is a board with small metal pins sticking up over its surface. Globs of wool are spread on the board. This is where a person can get creative with colors and textures—adding the colors wanted. (this is the part I had never heard of & found fascinating.)

    Creative Well
    Blending or Carding Board
  • The wool is then pulled off the board in a clump. It can then be stretched out into a thread, twisted together and spun onto a spindle.
  • Wa-la! Yarn!

    Unwashed and washed wool.


At Rainbow Fleece Farm it was fun to watch a true working dog (Border Collie here) do his job.

I am already envisioning a story that takes place on a sheep ranch in the old West…

How about you? What do you do when you need a change or a little boost of inspiration?

A walk? A change of scenery? Baking? I’d love to hear!

Western Spring Weddings



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Western Spring Weddings.

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32 thoughts on “Filling the Creative Well”

  1. What an interesting trip. I am still trying to figure out what to do when I need a boost of inspiration. Nothing has worked so far.

    • Hi Janine,

      I think the visit to the shearing event caught my eye because I have recently taken up crocheting. Just a trip down the aisle at Walmart, JoAnn’s Fabrics, or Michaels and seeing all the different kinds of yarns–thick, thin, multicolored, very soft, sparkly, etc–I can’t resist touching each one. Wish I could crochet better–but so far I can only do very simple patterns. Thanks for coming by and commenting, Janine!

  2. Thank you for your interesting post and giveaway. I go see my three grands when I need a boost….they are the best!

    • I like your way of thinking Melanie! My grandson does help–especially when we go bowling together or biking. He would really like me to write a young adult trilogy like the Divergent Series or the I Am Number Four Series so he is always trying to give me his ideas.

  3. I love the sheep shearing process – or at least reading about it. LOL. I would love to see it in person! As for me, I love to go camping to reset myself. The quiet and outdoors and nature just do it for me.

    • Hi Susan! Thanks for stopping by! I would love to do that! I used to camp when I was younger. I really miss it. My husband, however, will not camp. He tried it once, just to appease me, and was miserable. We canoed and hiked. I love the quiet and outdoors and nature, but it is not for him.

    • Hi Kim,
      Yes! – I wondered how many skeins of yarn one sheep could produce from one shearing. And how many knit sweaters could be made from one sheep. It is all relative to the type of sheep/wool/number of ply/thickness/etc. My head was spinning with numbers by the time I was done. And I am not going to attempt to answer it here! LOL

    • Hi Colleen,
      Thanks for stopping by! Art projects are fun. I wish my grandson liked to color. I really like the new adult coloring books that are out now. I doubt that that would “do it” for me in openeing me up to new ideas for a story, but it would sure relax me!

    • Hello Anon1001,

      I haven’t ever checked out the puppy videos on Youtube but I have seen a few on Facebook. I doubt that would do it for me simply because I am on the computer too much. I need to get away from it to regroup!

  4. Things that give me a boost: Listening to music, reading a good book, hanging out with girlfriends, and sitting on my patio with a cup of coffee.

  5. Road trips used to be my re-generator but I haven’t been on any for a while, so I try to let nature do the work–and it’s spring! So fresh breezes, birds singing, plants and trees budding, and things turning green do it for me.

    Thank for sharing your sheep adventure. It reminds me of Scotland and some friends who are sheep and cow (pronounced “coo” in the their part of the world) farmers. They used to chuckle at me for oohing and ahhing over seeing sheep in various places, but kindly not reminding me that sheep we’re used to push people off their land during the Highland Clearances.

    • Hello Eliza!

      You spoke of your Scotland adventure before! I love the accents in Great Britain and Scotland has to have some of the thickest! To me accents are just…exotic. Loved the “coo!” You are so fortunate to have gone and spend time there. Thanks for commenting and stopping by!

  6. What a great post, Kathryn! I so love real-life experiences and travels happening in our posts here.I have hard of carding but never knew exactly what it meant. Thanks for the explanation. I always love seeing the sheep and lambs at our county fair. And sneaking a pet at their gorgeous fleeces. I usually get an emotional boost at the local horse rescue where I volunteer, but Hubs and I also love travel. Our recent trip to the South (we are native Californians) was almost surreal–all that Spanish moss. Somehow I have to write a story with Spanish moss in it. When we got home, I almost went into withdrawals–I missed it so much blowing in the oak trees. Wonderful post today! Thank you. xo

    • Good to see you here, Tanya! Thanks for stopping by and ‘settin’ a spell.’ I know what you mean about the Spanish moss. It is a different world down in the southeast. Ah…county fairs. I haven’t been to one in years. That would be fun. I should put it on my list for next summer. And we have a horse show at the fairgrounds once a year too. I love seeing all the different, beautiful breeds from miniature on up.

  7. When I need a boost or just need to think, I go for a nice long walk. I try to take one every few days.

  8. Kathryn, I had to research sheep including shearing when I wrote The Love Letter, a novella in the anthology Give Me a Texan. It was quite interesting. So much to it. My Border Collie was named Fraser and he ate from the hero’s hat that Amanda, a shepherdess, stomped and put down for him. Payton McCord was a cattleman and Amanda had found his hat blowing on the prairie. It was a funny scene, especially when he went into her house and found the hat with food on it.

    I hope you’ve refilled the creative well.

    • Hi Linda! Nice to have you stop by. That is a doozy of a scene you related! I like those fun ones…

      Yep–about refilling the creative well. The day away really helped. All I could see here at the house was mounds of work that needs to be done along with spring cleaning. To be whisked away by my Cowboy was a delight. I can still feel the rejuvenating effects.

  9. Hi Kathryn,

    I once went to a sheep shearing as part of an Agriculture for Teachers class. It was amazing. The shearers were from New Zealand and they traveled the country shearing. But while we got to see the shearing, we didn’t learn anything about the wool. Very interesting!

    When I need to fill the creative well, I retreat to my sewing room and listen to DVDs of old television shows while I sew.

    Great post!

    • Hi Jeannie! How nice to have you drop by! I’m curious which old TV shows you like? (I will admit to having a soft spot for Andy of Mayberry which is always on reruns somewhere.) What type of sewing do you like to do?

  10. Reading always does it for me when I want to relax. Believe it or not I hate the thought of doing an exercise workout but by the time I am done I feel so energetic and alive that it is a total mind and body boost.

    • Hi Deanne!
      Exercise…ugh! We are of the same mind there. But you are right–I always feel better afterwards. Swimming is my exercise of choice because I really hate to sweat LOL. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Hope your spring is going well.

  11. I knew about carding wool to smooth it out, like brushing our hair. I did not realize they would blend other types of wool at this stage. Makes sense.
    When I need a change, a hike or walk helps. A nice change of pace like the event you attended is always a great break. Travel is the best break. Your entire daily routine is changed and you can relax and enjoy not worrying about the dishes, needing to clean house, or go to meetings.

  12. Hi Patricia!

    So nice of you to drop in! From what I understood with the little bit of research I did on the side, the process is a individualized to a small degree depending on who is doing it and if it is a small operation or a large one. The larger ones are less “green” and used harsher detergents and processing machines. I like to travel too…but dislike dealing with hotels and motels. I would love a motorhome–something my husband and I are talking about…

  13. Thank you all for joining in and sharing your thoughts! I’ve “drawn a name from my Stetson”
    and Deanna Patterson’s name was chosen to win a copy of my newest release ~ Western Spring Weddings!

    Congratulations Deanna! You may contact me at kathryn at kathrynalbright dot com with your address and I will send out the book!

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