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How Many Sheep Are You Wearing?

by Laura Overdeck

When you wear a wool sweater, it’s hard to remember that a smelly sheep wore it first. When farmers shear sheep, or cut off all the fluffy wool, it’s washed, then spun into yarn. But how many sweaters can you get from 1 sheep? One type of sheep, the Rambouillet (RAM-boo-YAY), grows about 4-5 pounds of yarn per year, and since a sweater weighs about 1 pound, that makes about 4 or 5 sweaters. The numbers are different for other sheep — and for other animals, too. Cashmere, a really supersoft wool, actually comes from goats! It’s called cashmere because it first came from a place called Kashmir, plus “cashmere” sounds a lot fancier than “goat fur.” It takes a whole bunch of goats to make just one fancy sweater, so those sweaters cost more. Next time you wear a sweater, think about what farm animal wore it first, and just hope it took a bath first.

Wee ones: If your pet sheep gives you enough wool to knit 5 sweaters, what numbers do you say to count them?

Little kids: If you’ve knit 3 sweaters from a sheep’s wool and you then knit 3 more, how many sweaters did you make from that sheep?  Bonus: 15 pounds of wool weighs only about 7 pounds after it’s washed. How many pounds of grease, dirt, grass and other junk got washed out?

Big kids: Longwool rams (the boys) can make over 20 pounds of wool a year, because they’re so shaggy. That’s just the wool alone…how does that compare to how much you weigh?  Bonus: If it takes 3 goats to make 1 sweater, but 1 sheep alone can make 4 sweaters, how many more sweaters can you get from 12 sheep than from 12 goats?

Answers:
Wee ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Little kids: 6 sweaters.  Bonus: 8 pounds of junk.

Big kids: Different for everyone…subtract 20 from your weight.  Bonus: 44 more sweaters: 48 from the 12 sheep, but just 4 from the 12 goats (they split into 4 groups of 3).

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