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Spinning yarn, felting hobby spans 20 years

A hobby farm near Frazee, Minn., came first, followed by a flock of sheep. Then Audrey Kloubec wanted to do something with the animals she and her husband, Richard, a former North Dakota legislator, were raising. So she started spinning their woo...

Audrey Kloubec

A hobby farm near Frazee, Minn., came first, followed by a flock of sheep.

Then Audrey Kloubec wanted to do something with the animals she and her husband, Richard, a former North Dakota legislator, were raising. So she started spinning their wool into yarn, and also felting it.

Twenty years later, the Kloubecs no longer raise sheep on their 640 acres. But Audrey's spin-off hobby is still going strong.

"It's very creative," Kloubec, 69, said recently from her south Fargo condominium. "When you're doing it, it's a meditative kind of thing. It's repetitive and quiet."

Closets in the Kloubec home are filled with yarn, wool and tools, and words

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like doffer, drum carder and kniddy knoddy roll off her tongue.

"There's a great vocabulary of fiber-working that just tickles me to death," Kloubec said.

She has knitted and woven scarves, sweaters, shawls, bags and myriad projects.

Last winter, she felted wool into photo album covers with flowered designs.

Anyone who's accidentally machine-washed a wool sweater and turned it into a smaller, denser piece of clothing knows about felting.

It's a process of matting the wool fibers into a dense material.

To make felt, Kloubec takes pieces of washed wool from a plastic bag and fluffs it with her fingers, called teasing.

She lays it in a drum

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carder - a wood machine with rollers - and cranks the handle to comb the fibers.

With a tool called a doffer, Kloubec pulls the wool off the roller and lays it on mosquito netting.

She puts hot soapy water on the wool and rubs until it forms a mat.

"Then you really start working it until it forms a good solid felt," Kloubec said.

The felt can be used in a multitude of ways. Besides photo album covers, Kloubec has made a pair of boots that she wears on the farm, which the family still owns. Hats, too, can be made from felt, she said.

Felting is just part of Kloubec's hobby. She has been a more prolific spinner, and over the years expanded beyond sheep's wool.

She dyes fibers herself, and she has spun all kinds of wool and silk and camel hair. She finds the materials in a variety of places, including ordering directly from the companies and picking them up at classes and gatherings of spinners.

Her grown son and daughter saved the fur they combed from their cats, and she spun it into yarn and knitted scarves for them as Christmas gifts.

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One year, Kloubec and her sister, a weaver in California, won third place in a national contest for a pillow they made. Kloubec spun the fiber and her sister wove it.

Scrapbooks detail Kloubec's progress from her first spun wool in 1986 through years of seminars and experiments.

"It's really nice to be creative," Kloubec said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Andrea Domaskin at (701) 241-5556

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