Wisconsin Wool Works!

Two Decades and Counting: Wisconsin Wool Works! A Success Story


For years the Sheep & Goat Barn at the Wisconsin State Fair has held one of the better kept secrets of the fair experience. It might not be what the average fairgoer would think of as the go-to place to for hand-knitted sweaters, yarn, sheepskin slippers and roving, but once through the door, most first-time visitors are hooked.  The Wisconsin Wool Works! is definitely habit forming.

Envisioned in 1999 by a small group of enthusiasts as a way to both promote and merchandise Wisconsin-sourced fiber products, and sponsored by the Wisconsin Sheep Breeders Co-op, the booth has grown from its original, tightly packed 400 square feet to double the size. Thanks to the encouragement and investment of state fair’s Agriculture Department, the emphasis has grown to encompass education about the fiber arts and the added space has allowed a steady stream of local guild members and consignors to daily demonstrate their skills at spinning, knitting, weaving and felting.  It’s rare not to see children - and adults - watching intently as the mysteries of a drop spindle are explained or trying their hand at a spinning wheel.

The focus, of course, is on sales and promotion for the sheep and fiber industries over the fair’s eleven-day run. Consignors are required to be co-op members and to give at least a day to the booth to answer questions, help with the cash register or demonstrate a skill. For the opportunity to sell their products to hundreds of daily visitors passing through the sheep barn, consignors pay 25% of their respective gross sales to the Wisconsin Sheep Breeders. Combined with the sales from the Wisconsin Wool Works! booth at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival, the cooperative nets between $5,000 and $8,000 a year after expenses. While the goal is to first promote Wisconsin artists and businesses, commercially-sourced items often fill the gaps in product displays.

In addition to the dozen consignors and volunteers who help on a daily basis at the fair, the Wool Works is managed by Kim Ogle, Saint Francis; Charlie Neuman, Milwaukee; and Carol Black, Columbus.  The festival booth at Jefferson is managed by Black and Neuman and staffed by another six consignors and volunteers.

While the physical structure that houses the Wool Works is owned by the Wisconsin State Fair, the Sheep Breeders is responsible for most of the upgrades and maintenance. The booth is also subject to the scrutiny of the Wisconsin State Fair Vendor Services which yearly evaluates and scores each vendor against a set of standards in the fair’s Vendor Manual, offering suggestions for improvement where appropriate.  A perfect score is 5.0  and in 2018 the Wool Works received a score of 4.5.  But keeping the shopping experience fresh is a challenge, especially with hundreds of items displayed in less than 800 square feet and with an eye on the budget. However, in recent years the Wisconsin Sheep Breeders has made numerous investments in the space such as installing an epoxy floor, adding lighting, investing in displays and painting. For the foreseeable future, the Wisconsin Wool Works! will keep telling the story of Wisconsin's fiber artists and industry, building that habit forming experience among its many customers. For more information about the Wisconsin Wool Works! contact Carol Black at 920 296-0326; Kim Ogle at 414 702-8121 or Charlie Neuman at 414 445-2927.

     
Kim Ogle (l.), St. Francis and Charlie Neuman, Milwaukee, help manage the Wisconsin Wool Works! booth at the Wisconsin State Fair, now going into its twentieth year. Located in the middle of the Sheep & Goat Barn, the Wisconsin Sheep Breeders Co-op's retail space attracts hundreds of fairgoers during the eleven-day run of the fair and displays the products of over two dozen consignors.

A

Ann Reiser-The Shepherd’s Purse
6342 Allen Road, Sobieski, WI 54171
Phone 920-822-8546
Email: Reiser52@gmail.com
Hats, Yarn, Roving, Mittens

B

Barbara Schickel-Sarasponda Spinners
4051 Harris Rd.,Mineral Point, WI 53565
Phone: 563-581-5826
Email: beschickel@gmail.com
Baby & child Hats, Bookworms

Betty Thom-Thom’s Rolling Hills
N5160 Hwy. 151, Columbus, WI 53925
Phone: 608-712-3978
Pelts, Steering Wheel Covers

C

Carol Batternberg
W5670 Finder Rd., Johnson Creek, WI 53038
Phone: 920-988-2364
Email: batten2@tds.net
Fabric Purses

Carol Black-Ewesful Gifts. LLC
7868 State Rd. 73, Columbus, WI 53925
Phone: 920-296-0326
Email:carol@ewesfulgifts.com
Stuffed animals, Woolen clothing, Slippers, Lanolin hand cream

Charlie Neumann
2809 N. 56th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53210
Phone: 414-445-2927
Email: Charlieneuman@sbcglobal.net
Knitted items, Dryer Balls

D

Deb Galaz-Lana de Flor
350 Bloomington, Wooster, OH 44691
Phone: 330-347-7012
Email: dnamib@yahoo.com
Felted Hats & scarves, Ornaments

Deb Skubal-
E1099 County Road KB, Denmark, WI 54208
Phone: 920-255-4159
Email: dlskubal59@gmail.com
Woven clothing Mittens, Hand Soaps and lotions

E

Eileen Legue
3100 Geneva Street, Racine, WI 53402
Phone: 262-497-9629
Email: eileenlegue@att.net
Knit socks, baby sweaters, cowls, and mittens

Ellen Sullivan
123 Lake Street, Pewaukee, WI53072
Phone: 262-442-2536
Email: angora53072@yahoo.com
Socks, scarves, sweaters, hats

Erin & Steve Whalen-The Scarf Connection
W5737 Greening Rd, Whitewater, WI 53190
Phone: 262-348-6754
Email: altiva@idcnet.com
Felted Figurines, Felt Kits, Scarves, Hats

F

Faye Spoor
2120 E. Norwich, St. Francis, WI 53235
Phone: 414-339-4433
Dryer Balls

J

Jackie O’Connell
1330 136th Street, Union Grove, WI 53182
Phone: 262-914-2056
Email: oconelj8@gmail.com
Knitted items

Jennifer Herzberg
W11444 State Rd. 16 & 60,Columbus, WI53925
Phone: 920-318-9624
Email: jherzberg59@icloud.com
Felted ornaments, purses, and figurines

Joellyn Cobb-Hooked on Wool
1919 Robert, Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217-369-2086
Email: Hooker4710@gmail.com
Felted Figurines, bookmarks, and hot pads

K

Kathryn Braun-Braun Earth Acres
3316 Cty Rd S, Cato, WI 54230
Phone: 920-732-3312
Email: braunearthacres@gmail.com
Pelts, Small felted sheep, Hot pads

Kay Walters-Cedarburg Woolin Mill
W62N580 Washington Ave., Cedarburg, WI 53012
Phone: 262-675-2858
Email: kaywltrs@gmail.com
Wool Batting, Quilts

L

Laura Barrie-Psalm 23 Farm
N1195 Plymouth Trail, New Holstein, WI 53061
Phone: 920-797-9124
Email: ps23farm@yahoo.com
Hand dyed and spun Yarn

Lori Knutson-Paradise Acres
PO Box 303, Random Lake, WI 53075
Phone: 414-640-6987
Email: paradiseacresljk@msn.com
Goats Milk Soaps

W

Wendy Sleider
W289 S2954 Road DT, Waukesha, WI 53188
Phone 414-630-4902
Email: fsleider@wi.rr.com
Felted Hats, soaps, puppets, scarves