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We’ve been Brown Sheep yarn fans for over a decade. Their Lamb’s Pride is one of our desert island yarns—if, of course, it’s a chilly desert island where a nice blanket would be a help. Lamb’s Pride was the obvious choice when we were figuring out the yarn for our first blanket pattern for Field Guide No. 1, the Station Wagon Blanket.

We’ve known for a long time that Brown Sheep Company is an admirably all-American operation, located at the westernmost edge of Nebraska. But when we met Peggy Jo Wells, the owner of Brown Sheep, in person, we were completely knocked out by her sincerity and good humor. It made us feel great to know that this yarn we love comes from a family business now with a third generation at work.

In a recent conversation, she gave us a lot to think about when it comes to running a family business, generation to generation.

Lamb’s Pride Worsted comes in a jillion shades.  we had to pick five.

A hundred years ago, the goal wasn’t to make yarns. When Edwin Brown bought the land that Brown Sheep Company now sits on in Mitchell, Nebraska, he farmed and raised sheep. As the generations passed, the sheep business dwindled. In 1980, Edwin’s grandson Harlan Brown decided to buy some old spinning equipment and make yarn. By the late 1990s, his daughter Peggy Jo Wells and her husband Robert left professional careers in Colorado to further the family business.

Working with those you are related to can be wonderful, Wells says, because you know each other so well. For the same reasons, it can also be challenging.

“It’s not always a walk in the park,” Wells says. “I had a fabulous father. He was truly an entrepreneur—but he had a hard time always accepting other ideas. Yet he was very gracious until his very last day. I think he realized that if his business was going to make it, it was going to have to be us that would make it go. Sometimes we had to peel his fingers off of the steering wheel and sometimes he let go willingly.”

The Station Wagon Blanket is a garter stitch fest, in easy strips.

Wells herself is having to face the same changes now, too. Her youngest son Andrew graduated from college and stepped on board the Brown Sheep train with his wife Brittney.

“We’re thrilled. They bring on board with them their own set of skills and enthusiasm. Now I’m having to do the same thing my Dad did. It’s not always as easy as people think, making a family business work,” Wells says.

Blanket Luv
Mary Jane Mucklestone's clever Station Wagon Blanket knits up fast. A great project, using Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted.

For the record, you will find no brown sheep at the Brown Sheep Company. What you will find, however, are solid and useful yarns.

You’ve probably used them already. Lamb’s Pride comes in dozens of colors and is perfect for felting. Cotton Fleece and Fine are baby-wear staples.

85% wool, 15% mohair means there’s a lovely, subtle sheen to this yarn.

Wells has been well pleased with what the passage of time has brought to the business. The factory recaptures and reuses 70-90 percent of its wastewater. The yarns and fibers are all-American made, even though that can present economic challenges when it can be done offshore for a fraction of the price. Wells is committed to staying, so much so that “over the last 10 years, we’ve totally rebuilt our mill. All of our equipment is modern and safe. The old textile equipment was terribly dangerous. Our employees matter way more to us than they do to OSHA. We’ve really cleaned up not only outside for our waste, but inside too. That really matters,” Wells says.

Brown Sheep, she hopes, will be around for a while, despite the challenges that face it. After all, it’s faced hard circumstances before.

“You read the statistics about how few businesses make it, being passed down from the first generation to the second. Then it drops down into single digits being passed down into the third generation. It’s understandable,” she says. “I believe very strongly that every generation has the right to decide for themselves what they want to do.”

Knitters, however, may rejoice that this third generation seems up for the job of keeping us in yarns for years to come.


Station Wagon Blankets are growing by the acre over in The Lounge. Have a look, and join the conversation!

About The Author

Adrienne Martini, the author of Somebody’s Gotta Do It, would love to talk with you about the importance of running for elected office or about all of the drama of holding a seat on the Board of Representatives in Otsego County, New York. Adrienne blogs when the spirit moves her at Martini Made.


  • I have loved Brown Sheep Wool since the day I found it! The colors are perfection and they have every kind yarn I need to make just about any project.

  • I have loved Brown Sheep for years, but it has become harder to find, even in my community with an abundance of LYS. More than 20 years ago I made a blanket from Brown Sheep yarn (square by square, its not a bad summer project), and it still graces the bed of the daughter who “stole” it. I hope the changes of the new generation make it easier to find in the local shops!

  • I love to visit their outlet store. Cotton fleece makes a fine, soft dishcloth and is easier on the hands to knit than regular dishcloth yarn. Thanks for telling their story.

  • Oh, Peggy Jo is so gracious, we stopped by Brown Sheep a few years ago and she had a long conversation with us. Long live Brown Sheep!

  • This is so interesting–I thought they had been around forever, and ever. I became a fan when the only LYS near me when I moved to CT in 1984 was dominated by their brand. It is long gone but I am still a fan.

  • I made a special stop in Mitchell, NE in a cross country drive a few years ago. After I was done picking out my yarn, I got to have a peek onto their factory floor! It was exciting to see where my yarn came from. Good people and great yarn. (Their Wildfoot sock yarn is a particular favorite in this house.)

  • I love what Peggy said about rebuilding the mill – that’s the kind of deep-down, money-where-your-mouth-is, behind-the-scenes commitment and investment consumers rarely see or hear about. I hope Brown Sheep will be spinning for many years to come! And since I didn’t notice a link in the article (apologies if I missed it), may I stick one into this comment? In case, you know, anyone wants to peruse the Brown Sheep blog or just look at lots and lots and lots of fiber…

    • Yes! Brown Sheep was the first yarn I bought when I returned to knitting about ten years ago. It is wonderful to learn that they care about their workers’ safety. I work in occupational safety and health and it’s good to know I can support a company that provides safer jobs.

  • I just made a hat with some of their wool and really enjoyed the feel as I was working. The finished product came out looking splendid!

  • Lamb’s Pride was one of the first “nice” yarns I knit with when I started knitting. In fact, it may have been the first non-acrylic yarn I used! My former LYS had it in just about every color, but it’s harder to fine where I am now. I’m going to have to go look for it, I believe!

  • I first saw Brown Sheep wool about 1990. I lived in a ski area and it was perfect for hats, mittens, even sweaters. I love the Lambs Pride. Love. My LYS is an internet colossus, but fortunately they carry Brown Sheep.

  • Not long after I returned to knitting, felting became all the rage. Remember all those great Noni and Nicky Epstein bags and flowers? I was in Denver and my LYS owner stocked tons of Lamb’s Pride that was perfect for felting. The shop owner even organized a day trip for a group of us to drive to Mitchell to visit Brown Sheep. Thus I learned about all the yarns and how perfect they are for everything. I still love them and don’t know what I’d do without a stash of Lamb’s Pride.

  • I love super bulky yarn, and in my opinion their Burly Spun is best in class. Gorgeous colors, gorgeous hand feel, and the joy of a super-bulky “instant gratification”.

  • I have the great good fortune to live less than 10 miles from Brown Sheep Co. and have loved buying their yarn going back to when Harlan Brown first started producing it. I feel privileged to consider Peggy Jo a friend and am delighted to see her son and daughter-in-law join the business. Monthly Knit Night at the Mill and the Scotts Bluff County Fiber Arts Fair are the best….Everyone at Brown Sheep pours hours of hard work into the Fair and it is pure pleasure to see all the fiber artists in our little corner of western Nebraska. Brown Sheep yarn and the family are truly a treasure!

  • My mom and I drove into the driveway over in Mitchell one morning and an older gentleman asked if he could help us. Yes, I said, could we have a look around? I’m a knitter and have used your yarn. My husband’s from Kimball and my mother-in-law lives in Scottsbluff. Sure, he said. Harlan gave us a lovely tour of the plant. How’d you get started with this business, I asked. I’m just an old sheep farmer and bought a hundred-thousand dollars worth of yarn-making machinery. Oh, I said. That’s a leap of faith.
    I’m faithful to Brown Sheep because I’m a Nebraskan, but, probably, more because it’s just the real deal. Naturespun felts better than anything. Brown Sheep was the original hometown made-in-the-USA brand.

  • I am in the process of making Christmas stockings– 5 socks for 5 very special puppies– out of Brown Sheep Lambs’ Pride Super Wash Bulky. I just finished #4 and started the toe on #5. Love the yarn, and I’m glad to know they are American made and so conscientious about the environment and the safety of their employees!

  • I have used Brown Sheep for years. I do craft shows and it’s my go-to yarn. It is consistently good quality at a reasonable price. It felts like a dream. The mohair makes a nice halo. Also, ITS MADE IN AMERICA. That’s something to really be proud of. And when I have a weird question they will talk to me on the phone or answer my emails. I love working with this company and it’s yarn!
    I’ve started using Lanaloft sport and worsted weights. Another incredible yarn. Without the mohair, it has a smoother finish. I’ll stop now or end up babbling for a very long time!!

  • Loved the piece! Brown sheep was the wool that I used for my first real knitting project.

  • I love this! When I first caught the knitting bug, my then-local yarn store had both worsted and bulky Lamb’s Pride in many colors! (I moved, and the yarn store closed a few years later. Coincidence?) It was the perfect yarn for so many of my early projects, and I still have a special place in my heart for it. I have been contemplating a Station Wagon Blanket, but had thought to use my stash yarn for it. (Many yards of my partner’s beautiful handspun, also in many colors, to be specific.) This is giving me a hankering (skein-ering?) for Brown Sheep again, though…

  • My husband’s boss — the president of WBGO-FM — was once the president of Brown Sheep. Isn’t that funny? She has told me that it was an absolutely wonderful place to work, and she looks back on her time there with great fondness.

  • We stopped in at Brown Sheep on our way through Mitchell a couple of years ago. Its fifteen hours from my house, which seems like a short hop when I remember how warm and welcoming everyone was at the mill. Thank you for sharing this story! They are a business well worth supporting!

  • Yay, Brown Sheep! 😀 xoA

  • Never have knitted one but am learning to knit 🙂

  • I am searching for a pattern using Lamb’s Pride Worsted yarn. The pattern is from the early 2000’s and it has a heart within a heart pattern around the bottom. I had the book but can not find it. Can anyone help me out? Thank you. LuLu Hudson,

  • I am a proud Nebraska knitter. I have been to Brown Sheep twice and will be back again. Wonderful family producing wonderful yarn.

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