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From paddock to purl stitch.

Meet Gippsland's own 'sheep whisperer', Chloe Dann, and passionate wool crafter, Yvette Brindle, as they redefine the art and care of shearing and spinning in Gippsland!

Jun 9, 2023

Words: Shelley Banders

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The shearer.

Photography // Karli Duckett Photography
Photography // Karli Duckett Photography

Blacksmithing, working dog training, cow milking and whip-cracking demonstrations are just some of the ways Chloe Dann fulfils her working week at the Churchill Island Heritage Farm. It was sheep shearing, however, that Chloe revelled in so much that it became a second job.

Now in her fifth year of private shearing, Chloe works double-time during the peak season to meet a demand that can’t possibly be satisfied.

Raised on a 20-acre farm in Bass, Chloe is the daughter of local ornithologist and wildlife ecologist Peter Dann, who has been involved with Phillip Island Nature Parks for much of Chloe’s life. This checks out, as Chloe speaks with ingrained mastery when discussing the care and management of animals. “Shearing a sheep is like a dance,” explains Chloe. “The shearer needs to flow through the pattern, which helps keep the sheep still and comfortable.”

Specialising in small mob management of 10–20 sheep, Chloe offers a thoughtful and comprehensive service that embodies the overall welfare of the sheep, from shearing to crutching, marking, drenching, hoof care and parasite assessment. "Improving the quality of life for the animal is a major part of why I do what I do,” says Chloe. “I remember laughing when I first met someone who said their passion was sheep. Now I am that person.”

While shearing has historically been male-dominated, these days it is fair game on the shed floor. “Sheep shearing is a gender equaliser. It is an outcomes-based practice, so if you can shear well, you can shear well,” explains Chloe. “Good shearers make shearing look effortless and it's a wonderful feeling when you find your rhythm.”

Chloe thrives at the intersection of animal welfare and education. Working with small-scale and hobby farmers means she is often providing consultations to those who may not have experience with livestock.

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Shearing at a rate of three to five minutes per sheep, Chloe describes herself as comparatively slow. However, she is not there to be the fastest, but rather the most in tune with the animals' needs and to hold a safe space for clients to ask questions without fear of judgement. “I think this is the main reason I continue to love it; I feel as though I'm making a difference.”

The need for this level of care is so great that during peak season Chloe will often be forced to turn away potential clients. “At the start of summer, my phone can ring upwards of 35 times a day [with people offering work].”

Working with small-scale farmers has also exposed Chloe to niche interests at a domestic level, where clients might keep sheep for reasons other than meat. Chloe started shearing and mob management for a South Gippsland couple in 2020 interested in harvesting the yarn for their craft use. “Yvette and Charlie are so lovely. I have the best clients!”

You can follow Chloe’s journey at and @chloetheshearer.

The spinner.

Photography // Karli Duckett Photography
Photography // Karli Duckett Photography

“I call her the sheep whisperer. She's just one of those people who are meant to work with animals,” says Yvette Brindle about Chloe Dann, who is currently engaged to shear and manage her micro mob in Moyarra.

Having worked with contract shearers, whose principle aim is to work quickly, Yvette noticed a clear difference in Chole’s approach. “She can almost control the sheep by putting her hand gently under their jaw. It’s incredible to watch. It’s really quite a skill.”

At shearing time, which is ideally between late spring and early summer, Chloe artfully shears about four kilograms of fleece from each of the sheep. From there, Yvette will sort, skirt, brush, wash, dry, card, spin, ply, set and, ultimately, craft with the yarn. “I feel like it's the epitome of slow craft,” explains Yvette, “slow food, slow life. This is the extreme.”

Each step needs to be performed with care to avoid agitating and felting the fibres. “There are all these little steps that are pretty crucial,” explains Yvette. Any leftover wool from the process is put back into the garden by way of mulching. “None of the wool leaves the property – it all stays here.”

The original plan for Yvette and her husband Charlie was to raise sheep for meat and keep alpacas for fleece, with alpaca fleece being considered the superior fibre. “I've changed my mind now. I think it’s wool,” laughs Yvette. They also found that the sheep, who were kept in close proximity to the house, became too familiar for eating. Yvette reflects, “They entered the friend zone.” So, the decision was made to keep sheep not only for grass management and company, but also for their premium fleece. Corriedale and Bond breeds were added to the small flock via The Fish Creek Wool Room, and Yvette embarked on a wool processing journey. “But I would still class myself as an absolute beginner,” clarifies Yvette.

Although processing may be a new skill, Yvette and Charlie are no strangers to working with textiles. Yvette has been practising textile crafts for decades and Charlie plaits with sustainably sourced kangaroo leather in the traditional stockman's method. “We find it really calming. I can have space for my mind to kind of wander, think and process. We sit together, put music on or listen to podcasts.” For them, crafting is a priority they are willing to make time for.

To describe in detail each step of processing wool, from Chloe’s shearing to Yvette’s craftwork, is far too complex for this article. But that in itself is a testimony to the unsung labour that goes into wool products. “You would never, ever make any money out of it,” muses Yvette. “It is a huge undertaking.” But that is not what Yvette is here for.

“It is extremely satisfying and quite incredible to think, wow, that whole product came into existence on this land with our help. That's a pretty amazing thing.”

Check out Yvette and Charlie’s work at @bear_loves_dove and @stockman_ leathercraft.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 27

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