I have a lofty dream of having my own flock of sheep some day. I live on a piece of property and can totally imagine a healthy flock browsing in the pasture. And yet, I am not naive and I recognize the immense responsibility and commitment having animals would be. For now, I am happy to meet farmers, talk to them about their experiences, buy their wool and continue my study of different sheep breeds and fibers. A some day dream. Gotta build that fence first!
A few years back while searching for raw fleece for a hand spinning project I met a local shepard who raises the finest of white and colored merino sheep. I'm excited and proud to feature this wool in my upcoming yarn line, Heartland.
Bales of Wool
This summer my studio has been filled with 85 pounds of super fine, super greasy, lanolin covered merino wool. I have been working through the skirting process, experimenting with the scouring process and increasing my understanding of all the variation of fleece and fiber quality. I have learned so much but admit to being happy that it is all off to the mill and being spun into what I hope is a beautiful yarn base. I did save a few pounds for my own hand spinning and felting projects!
Washing wool in the creek
One day when I was feeling totally overwhelmed I took a break and went to the creek. I got inspired to see if this rushing stream could help me along in the cleaning process. It was a fun experiment but alas, it didn't do much for cleaning the wool.
Mills and Processing
Choosing a mill to process my fiber took the better part of 6 months. I think the most challenging part was learning the right questions to ask and understanding the terminology associated with the business. After visiting a few mills I made my decision to go with a woolen mill to make this first yarn. I took to heart the advice of Clara Parkes when she shared her story of processing her CVM yarn at Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill in Wisconsin. It happens to be the closest to my home too!
Working with Anne has been a great experience so far. After I dropped my wool off for processing she was generous enough to allow me to buy some of her ecru wool yarn to work with until mine would be ready for dyeing. I absolutely adore her yarn. It has a rustic nature and comforting hand. It isn't the super soft, white bread style merino. Think farmstead artisan loaf. Nonetheless it has bounce and what I imagine great durability for projects. I am in the process of working on a large piece right now. If you want to read a testimonial of her work and skillful hand read The Knitter's Review by Clara Parkes and also read her own personal experience having Anne process her Clara Yarn. Both of these articles helped me make my final decision of working with Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill.
This past spring I planted 10 madder plants that I will be patiently tending for the next 3-5 years until they are ready for use. I am also growing marigolds, weld, dyer's coreopsis and yellow cosmos. Foraging the woods and fields for dye plants on my property and surrounding areas has increased my understanding of the surrounding plant communities.
Yarn and Fiber
Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset
It took me a few years to get up the confidence to approach the process of natural dyeing. It is a layered process full of science and technique. It is also an art. Just like cooking, once you get the basics down you can begin to play. You gain confidence with your knowledge, experience with your materials and the rest is a wide open world ready for your own unique approach. I have met some amazing mentors along with way. Meeting these individuals inspires me to no end. I am confident that the art of natural dyeing will be with me for a long, long while.
So many projects over the years. Knitting has been both meditative and inspirational. I still have a sweet love for a simple garter stitch wraps, cowls and shawls. I love combining color patterns for winter hats and making my own hand knit wardrobe. I'm sure I am preaching to the choir here when I say knitting has been my lifeline through many a long holiday weekends with the outlaws. :)
I've been spinning for 5 years. Spinning introduced me to the world of breed specific yarn. As a spinner, my hands have taught me to feel variation in fiber. It has increased my understanding of drape, crimp, fiber length and luster. I love knowing so much variation exists in the world of sheep.