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I Love Wool!

Wool has a bit of a bad rap. So many people tell me they can’t wear wool because they are allergic or it is itchy. Yes there are some itchy wools that shouldn’t be worn next to your skin. But there are many wool yarns that are soft to the touch and make fabric with lovely drape and softness. The trick is to understand the difference and choose the best wool for your project. In my opinion, it is totally worth the time and trouble to find a wool yarn that works for you and for the think you want to make. Even my itchiest mohair wool blend sweater loses it’s itch factor when I wear a cotton turtleneck underneath and I get the benefit of beauty, comfort, warmth and durability.

Our first two sheep: BFL named Puck and Cormo named Viola plus 2 angora goats

Wool is a totally renewable, sustainable fiber. It grows back year after year. Our sheep are mostly grass fed as well. So I’m not feeding them grain or other processed feed. This is a big part of regenerative agriculture. The sheep and goats eat down our grass and as they do they also fertilize the ground.

Processing wool does not have to have a large carbon or chemical footprint.  Cleaning takes hot water and some soap.  The rest of the processing (carding and spinning) can be done totally by hand, but even if it is processed at a mill, there is just electricity used in most cases. One of the mills that I use is even going solar. So even less electricity from traditional coal fired plants is being used.  

Naturally dyed wool and mohair yarns

Superwash wool has the least “itchiness”. It has been highly processed to remove the scales on the individual fibers. Tha means that it also has the highest environmental impact. I do like to use superwash wools for socks, knowing that it is a little less ecologically friendly. And knowing that the care and use of those socks will be easier.

Wool is biodegradable. In fact, it can be used as an excellent nitrogen source for mulching. Some shepherds use the skirtings (dirtier wool from the bellies and legs) as mulch for their gardens or orchards. You can also put it into your compost pile to add valuable nitrogen to your soil in your gardens.

Wool is flame resistant so it naturally defends against fire.  When exposed to a flame, the fibers extinguish themselves. This can’t be said for manufactured fibers that contain plastics.

Wool is a great insulator. Some new “green” homes are using wool as insulation.  As insulation, wool wicks moisture away from the home and reduces the presence of mold and bacteria. It also acts as a filter for odors in a home. This insulator property is also why wool socks, undergarments and sweaters are worn by hikers and other alpine enthusiasts. Even when you sweat the wool moves it away from your body and keeps you cooler. As outerwear, wool keeps you warm in the winter by insulating and cool in the summer by being breathable. It wicks away moisture from your body, so the moisture is evaporated. It also repels water since the outer layer of the fiber is hydrophobic.

For garments, wool is very easy to care for. Of course you shouldn’t put it in the washer and dryer, but handwashing and air drying is all you need to do. Most stains are easy to remove either with soap and water.  It is highly durable so it is a smart investment for your wardrobe.

Panchia says “Try wool! Ewe’ll like it!!”

Do you love wool? Why or why not? Post a comment to share your thoughts on wool.

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Yarns Perfect for Fall

What are you planning to knit for the fall? Socks? A shawl? A sweater? Something smaller like a hat or mittens?

cormoworsted yarn
Livily Cormo Yarn. Find it here

These farm yarns are perfect for all of those garments. We have colors that are great for all your needs, whether that’s a young one who loves pink or camouflage or if you are trying to match your wardrobe. We have farm yarns that are fingering weight (Trasna Light), worsted (Livily) (Polypay and Fibershed Polypay) and DK (Trasna). We just got a sport weight back from the mill, so that is coming up before the fall shows!! We also have mohair yarns that are mostly natural color right now. So head on over to the shop here and choose the Farm Yarn tab to see it all!

These yarns will be available at the following fall shows: Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival and Rhinebeck Fiber Festival.

Trasna Light fingering weight Cormo farm yarn Find it here

Want to know when more colors will be added to our online shop? Click here to get our email blasts that will alert you to shop updates.

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WIP Wednesday: Laundry Edition

I’ve been making wool dryer balls in my spare time. Why? Well, I have some roving that is not great for spinning or felting. I need all my wool to do something on the farm. This is what allows us to be sustainable. All or nearly all wool and mohair is used to make something here.

Why use dryer balls? Well according to the Environmental Working Group, dryer sheets and fabric softeners damage your clothing and they also damage your health. The chemicals in these products contain chemicals known to cause cancer, irritate your skin, and cause reproductive issues. Also when dryer sheets are heated, these chemicals become airborne and can affect your lungs and exasperate asthma. These chemicals are know collectively as Quaternary Ammonium Compounds or QACS. These chemicals make your towels less absorbent. I’ve surely experienced that. They will also wear down the ability of your clothing to wick away moisture in socks or athletic wear. QACS stay on your fabrics for quite a while and they slowly seep out over time between washings. And as they seep they are affecting you, your family and all the fabrics in your house. Also what happens to the “used” sheet? It goes to the landfill. There are still those chemicals in the sheet. And the contents of our landfills can contaminate ground water and other water sources. Just think about all the loads of laundry in all the houses in your neighborhood or city or state, that’s a lot of these QACS in the environment.

Dryer balls are completely natural. Mine are made of 100% wool. Wool is great at wicking away moisture. It is antimicrobial as well. They work by bouncing around in your dryer. They lift and aerate your laundry. They help the heat to disperse within your load and thereby reduce your drying time. Because they reduce the heat in your dryer, they also reduce the static cling. Static builds up with more and longer heat in the dryer. They contain no chemicals, just wool, pure wool.

Each package of dryer balls contains 4 softball sized wool balls. Just toss them in your dryer and turn it on. In between laundry days or sessions, leave them in the dryer. I’ve had mine in the dryer for over 5 years. They last forever. Sometimes they get a little worse for wear and you can certainly replace them but these are economical as well. A box of dryer sheets costs somewhere between 5 and 11 cents a load. When you switch to dryer balls you will have that money to spend on something else, fancy coffee? yarn? some kind of treat? And you have the knowledge that you are making the world a better place. That’s work it for sure.

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a tale of 2 shawls

Well, it’s a strange, strange world right now. The repetitive motions of knitting, seeing the colors change and watching a shawl grow can be just what you need for your mental health. This weekend is big for us around here. First it is our first Virtual Fiber Art Studio Tour. This is actually our 4th year of having the tour. Each year we have a featured shawl that is made with hand dyed mini-skeins. In years past, our tourists could pick up a skein here and there and then make a souvenir of the weekend. This year, since it is virtual, and we will have to mail all your purchases, we decided to ask our indie dyers to make packs of 5 mini’s.

This shawl is called “Ticket to Anywhere”. And I sure would like a ticket somewhere right now!! It is an asymmetrical triangle shawl that uses ten 100-yard minis. When you purchase a set from me or any of our dyers, you will recieve a code to discount the shawl pattern to $0. The code will be active from Saturday, June 6th to Monday, June 8. Do you have to wait until Saturday to buy the yarn? No! It’s up on my website right now. Click here to see what I have. I’ve added a few other choices as well. So go and take a look.

The second great shawl is called “Hug Shot”. It is designed by Casapinka. This shawl takes 2 skeins of fingering weight yarn. I have 8 different choices. And if you find a combo that you like better, just say that you’re buying this for the Hug Shot shawl, and I’ll send you a code. The code gives you the pattern for free. This code will be active from June 6th to 11:59pm June 14th. Casapinka says that this shawl is very soothing to knit. And it looks like a lot of fun, for sure!! Click here to see the combo’s that I have for you. These combos will be dyed to order when the current stock runs out.

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terrific threesomes!

Yesterday was my first “Thrifty Thursday”. I showcased my shawl triads. These are sets of 3 skeins that can be used for a myriad of shawl patterns that are available to knitters and crocheters. This is a service that I typically provide buyers at in person shows. I help you pick out yarns that go together. Right now that isn’t available.

I have 12 unique sets. They are all one of a kind. Once someone grabs a kit, it is gone forever. All the sets are made with fingering weight yarn. Each skein is at least 400 yards. So the full set is 1200 yards or a little over depending on the bases involved.

Do you want to see them up close? Click on this Facebook Live video that I recorded yesterday during our event.

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love this scarf

I fell in love with this scarf several years ago, when a customer came into my MD sheep and wool booth with it on. She said at that time that it was made with a “specially” dyed yarn. It remained in the back of my mind…I should look that up and dye some. So I did. And then I dyed more and more. Now I have 7 colorways that you can use to make this scarf: Optical Delusion: Conflagration.

Let me just say that it is a charted pattern. It is made with short rows, cable cast on’s and bind off’s to make the fingers of the flame. You do have to count each row. Each repeat is 100 rows. Really? Yes! But a row is somewhere between 4 and 40 stitches. You can complete a repeat pretty quickly.

I used Knit Companion to keep track of my progress, since you know I’m the slowest knitter in the world! I used the parts of KC that are free. I love that I could keep track of the number of repeats I had done. And that when I put the needles down, I could pick them back up knowing where I left off.

So if you are looking for something that is fun and beautiful. If you are looking for something to take your mind of the current world health situation. Click here are get a kit. The price includes the yarn (already caked up) and a digital copy of the pattern that’s delivered to your email and/or Ravelry accounts.

Another colorway for Conflagration Scarf
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Thoughts about cost of local farm yarn

Recently I bought a back issue of TapRoot Magazine. I was intrigued because the issue’s theme is: Wear. And since I’ve been spending the first part of the year thinking and studying and planning in a fibershed, local fiber kind of way, it was a perfect fit. The article that drew in my attention is by Tamera and Char White of A Wing and A Prayer farm.

Taproot published November 2019

They write about all the costs in raising and feeding the sheep that is making that yarn all the way through shearing, processing, dyeing and selling farm yarn. They really drill down in to the costs of hoof trimming (in time and money), the vet costs and the shelter for the animals. They chose one ram’s fleece which yielded about 12 pounds of wool. It became 33 four ounce skeins. The total cost for those skeins is a little over 1500 dollars. The wholesale price would be $46 and the retail $67. That is a LOT for a skein, right?

They also write about the emotional costs of raising sheep for local yarn. And also the rewards of raising your sheep to make yarn. We are a community and we love our sheep. We hope that you love our sheep and yarn as well.

Trasna skeins

With your purchase of our local farm yarn, you are supporting those sheep and goats whose fiber you are using to make a garment or a household item. Think about buying from a producer of good wool yarn. It comes in all colors and all textures. It is not all scratchy. It can be smooth and soft. It can be squishy like our Livily and Trasna yarns. It can be durable for socks and slippers like our Stratus and our mohair. We are working with our mill to make more weights of farm yarn so that we will have a farm yarn for every garment or other handmade item that you want to make. Click on any of the photos to be taken to our website to find farm yarn for your collection.

Stratus undyed and overdyed skeins
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curated skeins for your next shawl

At shows and even here on the studio tours that we do, I hear people saying that they have a hard time picking out skeins for larger, multiple skein projects like a shawl or a sweater. That is part of what I love about my job. I have an entire room of color and it is so much fun to pull together skeins. Here are a few of the trios that I pulled together today. You can shop for your own curated skeins by clicking here

Three different bases but the same fingering weight: Golden Mosaic, Golden splash and Agate
Hyacinth Mosaic, Violet, and Forest Violet
Carnival, Fiesta Sparkly and Fiesta Chinook
Barn Door, Crushed grape and Stormy Mosaic

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fun and easy knit for the new year

shawl for alpaca wool blend yarn
Camau Shawl

This is a really fun and easy knit shawl. It is a flat triangle shawl that can be worn in a variety of ways. It is primarily a garter stitch shawl with intermittent short rows of eyelet (k2tog, yo). The yarn is a 3 ply farm yarn that is a sport weight. There are 2 plies of wool and one of alpaca. So you have a slightly heathery look to the yarn. The yarn will keep its shape because of the wool but add some lovely softness from the alpaca.

Each kit is one of a kind and they are on sale to!!! So be sure to grab one here while they are still in stock.

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thought provoking book

I’ve known about the California Fibershed movement for quite some time. I long to have a movement like that here in the Mid Atlantic. Have you heard of it before? It started as a local indigo project and grew to a movement to source one’s clothes responsibly and preferably with 100 miles of your home. This can be really hard to do.

The first part of this book details how Fibershed got started and also the really alarming cost of our clothes to our health and the health of the environment. The fashion industry has brought us fast fashion. Clothes that are popular right now for a very short period of time. The 2 biggest manufacturers of fast fashion produce one billion items per year. Most of which are worn a few times and thrown away. Most of these clothes end up in our landfills, becoming more than 5% of all of the municipal waste each year. Over 80 billion garments were sold in 2017 which equals a $1.3 trillion industry employing 300 million people from nearly every country. The majority of those jobs pay a very low wage.

I didn’t realize just how damaging washing your clothes could be. Of course the detergents an be unhealthy for many people. And these synthetic clothes shed microfibers in each and every washing. These microfibers make their way into our water, where up to 40% end up in rivers, lakes and oceans. We know what these plastics are doing in our environment.

5 mini skein gradient

What can you do? Well, you buy clothes that will last for a long time, those made from natural fibers and not made from petroleum by-products. You can recycle your clothes by mending them or repurposing them into quilts or other textile items in your home. You can wash your clothes when they are soiled but probably not every time your wear them. And as knitters, crocheters, sewers and makers, you can be part of the fibershed movement. Consider making a wardrobe for yourself or others. Of course wool, alpaca, mohair and cashmere grown locally is sustainable and renewable. We fiber farmers are happy to help you build a wonderful, colorful wardrobe.

knitting in the wild

I encourage you to read this book and consider the impact of choices we all make in clothing ourselves and our families.