Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On Buying Local Wool

Today I got an email from a friend. She'd been browsing in a book and found a section that made her think of our farm. She typed it out for me, sent it on, and told me it would be good for the blog. I agree. Thank you, C.

Here is a snippet from the book "The Knitter's book of Yarn" :

"You may be visiting a sheep farm or a farmers market when you spot a basket of yarn for sale. I'm always on high alert for anything indicating small-scale, locally produced yarn. Not only is it a chance to get something unique in an age of increasing conformity, but it's a small way to validate and support what these farmers are trying to do. Plus it's a rare gift to meet the person who tended the sheep whose fleece you'll be working with and wearing for years to come--it takes the connection between artist and material to entirely new heights.

Every knitter should support local sheep farms. Without a market for their yarns, these farmers would have to pile their fleeces and burn them (as many already do in Ireland and the United Kingdom), and the animals would be sold for breeding stock, or, even worse, soup stock. Carefully maintained bloodlines of sheep bred for fleece quality, luster, staple length, and crimp would be lost forever. But by supporting a sheep farm--by making even one purchase a year--you're helping sustain an important business and a rapidly disappearing agricultural way of life. You're also helping ensure a richer, higher-quality variety of yarns for all knitters.

What do you get when you buy yarn from a farm? Symbolically, you get a bit of the farm. Materially, it depends. In almost all cases, the farm sends the fleeces to a mill to be processed and spun. Some will even have the spinnery do the dyeing, while others will dye the yarn themselves. Be sure to ask, because sometimes there's a good story behind it: What kind of dyes did they use? How did they dye it? Where did they get their color inspirations?"

In other news, I went tonight with The Farmer to a spin-in at a local yarn store. Close to a dozen ladies meet twice a month to spin and chat. He wanted to go. Since I know that a man with a wheel is a chick-magnet, I went along. And crocheted dishcloths. Lame.

When we returned home, I asked him to show me how to spin. I lasted about 15 minutes (and they were pretty frustrating minutes, I'll tell you). I'll keep at it, and maybe someday I'll be able to spin sewing thread like he does.


  1. Hi Lona,

    Hmmmm... joining your husband at the spin and chat doesn't sound lame to me. Sounds more like wisdom! I never thought about a man with a wheel being a chick magnet, but it makes sense. Good for you for putting a hedge around your marriage.

    Your reminders that buying local is a good thing are hitting home here. For me, the challenge is to balance buying locally and being frugal. But, I've emailed my local woolery to see what she charges for roving (still want to try a braided rug like you made). I wish you were local. I'd beg to come help you experiment with dyeing your wool!


  2. Debbie,

    I struggle with the buying local/being frugal thing, too. I'd love for life to be black and white, but it's not. So we do the best we can.

    BTW, I'd love to have a visit from you! Boy, couldn't we make a mess. Better wait 'til summer, so we can make our messes outside...

  3. wow, I'm honored (??), glad that you liked what I found for you. And that you thought it fit. I'm glad I have sheep/wool farmers to share it with. Now to read the whole book.
    I have the same struggle buying local as well. Sadly.
    A man with a wheel, a chick magnet? interesting. It was good that you went along.
    I would like to have seen that spin in.

    Have a blessed day,


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