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Spring schedule and beyond…

March 3rd, 2015 by Gretchen

Here are all the things we know about. We will update as things get added.

March 2015

  • Introducing new yarns!!! Llama-rama, Coopworth sport, Coopworth lace, and Tunis double twist. I will send an email and instagram message when each hits the web site
  • Saturday the 21st: Trunk show at The Knitting Basket yarn shop in Richmond, Virginia. Sue Bundy and Gretchen will be there from 1:00pm to 3:00pm and give a talk at 1:30
  • Saturday the 28th: Uniquities Fiber Farmers Market from 1:00pm to 5pm. We will have the new yarns, come touch! Better…take some home with you to try out.

April 2015

May 2015

  • weekend of the 2nd & 3rd:Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival!! If you don’t like crowds, I’ll suggest coming on Sunday. Do come to our booth: Main Exhibition Hall, D17
  • Saturday the 9th: Dyeing to Weave. Two part class: Sat. 5/9 here at Solitude: learn to handpaint the warp and weft for two scarves with weak acid dyes. Following weekend, May 16-17, learn to weave them on a floor loom pre-warped with your scarves. Weaving instruction by Beth Wilson, Barefoot Weavers Studio in Purcellville VA. Email Beth at: bareftwevr@cottolin.com for more information and to register.
  • Saturday the 16th & 30th:Falls Church Farmers Market, Yay, back to market. Look for our polka dot tent on the grass along Park Ave.
  • Sunday the 17th & 31st:Dupont Circle, FreshFarm Market. find us on 20th street. Look for the polka dot tent.

June 2015

  • Sunday the 7th: Open House at RedGate Farm, Leesburg, Virginia. Learn how to properly skirt a fleece and wash it, meet some Karakul sheep.
  • Saturday the 13th & 27th: Falls Church Farmers Market
  • Sunday the 14th & 28th: Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market

July 2015

August 2015

  • Weekend of the 1st & 2nd: Beat the Heat Fiber Treat in Brunswick, Maryland. Lots of mini-classes and demonstrations to distract us from the heat. We will be vendors and helping Two Rivers Yarns to organize it. More info to come.
  • Sunday the 16th: Open House at Solitude. Probably. Still planning, but think we will have a dye day here at the farm.

September 2015

  • Saturday the 12th & 19th: Falls Church Farmers Market
  • Sunday the 13th & 20th: Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market
  • Weekend of the 26th & 27th:Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, Clarke County Fairgrounds in Berryville, Virginia. Wonderful mid-size fiber festival. Deb Robson (The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook) will be there! Us too. Come see us in the Ruritan Building.

October 2015

  • Weekend of the 17th & 18th:The New York Sheep & Wool Festival (Rhinebeck!). Get your room now! things fill up and this is the place to be in mid-October. Come see us in the lower level of the Horticulture building (building 22-D), booth 4.
  • Saturday the 24th: Falls Church Farmers Market
  • Sunday the 25th: Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market

November/December 2015: we will be at the Falls Church and FreshFarm Farmers Markets every weekend until Christmas (weather permitting).



Be mine! all pink and red roving on sale now through Valentines day

February 5th, 2015 by Gretchen

and check out this fun tutorial by 222 handspun on blending roving and making a corespun yarn



Madrona Winter Fiber Retreat, Tacoma Washington Feb 12-16

February 5th, 2015 by Gretchen

Our only event west of the Appalachians! We are excited to be returning to the Madrona Fiber Retreat for the second year.

We are bringing eleven different breeds in yarn form…and bringing pre-release “sneak peek” skeins of our five new yarns, plus lots of roving.

Hope you can come meet us and get familiar with some of our yarn.

What’s happening here Winter to Spring

February 5th, 2015 by Gretchen

We are being very productive…with all the stuff that we can’t find time for in wool washing and dyeing weather. But we are out and about a bit.

Thank you to the Knitwell group in DC for having us come to your January knitting group. We had a great time.

Thank you to Two Rivers Yarns in Maryland for doing a Solitude Wool trunk show in January. We hope we introduced some of your customers to sheep breeds they didn’t know before.

Our great trek begins as our boxes are already on their way to Tacoma, Washington for the Madrona Winter Fiber Retreat from Feb 12-16th. Very exciting to head West. Come see us at the Marketplace.

We are working on FIVE new yarns! They will be introduced as sneak peek skeins with incomplete information, and with one exception, in their naked undyed selves at Madrona.

Look for us at the Uniquities Fiber Farmers Market in Vienna, Virginia on March 28th

Want to try dyeing yarn AND weaving??? Along with Barefoot Weaver’s Studio, we are offering a three day workshop: Dyeing to Weave. You come here for a day (May 9) of dyeing warp and weft for two scarves. Then, a week later (May 16-17), return to the Barefoot Studio to weave your scarves on an already warped loom. Can it get any better? Contact Beth Wilson at bareftwevr@gmail.com to register.

I plan to offer a couple “Dye Hard” (not really, it’s easy) classes here at the farm this spring. If you’re interested, let me know…and help me set a date.

As soon as the regular season opens we will return on an every other week basis at Falls Church, VA and Dupont FreshFarm markets.



breed of the week: Border Leicester and last markets until spring

December 18th, 2014 by Gretchen
Our last weekend for farmers markets until Spring

Where ever you might be located, there could be a farmers market this weekend near you. Farmers will truely appreciate it if you come. Find wonderful things to make your Christmas/Hanukah/Solstice celebrations bright: good things to eat, hall decking greens and interesting presents and stocking stuffers. Try a turnip in the toe of a stocking to change things up.  At a farmers market…you get double karma points for shopping local.

We will have yarn and roving, kits, gift certificates, freshly bottled honey and two fabulous Karakul pelts. Last time out for out two clearance yarns (20% off): Corrie Bulky and the BL aran.

Breed of the week: Border Leicester!
Oakview farm, Romney left, Border Leicester sheep right

A decade ago, before Sue and I created Solitude Wool, I was keeping sheep at a nearby farm so I could have more sheep (our farm, Solitude is really little). Along with my own Romneys I also shepherded a small flock of Border Leicester sheep. They are very personable sheep and I have a soft spot for them.


One of several English Longwool breeds

In the 1700’s, Robert Bakewell (big name in breeding) began improving Leicesters with a line breeding program. This was very innovative for the time. Two of his followers took some of those sheep up to the border counties near Scotland and continued to develop them to local preferences, creating the Border Leicester.
Easy to recognize, these sheep have clean heads and legs, distinctive roman noses and long upright ears. If you saw Babe (one of my favorite movies, perfect for Christmas time), Ma and the flock at Babe’s farm are Border Leicesters.


Distinctive fleece

Described as pencil locks, the fleece is in little sections, has beautiful crimp, is quite lustrous and has little curled tips. There are both white and natural colored sheep.

Just slightly coarser than Romney, Border Leicester is also easy to spin and dyes beautifully! Beauty and strength…just the combination we like.

Border Leicester is one of our staples (pun sort of intended). Our Border Leicester sport weight yarn comes in both white and a natural gray. It is semi-worsted spun to emphasize it’s lustre and drape and it has wonderful stitch definition. This is one of the batches I dye with natural


(botanical) dyes, and mother nature is THE best colorist!
Recently, we also created Border Leicester roving in several dyed in the wool colors (not botanical dyes, weak acid dyes).

Will have the yarn and roving at the markets this weekend. 6% off at market.

Patterns for really lovely items made with this yarn by three designers (first two I will have at market):

Cheryl Chow’s climbing ivy vest

Kathy Owen’s border classic scarf and

Reah Janise Kauffman’s diamond lace capelet (free on Ravelry)



I started this email before the sun came up and only have a couple hours left until it sets again. The Winter solstice is almost here. It makes you realize how much like a plant we are, stretching for the light: Christmas lights, mid-day outside chores, firelight, candlelight…even incandescent. Soon the days will grow longer (looking forward to it!). Wishing everyone find joy and light in this dark season.

Happy Holidays from Solitude Wool (Gretchen, Sue, Debbie and Lynn)!

Leesburg and Falls Church, VA markets Saturday 12/13, Dupont Circle, DC market Sunday 12/14

December 12th, 2014 by Gretchen
Ahhhh, good weather should get us to all three markets this weekend: Leesburg & Falls Church, VA on Saturday and Dupont Circle in DC on Sunday 

I don’t know about you…but I am starting to get a little revved about Christmas. It’s almost here! Time to get serious. How about you? Are you all done and thinking about that knitting project you’re going to start in January? Either way, we hope you will come see Sue at Leesburg or me at Falls Church and Dupont.

Maybe someone is trying to shop for you and needs a suggestion? We have card gift certificates available at market, or email me and I will create a personalized pdf gift certificate in any amount.

Breed of the week: Montadale (6% off at market) 

I’m embarassed to say that at the Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers Guild Holiday potluck yesterday I was knitting a hat with our Montadale Woolen yarn and when asked about the breed I couldn’t remember what breed of sheep was crossed with Columbia to create it. I’ve looked this up many times. Wonder if I will remember now?

The Montadale breed is one of many attempts to create “the perfect sheep.” This time it was a man named E. H. Mattingly. In 1932 he went to Kalispel, Montana and got a Columbia ram took it to the mid-west and bred him to a Cheviot ewe. In the end, they switched it up and the breed is based on Cheviot rams with Columbia ewes, but they were very happy with the great dual purpose breed. The wool of Montadales varies from fine to medium and is known for being whiter than many breeds.

It takes many people and a long time to make yarn 


First it was Linda Shane (from Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival Fleece sale) who introduced us to Saffer’s Montadales in Warwick Maryland on the Eastern Shore. She knew there was good wool there. I haven’t been, but Sue was very impressed with the farm, especially having two shearers (this is big suff in our world of small farms).




and we got quite a haul for us: three [wool] bags full!



We drove the wool up to Maine, had it scoured then sent to Bartlettyarns, a historic mill in Harmony. It was a cold day when we were there. I remember we were getting flurries and we had left full Spring behind in Virginia.

Bartlett has the last mule spinner in the country. What is a mule spinner? It spins a true woolen yarn, for you hand spinners, that means it is created with a long draw.



See those tracks on the floor? The mule (? I think…) travels back on the tracks drafting out the wool as it’s spun, just like a hand spinner’s arm pulls the wool back, trapping air, making a very light, very warm yarn. Bartlett made a video when they spun the yarn for us and put it on youtube.



It comes back to us on cones. It takes many more steps from our small, hardworking team (thank you Debbie and Lynn!), skeining, washing (thank you Sue), dyeing (me), rinsing, re-skeining, labeling (and thats a story in itself…) before it is ready to offer to you. One of these emails I will follow that end. But typically, from fleece to yarn ready to sell is between one and two years. Jeeze, really? We are poster children for slow yarn.

Montadale woolen makes great hats

It’s the base for the Solitude Dots hat. We have a kit pairing it with our Romney for the dots.

Monty Woolen is also great for sweaters, shawls, blankets…anything to cover or wrap yourself up in in this nasty winter that hasn’t even started yet. Just looking at it…it doesn’t make you oooooh or ahhhhh. Then I made a watch cap to go with my barn coat. I really loved working with it, it’s squishy, it’s comfort knitting. I wore it. I love it. I want more!


If you aren’t into polka dots (hard to imagine, but possible), you can make almost any hat with one skein. We have two wayyyy simple patterns for a watch cap or rolled brim hat available for free. We will have patterns at market, and are trying to get it up on the web. If you order the Monty woolen, we will include one of the patterns for you (add a note which one you would like with your order).

Make a hat for yourself or a gift…it only takes a couple, three evenings to knit one.


If you are local, get out of the house this weekend while the weather is good and finish up that Christmas list! Hope to see you at market!


12/7: will be at Dupont market today

December 5th, 2014 by Gretchen

About to head out for the Dupont Circle farmers market. Wear warm clothes and come brave the winds with us.

I have good things for presents: hand knit items we had used for display. They are all freshly washed and priced at just the yarn price plus $1. A DEAL! and that is pretty unusual from us. Also yesterday (with a rain day at home) I made some Solitude Wool gift certificates. You can have them in any amount.

I’ll also have honey…and a few Solitude Wool sheep greeting cards.

Breed of the week: Karakul, baby lambs and Tinkerbell to the mill

November 21st, 2014 by Gretchen
Breed of the week: Karakul!

We are celebrating the birth of fall lambs at Sue Bundy’s farm: RedGate. Sue and I started Solitude Wool almost eight years ago so Karakuls are family. There is a lot to say about this breed, but with lamb photos to share I’ll keep it really brief. I just looked at the Wikipedia about Karakuls and I think it’s really good (read it):

  • Originally from Central Asia, and one of…or maybe THE oldest of sheep breeds in the world, they are adapted to harsh conditions; just like camels store energy in their hump, Karakuls can store energy in their fat tails.
  • American Karakuls are a rare heritage breed.
  • Black is a primary color, but there are white, red, brown, silver and frosted colors (which we love).
  • Ancient sheep had a long outer coat to protect them from the weather and a short down undercoat to keep them warm. Karakuls are one of the breeds that retain this Primitive type of fleece.
Fall lambs!


Karakul’s, like only a few other breeds, will breed out of season and lamb in the fall. This is a little ewe lamb (actually she is good size for being a day old) was born Tuesday morning in the nicely bedded barn out of that cold wind.



Here she is with her mother, who is clearly not trusting my motives with the camera and stomping her foot at me. The adults were sheared not too long ago, maybe 6 weeks? Karakuls grow fleece at about an inch a month and must be sheared twice a year.


See the lamb with the white head and penetrating stare? He has a poultry fixation. Nicknamed Bouncer (aka: Bruiser), he was the first lamb born just two weeks ago. He was caught on video when he was still the only lamb on the farm…chasing chickens. You can see it on our Facebook page. It will brighten a cold day.

Very rare: Karakul yarn

I believe that Solitude Wool has the onlyKarakul yarn grown, spun and dyed here in the US. It is definitely our most unusual yarn, and the most interesting too. The long outer, coarse, hair-like coat is very very strong and non elastic and the light short underdown makes this yarn felt fabulously. Those characteristics together make this yarn the best for knit-to-felt bags that are hard wearing and solid (no need to line them). Sue Burke designed these bags and created a pattern for us using Karakul with another yarn, ourTunis. Easy to knit, the pattern includes hand felting instructions and sources for leather handles. If you order both Karakul and Tunis online, I will include the pattern free this week only. Small bag (orange) takes one large or two small skeins of Tunis, and two skeins Karakul. Mini bag (gray) takes one small skein each of Tunis and Karakul. Coming in early 2015 we will have a new version of the pattern available for download.



Karakul is also incredibly insulating. This attribute makes for great coasters (easy and fast for potential holiday gifts) and bottle cozys that will keep your coffee hot (even at a frigid farmers market stand) or your water bottle cold (even at a swealtering farmers market stand). Karakul is at least twice as good as other wools for insulation, I know this from experience.

Markets this weekend

I will be bringing the Karakul, Tunis, these bags and lots of other yarns to market this weekend: Falls Church, Virginia on Saturday morning and Dupont FreshFarm market in DC on Sunday. Come down and touch everything and take some home with you!

Tinkerbell loaded up for trip to the mill


Sue and I are heading up to Pennsylvannia today to deliver a whole bunch of fleece for a new dyed-in-the-wool yarn we have been working on for a LONG time: 50% natural colored llama blended with 50% dyed Romney in nine colors.

We are excited to see this mill. I’m taking my camera and will start to tell the story in next weeks email.


Honk if you see us on the road!


Breed of the week: Corriedale (and our Corrie/Corrie X yarn)

November 13th, 2014 by Gretchen
Corriedale (and Corriedale crosses) is the breed of the week

These Corriedales are a small flock at Bay Haven Farm, one of my near neighbors. Bay Haven breeds Cleveland Bay horses, Berkshire pigs and other heritage breeds and does the Hillsborough farmers market in Loudoun County. I am really sorry to say they have decided not to raise Corriedales anymore. We want more Corriedale if you know any farms in the Chesapeake watershed that need a market for their wool.



Are they not wooley? Corridales were developed in Australia in the late 1800′s from crossing Merino (fine, dense fleece) with Lincoln (long strong fleece). And I just read that they were first imported to the US in 1914, a centennial! how cool.




The sheep are pretty big, and produce a big fleece every year, 10-17 pounds. The average of all sheep is probably about 8 pounds per year, so that is impressive. The wool is a good length, 4 or 5 inches and a Medium type. It has great crimp and is pretty soft.

6% discount on Corriedale at markets this weekend


Decided to up the discount at market to 6%, so it covers tax. Those of you not in DC or Virginia don’t have to pay tax on web orders (never I hope, oh the headaches even thinking about it causes! Dealing with multiple states is very very very very hard).

I will bring: a pure Corriedale roving that is carded. Lovely to spin!



our Corriedale/Corriedale cross yarn. The Corrie cross part of the blend are from Waterford Wool (you can see those sheep behind the Waterford store in Waterford, Virginia). The cross breed is Lincoln, one of the original breeds contributing to the Corriedale. Some of the sheep in this flock are natural colored and the addition of a little brown and gray creates a heathery light oatmeal color that is fabulous for cables or other textural knits.

The yarn is woolen spun and just perfect for fall. Warm, cushy and a pleasure to knit with. We have the undyed yarn in two skein sizes, solid dyed colors in small skeins and some also in large skeins and handpainted colors in large skeins. Great for vests (I’ll be wearing mine, made specially for the farmers market, designed by Andrea Price, author of Knit Speak), hats, scarves, and would be really really great for a throw to wrap up in on the couch this winter.

Got to go.

Hope to see you at the markets this chilly weekend. And to those of you in the snowy north or windy west…I am so thinking about you! Wow, if this is any indication, we all need to have several knitting projects lined up. We would just love to have one of them be with Solitude Wool!

Breed of the week: Dorset (and our Dorset sock yarn)

November 13th, 2014 by Gretchen
Good Morning!

It’s raining here. That is good for the garden (garlic mostly planted and fall greens and broccoli are overflowing) and especially good because I hope it can decide to stay dry for the weekend. Falls Church…I am coming!

We thought it would be fun to feature a different breed each week and at the farmers markets, give a 5% discount on that yarn.

Breed of the week: Dorset and Horned Dorset

Dorset is breed you have probably seen from a car window. The polled variety (polled means they don’t have horns) is the second most popular breed of sheep in the US. They are raised primarily for meat. These pregnant ewes are from Mill Creek Farm in Lovettsville, Virginia, the farm I buy hay from, and some of their fleeces are in our yarn. Dorsets have white faces and don’t have little black fibers in their wool like Suffolk sheep (I haven’t looked, but guess Suffolk is the most popular breed in the US).

We also bought Horned Dorset fleeces. The horned sheep are declining in numbers and The Livestock Conservancy has made them a conservation priority. Sue is our wool buyer and I only go along sometimes. But, I met the couple who raises the Horned Dorset at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. I hope to visit their farm this year.

Down type wool

Dorset, and most meat breeds of sheep grow wool that is really great for socks. The fleece is relatively fine, but what is unique is it’s incredible spring and cushion. It has crimp in several directions at the same time, back and forth and spiral. You can’t keep this wool down! (hmmm, is that how it got the name Down type? Nah, probably from the English Downs) anyway, it is like springs under your feet. You aren’t likely to see it in commercial sock yarns, but give our Dorset sock a try and see how great it feels.

With holiday travel approaching, you might want to think about a good portable project. Socks are great for travel knitting, even in a cramped air plane seat.

Hope to see you at the markets this week…or connect with you via a web order!