but hope you go buy from those farmers who are there!
back to market in August, see us at Beat the Heat in July
but hope you go buy from those farmers who are there!
back to market in August, see us at Beat the Heat in July
Schedule update: changing it up so we are doing one market each weekend:
November/December 2015: we will be at the Falls Church and FreshFarm Farmers Markets every weekend until Christmas (weather permitting).
and check out this fun tutorial by 222 handspun on blending roving and making a corespun yarn
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.
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 email@example.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.
|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!|
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.
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!
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)!
|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!
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!|
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):
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!
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!