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Madrona Winter Fiber Retreat Feb 11-14 in Tacoma, WA

February 4th, 2016 by Gretchen

Heading West for the third year to Madrona Winter Fiber Retreat. Certainly one of my favorite events.

We are excited to offer two exclusives at the event: a new little book by Nancy Marchant with 8 patterns and Evelyn Clarks new Reykjavik Lace Shawl pattern.

Plus, there are 16 boxes packed snug with lots and lots of yarn and fiber somewhere on the road now heading that way!

Come see us in the marketplace (free admission).

Welcome 2016! we’ll get it together soon…

January 4th, 2016 by Gretchen


Just a quick note to say we are working on plans for 2016…and will eventually get a better calendar up here.

For now, here are a couple things on the horizon:

  • January 15th (the ides of the month): launching our first two swatchalong yarns, Targhee 2-ply and Border Leicester sport in small affordable skeins. Join us (and the Knit Local swatchalong sponsored by KnitBritish) as we learn about different breed-specific yarns as well as woolen and worsted spun structures by swatching. We plan to introduce two each month all year.
  • January 23rd: talk & trunk show in Alexandria about the breed of sheep I raise: Romney. Sponsored by Caroline Hockenberry (Fibernate)
  • February 11th-14th: Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat in Tacoma, Washington. This is a fabulous event. Can you come? We will be in the marketplace which is free and open to the public.
  • March 12th: Program for Potomac Fiber Arts Guild: The Art of Solitude Wool: connecting fiber users with small farms. We will talk about our business, yarn, sheep and the small farms where all the wool comes from.

talk & trunk show about Romney sheep: Jan 23rd in Alexandria

January 4th, 2016 by Gretchen
I’ve been invited to talk about my favorite sheep breed and favorite wool with Caroline Hockenberry’s Fibernators. I’ll begin the morning sharing my experience raising Romneys and working with their wool plus lots of photos, a couple fleeces to touch…etc. Caroline will follow with a special class on spinning many types of yarn from one type of fleece: Romney of course. And I will bring three different Romney yarns and roving, including a little handspun. Trunk show is free & open to the public 11:30-1:30.
follow link below to register for talk.
Fiberology: Romney – A breed study w/Gretchen Frederick
When: Sat,  January 23, 10am – 11am
Where: 5520 Cherokee Ave, Alexandria, VA 22312 (map)
Click here for more information and to register. Admission is $20.00.

Solitude Wool Trunk Show of Romney Yarns and Fiber
Open to the Public

When: Sat,  January 23, 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
Where: 5520 Cherokee Ave, Alexandria, VA 22312 (map)
Class Participation Not Required to Attend the Trunk Show!

Leesburg, Falls Church and DC markets this weekend

December 3rd, 2015 by Gretchen

Catch us at a market this weekend (Dec 5 & 6th)

Sue and Kim will have our booth at the Leesburg Farmers Market on Saturday, 9 to noon

I will have our booth at the Falls Church Farmers Market on Saturday. NOTE: we will be up the hill in the parking lot then next three weeks. Look for our polka dot tent

And I will be at Dupont FreshFarm market on Sunday.

LOTs of yarn, Lots of kits,

come see us!!

Sue Burke and the Karakul bucket bag

November 12th, 2015 by Gretchen

three of Sue's handmade Karakul bucket bags


A little history: Sue Burke found me at the Dupont Farmers Market back when I was just selling handspun yarn from my own flock of Romneys (could it be 15 years ago???). She is probably our greatest supporter: best customer, helping at yarn events and the farmers market and as a knitter, is so astute about our yarns. Sue completely “gets” how different “types” and breeds wool are different from each other and has designed several patterns for us that don’t just utilize those characteristics…they exemplify their strengths.

These bags are a great example. Karakul yarn was one of the first three yarns we had spun when Solitude Wool (the partnership of Sue Bundy and I creating breed-specific yarns) started in 2006. Karakul is the breed Sue raises at RedGate Farm.   They are a heritage breed, rare in the US. The “type” of wool they grow is very different than what most knitters are familiar with.

Emily Chamelin shearing Sue's Karakul ewe

Sue’s Karakul flock

One of the oldest sheep breeds, they have a Primitive type fleece with a long outer coat for weather protection and a softer, down undercoat for warmth. The wool is coarse with no elasticity and traditionally used for Persian rugs. It also felts fantastically…makes great yurts and other felt products.

So we had this really interesting and cool yarn, but people touched it and their eyes popped open with the tactile shock of the rough yarn. No one knew what to do with it.

Sue Burke experimented and designed a knit-to-felt bucket bag using the Karakul for strength and felting ability and pairing it with one of our handpainted woolen spun yarns to create a thick fabric with beautiful texture and color blending. It works so well that the bags don’t need to be lined. The finished bag is solid and will not wear out. 


Sue has revised the pattern for bucket bag to use with our Targhee 2 yarn. The yarn partner previously was the Tunis, currently on clearance sale. We have the original pattern in the old format and I still haven’t gotten the new pattern into our new format, so I can’t get it up on the website. I am going to get it in the works, but in the meantime, we do have the paper one. There are several sizes in the pattern including a mini zip wristlet. All variations take even amounts of Karakul and a partner yarn.

Sue has made maybe a dozen or more of these bags and the pattern has been popular with our customers. It is an exciting project to plan and create partly because of the fun of combining two colors and the magic transformation that happens when you felt them. This is a case of one plus one creating something completely new…and greater than two. The Karakul yarn (and color) will dominate in the final felted fabric. You can create a bag that is very sophisticated, elegant and understated…or one that is still sophisticated, but dramatic and bold. It’s in the color choice.

The pattern gives instructions on hand felting your knitted bag in the sink so you can control it. Sue recommends not selecting a button or handles until after felting when the size and color have revealed themselves.

This is not an inexpensive project if you knit one of the larger bags. Those take two or more skeins of the Karakul plus an equal amount (probably one large skein) of a companion yarn, plus pattern, plus a great button, and great handles (plus optional zipper closure). But you will enjoy making it…and love the fun of felting it and feeling it transform in your hands. And it will be a bag you can use for a long, long, long time.

This weekend at the market we will have five of Sue’s bags plus a couple of her zippered wristlets available for sale. By the time we figured out how much Sue had invested in all the materials, her time and the small cut to the market, the prices seem high. But I stopped to think about it, knowing how we arrived at the price, I knew it was fair. These are all hand crafted by the designer using our yarn, from local (very) wool with excellent (read expensive) handles and are one of a kind creations. What do designer bags go for???? way more than these bags! Actually, I think they are a deal.

Sue is the master of color combinations and she will be with me at the farmers market this fall. If you want to knit one for yourself (or a special gift), she will be there for consultation. Her experience with these bags lets her visualize what will happen with different colors, come take advantage of this opportunity! Will bring the Karakul, Targhee 2 and Tunis this weekend. If you are coming another weekend and want to see these yarns give me an email request a few days ahead of time and I will put them on the truck. If you can’t come to market and want help picking colors, send me an email and we can give some suggestions and help you with your order. Ditto on the bags if you would like a Sue Burke original, send me an email: f-fsolitude@mindspring.com

hope we get to see you at the market!


Back to market on Halloween, continuous to Christmas

October 22nd, 2015 by Gretchen

We are back from Rhinebeck and sort of getting everything back together again. I’m hitting the dye pots!

Just wanted to announce that starting the weekend of October 31st we will be at Falls Church Farmers Market on every Saturday and the Dupont FreshFarm Market on every Sunday THAT IS NOT RAINING.

on any market day that is raining…or forecast to rain, check here after 6:30. If I am NOT coming I will post it here.

Thank you!


Farm Field Day: Tunis! Sunday September 13th, noon to 4 pm

September 1st, 2015 by Gretchen

Tunis sheep are really cool.

First brought to the US in Colonial times (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned Tunis sheep), they are a heritage breed. Well adapted for our heat and humidity, Tunis was the predominant sheep breed in the south until the Civil War almost wiped them out. Now they are on The Livestock Conservancy’s “watch” list. We love buying fleece to support the breed and turning on knitters and spinners to this wonderful Medium wool.

the entrance to Beaucaire Farm

Our host shepherds, Jim and Irene Mandraccia invite you to visit Beaucaire Farm in Purcellville, Virginia on Sunday September 13th. Meet their Tunis sheep and learn what makes them so cool, see a beautiful farm, taste some LoCo (Loudoun County) libations and maybe take one of the two classes offered. 

Entrance fee is $15. Part of that goes to Beaucaire, plus you get a $10 coupon good towards Solitude Wool products. The Field day will start at noon and end at 4:00pm. You’re welcome to bring a wheel or your knitting and sit and hang out for the afternoon. We will have a stand with Solitude yarns and fibers (including our two ply Tunis and double twist Tunis yarns and roving made with Beaucaire fleece). Beaucaire also has two Tunis farm yarns, fleeces and sheep pelts for sale.

We are offering two classes 9two sessions each class) during the day: Knit a rolled brim cap with Karin Fellers (good for beginning knitters, learn circular knitting and more about woolen yarn) and Hand Paint a skein of yarn with Gretchen Frederick. Classes are $45 each and include materials).

Email Gretchen at f-fsolitude@mindspring.com to register for a class or pre-pay entrance. If there are still spots available you can sign up day of the event, but class size limited to 6 participants each, so it might be a good idea to act now.

Solitude Jacket wins Knitting Daily KAL vote

July 12th, 2015 by Gretchen

We are doubly excited! To have our yarn in a beautiful sweater designed by Mari Chiba in the Fall issue of Knitscene magazine…and to have Ravelers vote to select this pattern out of many for a Knit-A-Long. Pick your color of our Romney yarn and join the KAL.

I will be dyeing two more colors tomorrow, photographing what isn’t up on the site yet…and we are breathlessly awaiting a new natural oatmeal color that I bet will be perfect for this lovely sweater.

updated schedule…

March 3rd, 2015 by Gretchen

Schedule update (as of 9/2/15)

    September 2015

    • Saturday the 5th & 19th: Falls Church Farmers Market
    • Sunday the 6th & 20th: Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market
    • Sunday the 13th: Tunis Farm Day at Beaucaire Farm in Purcellville, Virginia. Classes, farm tour, talk about Tunis sheep etc! Registration starts August 25th.
    • 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 3th: Falls Church Farmers Market
    • Sunday the 4th: Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market

    November/December 2015:

    • we will be at the Falls Church and FreshFarm Farmers Markets every weekend until Christmas (weather permitting).
    • Tuesday evening, November 3rd: Sue and I will be speaking to the Manassas Knitters
    • Saturday evening, November 7th: Sue and I will bespeaking to the KnitXperience, Knitter’s Retreat at Graves Mountain Lodge in Virginia

    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