Our Blog

Rhinebeck Oct 18-19, SAFF Oct 24-26

October 17th, 2014 by Gretchen

Yay, Fiber Festivals!

We are going to be at the NY Sheep & Wool festival in Rhinebeck: come see us in Building 22, downstairs in booth 4

Next week we will be at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival near Asheville, North Carolina. We are located in the Sales Arena, booth 9

Open House at Solitude Sunday, September 14th

September 11th, 2014 by Gretchen
You’re invited to our farm: Solitude 

Dora! provider of the milk for the goat cheese

 

This Sunday, September 14th, from noon to 4:00 pm, Solitude Wool is having an open house here at Joan’s and my small farm in western Loudoun County, Virginia (see below for address and directions) We would love you to come and hang out (bring your spinning wheel, knitting, whatever) on our porch and enjoy fall apple slices and some fresh chevre. Dora (at right, an Alpine dairy goat) provided milk this morning and cheese will be ready for Sunday.

Tents will be up full of Solitude Wool yarn. For this Sunday, all yarn and fiber is 10% off.

 

In addition, two yarns are going on clearance sale (20% off) so at the open house only, you can get two wonderful yarns at 30% off (for us, that’s big, our margin is small…the dollars you spend go more to the farms for wool and small US mills for processing).

Corriedale bulky

A woolen spun yarn with great body.
It will make a fabulous cowl (you might have seen the guys at firefly farms sporting one at the Dupont market), an excellent outerwear vest, sweater or jacket for the hard winter they are saying we are in for. Many new handpaint overdyes (they are the best!) have just a few skeins available. I see bold designs mixing colors: think stripes or a sleeve in a different colorway, big blocks, stripes—go for it!

web site mark downs next Monday.

 

 

Border Leicester aran weight

Similar in weight to the Corriedale, that’s about all this yarn has in common. It is worsted spun and a lustrous Longwool. A yarn with a silky feel and luscious drape. Somehow, we never put this yarn up on the web site, so those of you out of towners, I’m sorry. Next week I could answer email orders if you want to get some.

The skeins are big: approx 250 yards/8.5 oz. and starting on Sunday will be $38.40 (with an additional 10% off here at the Open House). Want to make a beautiful throw for yourself or a holiday gift? This would be both dramatic and fast to knit.

New: Solitude dots hat kit! 

Knit yourself happy with this hat designed
by Mari Chiba Luke.

Mari is a Solitudian: she posts for us on Facebook/Ravelry/etc and coordinated with other designers on three additional patterns coming out this fall. She is totally in sink with polka dots! Made with Montadale woolen spun yarn, it’s light, warm…and not a bit itchy. Seven sweet little balls of color in our Romney yarn (see our Romney sheep here at the farm) are in the kit for duplicate stitch polka dots. I’d never done duplicate stitch, but I can now. There are good instructions in the pattern, and Mari has a video on how to do it on her site. Easy!

Fall is the best time for natural dyeing 

On Sunday I’ll be teaching a class using synthetic dyes from 12:30 to 2:00pm (class full). Following that the dye shed (garage…) will be open and we will work with natural dyes. Two or three vats will be going: indigo, wingstem and jewelweed. Three of our yarns are dyed exclusively with natural dyes: The Border Leicester sport, Icelandic and the Romney/Mohair single (not on the site yet…but it will later this fall). Many of the colors we grow or gather here on the farm, or nearby roadsides. You can help! As  you explore the farm, harvest and gather different natural dye materials:

wingstem

pokeberries

black walnuts

black-eyed susans

jewelweed

goldenrod

Hope to see you Sunday, the weather sounds like it will be perfect,

Gretchen

Late Summer/Fall Schedule

August 15th, 2014 by Gretchen

updated as of August 15th, 2014

Time to think about Fall and Winter!
Here is our schedule of markets and events, but feel free to email us  (f-fsolitude@mindspring.com) if you need personal shopping assistance, either electronically or by making an appointment to come to the warehouse.
Falls Church, Virginia
We are on the grass along Park Avenue near Greenstone Farm’s stand
Saturdays: August 23rd; September 6th and 20th; October 11th; November 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th; December 6th, 13th and 20th
Washington, DC
We are on the sidewalk across from Cedarbrook Farm’s stand
Sundays: August 24; September 7th and 21st; October 12th; November 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th; December 7th, 14th and 21st
OPEN HOUSE (Farm)
at Solitude near Bluemont, Virginia
Sunday, September 14th
Noon to 4:00 pm
Come visit the 1790 farm that Gretchen Frederick and her partner Joan live in. See the goats and sheep, the dye garage/shed where the Solitude Wool dyeing happens, the newly renovated (and hardly planted kitchen garden) and stroll down to the creek.
Dye class offered. Inquire to reserve a spot. More info to come and directions via email
at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Berryville, Virginia
easy (and beautiful) drive from DC, Baltimore or Richmond
Saturday and Sunday, September 27th and 28th
We are in the Ruritan Building
Dyeing to Weave class
offered along with Barefoot Weavers Studio, this is a three day class.
Thursday, October 16
at Gretchen’s farm
Learn to hand paint and then dye your own warp and weft for two scarves. Two days of weaving instruction the following week. More info here soon and sign up through Barefoot Weavers in a week or so… Limit 6 students so sign up early.
Rhinebeck, NY
Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th
Look for us in the Horticulture Building
Asheville, North Carolina
We are in the Sales Arena
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 24th, 25th and 26th
Leesburg, Virginia
dates still being determined
Tacoma, Washington
February 12th through the 15th, 2015
more information soon

See us at Uniquities Fiber Farmers market this Saturday, July 26th

July 24th, 2014 by Gretchen

This Saturday, July 26th is the Fiber Farmers Market sponsored by Uniquities Yarn shop. It takes place in lovely air conditioned comfort at the Vienna Community Center, 120 N. Cherry St. Vienna, Virginia. The hours are from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm and admission is free.

Come meet producers from your local fiber-shed!

We will be there with bells on…and some yarn, roving and washed fleece:

  • Alpaca/Merino lace weight yarn
  • Border Leicester sport weight
  • Corriedale/Corriedale cross
  • Dorset sock 2
  • Icelandic
  • Karakul
  • Romney semi-worsted spun
  • Romney/Mohair, in skeins and cones
  • Montadale light
  • Montadale woolen
  • Targhee 3-ply (on sale!)
  • roving in undyed, dyed in the wool blends and kettle dyed colors
  • freshly dyed Cotswold dyed lambswool locks
  • washed fleeces ready to prep and spin

Hope to see you there!

What’s in our yarn…?

July 24th, 2014 by Gretchen

Well, it’s been a long time since I had a small blog spasm “what’s in your yarn and where does it come from?”   I haven’t written anything, but I’ve thought about it a lot! —Like, are you crazy? How are you going to research this? And do you really want to start trying to make pronouncements about how other people make yarn? Well, no. Really I don’t. But I don’t want to drop it either. Best to stick to my knitting and concentrate on this from my own viewpoint. I’ll try to look at the bigger picture for context and what we do for specifics.

Starting at the beginning: a sheep.

This is the scale we work at and think in. We want wool from sheep that are pure-bred, or nearly pure-bred because we are all about the differences in types of wool and why they are good. This is how a hand spinner thinks. But the world mostly thinks that wool is a commodity, and it is.

The day after I wrote that blog, I decided I would begin research by starting on my own book shelf. Actually, I could only find one book that said anything about commercial yarns. Clara Parkes does a brief summary of how yarn companies source wool in The Knitter’s Book of Wool . This is a great book, (of course, Clara loves wool and I happen to agree with her) and I trust that Clara actually did research. Clara says most US yarn companies buy wool not from the farm, but from wool warehouses. They order by characteristics of fineness and length to meet their specifications then contract with mills to spin it to their design. They don’t actually manufacture yarn themselves. The wool can come from one continent, get scoured on another and spun on a third. I think the what and where decisions are made based on design, price and time…like all good business decisions. I would guess the source of the wool changes when the prices do and probably where it is spun as well. These companies have to make money. I’d bet they aren’t getting rich either.

But how does wool get to commercial wool warehouses? I know a little about how it happens here in the Mid-Atlantic for small scale farms, and I am fairly sure it’s similar other places. It’s called the Wool Pool. I’ve never sold wool there, because from the beginning I wanted all my own wool, but Sue and I went once to our local Virginia wool pool to meet fiber producers and Sue went to the Maryland Wool Pool and worked with the graders sorting wool as it came in. It is wonderful that there is a market for wool. The problem is they don’t pay enough. Some years the price is so low it isn’t worth the gas it takes to drive there let alone pay for shearing or, (I know this is asking a lot) to help defray the cost of raising the sheep. Profit? you have to be joking. These are the prices for theMaryland Wool Pool this year (I know some years Longwool prices were 5 cents a pound):

2014 Wool Pool Prices (per pound):

Choice white-face  (fine wool) $.95
Medium white-face $.85
Non white-face $.80
Coarse white-face (longwool) $.65
Short (less than 3 inches) $.70

No colored wool will be accepted.
Checks are mailed to consignors within several weeks of the pool. A deduction will be made for pool expenses (usually between 5 and 8 cents a pound).
MSBA dues of $25 will be deducted from all sales over $40 for those whose membership dues are pending.

 

So. Say you have 30 Romney sheep. Maybe most of them are white sheep (notice that colored wool is not wanted at any price), say 2o. Let’s guess that those 20 sheep grow an average of 10 pounds of wool which gives you 200 pounds of fleece to sell. At 65 cents a pound that comes to $130.00. Then take out 5 cents for pool expenses ($10) plus $25 for Maryland Sheep Breeders Assoc. dues (which we will not begrudge them, they put on the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival!) and you have $95 left. Know what it costs to shear those 30 sheep? Probably $175. Know what hay costs? You don’t want to know and I don’t want to think about it. And what about the time it takes? At least half a day to drive your wool to the pool. Chances are, that farmer has a “real” job and had to take a day off.

This is all small scale. Some of it really really small and of course things change as the size increases. The USDA publishes wool prices and the American Sheep Industry (ASI) reports and does analysis both nationally and internationally on wool sales. What is the same is the grading: Fine white wool gets the highest price, and it still isn’t very much. Longwool (used mostly for carpets and upholstery) is way less and colored wool is pretty much never sold on a large scale. Yesterday the price for non-graded greasy white wool was 52 cents per pound.

When Sue and I were just starting Solitude Wool, a Nationally known wool man told us that we couldn’t pay more than $1 per pound and make any money. We knew (because we are shepherds) a buck or less per pound was worthless for farms. Do you know a shepherd? Chances are if they aren’ spinners or felters or connected to them, they throw away their fleeces.

We typically pay $3.00 a pound for what we consider good wool: skirted (belly wool, manure tags, neck wool out), lively, sound and of the character of the breed. We love colored wool. Sometimes we pay more for rarer wools, sometimes less. We wish we could pay more. Sue spends time with the shepherd if they are interested and helps select the very best fleeces, encouraging them to enter fleece competitions and sales where they can find hand-spinners who appreciate their value and will pay more per pound. One of our main reasons for being in business is to create at least a small market for local farms for their wool. We have hope that along with all you folks, we can begin to create an appreciation for lots of types of wool, not just super fine white wool so the bigger world will be a market for fleece.

next installment: going to the farm to buy wool in the Shenandoah Valley

 

Registration opens June 1st for Beat the Heat Fibre Treat

May 30th, 2014 by Gretchen

Get ready: registration will open on-line Sunday June 1st

Just in time to bust up the summer dulldrums, Saturday, July 12th: a day full of fiber treats. We are happy to be part of the planning for this new event in Brunswick, Maryland in air-conditioned comfort. We think it’s all coming together with some of the best local vendors, fun classes in lots of flavors, a nice venue to sit and knit with friends and maybe have some ice cream…

You can see most of the details (a couple things might change…like I think I will be teaching two dye classes, not one) now at Two Rivers Yarns web site. Check out the vendors (us of course, plus 6 others). Learn about the teachers. Read about the classes (maybe try your hand at dyeing wool with me?).

Invite friend to drive out with you (it’s a nice, easy drive from DC, No. VA or Baltimore). You have time to discuss classes with them and make decisions before registration opens. I recommend having second choices in mind in case your first ones are filled up. This is a “just right” sized venue, and class sizes are limited.

Then register on Sunday!

Thanks,

Gretchen

what’s in your yarn? where did it come from?

May 22nd, 2014 by Gretchen

There are some interesting things happening in the yarn world. People are talking about US yarns, and even breed specific yarns. As you knitters get more interested in where your yarn comes from, big yarn companies are paying attention (not to mention Ralph Lauren and the US Olympic team sweaters; why did they have to be so ugly though…???).

This week I heard something that really surprised me from my good friend, good knitter and our graphic designer Cheryl: she had no idea that so many yarns were spun in China, or maybe Italy or Peru. She didn’t know there are very few commercial yarn mills in the US. She thought that yarns that were dyed by indie dyers meant they were hand spun too. And she doesn’t know much about breeds either. Wow.

I realize that I know very little about commercial yarns other than what I think: they tend to be Merino wool from Australia that has traveled the world getting scoured on one continent, spun on another and sold in a fourth. So, I’m going to start finding out and comparing processes. I’ll share what I learn…and think here. This is a LOT like food labeling. And lots of marketing/sales language can be very misleading. Let’ find out!

Maryland Sheep & Wool festival May 3rd & 4th

April 30th, 2014 by Gretchen
Yay! This weekend is the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. 

 

The most wonderful festival I think, because it has EVERYTHING! First, it was started (41 years ago) by shepherds and it is still run by shepherds and a really strong group of volunteers. This is the festival to come to if you want to learn more about sheep. All things sheep: breeds, shepherding, farm equipment, buying sheep, selling sheep, showing sheep, sheep products and yes, eating and cooking lamb.

 

There is wool! In all stages and forms: on the sheep, fleeces for sale in the fleece sale or directly from farms that have booths. There is roving, yarn, wool for rug hooking, wool for rug braiding, finished goods…and tools for just about anything you can think of to do with wool. Plus a lot for non-crafters: sheep dog trials, music, demonstrations, auctions, free lectures, sheep shearing demonstrations.

Check their web site for more info.

 

We will be in the Main Exhibition Hall, booth D-17

Lots of new colors in our yarns on offer for the first time this weekend. We have been re-skeining and labeling like mad, so they haven’t been photographed yet. For those of you not able to come, I promise to get on that next week and will send an email when new colors are up on the web site. Those of you who can come get first crack at them.

In addition to yarns, we also have some new roving: Jacob, Corriedale, Columbia and two kettle dyed Dorset colors.

 

The photos above show some of the colors in:

  • Montadale baby
  • Border Leicester sport nature dyed
  • Tunis
  • Karakul

And, there are 6 new handpaint colors in the Dorset sock. And that is the end of this batch. Selection best now. If you love this yarn, get it now before it dissapears.

 

Wet sheep and lamb update:

Boy is it wet this week. We are getting dumped on and I am sort of thrilled, because it probably means a wonderful, dry weekend for the festival. Meanwhile, the animals put up with it stoically. Yesterday there was a break in the rain and everyone came out to stretch their legs and see if the grass has grown another quarter inch that they could nibble. Most of Virginia is in high spring…but here near the Blue Ridge, we are still only slightly leafted out. It’s about to burst though.

Latest arrivals: Lulu has twin ewes Monday morning

this is their “lambing jug”,
a pen where mom and lambs bond.

with the break in the rain Tuesday, they got to come out and explore

day and a half old lamb meets Jim, at least 3 weeks old now.

Sisters: Emma is the black ewe and Hibiscus is the badger faced gray ewe.

They are already trying to imitate their mother eating grass…but they aren’t really able to digest it yet.

leaping is better!

Hope to see you at the festival this weekend!

Back to the Dupont Circle Farmers market this Sunday, April 6th

April 3rd, 2014 by Gretchen

Sunday we begin the 2014 market season

At the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market in DC (Falls Church market regular season begins in May). We are part-time vendors until Fall, so watch for emails announcing when we will be at market or other events. In April, we are scheduled to be at Dupont April 6th and the last Sunday, April 27th.

I have a huge list of all the yarns I plan to bring…and in case I come to my senses I won’t list (promise) all of them for this week. But! I will tell you some highlights:

  • Karakul pelts: Sue has five stunning sheep pelts that I will bring to market. These are not available often, or of this quality. Come see!
  • Dorset sock: introduced at the end of the market season last year, this has been really, really popular through the winter. I have a few more batches ready to dye, but it’s close to the end. Come get it now while the selection is still great.
  • Shropshire double twist: this yarn is on 40% clearance sale. We will miss it! It’s a nice light yarn, perfect for Spring garments…catch it before it’s gone.
  • Romney/Mohair variagated: an elegant weaving yarn, or knitting yarn. see Ben’s scarf below

Dupont is changing market hours starting this Sunday: 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. This should be good for you fiber folks…who frequently arrive at the market at 12:45! have another cup of coffee and knit three more rows, you’ve got until 1:45 now.

Great local Fiber Farmers Market sponsored by Uniquities March 22, 2014

March 4th, 2014 by Gretchen

We love this event! We think you will too. The folks at Uniquities are really plugged in to the local fiber scene and bring us all together to offer you a one stop shopping opportunity in Vienna, Virginia.

This is an excerpt from their email about it:

The Fiber Farmer’s Market returns on Saturday, March 22, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Vienna Community Center, 120 N. Cherry Street, Vienna, VA 22180. Join us for this free fiber filled event, and shop with local fiber producers, and hand-dyers selling their yarn and fiber. We are now taking reservations for the Spinning Circle, $20 reserves your seat for the afternoon where you can spin and shop with fellow fiber friends.  You’ll also be entitled to early entry at 12:30 p.m. to preview all the vendors and shop before the crowds arrive, as well as secure storage for your purse and purchases behind the Uniquities booth. Call Uniquities at 703-242-0520 to register, seating is limited!

Uniquities booth will offer fiber tools and spinning equipment, new hand-dyed fibers from Greenwood Fiberworks and Great Adirondacks Yarn Co., as well as natural Jacob roving from Shiloh Manor Farms and alpaca blends from Marion Alpacas. We’ll also feature a selection of new spring yarns and patterns for knitting and crochet, and a bake sale table that benefits Project Knitwell.

The March 2014 Fiber Farmers’ Market Vendor List:

Avalon Springs Farm – Hand dyed and natural colored yarn, roving, locks, fleece, and felt from angoras, alpacas, and llamas.

Celestial Farms – All natural, undyed llama yarn, plus handmade soaps and jamsCentral Virginia Fiber Mill – Alpaca roving, felted batts, yarns, and needle/wet felting kits, plus select wool and mohair products.
Checkmate Natural Fiber Network – Offering Karakul rug roving, wool blankets, unique yarns, hand painted roving, and roving for spinning.
Dancing Leaf Farm – Hand dyed artisan yarns, fibers, patterns, and felt brooches.
Feederbrook Farm – Organically raised hand dyed artisan yarns and spinning fibers.  Offering participation in CSA and club memberships.
Finnegan’s Flock - Fiber, hand spun yarn, mitten and felted soap kits from our own flock of Finn sheep, and sheepskins.
Longpoint Farm – Pasture raised natural wool and wool related products including roving, hand painted yarn, hand spun yarn, blankets, scarves, wall hangings, felted items and sheepskin.
Mt. Airy Farm - Natural, hand dyed, and hand painted roving and yarns from California variegated mutant and Cormo sheep, Angora rabbit and mohair.
Pax River Alpacas – Locally grown soft alpaca yarns, and alpaca blends, plus hand dyed and hand painted yarns.
Platinum Alpacas – Alpaca fiber, prime blankets, hand spinning fiber, mill spun yarns, and handmade items using alpaca fiber.
Singleton Fiber Processing – Maryland’s only full-service cottage mill. Offering personalized, custom yarn, roving, batts, rug yarn, and woven rugs.
Solitude – Select breed specific yarn and fiber, natural color and hand dyed artisan yarns and roving from small farms in the Chesapeake watershed region that accentuate the special qualities of different types of wool.  Breeds include Alpaca/Merino, Border Leicester, Corriedale, Clun Forest, Dorset,  Icelandic, Karakul. Leicester Longwool, Montadale, North Country Cheviot, Romney, Targhee and Tunis.
Strauch Fiber Equipment Company - Joanne and Otto Strauch will be demonstrating and selling their fabulous fiber processing equipment, including drum carders, ball winders and swifts.
Taylored Fibers – Hand dyed yarns and fibers in rich, vibrant colors, hand carded batts, and assorted fiber accessories.
TechMuse RAC *- Handmade project bags for knitting and crocheting, as well as drop spindles.
*Random acts of creativity
Three Bags Wool – Wool roving, batts, yarn, and felted items from Icelandic sheep. plus kits and handspun yarn.
Wild Hare Fiber Studio – Hand dyed and handspun yarns and fibers, plus original handmade creations.
Wool N Quilts - Wool, roving, hand spun yarns, plus goat soaps and lotions.