Events

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

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

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…?

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

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

 

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

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

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

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
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

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

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

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

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.

Madrona Fiber Retreat, Tacoma, Washington February 13-16th

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

We are really excited to be heading west to be first time vendors at this great Pacific NW event!

More info to come.

Vogue Knitting Live NY: Jan 18-19 2014

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

We are returning to VKL as vendors this year. It’s at the Marriott Marquis in Time Square and you don’t have to be registered for the event to attend the Marketplace. We will be in booth 208.

More soon about what we will be bringing and who we will be looking for…

2013 Fall Schedule

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Hope you can join us this Fall at our warehouse on Open House first Sundays, the Farmers market or a Fiber Festival! sign up for our email list to get notification the week before an event with what we are bringing or other more specific information…plus a bit about what’s happening at the farm.

 

Sunday, September 8th, noon to 4:00 pm:
OPEN (ware)HOUSE at our corner of the Endless Summer Harvest warehouse
36474 Osburn Road, Purcellville, VA 20132 (drive around to the back of the building to find us)

Saturday, September 21st, 8:00 am to noon:
Falls Church Farmers Market Look for us on the grass on Park Ave

Sunday, September 22nd, 8:30 am to 1:00 pm:
Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market Look for us on the sidewalk on 20th St.

September 28th and 29th, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday and 4:00 pm Sunday:
Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival Find us in booths 11 & 12 in the Ruritan Building

October 5th, 12th and 26th, 8:00 am to noon:
Falls Church Farmers Market Look for us on the grass on Park Ave

October 6th, 13th and 27th, 8:30 am to 1:00 pm:
Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market Look for us on the sidewalk on 20th St.

Sunday, October 6th, noon to 4:00 pm:
OPEN (ware)HOUSE at our corner of the Endless Summer Harvest warehouse
36474 Osburn Road, Purcellville, VA 20132 (drive around to the back of the building to find us)

October 19th and 20th, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturday and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Sunday:
Rhinebeck (NYS) Sheep & Wool Festival same location as last year: downstairs, building 22

October 25th thru 27th, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm  Friday and Saturday and 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Sunday:
Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair new location: in the Sales Arena, booth 9

Sunday, November 3rd, noon to 4:00 pm:
OPEN (ware)HOUSE at our corner of the Endless Summer Harvest warehouse
36474 Osburn Road, Purcellville, VA 20132 (drive around to the back of the building to find us)

November 2nd, 9th, 16th and 30th, 8:00 am to noon:
Falls Church Farmers Market Look for us on the grass on Park Ave

November 3rd, 10th, 17th, 8:30 am to 1:00 pm:
Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market Look for us on the sidewalk on 20th St.

December 7th, and 14th 9:00 am to noon:
Leesburg, Loudoun HomeGrown Farmers Market This market is in our own backyard. We love meeting our closest local customers!

December 7th, 14th and 21st, 8:00 am to noon:
Falls Church Farmers Market Look for us on the grass on Park Ave

December 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd, 8:30 am to 1:00 pm:
Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market Look for us on the sidewalk on 20th St.

Dates to be determined:
Leesburg, HomeGrown Market on Saturdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas

Farm Day 3: Romney on June 15th

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Learn about Romney sheep and wool at WeatherLea Farm

Our third breed study field trip is coming up fast; Saturday June 15th. We invite you to join us for an afternoon of experiential learning about a wonderful Longwool breed of sheep.

The idea bubbled up because Sue and I were learning so much by going directly to farms, buying fleece (especially Sue, she has touched many hundreds, no… thousands of fleeces), and getting to meet the breed that grew it. Books are great references…but touching is better. Plus we wanted to introduce you to some of the farms that we buy wool from so you have a personal connection to the yarn. It is also an opportunity for the farm to offer their own products directly to you.

So, here is what’s on offer:

See and enjoy a beautiful 1790 farm in Lovettsville, Virginia, WeatherLea Farm. In addition to raising Romney and a few Merino sheep, they have llamas, a small vineyard, host weddings and have a cottage available for overnight stays (last I heard, it was available for the weekend in case you want to fly in from far off parts for the event). There are gardens, a lovely pond with a deck above; perfect for sitting and spinning or knitting, so bring a project and soak up some good farm ambiance. WeatherLea will be selling their beautiful wool blankets and roving made from the wool they don’t let us have. Listen to the talk on Romney sheep and see the sheep shearing. Taste wine from North Gate Vineyards, who turn WeatherLea’s grapes into excellent wine. And come to of my favorite places at WeatherLea, a great big bank barn where we will have Solitude Wool yarns and fibers, the mini-workshops and…

We have another guest at this event: Two Rivers Yarns, a local shop from Brunswick Maryland. They are putting together the spinning mini-workshop and are bringing handcrafted swifts, shawl pins, soaps etc from local consigners plus spindles, needles and other tools.

Two mini-workshops with Romney wool

1. Knitting: two color mosaic
(slip stitch) knitting taught by Karin Fellers. Knit an eye glass or cell phone case using a simple slip stitch technique that creates a bold color pattern. You will knit in the round and learn how to read a mosaic chart so you can expand to other projects. Offered twice: 12:30 and 2:30.

2. Spinning: learn how to spin your own yarn taught by Jenni Campbell. Romney is one of the easiest wools to spin and often recommended for beginners. Here is your chance! Grab it. Roving from WeatherLea will be used in the class. Two sessions: 12:30, beginning spindle spinning; 2:30 session can be an intermediate or beginner + class depending on interest/skill.

Schedule for the day:

12:00 (noon) to 4:00 pm – farm open, Solitude Wool and Two River’s Yarns booths and WeatherLea wool products

1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 pm – talks about Romney sheep

time still to be determined: sheep shearing and North Gate Vineyard, wine tasting

12:30 – first session Mini-workshops

2:30 – second session Mini-workshops

Cost and reservations

WeatherLea can handle all of us, so you only need to reserve a spot if you would like to take a workshop. Each class limited to 8 students; pay in advance to reserve a space.

Entrance is $20.00 and includes a $10 coupon good towards Solitude Wool purchase.

Mini-workshops are $30.00 each plus materials fee.

Please send Gretchen an email at f-fsolitude@mindspring.com, or call 540-554-2312 to reserve a space and arrange for payment.

So hope you can come! We are on rain or shine (thank you big bank barn).

How to Get to Weather Lea Farm

Phone: 540-822-5097

from I-495 Beltway, VA: Take Dulles Toll Rd (Rte 267) to the Greenway toll extension, which begins just before the airport. At the end of the Greenway, exit left to Rte. 7 West/15 South. Stay on Rte. 7W about 3 miles, then exit right to Rte. 9 West. Go 5 miles to 3rd stoplight; turn right on Rte. 287N. Drive 8 miles, to stop sign at 7-11 store in Lovettsville. Jog left and immediate right to stay on Rte. 287N. Proceed 1.9 milies down a long winding hill, passing Wenner Rd. Look for Weatherlea Farm Lane on right, at white board fence.

From MD at I-495: Take I-270 from Beltway to I-70W at Frederick. Exit onto Rte. 340W/15S. Stay on 340W (do NOT take 15S to Leesburg) to Brunswick exit. Turn left off ramp to Rte 17S; take right at stoplight, continue down hill to roundabout; straight across Potomac bridge; Weatherlea Farm Lane is second left, 1/2 mile from the river.

Scenic Alternative from DC/Bethesda: Take River Rd. through Potomac and beyond until it ends at Seneca Rd. Turn right on Seneca, continue to end at stoplight in Darnestown. Left at light onto Rte. 28. Continue on Rte. 28 for approximately 20 miles; watch for little house with many birdhouses, and turn left there (Rte. 28 itself turns). Continue several more miles (stop and get an ice cream at the Creamery) into and through Point of Rocks. Turn left on Rte. 15; cross Potomac River bridge and take immediate right on Lovettsville Rd. Continue several miles into Lovettsville. Turn right at 7-11 onto Berlin Turnpike (Rte. 287). Go two miles down a long, winding hill. Look for Weatherlea Farm Lane sign on right.