Tag Archives: vogue knitting live

Interview with Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm

At Vogue Knitting Live 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm.  Laura’s yarns were extremely colorful – and so was she! – so I was immediately drawn over to her booth.  It was wonderful to learn that she’s a New York State local (about 90 minutes north of New York City).  I ran into her again at 2014′s event, and she was kind enough to take some time from the busy lifestyle of a farmer/shearer/spinner/dyer/entrepreneur to share an interview.

You can find Laura online at the Full Moon Farm website and their Facebook page.  You can find out more about their yarn and fiber here and learn where to buy their products here.

 

Laura Watson at Full Moon Farm's Vogue Knitting Live booth in 2014.
Laura Watson at Full Moon Farm’s Vogue Knitting Live booth in 2014.

Underground Crafter (UC): Besides shearing, spinning, and dyeing, do you also crochet, knit, and/or weave?

Laura: I knit, but am a rank amateur. It is on my list to get better. I felt and do Australian Locker Hooking.

 

The Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.
The Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.

 

UC: Tell us more about your motivation for starting Full Moon Farm, and about its expansion.

Laura: I grew up on a sheep and beef farm. I (like all my siblings) moved away from the farm but then, in the end (like all my siblings) I returned to farming. I stuck with the sheep. I like them and can manage them, physically, without assistance. My flock started with 1 bred ewe, Border Leicester.  I added Corriedale and then Merino, so now my flock is a motley mix with decent body size for meat, and nice, fine wool for spinning and felting.

 

Felted signs in the Full Moon Farm's booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2014.
Felted signs in the Full Moon Farm’s booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2014.

 

UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm. Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working?

Farming is a 24/7 life. One must be prepared for fencing or haying a field in the heat of the summer or checking on the flock in the middle of the night in the cold during lambing season. The benefits are the beauty of the pasture or hay field, the coziness of a full hay loft, new born lambs – so sweet and bouncy – and fiber.

 

Felted hats at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
Felted hats at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

 

 

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your colorways. Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?

Laura: I love color and have so much fun dying my yarns and spinning fiber. I usually go with colors I like. I am not afraid to combine colors and just go with my gut to choose what combinations to make. I have recently started trying to be more focused and going with a theme such as “Mom’s Flower Garden” or “Field of Sunflowers.”

 

Yarn at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
Yarn at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

 

UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events. Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.

Laura: I love going to fiber festivals because I know that the people attending are there because they love (or like a lot) fiber, so we already have something in common. I like to see what the other vendors are doing too because there is such versatility in wool and other fibers. It makes me smile just writing about it.

 

More yarn on display at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
More yarn on display at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

 

My favorite event is a little fiber festival in Clermont, NY at an historic site. It is called The Chancellor’s Day Sheep and Wool Festival. The setting, on the banks of the Hudson River, is idyllic, and they do historic re-enactments, such as shearing sheep using an antique shearing machine. It has grown in size and popularity over the years but remains small, quaint, and very friendly.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura!

 

By the way, I love the look of the skein I bought from Laura in 2013.  It has since been wound into a yarn cake and is awaiting transformation into a beautiful project!

Full Moon Farm Fabulous Yarn

Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Interview Series: Paula Prado from De Origen Chile

Today, I’m interviewing Paula Prado, a multi-talented Chilean yarnie.

Paula can be found online in her Etsy shop, De Origen Chile, her website, and on Flickr.  All photos are copyright De Origen Chile.  Click on photos to link to the product pages on Etsy.

Paula Prado.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to spin, knit, and dye?

Paula: I learned how to dye – tie dye really – when I was 12 years old. Then, after school I took a Natural Dyes class that my dad was going to take but couldn’t because of work, and I loved it.  After a while, I got a job dyeing for a a store that sells cross stitch and wool yarn.  My dad taught me all about dyeing with colorants and creating colors. I had already opened the store by then, and asked my grandmother to teach me how to knit. I used to knit these long skinny scarves, but I didn’t know how to cast on so she would do that for me :).

Berries, a 1-ply handspun Merino art yarn.

The spinning part came out of frustration, As I was no expert knitter, I wanted interesting textures so the knits were simple but original because of these awesome yarns I had in my mind, and I couldn’t get anyone to make them.  Spinners, especially countryside ladies here in Chile, are so traditional, so then I understood I was almost offending them.  I made a drop spindle with a knitting needle and a weight I took from a knitting machine, and taught myself how to spin thin and thick yarn, using wool tops. I fell in love with spinning.  Then, I started developing art yarns, and bought some books, I couldn’t find anybody in Chile spinning these yarns.  So I spent a lot of time on my wheel, creating textures than I can apply to my production.  And I even had the opportunity to travel to other cities to teach these techniques to traditional spinners and even give a workshop to teachers of Textile Design at a university in Santiago. There is no doubt that spinning is what I enjoy the most about textiles.

I also hand felt, like two weeks of the year.  It’s so fun. I try to always have some felted pieces at the store, and Merino scarves, cowls, and shawls.

Love It, a hand dyed DK weight wool yarn.

 

UC: What inspired you to open De Origen Chile on Etsy? Do you sell elsewhere, too?

Paula: I was inspired by the idea of giving value to handmade, which is hard in Chile.  We are just learning to do that as a country.  Lots of people think because you handmade your items, they have to bargain.

On Esty you see how people really give value to their work and give positive feedback or advices so you can improve.  I sell at my workshop in La Ligua and a few stores carry our yarns and knitting tools across the country. I also sell at different yarn and crafts events.

 

Big Handmade Tunisian Hook.

 

UC: In addition to yarn, you also sell knitting needles and crochet hooks. Do you carve those yourself or do you work with another artisan?

Paula: Every tool in the shop Is made at the workshop by Osvaldo (my boyfriend and now business partner).  He also makes spinning wheels and looms, and any knitting and spinning related tool our clients ask for.

Hand spun and hand dyed thick and thin Corriedale yarn.

UC: You’re coming to Chicago for Vogue Knitting Live in November. Tell us a bit about what you’ll be selling and why you decided to be a vendor at this venue.

Paula: I am spinning a limited edition art yarn, mixing natural fibers (Corriedale, Mohair, Merino, linen, and silk), hand dyed linen, viscose and wool yarns, and the giant knitting and crochet tools that go from 6 mm to 40 mm.

I’ve been going as a vendor to yarn events in Santiago and getting really good results.  The biggest one is organized by a knitting magazine, Tejidos Paula. I thought since I was selling on Etsy, and some of the clients want to really touch and squeeze the yarns, it would be a great idea to travel to an event organized by a major knitting magazine and meet those clients so they can see the quality of the products, then come back and develop new lines based on the experience.

 

A 2-ply Merino yarn.

 

UC: You were born and raised in Chile. What was the yarn crafting scene like when you were younger? Has it changed much over the years?

Paula: It has changed a lot! I always saw my grandmother knit and my mom crochet.  People in La Ligua used to finish a lot of the sweaters using crochet. But knitting in general was an old women thing. Since 2003, lots of young people started knitting and crocheting.  Men, kids, and women would meet to knit at cafes.  There are stores only selling yarns now, and it’s growing :).

 

Extreme Crochet Hook.

UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?

Paula: I think that working with natural fibers is the way my background has influenced my work from the beginning. I can’t think of working with other materials, they don’t talk to me. I don’t feel like spinning a bunch of nylon, for example, but I am obsessed with wool or alpaca or mohair or cotton.  And then I can see my grandmother’s knit sweaters, my mom’s crochet cotton curtains, and my dad talking about natural fibers.

 

A 2-ply bulky Merino yarn.
A 2-ply bulky Merino yarn.

 

UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet, knitting, or craft blogs to share?

Paula:

Here in Chile, I love:

  • Camila Larsen’s blog, Corriendo con Tijeras.  It’s really fun.  It has tutorials and teaches some classes I hope I can have the time to go to soon!
  • Debbie’s blog, Daiverdei. She crochets really cool amigurumis.
  • Patricia from Pupol spins art yarns and hopefully she will travel with me in November to Chicago for Vogue Knitting Live.

I also read some fiber artists’s blogs, like the felter Andrea Graham, and the wooldancer blog.  She is such an inspirational artist.

But nowadays, I spend a lot of time on Tumblr and Facebook.  I’m more of a visual person :).

 

Thank you so much for stopping by, Paula, and I wish you the best at Vogue Knitting Chicago!

 

The last interview in this year’s series will be posted on October 15 with Celia Diaz/Abejitas.

Interview with Virginia Scholomiti from Yellowfarm

While at Vogue Knitting Live in January, I was introduced to a local, New York State Capital region yarn vendor, Yellowfarm.  The Yellowfarm booth had an interesting display featuring “long locks” art yarns.  The display really highlighted the beautiful fiber from Yellowfarm’s longwool Wensleydale and Teeswater sheep.

Dyed long locks on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.
Dyed long locks on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.

Today, I’m interviewing Virginia Scholomiti from Yellowfarm.  You can find Yellowfarm on their website, Etsy, and Facebook.  All farm pictures are (c) Yellowfarm and are used with permission.

 

Yellowfarm, Delanson, NY.
Yellowfarm, Delanson, NY.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you get started with yarn crafts?

Virginia: I started knitting as a child.  My mother and grandmother both knit, and of course I wanted to be just like them. I was never a very good knitter, but always enjoyed the process. Later on I learned to crochet, but just the basics. It wasn’t until I was much older that I really delved into fiber arts.

I love to knit, and somehow seem to go through periods of no knitting, and then I reacquaint myself with my needles, and really enjoy remembering how much I love the process. Right now I am playing with some Wensleydale lace weight yarn and working on a lace shawl. I have done some weaving on a triangle loom, but never attempted the real thing with all its intricacies. That is something that I have on my list of things I want to spend some time learning.

I also find freeform crochet extremely appealing, and hope to be able to concentrate on learning more crochet stitches and techniques to perhaps enable me to play with that too!

Yellowfarm sheep closeup

UC: Tell us about how you became involved with Yellowfarm.

Virginia: Well, our two girls were grown and we decided to look around to see if we could find an older property that would offer us the country lifestyle we have always yearned for.  We saw this farm and fell in love with it.  It has served us well so far. Both our mothers came here to live out their last years on the farm and now we have two granddaughters that relish coming to visit the farm.

Yellowfarm double sheep closeup

UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm.  Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working (the good and the bad)?

Virginia: My husband grew up in the Bronx, and I grew up outside of New York City.  My first career was riding and teaching hunter seat equitation, show hunters and jumpers. I have worked on farms and managed stables just about all of my life, but never owned one.

A kit project on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.
A kit project on display in the Yellowfarm booth at Vogue Knitting Live.

 

You are absolutely right about the plusses and the minuses involved. Once you involve yourself with keeping animals on your property, you assume a responsibility that must never fail. No days off, no skipping work, or heading off on a spur of the moment whim. There are animals that need you to feed, water, check for any health issues, administer medications, treat wounds, give shots, or call a vet if the situation warrants. Not to mention the physical necessities of farm life: the fences that need fixing, the fields that need tending, manure that needs spreading. There is ALWAYS a list of things that you just can’t quite finish that are waiting for you to do.

 

The flip side is that you get to watch lambs being born and help them to stand and nurse for the first time, see stars that you didn’t know were there, and appreciate the seasons with the amazing changes they bring to the farm.

Yellowfarm Stanley

 

UC: Yellowfarm raises American Wensleydale and Teeswater luster longwool sheep.Can you tell us a bit about the yarn properties from each of these animals?

Virginia: The Wensleydale and Teeswater sheep produce long lustrous ringlets of fiber. The breeds are quite similar and stem from the same long wool lines as the Lester Longwool and Cotswold breeds. What distinguishes their fiber is the silky handle, the intense sheen and the fabulous curl. We are breeding both as we have yet to discern which fiber is superior. If processed in a traditional way, the fiber results in a strong, silky yarn. Worsted yarns have an incredible drape, and a bit of a halo. Hand spinners adore these fleeces as they can be used to create amazing textured art yarns. The longer locks from animals allowed to grow for a longer period are perfect for tailspining. The integrity of the lock is incredibly unique.

Yellowfarm Gunner closeup

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your “yarn locks” art yarn. Can you tell us about the difference between your standard and art yarn?  What are the processes they go through?

Virginia: More traditional yarns start with raw fiber that is then washed, picked (fluffed to open the locks and allow vegetable matter to drop out), carded (or combed), and spun by hand (or commercially at a mill) into strands which are then plied together to form various weights of yarns. This is what you are used to seeing as a skein of yarn. In this form of processing the fibers have been made smooth, and lie next to each other forming a uniform strand.

Yellowfarm locks closeup

Art yarns and textured yarns are hand spun yarns. They allow the spinner to create unique and individual yarns with all varieties of textures and colors using an array of techniques. The yarn may be spun directly from the lock of wool in a way that retains the characteristics of those amazing fibers. It also can be lightly carded with a wide range of add ins that give special texture and glitz to the finished yarn. Each skein is completely individual and a reflection of the spinners imagination and spinning prowess.  A work of art.

From the Yellowfarm display at Vogue Knitting Live.
From the Yellowfarm display at Vogue Knitting Live.

UC: Where else can people buy your yarns and meet with Yellowfarm?

Virginia: I sell online via Etsy, but to be truthful, don’t get a chance to update very often. We are highlighting the luster long wool sheep, the Teeswater in particular, at STITCHES East this fall. NYS Sheep and Wool is the granddaddy of fiber festivals in the East. We bring sheep to show there, and are unable to also man a booth. We always welcome people to come up to the sheep barn and say hello, and see where their fiber comes from!

 

Thanks so much for stopping by, Virginia!

 

Interview with Paola from mYak

In January, I had the chance to check out a very new yarn company, mYak, at Vogue Knitting Live.  I even picked up my first skein of yak yarn at their booth!  Paola, one of the co-owners, had some time to meet up with me back in February at Le Pain Quotidien for an interview.

mYak is small company that works with cooperatives in Tibet and Italy to produce wonderful products from yak fiber.  Recently, they added a yarn line.  You can find out more about mYak on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter account.

Paola (right) and another member of the mYak team at Vogue Knitting Live.
Paola (right) and another member of the mYak team at Vogue Knitting Live.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you get involved with mYak?
Paola: I’ve been working on the Tibetan plateau, in Tibetan areas, for the last 13 years of my life. I’ve always been interested in Tibetan culture. I worked a lot with a non-profit organization working on development activities and a development project and that brought me to live in Tibet for many years.

I lived in Llasa for about 6 years. With the project that I was involved with, I came in contact with nomadic culture. I did a lot of activities there within different contexts – educational and work development – and really fell in love with the nomadic way of life, the traditional way of life. I could see how it slowly was on the verge of extinction because of what was happening there, and with the resettlement – the government wants them to resettle, the nomads want to stay on the grasslands to be with the animals.

So we were trying to find a way to give them an income for something they believed in, to maintain their culture, to maintain their traditional way of life, but to be able to send their children to school, to be able to pay for health care, and to have some spare money for whatever necessities they had. And what they have is really the yaks. The yak is their wealth, it is their treasure. From the milk, to the meat, to the hair, the fiber. So we started looking at the yak fiber.

There’s a lot of yak fiber on the market, but it’s a bit coarse, it’s a bit rough. Slowly because I spent so many summers with the nomads in their tents, I just fell in love with the yaks. And I saw that the little yaks, by touching them, they were softer.

mYak yarns in several weights along with sample knits from Vogue Knitting Live.
mYak yarns in several weights along with sample knits from Vogue Knitting Live.

 

UC: The baby yaks?
Paola: The baby yaks. After two years, I went with someone who became a friend of mine, Andrea, who is an Italian veterinarian and a fiber expert. So we were looking at the animals, we were taking care of the animals, we were doing some veterinary training for the nomads.

We took some samples of this fiber and we had it analyzed in Italy, where we are both from. We slowly realized that the actual undercoat of the baby yak was very, very soft. Basically, we felt it was softer and we wondered whether we could do something from it. We also realized the nomads were selling this wool at a very cheap price to these middlemen.

 

UC: Do they use the wool themselves?

Paola: They have much more than they can use.

They were really getting hardly anything. There were middlemen and middlemen and middlemen. It was a long chain, and they said it’s not worth it for us almost to even collect this fiber.

But then when we looked at it, and we looked at the quality, to us it was not just a natural fiber, but a precious fiber, too. Looking at it under a microscope, it had so many similarities, in terms of microns and everything else, it’s very similar to cashmere. So we said, ok, let’s try and do something. Of course, because it’s shorter, we wanted to see the resistance. We did a lot of tests. It took almost two years, back and forth, to think about it.

Then we said, it’s a cool fiber, it’s fun, it’s natural. So what can we do? We came up with the idea of why don’t we form a cooperative of nomads, in Tibet, we buy the fiber from them, then we form a cooperative in Italy, we export it. There are some companies that do some things in Tibet, but we really wanted to use the traditional fibers with artisanal quality. So we searched long in Italy to find where we could produce the things. We wanted to find a company or companies that had the same ethics, the same methods, and the same interest in the environment, so we selected a couple of these companies. They recycle the water, for example.

We started to make a few samples. The first samples we made were accessories to keep it simple because we didn’t want to think about sizing. So we started doing some scarfs, and some home decor, some blankets. Then we came up with the name, we came up with the branding, and we started working that way. And that is really how it all started.

Some items from the mYak machine knit line at Vogue Knitting Live.
Some items from the mYak machine knit line at Vogue Knitting Live.

UC: At that point, how was the fiber getting to Italy? Was it already spun?
Paola: We tried to do as much as we could in Tibetan areas, in the Tibetan plateau, so one of us is there at the selection process. We take it to a de-hairing factory, we wash it and we de-hair it to get the coarse fibers out of the way, then we ship it to Italy.

UC: So the spinning is done in Italy.
Paola: Yes, that is really what makes mYak different from the other types of yak yarn. Because of the artisanal spinning, they can spin it much thinner than other people can do. And then we started doing it much thicker. The thick style was for accessories that were machine knit. And when I started looking at it, when we started making a little thicker fiber for some of the thicker accessories, I took a ball home and I said, “Boy, I wonder what I can knit with it.”

So I start trying to make things. I’m not a great knitter, I’m a very basic knitter, but I tried to do something. I did a little scarf. I showed it to some friends and they said, “Can we get some yarn? Can we knit with this?” and they seemed quite interested.

We launched mYak in 2011, so it’s very, very young, and then I started talking to people in the U.S., and they all said, “Why don’t you try to approach the people at Vogue? They have this Vogue Knitting event.” At the time, I didn’t have any yarn. I talked to them, and they were super nice, and they were really helpful, and they said, “Send us some samples.” So we did. We took some of the fiber, we spun it into yarn, and I got it to Vogue Knitting. I got the yarn from Italy three days before the Vogue Knitting event.

A bobble hat knit in mYak.
A bobble hat knit in mYak.

UC: A little stressful!
Paola: I was literally designing the labels and trying to understand how it worked. That’s why Vogue Knitting was great. We had such great reaction from people – we had mixed reaction, to be honest. I think people loved it, but people were saying, “Ok, but what are the colors?”

UC: I think that’s one of the interesting things when you have an undyed, natural fiber, because some people come to the yarn like this is the natural state and other people are like where are the stripes?
Paola: Yes, and we have chosen to maintain the natural colors, not to have chemical dyes. Can we afford to keep that forever, I don’t know. We tried to use natural dyes, but [the yak] is so dark.

Hand knit samples from the mYak booth at Vogue Knitting Live.
Hand knit samples from the mYak booth at Vogue Knitting Live.

UC: It must be very hard to get it light enough to dye it in a natural way.
Paola: The good news is that the yaks come in different shades, so they have the dark brown, they have a grey, a light brown, and a white. So what we did, we went back to our cooperative in Tibet, and we said, “Can you collect a little bit of the lighter grey and the white.”

UC: So at least you can have two or three colors.
Paola: Exactly, and if we were to naturally dye the white, it’s much easier. So we are looking into that at this point.  (UC comment: Since the time of this interview, mYak has added burgundy and several other natural/undyed colors to its yarn line.)

UC: People are accustomed to this huge range of colors, and not everyone is accustomed to working with undyed yarns, so I’m sure that can be a challenge. Where do envision the yarn part of mYak going at this point? Are you trying to sell direct to consumers, wholesale to retailers, or are you still thinking about it?
Paola: We are at the stage of figuring it out. Vogue Knitting Live was the platform for me to understand that there is a future. I love it, but me and my family loving it was not enough. And our friends, because we have our mothers and friends knitting for us. We’ve paired with a very nice US based designer. But then at Vogue Knitting, people asked, “Where can I buy it?” So we saw that there is a future, there is potential.

What I’m trying to do is understand more about the market, who are our competitors.

A knit hat in mYak yarn.
A knit hat in mYak yarn.

UC: I think the cooperative piece is a big distinction. Other companies who sell yak yarn don’t have a cooperative.
Paola: Yes. Then I need to understand what is the best way to contact or approach yarn shops in the US and also internationally to see if they are interested. I get different input from people. Some people are telling me I should just try and call them, but I don’t have any associates – my family’s in Italy and I’m here.

UC: Have you guys thought about TNNA?
Paola: And the second option is TNNA. I’m trying to understand whether with my little brown color, is it worth it for me to go there? That’s something I’m trying to understand, too.  (UC comment: mYak did end up exhibiting at TNNA‘s summer show in Columbus, and their yarns will soon be distributed in several yarn shops throughout the United States.)

A skein of medium weight mYak yarn I purchased at Vogue Knitting Live.
A skein of medium weight mYak yarn I purchased at Vogue Knitting Live.

UC: I definitely think your perspective is really unique. I feel like there are people who would be more interested in the yarn because of it. Have you thought about men’s related designs at all? It seems to me that the brown is a natural fit with men’s designs.
Paola: Yes, we have, in fact, some of the patterns that we have developed are for men. We have a reversible hat and some of the scarves are more unisex. It was interesting at Vogue Knitting because we had a few men that purchased the yarn themselves because they were knitters, and then a few men who came and liked the yarn, and then they dragged their wives back and said, “I’m buying the yarn because I want this made (for me).” It was really nice.

I’m also debating about whether to put it on our website or not. It would be difficult to ship from Italy, but because I have the yarn here in NY, I was thinking about opening an Etsy shop, and trying to understand more about Ravelry.

A baby jacket knit in mYak yarn.
A baby jacket knit in mYak yarn.

UC: Are you going to have a social media presence?
Paola: We do. We have a Facebook page and a Twitter, too. I hope to be more active definitely. I was just sort of waiting to understand more about the yarn, to reach out to people, get a mailing list collected, and let people know where we are.

UC: Do you sell the accessories directly on your website?
Paola: Yes. The prices are in Euros.

I think what is very interesting is how we are following the entire chain from the production to the end user, which is very short. There’s the yak, the nomad, then we come in and we bring it out and we spin it.

We are also planning to prepare bags for spinners because a lot of people have asked me that so we are thinking about the roving.

UC: When you are in Italy, are you working with many mills, or one mill?
Paola: Right now, we’re working with one mill.

Booties knit with mYak and another yarn.
Booties knit with mYak and another yarn.

UC: So you really have a hand in every aspect of the production.
Paola: Yes, we actually physically take it there and then to whoever does the machine knit, because the machine takes time and we have a couple of them. One does the scarves, one does the blankets, and the clothes based on what their expertise is.

And we’re also trying to work with small, family-run companies, which means we can give them a job because the economy in Italy is so bad. We have the Italian element of the company and we want to maintain that.

It would be much cheaper to have it made in China. A lot of the yak yarn is made in China, and unfortunately the main one sold in the US is made in China. When we say 100% baby yak, we know, and there’s no filler, there’s nothing in there.

I’m trying to develop a baby line. Some of the things that Tom Scott, the designer, developed for us were these little baby hats. We have a set with blankets and baby hats. And I want to be comfortable in saying to a mother, if you make these for your child, it’s warm, it’s natural, it’s hypoallergenic. If I were to have a child, that’s what I would do myself.

The next thing I want to do is take knitting classes because my knitting is so basic. A friend of mine just made these.

Giraffe jumper knit with mYak and other yarns.
Giraffe jumper knit with mYak and other yarns.

UC: That is so cute! Do you hear people saying they don’t want to handwash, especially items for baby?
Paola: Actually people ask. This is other yarn, combined with our laceweight. Yes, but actually all the things that I knit and the textiles, I did put them in the machine. I did wash put it in a pillow case, and I did wash it on cold, on handwash.

UC: So you’ve had good success machine washing. The nice thing about brown is that goes with so many colors.
Paola: And also it can be for a boy and a girl, a woman and a man, there really is no distinction.

One of the great things about the brown [yak fiber] is that it’s one of the warmer ones. It’s actually warmer than cashmere. Some of the accessories that we have are so thin, like the stole, that you can wear them in the summer, too. They’re very breathable and especially in the air conditioning. I use it in the plane.

Thanks, Paola, for stopping by to tell us more about mYak and your yarn production!

Interview with Lindsey and Susan Rice of Bartlettyarns

Way back in January, I had the chance to meet Lindsey Rice from Bartlettyarns at Vogue Knitting Live.  The Bartlettyarns booth was stocked with some great wool that was produced in the U.S.A., and I soon learned that they are the oldest operating woolen spun mill in the country.

I also got to talking to Lindsey about crochet and he mentioned that “[C]rocheters are rediscovering us and that this art form seems to be making a great return.”  I knew then that I had to interview Lindsey and his wife, Susan, about this awesome bit of American yarn history.  You can find Bartlettyarns on their website, Facebook page, and Ravelry yarnie page.

Lindsey Rice of Bartlettyarns at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.
Lindsey Rice of Bartlettyarns at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you get started in the yarn industry?

Bartlettyarns (BY): Lindsey was enrolled as a 4-H member in New Hampshire and he had a sheep project. Eventually, we met as teenagers in 4-H (long story). Lindsey began a sheep shearing business throughout New England and we got married. Sometimes we got paid for shearing and other times we were given the wool. With several hundred pounds of wool, we ventured to Bartlettyarns to have it processed. We picked out eight colors and started our business attending sheep and wool festivals and farmers markets.

During one trip to Maine, the pulley system that runs the Mule was broken. The owner of the business was explaining the situation to us and Lindsey (a Marine) stated he knew how to splice it back together. Within fifteen or twenty minutes, it was back in operation.

Fast forward many years, many trips to Maine, and a good friendship later, we got a panic call that the Mule was broken again.  The owner was in California on vacation and it was broken for two weeks so they were unable to produce yarn. We arrived to the rescue the next day and fixed it once again.

We always had joked with the owner that someday he would retire and what would he do with the business. We received a phone call two weeks after this and we were offered the business. How could we say no??

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The Bartlettyarns Mule in action.

UC: Tell us more about the history of Bartlettyarns and the Barlett Mule.

BY: Bartlettyarns was established by Ozias Bartlett in 1821. His great grandson, Harry, took over the business at age 16 and it remained in the Bartlett family until 1947, when it was sold to owners outside the family. It was originally a water-powered mill, as it sits along the Higgins stream in Harmony. It was converted to electricity in the ‘40s. Today, it runs much like it did then.

The Bartlettyarns booth at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.
The Bartlettyarns booth at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your displays of the mill.  Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?

BY: An excellent piece on the mill was done by WCSH in Portland. They have a show called 207 and they produced an eight minute segment about us.  It originally was supposed to be just two or three minutes long, but turned into a whole show for them.

Our Mule spun yarns are not skein dyed, but rather we stock dye the fiber and then it is blended to make our colors. As for the hand dyed yarns, those are skein dyed and Susan does those. She has an eye for color and she is like a witch with her brew. She tends to dye with colors of the season, prefers to dye on crisp, sunny days for clear, bright colors and on overcast days tend to bring more muted colors.

 

From the Bartlettyarns booth at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.
From the Bartlettyarns booth at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.

UC: To what extent is Bartlettyarns a local product?

BY: We are vey proud that we work with local producers to source our wool, and that the scouring and dyeing is also done here in the US. We are definitely a “made in the USA” company and one that has been continuously run for over 190 years.

Handknit sheet hats for sale on the Bartlettyarns website.
Handknit sheet hat for sale on the Bartlettyarns website.

UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events.  Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.

BY: Well we do Maryland, New York, TNNA, and a few local fairs. Our children are involved in their spare time and try to come to the larger shows to help us. One child is definitely the salesperson, so he handles the booth, and the other enjoys talking with wool producers about their custom processing options.  We enjoy the educational process with people and how our mill is different, being spun on the woolen vs, worsted system. People enjoy the history and the videos we show at the booth – the noise of the machinery captures their attention.

Probably the most amusing, is when the wife is dragging the uninterested husband around looking at yarns and has the totally bored look on his face. Oops, he hears machinery clinking and clanking, where is that sound coming from???  He sees machinery and mechanical parts moving, he is hooked. The wife gets time to look around, she purchases yarn and is ready to move on and then she has to wait until he is done watching and asking questions and all of a sudden the role is reversed.

Bartlettyarns now offers gift cards through their website.
Bartlettyarns now offers gift cards through their website.

UC: Where can people buy your yarns?

BY: We have three different segments of our business.  We have wholesale accounts, which are primarily yarn shops who carry our yarn.  Next, we have custom processing which allows fiber producers to turn their raw fibers into roving or yarn. We have options that allow them to get their very own fiber back.  Lastly is our retail component where you can come to the mill and purchase directly and get a free mill tour, order from our web site or visit us at one of the shows we attend.  Our website lists the shows and dates.

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Lindsey and Susan!