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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!