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 Phyllis Howe of knitting & howe, llc

As we move towards the fall in the U.S., more and more communities have been organizing yarn crawls, where shoppers can go from one local yarn shop to another on a designated series of days for a fun, yarny adventure.  If you’ve been to a yarn crawl before, you may wonder who was working behind the scenes to organize it.  It very well may have been Phyllis Howe of knitting & howe llc.  Today, Phyllis had some time to stop by for an interview.You can find Phyllis online at the knitting & howe website and as pjjhowe on Ravelry.

Phyllis Howe, having fun at a yarny event.
Underground Crafter (UC): Do you knit and/or crochet?  If so, how did you first learn and what are your personal favorite types of projects to create?
Phyllis: Yes, I knit.  I am a very, very avid knitter, having learned from my mother when I was about 8 years old.  I just kept at it and have always loved it.  My favorite items to knit, these days, seem to be children’s wear.  Quick and satisfying and easy to fit, I guess.
UC: Tell us a bit about knitting & howe and how you started doing this type of work.
Phyllis: I started knitting & howe llc about 8 years ago.  I had finished working for a magazine which had been sold to another company.  I decided to continue marketing, but only concentrate on marketing the things I truly loved – and hand craft and knitting were the first that came to mind.  I began my company by  marketing knitting kits which I created from start to finish.  It took about a year to understand how unprofitable kits were  in the long run, so I took my company in another direction and decided to help other knitting, yarn and publishing companies market their products and also to produce events.
UC: What’s your knitting philosophy?
Phyllis: My philosophy on knitting is that it chose me, I did not choose it.  Once you are “chosen” the passion goes very deep and extends to not only the work but the sources.  It’s an artistry where there are so many positive factors, starting with the livestock that gift us with their fleeces.   A healthy animal goes on living and yet the product of its existence is then processed (in some cases, by hand), spun and made into something that keeps a body warm.  Many times items are made by and with love and when that happens, the result is very magical.  An energy is transmitted from animal to maker to wearer that completes a circle of creation that is very satisfying.  (UC comment: What a beautiful philosophy, Phyllis, and definitely true!)
One of Phyllis’ latest projects for a baby uses a Never Not Knitting pattern and Cascade Ultra Pima.
UC: You have been involved with the New York City Yarn Crawl since it began.  Can you tell us about how the yarn crawl has worked in New York City and how it compares to other yarn crawls you’ve worked on?
Phyllis: The NYC Yarn Crawl was my first endeavor.  I am a New Yorker so I knew the neighborhoods very well, and had shopped in almost every store in Manhattan.  At the time I was working with Knitty City (I still am), and it was Pearl Chin who suggested that I produce an event that would support all the yarn stores and that would also support local small businesses.  We both believe that by strengthening people’s knowledge of the variety of stores, we could also grow  knitting and crochet interest throughout our city.  The first one was fun and people asked for another.  It’s basically the same as the ones I went on to produce in additional areas.  The difference in NYC is that we have a great transit system that serves all neighborhoods.  In other, more suburban neighborhoods, people have to drive.
UC: Do you have any tips for a crocheter or knitter who is a yarn crawl newbie?  How do you recommend approaching a yarn crawl?
Phyllis: I would recommend that a newcomer to a yarn crawl go with a friend who has been to one before.  It’s not a hard thing to do. Most just jump in and start with the store nearest to them, I would think, or, perhaps, start with their favorite LYS.  In NYC, there’s a sense of community when you go from store to store since most people use the subway and move in groups.  You meet great people with kindred interests and spirits.
UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs to recommend?
I have a number of crafty blogs and websites I would recommend.  Like many people, I like Purl Bee and I like Mason Dixon Knitting.  I also like Knitty City, but I must tell you I write that blog so it’s only fair that I disclose that to you.  I am also a big fan of some British blogs,  including Kate Davies Designs.  The latter is written by a woman who is a textile historian and designer and I love her passion for origin as well as technique.
UC: Are there any upcoming events that knitting & howe is involved with this fall that you’d like to share?
Phyllis: Apart from the NYC Yarn Crawl, scheduled for Oct. 6, 7 and 8, k&h is also producing a bus trip to the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck on October 20, 2012.  Please visit the trips/events page on my website to read about it.  We have space and we welcome all who are interested in going to one of the best fiber and wool fairs in our country.  It’s much easier to go by bus then to go by individual car.  (UC comment: I so wish I could be on that bus trip, but I’m working that Saturday :(.)
Thanks so much for stopping by Phyllis, and for your work promoting the yarn crafts!