Interview with Miren Torrealday from Ardilanak and knitting pattern roundup

Interview with knitting designer and yarnie Miren Torrealday from Ardilanak and knitting pattern roundup on Underground Crafter

I’m sharing the second in interview in this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month series with Miren Torrealday from Ardilanak. Miren is a knitting designer and yarnie who recently opened her own fiber studio (where she also teaches) in the Basque Country (Pais Vasco), Spain. Miren is also a sci fi nerd like me, and a huge fan of Star Wars. I’ll also be including a roundup of my 5 favorite knitting patterns from Miren”s collection!

This post contains affiliate links.

Miren can be found online on her website, Ardilanak, as well as on Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, Ravelry, and Twitter. All images are used with permission are are copyright Ardilanak.

Interview with knitting designer and yarnie Miren Torrealday from Ardilanak and knitting pattern roundup on Underground CrafterUnderground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet, knit, spin, and dye yarn?

Miren: I’m nearly a completely self-taught artisan. I learned the basics of knitting (casting on, knitting and purling) with my grandma, and basic crocheting with mum. Any other thing I can do with knitting needles is self taught vía the Internet.

Knitting led to spinning. I discovered lace knitting vía Ravelry and I needed lace yarn badly but in my small town it was unheard off. Internet was my go to place again and after some investigation and unexpected money income I bought a spindle, and two weeks latter the Kiwi was home.

I think that I started dyeing fiber at the same moment, out of curiosity again. Curiosity has allways been my driving urge.

ILK300x250bAugustBannersUC: What inspired you to start designing?

Miren: I’m not really good at following directions. I am prone to improvisation, to see were something takes me. It wasn’t difficult to start, after learning the basics, to include little lace details in my socks, or cables, or knitting that sweater but with my personal twist… Someday, someone form my knitting group, Euskadi Knits, asked for the pattern of some improvised mittens… and I started to write down what I was doing… and I ended up as an amateur designer.

My designing process can be chaotic. Most times, I’m not sure where I’m going. I do very little planned designing, I just start knitting and start taking notes. If the finished result is good, then it goes into pattern, if not… rip rip rip. I have this perverse love about ripping. Sometime around the middle of the knitting process the name for the garment pops up. I’m quite a bookworm so a great deal of my patterns have book related names.

UC: What inspired you start your own artisan yarn company?

Miren: It was… the next step, I think. I alredy had my studio, my patterns… I tend to design around my handspuns, and I sell them so it was logical. Some of my friends and customers who are on Ravelry wanted to link my yarn to their projects so I did it. The dyed range came a little later and I’m still working on it, it’s newer, although in the fingering sock and super bulky yarn range, it’s quite settled right now.

San Telmo, knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak) in English and Spanish.

UC: Although you also crochet, all of your patterns are for knitting. What do you enjoy about designing on the needles?

Miren: The freestyling that I use in my design process. As I said before, I tend to start not knowing where I’ll end… barring a few exceptions like my San Telmo Cowl. That was completely deliberate.

I also enjoy that uniquenes that designing your own things brings, and seeing how it can appeal to others. I really love seing the projects other people do with my patterns, it’s always thrilling.

UC: In 2014, you started your own fiber studio where you work and teach. What is that experience like for you creatively?

Miren: A blast. It’s a creative work, I have very creative students and my mom, one of the most creative persons I know, works there with me, so all in all we create a very creative enviroment and we do some crazy things now and again, but we enjoy it greatly. Now I spend nearly all my days thinking about yarn in some way or another.

Bolingua, free knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak) in English and Spanish.
Bolingua, free knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak) in English and Spanish. This design uses Ardilanak’s Superchunky yarn (available here on Etsy).

UC: What was the yarn crafts scene like in Pais Vasco when you were growing up?

Miren: I can’t tell for sure. From my perspective, knitting was something grandmas did when a little child was on it’s way. I only used to see these wee little baby things that didn’t appeal to me at all. I’ve learned to love to knit baby things a lot, but when I was young, it just didn’t click with me.

Expand Your Knitting SkillsColors were discreet and subdued and there were certain patterns and colors that were considered “how it was done.” You casted on this way, you binded off this other way, and knitting heterodoxy was frowned upon. This, I repeat, from my experiences and some looks and comments I received when I picked up knitting beyond my straight scarves. Some of the old generation still say that knitting with circulars is “cheating” (I’m still trying to figure out what kind of cheating).

I know that knitting has been a traditional craft in Euskadi, and the itchy big and rustic socks, Ardilanak, are part of the traditional clothing, but that was… rare when I was growing up, due to living in a city.

Dominika, free knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak).
Dominika, free knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak) in English and Spanish.

UC: How does that compare to the yarn crafts scene in Pais Vasco today?

Miren: I think that there are layers. There is still the “traditional” scene, making a come back with some spinners and yarnies working with ardi latxa fiber. (UC comment: This fiber is from a breed of sheep native to the Basque region.)  There are still the grandmas making traditional baby things. And there are those who, thanks to the Internet, have discovered the enormously wide world that there is out there. Knitting is becoming trendy and more and more of the younger generation want to learn. There’s a growing interest and awareness of the traditional yarn process and some people like to buy exclusive yarns.

I think that there’s more to come. And it will be good. The crafting movement is strong around here.

Cuadricula, knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak).
Cuadricula, knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak) in English and Spanish.

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

Miren: Yes, and no. I have an artistic background in my family, and I’m a proud Basque, but I don’t have any spinners in my family and the knitters are more of the casual kind. I’m in love with soft and airy yarns and our traditional sheep breed. It’s just not soft — the name, latxa, is said to mean rough after all. I love to learn about traditional techniques, tools and things, but I don’t usually use them outside demonstrations. My outlook is not on revival. I’m more keen on innovation. I think that there are others more suited for this safekeeping of the tradition than myself.

Bag End's Door, knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak).
Bag End’s Door, knitting pattern by Miren Torrealday (Ardilanak).

UC: What is your favorite yarn-related book in your collection?

Miren: I can get lost in The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius. I just love it and how comprehensive it is. I also use the Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson a lot, along with Wild Color and Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece. And I think I owe Abby Franquemont and her Respect the Spindle all the love in the world for the introduction in this amazing world of fiber and spinning things.

UC: Are there any Spanish- or English-language yarn/crafty blogs or websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

I really just lurk around Ravelry, and the Fiber Artists and Yarn Spinners Facebook group.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Miren, and sharing your work with us! What’s your favorite yarn by Miren? You can find the Ardilanak shop here on Etsy.

2014 Crocheter’s Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

It’s that time of year when we all start thinking about gifts for others – and for ourselves. I’ll be sharing a series of gift guides for crocheters, starting with today’s edition: Yarn Club Memberships and CSA Shares.

Yarn club memberships and CSA shares are gifts that keep on giving. For the next month, or season, or year, the recipient will receive a delightful package of yarn in the mail, sometimes even including a pattern. These gifts are also great for knitters. (If you’re looking for options for spinners, many of the companies in the gift guide also have a fiber or roving option.)

So what are yarn clubs and yarn CSA anyway?

Yarn clubs are subscription services for yarn lovers. Many yarn clubs operate on a mystery model, where the exact yarn and/or colorway isn’t revealed until the package is received. Some yarn clubs are organized by a single yarn company and include exclusive colorways or first releases of a new yarn; others are coordinated by one company and include yarn from several dyers, spinners, or manufacturers.

CSA is an abbreviation for community supported agriculture. (You can read a brief but interesting history of CSA in the United States here.) Members buy a share of a farm’s fiber or yarn production in advance, which allows the farmer to plan and budget and also gives the share holder the opportunity to get to know more about how the yarn was produced and the animals that contribute to the yarn. CSA yarn is sometimes undyed, in which case it would also make a great gift for a dyer.

I should mention that I haven’t participated in any of these yarn clubs or CSA programs in the past, but they look like a lot fun! I’ve compiled a list of 5 yarn clubs and 5 yarn CSA programs that are still open for 2015.

5 Yarn Clubs Accepting 2015 Subscriptions

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

Ladybug Fiber Company: Self-Striping Sock Club (3 Month Subscription)

  • Shipments: 3 – January 2015, February 2015, and March 2015
  • Yarn: 1 of 6 different superwash wool blend sock yarn bases are hand dyed each month
  • Cost: $95
  • Deadline for sign up/order: open

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

stitchjones: Yarnageddon 2015

  • Shipments: 4 – March 2015, June 2015, September 2015, and December 2015
  • Yarn: Each package contains hand dyed yarn (in a colorway inspired by the Beatles) accompanied by an original pattern, PLUS a yarn alternate or fiber selection, PLUS a special themed gift
  • Cost: $210
  • Deadline for sign up/order: open

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

Sundara Yarn: The Happiness Yarn Club

  • Shipments: 3 – January 2015, March 2015, and May 2015
  • Yarn: Hand dyed Sundara Yarn, 8 skeins, 2050 yards, DK Angora (angora/wool blend), Worsted Silky Alpaca (alpaca/silk blend), and Sport Silk (100% silk)
  • Cost: $310.50 (6 monthly payments of $51.75)
  • Deadline for sign up/order: Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 5 p.m. PT

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

sweetgeorgia: Sock Yarn Club

  • Shipments: 3 – January 2015, February, 2015, March 2015
  • Yarn: Approximately 4 oz (113 g)/375-425 yards (343-389 m) each month of a unique colorway of sweetgeorgia sock yarn (exclusive for at least 1 year) in wool or wool blend
  • Cost: $105
  • Deadline for sign up/order: Wednesday, December 31, 2014 or when supplies run out

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

Yarnbox: Classic Crochet Gift Subscription

  • Shipments: Monthly (3 and 6 month packages available)
  • Yarn: Customizable by weight and color
  • Cost: $39.95/month – $215.70/6 months
  • Deadline for sign up/order: open

5 Yarn CSA Offering 2015 Shares

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

Feederbrook Farm (Maryland): 2015 CSA Membership

  • Shipments: Ships late August, 2015
  • Yarn: Wool – 6 skeins of natural colored or organically hand dyed, locally milled 2 ply DK yarn (approximately 260 yards) from Bluefaced Leicester sheep
  • Cost: $175
  • Deadline for sign up/order: open

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

Foxfire Fiber and Designs at Springdelle Farm (Massachusetts): Sheep Shares CSA

  • Shipments: Spring Share ships in June 2015
  • Yarn: Cormo Flock Sock (90% Cormo wool/10% Bombyx Silk), 220 yards (approx. 2.2 oz) skeins in 3-ply, fingering weight
  • Cost: undyed: 2 skeins/$48; 4 skeins/$90; dyed 2 skeins/$52; 4 skeins/$98
  • Deadline for sign up/order: open

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

Grand View Farm (Vermont): 5 CSA Options

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

 

Juniper Moon Farm (Virginia): 2015 Colored Flock CSA

 

  • Shipments: Ships September 2015
  • Yarn: Varies from year to year with an average of 6 skeins of worsted or dk weight yarn in a full share
  • Cost: $125
  • Deadline for sign up/order: open

Underground Crafter's 2014 Crocheter's Gift Guide: Yarn Club Memberships & CSA Shares

Where the Rooster Crows (Montana): Shetland/Romney Wool

  • Shipments: 1, late summer 2015
  • Yarn: A variety of natural colored wool yarn in whites, browns, blacks and gray, typically 12- 16 skeins.
  • Total Cost: $150
  • Deadline for sign up/order: open

If you’d like to find more yarn clubs and yarn CSA programs, I have a Pinterest board devote to this theme. Many of these open up at different points during the year and aren’t accepting new subscriptions or shareholders now.

Follow Underground Crafter’s board Yarn Clubs & Fiber CSAs on Pinterest.

NaBloPoMo

I’m participating in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month (also known as NaBloPoMo) by blogging daily through November, 2014.

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!