Seeing our fiber go off into the world, and in some cases, learning about what has become of it, is a very fulfilling part of fiber farming. I am a very proud parent when someone sends me a picture from Canada of the durable sweater they knit, or the weaver in Japan that has created a hand spun blanket from one of our dear sweet sheep’s fleece. Maggie, our matriarch Shetland who passed away last summer, has fiber somewhere in Iceland as part of an art installation. A friend in Minnesota gets asked by classmates about where the yarn came from in the wooly sweater she’d knit. Every day I put a cap or scarf or mitts on that came from our sheep, goats’ and alpacas’ wool.
In the past year, some of our fiber has been processed into yarn, about a third of it kept as fleeces for handspinners and felting art. Much of it was sold at fiber festivals, farmers’ markets & online, but the last of it went to an online mercantile out of San Francisco & Idaho, where it was well-received by their customers.
The online mercantile, “Woolful”, sells high quality, natural yarns from small or local producers and farmers as well as a natural dye club membership, knitting kits and notions. A family-owned and operated business, fiber is packaged and shipped to customers out of Idaho, where the ranch and future woolen mill property is presently under the care and proprietorship of owners’ David & Ashley Yousling’s parents.
I met Ashley through the social media group, “Instagram”, where it is easy to find like-minded farm & fiber-enthusiasts, as well as many other trades and interests. Depending on how you choose to use this platform, learning about each other’s lives is both fun and informative. We both have a great appreciation for the other’s work, passions and lifestyles and rapport was easy. When my daughters and I realized plans to visit the west coast during the spring school break, I emailed Ashley to tell her we’d be in town.
The timing of our 4-week old alpaca cria, Orion, beginning to nurse for himself, the timing of our latest mill run of yarn being ready for delivery, and the proximity of our trip to Ashley’s neighborhood felt as though the planets were aligned. I’d been in touch with her about our possible yarn shipment, but hadn’t imagined how thrilling it would be to deliver it in person.
On the morning of our departure, friends dropped in to visit our day-old chicks we’d hatched out and borrow the incubator for their own hatching project. I then loaded up half of our latest yarn, almost 80 hanks of gorgeous Shetland, Merino & Mohair blends, into a suitcase with a couple of well-padded and protected jars of maple syrup and honey, and of course, Vermont cheddar cheese, and set out for California. I prayed that the jars wouldn’t break during the journey and the cheese wouldn’t become rank, that the yarn would stay clean.
We had the most delightful stay with Ashley, her amazing husband, David, and adorable son Coltrane. We soaked up the sun, picnicked, cooked and chatted late into the evening, early in the morning, and pretty much non-stop. Ashley interviewed us for her podcast on Woolful and if we hadn’t had a previous engagement, we’d still be talking. We toured the natural dye exhibit together at the nearby botanical garden and felt the time pass by too quickly. Kindred spirits, we know that there will be more time together in our future.
That suitcase of yarn? It arrived intact, little Coltrane now claiming the honey for himself, David drizzling maple syrup into his morning coffee, Ashley appreciating our flocks’ locks.
It’s not sweet enough to know that our beloved sheep’s yarn is going to be available in a special mercantile, but that the proprietors of such remain grateful, treasure small interests, promote good things and endeavor to be knowledgeable. I have to smile when I think about our flock….Ruva, or Rupert, Pansy or Padme, Thelma or Louise’s… or any of the rest of their fiber, out there somewhere, being knit up to keep someone else warm in this world.
Good work, all.