Farm to Yarn—Watching Wool Come to Marketcomments (2) May 16th, 2008
Twenty years ago, I traveled to New Zealand. I fell in love with yarn as a result of a trip to a working sheep farm. As soon as they placed the fluffy lamb in my arms, I was hooked on wool. It was soft, warm and had the sweet smell of hay and lanolin. After that experience, I saw yarn at every stop we made throughout the country. On the last day, I finally got up the nerve to walk into a yarn shop and buy some local yarn and a pattern. Even though I had never held a pair of knitting needles in my life, I was determined to knit a garment to commemorate my trip. My goal was to knit a sweater that would capture the memories and sensory experiences of the idyllic sheep farm.
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting a local fine wool sheep farm, Fox Fire Holler. Nancy and her family have returned to her ancestral land as third-generation caretakers of this little slice of heaven in the high country of western North Carolina. Along with her husband, children, and granddaughter, Nancy raises a flock of Lincoln Corriedale, purebred Rambouillet and Coopworth Rambouillet cross sheep for their lovely wool. I joined Nancy in the barn during a winter feeding session and was delighted to get an up-close and personal introduction to these delightful and useful creatures. The big daddy of the flock was Clyde the merino ram and proud sire of the lambs. From the looks of the fleeces I saw, Nancy will have some beautiful fiber when it comes shearing time. The Lincoln Corriedale sheep are raised for the long, medium-fine fiber prized by hand spinners. Nancy volunteered to teach me how to spin, but I’ll leave that up to the experts.
In 2006, Spin a Yarn, Weave a Web was opened to serve as the retail operation of the Fox Fire Sheep Farm, selling the raw wool and a variety of hand and commercially spun, natural and hand-dyed yarn. Nancy gives spinning and weaving lessons and serves as the community hub for local fiber artists. Friends and neighbors also sell farm products that include organic meats, cheeses, hand-spun hand-dyed yarns, soaps, honey, and local fine crafts there.
To get a taste of Nancy’s world and other fine fiber masters in the area: