Farm fresh: Vermont Organic yarn

We’ve created something special this spring and we thought you’d like to learn all about it.  Vermont Organic yarn is back in stock!  And we had a chance to briefly interview Anna from Open View Farm who raises the sheep whose fleeces have created our delicious new yarn.

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Anna and her husband Ben raise certified organic lambs, grow certified organic vegetables, and produce maple syrup on 180 acres in New Haven, Vermont.  The farm is unique in that it has a 2.49 megawatt DC solar array, which is owned and operated by Crosspollination Inc.

The array spans 17 acres and is composed of 8,448 photovoltaic modules. These produce an estimated 2,700-megawatt hours of electricity per year (which is enough electricity to power approximately 400 homes).  Anna and Ben’s sheep seem to appreciate the shade and shelter the panels provide when they graze under and around the panels for part of the summer months.

 

© Open View Farm
© Open View Farm

As it turns out, Open View Farm is a resurrected dairy farm.  Anna and Ben’s flock is raised for meat and was started in the fall of 2010 with 30 Tunis ewes.  Tunis sheep are dual purpose, fat-tailed sheep well known for delicious meat.  They’ve been added to the Slow Food movement’s Ark of Taste, which has identified 200 “delicious and culturally significant foods in the US in danger of extinction”.

Open View Farm’s original flock of Tunis ewes has been bred with Dorset rams to increase the size of the animals.  Dorset animals are slightly larger and thrive on pasture ensuring a quicker growth to market weight.  More than 50 lambs are born at Open View Farm each spring, bringing the total number of sheep on the farm to over 100 during the summer months.

 

© Open View Farm
© Open View Farm

(In case you were interested, you can purchase Open View’s lamb and other organic products at the Shelburne Farmer’s Market in the summer, and on yourfarmstand.com any time.)

As delicious as Anna and Ben’s organic lamb may be, here at Green Mountain Spinnery we are more interested in their fleece.  Tunis sheep are born a soft cinnamon color that transitions to a lovely soft warm tan color.  Dorset’s wool is known for its springy elasticity, which adds a delightful resiliency that makes each creamy ivory skein wonderfully squeezable.

© Open View Farm
© Open View Farm

Our skeins of worsted weight organic Vermont yarn include 250 yards per 4 oz. skein. Only 42 pounds of wool was processed in this first batch so our supply of these scrumptious skeins is limited. We hope to be able to make more in the near future.  And we hope that you’ll be able to get your hands on some of these first few skeins!

Community Knit Night

One of our favorite aspects of working with fiber is the wonderful community that can congregate when yarn is involved.  Knitting is always more fun with company.  Many friends and local fiber enthusiasts have asked about knitting with us more regularly than our twice annual Knitter’s Weekends, and we are thrilled to announce that we are starting a twice monthly “stitch and bitch” here in Putney.

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© knittomania

A few of us gathered this week at the Gleanery to test the waters, and found the cafe to be a delightfully welcoming spot to work.  The lighting is perfect, the open windows offered a cool breeze, and the macaroons were delicious!  Maureen brought several projects to work on, Kate made some progress on her Natsumi, and Jayne is thinking about casting on for her very first pair of socks.

We plan on gathering at the Gleanery on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday evenings from 5:30 – 7:30pm.  The cafe serves wonderful coffee and tea along side home baked treats.  It is a BYOB establishment, so if you’d prefer to stitch with a cocktail, you can bring your own, or the General Store across the street has a terrific selection of chilled beers and wine.

We love the thought of making some new friends and offering our expertise to folks in the area that would like a little help.  It should be a fun group of local fiber enthusiasts with enough common knitting and crochet experience to be able to troubleshoot almost any problem or pattern question.  We hope that you can join the fun.

Knitting is always more fun with company.  Perhaps not as productive, as we get caught up in one another’s progress and pattern ideas.  Please join us next month on July 9th or the 23rd.  We are looking forward to stitching with you when you can participate.

Hop over to the Spinnery

We are getting excited about the upcoming I-91 Shop Hop that will run from Thursday June 26 through Sunday June 29, 2014.

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Stop in your participating LYS and purchase your Shop Hop passport for $5. Along with your passport you’ll receive a tote bag with the map and details about each of the eleven fabulous shops.

  1. Green Mountain Spinnery (Putney, VT)
  2. Northampton Wools (Northampton, MA)
  3. WEBS (Northampton, MA)
  4. Marji’s Yarncrafts (Granby, CT)
  5. Creative Fibers LLC (Windsor, CT)
  6. Yarnover Avon (Bloomfield, CT)
  7. Village Wool (Glastonbury, CT)
  8. Country Yarns (Wallingford, CT)
  9. The Yarn Barn (Woodbridge, CT)
  10. The Yarn Basket (Branford, CT)
  11. Knit New Haven (New Haven, CT)

Get your Shop Hop passport stamped by visiting the participating shops over the 4-day Shop Hop weekend.  Every time you get your passport stamped you will be entered to win the Daily Door Prize at that shop. A total of 44 door prizes will be given out to participants!  By visiting all 11 shops you will be entered into a drawing for the fabulous Grand Prize, which includes gift certificates for the 11 shops, as well as yarns, needles and other goodies.

Here’s your chance to explore new yarn shops and win some great prizes. You can complete the Shop Hop all in one day, or make it a weekend event.  Along with all of the fun prizes, you’ll be able to pick up clues to a mystery pattern at each of the shops.  That way we can all share the fun.

You can learn more about the event on the 1-91 Shop Hop Facebook page and their Group page on Ravelry.

kit

This year’s theme of gold and black mystery is a fun one.  In honor of this, and Kate’s insistence on referring to the Shop Hop as a Sock Hop, we will be offering an exclusive kit that includes a skein of our deep gold Sock Art – Forest yarn, a packet of lavender Eucalan, a darling needle gauge, and your choice of one of three Spinnery sock patterns that can be created with your new skein.  All of this for under $20 (including Vermont sales tax)!  This offers you a savings of over 60%

If knitting socks is not your favorite, you might find a pattern to your liking among the FREE Ravelry pattern selections of over 700 shawl patterns that could be knit or crocheted with the included skein.

© Inn Vicoria
© Inn Vicoria

While you are here in Putney, VT you may want to find a comfortable spot for a meal, a snack, or to cast on without delay.  We recommend our favorite local spot: the Gleanery for a delicious lunch or dinner.  They are open from 11:30 am – 9:00pm Thursday – Saturday and 11:30 – 8pm on Sunday.  Basketville is another great spot for a quick visit that could provide you with beautiful storage for your new yarn!

We can provide you with local maps and more tips for a wonderful adventure when you visit.  We can’t wait to see you!

Meet a Spinnery knitter

If you have “liked” our page or postings on Facebook, you will have already seen some of the beautiful projects that our friend Melissa has created using Green Mountain Spinnery yarns.  We found her projects on Ravelry, and we thought it might be fun to learn a little bit more about Melissa.   We imagine that you will enjoy seeing some of her projects and finding out a bit more about what she loves to work on.

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Who taught you how to knit?

One day while exploring, my mom and I saw the book Knitting Pretty: Simple Instructions for 30 Fabulous Projects by Kris Percival.  We bought it thinking it would be fun to learn together.  At the time I had a long commute on the train, so I taught myself how to knit using that book.  About 5 years later I taught my mom; and even later I taught my daughter.

How were you introduced to Green Mountain Spinnery?

My husband, daughter and I had recently moved to New England and I saw an article about the Spinnery in a magazine.  The article mentioned that visitors could go on a tour.  I already loved the yarn and was curious to see how it was made – it seemed like a perfect reason to organize an outing.

We decided to make a girls’ trip out of it – my daughter and I met my mom in Putney and spent the weekend.  We explored the area and did many fun things. By far our favorite part was the Spinnery.

Do you have a favorite GMS yarn (and why)? ?

I love all of the colors of Mountain Mohair – they are great for colorwork.  But I bought a skein of Simply Fine (natural) at Rhinebeck and that is hands down my favorite.  I am planning to copy the booth sample of the Holden Shawlette – it was stunning.

holden

* The Holden Shawlette is a $6 pattern designed by Mindy Wilkes and is available on Ravelry.  Our sample seen above was knitted with a single skein of Simply Fine in the Variegated color.

What technique/skill have you most recently learned?

I recently knit the Lotus Blossom Hat by Melissa Johnson because I wanted to practice stranded colorwork.  It was the perfect project for that, and I knit most of the hat with yarn in both hands – it worked well, and it was a new technique for me!

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What technique/skill are you eager to tackle next?

I really enjoy knitting socks and am a big fan of DPNs, but I think I need to try Magic Looping.  That is next on my list.

You may want to friend Melissa on Ravelry so that you can see what she’s up to.  We know that whatever she casts on will be inspiring for the rest of us.  We can’t wait to see what Melissa knits up next!

p.s.

I would like to introduce myself as the newest voice you’ll hear from the Spinnery.  My name is Kate and my Ravelry user name is onogrrrl.  I moved here to Vermont from Boulder, Colorado at the beginning of the year.  I found myself at the Spinnery about 20 minutes after that, and I am very pleased to tell you that I’ll be one of the authors of this blog going forward.

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I hope to share with you an insider’s look into what is happening here at the Spinnery.  I know that you’ll be as charmed and intrigued by what goes on here as I am.  

The Spinnery is blessed with an extraordinary team of passionate people.  I look forward to introducing you to each of them, so that you have a chance to see the faces and learn the stories of the folks whose hands are crafting each and every skein that leaves here.

I’d also like to introduce you to the machines that work as hard we do.  These behemoths date back decades, and in at least one case, centuries. This craft of spinning wool is an old one, and these machines have been at the trade longer than some of us here at the Spinnery have been alive.

I look forward to “talking story” with you.

Meet the Designer, Cap Sease

Cap

We are pleased to take a moment here on the blog to put the spotlight on Catherine “Cap” Sease, longtime friend of and designer for Green Mountain Spinnery. You may already be a fan of her many designs for the Spinnery or her book, Cast On Cast Off. Libby Mills, one of the founders of the Spinnery, was her high school weaving teacher!

Cap’s grandmother taught her to knit when she was about 5 or 6 and she has been knitting ever since. Both of her sisters also learned about the same time and one is still an avid knitter today. A yellow cardigan in an interrupted rib is a vague memory of an early project. By the time she was in high school, she was knitting sweaters not only for herself, but others as well. Sometime, many years ago, she realized that patterns weren’t absolutes and if she wanted to make a change in a pattern, no one was going to stop her. This epiphany was incredibly liberating as she realized she could use different yarns or colors or stitches, and she could make a high or lower v-neck or whatever! That unleashed the designer inside, but it took some time before she designed something completely from scratch.

 

Cap has been designing for the Spinnery for the past 8 years. This relationship started when the Spinnery brought out a child’s sweater and she made a hat to go with it. When working on designs, she thinks about the qualities and gauge of the yarn – what type and style of garment do they suggest—and also what stitch would show it off best. That process leads her in one direction, sometimes even two or more. Other times Cap has a project in mind and then chooses the yarn that she thinks will work best. Above, from left to right, are the Van Dyke Tee, Gulfoss, and Cap’s Comfy Cardigan.

The inspiration for her designs come from everywhere. She has a pile of ripped out photographs from magazines, each of a sweater, hat, scarf or whatever that with a few changes would make a great pattern. Also, she makes a note of what people around her are wearing, with special attention to an interesting stitch, style or idea that might eventually end up in a pattern. She has been known to surreptitiously follow someone around in order to sketch out a pattern or figure out a stitch on something that person is wearing!  Perhaps it was a crayon box that got her thinking about a design that ended up as Stripy Stripe Sweater. Shown above, from left to right, are the Stripy Stripe Sweater, Peanut, and the Pebble Yoke Sweater and Hat.

When asked if she has a favorite Spinnery yarn, she says she can’t say that one would be singled out! Though she is particularly fond of Alpaca Elegance, Simply Fine and Sylvan Spirit as they are fun to knit with and produce elegant garments. They are relatively fine yarns, but wonderfully warm. She notes that she especially like the slight sheen of Sylvan Spirit.

rahmCapMobius

 She has just finished designing a hoodie cardigan for a child that will come out in the Spinnery’s first e-book in October. It is designed in honor of her grandnephew Rahm and we have a peek at the design! On the needles now is a frilly Mobius cowl in hand-painted Simply Fine. The frills are great fun to make and it should be an easy pattern for knitters with be a nice introduction to Mobius knitting. She is also thinking about a child’s sweater in honor of her newest grandniece. All she knows now is that it will be called Maisie and will be made with Sylvan Spirit.

Last year, the book Cast On, Bind Off came out and has done wonderfully well. This has led to book signings and teaching workshops which has been good fun.  Cap has a second book in the works, this one on seams for knitters! In addition, to knitting, she also weaves and makes baskets. With all this work with fibers, you would think that is all she does, but it is only her avocation, at least at the moment. By profession, Cap is an objects conservator. She works in a museum where she takes care of the collections, ensuring that storage and exhibit conditions are optimal for their long term preservation. She also repairs objects when they get broken or damaged, clean them for exhibit, and so forth. Her entire career, she has worked with anthropological collections, but her specialty is archaeological material. Cap has worked on numerous excavations throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East and has been a consultant in legal cases involving stolen antiquities. This work has also taken her to a war zone as a member of a US State Department team assessing the conditions in the Iraqi Museum after the war in 2003. Everywhere her travels have led her, she seems to find textiles and fibers.

We are looking forward to more fantastic designs the future work that Cap shares with us! Have you made one of her designs? We’d love to see it; you can share it with us in our Ravelry group or Facebook page. You can even Tweet us a work-in-progress shot!

Friend of the Spinnery: Suzy Allen

Photo by Suzy Allen

Today we would like to put a spotlight on a good friend of Green Mountain Spinnery, designer Suzy Allen.  Suzy is the force behind Chain Two, a purely digital e-zine that focuses on the beauty of crochet.  In addition to promoting these fashionable and modern crochet designs, she is a frequent participant in the Knitters Retreat weekends and a prolific designer.

From an early age she was surrounded by great handmade heirlooms passed down by her great-grandmothers. As she grew up, she began to notice hand knits everywhere she went and was frequently told “I made it”. Suzy was determined to learn how to make those items as well. Her mom taught her how to knit with a pair of chopsticks and yellow yarn when she was 11 years old.  As she says, “While you couldn’t really make anything and she never taught me how to bind off, the passion stuck.” Years later, she found herself again with yellow yarn, and this time a purple crochet hook and a “Teach Yourself to Crochet in One Day” book. She taught herself how to crochet, with a bit of help from a family friend, while she kept her boyfriend (now husband) company during a hospital stay.

Suzy’s father was born and raised in Vermont. Her father’s family has a history of being in the state, farming and building houses, since the 1600’s! Her parents met in Korea, settled down in New York, and continued to summer in Vermont over the fourth of July. Suzy spotted a travel pamphlet for Green Mountain Spinnery at a Visitor Information center during one of these vacations and asked to go! When she was old enough to drive the car herself, she made it a priority to seek out the Spinnery! She says she was immediately captivated by the gorgeous colors, amazing textures and amazing machinery they had in the back. Her first purchase was a book with baby patterns, blue Cotton Comfort, and a Green Mountain Spinnery tote bag.  She never misses a chance to stop at the Spinnery and her Green Mountain Spinnery stash continues to grow, especially because she now visits them at shows as well.  When asked to pick a favorite, she says, “It’s probably Sylvan Spirit or Mountain Mohair. The Sylvan Spirit is awesome because of the stitch definition it gives and Mountain Mohair is perfect for colorwork. Those yarns are the first two I ever designed with as well. Every time I knit with GMS yarn I fall more and more in love. If home is where my yarn is, my heart is in Vermont! I feel connected to my family every time I knit with it.”

 

What’s currently on her needles? She is swatching up some great new designs with gorgeous Spinnery yarns. Her hint: I feel a cardigan and a hoodie coming on! You can find her designs on Ravelry where she is known as Chaintwomag and on her website, Chain 2. If you just can’t wait, you’ll want to check out several of her currently available designs: Fire and Ice, a crochet shawl (shown at the top of this post) worked with Simply Fine; Green Mountain Aran Mittens crocheted with Capricorn; Rhinebeck Boot Warmers which would be great in Weekend Wool; Putney Cowl in Mountain Mohair; and the Farmer’s Market Capelet in Sylvan Spirit. All photos by Suzy Allen Designs, used with permission.

Suzy may be a knit and crochet wear designer by night, but her day job is a physical therapist. These two passions are shared in a presentation she has given on the Retreat Weekends called Healthy Hands, Healthy Knitting. The form of stretching she teaches is called Active Isolated Stretching, which was developed by Jim and Phil Wharton who are licensed massage therapists out of NYC. This method of stretching not only helps to increase flexibility helps to increase blood flow as well. These stretches leave the stitcher more energized and ready to sit and stitch. She also covers optimal positioning while knitting as well as the best way to take care of your hands throughout the winter stitching months. A good stretch to help prevent carpal tunnel is flexing and extending your wrists.

Lets do it together, First Wrist Extensors:

1)      Using your dominant hand, bring your fingertips up towards the ceiling (wrist extension) hold for 2 seconds (This is not the typical hold for 30 second stretch, this helps increase blood flow!)

2)      Repeat 10 times

And for the Wrist Flexors:

1)      Using your dominant hand, bring your fingertips down towards the floor (wrist flexion) hold for 2 seconds (This is not the typical hold for 30 second stretch, this helps increase blood flow!)

2)      Repeat 10 times

March is also National Crochet Month and it is a great time to stretch your crafting muscles! We would love to hear about your favorite Suzy Allen design in our Ravelry group or on our Facebook page!

 

Meet the Designer, Eric Robinson

Today we would like to introduce another very busy member of the Spinnery Cooperative. “Eric” Robinson (still known as Judy to her family) is responsible for many different areas at the Spinnery.  She is the shop manager, and handles the ordering of non-GMS merchandise and organizing the shop staff.  As our go-to, in-house computer person, Eric maintains the database and helps to moderate the “Friends of Green Mountain Spinnery” Ravelry group.

Eric learned to knit from her grandmother around age 8, when she used her somewhat misshapen first efforts to wrap Christmas presents. She blesses her Grandma every day for teaching her continental style knitting, although her family came from England. Around her home town, Eric is known as the “knitting doctor”; she has even been known to make house calls on occasion to solve someone’s knitting dilemma!

Friends of the Spinnery are sure to notice Eric’s energy when she is in the shop, working sheep shows or at knitting conventions. A firm believer in the quality of the Spinnery’s products, being in sales has always been a positive experience when it comes to Green Mountain Spinnery. If you ask her, she’ll tell you the more exciting and rewarding jobs relate to pattern writing and editing and knitting.

Eric started her work at the Spinnery filling in for vacationing shop clerks. Over the years she has become a designer, knitting instructor, tech editor, creator of graphs and schematics, and pattern grader. Her knitting designs, beginning with the best-selling Eric’s Glovelets, tend to include unusual (or quirky) construction elements, as she likes to look at things from different perspectives. Similar to Maureen, Eric designs on the needles, and she is not afraid to rip back and rework the design until she gets just the look she wants. One can also see from her experience as a high school music and chorus teacher is that working with teenagers has kept her vision fresh and her willingness to try new things is influenced by a younger sensibility!

Are you a devoted fan of Eric’s designs? On Ravelry, her most “hearted” patterns include WaterfallOn Your Toes Sweater, Anatolian Flip, and the Elfin Hood. Add them to your queue today and come over to our Ravelry group or Facebook page to chat about it or share your work!

Meet the Designer, Maureen Clark

Designer Maureen Clark

Like most Spinnery Cooperative members, Maureen Clark does a variety of  jobs.  She is in charge of our shipping and inventory  systems, assists with our 1916 carding machine, works with customers, and coordinates our knitters’ events. On top of all that, she is the main force behind organizing everything that comes with going to shows and festivals from booking the space to driving the truck to designing displays.  Shows are very rewarding for Maureen because she gets to talk to so many knitters and find out what they are making and which yarns excite them.

Maureen learned to knit as a child from her grandmother, whose grandmother was a native of England’s Channel Islands – a region rich with knitting history.  While raising her four children Maureen taught knitting classes and ran her own yarn shop in Carver, Massachusetts.  This was how she discovered GMS by stocking the yarns; and then by attending one of the first Spinnery Knitters’ Weekends in 1992.  That was the visit that changed everything.  Maureen was in love with Putney and Vermont and was determined to move.  It took several years for the right opportunity to come along. The family moved to a home on Putney Mountain in 1998 – and Maureen has been entwined with the Spinnery ever since!

 

When asked about all that she does being part of the Spinnery she says, “I love working at the Spinnery and I’m proud of the quality of our yarn, which comes from the way it’s made. The Spinnery has always felt like family to me. Every day there is something new waiting for me!”

Friends and fans of the Spinnery may already be familiar with Maureen’s pattern designs.  Maureen is known for creating elegant functional designs with a straightforward knitting experience.

Catalina Wrap

 

Maureen says “designs just show up in my mind”  Her process is to cast on and start knitting, changing elements as she goes.  Her colleagues have looked on aghast  as she rips back ¾ of a sweater because she has changed her mind.  The challenge with “designing  on the needles” is making sure changes are recorded so that the pattern is written properly.  Maureen’s tendency to jot notes down in no particular order on the back of an envelope has been a source of challenge to our tech editors.  However this process has resulted in great designs including  Maureen’s Cardigan, Kelly, Riley’s Hat, Capricloak, and many fun socks: Jelly Beans, Wessagussett Waves and Hanna’s Sock.

 

 

Maureen’s 2-color Tunisian Crochet, in progress

 

Maureen also loves crochet and finds the recent crochet revival quite inspiring. She has come up with several crochet/knit combos designs including the Kristy sweater and the Happenin’ Hat, as well as crochet only shawl Catalina. Maureen is working on a cute new top for spring, the Bella Veste.   Her latest challenge is mastering a new technique – 2 color Tunisian crochet in the round – and inventing a new sock pattern. We are all looking forward to the results.

Are you a fan of Maureen’s designs? Beginning August 11 through the end of September there is a Jelly Bean Socks knit along taking place in the Ravelry group.  There is still time to sign up for the Knitters’ Retreat Weekend, you are sure to find it just as inspiring as Maureen! As always, we love hearing from our readers and fans! Come chat in the Ravelry group and like us on Facebook!

Mohair & Joe David Ross

Joe David Ross has supplied GMS with mohair since the mid 1980s. We met him through local farmer Deb Pamplin, a mohair grower in Wethersfield, Vermont. Deb had introduced the Spinnery to the possibilities of mohair when she started bringing fleeces to the Spinnery for processing.

Goat of fine fibre farm, Wethersfield, VT Photo by Marti Stone

 

 

Soon after, as we developed Mountain Mohair yarn, we soon outgrew our local supply.  Joe David became our main source for superior quality yearling mohair. The Spinnery has always been able to depend on the Ross Ranch in Sonora, Texas for fibers that meet our specifications, and Joe David goes the extra mile to make sure all the fiber he sends is well prepared to meet our needs.

The soft, fuzzy halo of our popular Mountain Mohair is the result of its mohair content. Over the years, many customers asked, “What’s a mo?” Mohair comes from the fleece of the Angora goat, an animal prized through the ages for its luxurious fiber. Angora goats took their name from the ancient Turkish city of Ankara; the term “mohair” apparently derives from the Arabic, mukhayya, which means “cloth of bright hair from a goat”. The Turks thought so highly of these special goats that none were exported until the sixteenth century. The first exports landed in Spain and France and none went to America until 1849.

 

 

Goats of fine fibre farm, Wethersfield, VT Photo by Marti Stone

Today, small flocks of Angora goats are found in New England and throughout the U.S., but 90% of American mohair comes from Texas, where the dry temperate climate is very suitable for the goats. The animals are generally sheared twice a year and yield on overage a three-pound fleece. Fiber of the youngest goats (kid mohair) is the softest; the fiber becomes coarser as the animal ages.

In 1992 we introduced Green Mountain Green, a blend of kid mohair and fine wool processed without petroleum. Again, Joe David was the source for the luxuriously soft kid mohair that makes the yarn so special. Today we have added Simply Fine and Sock Art Meadow to our products that include kid mohair.  To create these yarns and Mountain Mohair, we use about 2,000 pounds of mohair a year. That is equal to the fleece of about 600 goats! We are grateful to Joe David and his network of Texas mohair producers that are able to continue to offer us superior materials for our yarns.

 

We love to see your creations with our yarns – please share them with other Facebook fans or join our Ravelry group!