A Putney Shepard shares stories of her flock

Are you eager to learn a bit more about Vermont’s rich history of wool?

This Sunday (January 29th) at 5:30pm at  Saxtons River Inn, Main Street Arts and the Saxtons River Historical Society will be sponsoring a FREE fireside chat that focuses on wool production in Vermont.

© Crooked Fence Farm

Putney based Sheep farmer Betsy MacIsaac will share details of her experience raising sheep.  Her flock of colored Merino and CVM/Romeldale flourish at her Crooked Fence Farm.

© Crooked Fence Farm

This herd proudly continues the tradition of sheep keeping in Vermont, which at one point was home to a population of over 1.6 million sheep, making it the Sheep Capital of the world!

Join the fun in Saxtons River this Sunday evening to learn more about it and mingle with other fiber friends.  It’s possible that Betsy may have some some of her most recently sheared fleeces and roving with her so that you can get your hands on fiber grown just down the road from the Spinnery!

 

 


From Raw Fleece to Spun Yarn – A Tour

 

 

Photo by Marti Stone

At our spinning mill, in Putney, Vermont, we make thousands of pounds of yarn each year for fiber fans like you as well as for yarn shops and individual farms. Before you transform our yarn by the work of your hands, the transformation of raw fleece from flocks from Vermont, Maine and New Mexico into certified organic yarn takes place in several steps.

 

 

 

Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery

 

 

Scouring begins by soaking the fiber in very hot, soapy water using non-petroleum based soaps.  After soaking, the fiber is moved through a series of squeeze rollers and basins of hot water until it is clean. The wet fiber is place in an extractor which is much like the spin cycle on your home washing machine. After a spin and one more hot water rinse, the clean fiber is moved to an industrial dryer. The lot size, from 50 to over 300 pounds, dictates the length of time for this process.

 

 

Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery

 

The clean fiber, having been scoured, now undergoes the picking phase where the fiber locks are opened and blended. This is repeated two or three times over the whole lot. Organic spinning oil is lightly sprayed over the fibers, adding moisture to prevent the clumping of fibers as well as static electricity build up. This is the step where the different types and colors of fibers are combined according to the Spinnery’s individual recipes for our yarns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery

 

 

Carding is the next step where the picked fiber is conveyed to a series of rotating drums that first blend the fibers into a web and then separate the web into pencil roving. This looks like yarn, but it is without twist or tensile strength.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery

 

The carded pencil roving is wound onto spools which are carried to the spinning frame for the spinning stage of the yarn production. 96 roving ends are threaded onto the machine by hand.  This machine turns the roving into yarn within a few hours or several days depending on the lot size. Bobbins of the yarn are placed in the steam box for two or three hours to set the twist. The plying machine is the next stop for the yarn where again, it is threaded by hand. The Spinnery’s own plied yarns, including Maine Organic and New Mexico Organic, are 2-ply but we do produce 3-and4-ply yarns.

 

 

Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery

 

 

In the finishing department, the yarn is skeined or coned. The skeining machine winds twelve skeins at a time. The skeins are weighed, twisted and labeled by hand, ensuring that each skein is seen and felt as a final quality-control check. The combination of utilizing our venerable machinery, respect for the liveliness of the natural fibers and hands-on finishing touches, creates wonderful yarns that are ready for their next transformation into the project of your choice!