How time flies!

We’re already in the middle of the third week of July which means that our second meet-up of the month will occur this Saturday!  We hope that you’ll come join the fun.  We’ll be gathering from 10 am to noon.

Using your computer, tablet or  phone, head over to this website: https://www.gotomeeting.com/meeting/join-meeting  and enter our Meeting ID number: 423-682-741.

We hope to see you there.

 


A lamb update!

Over the past few months, we’ve shared snapshots of some of the charming lambs that the fiber producers we work with have been raising this Spring.  Those fuzzy adorable creatures are thriving, and growing more independant.  One in particular now has an official fan club!

Today we wanted to share with you the details of the Jubilee Fan Club that Tammy from Wing & a Prayer Farm has organized for her adorable lamb.

“Jubilee is our sweet 3 and a half month old Valais Blacknose x Teeswater lamb that was born on March 14th to her mama, June, the 4th out of 5 lambs. She just barely survived her first few weeks on the farm, as she was premature by 2 weeks as well as her mama had quite a few complications from going into labor early with multiple births. We’ve all fallen in love with her inspirational story of triumph over struggle, her friendships with the farmyard animals of all species, her sweet adaptation to life as a bottle baby and gradual acclimation to the barnyard from the farmhouse hearth.”

Tammy has created four levels of participation with prices that range from $25 to $65.

1. Baby Jubi -Limited Edition of Jubilee’s Fan Club Enamel Pin + Photo Postcards of Jubilee + Friends, shipped in August 2020

2. Jubilee-Out of the Box – Limited Edition of Jubilee’s Fan Club Enamel Pin, 3 x 3″ Vinyl Sticker of Jubilee’s Fan Club, Photo Postcards of Jubilee + Friends, shipped in August 2020

3. Fireside Jubilee – Limited Edition of Jubilee’s Fan Club Enamel Pin, 3 x 3″ Vinyl Sticker of Jubilee’s Fan Club, Photo Postcards of Jubilee + Friends, and member of “Close Friends” Story Feature on Instagram for Wing & A Prayer Farm, shipped in August 2020

4. Look At Me Now Jubilee – Limited Edition of Jubilee’s Fan Club Enamel Pin, 3 x 3″ Vinyl Sticker of Jubilee’s Fan Club, Photo Postcards of Jubilee + Friends, membership in “Close Friends” Story Feature on Instagram for Wing & A Prayer Farm, and locks from Jubilee’s First Hair Cut in the fall. All shipped in August 2020, except for her locks which will be shipped after her first hair cut.

Participating in this Club will give you a unique opportunity to financially support a small family farm that is committed to providing a safe a nurturing environment for all the creatures in Tammy’s wildly diverse flock.  It will also keep you connected to the growth and development of a single lamb whose wool may eventually become yarn that you could find yourself working with in years to come.

We hope that you’ll check out Tammy’s ETSY site that has details of the Fan Club.  You’ll be able to sign up there and be a supporting part of the fun of raising this little darling.


Our commitement to the cooperative

Today is International Co-op Day!

You probably already know that Green Mountain Spinnery is a worker-owned cooperative.  Of the dozen folks who work here, currently five are worker-owners who collectively make decisions to manage the Mill.  Everyone who here is an integral part of the operation and are encouraged to share individual perspectives, ensuring that all of our voices are heard and considered.

What you may not know is that members of the Spinnery Team are also participating members of other Co-ops as well.   It has been part of the Spinnery’s mission from the co-operative’s establishment, that our Mill be actively engaged in the larger co-op movement to help create the positive change we want to see in the world.

GMS is a member and serves on the board of the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives.  This is an organization that is “dedicated to building a sustainable local economy by facilitating the support, development and promotion of worker co-operatives in Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont. VAWC is a ‘secondary co-operative’ owned and operated by our Member Co-operatives.”

On the national level, we are part of the U.S.Federation of Worker Cooperatives.  This federation is the national grassroots membership organization for worker cooperatives. Our mission is to build a thriving cooperative movement of stable, empowering jobs through worker-ownership. We advance worker-owned, -managed, and -governed workplaces through cooperative education, advocacy and development.  This association includes more than 200 business and organizational members representing 6,000 workers across the country.

This week on our Instagram Feed, we’ve been sharing the principles that have acted as guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.  We’d like to gather them here for your reference.

1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. People serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.

3. Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4. Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.

5. Education, Training, and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7. Concern for Community
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

Here at the Spinnery, our sense of community responsibility extends to our part in working towards a more sustainable production process that will have a minimal impact on the environment.  We are very conscious of minimizing our carbon footprint.  For years we have been recycling our water, by filtering and reusing the water flushed through our scouring department.  We also diminish our wool waste by offering waste bags of wool to local visitors who have used it for crafting and insulation.  The wool that is unsuitable for this use is composted and has enriched the soil of our community garden plot behind the Mill.  We are also working towards an exclusive use of vegetable oil in production,  moving away from the less expensive petroleum alternative in an effort to align all parts of our production with our climate goals.

We will continue to evolve as an organization to meet the needs of our employees, our local community, the international fiber community and the global environment.  We hope that you enjoy this holiday weekend and join us in celebrating the work that is being done by cooperatives all over the world to improve the conditions we share.

 


Join us

For many of us social butterflies, the quarantines, social isolating, and distancing required in the past several months have been difficult.  Knitting and crochet can be so much more rewarding when made more communal through shop visits, fiber festivals and community crafting groups.

It is such a pleasure to meet other fiber enthusiasts, see what they are working on, and share our own progress.  It is also very helpful to be able to run questions by other crafters who have different experience levels. Advice, helpful suggestions and out of the box solutions can help us overcome all kinds of stumbling blocks, allowing us to complete projects that would otherwise languish under the couch.

Tomorrow morning Larisa will be hosting our next virtual meet up on Go To Meeting.  Using your computer, tablet or  phone, head over to this website: https://www.gotomeeting.com/meeting/join-meeting  and enter our Meeting ID number: 423-682-741.

From 10 am – 12pm Larisa will be there to knit with you, and get caught up.  We hope that you can gather your current project and a cool beverage and join our virtual group for some socially distant crafting.

We are going to try hosting these gathering more regularly, so that you can add them to your calendar and join us whenever you are available. You can plan to set aside a couple of hours on the first Thursday of the month in the evening, and the 3rd Saturday of the month in the morning.

Larisa may occasionally plan additional virtual meet-ups when we have specials, or when we would normally be gathering at a Sheep & Wool Festival.  We hope that this will allow us to stay connected with our fiber friends around the country and perhaps reach new ones as well!

 


Good work

The calls to action this week have led many of us to seek out ways in which we can be more supportive of our friends of color in the fiber world.  We’d like to share a couple of resources that may allow you to feel better connected, informed and involved in the work of anti-racism.

It is the perfect time to learn more about and support the diverse voices and talents that have been marginalized by systemic racism and unconscious bias.  In 2018 Jeanette Sloan, a knitwear designer from the UK, collated a list of People of Color working in the fiber world.  Thanks to the positive response in the community in recognizing the value of this resource, she crowd sourced funding to make the website that is now home to this valuable directory: BIPOC in Fiber.

You’ll find Designers, Dyers, Teachers, Journalists, Shop Owners and more.  We encourage you to explore the website and enjoy the rich variety of creative talent to be found there.

In Baltimore, Karida Collins of Neighborhood Fiber Co. is organizing a fundraiser within her community that we encourage you to support.  She is asking for all our help to start the NFC Momentum Fund, a donor-advised charitable fund at the Baltimore Community Foundation.

The NFC Momentum Fund will be able to receive tax-deductible donations that will be dispersed to a variety of organizations working for justice, empowerment, and equality. Right now, we are raising money to support protesters in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Thanks to the generosity of our worldwide fiber community, she was able to surpass her initial goal of raising $10,000 in just a few days.  She is now working towards a new goal of $100,000, and is more than 2/3 of the way there.

We invite you to learn more, get involved, and support those who are working towards making our community more inclusive and welcoming to all. Together, we can effect powerful change.


Tune in

Now that many of us are entering our second month of self quarantine, it is continuing to be important that we find effective ways of providing ourselves with self care that can raise our spirits.  Sustaining this new reality can be draining, isolating and for many very difficult.

We thought we would share one of our small joys in the hopes that it might brighten the days ahead for you.  We think of it as the Lamb Cam.

Many of the fiber producers we partner with are in the middle of their lambing season.  This means that on a daily basis, new adorable babies are being born and joining our favorite flocks.  Following the Instagram feeds of these farmers will deliver regular photos, and even better, videos of these fuzzy creatures and their entertaining antics.

Below is a short list of some of the accounts that we hope you will follow for a breath of fresh Spring news that brings smiles to our faces every day.

Catskill Merino Sheep Farm
Wing and a Prayer Farm
Blue Heron Farm
Sawkill Farm
Vermont Shepherd
Berry Meadow Farm
Lana Plantae
The Running Shepherdess
Big Picture Farm


From head to toe

Ten great big boxes of custom spun yarn is leaving the Mill this week to head to Bollman Hat Company in Pennsylvania.  This delivery of gorgeous Merino wool that will eventually become high fashion headwear, inspired us to share a story with you about another employee owned company that we partner with.

Bollman has been in operation since well before the Spinnery was founded.  “Three generations of Bollmans expanded the business before selling the company to a group of managers in 1974. In 1985, Bollman adopted an employee stock ownership plan.”  They count this as one of the secrets to their success.

We started working with them decades ago when we began using their scouring services.  Originally we were able to send fiber to them to scour in Pennsylvania; they have since moved that work to a new facility in Texas that can clean hundreds of pounds of wool in a fraction of the time it would take us to clean it here (where our capacity tops out at about 250 pounds a week).

This fall we began collaborating with them on an exciting new project that brought several of our favorite fiber friends together. Don Rongione of Bollman reached out to Dominique Herman at Catskill Merino to source hundreds of pounds of her buttery Saxon Merino fiber grown in upstate New York for a new entirely US based hat project.

Believe it or not, a camera crew went to the farm to meet Dominique and the sheep, and even followed their fiber to the Mill here in Vermont so that they could capture the entire story of this new venture.  That video will eventually become public as the final hats are made available for sale which we estimate should be before the end of this year.

In the meantime, for a deeper dive into both the history and current impact that both Dominique and Don are having in the larger US based fiber community you may want to treat yourself to a great read.

© @catskillmerino

Clara Parkes’ newly published Vanishing Fleece tells the rather epic story of another bale of wool from Catskill Merino.  “In 2012 she purchased a 676 lb. bale of American Merino wool and began a crowd-funded project known as The Great White Bale, in which she chronicled the process of turning the raw wool into finished yarn.”

Her bale was scoured at the Bollman facility in Texas.  And we return full circle to where we started.  Our fiber world is a very small one!

© Vogue.com

We are very happy to play our small part in collaborative projects like this one.  We look forward to seeing how the yarn we produced is transformed into practical, stylish and  hardwearing hats by the folks at Bollman.  We’ll let you know when we learn that they become available for purchase.

 


Soon to be released

As you may have seen on Instagram, a new issue of By Hand Serial is due to be released later this month and it focuses on our neck of the woods!

“In Issue #11 of By Hand Serial, we visit New England as we travel through Vermont and New Hampshire at the peak of the fall foliage season.

The New England makers we meet have a great love and deference for their land, their communities, and the region’s history and traditions. These artists pair local resources with traditional forms of creating: milling yarn, weaving cloth, sewing garments, making baskets for daily use. Form and functionality mesh seamlessly, creating beautiful materials that find use and purpose in our everyday lives. It is a joy to learn more about these makers, their materials and motivations, and the work they do to keep alive the values of hard work, handcraft, and artistry.”

© Jenn Bakos Photography

We are thrilled that this issue includes a new pullover sweater design by our dear friend Amy Christoffers.  Her Spruce Peak Pullover calls for Spinnery Mewesic!  “Mewesic yarn, a 100% wool with just the right amount of heft and texture to show off the lace stitches that make up the body of this garment.”  ⁠

The pattern is worked in the round from the bottom-up and features a readily memorized lace pattern.  The front and back are split at the armhole to be worked separately and then joined at the shoulder with a 3-needle bind off.  The stitches for the sleeves are then picked up and worked down to the cuff.

You’ll be as delighted as we are with her generous size range.  This sweater is designed to fit bust sizes 37-72″ with between 2-12″ positive ease.  The yarn requirements for the sizes 37 (41, 46, 50, 54)(59, 63, 68, 72)” call for 5 (6, 7, 7, 8)(9, 10, 11, 12) skeins of our DK weight yarn.

We got so excited about this new design that we asked Amy to share an early copy of the pattern with us.  Our scourer Megan has made quick progress on her version of the Spruce Peak Pullover with our new Touch of Grey color.  We hope to have this beauty ready to display at our booth at Vogue Knitting Live in New York City next weekend.

You can pre-order a copy of Lookbook 11: Vermont & New Hampshire from us. It will ship to you on the official release date, 1/25/20 without delay!  In the meantime, we hope that you’ll be able to join the fun of the fiber festival in Manhattan.  We have all kinds of fun new things to share with you there.


A feast for the senses

Happy Holiday!  We hope that your day will be filled with delicious traditions to be shared among friends, family and neighbors.

Over the Holiday Weekend after Thanksgiving, the Spinnery will be open special hours as a participant in the 41st Putney Craft Tour.  Over this special weekend local artists and craftspeople open their studios to the public, offering you a unique opportunity to see them at work, learn more about their creative process and find artfully made holiday gifts that support their endeavors.  While you are exploring the area, we hope that you’ll be able to visit our Mill to share in the exciting wooly offerings that we’ll have on hand.

We’re releasing a new FREE pattern for the holiday knitting season.  Our Gathering Hat is a very quick knit, making it a great option for last minute gift making.

This sturdy topper calls for bulky yarn and can be worked up in just a few hours with a single skein of Yarn Over or our Capricorn yarns.  The hat is worked from the bottom up. featuring slipped stitch ribbing and clever decreases that form a five pointed star at the top.  The pattern is charted for your ease.

We’ll also have a fresh stock of our very popular Ugly Christmas Hat Project Kits.  This fun project kit includes all the yarn and the pattern to make an ugly holiday hat of your own for just $32.75. If you aren’t a knitter, but know someone on your gift list who is, you may want to pick one up as a gift that will certainly bring some laughter to your holiday gathering.

And last but certainly not least will be our annual Sample Sale! We’ve selected dozens of beautifully handknit items that are ready to find new homes.  These items were made to test our patterns and provide several color or sizing options among our sample selection to help visitors plan their projects.  We are bursting at the seams with gorgeous samples that can now be retired to make room for what’s next.  You’ll be able to find sweaters, hats and more!

This offers you an amazing opportunity to purchase hand knit items made with Green Mountain Spinnery yarns at unbelievably reasonable prices.  Plus, a percentage of the proceeds from these items will go to benefit the Putney Food Shelf: our local foodbank that needs our support especially during the holidays.

We hope that we’ve succeeded in enticing you to come and visit.  The Spinnery will be open 10 am – 5 pm Friday November 29 – Sunday December 1st; and we can’t wait to see you!


Simply Fine Skinnies

We’ve got a new yarn to share with you this week, our Simply Fine Skinnies!

These gorgeous skeins of blended bale-dyed fine wool and baby soft kid mohair are put up in skeins that have half the yardage of our undyed Simply Fine skeins that you already know and love.  This yarn includes the softest fiber that we work with at the Spinnery; and now is available in an irresistible spectrum of luscious colors that could be used for some of this season’s most popular patterns that call for fingering or sport weight yarn.

Thanks to our woolen spinning process and this yarn’s single ply construction, it blooms beautifully when washed.  This allows it to gracefully accommodate a wide range of gauges.

Kate quickly cast on with a skein of the Golden Hour color to make a Thermal Cap.  Just one 224 yard skein provides more than enough yardage for the FREE pattern.  It knits up quickly for a light weight cap that is perfect for crisp autumn mornings.

These beautiful skeins could also be used to work up a stunning Mercury Rising Shawl.  You’d need 2 skeins each of two contrasting colors.  Or you might want to consider pairing a single pop of color with one of the neutral undyed options. You could even try working the pattern with four different colors.  What a fun experiment!

All 9 colors have been named for some of our favorite simple pleasures from gazing at the stars on a clear dark night, to the smell of woodsmoke in the air on a crisp cool morning.

We can’t think of a better way to celebrate Fall than with some seasonal color on our needles.  We hope that you find working with this yarn to become one of your simple pleasures. Enjoy!


Tune in to Larisa and Marly

Marly Bird’s interview with Larisa is now available on Youtube!  You can watch our favorite Yarn Thing Podcast episode any time you like.  We recommend having a project in hand (as long as you’re not following a complicated chart).

We hope that you’ll enjoy tuning in and learning a little bit more about the Spinnery.  Plus, there is a contest that you could win!

You could be eligible to win a copy of our newest pattern collection, At the Spinnery, by heading over to Marly’s website and adding a comment about her video there.  You’ll need to watch the video to learn the keyword (that Larisa and Marly will provide) and be sure to include that in your comments.

And elsewhere on the internet, our friend Mina Phillips (of Knitting Expat Designs) has just published a darling cropped pullover with Spinnery Mewesic.

© Knitting Expat Designs

Her Yorkville Sweater is a natural extension of her New York Hat Collection that she published last fall with a variety of Spinnery yarns.  Like the seven hat patterns, this sweater features lush texturing that works beautifully with the tweedy rich colors of our DK weight yarn offerings.

Her sweater shown above is knit up in the Brickhouse colorway in the 42″ size with approximately 4 inches of positive ease.  Her pattern is available in ten sizes ranging from a finished chest circumference size of 30.5″ – 65.5″.

She has very generously created several coupon codes to provide a sliding scale of pricing to make the pattern available to a broader range of knitters.  She asks that you pay what you can, understanding that the full price of the pattern fairly compensates her for all the work and time she put into developing this beautiful design.

We love that this pattern can be worked from the top-down allowing you for a custom fit that will be the perfect length to highlight your curves or act as a comfy layering piece for three season wear.


Retrospective

Today marks the 96th International Cooperative day, so we thought we’d look back on the history of the Spinnery. Our origin story is one of thoughtful intentions made real through cooperative participation.

In the late 70’s Claire Wilson (a journeyman weaver), Libby Mills (a teacher and founder of the fiber program at The Putney School), David Ritchie and Diana Wahle (both recent graduates of the School for International Training in Brattleboro), began a conversation that would change their lives.  Inspired by their study group discussion around E.F Shumacher’s Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, the four founding members of the Spinnery began to explore how starting a small business together could play a part in revitalizing their community.

The small scale economics described in this book could allow them to re-establish links to local agriculture.  At the time, many New England dairy farms were downsizing and transitioning from large herds of cows to smaller flocks of sheep.  The 1976 oil embargo and fuel crisis was also informing their discussion.  It seemed to be a pivotal moment when a local focus could address many needs.  Their ideas began to coalesce into a three part goal of creating a workplace committed to sustainability, to the thoughtful and responsible use of natural resources, and the support of local small scale farms.

Building a mill that processed yarn from regional materials could lower the overall environmental impact of the skeins it produced, and provide a natural alternative to petroleum based yarns being mass produced outside the US.  Creating a productive use for local fibers of all kinds would support small farm growth and the continued proliferation of heritage breed animals who contribute to a robust biodiversity.  The more complex and robust the system, the more resilient it is against failure.

At this point in 2019, 65-70% of our production is spinning yarns for small fiber producers around the county.  It’s remarkable that these benefits remain as pivotal to our lives today.  In the prevailing years many of us have embraced a desire to use our purchase power more thoughtfully, understanding that our choices can have a cascading effect starting with our local economy, and subsequently the health of our biosphere.  More recently, the folks at Fibershed have worked to continue this conversation and disseminate a more nuanced description of these ideas through community outreach.

 

Casting back again to the early days, Claire, Libby, David and Diana embarked on a six year adventure of research and discovery that would have them travelling to mills around Europe and New England to learn as much as they could about processing yarn.  Fortuitously, they were aided by Ray Phillips, a mill technician at nearby Harrisville Yarns who offered them his valuable expertise.  With his support, they located the machinery they needed piece by piece, and eventually assembled a functioning production floor in a converted gas station at the edge of Putney.  Ray came to join the team within the Spinnery’s first year to supervise and mentor the group as their nascent experience developed.

In late December 1981 the mill shop opened for business and the daily work of the mill began in earnest.  Using and maintaining the machines (that for the most past were decades old), proved challenging.  Replacement parts often need to be machined or re-purposed from tractors, motorcycles or elevators.  The group also experienced a steep learning curve about fibers.  Each batch of yarn provided them a better understanding about how different fibers interacted with the machines and each other for different results. As their expertise grew, it allowed them to more effectively work with fiber producers to create yarns that blend their contents to the best advantage.

In 2003, members of the staff began to explore the possibilities of cooperative ownership.  Cooperatives are people-centered enterprises characterized by democratic control that prioritize human development and social justice within the workplace.  A perfect match for the ideals of the Spinnery.  Over the next three years David and a group of 6 interested employees worked with a consultant to restructure the organization while reaffirming a commitment to the founders’ original goals.  This transition allowed Claire and Libby to retire; to shift from daily work to participation as members of the Cooperative Board of Directors.

For the past thirteen years the Spinnery has continued to produce better and better yarns with a dedicated staff of roughly a dozen; while it’s smaller group of worker owners meets regularly to collectively oversee operations.  All decisions for the organization be they great or small are made by consensus.  This ensures a greater understanding by each member owner of the overall business and every aspect of its intertwined workings.

Gail, Maureen, Lauren, Larisa and David, the current GMS worker-owners, are passionate and dedicated to running a company with a vital working environment, where workers are challenged to make use of their skills. Our workplace prioritizes mutual respect among co-workers, and a healthy environment for our minds and bodies.
“We strive to have a healthy workplace with good pay, benefits, flexible schedules, and an environment where every employee feels supported to show their best ability in what they can bring to the company. We make sure we show integrity in what we charge and what we get in return, and are grateful to receive a fair and healthy profit for our commitment  As a ‘small is beautiful’ company, we work to stay informed about the  conditions of our environment (air, soil, water, planet, animals). Based on these needs, we make decisions and take actions every day to address these challenges.”

You can read more about the Spinnery’s beginnings in The Green Mountain Spinnery Book.