Spinnery News

GREENSPUN for Good

In a previous post, we shared the steps involved in creating our yarns, from raw fleece to spun yarn.  Today we would like to share with you the extra steps we take with several of our yarn lines to lessen our environmental impact. The GREENSPUN process is an extension of the environmental concerns basic to our founding in 1981.

In the early -1990s, the Spinnery switched to non-petroleum-based biodegradable soaps for scouring fibers. We also developed a spinning oil formula based on organic canola oil for processing fiber. The first experiment on using unconventional soaps and oils grew out of a request  from Espirt the sportswear manufacturer.  They were looking for yarns that were completely petroleum-free for their “Ecollection” line of clothes. The Spinnery worked to develop a petroleum free process for the Esprit yarns and then integrated these gentle and ecologically safe practices into our GREENSPUN processing method. No chemicals are used to bleach, shrink-proof, or moth-proof. Used for all our GREENSPUN and Certified Organic yarns, these methods enhance the unique qualities of the natural fibers. Customers with chemical sensitivities have been relieved to find and are enthusiastic about our chemical-free natural fiber yarns.

Our first GREENSPUN product was Green Mountain Green – a luxurious blend of  40% premium kid mohair and 60% fine American wool.  The yarn comes in 3 natural colors a white and natural dark gray and a variegated grey to white.  Its softness and warmth make it perfect for hats, scarves like the Ascutney Aran Hat and Emilie’s Hooded scarf.

The next GREENSPUN yarns were the natural colored Cotton Comfort , Silver, Winter Beech and Unbleached White.  This versatile DK weight blend of 20% organic cotton and 80% fine wool was featured in the very successful 2006 book  Natural Knits for Babies and Moms by Louisa Harding .  Knitters really want to know what is in their yarn how it s made and are very eager for a “green” option especially when knitting for babies.  Popular patterns from the Spinnery include Peanut  by Cap Sease and Grandma’s Delight by Libby Mills. Other GREENSPUN  options have quickly followed  including the natural colors of the Alpaca Elegance line and the perfection of our Certified Organic processing.

How about more pattern inspiration for the GREENSPUN yarns? First up, one our most “hearted” pattern on Ravelry.com, the Turkish Rose Mittens knit in Alpaca Elegance. Designed by Cap Sease, these are luxurious mittens inspired by a Turkish Sock Pattern.  Our newest mitten pattern is the Bumpity Mittens, also designed by Cap Sease.  Its deep texture is deceptive, making it look like four colors are used instead of just two. Speaking of color, we have six natural colors and six heathered colors of Alpaca Elegance available.

 


Alpaca Elegance & Skyeview Alpacas

The folks at the Spinnery cooperative are excited to share with our friends a bit about the  farmers we work with.  This post was completed and released before we heard of Jim King’s unexpected death last week.  Our  deepest sympathies go to Sue and all of Jim’s family, friends and colleagues in the fiber world.  

Creating yarns using fibers grown by local farms has been an important part of the Spinnery’s work since its founding. Alpaca Elegance, a blend of 50% New England grown alpaca and 50% fine American wool, has been part of our yarn line since 1996! The first colors we offered were derived from the tones of the naturally colorful fleeces of alpacas that range from white to black with warm browns and silvery gray as well. One of our most consistent suppliers of alpaca fleeces has been Sue and Jim King of Skyeview Alpacas in Elkins, New Hampshire.

Photo by Marti Stone

 Skyeview Alpacas is a 40-acre farm located in central New Hampshire, an area prized for its beautiful lakes, forests and mountains. It was the first alpaca farm started in New Hampshire, established in 1992 with the purchase of three alpacas. Sue had developed a love for fiber arts, especially hand spinning, and had raised angora rabbits for a few years before meeting her first alpacas in the late 1980’s.

Jim & Sue King of Skyeview Alpacas

Jim and Sue are serious livestock farmers, but admit the alpacas are “extremely appealing” animals. People tend to fall in love with them as well as their warm soft fiber. Over the years their herd has expanded in diversity and quality and has grown to 130 animals including 26 rare suri aplacas whose fleece is prized for its length and silky sheen. The Kings continue to breed and show their alpacas and supply breeding stock to other farms but also focus on alpacas as fiber animals. The number of alpacas in the United States is still small compared to the numbers in South America. Alpaca yarns have become more prevalent in the marketplace as knitters have learned about the unique qualities of the fiber. Mills that can use and promote American alpaca fiber are important to the future of alpaca farms in New England and around the country.

Photo by Marti Stone

According to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, alpacas were a cherished treasure of the ancient Incan civilization and played a central role in the Incan cultures of the Andean Plateau and mountains of South America.

Alpaca fleece, once reserved for Incan royalty and still treasured in the Andes, is lighter and stronger than wool and comes in 22 natural colors, more than any other animal fiber. Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984. They have grown in popularity due to their calm nature, small size, economical grazing habits and their beautiful fiber, and they are just plain cute!

Each 2ounce (58 gram) skein of Alpaca Elegance has approximately 180 yards (165 meters) of 2-ply DK weight yarn.

Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery

Knitted fabrics created with alpaca yarns are warm and resilient, perfect for sweaters and shawls as well as cozy hats, mitts and socks. Our six natural colors of Alpaca Elegance, Cream, Chai, Cappuccino, Earl Grey, Cocoa and Dark Roast are spun using our chemical and petroleum free GREENSPUN method. Our six heathered colors, Dragonwell, Sencha, Blue Lotus, Ceylon, Hibiscus and Rosehip are “composed” by blending natural colored fawn, black or grey alpaca with dyed fine American wool.

We love to see your creations with our yarns – please share them with other Facebook fans or join our Ravelry group! There is a giveaway for our Ravelry friends for two skeins of Alpaca Elegance yarn and a pattern- entries are welcome until April 18! Fiber friends are sharing their color choices and there are even more cute photos of alpacas!


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!

 

 

 

 

 


Be Our Neighbor!

©Marti Stone

We’re celebrating 30 years of bringing hand-crafters the finest organic and natural fibers yarns.  If you’re new to the Green Mountain Spinnery, we’re glad you found us!  You came along at an exciting time, and we’re thrilled to be able to introduce you to the people who create the yarns you love right here on this blog.

We’ll be sharing many stories in the months to come through our “People in Your Neighborhood” series.  Today, we’d like to introduce (or re-introduce!) you to the history of the Green Mountain Spinnery.

The Spinnery began to take shape in 1975, when Claire Wilson and Libby Mills encountered beautiful skeins of yarns from overseas, the likes of which they hadn’t found stateside.  At the same time, David Ritchie and Diana Wahle were in a study group with Claire that focused on revitalizing rural economies by creating small, local industries.  Over the next six years, these two ideas began to intersect and grow, fueled by a growing Vermont Sheep population and the gas shortage of 1976 (most imported yarns were petroleum-based) – clearly, a locally-made yarn would solve a multitude of problems!  After extensive research and gathering the support of friends and neighbors, the mill store opened for business in 1981 (for more details, you can read the full story in The Green Mountain Spinnery Knitting Book).

Their vision to create a workplace committed to sustainability, the responsible usage of natural resources, and of course, the creation of high-quality yarns, has remained steady over the years.

How does this translate to the yarns you hold in your hand?

  • All of the fibers we use – alpaca, mohair, wool and organic cotton – are grown in the United States; we make every effort to purchase directly from individual growers, and to feature fiber grown in New England
  • Unlike most commercial mills, we do not use chemicals to bleach, mothproof or shrinkproof yarns.
  • Our yarns are carefully created in small quantities using vintage equipment
  • Orders are often shipped in recycled boxes
  • Waste wool is put to many creative uses including home insulation, mulch and oil- spill spill clean up
  • Mill ends are directed to charitable organizations that teach knitting or donate knitted items

Our staff  tends to each and every aspect of production, from initial contact with the fiber grower to the final labeling and approval of each skein of yarn.  The Spinnery founders have always worked collaboratively, making decisions by consensus and often involving the entire staff in this process, but it wasn’t until 2006 that a worker-owned cooperative model (a founding goal) became a reality.

We’ll be introducing you to the people behind the yarns you hold in your hands; look for future installments of the “People in Your Neighborhood” series right here on our blog!

 




Scenes from STITCHES East

We had a great time this past weekend in Hartford CT at STITCHES East. Thanks to all of you who stopped by to chat, show off your projects and to “enhance” your yarn collections. Below are a few of the Spinnery patterns we saw knit up.