My first stop on the journey of exploring local yarn is Knoll Farm in Fayson, Vermont.
Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow purchased Knoll Farm in 2001.
They began with a flock of sheep; planted gardens and a field of blueberries; revived old apple trees and tired pastures; built a bread oven, workshop, bath house with living roof, and small yurts for outhouses and meeting spaces. They pulled out old barbed wire and re-dug springs, installed solar panels and converted their energy to wood. They started a learning center, Center for Whole Communities, that is now a nonprofit leadership center for land and people with programs all over the country.
Knoll Farm raises 100% purebred Icelandic sheep. They sell their raw fleeces as well as spun. They spin and dye some by at at their farm in micro-bathes, and the rest they have spun at Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont or Morningstar Fiber in Ohio, where they specialize in Icelandic, which is a dual-coated fleece with a very long staple.
A little about the Icelandic Sheep Breed -
Very few Icelandic sheep have been cross-bred or exported from Iceland since Viking settlers brought the breed there nearly 1,100 years ago, making Icelandic sheep one of the purest breeds in the world. Renowned for their exceptional fleece (which is marketed in this country as Lopi yarn), and “gourmet” meat, Icelandics are an excellent all-around breed that is becoming increasingly popular around the US.
Icelandics range in color from white to blue-gray to deep brown to black, spotted and mouflon. Other desirable traits include easy births, common multiple births, excellent mothers, highly alert and curious dispositions, fast growth, delicious meat, naturally docked tails, and hardiness.
For more about Icelandic sheep, visit the Icelandic Sheep Breeders website.
I purchased two skeins of their Cloud Yarn which is a double-ply yarn spun at Green Mountain Spinnery, and comes in 4 oz. skeins (approx 225 yards). Definitely coarser than their lambswool but knits up very well for any garment not worn next to the skin.
I decided that a Plain Vest, in size 12 months, would work well with this yarn, providing warmth for a baby while not being directly on their skin. I love the almost delicate look of the natural color and thoroughly enjoyed knitting with it. I did not find it coarse to the touch but only a little itchy if held to my cheeks. It is such a joy to think that the yarn comes from a small farm right here in Vermont and that the finished vest will provide warmth for a young child, not to mention will look adorable.
I love the idea of supporting others in their quest to make a life, not just a living - and that is exactly what Helen and Peter are doing at Knoll Farm.