Thursday, February 5, 2015

A New England Yarn Journey :: Knoll Farm

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.


  1. Thank you for introducing me to Knoll Farm. Love your Plain Vest...what a great idea to add the granny square pockets.

  2. what a wonderful story....i had no idea that we had icelandic sheep here in the states. i have so much to learn!!!

  3. What a meaningful project you've undertaken. I look forward to seeing all of your finds.

  4. Gosh I would love to visit Knoll Farm. It's very difficult to get good yarn here without ordering it on line.
    I knit up one of your gnome patterns yesterday, it is so cute. Thanks for sharing for free! I'm going to make a set of different colors for my cousin's little boy who is waiting patiently for his little brother/sister to 'arrive'.
    Keep warm.

  5. Thanks for the tour! The vest is adorable!

  6. That vest is too cute. Love the story of knoll farm. Thanks for sharing.
    Enjoy your weekend!

  7. What a fun trip! I am fascinated by small yarn businesses. The creativity and knowledge is impressive! I am enjoying "travelling" with you!

  8. Tonya, I think it is just wonderful what you are doing to support local farms and businesses! Hooray to people like you who buy local in all its shapes and forms! When I started my own fibre flock last summer, I almost decided on Icelandic. They are big around here, too. But I opted for merinos instead. I am so looking forward to shearing soon! And your wee little vest is perfect! Those pockets are just wonderful, clever you! Hope you are all doing well over there!
    xo Jules

  9. What great information in this post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. What an incredible place to be able to support, and to have near by. The vest is just lovely, and I love the addition of the pockets.

  11. The vest you knit looks so sweet. And how wonderful to support a local farmer. I've heard good things about Icelandic sheep and their wool. I'll have to add some yarn from Knoll Farm to my wishlist!

  12. The little vest is adorable. Gorgeous pictures of the sheep too. :-)