Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Local Fiber

Some of you know that I've "gone local" during the past couple of years. I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in June 2007 and changed my food purchasing habits. I was kind of on that trajectory already (CSA membership), but the book mobilized me to make more drastic changes.

While perusing a local foods network guide for Adams County, PA, I found a place called Creekside Sheep & Wool in nearby Littlestown. It was listed because of the meat for sale, but of course I looked it up because of the wool (heck, I'm a vegetarian). Now that I'm learning to spin, I can explore local sources of fiber! The Creekside sheep are a cross between Dorset and Rambouillet. This meant very little to me - as a knitter, these are not breeds that I recognize. But a quick trip over to The Joy of Handspinning told me that both breeds produce short-stapled fiber that is difficult for beginners to spin. I will have to put this fiber in my queue, I think.

An alpaca farmer from Quarry Critters (also in Littlestown) has had a booth at our farmer's market this summer. She sells both fiber and yarn (handspun and millspun), as well as items made from alpaca fiber. She usually has her spinning wheel at the booth and loves to show people what she's doing. I talked with her early in the summer about my desire to learn to spin. She said that alpaca isn't a beginner's fiber (everyone else I consulted agreed), but I'll be going back to her for some fiber at some point.

I started looking for other nearby sources of handspinning fiber and ran across the website for Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival, which I'd never heard of before. Turns out it's in Harford, which is north of Scranton and therefore not very local to me. Still, I went through their vendor list and found some promising farms, such as Aboundingful Farm in Palmyra (about 55 miles from Gettysburg) and Steam Valley Fiber in Trout Run (closer to 150 miles away, but they have an enticing mail order catalog). I need to comb through that vendor list some more.

Some of you have asked how the spinning lesson went earlier this week. It was postponed due to a death in my teacher's family. We will reschedule it. In the meantime, my long-awaited spinning class at The Mannings is now upon us... it is this Saturday, all day long. Here is the course description:
Our one day beginning class covers the different types of wools and their uses for different styles of yarn. Students use our spinning wheels and equipment, or bring their own if they have one. Each person is taught the process of washing raw wool, how to prepare worsted and woolen yarns using wool combs and hand carders, as well as how to operate a drum carder. After you have spun a sufficient amount of singles yarn, you learn how to ply them together to make suitable yarns for knitting or weaving.

I can't wait!!! My teacher, Gail, knows all about this class, and she intentionally skipped fiber preparation with me because she knows that Thomas (The Mannings spinning instructor) will cover it. That will be fun. Also, I intend to try every spinning wheel that I can in preparation for making a choice of my own wheel. I have a birthday coming up in not too long ... it just might be a very spinny birthday this year.

In knitting news, progress continues on the Slow Burn Hat. I'm almost done with the cuff/brim portion (I think of it as a cuff because of all my sock knitting, I guess) and am about ready to move into the stockinette portion. I have a promising meeting at work tomorrow and hope to motor along on the hat then.


  1. I'm first!

    Great post on fiber.

    As we've discussed, people define "local" in many different ways. What is your definition? Do you have a mile or "time in car" metric you use?

    Keep chugging on the hat.

  2. Hah. Was the "combing through the catalog" remark supposed to be a pun? It made me giggle.

    I'm really excited about your spinning class. I know you'll do well -- we want to hear all about it!