Monday, July 13, 2009

Dyed in the Wool: The Colors of a New England Sheep Farm, by Barbara Parry

MIT Stata CenterOur visit to Boston last week was well-timed – I was there for the monthly Common Cod Fiber Guild meeting. The meeting was on the MIT campus in the Stata Center (see photo), a Gehry building. It looks pretty cool and techno, but I hear it leaks a lot!

July’s guest speaker was Barbara Parry of Foxfire Fiber & Designs at Springdelle Farm (her blog is called Sheep Gal). I first became aware of Barbara’s yarn when Clara Parkes reviewed her Cormo Alpaca Classic yarn back in 2007. I bookmarked her site, thinking I would splurge on some of this yarn next time I wanted to make a really special scarf. She talked about the cycle of life and work on a small sheep farm, I even emailed Barbara about ordering some a couple of months later, but she was out of the color and style I wanted. Clara is right- when this yarn is gone, it’s gone! Barbara doesn’t travel to MDSW, my main fiber festival, so I despaired of ever seeing her yarn in person (short of making Rhinebeck one of these years). So I was really excited to hear her speak in person.

Barbara talked about the cycle of seasons on her farm with special IMG_3831emphasis on how her unique colorways are inspired. Barbara raises a small herd of Cormo sheep in western Massachusetts. And she takes really gorgeous photos. The crowd was riveted by her slideshow. She warmed us up with shots of baby lambs in the springtime (awwwww!). Then she went on to show colors in the landscape that inspired her (beautiful slide after beautiful slide). Finally, she swooped in for the kill: a shot of the resulting handdyed yarn. The audience emitted audible gasps each time she did the big yarn reveal. It was great!

A lot of the photos she shared are in her recently published book, IMG_3927Teach Yourself Visually Hand-Dyeing. I haven’t done much yarn dyeing myself (just the once, really, when Steven and I dyed sock yarn with Kool-Aid), and I didn’t think I was that interested in dyeing. But Barbara made dyeing looking irresistible. I happily stood in line to buy the book and have it signed. She also brought some of her delectable yarns with her – don’t you just want to scoop them up and hold them all at once? I couldn’t resist a couple of skeins of Cormo Silk Alpaca (55% Fine Cormo Wool, 25% Bombyx Silk, 20% Prime Alpaca, 2-ply DK, 190 yards) in color “Juniper.” Next time I get that scarf urge, I’ll be prepared.

And … you just might find me trying solar dyeing in a mason jar. Just like making sun tea, right? I still have some bare hanks of sock yarn that are way too white…


  1. Glad you enjoyed the meeting! She is such a passionate, sincere person that her love for dyeing definitely inspired us all!

    Hope to have you with us at another meeting or perhaps at FiberCamp in January, 2010!

  2. Is this the woman with the "Sheep Gal" blog? I could look at her pictures of cute little lambs, sheep, and llamas all day! Sounds like you had an awesome time