Studio Yarn Project #1: Under Whiteface with Blue Pepper Fleeces

Skirting Under Whiteface at Blue Pepper

Working with the various local wools has been amazing. So many different textures and language is inadequate to convey the subtle qualities of a finely spun wool in a well woven fabric. I’d been working with local wools from Battenkill Fiber Mill in Greenwich NY but only by happenstance, as yarns suitable for weaving became available in their retail shop. Each of the breed wools, variously spun, felt distinct in the hand, required different handling on the loom and in the finishing bath. But there are drawbacks to working in small batches with distinct yarns: any new yarn requires multiple rounds of sampling before a reliable product can be delivered and that requires time. I needed a base yarn that I could return to time after time for multiple projects. Blue Pepper Farm in Jay NY came to the rescue.

Blue Pepper Fabric on the loom at Lilly Marsh Studios

Blue Pepper is a high peaks, native grass-based farm, producing meat, fiber, yogurt and eggs, while paying close attention to their animals’ welfare and to the long term climate change effects of their farming practices. I met Shannon when Mary Jeanne asked me to give her a hand skirting her fleeces, preparatory to spinning them into a lovely wool-alpaca blend for Blue Pepper retail sales. We spent a brilliant, sunny, chilly day in early April of 2017 handling the raw fleeces, and visiting local alpaca farmers. Blue Pepper’s farm yard has an incredible view of White Face, 5th highest peak in New York and it was especially gorgeous that day. I loved having my hands, and nose, in the grease wool again. What can I say… when you love wool, you LOVE WOOL. Besides commissioning knitting yarn, Shannon also wanted a little sewing yardage for her own use, and, months after that day under White Face, I wove several yards of a really lovely fabric suitable for garments from her fiber. I was totally surprised at the drape of the East Friesian-Alpaca blend, its soft hand but strength under the softness. It felt like an outstanding tailoring fabric. Shannon’s fiber management and Battenkill Fiber Mill’s expert blend and spinning had produced what felt like a wonder cloth to me. When Shannon let me know that her entire 2018 clip was up for sale, I took a deep breath and bought all 133 lbs. of her fleece, and the Studio Yarn Project was ON!

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