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April 2013

The Grandaddy of Sheep Shows: The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

marsheepandwoolfestWell, this is exciting. There is a HUGE sheep and wool festival happening this weekend and I am going! My first wool festival!! I know, I go on and on about alpacas, and this is about sheep, but I love sheep as well, and this sounds like it’s going to be quite the show. The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is the largest and longest running wool festival in the US.

This year, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is expecting over 1000 sheep, and tens of thousands of people- possibly as many as 80,000! In the marketplace, 250 venders will be selling everything sheep from finished apparel to yarn to roving to lamb meat.

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All Things Alpaca at the Great Western Alpaca Show & Denver Fiber Fiesta

greatwesternalpacashowGit ready for the biggest regional alpaca show west of the Mississippi! The 11th Annual Great Western Alpaca Show is on tap this weekend in Denver, Colorado. Last year, breeders from 220 farms brought  alpacas from 26 states, which made for over 1,000 alpacas. That’s a lot of alpacas!! And not only that, but the Denver Fiber Fiesta, with fiber demonstrations and vendors galore, is being held in conjunction with the alpaca show. So, farm girl or city girl, there promises to be something for everyone.

For the farm girl (or the farm girl within the city girl), breeders will be showing alpacas in three rings at the Great Western Alpaca Show. One ring will showcase Suri alpacas, one Huacaya females and one Huacaya males. If you don’t know difference, Huacaya alpacas, have the soft fluffy fleece and look like your toddler’s stuffed animal, while Suri have long silky fleece and look slightly Rastafarian. In addition to the usual halter show, performance show and fleece show, there will be alpaca photography competition (alpacas are so photogenic!!), a fiber arts competition, and a handcrafter’s spinoff.

Meanwhile, upstairs at the venue, vendors will be selling all things alpaca at the Denver Fiber Fiesta. Continue reading “All Things Alpaca at the Great Western Alpaca Show & Denver Fiber Fiesta” »

The CSA Movement Goes Fiber: Buying a Share of the Shearing

kindred  spirit farm csa

Materials from Kindred Spirit Farm, Spring Valley, MN

So in my last few posts, I’ve been talking about my longing to connect with the animal behind the yarn. I’ve been researching alpaca shows, shearing festivals and farm tours as ways to do this. I’ve found lots of wonderful events along the way, but the events come and go, and my longing for alpaca continues. Well, yesterday, I came across something that may just provide city and suburban dwellers like myself a more permanent fix–participation in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) fiber farm.

Many of you are probably familiar with the CSA movement in food. Typically, a farmer offers “shares” in his harvest in the late winter or early spring. The money raised through the sale of shares helps the farmer plant, cultivate and harvest his crop. Once the crops are harvested, the shareholder is given a share of the produce. For the consumer, it is a way to eat fresh and local, and to support area farmers. There are over 600 CSAs in the US .

Recently, the CSA movement has begun to take hold with fiber farmers. It works on the same principle. Shares are offered prior to spring or fall shearing. After the shearing or “clip”, share holders receive a portion of the fiber- either in its raw form, or as processed batts, roving, or yarn.  Additional perks often involve an invitation to shearing day, family farm visits, and the opportunity to help out on the farm.

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Yarnover 2013- A Cut Above

There is a wonderful day of learning on tap this Saturday, April 27 in the Minneapolis area. Yarnover, sponsored by the Minnesota Knitter’s Guild, is a day-long series of workshops with some of the biggest names in the business: Drew Emborsky (the Crochet Dude), Stephanie Pearl-McPhee ( The Yarn Harlot), Annie Modesitt (author of 8 books), to name a few. Just perusing the brochure, I found five or six classes I would love to take and discovered many things I didn’t know.

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3 Kittens Needle Art Yarn Shop, Mendota Heights, Minnesota

3kittens-photo3Today’s featured place is 3 Kittens Needle Art in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Our interview is with owner Laura Rasmussen.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your shop?

3 Kittens Needle Arts is one of the oldest yarn stores in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. We sell yarn, needles, buttons (we’re known for our button wall), patterns/books, needlepoint canvases and threads. In addition, we offer classes in knitting, crochet and needlepoint, and we have finishing services for all three as well. We are located just south of St. Paul within 5 minutes of the airport.

2. How would you describe the atmosphere of the shop?

Our store is friendly and well-organized. We cater to knitter who likes Modern Classics.3kittens-photo2

3. How long have you been in business? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to open a yarn shop?

The store has been around for 35+ years. My business partner, Julie, and I bought the store 5 years ago. Julie worked at the store while it was under the previous ownership. Julie was the needlepoint specialist. I have been knitting since 1983 and have taught classes for both the Minnesota Knitters Guild and another yarn store in the Twin Cities. Julie and I happen to have children the same ages who attended school together, so we’ve known each other for quite awhile. When Julie heard that the previous owner was interested in selling the store, she asked me if I would be interested in buying it with her. Six months later, we owned it!

4. Which yarns do you carry? Traditional yarns? Exotic or unusual yarns? Novelty yarns? Local farm yarns? Eco-friendly yarns?

We try to carry a variety of yarns, although I will say that the majority of our yarns are “traditional”, workhorse yarns. We have organic yarns in each weight category, plus we carry some unusual or exotic fibers – yak, qiviut, camel, bamboo, soy, etc. We have a few novelty yarns, but we are not known for our novelty yarn selection. In addition, we try to carry some small, independent hand-dyed yarns – for instance, Land O’ Lace, Sweet Georgia, Flock Sock – mostly in the lace and sock weights.

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The Washington County Fiber Tour Mapped

sheep1OK, so my obsession with alpacas, and fiber animals in general, just keeps growing. Check out this cool event in upstate New York this weekend, April 27 and 28: the Washington County Fiber Tour. It’s like a yarn crawl of fiber farms.  Visitors will get to see and interact (!!) with all kinds of fiber animals including cashmere and angora goats, angora rabbits, sheep, and alpacas on this seventeen farm tour. Not only that, but there will be lots of babies and young’ns! Farms will offer shearing, spinning and weaving demonstrations. Yarns, rovings, woven and knitted items will be available for sale.

Mike (my husband the map lover) has set up a really cool interactive map with information about the farms on the tour for your use.

The Great Midwest Alpaca!

ALPACA10So I was looking at what was on tap for this weekend (April 27 and April 28), and I became entranced by the Great Midwest Alpaca. I don’t know why. It was something about how the festival seems to integrate everything from farm animals to knitting in one venue. As a knitter, I am naturally curious as to where all my gorgeous yarns come from. But I think it goes beyond that- I feel dissociated from my roots somehow. I mean I have never even felt a live alpaca ( what a city girl!), although I have knitted plenty of alpaca yarn.  I have heard their fleece is surprisingly soft and airy. I have read that they come in 22 natural colors. Beyond that, I think that they are simply adorable! And regal. I mean look at the photos!! Unfortunately, a trip to Madison, Wisconsin  is not in my future, but it may be in yours, so here’s what I’ve learned about the Great Midwest Alpaca Festival(from a novice/ city girl’s perspective).ALPACA4

I’ll start with the animals and the breeders. The alpaca breeder can participate in three events:  a Herd Sire showcase, halter show, and fleece show. Now I am going to translate a bit here for my city friends, because although these events are intended for breeders, I think they might also prove fascinating for your average knitter or fiber enthusiast:

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DC Area Metro Yarn Crawl Kicks off Saturday, April 20

metro-yarn-crawlThe Metro Yarn Crawl kicks off in the Washington, DC area this Saturday. The nine day crawl (April 20-28) includes ten LYSs and stretches from Glen Burnie, MD in the north to Alexandria, VA in the south. All participating shops will be offering 20% off full priced yarns, fiber, books and patterns (nice discount!). In addition, each shop will raffle off a prize valued at over $100.

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Fiber and Wool Festivals for the Weekend of April 19-21

SpinningCarding

The Chancellor’s Sheep and Wool Showcase in Germantown, NY

Spring is in full swing (at least, for most of us) and so are the Fiber Festivals. This weekend, we have six interesting, and very different festivals on tap:

The Yellow Rose Fiber Producers Fiesta, Seguin, TX

Friday, April 19, 2013 Fri: 11-6pm; Sat: 9-5pm; Sun: 10-3pm

The Yellow Rose Fiber Festival consists of a marketplace and classes. Over thirty  classes will be offered, including felting, lace making, embroidery, dyeing, knitting, embroidery, and button making. Also includes a skein competition.

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Noble Alpaca Farm, Sheguiandah, Manitoulin Island, ON

noble_farm1Today we are featuring our first fiber farm- Noble Alpaca Farm on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Canada. Our interview is with the owner.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your farm related to fiber arts? The type of animals and number of animals? Is there anything that makes your farm different from other farms?

At the Noble Alpaca Farm, we raise Alpacas for their luxurious fleece. We also raise Guardian Llamas for their protective capabilities.

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