The Midwest Festival of Fiber, A Wool Gathering is being held September 21 & 22 at Young’s Jersey Dairy at 6880 Springfield-Xenia Rd in Yellow Springs, OH. There will be fiber artists and fiber animal producers on hand to offer information and demos on the fiber arts. In addition, Abby Franquemont, author of Respect the Spindle, will be leading spindle spinning workshops. Last, but not least, the festival will host a giant 80+ vendor marketplace! Admission to the event is free.
The Finger Lakes Fiber Festival promises to be a wonderful fall fiber extravaganza in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York state. The Sept 21 & 22 event will feature a busy marketplace of over 70 fiber related vendors, lots of demos, classes, competitions and special guest speaker Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka The Yarn Harlot.
The list of free demos includes Spinning Angora, Wool Combing, Charka Spinning, Basket Weaving, Tape Loom Weaving, Silk Reeling, Sheep Shearing, Fleece Skirting, Alpaca Fiber Carding, Great Wheel Spinning, Drop Spindle Spinning, Triangular Loom Weaving, Silk Reeling, Spinning Cotton and that’s not everything. See the website for a complete listing.
Classes can be registered for online or at the festival (if space is available). Most classes are reasonably priced ($20 +-) with a small materials fee.
Today’s interview is with Phylleri Ball, owner of Steam Valley Fiber Farm in Trout Run, Pa. Read about her journey from crocheter to ranch owner, and the wonderful mohair and mohair blends her farm produces.
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?
Steam Valley Fiber Farm was established in Northern Pennsylvania in 1998 with 5 Colored Angora Goats. Fifteen years later the herd size has grown to 80+ head of Angora Goats, Nubian Goats and Border Leicester Sheep. Owner, Phylleri Ball, has been a Fiber Artist for over 30 years, specializing in spinning, dyeing, & rug weaving. Her Mohair roving and hand-dyed yarns are well known on the Sheep & Wool Festival circuit. As a member of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Steam Valley’s goal is to produce fine fleeced animals raised using sustainable farming practices, with fiber processing by regional mills.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the history of your farm? How did you get interested in creating fibers for knitters? How did you come to fiber arts farming? Readers will love to hear your story – so tell it!
I began crocheting 35 years ago and learned to spin and dye wool from my sister who is a weaver and spinner. The same sister sparked my enthusiasm for raising fiber animals by buying me my first Angora rabbit. Later on, she also taught me to weave. While living in Colorado in the 90’s, I began raising Angora goats and loved their personalities and fiber. We moved 5 Angora goats and a truck full of Angora rabbits to Pennsylvania, where I established my fiber business after my first show as a vendor at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in 1998. My Angora goat herd expanded and Border Leicester sheep were added as their wool is perfect for blending with Mohair. I love to play with color, so dyeing fiber and yarn became the focal point of my fiber production. I enjoy the Natural Colored fleeces as well, which has resulted in my Steam Valley line of Mohair yarn in natural shades as well as dyed colors. A typical day on the farm includes a fleece being washed in the basement fiber processing room, dye pots brewing on my porch which serves as a dye studio, amidst barn cleaning or fencing, and feeding livestock.
For the hand spinners & felters , I create dyed locks and Mohair blend rovings. Border Leicester wool is added to our Mohair roving as it provides elasticity in the spun yarn and makes it an easier to spin roving. In addition to Mohair roving in every color of the rainbow, we have sequential colorways that change color in a repeated pattern. For the knitter, crocheter & weaver, we have three lines of yarn. Our Hand-Dyed yarn is dyed on the farm in stunning variegated colorways. Our Mohair yarn is produced from Steam Valley’s Angora Goats, wool from our Border Leicester sheep and additional wool from other Pennsylvania wool growers. The newest fiber product is natural and dyed Corespun Rug Yarn, also know as Big Stitch Yarn. You can knit, crochet and weave with the Corespun Yarn to create rugs, chair pads, bags and baskets. Our Mohair & Corespun yarn is carded and spun by a regional fiber mill, making our Steam Valley yarn completely produced in Pennsylvania.
Do you sell fiber products directly to consumers? How can someone purchase products from your farm or produced by your farm?
Our fiber products are marketed directly to our customers through on farm sales, the local Farmer’s Market, craft shows and Sheep and Wool Festivals. Products can be ordered through our website at steamvalleyfiber.com
Farm visits are welcome my appointment. We offer free one hour tours to see the livestock. Our shop at the farm is open by appointment or whenever you find us at the farm by ringing the big dinner bell next to the house.
Do you have any specialties that you would like the fiber arts community to know about?
My newest passion is Corespun Rug Yarn. You don’t have to own a loom to make a wonderful, durable rug. A pair of fat knitting needles or a large crochet hook can turn the Corespun Rug Yarn into fabulous rugs or chair pads. The thick Corespun yarn is ideal for weaving on the Peg Loom, which is my favorite way of working with Corespun yarn.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Mohair, the fleece of the Angora Goat, is a versatile fiber. Angoras are shorn twice a year as their fleece grows one inch per month. The first two shearings, or clips, are called Kid Mohair as it is the young goat kids who produce the finest and softest of fleeces. Yearling Mohair, the 3rd & 4th shearings of the Angoras, is still incredibly soft but it has more strength than kid Mohair. Fine adult fleeces, from goats up to 5 or 6 years of age, is still excellent fiber for hand spinning and yarn because Mohair’s luster gives dyed fiber an incredible sheen. Coarser Mohair, from older goats has been used for centuries in rugs and upholstery, due to its durability and strength. Hence rug yarn made from the Mohair of mature animals is supreme for rugs, furnishings and other non-clothing uses. Once you meet the adorable, capricious creatures, you can’t help but fall in love with them too.
The 16th Annual California Wool and Fiber Festival, September 13 -15, is host to one of the country’s oldest and largest wool shows, the California National Wool Show, as well as a spinning competition, a bustling fiber marketplace, and sheep shearing and Angora rabbit fiber gathering demonstrations.
The Georgia Alpaca FiberFest, September 13-15, is a fiber celebration intended to educate the fiber artist about the wonders of alpaca through lectures, demonstrations, and a whole host of fiber classes. Additionally, there will be a marketplace of fiber related vendors.
Here is a quick overview of the various classes being offered:
- Knitted Bead Cuff Bracelet with Mimi Kezer
- Wire Knitting with Beads with Mimi Kezer
- Knitting with Beads Sampler with Mimi Kezer
- Enhance and Embellish with Crochet Edgings/Trims with Janet Brani
- Crocheted Sweet Potato Twist Cowl (looks and drapes like knit!) with Janet Brani
The Garden State Sheep Breeders 19th Annual Sheep & Fiber Festival is this weekend at the Hunterdon County Fairgrounds in New Jersey. On tap are all kinds of exhibits, contests and demos including a Breeds Exhibit, Fleece Show, Photography Contest, Sheep Show, Shepherd’s Lead Contest, Skein Contest, Sheep Shearing Demos and Sheep Dog Herding Demos. And if you have ever been curious about spinning your own yarn, the North Country Spinners will be offering free spinning classes every hour for adults on both Saturday and Sunday! In addition to all of these activities, there will be a marketplace with a long list of wonderful fiber related vendors, one of which will be us- YarnPlaces.com! It will be our first booth at a fiber festival, so please stop by and say hello to Mike in Barn 4! He will be selling our T-shirts, demonstrating our iPhone App and talking yarn places.
A new yarn shop, Unwind Knitting, is opening this weekend at 300 N Las Vegas Blvd in Las Vegas, Nevada. Stop by to meet owner Brenda Johannessen, and take advantage of the 20% grand opening discount on yarns. Also on hand will be Wilhelmine Peers is an internationally recognized fiber artist, designer, colorist, and stylist. Shop hours are Mon – Sat: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm and Sun: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm.
See Unwind Knitting’s page on Facebook for a preview of yarns and additional information. Best of luck to Brenda and Unwind Knitting!!
The Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival is a growing fiber festival in northeastern Pennsylvania with demonstrations, fiber animals, workshops, and a marketplace of around forty vendors. Here is a quick overview of what’s on tap for the weekend:
The Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival is one of the largest fiber festivals in the country with over 6000 people attending last year’s event. This year’s festival is Sept 6-8, and promises over 600 sheep, 100 dogs in the Stock dog trials, and over 130 sheep and fiber related vendors. In addition, there will be classes for shepherds, classes for fiber artists, animal competitions, fiber arts competitions, youth activities… just about anything and everything you could want in a sheep and wool festival!