On Thursday and Friday, I took the kids for an overnight visit with my friend Stephanie, who is currently staying with her parents at their home in a very rural part of southern Wisconsin. The other day I wrote a post about that visit with plenty of pictures on Madtown Mama; if you want to read about that, click here. Before we even got to Stephanie's place, we stopped in the small town of Blanchardville and met at the River Valley Trading Co. It's a very nice, very eclectic little shop, selling used books, antiques, handmade pottery, jewelry and other usable art, hand knit hats, organic groceries, and local yarn. I met Linda of Hillsprings Farm. Linda is a small, vivacious, chatty lady who obviously loves her sheep, the wool from which was for sale at River Valley. It was lovely wool: natural, crunchy without being scratchy, organically raised and beautifully colored (undyed). I really wanted to buy some, but it was fairly pricey and one skein just wasn't going to do it for me. I have plenty of hats already, and once the holiday knitting is done, I really want to make some more sweaters. Let me say here that local organic yarn is expensive for lots of good reasons, considering the cost of raising the sheep and sending the wool out to be processed and milled...but I just couldn't justify it.
I did not leave empty-handed, however. My first find was a vintage pattern book, a collection of sweater patterns published in Woman's Day magazine in 1973. It cost all of fifteen cents. Historical interest would have been reason enough for me to buy it, but believe it or not, there are actually a couple of nice patterns in there. I'm often on the lookout for patterns off the beaten path, especially vintage ones, so this was a no-brainer.
Secondly, I did buy yarn, just not from Linda's sheep. This is a single skein of fingering weight wool dyed a pleasant pale blue. Can you see the label? It reads, "Spun from the wool of contented sheep pastured in the hills of SW Wisconsin."
This skein has 240 yards, plenty for a Pretty Thing (that's a Rav link).
Apparently, our little jaunt to the boonies earlier this week didn't satisfy my need to experience local agriculture. Also, we ran out of apples yesterday. So this afternoon, the whole family drove out to Door Creek Orchard to load up on the last fruits of the season and enjoy the scenery. It was a gorgeous, mild day, and we spent over an hour wandering around the pond/wetland area nature trails and watching the sheep. They have a small herd of Black Welsh something-or-other, which is actually a rare breed in North America, though more common in England, Scotland and Ireland. We fed grass to the sweet young ram lambs, whose gentle demeanor, dark fleece and beautiful curving horns utterly charmed all of us. (I am really kicking myself that I didn't bring the camera along, by the way.)
The orchard's owners raise sheep mostly for pleasure, as it is nearly impossible to make an actual profit selling them for meat, let alone wool. Still, they have the wool processed into yarn, which is displayed for sale in a modest antique cupboard in the shop. After visiting those rare, beautiful, charming sheep, I walked right back into that shop and bought enough yarn made from the wool on their backs (or, more accurately, their mothers' backs, since these particular animals were spring lambs who have yet to be sheared) to make a sweater. The wool is black, rugged, and a little primitive like the animals it came from.
Remember this yarn, from last month's apple-picking visit? Clearly, I have very little self-control. At least I have enough to wait until I'm done with Christmas knitting to let myself swatch the new stuff.
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