The Fibershed Knitalong is a collaborative endeavor that will support us all growing closer to the land that shelters us. It is an invitation to deepen your understanding of your region through connecting with local fiber producers and creating a regionally grown garment with your own two hands. Here, we asked a few Fibershed members and supporters to share a few words on connecting with their fibershed through the act of knitting.
Are you interested in ‘knitting along’ with us? Keep reading for inspiration from our Roundtable of knitters, and for a list of resources from participating Fibershed members and Affiliate groups. Find the pattern and sign-up information here, and share with us on social media by adding #FibershedKAL to your captions.
To celebrate this community effort, each week we will highlight Knitalong projects that have been shared (posted) on social media sites with the hashtag #FibershedKAL. If your project is selected, you will receive one of the prizes donated by our wonderful Fibershed producers! Prizes include finished goods and yarn from the Fibershed Marketplace, natural dye seeds, and more. Be sure to follow Fibershed on Facebook and @Fibershed_ on Instagram for updates and prize information.
Photography by Paige Green except where noted.
Northern California Roundtable Knitters
Fiber Producer partner: Mary Pettis-Sarley, Twirl Yarn
Justine in Santa Rosa, Cast Away & Folk
Photograph c/o Cast Away & Folk
I love knitting simple stitches in unusual shapes. I have dabbled in lace, cables & colorwork, but always go back to plain stockinette and garter stitches and have my fun creating new shapes and different ways of wearing classic accessories. I love knitting with Mary’s yarn line Twirl because of how beautiful it is, but also because it is straight from her heart and hands. And straight from her amazing animals and land. Each label tells a story of which animal the yarn came from and the source of the dye for the plant dyed yarns. It means the pieces we knit have a story that predates when we chose it from the shelf- it had a life before us and it was an authentic rich one! It’s difficult at times as a shop owner to source 100% local products- often times the yarn is dyed locally, but the fiber is sourced from another state or country. We are so lucky to have Twirl yarn in our area and I hope to sell local yarns from other growers.
I am using Twirl Ditto for my knitalong shawl. I just started carrying this yarn in the shop and have been itching to use it in a new project, so the timing couldn’t be better for this knitalong! I love the color I chose- it’s an rich mandarin orange- almost red. I love wearing that color, especially since as a child I was always told that redheads should never wear red! Once I realized that I look good in red in my 20’s I have always loved red, especially orangey reds. I have this color in Mary’s other yarn that we sell, Petals, and as soon as I found out about the Fibershed KAL I emailed Mary at Twirl and asked her to dye me some Ditto in the same color! Ditto is a 2 ply blend of wool, alpaca & mohair. It’s a fingering/sport but I love it knit up on a size 6 or 7 needle. The yarn comes from Mary’s 2000 acre ranch in Napa. I have visited her property a few times and it’s always a treat. My son loves animals so much so we went together last time and she named a baby goat after him! I can’t wait to get some yarn made from Griffin the goat!
Diane Dias in San Francisco, ImagiKnit
As a knitter, it’s great to see the source of the yarn. I love that within 30 miles either north, south or east of San Francisco, there are an abundance of farms with sheep, alpaca and goats. I chose to use Twirl Yarn — specifically Petals, an angora, wool and alpaca blend. The colors are Earl Grey Sukumo, Sea of Bella Nova and Cromwell on Earl Grey. We love Mary’s yarn!
Twirl Yarn continues to be a staff and store favorite. It’s the colors and the touch that first draws you in. Then you start seeing little details that you just don’t see in any other yarns. We especially love the care and attention to detail that Mary puts into her yarn. She brings us the yarn beautifully wrapped in the cutest flats. The yarns labels give a little story about the animals that produced the yarn. The yarn is in little cakes so you can start working with it right away (no need to wind!). The yarn smells good too! We had an opportunity to take an ImagiKnit Field Trip to Twirl Farm this past fall and it was amazing! We spent the day with Mary and had a chance to meet her animals, wander the farm and dye some yarn. We even had an opportunity to see cria being bottle fed! You can see the love and joy that Mary has in her work and it’s contagious! It was a truly special experience and this makes Twirl Yarn special.
Shelli in Petaluma, Knitterly
What interests me about Fibershed is its passion about using what natural resources we have in our 150 mile radius. I was a landscaper and Master Gardener before I opened Knitterly, so I know about soil… magical, it’s where it all begins. Healthy soil is essential to a healthy existence. Fibershed starts at the soil level and works its way into our knitting bags by supporting local farmers/ranchers who provide healthy soil, foods, and love to their animals. They in turn provide us with amazing fibers to work through our fingers and make into wearable, functional, fabric that is natural, & made with love from soil to shawl.
I personally am always inspired by nature. Good old Mother Nature serves up such color combinations & textures that I’m never bored or tired of its beauty. I often copy nature’s color combinations when deciding what will go into my shawls and sweaters— like that big grey rock with its amazing spots of lichen or the bark on the tree with the Spanish moss moving in the breeze like fringe. There is so much inspiration to be seen out there: go for a hike or walk every chance you get; it’s full of magic just waiting to inspire your next project. I am working with Twirl yarn. I love Twirl with all my heart. The story is all true, Mary is incredible and her yarn reflects it! I am also working with Radius— a yarn we created here at Knitterly. The name was inspired by Fibershed. We collected fibers from local farmers and washed it (soooo much work) then sent it to local mills to be made into yarn. I am working with the Radius Alpaca, and it is so yummy I wish I had a mattress made out of it! We make small batches of Radius and it’s always a love at first sight when I see the finished product.
Kristine Vejar in Oakland, A Verb for Keeping Warm, with notes on knitting in local color
I like to knit nearly anything and everything – from lace shawls to simple garter stitch scarves to sweaters thick with cables. I like to knit using yarn from my local fibershed because I love supporting local farmers. I enjoy knowing that the land used to raise the sheep and the sheep growing the wool I use are treated well. I live in Oakland which is very urban. By visiting the farm and supporting the farm, it gives me a connection to agriculture and reminds me of the hard work which goes into farming. Like Wendell Berry says in What are People For? “The field must remember the forest, the town must remember the field, so that the wheel of life will turn…”.
At A Verb for Keeping Warm, we have set the challenge to make yarn from California-grown wool. Most of our clients at Verb like wool on the softer side of the spectrum. The challenge for us has been finding farmers whose wool is soft enough, affordable, and a great enough quantity to warrant the labor intensive process of having it milled and to naturally dye it when it comes back from the mill. All of this said, there is a great opportunity for creativity in designing yarn when faced with challenges. When sourcing local wool, it is as much about building personal relationships as it is about purchasing the wool – maybe even more 😉 Another challenge we set for ourselves is to make the entire rainbow of color from local dyes.
Last year we accomplished this goal – by using sukumo (indigo) sourced from Fibershed, and growing our own madder and marigolds. We have two lines of yarn which would work great for this design: Range and Pioneer. Range is made from Rambouillet (a cousin of Merino, the wool is soft, yet very springy) from Lani Estill’s ranch, which straddles the California and Nevada state line. Throughout the year, we grow dye plants, and mill local wool into yarn. Then, in the Fall, we launch a collection of yarn made with local wool and dyed with local plants. Range, dyed in a variety of colors, is this year’s interpretation of sun, soil, and wool. Some of the plants included are eucalyptus, oak galls, marigolds, and madder. It is also available in two natural colors: white and silver.
We just received a new shipment of Pioneer. This was our first California wool line of yarn and is still very close to my heart. I love the woolly texture – and the smell! That’s not too weird I hope! Right now, we have 4 natural colors: white (Lighthouse), light brown (Horse’s Mane), medium brown (Tree Fort), and dark brown (Grizzly Peak). Pioneer is made from organic Merino and is raised by farmer Sally Fox. Sally is a cotton breeder and has worked to create a bio-dynamic farm. Her sheep graze and fertilize the ground where she grows cotton and wheat. I really honor how her farm is dedicated to the growth and cultivation of textile bound materials.
Both of these yarns are DK weight – and knit at about 5 stitches per inch – or 4 stitches per inch if you would like a bit of drape.
Farther Afield Roundtable Knitters & Farmers
Kathy Cadigan in Carnation, Washington, with Snoqualmie Valley Yarn
Photography by and c/o Kathy Cadigan
I live just outside of Seattle near the Snoqualmie Valley. For the majority of my knitting career, I used commercial yarns and really had no understanding of how, where, or from what fiber sources my knitting materials were produced. I was first introduced to the fibershed in our area shortly after Anna and Greg Dianich opened Tolt Yarn and Wool. Anna’s passion for sourcing and educating her customers to the benefits of knitting with local wool is directly responsible for my gaining a love and appreciation for local yarn as well as the land, animals and passionate people connected to it.
I am using Snoqualmie Valley Yarn, not only because it’s a beautiful yarn but because I think the story behind its development by Anna in collaboration with Jeff and Katya Rogers of Aspen Hollow Sheep Farm is an inspiring one.
In the months leading up to the opening of Tolt Yarn and Wool, Anna kept seeing the same flocks of sheep grazing in fields throughout the valley but never knew who they belonged to. One day as she was driving, she caught sight of a man and a Border Collie working on fences. She pulled over and introduced herself to Jeff. As they talked, she learned all about his BFL/Clun Forest Cross sheep and his pasture management. Anna was so impressed with the way Jeff and Katya raise their sheep as well as care for the land that they graze on, she knew they had to work together to make something beautiful from the wool of those happy sheep— and the rest is history! Snoqualmie Valley yarn has a beautiful, bouncy character that reminds me so much of the sheep it comes from. And I love that the yarn smells so wonderfully of lanolin, takes me right back to shearing days in the valley. I’ve chosen dark gray Sumac-dyed skeins because the color reminds me of the rich soil in the valley. Dye plants for the yarn have been lovingly grown, harvested and dyed by Emily Tzeng and Tatyana Vashchenko of Local Color Fiber Studio on nearby Bainbridge Island.
+ Follow @Kathycad for Knitalong and other updates
Ani Lee in Hobart, Tasmania, with White Gum Wool from Australia
Photography c/o Ani Lee; portrait by Natalie Mendham, sheep via White Gum Wool
As a knitter and fibre arts educator, I aim to hold space – physically and virtually – to foster community connection through craft. A California native living in Tasmania, I run the Close Knit Podcast, which exists to connect, showcase, and empower fibre artists and fibre producers from around the world. As I’ve become a more proficient knitter, and delved deeper into the fibre community, I’ve become particularly interested in sourcing materials as transparently as possible – this has meant undertaking extensive research, talking to fellow knitters and producers, and learning about the history of wool and fibre production in my current home of Australia. This process has been remarkably challenging, as most wool and fibre production in Australia has moved overseas (completely or partly). I am constantly humbled by the whole process of taking fleece and producing wool, and whilst this journey has been difficult and sometimes frustrating, it’s ultimately helped me to value the time, love and effort of the fibre producers who are working to create transparent supply chains.
When it comes to using a local wool (wool is my preferred fibre) in Tasmania, you’d expect this to be a no-brainer (there are more sheep than humans here), but it is so much more complex than that. I decided to use White Gum Wool (WGW) for this project, for a number of reasons. From a logistical standpoint, I don’t know of any locally-produced yarn (short of buying fleece from Nan at WGW and spinning it myself or enlisting someone from the hanspinner’s guild to spin it – and given the time frame, this doesn’t seem feasible).
WGW is superfine merino that originates in the midlands of Tasmania (Oatlands) – this is 85km from my house in Hobart. I have the pleasure of knowing Nan on a personal basis, and have spent time on the farm. It’s a beautiful place – and I know the sheep are well-kept, because I have seen the meticulous precision, love, and passion that go into Nan’s work. It is processed in New Zealand, for the sad and simple fact that no one in Australia would process Nan’s fleece into wool. This, though, is much better than nearly all other wool produced “in Australia”, which usually is sent to China to be scoured (and often coated in plastic to be made “superwash”).
Ultimately, WGW is as close to local as I can get – the sheep live very close to my home, the wool is processed not too far away (too far being a relative term, given the alternatives) and it has been minimally processed – no superwash coating, etc. I am using the undyed yarn, and plan to use madder root, grown locally in someone’s backyard that I bought at my local Handweavers, spinners and dyers guild.
Resources to Join the Knitalong
If you’re in Northern California:
- Take a look through our Producer Directory and/or Wool and Fine Fiber Book to connect directly with regionally-raised fiber.
- Shop at one of the Fibershed retail member knitting shops:
- Check out the Fibershed Marketplace pop-up at the Healdsburg SHED on December 11th
If your strategic geography falls within:
- Kaw Point Fibershed – (150 mi of Kansas City, Missouri) contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fibershed de Lage Landen – (400 km of Axel, Netherlands), click here for a list of resources provided by organizer Mieke de Bruijn
- Fibershed of the Greater Northwest – (300 mi of Seattle, WA) contact email@example.com
- Greater London Fibreshed – contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Melbourne Fibreshed – contact organizer Rachel Bucknall, or Nicki from the One Year One Outfit project; follow along on the Facebook page, and check out this list of fiber resources
- Mountains & Plains Fibershed – (300 mi of Golden, Colorado) contact email@example.com
- Pacific Northwest Fibershed – (300 mi of Portland, Oregon) check out some local producer stories
- San Diego Fibershed – connect with the San Diego Fibershed Facebook group
- Three Rivers Fibershed – (175 mi of Minneapolis, Minnesota) contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Upper Canada Fibreshed (250 mi of Toronto, Canada) – connect with local fiber through the producer directory, and join organizers Jennifer and Becky on Facebook
We hope this roundtable of tales from the landscape and from the hands of passionate local knitters inspires you to discover and support regional fiber production. If you’re ready to join the Knitalong, find the pattern and sign-up information here, and share with us on social media using #FibershedKAL