It rained today. All day. No, it down poured, thundered and lightninged , the wind blew giant gusts that popped leaves and branches off the trees and dropped them all over my yard and into my weedy garden. My summer is over. Even with the humid temperatures that have plagued us for the past few days. I know it’s coming. My favorite season.
With no lambs this spring ( though a bit of sadness in my heart without the little bouncing balls of joy ) to consume my time fussing, holding, kissing and smelling their little wonderfulness, I placed my energy into several creative buckets that are always in need of filling. What the heck does she mean by that you ask? Well, I envision my daily tasks as bright yellow pails, categorized into each portion of running this business. One might be designing labels, packaging, banners or brochures. One might be a pattern that sits on my brain with it’s arms crossed, eyes rolled up to the sky, impatiently waiting for me to finish. One might be blogging ( yes I know I’m lazy when it comes to writing ), sharing, deadlines that need to be met, paperwork, bookkeeping ( yuck!) … you get the idea. But the fullest bucket was the one that holds my booth designs and travel plans as the show season began.
When my kids were small and needed me home more, I focused on my business being as “home-based” as possible, but times are changing and though they need me in other ways, I am finding it easier to be gone more to grow and expand my visions. Luckily my years of teaching them independence are paying off. So the question now becomes where to best expend my energy ….
Spring shows were so-so … well for sales, but I am a believer in the glass is always half-full, and the people I have spent my days with have made it all worth while. There was Katie and her husband Ed from End of the World Farm -lots of laughing and sharing good ideas with them. At night I had dinner and Carol and Maggie, “friends ” that I have only know through phone conversations and e-mails for the past 5 years. Both traveled from California to New Hampshire to speak about Maggie’s book covering color genetics in Romneys. Finally putting faces to voices was WONDERFUL!!!!! They truly inspired me to change course with my breeding program that I have let slide over the years, they are proof that we have many kindred spirits out there, and I just LOVE those colored Romneys!!!
The Maine Fiber Frolic in June was a little disappointing as well as far as attendance, but when the temps are in the 90′s and the humidity makes my hair resemble a lilac bush, I can understand. It’s a wonderful small show though and if you can find your way to Windsor it is worth the trip. Once again I spent the weekend with many wonderful people who work and produce their own fibers, as well as spinning wheel designers, button makers, spinning mill owners, and hand-spinners. I’m so thrilled when I meet new people who share my same visions.
Then I loaded up my Suburban, grabbed my BFF Pam and drove to Columbus, Ohio -with a quick side trip to see Niagara Falls … hey, when in Rome … to sell my goodies at TNNA, the nations largest Needle Arts wholesale show. What an adventure we had! It’s a lot of work. 17 hours of driving the first day, and I find it impossible to sleep when I am away so I visit and talk, and talk, and talk ….
TNNA was a great success this year. Our Needle Felting Kits have shipped all over the states and into Canada along with our Note Cards, and soon our Calendars. The drive home was loooooong. Through a massive thunder and lightening storm, through mountains, into valleys, over hills and then there was the “PPPPPAAAAAMMMMMMMMM! WAKE UP!!! WE’RE IN WEST VIRGINIA!” moment! …..check your map …. it’s okay! :):):) Was I ever excited to go but happy to get home.
This summer I attended the Greenway Market in my fav city of BOSTON!!!! … for a few Saturdays. I met people from all over the world! My yarn is going home with a sweet lady from France, and a lovely little girl from California, and a group of women from Boston who came every Saturday to hang out and talk yarn and sheep. I explored the city, attended the opening of the beautiful carousel, drank loooooottttttts of coffee, and ate the best cannoli.
.…to be continued
Next week I’ll be at the beautiful Common Ground Fair. And after that the New York Sheep & Wool Festival.
Thank you all who support me at shows and online. As I travel about I will do my best to accommodate you if you’d like to stop by. Please, call ahead if your passing through and want to stop in … I’d love to see you!
When someone asks you what your favorite color is, do you tend to lean towards the cool and comfortable blues and greens? They are safe and most people can wear them no matter what your skin tone or hair color. They are “quiet” and subtle and safe colors. I have kept track over the years, and I think I can easily say that people who shop for my yarns are instantly drawn to the blues and greens.
I choose many different shades of each to dye and encourage them to add lighter and darker tones to their work. Sometimes the cautious knitter will take that leap of faith and try something new, and many times a note of thanks appears in my inbox along with pictures from excited creators. It is then that I feel such a sense of satisfaction for them and myself … you go girls ..and boys!
RED -whoa! Does that scare you? Red can be an intimidating color for many. I find many times that folks pick up my red skeins and fondle the strands, they think about the color, suggest what it reminds them of … and then put it back. Unless I can convince them that they could incorporate it into their work with a few stitches, very few leave with and armload of red yarn.
So this got me thinking about my own color choices. Those of you who know me know I have a thing for red shoes. From clogs to cowboy boots and a few Keens in between, my collection of red shoes makes me feel “fiery”! Red can be the perfect accent color, complimenting it’s surrounding colors. Red is bold, eye catching, rich and powerful, and I have yet to dye a color that I cannot put a red skein with that does not work in some design.
My newest experiment of color not only delighted me as it emerged from the dye pot, it grabbed at my soul -I know I am weird like that. It is from the depths of the earth, colors I am sure I will see when I visit New Mexico this Fall, and maybe that is where the inspiration for my new ELEMENTS line of yarn came from -or from my recent sleepless weeks and early morning ‘big ideas”. The deepest richest red transforms as it travels down the skein. I call it FIRE as it pulls every color from the flickering flames of a campfire, as well as the countless mesmerizing sunsets that have stopped me in my tracks and forced me to stand and marvel. -yes I am a bit of a dreamer.:)
And then there is my favorite red color combination colorway so far -LOCO! My beautiful rooster Big Red was the real inspiration for this colorway. The big goof-ball of a bird, prefers to peck his grain from my hand, and in the sunlight his impressive plumage sparkles with colors and shades ( yes even blues) that much like the sunsets, I just can’t seem to get enough of.
So are you brave enough for red? And if not would you give it a try? Sneak a little into some color work, or whip up a beautiful pair of red mittens for next winter … I challenge you with many choices! :)
It’s still cold outside this morning. I spent a little time in the barn looking at my still unshorn sheep and for a moment thought -quick, go get your camera! But instead of focusing on the business side of my life, contemplating angles and perfect lighting, and who was paired up with whom, for perfect shots, I just sat there and enjoyed the chilly, early morning. Puffs of breath filled the air. Chickens scratched all around the munching mounds of woolly monsters and the sun peeked trough the cracks in the walls. Ahhhhhhh yes …that’s what I needed after three long days under the blaring lights of the “Dome” -home to the best trade show in New England!
Trade Shows, and Fiber Festivals, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Christmas Festivals all go with the territory of my business. I fret for days and weeks over the best way to set up my booth, the best way to represent my visions, how to angle my products to catch the light, and what to bring for the long days to keep my hands busy when the crowds are a little slower moving. There is so much more to this life that you could ever imagine … and I love every minute of it.
I am honored to have been chosen as one the many fine crafts people at the The New England Products Trade Show. As I walked around the floor before the show each morning saying “hello” to old friends and “nice to meet you” to new, I was as always, so pleased to be surrounded by craftsman and women who have the exact same passion for their products as I do mine. Wonderful, hard working, creative artisans !!!
We talk and share, and laugh and sometimes get a little silly towards the end of the day. I have hugged and laughed with old customers and enjoyed meeting many new. And let’s not forget the “shout out” to the good folks behind the scenes who organize and market for us, they check in on us, make sure we are doing well and treat us to little goodies at our booths. Thank you Giraffe Events -you guys ROCK! Thank you new and old businesses who fill your shops with New England made products! And thank you to my husband and kids who keep things running smoothly when I am away! Show season has begun!
Now …. into the dye pots!
I guess it’s time for a confession. While looking through a collection of photos I came across the folder called Romeo. Do you know him? Have you visited our farm in the summertime and met the trouble maker who invaded your cars and pulled the tags off your yarn? I’ll bet there are lots of pictures of him out there. It was a loooong 10 years with the “devil goat” keeping him out of my gardens, chasing him off the road, pulling him out of my truck when the door was left open, and shooing him off the deck. He was trouble. He was a goat. A creature of endless curiosity. A childlike being who just had to know how something worked and had to touch everything in sight.
Romeo was a giant chunk of my daily life. Fencing him in was not an option, he’d figure out a way out through the tiniest hole, jumping the highest rail, he could not be contained. In August of this past year I received the sign I was waiting for to let him cross over the rainbow bridge. He wasn’t an old old goat, but his body was suffering. Many years of CAE ( goat arthritis) had plagued him, and now the loss of his back teeth was not allowing him to chew the cud his body needed to thrive. Two weeks of mash, supplements and fruits and vegetables three times a day were just not enough to give his body what it needed to keep up his weight. His body was wasting away and it was time to make that hard decision.
When I am faced with these choices I try to put on my strongest front. I am very grateful for the ability to let my friends go peacefully without long, drawn out sickness and pain, especially when I am seeing little “quality of life”. And that is the key in my mind -quality of life.
Talking about him being gone has been a touchy subject for me. No more impish face at the door, no more casual character on the front steps, no more pest invading my gardens and breaking into the feed storage area of the shed then feeling sorry for himself with his pepto bismal stained lips as his upset belly settles. There are a million stores to be told about Romeo. A million memories, laughs and some frustrations that are left with me.
My kids say that Romeo is wreaking havoc in the great beyond … and there is no doubt in my mind that he is. And so another chapter closed on my story -my adventure. It is not a sad ending, just an ending that we eventually cannot avoid. Animals have shorter lives so that we may experience many of them in ours. I came to this realization when I said good-bye to my first dog. It is a true blessing from above though we may not realize it in our sadness having to let them go.
And so this will be the first Spring planting that I will not have to fight for the lives of my seedlings from the “devil goat”. I will plant a tree and a small garden in his memory in the front yard. It will be in the first paddock where sheep and goats lived on our farm. And though the fence is now gone and the animals are all up on the hill, they made this the perfect place for a new beginning.
Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo? Looking down with a smile as I look up? Yes, of that I am sure.
BIG SQUEEZY HUG PROJECT
The tragic events of the Sandy Hook School shooting took the wind out of me. It took my breath away, and sadness overtook my spirit. While feeding my sheep that afternoon I sat in the barn and tried to make sense of the day. I had gone about my morning like any other, put my kids on the bus with a hug and a kiss and an “I love you”, and went about my day’s work … just like the Mom’s and Dad’s of Newtown. And now, while I finished up my chores and waited for the bus to arrive with my children, I sat in the barn with my sheep, God’s most peaceful creatures, in the place where I come every day to pause and let the quiet envelope me. It was a feeling I wished I could bottle and give to every broken heart in that town.
When my kids were little we used to give each other “big squeezy hugs” before we parted for the day. We still do this, but not in the silly little way that young children do. But a few days ago my daughter reminded me that we hadn’t done “a big squeezy hug” in a long time … and so we did. And it made me think about a way to share that much cherished, wonderful thing that is needed by so many people right now. And so the wheels in my head began to turn.
Much like so many other kind hearted folks, I have wanted to do something. Something that could help to bring comfort to the children, parents, and families of Newtown. Just something simple and easy for them to have to remember that they are loved. Something they could feel every day like a “big squeezy hug”. And so while I sat in the barn yesterday, I realized how much the simple touch of wool, the thought of it, the smell and the mere mention of a warm woolen sweater or mittens makes us feel cozy and loved. And an idea was born.
As Knitters and crocheters, weavers and felters we always have scraps of yarn – leftovers we keep for later. Let’s create a small token of love and coziness in the form of a simple woolen cuff. It can be knit, crocheted, felted, or woven, and let’s make them about two inches wide like the cuff of a mitten. Embellish them if you like, needle felt a little heart or star on them, sew on some beads and buttons, make them colorful and unique. We can make them in any colors and many sizes. Use any yarn you have and if you need yarn or felting needles and wool let me know. Let’s make tons of them, and the children can have as many as they like. They can slip them on their wrists and squeeze them when they need a feeling of love and comfort. They will be small and easy to wear, just a little token of love.
I need your help with this project. Is there a graphic designer that can help me with a logo? Can you help spread the word? I’m calling this THE BIG SQUEEZY HUG PROJECT –and I hope it will grow. I’ll start a blog over the weekend with full details of what to make, how to tag them, and where to send them. I’ll also start a facebook page where I will list your names and share pictures.
Sometimes it is the littlest of things that can mean so much. I also want to recognize the kind folks who are knitting toys for children and shawls for the parents of Newtown. Bless them. And thank you for helping me with what I hope can be comfort to our little treasures. Our kids.
While traveling to many shows this Fall, I took the time to write down thoughts, ideas, and suggestions from my customers about my Needle Felting Kits. There were mostly suggestions for new animals and designs, but the most common statement was ” Are these easy?” and ”Do you think I can do this?” Many folks thought they couldn’t … until I showed them the instructions. When Lorna – the original designer of 12 of our Needle Felting Kits developed her business plan, she gave the instructions top priority in her design. Many of us are very visual in our learning, and the color photos along with the detailed written instructions are incredibly helpful when creating your creatures. In keeping with this design process, I have continued to create new designs such as the PUFFIN, BEARS, and BUFFALO KITS which include the pre-rolled center and the full color photographed instruction sheets.
If you have purchased one of our Needle Felting Kits and are a little intimidated, or of you have yet to purchase because you think they might be too difficult to make, let me share a few images from our SHEEP KIT instructions. Please remember our instructions are copyrighted …thanks!
STEP 1 shows you the pre-rolled center “egg” before, during the addition of the curls, and after it is done. Keep the word “tap” in mind when felting, not “poking” or “jabbing”. The felting needle has tiny barbs that grab the wool fibers and push them in and out of the center. If you look closely at your needle, you will see that the barbs are only on the 1/2 first inch, so you do not have to push the needle in very deep to make felt. As you repeat this motion, the fibers will adhere to the surface of your Felting Egg and become solid.
In STEP 2, you will learn a wool rolling technique.
The two ears are made from one roll of wool that is formed on the skewer. Using a thin, three-inch tuft of brown wool, hold the wool in one hand and spin the skewer with your other. You’ll create a smooth one inch tube. Gently slide this tube off of the skewer, carefully poke the fuzzy ends into the tube with your needle, and needle the shape flat using a foam mat - a thick sponge or a piece of foam insulation board will work fine for a mat.
Having taught a few classes this Fall, I saw that this part was the most challenging for new felters. The idea is that the wool is spun around the skewer very tightly creating a “tube” of wool. Once reaching the desired thickness, spin the skewer in the crease of your hand then slide the tube off the skewer and gently tap the ends in. This technique is used in all of our Needle Felting Kits for legs, ears, heads and even beaks. Many of the students in my classes would try and roll the wool without loosening it or “drafting” the fibers first. Once I showed them the correct way to spin the fibers on we had great success! It is an important step to learn as it makes the pieces firm and strong, especially for legs.
When rolling the head piece, you will use the same technique, only this piece is much bigger. Start the wool like an Ear Roll, and as it thickens, move it into your palm and roll inside your loose fist for a few moments to smooth the shape. Remove the head and needle in the ends loosely on your Safety Mat to make the shape stick together.
When attaching pieces like the head, ears, and the legs, start tapping around the edges of each piece, then gently tap through the piece. This will help you to make the legs the same length.
Each creature should take about an hour to complete. Slow down, have fun and enjoy the creative process! Soon I’ll put together a few video tutorials to help you as you create your Needle Felting Kits … and as always, thank you for supporting Romney Ridge Farm!
UP! YUP! Again at the crack of dawn … or so they say. But in early Dec there is no dawn at the 4:30 a.m. Is this a bad thing? No, my brain is full again. Stuff to do, thoughts to write down, a plan for the day, week, months ahead. Yesterday I filled out my calendar of shows and festivals to apply for. Some are the old stand-bys, and a few are new. But this year I won’t stretch myself so thin when school starts. After working at home for 15 years, and only traveling to a few shows here and there, my travels this year have been a bit overwhelming, and yet fun as heck! But with three kid’s lives to keep up with, a husband, a farm, and orders to pack through it all, I was happy to unpack my Suburban for the last time in November and re-group for the upcoming year. It is good to be needed.
So what’s the plan you ask? Well, they are BIG this year. Some I have started, some are on paper, and some are waking me up at, you guessed it … the crack of dawn.
The challenges of Winter are beginning, and I am embracing them this year. Though the cold is not a favorite of mine, but the smells, the sounds, and of course the snow covered landscape is. Strangely it inspires me … me, the crazy-color obsessed junky who almost put her car in the ditch oooooing and ahhhhing over a flock of birds flying over a marsh. Me who runs a flock of colorful roosters who stop me in my tracks when the light hits their beautiful plumage just right. Maybe it’s the justification I can finally feel of staying inside to keep warm rather than working in my beloved outdoors that I am looking forward to. There is no garden to weed, no leaves to rake up, no lawn to mow. But, a walk in the woods with two of the longer legged K9 family members is always good for the soul, and of course a visit to the barn is in order 2-3 times a day no matter how low the temps will drop.
Maine continues to be dear to my heart. I was born and raised here, and though my travels and adventures haven’t taken me waaaaay far away from home, a smile always spreads across my face when I see the MAINE sign as I cross the border and know my drive is only a bit further.
Time to settle in. Create. Design. Plan for the new year. Enjoy. Give Thanks.
Over the past three months I have been running … driving …setting up, talking, smiling, laughing, trading … breaking down. Kinda sounds like a melt down of the sorts, but it is a small part of my “what I do”. Shows and Festival occupy most of my Autumn. Seeing old friends, putting faces to names and voices I have only heard over the phone and on the “world wide web”, and meeting new friends make it all worth while.
I do miss my favorite time of the year at home though, as the leaves turn, and the garden offers up the last of it’s bounty. I miss watching the sheep chasing then vacuuming up the falling leaves, and smelling the crisp morning air mingling with farm-smell that makes me feel so at home. In between dyeing, packing and traveling, though I do manage to take “time-outs” for my new/old found love of running, and some weekends allow me time in the barn -some might call it a distraction. I’m finding as I get older I need these moments of peace more and more.
Now that the I am home I am catching up on my “domestic goddess” chores in between packing orders and working on new ideas for my business. My barn needs a through cleaning, my garden needs to be put to bed, and the shift into winter needs to begin. A few weeks back we started filling the bird feeders and a love of the season “for the birds” starts. Life can pass you by so quickly. Here is my peace.
Since the beginning of August I have been experimenting with a few things. New ideas replace old ones that worked well at the time they were thought of, and changes are slowly being made as I wake up with creative thoughts running through my head at all hours of the night …it’s a curse sometimes to have a head exploding with so much creativity, but lack of sleep seems to only catch up with me from time to time … these thoughts have a purpose.
This past Fall I sorted through some Romney type fleeces that I knew would produce a strong yarn -though not a particularly super soft yarn, but I feel there is always a use for everything, so I blended the fleeces with some medium grade fibers and took them all to the mill and had them spun into a sport weight yarn. I had originally thought they should be rug hooking yarns, but though an occasional “hooker” , it is a market I have not reached out to yet and I decided that the yarns would tell me what they wanted to be. When the yarn came back from the mill I dyed it bright colors, tagged it, and packed it safely away for upcoming Fall shows.
I have found at many of the Fiber Festivals that I attend that true knitters fondle yarn. They turn it to look at the colors, sometimes unrolling skeins and pulling out strands envisioning what it will look like as each stitch is created on their needles. Some are simply satisfied with these examinations, and some touch the yarn to their necks and faces. Most plunge their noses into the skeins and take a deep “sniff” of the barnyard and lifestyle that they are so happy to have a part of. At the last show I was at, I suggested this yarn to a knitter as being perfect for mittens … and there it was. I was explaining to her that the yarn was not the softest I had, but it would be a strong, warm, “workhorse” yarn that would, at 430 yards/ skein, make many pairs of beautiful mittens for her kids. Sold … she bought three skeins in three different colors and left excited to begin her Christmas gifts.
To everything …. yes, these yarns have found their purpose. I am calling them RRF WORKHORSE YARNS - for those well used winter items. Spun from 100% Maine-grown medium grade wools with and added percentage of long wools for strength and durability. Skeins are spun sport-weight with 430 generous yards/4 oz. We suggest you choose them for durable projects such as classic mittens, leg warmers, and fingerless mittens and gloves. I am happy that they have a place in the world and proud to offer them at a special price for you – my wonderful customers and friends.
Did you know that this Saturday is NATIONAL HUG A SHEEP DAY!!!!! Well for me it’s everyday, but someone decided it should be a Nationally celebrated day! Woooo hooooo! So if you got em’ HUG em’! and if you don’t have a fluffy, soft, baaaaing creature close by, wrap yourself in a warm sweater, pull on your favorite wool hat and mittens, snuggle up in a warm wool blanket tonight. Our sheepy friends love you too! And so do we!
Today through Saturday we’ll send you a FREE package of our NEW Gift Tags with any order! Just visit our website and choose from our beautiful Hand-Dyed Yarns, a fun Needle Felting Kit, Calendars, Note Cards, or a little bit of each! HUG and be HUGGED! Happy Hug a Sheep Day!
This past March, on a warm early spring day, my shearer Jeff sheared my sheep. ”click go the sears boys, click, click, click!”, an old Australian folk song runs through my head as Jeff gently runs the buzzing shears up and down each of my woolies, freeing them from their winter cocoons.
Pounds upon pounds of Romney and Border Leicester in beautiful greys and whiles are skirted and packed up with my annual Mohair clip for the trip to Putney, VT where my good friends at Green Mountain Spinnery work their magic and create my Romney Ridge Farm Blend.
Our down-type fleeces are also skirted and cleaned then delivered to Harmony, Maine with a small amount of locally-grown alpaca. The historic Bartlett Yarns Mill purrs and hummmmms, as it creates my Willow Yarn.
In October we released a first in our series of YARN COLLECTIONS with our Meadow Mitts and Boot Toppers -designed exclusively for us by knit-wear designer Aloisia Pollock.
Today I am proud to release the NOV YARN COLLECTION which includes two skeins of Willow Yarn, Pattern, JUL Pedestal Buttons, and a set our new Gift Tags.
Once again Aloisia has designed a beautiful piece for us. Named for one of our beautiful Corriedale sheep, The Madeline Cabled Wrap is a light-weight cabled wrap designed to be worn in many ways. As a thick warm scarf or as a light-weight wrap, the Madeline Cabled Wrap pairs well with any outfit.
Attach one or two leather JUL pedestal buttons for function or as beautiful embellishments.
As with our October Collection, the November YARN COLLECTION is a limited share.
You can learn more on our website and sign up for your share here. As always thank you for your continued support of our farm and much loved way of life.
In a few weeks my Romney Ridge Farm Blend Yarns will be available for fall knitting projects. This year I am very excited to be working with knitwear designer Aloisia Pollock on simple designs using our signature Romney/Mohair Farm Blend, as well as our very popular Willow Yarn. Together we have put together simple patterns that compliment each yarn and include JUL buttons and embellishments which will compliment our designs and create a unique finished product.
Though I have put together Knit Kits in the past, my pattern writing abilities are very, very basic. That’s where Aloisia comes in. She has been writing and designing for years, and has had her work published in several books. A few weeks ago I conveyed my ideas through rough sketches and thoughts of designs that work for all shapes and sizes to her. Designs that can be easily created, simply modified, and that are complimented by the different drapes and textures of my yarns as they become finished work. Aloisia has added her expertise and talents into my ideas, and together we have some fun, simple, unique projects that will I will release once a month beginning in October.
Sooooo introducing, with contributions from the sheep and goats, a Dyer and a Designer - Flock Together – A seasonal yarn collection from Romney Ridge Farm Yarn Co. On September, October and November 1st, Romney Ridge Farm Yarn Co. will release a limited number of our new monthly YARN COLLECTIONS – 3 collections total. After sign-ups are announced, YARN COLLECTIONS will ship 30 days later on the first of each month.
Each shipment will include:
- two or more skeins of our seasonal yarns.
- one or more patterns designed exclusively for our YARN COLLECTION.
- needed embellishments that compliment each pattern.
- and some exciting Romney Ridge Farm Yarn Co. “schwag”.