It’s been a busy four months. Markets and weekend shows, keeping up with schedules, preparing for winter. Ask me what I do everyday and I will never answer the same way twice. This business isn’t seasonal, it isn’t a hobby, it’s my “bread & butter”, it is work that I have created to exist in happiness everyday. It is my love, my passion, my soul food and even during the times that it becomes a bit chaotic, I am incredibly grateful for what it has given me.
Each week is full. Pick up wool, sort wool, drive wool to the wash, pick up the washed wool, drive to the the mill, pick up the spun yarn, fill orders in between, finish design work, keep up with kid’s schedules, find a few quick moments of “me” time, barn cleaning, move fences, move sheep, stack hay, skein that yarn!!! …. dye, dye, dye! Whoa! Wait a minute …. where did my summer go?? Over the summer I managed to break the riding lawn mower, break the sliding glass door panel by shooting a rock from the riding lawn mower -just before I broke it, drop and break my favorite pie plate, and screw up my shoulder. I’m on a roll … a one-woman wrecking crew my friend called me! I fear boredom! My life is busy, busy, busy … and I love it.
This morning I fed the dogs, just like I do every morning. Maddy the Mastiff eats in the living room corner away from everyone else …she is afraid of everything. Max the Mutt eats by the front door … he likes to go out immediately after. Pirate and Puddin’, the two doxies, eat on either end of the the kitchen. Puddin’ is very old and has few teeth … her food is small and soft and has to be soaked for a few minutes. Pirate likes to stand over and “hide” his food until everyone is done then fiercely guard it from the other dogs who dare to walk by. It’s crazy, loud, and maybe a little silly. And why do I do it? I love them.
A few days ago I had a lengthy discussion about life with my 14 year-old daughter, as we often do when we are alone and enjoying a much deserved ice coffee. We talked about the difference between “liking” something and truly looooooving something. How even though they sound like such a similar thing, the emotional reaction is very different. I may say that I LOOOOOVVVVVVEEEEE deep, dark, rich, muddy coffee, and cowboy boots, and the color red. But the truth is I only like them. Yes, they make me happy, but I they do not give me that wonderful feeling in my chest that I felt when I held my own babies for the first time, or each spring when I smell newborn baby lambs and watch, or the feeling I have when I create. We both decided that love makes us happy AND feeds the soul and that we are ultimately responsible for finding our own “loves” and keeping them. She is very wise for her age and I am very proud of her.
As I frantically gathered up 187 freshly-dyed skeins that I had dyed for The Common Ground Fair this past September and brought them in from the disappearing sunshine, my youngest son helped me. I was a little flustered and he asked me why I do this for work when it is so much work. I instantly replied without even thinking, “because I love you.” My hard work pays off in many different ways. Do you know how lucky I am? I do.
My point? Find your loves. If you can, make them an important part of every day. Find them and hold on to them with ferocity. Feel that feeling in your chest that only love can give you and if it does not, slip it in to the “like” category. It’s ok. There has to be a place for them as they make their way up. Be grateful for your loves every day.
When Maryly Mathewman and I talked about creating a mitten pattern together, it only made sense that a class should accompany. This past weekend 13 ladies spent two afternoons creating their own versions of our Barney Cove Mitten at our October Knitter’s Getaway. It was warm and beautiful at the Cod Cove Inn and our gracious hosts made the knitter’s quite comfortable in a brightly lit room overlooking beautiful gardens and nature’s palette of changing leaves.
The colors in the design came from the memories of my father’s boatshop.
Colors have always stood out to me, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized how much. Memories, jogged by words, create images in my mind.
Years later I have discovered that what stood out to me about my Dad’s shop were the colors of the curing wood, the sky reflecting colors on the ocean, the Rugosa roses that decorate the island from corner to corner, and the boat keel painted and drying into a soft orange shade from the water-proofing Red Lead.
Maryly interpreted my memories into a design, and we rightfully named these mittens Barney Cove Mittens, where my Dad’s shop sits and the surrounding colors of the area and the inside of the shop created the palette.
The Barney Cove Mittens were knit with my seasonal yarn Willlow – a DK weight, grey yarn, that I hand-dyed in colors designed for the class, but you can use any variety of colors. We used Peacock, Orange, Chartreuse, Red Grape, Woodrose, and Natural Grey. But you can use as little as three of these colors. You can find the current Willow colors that are available here.
These are merely suggestions. If you decide to knit the Barney Cove Mittens, just know that the Willow Colors are seasonal and they are starting to run low. HOWEVER! Romney Ridge Farm Blend will be available very soon and would be FANTASTIC for this pattern.
Like the Barney Cove Mittens, the Winona Mittens are also a mix of colors. But Maryly explained that that because we are using a hand-dyed yarn that started as a white base ( rather than the heathered look of the Willow) , it is better to use one of my gradient/multi-colored Kaleidoscope skeins as your main and choose two like colors as the second and third colors.
As Maryly says, “The effect is a bit more stable if you pick Solid colors which are in the Multicolor Yarn. Otherwise the mitten looks a bit too jumbled. Change Solid color when you want to, no special time or place, just when it looks good to you and the 2nd mitten does not have to exactly match. Be colorful!”
With that in mind I have come up with a few suggestions for the color choices to knit the Winona Mitten.
Downeast is the recommended yarn for the Winona Mittens as it is worsted weight. These are merely suggestions.
Be sure to read the pattern all the way through before you begin …and I will be expecting you to send me pictures of your finished mittens!
If you travel with me, you’ll find that I stop and stare at my surroundings a lot. For a “go-go-go” person I suppose that seems a little odd … well maybe refreshing to the people I am with. Do you do this? Do you see the colors in a single brick stacked in a wall creating the southern side of a building? Go and look at it again when the sun sinks lower in the sky and watch the shades change. Stand under a maple tree in the early morning hours and marvel at the shades of silver and grey. Is snow really white? Are white sheep really white? How about the night sky as the sun goes down over a lake, a city skyline, or the majestic mountains. Can you see the many colors in the ocean??? We were all taught that the sky and water are blue and the grass is green. And it is … but it is more than that.
I remember when I was pregnant with my first son and decided I needed to learn to knit. Before sheep and yarn, I used to paint. I loved oil pastels and water colors and I chose strange colors that somehow, when blended, turned into the shades I was trying to achieve. Even without thinking about the blends of shades I would just put them together and work my blend and rub and … ta-da! Perfect! Well in my eyes it was.
Dyeing yarn for me is not mass production. Over the past 15 years, I’ll bet I have pulled thousands of skeins from the dye pots. Each dyelot is different as I have perfected my secret technique that pulls different tones and shades from the dye as the yarn enters the water. My color choices over the years have ranged from brilliant jewel tones to softer grey over-dyes to mixes of colors that create another color as the two bases bleed into each other.
Last year I created my ELEMENTS colorways using a white yarn base dyed gold and then over dyed again in a second color. They are softer combos of colors yet they knit up into a brilliant mix of shades and tones in a bazillion different combinations in each row!! Start knitting and see what each row becomes and suddenly you are done with your project!! …can you tell I get a little excited about color??
As Autumn approaches (yes I know we may not want to think of that just yet) the color choices change and I find myself dyeing more rich reds and oranges. A new Taupe shade is on the schedule as well as a deep Olive Green, and soft blue I am calling Kennebec Blue for the many shades I see in the mighty Kennebec, a river I cross every day who “wow’s” me with her beauty. I’ll restock my supplies with ELEMENTS and several Kaleidoscope colorways for that POP of color everyone knows Romney Ridge Yarns for. I get very excited for crisp air, cooler temps and earthy smells as we transition into the next season. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to and receive announcements for our new yarns, new colors and upcoming festivals and markets we will be attending. Until then enjoy the rest of your summer!
It my come to shock to some of you, but I have never finished a sweater … nope, never, not one. I’m a “yarn engineer” from the sheep to shearing to washing to spinning, I start the process. I dabble in knitting, but I find my happiness choosing fleeces, putting together my “formulas”, and firing up the dye pots. The knitting process does not top my list of yarn happiness. Having said that, I am capable of some things. I once knit a cute little vest for my daughter using a chunky yarn and size 11 needles. It was fast and held my attention long enough, and she was only 5 so it was pretty small. I have attention issues, sitting issues, do, do, do, go,go,go needs. So that is why when I do “take up the needles” I knit mittens. They are fairly fast and easy and I can satisfy my need for color by blending my Kaleidoscope dyed yarns with odds and ends of more solid colors, and I can leave them for weeks and come back to them when I have time.
If you are familiar with my spinning dilemma this past spring you know I had to switch spinning mills. The emotional piece that came with that change has now adjusted into the “it’s okay” phase. And as much as I fight changes, they always seem to have a way of working out. Ta-daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! It’s all okay! ….and who is always saying “it’s time to switch things up a bit??”
It’s funny how we do things the same way for so long, and we never really think about changing the methods, the design, the flow …. sort of that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. For a few years I spun my yarn sort of “locked” into the the yardage restrictions of a pound of yarn, i.e a pound of yarn spun in a worsted weight broke down into ~ 250 yards/4 oz skein. A pound of Dk weight would equal out to ~ 430 yards/40z skein. The yarns were spun and skeined, and I would dye them and tag them, and that was that. Looking back I’m sure if I had asked we could have made adjustments, but between work, kid’s schedules, running this farm, and all the other things that needed to get done, the thought never really crossed my mind.
When I found myself needing to switch mills, I learned that this new mill only put yarn on cones. Whoa! My control freak alarm went bonkers! Never mind the fact that it needed to be skeined, I had lost the control of my comfort zone … change was seriously on the horizon! But then I began thinking about the doors this opened for me. I could skein off hanks for kits and smaller projects -like those mittens I enjoy putting together. I could dye new colors on smaller skeins rather than larger skeins to see how popular or unpopular they would be before I “upped” the yardage And most importantly I could offer my customers ( who I love to pieces! ) a new option! They could choose to buy my yarns in more of a variety of colors! I had seen you all struggling to choose which colors you needed or had always chosen , but how you would like to try others, maybe just not an big of a skein. And the best part???? My prices would stay the same! It was a no-brainer!
So my daily schedule has changed a bit, and though it seems like I have added a new “chore” to my tasks by adding the skeining part of the process to my end product, I am loving the versatility it is giving me. My new electric winder makes the job go fairly fast, and I choose a few days each week to just skein yarn while I listen to and semi-watch movies I have missed on my ipad.
So what do you think? Judging by your orders, you are loving the Willow Mini’s. And though I will continue to produce the larger skeins, is this a good option for you? Smaller is not necessarily better, but it is definitely good.
Knitter’s Getaway Weekend October 25-26, 2014
Held in the Boothbay Area of Maine.
Join Maryly Matthewman of Winona Hats, Mittens and Quilts, and create snuggly, warm, colorful mittens using Maine-grown, hand-dyed yarns from Romney Ridge Farm.
FREE cuff variation class available Friday night!
For those who can make it, Maryly will offer a free two hour workshop on various cuff styles from 6-8 with snacks and more on Friday night, October 24.We will be joined by Fiddle Player Karen Weaver
Maryly’s knitting workshop will be a fleece full of skills and techniques including color experimentation, bleeding and highlighting. She allows her students to combine their motley mix of colors in their own unique mitten creation. She will show you fringe stitches, Latvian braid variations, thumbs, yarn color changes,various cast-ons, decreases of different sorts, stranded knitting and knitting with two hands.
Maryly developed this mitten pattern while using some of Romney Ridge Kaleidoscope Worsted Weight Yarn about 18 months ago. Although she incorporates some techniques from Latvian mittens, this is not a traditional Latvian mitten.
“Romney Ridge Willow Yarn is such an ease to work with, for the beginner and experienced. The alpaca content adds warmth but it also blends the heathery colors and it all felts a bit to a “snuggie” fabric. This stranding pattern creates a fabric that hugs your hand and it feels like you have stuck your hand into the fleece of the sheep itself.”
Maryly’s grandparents came from Latvia in 1906 and settled in the Boston area. They bought property on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH in 1930 and that is where she lives now in Meredith, NH. Maryly has been knitting on and off for close to 50 years. After she retired from dentistry after 36 years it was time to pursue her passion of knitting Latvian mittens.
Maryly was privileged to have taken many workshops from Lizbeth Upitus, author of Latvian Mittens. Her Latvian Mitten Workshops and Winona Mitten Workshops have been accepted at Fiber College of Maine, Massachusetts Sheep and Wool, Estes Park Wool Market, Colo., Taos Wool Market, Taos, New Mexico, Green Mountain Fiber Fest, Vermont, New England Fiber Fest, Halcyon Yarn and many various libraries and private groups.
She has worked with various Latvian groups including the Latvian Folk Art Museum in Chicago.
“I have a very strong belief that there was a passionate Latvian knitter in my past. I have been volunteering at our county jail for over four years now and that is a life lesson, something new everyday.”
1$ of each pattern sold will go to St. Judes Research Hospital.
Kelly Corbett describes herself as an Artist/Shepherdess. Each and every day is filled with the creativity that she needs to feed her soul. And her soul is always hungry!
The Barney Cove Mitten is a unique collaboration with fellow artist Maryly Matthewmen, and will be included with several new designs in an upcoming e-book with five talented designers.
“The idea has been floating around in my head for several years. The concept was to tell the story of my memories in design. But rather than me trying to write the patterns, a skill I have not yet fully mastered, I thought it would be fun to tell the story to a designer and let them interpret the memory into their own unique design. I in turn would create the yarn colors and textures for each piece.”
The Barney Cove Mitten holds many “color memories”. Each color represents the memories of her father’s boat shop on Beals Island where Kelly grew up. The orange boat molds, the silvery grey planks curing in the ocean air, the Rugosa roses that surround his shop. Maryly has taken Kelly’s memory and interpreted it into her own unique design.
On her farm in Woolwich, Maine, Kelly produces beautiful had-dyed yarns. From her own sheep and Angora goats, she creates seasonal yarns, and from wools she purchases from her fellow Maine sheep farms comes a 100% wool line of yarns hand-dyed in striking colors. Needle Felting Kits and Calendars are also available from her website, at several shows and festivals through out the year, and at her yarn shop located at her farm.
Kelly welcomes you to visit her farm during your time in Maine, to meet and greet the sheep and goats, and see the process of taking fleece to yarns in her own unique way. A farm tour will be scheduled before class on Sunday, October 26th.
Get ready … I might just ramble on a bit. But you’ll get the idea.:) Change. How can one little word be so exciting and so scary at the same time? When I took that HUGE step and started my yarn company I wrote my business plan to with the strictest of rules. These yarns were not being spun from my flock, instead they would be a 100% Maine produced yarn, from the sheep to the finished product. These yarns had to support the businesses as close to home a s possible, the fibers were washed in Maine and spun in Maine, they had to be dyed in small batches using dyes made in Maine, they hung a certain way to dry in the Maine sunshine, were twisted into a skein with a certain number of twists, and the tags were tied on a specific place on each skein. Local, local, local was the name of the game. It’s very important to me. All of my yarns have been spun in Maine for years except for my Farm Blend which with it’s long Romney and Mohair fibers does best on the worsted spinning machinery of Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont. Finding a mill in Maine that could run this yarn for me in a timely manner wasn’t possible when I first started growing enough to need a spinnery, so my search took me to GMS and they have been wonderful to work with all of these years. So where does the change come in? Well, when things just don’t work anymore is a start. When the desire to grow is there and the need to find a new system that fits with the growth is needed. When Kelly, the self professed control-freak, finally lets go of just enough of what holds her back and finds a new and better way that benefits her company and her customers. And can I just confess that I am super excited with what I have found??!! I used to think that changing my “plan” was a betrayal of my values … not so. What I have applied to my life, the ability to adapt to changing surroundings, needs to happen with my business. Attending large industry shows such as The Nation Needle Arts Trade Show and observing the purchasing habits of shop owners, has shown me that there is a place for all businesses big and small … the most import thing I have learned though is that the smaller companies who don’t make changes fade away. The large companies with a number of creative minds, put on big beautiful displays at each show, they change with the seasons and keep up with the trends, and the shop owners flock to their booths for their affordable yarns to fill a needed place in their shop. I’ll never be them, and as important as they are, as beautiful as their yarns are, as needed as they are, so are the smaller companies like mine. There are several sides to what I do and for years I have found it hard to describe my business in small sentences. I raise sheep. I grow wool. I buy wool. I trade wool. I make yarn. I dye yarn. I make roving and batts and dye them as well. I create Needle Felting Kits and I teach classes. I sell retail. I sell wholesale. I write, and format, and take pictures and videos and share my life with my customers and friends. I eat. sleep, and breathe creativity.
In March I loaded up my Suburban with the washed fibers I use to spun my Willow yarn. I took it to my usual place for spinning and expected it back at it’s promised time. Willow is one of my most popular yarns. It is a small run of fine wools blended with Alpaca and it always sells out. This year I decided to offer it as a pre-sale so that everyone could have a chance to get the colors they wanted before it was gone for another year. It was a good plan, and truly still is. The hold up came from a back up at the mill, and seeing the time for my yarn to be spun get longer and longer, it prodded me to do what I have been looking to do for some time in order to go in a new direction … it’s time to find another spinning source.
On Monday I will take my Willow “ingredients” to a new mill. Though I have prided myself being Made in Maine, the only thing that changes is the spinning location … still located in New England. Everything else remains the same. The process will be faster, and driving time only an hour or so more. It just makes sense, and you won’t believe how it changes the game for my business. The obstacles that have held back the ideas I have wanted to pursue are about to be removed, and I am just bursting to share … but for now I have to get your yarns dyed and shipped to you!
Over the past five days I unleashed my inner “city girl”. She’s a part of me that loooongs to come out more often than there is time for. To drive for miles and miles or zip through bustling airports, to feel delightfully scared in four lanes of traffic as the towering skyline approaches with tall buildings and bright lights, to smell the pungent, industrial smell of subways and trains …. all of these things excite me and delight me and make me spin around in circles of sheer happiness! It’s a change of scenery, a change of the speed of life, a change from the normal, a change from jeans and t-shirts, a reason to dress up, and I feel very comfortable and in my element skipping down a city street looking very “touristy” as I ooooo and ahhhhhh over the amazing architecture that some brilliant mind took from an idea and made into a work of art.
Though I spent most of my time working at my booth inside the Indianapolis Convention Center at The Nation Needle Arts Trade Show, the end of the day was filled with LOTS of wandering and coffee drinking and cupcake munching. It was a welcome break from farm chores and mud. But today I had to be a shepherdess again …. and not in a good way
Being a realist gives me the strength to handle the hard and unwelcome part of this life. I used to be a sappy, cry-baby when I lost battles to keep my animals alive and healthy. And though I still feel the burning ache of failure in my chest when I do loose, I also understand that there are some things that are completely out of my control. Stop right there … did you hear that? My control freak self just admitted to letting something go that she cannot control. But I will confess that it makes me angry to have to give up.
Last summer my ewe Carmella lost weight and could not seem to put it back on. She grazed the yard and front lawn all day and yet kept getting thinner and thinner. I wormed her, hand fed her, babied her, supplemented her diet … and yet nothing seemed to do the trick. Finally in August I saw tape worm segments in her poo. They were the only worm I hadn’t treated her for. Fortunately she was not in with my flock, but I wormed them all just the same, waited and switched them to a different paddock, the typical protocol with worming. Carmella remained out of the flock and I put her in a clean paddock for the fall, close to everyone but not in with them. At one point she would not get up and was coughing quite a bit. But I nursed her through and she ate and was “perky” but remained thin.
Deep inside I knew she would never be the same. She had a constantly runny eye, she coughed a lot, and during the cold days of this brutal winter she just never seemed healthy. I truly feel that the tape worm took so much from her that she just wasn’t ever able to gain her strength back. While I was away, my husband called to say she had gone down and would not get up, and though I barked orders to him from many miles away, I knew this must be the end.
My flight came in at 1 a.m. this morning. With my head full of so many ideas and exciting news about my business, Kelly The Realist knew she had to slip out of the fancy clothes, and slip on the boots and stained jeans of Kelly the Shepherdess and make the call that I always dread. Though she was an older ewe, it is never an easy decision to give myself permission to make the call on a life. Why is it okay for me to say who may live or die? Did I do all that I could? How did I miss that it was a tape worm? I’ll question my decisions for a good week and then let it go … that’s just how I roll.
Carmella is now in a peaceful sleep and will wake up on the big green pasture where I am convinced that they all go to. It is the “down” of the “ups and downs” that this life gives me.
I started my day having coffee sitting with my lambs, and saying good-bye to my friend. The noisy barn still is noisy, the water buckets still need filling, the eggs are waiting to be gathered, and the pile of orders from over the weekend still need sorting and entering, packing and shipping. Life continues in it’s own way leaving us with the small treasures of memories that we then laugh about and say, “hey … remember when?” …. that is the secret we all seek the answer too. The small pile of wool I kept from Carmella will become something for my memories and for my hands as I will spin it and put it to a pair of mittens this fall which I will wear with great joy feeling the warmth left behind from my friend.
The past few weeks have been filled with completing taxes, shoveling snow, rewriting my business plan, slip sliding on ice, planning summer and fall shows, shoveling snow, designing, knitting, felting, packing orders, cleaning the barn, setting up lambing pens, poking around woolly ewe butts looking for udders, annnnnnnnnnnddddddd …. shoveling snow.
Time sure flies and just when we think we can’t take anymore of this winter something magical happens. A warm day brings us bright sunshine and smells of gentle breezes that we know mean Spring isn’t far away. It has to be. And Mom Nature had better be generous with her Spring warmth after the cold we have endured. She is reminding us to be strong and to adapt and overcome, I can’t believe that this won’t be a glorious Spring when it arrives. So start looking …. it’s not far off.
This weekend my mind was focused on getting my ewes ready to lamb. The barn was thoroughly cleaned this fall and a new sections of floor were put down. After solving the some of the flooding problems before the snow fell, I made some changes in the way I planned to set up for lambing this year. During this time, working around the barn and spending time around the flock, I noticed that the very large Handsome Mike was being a bit of a bully to my little mild-mannered Angora Goat, Paulie Walnuts. There is definitely a “pecking order” within a flock, and each sheep has a certain personality trait. Some are brave, some are shy, some are a little high strung, and some are just easy going and laid back. The same holds true for goats. Paulie is just the sweetest little guy -easily pushed around. And with the smell of “love” in the air, I think Mike was playing just a little too rough. So I moved Paulie to the smaller pen away from being rousled and tousled around, and there he has spent the winter with a friend sheep, Willie, who also is a bit shy and not so brave.
All was well, all has been good. The Cover -It shelter that the boys shared also houses my hay supply. The fence that divided them from the hay was built from sturdy oak pallets, but they could reach through and help themselves if they so desired … and all was good … until yesterday.
I went about my usual morning routine, slipping over the ice covered back yard to the Cover-It looking stylish as always in my red plaid pajama bottoms, Muck boots, and slightly dirty and ripped barn coat -hey I’m a practical kinda gal! Paulie was looking at me over the pallet wall and I noticed blood on his nose and upper lip. Expecting to see a scratch or cut in that area, I moved in for a closer look. To my surprise, one of his horns had been ripped almost completely off! It was hanging by a little piece and blood was pooling all around his head where the horn had once attached. My first thought was “Where is Mike!” Had he come after him? Had he jumped the fence and gone after Paulie or did they battle it out through the fence???? Quickly I slipped and slid my way to the larger paddock to find Mike, who was laying on the rock wall, no obvious blood on his head from a battle, no interest in Paulie, nothing.
I hopped the fence and went back to assess the damage done to my little Paulie and to try and figure out what could have happened. Fortunately the break was not at the base of the scull. The horn had broken about and inch up, leaving a bloody stump. Paulie seemed unphased by the trauma, and more annoyed at the horn that now hung down by his ear. Relieved that it was not a scull break, I slip slid back to the house for some Blue-Kote and Blood Stop. After cleaning him up the best I could, I called my friend Dr. Doughty DVM to come and help me remove the horn -that I will confess I was too wimpy to do.
So Paulie is now a Unicorn and he is still lovely. They horn he lost may or may not grow back. Either way he is just as precious as he always was with his funny little underbite and floppy, curly goatie ears. Much like the one-eyed pony, the old toothless dog, and various broken winged ducks who have lived here over the years, his beauty comes from within.
As I approach my 1,000th vote in the Fed Ex Small Business Big Grant Contest, I am extremely thankful for all of the kind folks who are pulling for me. I want you to know how sincere I am about “paying it forward” … so important these days especially to encourage our young minds to say “yes I can!” and to give them positive role models.
I am blessed, and I am very aware of that. I get to work from my home and be there for my kids every day. I get to travel, meet lots of good folks, and talk waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much. But most importantly I get to get up everyday and earn a living doing things that I truly love. I work very hard, and some nights I am so tired I just make it through dinner then zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz on the couch. But I am so incredibly blessed and I know it.
Being accepted for the grant was the first step, and the votes are all wonderful, but I do hope the contest applicants are more recognized for the content of the businesses’ applications not just the dash to have the most votes -though they do make a point of saying this makes a difference. I hope you can envision what I would do with the grant money should I win. You can learn more by re-reading my application if you like here.
It’s no secret that I love whet I do, but I my work needs support from designers, knitters, weavers, crocheters, felters … a variety of many talented people inspire me everyday. Thank you for sending me pictures of what my yarn becomes! It means more to me than you’ll ever know! Thank you for stopping by my farm and talking sheep and loving on my dogs. Thank you for coming to see me at shows, and taking my classes, and bringing me lunch!:) Thank you for the kind words you say on facebook and twitter and through e-mails. THANK YOU for inspiring me!
As I rewrote my business plan early this January, I revisited what I had written as goals over the past year. I looked at my notes and here is how I described the wholesale side of my biz:
Romney Ridge Farm Yarn Co. purchases Maine-grown fibers supporting local farms by offering them a higher price for their wool than other venues.
We purchase only clean “healthy“ fleeces -meaning we have developed a relationship with the farmers and know that they take good care of their animals nutritionally and humanely. Fibers are sorted and blended by percentages of breeds then washed at a Maine-based wool scouring facility who implements environmentally safe washing methods, and uses eco-detergents.
Spinning of our yarns takes place at a historical mill in Harmony, Maine. The mill uses a rare, Mule Spinner which duplicates the simple motions of hand- spinning. The resulting yarns are lofty and have more of a unique, homespun appearance rather than a mass produced look and feel. We take care in choosing blends of wool for each run, making sure a high percentage of down-type wools make up the bulk of the formula with a small percentage of longwool for strength, resulting in a ‘work horse” yarn that holds up well and is a pleasure to knit with.
Hundreds of skeins of freshly dyed yarns adorn the deck railings, and several large drying racks of our dye studio each week. Romney Ridge Farm Yarn Co. uses only Cushing Dyes, manufactured in Kennebunk, Maine for their dyeing. Cushing Dyes offers a large selection of rich, bold colors and require no harsh chemicals, only vinegar as a mordant.
And so to this plan I add:
With the Buy Local movement growing strong our yarns are fitting right in. Unlike many yarn companies, we do not buy pre-spun yarns and dye them. Our yarns live up to their 100% Maine made description -from the sheep in the fields to the finished beautiful hand-dyed yarns. We are proud to put the Made in Maine logo on our products.
We are finding demand exceeding our supply so we are looking to purchase more wool and create a larger wholesale line to put our beautiful yarns in shops all over the US. We would like to expand our production, grow our wholesale base, and with any luck, create a job for the right person.
We work with Maine knitwear designers to develop patterns that work well with our yarns. Patterns help sell yarn and yarn helps sell patterns. A win win for both businesses.
As a small, home-based, work-at-home-mom owned business, it is important to me to give back to my community. To do this I would like to start a mentor program for young entrepreneurs using my business plan as a base. I’d like to share my experiences, knowledge, and start a small fund for high school girls that would encourage them to move ahead with ideas and dreams of owning their own businesses that specifically use Maine based supplies, raw materials and/or manufacturing.
That’s it in a nutshell. It has taken years of hard work to get to this point I am at and I am ready to add to, shift gears, and begin the process of giving back as the next phase of my life.
So if you have kindly voted for me, I know it is because you understand my drive, and recognize my passions. And I sincerely hope I give to you as well not just with a product, but my sharing my life freely. Our symbiotic relationship is as important as the sun to the summer flowers in the meadow every day. Yes, I am truly, truly blessed.
March. Whoa … where did February go? What a minute, where did 2013 go? I find myself up early these days. Yes, up early is nothing new for me, it’s been this way for many years for this mom of three. My oldest turned 17 in January and I found the words coming out of my mouth to be so true as I described my daily life to an old friend. “I don’t sleep much anymore. Mostly in the movie theater and nod-offs on the couch. I consider myself a professional napper.” I’d miss so much if I wasted time sleeping! …:)
I’ve been feeling pretty trapped in my surroundings, the cold has been bitter and slightly frustrating for this shepherdess. The ice walking up to the barn is treacherous even in my trusty Yak Traks, and twice a day I lug 10 gallons of water to my sheep, goats and pony. Hey, it keeps me fit! And I am grateful that I have the strength and health to do it … but trust me I will be performing a dance of joy when I can finally hook up the hose again. When you hear the shouts and clapping, and feel the ground shake that will be me celebrating and you’ll know that water is flowing through the hose again!
Are you thinking about Spring colors and other wool based projects? In Maine we still have quite a few cold days and nights to get through. While I’m not a Mexican revolutionary and my home is not a quaint French hillside village, I LOVE my poncho. Especially on a cold night piled up on the couch with my doxies. Actually, in Maine it serves me well year round. If your new to knitting and are finding yourself “scarfed out”, may I suggest putting a poncho on your Winter To-Knit-List? This pattern uses 1000 -1250 skeins of worsted weight yarn, and knits up quick on size 15 needles. I have a few beautiful hand-dyed colors left in my Romney Ridge Farm Blend yarn which works up beautifully into our Green Pepper Poncho. Take a look at our rich, bold colors here and don’t worry, I will have plenty more after we shear in March.
On my 2014 schedule. BIG EXCITING GIGANTIC ENORMOUS THINGS!! First up … Lambs!!!!! Yay! After taking a year off, I’ll get my lamb fix in a few weeks. It’s good for my soul, and all of these babies will stay on our farm as fleece-growers. I can’t wait!
The show season looks busy for me as well. I’ve become quite hooked on traveling and this year my daughter will be accompanying me on many of my trips. She has expressed a lot of interest in learning more about running a business and I am pleased as punch to have her along for the ride. We are going to have loads of fun!!
Other things I cannot share just yet, but soon…..
Stay warm my friends!!!!!!
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!