Textile Byways: Following the Targhee Flock, Montana 2014
Posted by Kristine Vejar on October 29, 2014 4 Comments
Welcome to Textile Byways!
This new section of the blog chronicles travels, ours and others, associated with any and all aspects of textiles; from the making of them to the wearing of them. One commonality found around the world, we all use cloth and wear clothing. Textiles encompass one's story, this can be done by simply learning what materials are used in making the textile - perhaps the wool comes from a local sheep breed - or perhaps it comes from China. The colors found upon the textile may be naturally or chemically dyed. The colors used within the textile will be affected by which type of dye is used, and that type of dye will influence which colors are available to the artist. There may be motifs embroidered, printed, woven, or appliqued onto or embedded within the textile, sometimes these motifs are literal other times figurative, both tell us what types of objects or characteristics one finds important, worthy, or admirable. All of these elements in combination can provide a map of where people have gone and to where we want to go.
The first story to be featured on Textile Byways is about a flock of Targhee sheep located in Sweet Grass County, Montana, the women who care for them, and our trip to visit them. Here we go!
In 2008, I was at a local knitting conference, Stitches West, and met Patti, the owner of Sweet Grass Wool. She had a booth filled with the most luscious, puffy, soft yarn and fiber made of Montana Targhee wool. Instantly, I adored her and her work and began to carry her fiber and yarn in my shop. Throughout the years, her fiber and yarn have been a fixture at Verb. This Summer, Patti asked me if I'd like to purchase a large lot of yarn she had milled. She explained to me that she had decided to shut down Sweet Grass. She had worked for over thirty years, and desired more freedom to travel. I can relate though I have another twenty years to go! So in the meantime, I told Patti I would be very interested in the yarn. As we got to talking, Patti said - well, you know what, if you would like Sweet Grass (the wool company), I would love to see it live on, and would give it to you if you are interested. My mouth dropped open and my eyes widened. I could not believe it. Patti said that she would be happy to introduce me to the shepherd she has worked with over the years, and would be willing to share with me her experiences in milling the wool into yarn. Now, for a moment, I have to admit, I hesitated. I have been committed to the California wool economy. I needed to consider how this decision to work with Montana wool could impact my relationship with California wool - budget, current commitments, environmentally, etc. After discussing it with Adrienne, Tasa, and Sarah, it seemed evident that this was an opportunity we could not pass by - for two resounding reasons: the wool is beautiful. The region has been growing and cultivating wool uninterrupted for over one hundred years. There is a tremendous amount to learn and to honor. I called Patti back and replied - Yes! And then thanked her profusely for this opportunity.
I finished my book the first week in September, and Adrienne and I desperately needed to go on vacation. We decided to rent a cabin and head to Montana so we could see Patti and meet the shepherd, Caroline, and her sheep, in person. My Mom and her husband, who live in Minnesota, came to meet us and join in the fun.
Earlier in the Summer, a friend sent me a book titled The Golden Fleece. Published in 1942, the author, Hughie Call recalls her life. As a young woman, she married the owner of a large Montana sheep ranch, and thus began her journey as a participant on the ranch. Her tales about learning the ropes are funny, charming, and sincere - as she gently and sometimes not so gently steps on toes. Chapters span topics ranging from Breeding to The Rural Telephone and gives a fascinating look into what life on a sheep ranch looked like at the turn of the century. So with The Golden Fleece as my guide, Adrienne, me, and our two dachshunds piled into the car and headed east to Montana - where we arrived just in time for Fall colors.
Over the course of the next two weeks, I will be writing about the trip. Here is a schedule of activities!
Monday, November 3rd - Visit the Ranch - Meet Carolyn, Patti, and The Sheep
Wednesday, November 5th - Meet the the New Yarn: Clover and Big Sky
Thursday, November 6th - A New Knit Hat Pattern to Make with Clover
Friday, November 7th - Foraging and Mapping the Land
Saturday, November 8th - Dyeing with Curly Dock
Monday, November 10th - Dress for the Weather: Knitting and Sewing Warm, Cozy Garments and Accessories. Featuring an Uptown Top made into a wool coat, an Iberian Discovery shawl made of Pioneer yarn, and more.
Tuesday, November 11th - Tasa gives us insider tips to turning an Uptown top into a wool coat.
Wednesday, November 12th - A New Knit Cowl Pattern!
Thursday, November 13th - Visit a Solar Powered Mill
I hope you will join us for this exciting journey.
For those of you who participated in our Sailor Top Giveway - the winner is Lisa (redletteryear). You have received a free download copy of the Sailor Top sewing pattern. Look for an email from Fancy Tiger Crafts! Thanks everyone for participating!
And for those of you who requested a photo of the embroidery on my top - here you go :