In the Dye Studio: Pioneer Rounds the Bend
Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 05, 2013 5 Comments
Excitement abounds in the dye studio this week as we prep Pioneer for it's re-release on Sunday, November 10th.
Pioneer is made from Sally Fox's organic merino sheep. Sally is an organic textile materials farmer in the Capay Valley, about 90 miles east of Oakland. The sheep she raises help to fertilize the ground in which she plants naturally colored organic cotton. As a matter of fact, her fields are full of puffy cotton at this very moment. The sheep also help to fertilize the ground where Sally grows her organic Sonora heirloom wheat. We are grateful to Sally for her care of the sheep, the pride she takes in creating the healthiest environment for the sheep, and for helping to cultivate a prime environment for the sheep to grow phenomenal fleece. Sally has a lot to contend with on a day-to-day basis: coyotes, managing 40 acres of growing cotton, while trying to balance the lively nature of the sheep, and the lively nature of nature - that which gives prickles and thorns - something we don't want to get into the fleece or to hurt the sheep. This past year, some of the rams had run through a field of filaree - a weed that produces a sharp, corkscrew shaped seed which when embedded into the fleece is nearly impossible to remove. A good portion of these fleeces could not be made into yarn.
Last April, Sarah, Adrienne, Huelo, and I went to Sally's farm to help with shearing. Matt Gilbert sheared about 120 sheep. Watching Matt shear is magical. The shearing of the sheep is very important to making great yarn. Matt is able to take the entire fleece off the sheep's back at a single pass of the clippers. So there is little loss of fleece in the shearing process. This means that all the fleece Sally has worked hard to raise over the year gets to go to the mill to be turned into yarn - a great, good thing - the more yarn, the better, right? While Matt shearing the sheep, we helped lead the sheep to the shearing area and helped skirt the fleece - taking off all the very dirty parts. Not super glamorous though necessary to make great yarn.
During the Summer, we sent the wool to Green Mountain Spinnery, just like the first batch of Pioneer to be spun into a DK weight yarn. We depend heavily on Green Mountain's long history and expertise in milling wool into yarn - especially fine wool - such as Sally's merino. Like last time, they did a superb job cleaning and spinning the yarn. And, David, who works at Green Mountain Spinnery is an absolute gem. More than just washing fleece and spinning yarn, he is a real mediator, helping all of us to understand one another, bringing all the components of the process together.
We received the yarn about a month ago and began dyeing. There really is nothing like the fresh smell of a clean sheep wrapped up into a beautifully spun yarn. So yes, while we are busy dyeing, we are also busy grabbing handfuls of Pioneer, and stuffing our faces into its squishy self.
It has been interesting to see the slight different in natural color between our first batch of Pioneer in this current batch. The most notable shift is in Tree Fort. This time, it is much more grey. I love it.
Pioneer has been the highlight of 2013 for me. Getting to know Sally and David, following the wool from the sheep to the shelf, natural dyeing Pioneer, learning how the different natural colors pick up the dye, knitting with Pioneer, learning about its characteristics as a yarn, how it wears, how it blooms, and then seeing all of the phenomenal projects made with Pioneer. It has been an incredibly rich time.
The aliveness in which Pioneer carries - the animal, the environment, the people, and the process - is beautiful but can also be fleeting. The more alive a material is - the more unknowns there are when looking into the future. Pioneer works to remind me of gratitude without expectation. To be grateful for Pioneer at this moment, and to know that Pioneer using Sally's wool may not happen again. It may - or it may not. There are just too many unknowns from year to year. There is a limited supply of Pioneer. If you like Pioneer, and want to use it, now is the time to purchase it. We ash that you purchase enough to complete your project(s).
With all of this in mind, I am soaking up every ounce of dyeing and preparing this yarn for you, being absolutely present in each moment of the process.
Pioneer will go on sale at 11am PST both online and in the shop.
If you are in the area, I hope you will join us on Sunday, Nov 10th, from 11-6pm as we celebrate Verb's 3 Year Anniversary and the re-release of Pioneer. To learn more, please click here.
Huelo is releasing a new pattern to accompany Pioneer just like last time.
We will have special limited edition special anniversary colorways.
And we have a few more surprises up our sleeve - so stay tuned!