This the last installment of my trip last weekend. While my friends and I visited Autumn House Farms we had the privilege of touring the farm and seeing most of the process that the wool goes through before it becomes the beautiful yarn we love to knit with!
First we met the sheep…
As Harriet put it, “We could feed our sweaters if we wanted.” We just watched them eat but we did get to meet and hold our sweaters which was just as much fun. The most incredible part was actually watching the herding dogs work their magic with the sheep. It was incredible how they were able to herd specific sheep into specific pens for feeding. The dogs really truly seemed to enjoy their work. They just couldn’t wait to get in and chase those sheep around!
I don’t know how many sheep were there, I forgot to ask but there were a lot and Harriet and her husband create their own breeds at Autumn House to get the specific qualities of wool they want. The animals were beautiful as well as was the barn they live in. These animals were extremely well cared for and you could tell Harriet loved them all as pets even though they are her livelihood.
The next place we visited was the carding house.
I believe the only part of the process we didn’t see was when they dyed the yarn or fleece. In the carding house there are two things that happen. The first thing is that the fleece is sent through the picker.
This is what the fleece looks like when it comes off the sheep but obviously it has already been dyed …Harriet has also gone through and picked out any nature or trash like hay or other materials that aren’t wool.
Here is at Harriet at the picker. She puts the fleece in and as you can see the machine has giant spikes that sort of fluff the fleece up and spit it out the other side.
Next the fleece goes through the carding machine. The carding machine has a number of barrels that have different sized teeth on them. The fleece is rolled in and out of the various drums and comes out the other side combed and nice and neat. In this form it is called roving and is ready to be spun in to yarn or hand felted in to some beautiful creation.
When Harriet turned on the carding machine the whole tiny building that had once been a hunting camp came alive shaking from the vibrations of the machine. I could feel my whole body trembling under the rumble. Despite the loud noise and vibration I could see how spending a day alone working the carding machine could be therapeutic, almost hypnotic…a sort of escape. When the machine was finally turned off I felt tingly all over from the vibrations!
The last step is that Harriet takes the roving over to her studio where she spins it into beautiful artisan yarn or sends it to a larger mill that will spin the yarn to her specifications. As Harriet sits and spins her yarn she completely controls the ply and weight of the yarn. This process looks so effortless as she works the wool in her hand, runs the spinning wheel while pressing a peddle with her foot and talking to us about raising our daughters in such trying times. Every once in a while she stops spinning to make an important point about the life lesson she is teaching us but most of the time she is spinning and looking as natural as if she were brushing her hair.
And she has finally made what will sit on a shelf, probably not for long judging by it’s beauty, and wait to be made into a shaw or sweater of other beautiful and warm garment.