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How We Got Here
I have been operating a small Etsy shop selling my hand spun and hand dyed yarns. My husband is currently in the military and is preparing to go back to school to learn about animal husbandry. His time in the military is uncertain and our plan after military life is to operate a small farm and raise a flock of sheep- mainly conservation breeds. I was given the opportunity to have my yarns featured in a storefront and I wanted to make an impact with that opportunity. That is how we settled on conservation breeds. In order to make this happen we decided to share our project with the Kickstarter Community. There are many very luxurious wools that come from these breeds and I think it would be beneficial to offer something to a wider market and get more exposure for these breeds.
The funds from this Kickstarter campaign will go to purchasing quality fleeces, processing fees for mill spun yarns, dyes, packaging and shipping costs.
We chose to use a mill with vintage machinery because it gives it a lot of character but it is very consistent skein to skein. By utilizing the mill I will be able to produce a far larger amount of yarn in a much shorter time at a lower cost. That means better rewards for backers and a lower price point so more people can work with it. The skeins will be in the 3-5 ounce range. I have also included roving for those who spin or felt. I will also be hand spinning art yarns in my home. Each skein of yarn will be hand dyed with professional acid dyes. (If you would like a natural dyed skein please let me know.)
We are also excited about Kicking It Forward by reinvesting at least 5% of our profits back in to Kickstarter campaigns. It has been an awesome opportunity for us and we have enjoyed reading other projects. We are happy to give back. For more info see: http://kickingitforward.org www.kickingitforward.org
Making Yarn With A Purpose
Stepping away from traditional hand spun I wanted to make something with a purpose that makes a statement. My goal is to produce enough yarn to be featured in a storefront as well as have stock to send as rewards to those who help fund my dream of creating a brand of yarn that is from conservation breed sheep from the United States. The brand will include lines from different conservation breeds as well as different weights of yarn. I plan to include fingering, sport, worsted and art yarns. I have identified different breeds that I would like to focus on that are all conservation breeds. Each of the breeds is ranched in the United States. I will limit my fiber purchases to American ranchers.
By producing yarn from a conservation breed it directly supports an American rancher who is working hard to save the breed from extinction. There are some breeds in the United States that have dwindled to small flocks of sheep. This also raises awareness by introducing the consumer to breeds that many people may have never heard of. Each skein will have a tag identifying the breed, location of where the flock is being raised and information about the breed. By raising more awareness of these conservation breeds it educates more people about how rare these animals are and economically supports the ranches that raise them. Some of the wool I intend to use comes from sheep that have teetered on the brink of extinction.
One of the biggest wool shows on the West Coast is Lambtown USA which is held in Dixon, California. It will be held October 4-5 this year. My goal is to complete this campaign in enough time that I can attend Lambtown and meet different breeders and ranchers and be able to look at all of the different fleeces they have available. By doing so I can hand select both quality fleeces and quality ranches that utilize sustaining their flocks and maintaining the quality of the bloodlines of the conservation breed.
Processing The Wool In To Yarn
Once I have selected the fleeces for spinning I am going to deliver some of them to a family run mill in the Sierra Nevada mountains outside of gates of Yosemite National Park so that they can be cleaned, carded and spun. The mill uses vintage machinery which produces beautiful yarn with more character than that of commercially spun yarns. They do not implement the use of harsh cleaners and scouring chemicals so the fiber is never exposed to chemicals that could damage it or be an irritant to the consumer. It also keeps these chemicals out of our watershed and reduces the number of rinses required to wash them out which saves water in our drought stricken state. The mill owners are also proud owners of their own flock of conservation breed sheep! They will also help with washing and carding fleeces to produce roving so that I can make art yarn. I plan on washing some of the fleeces myself and carding them and spinning art yarn with the batts I create. Art yarn- specifically thick and thin slub yarn is the reason I have such a great love for yarn. Every skein is different like a snow flake. Every spinner spins differently, no two skeins are a like. The possibilities are endless for art yarns. I plan to focus on thick and thin slub yarns. The current turn around for such an order will be 3-4 months.
While I am anxiously awaiting the mill spun yarn I will be hand spinning art yarns and preparing for the load of finished mill spun yarn. I am going to design skein sleeves for the different types of yarn and breed information tags. I am going to locate a printing company that is a small business where I can have the skein sleeves and breed tags printed further supporting the local economy and another small business owner. During this time I will be mailing out thank you cards to all of my backers. Once the yarn is received I am going to hand dye the yarn in batches and set aside some naturally colored yarn. By dying it in batches I can make a few skeins that match so that if someone loves a specific colorway they can purchase more than one skein or if someone would like to make a larger finished item the colors will match. I am going to purchase the supplies I need from Paradise Fibers which is located in Spokane, Washington. They are a family business and they raise their own flock of sheep which are mainly conservation breeds as well. Their business (and family of employees) strive to educate people about the fiber industry and preserve and promote traditional fiber art crafts. They also support US ranches by offering contracts with them to purchase fleeces.
Fulfilling Order, Rewards & Finishing Up
The next step will be the fulfillment of my order to the shop as well as rewards to all of my backers. While I am waiting for the mill spun yarn I plan on getting all of the packaging ready for my shipments so there is no delay once the yarn is finished. I know everyone will be just as excited as I am to have a finished product in hand.
As part of educating and creating awareness of the breeds I am also going to do two demonstrations for the home schooling community where I live. The first demonstration will include showing the fleeces that I purchase at Lambtown. I plan to show how each fleece is different and why the differences matter for textile production. I plan to do a carding demonstration and show the traditional way of using hand carders that were designed and manufactured by a company based in California that has been in business since 1971. After the carding demonstration I will do a spinning demonstration to show the process of spinning the fluffy fibers in to actual yarn.
Once the mill spun yarn is picked up I am going to do another demonstration that showcases the different types of yarns and the entire process from sheep to yarn. I have a local contact in the area who rescues sheep that may be able to be involved and bring one of her sheep for the final demonstration. I will set up displays with the different yarns and let the kids see and feel the difference between the breeds. I would also like there to be interaction that draws the kids in. I am planning on having photos of the breeds I use, samples of each raw wool and samples of each spun yarn so the kids can guess which wool comes from which sheep and which fleece produced which yarn.
Risks and challenges
One of the biggest challenges will be to locate fleeces that only come from conservation breeds. While they are typically readily available there are still very few sheep from some of the breeds which can mean being very detail oriented about locating the ranchers who will be at Lambtown who have fleeces available for our project and purchasing them before they are sold out. If we cannot find enough fleeces at Lambtown our next challenge will be locating ranchers that fit our project with conservation flocks and purchasing fleeces directly from them without being able to hand pick them.
Personally one challenge I face is the fact my husband is part of Safe Harbor which is the US Navy's Wounded Warrior program. He is in the process of having surgeries and getting his health back on track and I currently attend all of his appointments with him and our two small children. I understand that it is important to be open about possible complications and while nothing is looming in the near future a surgery could pop up which could delay any part of my project by a few weeks while he recovers.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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