Why am I in New Mexico working on a sheep farm?
Telling you the story of this sweater will help answer that question...
In 2017 I took a Border Leicester sheep fleece that I’d bought in Vermont, processed it from start to finish into roving at a wool mil l, spun the roving into yarn and then designed and knit this sweater.
(I actually made a video of this process which you can watch here)
I used to design and knit knitwear collections for a living.
It was part of my two-part business from 2011-2016 (the other part being @agirlnamedleneyphotography)
But I started being bothered by the fact that I had no idea where the yarn I used was coming from, how it was made, or how the sheep were treated.
This led me down the path of learning how to spin yarn in 2015, furthering my education of sustainable fibers which coincidentally went hand-in-hand with my ventures into slow living, which I was also practicing at the time.
Along with that came the conviction of selling goods and feeding into a consumerist society. Creating products that, while well made and more ethical than something you could buy at Target, weren’t necessarily things people always *needed*.
Regardless of my heart behind my knitwear, the nature of selling things, especially when you need to pay the bills, is to convince people that what you have is something they need.
Which doesn’t sit right with me.
Nevertheless I have a passion for the fiber arts and have since I was 8 years old and my Grandmother placed two knitting needles in my hand.
This avenue of creation is a part of me.
I’m on a journey to figure out what kind of part and how I can use it and couple it with my beliefs to better the communities I’m apart of and the world I live in.
Living more simply, sustainably and back-to-the-land are convictions of mine as well.
I’m not sure if I’m meant to have my own homestead or farm, but I’m out here figuring it out.
Why am I in New Mexico working on a sheep farm?
going through an alpaca fleece // photo by Meagan Abell
that’s the current state i feel some parts of my creativity are in. not for a lack of passion, but simply because i cannot do everything at once.
depending on how long you’ve followed me, you might not even know that i’m a fiber artist and knitwear designer.
i started an Etsy shop in 2011 which was part of my full time work until about 2015. it grew into a very successful side of my business. i designed seasonal collections of knitwear centered around themes of inspiration (examples: On The Road, Gypsy Soul and OOAK pieces inspired by my travels), i was on the front page frequently, became a featured shop, interviewed in a book, had pop ups with the likes of Madewell and Quirk Gallery, was featured in various publications and by all appearances had “made it” in the Etsy scene of success.
but it didn’t feel like success. i was overworked, staying up until 4am knitting to fulfill holiday orders, warring with the desire to remain small so as to have my hand in all of aspects of my business and wanting to create each piece myself but unable to keep up with the demands alone. not to mention still running my photography business which entailed primarily shooting weddings at the time. and then Etsy went public and i quickly grew frustrated and disenchanted with a platform that used to be exclusively for handmade and vintage wares and was now blurring lines by allowing factories in China to open up shops and claim their mass produced goods as “handmade”. (this is a simplified rant of the many complicated changes that have happened at Etsy over the past few years but it was definitely an element in my frustration and stress of maintaining my own shop)
and then of course too there was the realization of not knowing how my yarn was made that led to my pursuing sustainable knitwear. learning how to process wool on my own, spin it into yarn, dye with natural dyes and plants and create pieces that felt like true representations of me as an artist and embodied my ethics and beliefs.
(which is what these woven pieces are—all yarn i hand spun from a wide array of fibers and some i even processed from raw fleece!)
but other than a few custom orders, i never fully went all in with that venture. perhaps because i was hesitant to grow it to the size of my previous endeavor, or because it was too different of a market for my current customer base, or because it simply became an art form that was just for me-and not something i had to monetize and sell.
or perhaps because it just wasn’t the season for this dream. who knows?
my Etsy shop is technically still open, i’ve slowly been letting the listings expire and i plan to close it fully after selling all of my extra inventory this fall.
but this type of creating is still such a huge part of me.
until recent years i knit almost every day from the time that i was 8 years old.
i still want to work on a sheep farm to learn a more in depth way to incorporate the whole “from sheep to sweater” idea in my fiber art.
i still am so turned on by textiles and meticulously study sweater construction.
but as a person with endless interests and passions, i am learning that each have their season. just because i am not full-time pursuing one doesn’t mean that it’s any less a part of me or less valid because it isn’t recognized by others and in the public eye.
i’m a little all-or-nothing with most things in my life, so this isn’t always easy for me. but it’s a lesson that’s good for my hands to learn how to hold.
Being able to visit Beltayne Farm was a result of a connection I made through someone seeing this Instagram post of mine and kindly recommending me to their friend Sunshine’s shearing day that she and her family were hosting.
After exchanging some Facebook messages, and grabbing my friend Meagan to come along, I headed out on one rainy Spring day to see some sheep.
We had the best time and instantly connected and loved Sunshine and her family who could not have been more generous or welcoming (sending us home with a dozen eggs from their chickens, as well as a promise of some wool upon our next visit).
The Summer has gotten away with me and kept me quite busy but I hope to return to this little homestead sometime soon to revisit the new friends I made there.
The day involved me holding my very first little lamb (named Pip… whose sibling is named Squeak) which obviously could not have made my day any more than it did.
I'm grateful for the generosity and kindness of strangers that’s extended and shared even before common interests and passions are established.
Hope you enjoy a few iPhone snaps from the day!
I've really gotten to the point where I'd just rather live on a farm with a bunch of sheep and fig trees and call it a day if I'm bein honest...
But maybe a farm on the water somewhere though.
So I can still go sailing.
I don't think it's any secret how obsessed I am with sheep/anything fiber related. It's a dream of mine to learn how to sheer a sheep and process and spin the wool all on my own.
I learned how to spin yarn from a drop spindle, around this time last year, which was one of the highlights of my year if I'm being honest.
But I want to learn more techniques as well as how to spin more efficiently on a wheel.
This is a photo of a sheepy friend I made last fall. In going through my archives I came across it and fell in love with it again.
Definitely hoping to make some more wooly *friends this Spring... We'll see.
*Submissions/suggestions/applications for friends along these lines are always welcome.