MaryJo has been a familiar blog friend and faithful reader for many years. So when she emailed me a few weeks ago about a new adventure she has begun I was so excited for the opportunity to share it with all of you. Not only because she is living out one of my own "some day" dreams, but also because she is doing it with such intention, care and respect for her animals and the process.
With a flock of five sheep, MaryJo has gone from pasture to skein to create a First Harvest of wool that is handspun and hand-dyed. Her hands have touched every step of the process, as you'll see in her beautiful and inspiring video below. And just this month she has set up shop online.
I asked Mary Jo to share a bit about herself….
I’m Mary Jo – the Momma, Wife, Farmer, Artisan of these Acres. I make things. I pursue beauty. I am utterly fascinated by process and gain immense satisfaction from living each step of this yarn, from pasture to skein. This wool is from my small flock of sheep – only five contributed to this harvest. The plants that lent their pigments to the wool were grown by me or collected within my community. This yarn sings with life that I've given it with my own two hands.
And as someone who is entering the whole new world of breeding sheep, I asked her to share how she learned about the process…
I steeped myself in books(stacks and stacks), classes, and local connections to other sheep people. Even after this First Harvest shearing, I took my time deciding what to do with it and how. There's no rush – wool keeps indefinitely if stored properly. It's all been quite experimental, and will continue to be. Attending classes at my area's annual fiber festival was the best way for me to learn how to spin and card. There are also many local guilds for spinning and knitting. Ravelry has several boards on keeping sheep as well as in processing the fleece, but many folks utilize small mills to do a lot of the processing, which is also a great option. It's a steep learning curve, but I was comforted at the very start by the notion one farmer gave me that sheep are so easy that they're what many farmers switch to when they retire.
I also asked her to share her vision for the future of This Is Wool….
I'm currently working on some pattern designs to complement the beautiful variations in this First Harvest wool and hope to release them in the next month or so. We also just finished shearing the Second Harvest of wool, which I'll be washing and drying outside before the temps dip too low. Because of the drought this year, all of the dyeing will be done with acid dyes. Second Harvest will have a look all its own because of this, but I'm satisfied with the decision to keep the sparse dye plants for the critters that will need them over the winter. And, as much as I love the spinning process, (I really, really do) First Harvest will be the only one to offer handspun skeins, making this vintage of yarn extra special.
Take a look at this beautiful video that walks you through Mary's process from pasture to skein. I promise, you're going to want a flock of sheep of your own after watching this…
This is wool. First Harvest: Backyard from Mary Jo, FiveGreenAcres on Vimeo.
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MaryJo's First Harvest is 2.5 oz/100 yard skeins of 2-ply, handspun, plant-dyed wool in worsted weight. You can find it in a whole range of beautiful colors on her website Five Green Acres.