How often do you get to see a complete fleece be shorn from a sheep? We had never seen that live, until we went on our trip to Block Island this past weekend. Our family friends, the Millers, have a home on Block Island and their neighbors have a lovely sheep named ‘Stella’. She was due for her yearly shearing and we got to watch!
The shearer gave an informative commentary while shearing Stella.
The video below is complete from start to finish. Enjoy it!
Later on our visit, we went to see the newest mill on the island at North Lights Fibers. They gather fibers from sheep, yak, alpaca, and camel right from the island zoo and others like bamboo and silk from overseas. The mill is located right upstairs from the store selling the finished products, all cleaned, carded, and spun by fantastic machines!
The experience was like seeing an episode of How It’s Made live! We watched as raw fleece was cleaned, dyed, and woven into three-ply spools and made ready to sell downstairs. Besides skeins of fibers, there are also some lovely knitted rugs and shawls ready to purchase. All the effort was amazingly performed by just the husband and wife team of Laura and Sven Risom.
While we toured the mill upstairs, the girls worked on some needle felting and made some interesting creations! Their grandparents bought them some kits to needle felt some birds to eventually hang on our Christmas tree.
The store has many types of fibers and you can feel each type before you purchase. Tours are encouraged as well as questions and photos. (Good for me!) There are opportunities for classes and retreats as well. We found a new respect for all the work that goes into one skein of yarn.
After the tour and various fiber purchases, we got to see the animals that provide some of the fibers and their exotic farm mates! Justin Abrams runs Abrams Farms and he had an animal we had never even heard of, let alone seen, at his farm- a Zedonk!
Yes, as you can guess, it is a cross between a Zebra and a Donkey, and a rather humorous-looking mix he was! The other exotic animals were peacocks, lemurs and kangaroos.
The fiber-producing animals were the goats, sheep, yak, mountain steer, camels and alpacas. Of course, some ducks roamed around for fun too!
This was a fantastic learning experience, for both we fiber artists and the recipients of our craft. I encourage anyone who knits or otherwise creates with fiber to see a mill in action and learn about the fibers. The next time I am in my LYS (local yarn shop) I will feel much more knowledgeable about the skeins I will be buying and far more confident about the way my WIP (work in progress) will turn out!
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