Recently, yarn shops have been asking for more of our yarn to buy wholesale. We had inquiries at both Vermont Sheep and Wool and at Rhinebeck. Because our retail efforts are going well, we don’t have enough yarn for more extensive wholesale marketing than the two local yarn shops we currently work with. It’s hard to let purchasers down knowing that they need locally-grown stock to distinguish their shops in a crowded and competitive marketplace.
At the same time, other sheep farmers all around us have piles of wool going unused because they don’t have the knowledge, skill, or interest in doing so, not to mention the capital to have thousands of dollars in yarn sequestered at the mill for a while. So much wool going to compost or the base wholesale market that doesn’t even offer a dollar a pound.
The third problem is one that Matt and I have acknowledged for Fiscal Year 3 of our farm at this scale. Our enterprises make money, but it’s looking like they won’t supply enough profit to pay all of the bills without some additional enterprises. We have too much work on the farm to fit in off-farm jobs. How can we fill the gaps?
What if we could address all three issues with one effort? We could buy raw wool from other sustainable sheep enterprises for much more than the base-level wholesale price, get it spun into excellent yarn, and then offer it to local yarn shops to help them curate a fuller local fiber section. Since our yarn enterprise is generally doing very well, we can run this parallel enterprise similarly.
I have selected three farms to start with. All three have interesting breeds, amazing fleece and so much potential. All three are happy to see their fleece going into a worthy product. I also think that knitters, crocheters and other fibercrafters are ready to move on from superwash merino into other, more adventurous waters. Remember when sweaters didn’t pill? It was because they were made from medium wools which stand up much better to daily use. Not everyone will think this yarn is neck-soft – save your merino for that project and make your snowball-throwin’ mittens out of our yarn.
If you want to support this project, the most helpful thing you can do is purchase some yarn or lamb from the shop. I don’t want to take long-wait preorders (fiber takes MONTHS at the mill – really!) but I promise I will let you all know when the new yarn is available. In the meantime, your purchases will go towards purchases of wool, mill costs and other detail-stuff like yarn labels. Your support means a lot to me, and I hope you find this project as exciting as I do.
Meanwhile, I do have a sheep farm to run, so nothing will change on the Cloverworks end. A long winter followed by lambs awaits us!