Last week, we had the pleasure of visiting some family in New York and part of my plan was to sneak off to the Fingerlakes Woolen Mill for a visit. I heard about this wonderful Shangri-La from a Fiber Trek Fiber Cast (“Squirrely). When I looked them up, it turned out they were only about 30 min away by car. What?? 30 min?!?? Yep. And so the emails went flying. Jay and Suzanne (the mill owners) were super sweet and very easy going in terms of timing and we set up a date to meet, and tour the mill.
Oh, how I wish I had pictures of my own. A couple of photos from their website will have to do instead. They have one each of an entire fleet of machines from the 1920s-1950s (most of the equipment seemed to date from the ’20s and ’30s) that wash, pick, card, and spin the fibers. We saw beautiful wooden conveyer belts, incredible wrought iron, beautiful spindles that had holes throughout to allow the yarn to be steam-set. Simply amazing. I have seen nothing like it except in YouTube videos from Ireland’s heritage mills, and this place is just in my backyard. If you are at all interested in spinning–and anywhere nearby–this is a must-visit.
Plus, there are two more reasons to go OR catch them at a fiber festival: first, Jay and Suzanne are two of the finest, most wonderfully interesting people I have met in a long time. They have a great deal of experience and know-how, and their outlook on all things fiber and farming is inspirational. Second, they have a flock of Hog’s Island sheep! Yes! This critical breed only has a few hundred sheep in the entire country. You can read about their history on the Fingerlakes Woolen Mill website OR listen to a great history lesson from Fiber Trek’s Sarah Hunt. The sheep were amazing. A once feral breed that was not too stand-offish on this farm (Jay and Suzanne clearly care very much for their animals and interact with them a lot); they came right over for some nuzzling and treats. Their coats feel a bit course on their bodies, but the roving I was able to score is soft as anything. It does not feel at all like I would have expected from a less domesticated breed.
Jay is going to be at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in a week or so, and you can likely score some excellent roving there AND you can probably drop off your fiber for processing, too! I know I would go with The Fingerlakes Woolen Mill if I met the minimums. They handle a lot of fleeces year round and they produce excellent roving and yarn.
Here is my own booty from the visit. I hope to go back in May for a fleece (or two!)