Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of corresponding with Elizabeth Hubbard of Hubbard Handspun. I was interested in one of her Corriedale fleeces and we got to talking, like folks do on FB when they share some common interests. I tell you, the fiber community has been good to me so far–I have met some of the nicest and most generous folks through farms, guild meetings, and knitting blogs.
Hubbard Handspun has a terrific presence on Facebook, where you can read more about some of the images I have reposted below, and get to know the ranch and ranchers even better. They also have an Etsy shop, though it seems that many growers and fiber enthusiasts have moved some or all of the operation to Facebook groups, such as Raw Wool for Sale / Raw Fleece for Sale. Hubbard Handspun has been selling some gorgeous fleeces this spring–catch one if you can!
Elizabeth agreed to a brief interview (via email) and I am happy to post the results here!
How did your farm/operation get its start?
The Hubbards have always ranched, I married into the family some 30 years ago. The Hubbard Ranch is in south central Oregon, we are on the edge of the High Desert so dry country. We have cattle and sheep. My husband had about 60 ewes when we got married. Over the years we have slowly build our flock up to about 400 ewes. It is mostly a commercial operation, meaning that we make our living selling wool to the woolen mill, and lambs to market. When I was young my main interest was the horses and dogs, but when my second child was born I found it harder to get outside. I was going stir crazy. That’s when I got interested in spinning.
What kinds of fiber animals do you raise and why?
As my interest in fiber arts grew our flock was changing from all meat ewes to Corriedales. They are a lovely all purpose breed. One of the original breeders of Corriedales in the US, the Cranes, lived a couple hours from us. Lee Crane jump started my hand spinning flock. That man could see a fleece like no one else I have ever met. We added Border Leicesters to a small degree to bump the vigor in the lambs. The Corriedale and Border Leicester cross to make some of the most amazing fleeces, crimpy and lustrous. I bought a few merinos from Rafter 7 ranch when I got interested in felting. My favorite wool? Depends on the day and the project.
What is your favorite part of raising fiber animals?
My favorite part of raising fiber animals is having a boundless supply of fiber for myself. It makes me feel rich. Next favorite part is selling fleeces to handspinners and watching them make magic with the wool. When someone sends me a picture of the perfect Aran sweater, or woven shawl, all the hard work is rewarded.
What is on your wheel/needles/loom at the moment?
Right now I am knitting a Dreambird Shawl that is a blend of all the odd bits of luxury fiber I have bought or been gifted, in addition to Camaj silk, and Hubbard Ranch merino. I am spinning a little ahead of the knitting. The pattern is amazing, but knitting is crazy making. All those short rows! I’m also needle felting some wall hangings, petroglyphs that I saw when visiting my daughter who teaches school in Arizona.
What would you like hand spinners to know about your fiber?
It took many years to learn all the little things that go into producing my fleeces. It is very easy to ruin a fleece. The coats that my sheep wear, huge learning curve there. There is nutrition to consider, when to shear. I have to stay on top of thistles and stickers. If the ewe gets just a little sick, or foot problems, the fleece will have a break. I could go on and on here, everything that goes into keep the ewe stress free and the fleece clean and healthy. But to say it short, it took a lot of learning and continues to take a lot of work.
One thing I would like to add, the shearer. My husband has always been our shearer. As we get older we have hired a crew to do the bulk of the sheep, but Mike continues to do the handspinning flock. Without out him, I don’t know that I would continue. It is absolutely priceless to be able to shear on the day that is optimum for fleece and sheep. I’ve been lucky.
How can interested buyers get in touch with you?
I sell my top fleeces at the Black Sheep Gathering. The Gathering is where I bought my first wheel, sold my first fleeces, took my first fiber related classes. Our fleeces have won the Black Sheep Cup for best 5 fleeces several times. The best way to buy a fleece is in person, hands in the wool. Recently I joined the BSG committee to pay back some of what I have received. I work during the Gathering in the Fiber Arts section.
I sell a few fleeces on Etsy, but that has mostly been replaced with Facebook. What an amazing interactive market! I didn’t grow up in the computer age, so it all still boggles my mind. Yesterday for example, I turned the flock loose from the night pen (coyote prevention,) came in the house took some fleece pictures. Sold one fleece to Washington State, and one fleece to Melissa. Messaged a bit with a spinner/dyer in Oregon that will be teaching a class here in July. Visited with Melissa a bit and got to know her through her blog. A spinner messaged, “I’m passing through can I come to your ranch?” So while I waited for her, I worked on a fence that needed some panels changed. Then sold a fleece to the traveler. Went back outside with Toby the border collie to gather the flock for the evening.
Thanks, Elizabeth! I’ll post my adventures with my own Hubbard Handspun fleece in the coming weeks!