Well hello everyone and Happy (almost) New Year! When not wrangling a puppy or spending time with my family, I’ve been enjoying all of the Instagram goodness that so many of you share. That’s how I met my featured dyer for today: Mary Ann of Three Waters Farm. Have you seen her colorways?? Oh my! Her saturation and combination of colors have been receiving lots of double taps from me . . . and so, you know my MO: I got in touch and Mary Ann was kind enough to correspond via email for an interview. You’ll find the results below–and my oh my, she does have LOTs going on in the new year that you’ll want to check out and maybe even get involved in! Mary Ann has also kindly offered a coupon code GIVEAWAY! Wahoo! All you have to do to enter is check out her Three Waters Farm shop and tell me which colorway you like best! That’s it! Share your thoughts HERE or over in the Ravelry group–there is a special “Three Waters Farm” thread 🙂 The GIVEAWAY will close on Jan 6th!
Where did the inspiration for Three Waters Farm come from?
We live on a farm that is sandwiched between a river and a creek and that includes a sizeable pond; we’ve been here since 1989. For nine years, we were primarily focused on our spring/summer/fall market garden, retailing and wholesaling vegetables and cut flowers. We also had a herd of dairy goats and made and sold cheese — and then goat’s milk soap — along with our garden produce.
We got our first sheep in 1997 as a gift for one our children on his birthday. That same year, we also rescued some orphaned Angora goat kids. I had the thought that if I could just figure out how to spin the wool and mohair, we could sell that too. One of my friends gave me an old Louet wheel and when I asked her if she would teach me how to spin, she said, “Teach yourself!,” so I did! We started selling homegrown-handspun wool/mohair yarn, as well as knitted and woven garments at our market stand. In 1998 I taught myself to dye and before too long we had way more (dyed!) fiber than I could spin and sell, and that is when we started selling dyed wool/mohair rovings.
We’ve grown and changed and changed and grown in more ways than I could mention here; now we primarily dye and sell combed top, which everyone now calls roving! We still raise dairy goats, but not Angora goats, and our flock of sheep is smaller and it is a mixed flock now. We still have some Bluefaced Leicester genetics but we’re primarily breeding our sheep and lambs to grow fast and live well without wormer or much off-farm input.
What’s special about the fiber blends you feature?
Their spin-ability! We are always on the lookout to add more and different fibers and fiber blends to our lineup, but we only take on wools that we think our customers will enjoy spinning and wearing.
Who are your biggest crafting influences/inspirations?
My earliest fiber inspiration was Pat Harder of Kid Hollow Farm. I met her the year we took on the lambs and Angora goats. Pat was breeding Angora goats with integrity and care and she was also a dye artist with a tremendous eye for color. She created irresistible wool/mohair blends for spinning.
Lynne Vogel of The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook fame has had a tremendous influence on me. If you aren’t familiar with her book, you should be: Lynne popularized spindled spinning and sock knitting as lifestyles, decoded dyeing for the faint of heart, and taught a number of different ways to handle dyed top for spectacular results. All the books, articles, and video classes that address how to handle color in combed top that have been published since TSSW have their roots in Lynne’s work.
Lynne noticed us at Maryland Sheep and Wool in the early 2000’s and she asked me to do some dyeing for her under her LV-LTD label. We have had a wonderful collaboration! Working with Lynne, I often had the feeling that I was in a “Color on Fiber” graduate program. Lynne never forgets a color, the way that some people never forget a face! We worked together long enough that she would call me on the phone and say, “Remember THAT color? This is what I am thinking,” and she would describe her color inspiration and we would toss around different avenues to get there and then I would create her colorways from our conversations.
Do you spin? What’s your dream project?
I do spin! Or I should say, I sometimes spin! I don’t have a lot of time for spinning anymore, I’m sad to say! What I miss most about spinning though is TEACHING spinning! I’ve taught a lot of people to spin over the years, and I find it tremendously satisfying.
I’ve actually completed through Level 4 of the Olds College Master Spinner program. I love having the knowledge and technical skills to create the yarns I want. My dream project would be to have time to work on something – anything! – from start to finish!
Any advice for new dyers?
I would tell new dyers that The Groove is in the Heart. Absorb and dissect the color of YOUR world — and dye and dye and dye and dye. The color will tell you what to do — but you have to listen to YOUR muse in order to hear it!
I emphasize “YOUR” specifically because the internet makes it so easy to take the road most travelled. Reproducing someone else’s work is the same as speaking with someone else’s voice. The road to unique, self-expressive dye work does not travel past the work of other artists; original work is a journey into YOUR heart!!
Where can folks find your shop? or find out more about you?
You can find us at Threewatersfarm.com and at threewatersfarm.etsy.com. You can sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the front page of our website, threewatersfarm.com.
We’ve got a large and active fiber club that we call the Top of the Month Club. Fiber ships during that last week of the month. You can sign up for a subscription here: https://www.threewatersfarm.com/category/fiber-club . We also have three and six month subscriptions available in our Etsy shop.
We have a very active, really fun, and super supportive Ravelry group and we always have something going on over there – we have a SAL every month, complete with prizes, and a few times a year we have designer SAL+KAL’s. We also have a fantastic Tour de Fleece team every year – what a lot of fun that is! This year we fielded a Spinzilla team for the second time and our team placed very well, especially considering that we are a “challenge yourself” team, not a spin-the-most-yardage team! http://www.ravelry.com/groups/three-waters-farm.
Instagram is also a great place to find us! We make a point of showcasing the incredible yarns and the amazing garments that our customers spin, knit, crochet, and weave. We also post all of our shop announcements there, so follow us!! https://www.instagram.com/threewatersfarm/
What’s new on the horizon for Three Waters Farm?
We’ve got lots of fun things coming up and some of them just launched!!
We are the guest dyers for the first quarter of 2018 for the Completely Twisted and Arbitrary Spinning Group on Ravelry!! CTA is a great group that spins A LOT and has A LOT of fun doing it! We just delivered our prompt yesterday! Group members choose photos that match the prompt, vote for their favorite photos, and then I create colorways from their favorites! The resulting colorways will be available by pre-order for one week only in the beginning of January. Anyone and everyone can order; we will announce the Pre-Order period on Instagram. The group is open to everyone, so hustle on over there and join the fun! https://www.ravelry.com/groups/completely-twisted-and-arbitrary-spinning
We just created some special colorways for the North Country Spinners, a spinning guild in northwest New Jersey; they are celebrating their 35thanniversary this year! You can see the photos and the colorways here: https://www.ravelry.com/discuss/north-country-spinners-guild-nj/3690425/1-25 These colorways will be available for Pre-Order on December 28th through January 5th.
The #spin15aday2018challenge! We just did a promotion for the #spin15aday2018challenge because we believe that our spinning skills – and the spinning community — grow when we are actively spinning! Sherrill, @the1764shepherdess is the originator of #spin15aday and she has a lot of fun things planned for 2018, so climb aboard this one everybody: you will be glad you did!
And last but not least, @KnittingSarah and I have created an Instagram event called #wemakeyarn for the month of January. We’ve created 31 prompts to get us all talking and sharing about our spinning journeys; you can see the prompts on our Instagram feed and by searching the tag #wemakeyarn. The event begins on January 1st, so spread the word! (And I’ve attached our prompts!)
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Thanks so much, Mary Ann!
I love meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are an indie dyer, a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)