Smitten with Michigan
There is no better word to describe this wonderful yarn completely made in the mitten-state. Smitten is our All-Michigan yarn that is a 70/30 blend of Finn fiber and Alpaca. Smitten is available in DK weight with 250 yards per skein and Fingering weight with 400 yards per skein.
Becoming immersed in the local fibershed has been a dream of a decade for Kat; from the plants grown and foraged for color to the animals raised for their fleece. She longed to know the whole story of her clothes and knits; the farmers and processors, the dyers and weavers that touch each item along its way. Claire also felt the need to understand what goes into the final product, all the variables, and how that affects the outcome. It started with Kat showing her how to hand spin, then dyeing, and then she too caught the bug about wanting/needing to know and be a part of the whole process.
Two of our guiding principals in our business are "relationships over transactions" and "Growing and running a sustainable business." So developing our own line of yarn sourced fully in Michigan is an extension of those goals. While we did a small run of yarns from fiber grown locally (Shoreline), it turned out it was not enough and it only peaked our interest in branching out.
Smitten yarn is our first big jump into realizing that dream. Why Knot Fibers has nurtured relationships of trust and friendship with farmers, shearers, mills, and local yarn shops in an effort to bring you a farm-to-needle yarn that is as close to the source as can be. Smitten yarn is a 70/30 blend of Finn fiber and Alpaca, spun at Stonehedge in East Jordan into two weights, DK and Fingering, and can be ordered in limited quantities. It was important to Kat and Claire that there be enough to complete a 1-skein project with, so Smitten is available in DK weight with 250 yards per skein and Fingering weight with 400 yards per skein.
If you’re unfamiliar with Finn sheep, you’re in for a treat. Finn sheep (also called Finnish Landrace) are a heritage breed that originated in Finland. It is considered one of the more versatile sheep, being both a good meat and hair sheep with a fleece that is known for both their luster and soft hand. It is considered a good felting fiber and is less greasy than other wool. The sheep are friendly and sociable, not to mention cute and snuggly!
The Finn fiber in Smitten was sourced from Iron Wheel Farm in Beaverton, Michigan. We first met with Danielle at a Fiber Expo and started talking about what we were doing, she mentioned that she had some available fleeces of Finn and invited us to the farm. At that point we knew nothing about Finn fiber, so we quickly purchased some fiber and yarn online to get familiar with it, and fell in love. Then we drove down to the farm to check it all out and get to know her and her sheep better. Danielle is active and knowledgeable in the Finn sheep community, and an active breeder focused on developing the quality of the breed. Find out more about Iron Wheel Farm here.
Huacaya Alpaca was the blending fiber of choice and hails from several farms around the state and was provided to Why Knot Fibers by The Alpaca Barbers, Matt and Katie. We choose to blend the Finn with Alpaca to play off the strengths of both fibers, and Alpacas are a popular animal in Michigan. The added Alpaca makes the soft hand of the Finn even softer for next to the skin wear. Alpaca has a lovely drape but can sometimes lack structure, blended with the springiness of the Finn in a 2ply allows for light weight lacy feel to the finished garment with lots of durability.
Working with farmer and fiber enthusiast Christina Barkel and Michelle Ferrarese (owner of Birch Point Farm), we are beginning the cultivation of our own Michigan-grown dye plants. We are currently able to harvest dyer’s coreopsis for gold and orange, goldenrod and willow for creamy and bright yellows, and pokeberry weed for mauve and purples. We have also planted Indigo and are beginning the fermentation process to extract the pigment in order to start dyeing with it. Other plants we are pursuing are madder and dyer’s alkanet, both of which need to establish for several years before the roots can be harvested. We plan to expand our indigo and coreopsis beds next year.
Smitten will be available in a pallet of 12 colors from our traditional colorways as well as limited quantities in Michigan grown and other Natural/Botanical dyes. Natural and Botanical dyeing is a labor of love for us; the colors are dependent on many characteristics of the soil, season, and timing. We are unable to dye at a production level with the natural dyes and instead will make available the bounty of each season as we create it.