By Clay Schuldt
Ever look into your closet and wonder where the fabric in your waredrobe comes from? The local knitters at the Houston Public Library want you to start asking those questions. The third annual Southeast Minnesota Sheep & Fiber Farm Tour is scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 11 through 13.
“Our mission is to promote natural sustainable fiber in the southeast area,” Jean Mueller, a member of the knitting group, said. She went on to say that a major goal is to have people in the area start thinking about the fiber of their clothing – from where it comes from, to how it is processed.
The tour has a total of six stops. The first stop is at Rach-Al-Paca Farm in Hastings, Minn. The ranch is named for the alpaca raised there (both huacaya and suri males). Both yarn, roving and clothing is spun from the alpaca’s wool at the on-site fiber mill.
Next on the tour is Clear Spring Farm, a Tibetian yak farm in Welch, Minn. The fiber produced by yak is often compared to cashmere and is becoming a popular commodity. The yaks themselves are a popular attraction as well.
The historic Faribault Woolen Mill is third on the tour. Faribault Mill is located on the banks of the Cannon River and is owned by a fifth generation of weavers, who maintain techniques and standards that date back nearly 150 years.
The fourth stop, Ellison Sheep Farm, is in Zumbrota and gives visitors the chance to see spinning, weaving and felting demonstrations in the barn’s studio. Owner Nancy Ellison was instructed in the Scandinavian style and also deals in spinning wells, carders and looms for those interested in created their own handspun yarn.
Wiscoy Valley Farm brings the tour to Houston. A variety of animals live on the farm, including Merino and Shetland sheep. Tourists are invited to take part in fiber art as well as see spinning and weaving in action.
The final leg of the tour is at the Houston Public Library — the site of local knitting clubs recent Yarn Bombing. A yarn bomb — sometimes referred to as guerilla knitting or urban knitting — involves covering objects in the public in hand-knitted or crocheted fabric. In this case, the object being covered is located in the green space adjacent to the library.
The Yarn Bombing is being promoted by the Houston knitting group and, as Mueller explained, this trend is replacing graffiti in some areas.
When finished, all flag poles, trees, benches and sculptures in the library green space will be dressed in knit. The project began on Thursday, Sept. 12 and will be complete the week of the fiber tour.
The project still requires additional help, as knitting a form fitting sweater to a tree is easier with a team. Those wishing to help set up the installation should contact the Houston Public Library.
“We are looking for acrylic knitted or crocheted pieces of any size, shape, color, pattern or skill level to incorporate into our project,” Library Director Liz Gibson-Gasset said. “We will gladly accept donations of outdated, ugly or leftover yarn and needles from your stash to help with the project.”
Since only synthetic fibers are being used, there is no risk of the material decomposing. Gibson-Gasset intends to leave the green space “bombed” for the next several months, all the way into winter.
Mueller emphasized that donating to the Yarn Bombing is a good way to get rid of synthetic fibers.
Local knitters can stop by the library to pick up free acrylic yarn or needles to use, if needed, and can drop off finished pieces at the library during regular hours of operation. Knitters from further away can mail items to the Houston Public Library.
Friday, Oct. 11 is the first day of the tour, which begins with a sheep cheese and wine event at the B&B Berwood Hill Inn Gardens in Lanesboro. Author Catherine Friend will also give a presentation on here writing, sheep and farming.
Tickets for the Friday Cheese and Wine event are available at fiberfarmtour.com with other information on the tour.
Admission is free on Saturday and Sunday. The tour is self-guided, allowing fiber enthusiast to visit the locations they find most interesting.