Our 10 year anniversary is coming up June 18th and we're going to release an exciting project to you we've been working on for the greater part of a year: Junegrass, a Colorado Yarn Project.
Junegrass is something that Amber and I have been dreaming of for years. Coming up on our 10 year anniversary, we wanted to do something big and producing an all Colorado yarn seemed like the perfect way to commemorate this milestone. After 10 years we have developed some friendships and connections that would be key in making this project happen. The first is Jeane deCoster who owns and operates Elemental Affects yarn company where she has been producing her own US single breed yarns for years including our own Heirloom. Jennifer Guyor and Nancy Irlbeck of Aniroonz, Cody and Kim Burns of 2B Ewe, and Lewis and Lorrae Moon of Yampa Valley Fiberworks would all play a part in helping turn this dream into a reality. For the next week, we'll tell you the story of how Junegrass came to be.
The biggest hurdle in producing yarn is wool. I know there are sheep farmers in Colorado. We see them grazing, we see them at the wool markets. We have so much grassland! But how do we find a sheep farmer with hand-knitting quality wool who doesn't already have a buyer? I tried searching the internet, checking out the list of farmers in sheep breed databases to see if there were any in Colorado, and came to a lot of dead ends. Enter Jennifer. Jennifer Guyor works with Aniroonz farm as their marketing and outreach person. I had met her at the 2015 Yarnfest and we connected on our love of heritage sheep breeds. She told me about all the sheep they raise at Aniroonz farm in Wellington Colorado--CVM, Karukul, Lincoln, Wensleydale, Teeswater, BFL--basically my dream farm. Nancy Irlbeck is the owner of Aniroonz and the shepherdess of all these creatures. She cares a lot about her sheep. We started stocking roving from Aniroonz last year, and were immediately enamored with their selection of wool breeds and the quality of their handspinning wool. Jennifer was one of the first people I reached out to when we started on this project. Surely she would know some farmers that had wool lying around they needed to find a home for?
Jennifer's first suggestion was exactly what I was hoping for - we could work with them! Aniroonz has an amazing business and a loyal following of handspinners who know and love their high quality fleeces. Nancy and Jennifer sell most of their raw fleeces at retail prices to these spinners which didn't work for our model and the numbers I had been crunching. Nancy and Jennifer were excited to work with us though so we came to an agreement. They wouldn't supply the majority of the wool for our yarn, but they could sell us almost 100 pounds of dark grey Wensleydale at a price that would work for our project.
In the beginning I had a dream list of sheep breeds for our yarn and Wensleydale was at the top. It was perfect! We knew we wanted a natural color wool yarn, so with a decent percentage of dark Wensleydale to work with, we would be able to achieve a heathered grey yarn - my dream come true. We were on our way to creating our yarn with Nancy and Jennifer's help.
When we were able to finally visit Aniroonz during lambing in February of this year, we were blown away. They have an amazing operation going on in northern Colorado. They have a lot of sheep and a lot of different breeds. They are very thoughtful in their breeding program and are focused on wool. They have immense respect for the animals and utilize the whole animal. They sell meat, hides, and wool. When the animals are with them they have pastures, sunshine, names and lots of love. Nancy gave us a tour of all the different sheep - the newborn lambs, the pregnant ewes, the rams. She knew everyones' name and you could sense her love for the animals. When we visited the rams in their huge field, they all came running up to her, even the guard llama.
Of course, seeing so many lambs of so many different sheep breeds was the highlight of the day! There were brand new sleeping lambs and frisky, playful older lambs. Nancy let us cuddle lambs, take photos of lambs and even try to feed the lambs. They were such gracious hosts and have a lovely farm in Wellington. We can't wait for our next visit and hope to bring a group from Denver to visit them later this summer. Jennifer and Nancy are also a great resource of knowledge about sheep and yarn. We are so honored to work with them on this project.
The Aniroonz Wensleydale makes up 25% of Junegrass. This wool is characterized by long shiny locks and adds strength, sheen, color, and a bit of drape to our Colorado yarn. Stay tuned to find out what makes up the other 75%...