Untangling: Katrina Updike of Fluffy U Fiber Farm

You don’t have to take a trip to the UK to find wool from British Breed sheep. You simply have to visit — or visit the website of — Fluffy U Fiber Farm in Dover, Pennsylvania.

Shepardess Katrina Updike has been raising British and rare breed sheep, including Blue-Faced Leicester, Gotland, Leicester Longwool and Teeswater, for the past 18 years, and she hand dyes all of their yarns for knitters and roving for hand spinners. I asked Katrina to tell me a little bit more about the farm.

Tell me how your farm got started.

I actually started out with two Blue-Faced Leicester ewes in the backyard in an old tractor shed. Eventually we built a small pole barn. My husband travelled a lot so each time he went away I would add another sheep or goat or two. Eventually we were able to purchase part of my husband’s grandparents’ farm and the rest, as they say, is history.

How did you decide to raise British breed and rare breed sheep?

I raised a bunch of different sheep breeds over the years. But, I’ve always had Blue-Faced Leicester sheep since the beginning. So it was just natural to start adding other British/rare breed sheep to the flock.

Where does the name Fluffy U come from.

I actually was going to call our farm the Updike Funny Farm but wasn’t sure anyone but me would find the humor in the name. But, I finally settled on Fluffy U Fiber Farm because our sheep are big and fluffy and U for our last name. Being able to bring the farm and farming back into the family the name seem appropriate.

How has the business changed over the last 18 years?

The business has progressively changed in order to keep up with the times. At first it was just roving and some basic yarn. But, as we have grown we have added more yarn and roving blends, books and notions, project kits and classes at the farm as well as doing fiber shows for the past six years. It has been a challenge for us as we sell and use very little commercial product in our line of yarn. But, there is no greater satisfaction for me than being able to tell someone which sheep or goat their yarn came from.

Do you knit yourself and, if so how did you learn?

My grandmother taught me to crochet as a child, but I didn’t start knitting until I was 19. A wonderful woman named Kay Thompson taught me. I’ve been knitting ever since then.

How did you get started spinning?

I took a class at the Mannings with Tom Knisley. Tom is a great teacher with a lot of patience for all of us who haven’t a clue how to make the wheel work correctly. So, since that class I have probably been spinning about 10 years.

What are some of your favorite projects made with Fluffy U Fiber yarn?

A cardigan made with our BFL using a daisy stitch in all white, our Conewago Shawl and Cassius Shawl that I have made using our natural blend yarn and also coopworth tencel blend yarn. Right now I’m really enjoying knitting fingerless mitts using my handspun yarn from the sheep.

What are some the best things you’ve learned running Fluffy U?

Knitting is universal you can always find a way to communicate. Everything is an experiment what might work for one show may not work for another. Be true to yourself and your dream. You can’t please everyone. There are more nice, crazy fiber people than not.

What to stash this week: yarn chicken

Jennifer at Spirit Trail Fiberworks has been doing a fun collaboration with her newsletter subscribers in which she dyes a colorway inspired by a photo sent by one of her readers. February’s colors — one main and two complementary — are inspired by a photo of a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte chicken. The yarn will be available to pre-order until February 19 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

Jennifer has also created her latest design with TV knitting in mind. Craic — Irish Gaelic slang for “fun, a good time, a good conversation” — is a crescent-shaped, fingering-weight shawl with some garter, stripes and texture. It is knit with two 400-yard skeins of fingering, and you can even mix and match bases to get an even more interesting texture. Don’t forget that you can receive 20% off your order of any in-stock yarn through February 28 with the code Indie. 

Marian has a new six-skein gradient set called Beekeeper in the colorways Beeswax, Protect the Pollinators, Honeycomb, Dumbledore, Queen Bee and Hive Mind. It is currently available in fingering weight on her Scrumptious HT base, which is 80% Superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere and 10% nylon in three sizes.

Cat Sandwich Fibers is having a shop update this Sunday, February 18, with lots of new OOAK colorways and new Cat Sandwich enamel pins.

Pam’s latest design, Checkpoint, is a two-color sideways triangle with garter and what she promises to be easy intarsia.

Acadia Lights, the fifth colorway in the Knitting Our National Parks series by Asylum Fibers, is available to preorder through next Friday, February 23. You can get some ideas on what to make with either the Solitary Fingering or Golden Goose DK here.

What to make with Asylum Fibers Acadia Lights


I loved that Stephanie of Asylum Fibers dyed her Acadia Lights Knitting Our National Parks colorway on two bases, as it provides multiple project options for those of us who aren’t always in the mood to take on a fingering-weight project (though I’m still going to get both bases!).

Stephanie sent my several good ideas for both her Solitary fingering and Golden Goose DK.

Solitary

Haruni by Emily Ross

Constellate by Hunter Hammersen

Messaline by Bristol Ivy

Boxy by Joji Locatelli

Golden Goose

Boxley Hat and Boxley Mitts by Bristol Ivy. Photos ©Tolt Yarn and Wool

Lake Reed by Asita Krebs

Campside Cardigan by Alicia Plummer

Campside Pullover by Alicia Plummer

Check out more suggestions here.

What to stash this week: Northern Lights, Acadia style

Asylum Fibers’ Acadia Lights is the latest installment of the Knitting Our National Parks series. Stephanie’s colorway is inspired by this photo of the Northern Lights over Acadia back in September. Stephanie, who hails from Maine, is dyeing the colorway on two bases. One is her Solitary single-ply fingering and the other is Silver Goose, a DK that is studded with silver Stellina reminiscent of stars in the night sky. The yarn is available to preorder here through Friday, February 23 and will ship at the end of March. As always, 10% of sales will be donated to the National Park Foundation.

Téamh is Irish Gaelic for “warmth” and it’s the perfect name for Jennifer’s new hat design. The sample above was knit using Spirit Trail Fiberworks Luna, Jennifer’s non-shrink organic wool worsted weight base, created with an organic process that’s not technically Superwash. As an Indie Untangled reader, you get two discounts! Use the code Indie on the Spirit Trail website to get 20% off your yarn order and on Ravelry to get 50% off the hat pattern.

If you love Porterness Studio’s shawl pins, you’re in luck: some have been replenished and Jen has also created some new designs. She’s showing love right back and is extending her 20% discount for Indie Untangled readers. Use the code LovingIndieFEB18.

My Mama Knits has created new colorways inspired by sea and water lore, available in themed mini-skein sets or as full sock and DK skeins.

by Briony, based in Melbourne, dyes local, Australian wool. Her colors are inspired by, and created with, nature, including Eucalyptus leaves.

Lisa of White Birch Fiber Arts, a popular self-striping yarn vendor at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, is officially on the Marketplace!

IU newcomer NanoStitch Lab is a pair of dyers who find inspiration in all aspects of science.

Untangling MK Nance

Designer MK Nance first popped on my radar (AKA the Indie Untangled Marketplace) at the end of 2014. Since she tends to design her accessory patterns with indie-dyed yarn, she was a perfect fit for the website and also for the Where We Knit Yarn Club, in which I pair together dyers and designers, who collaborate on an exclusive colorway and one-skein pattern.

For last year’s club, Nance bended the rules slightly and used two half skeins of Three Fates Yarn Terra Sock to create not one, but two patterns with a two-color cable design that has become her trademark. The Crystal Springs cowl and Jenkins hat are now available to purchase. I recently asked Nance to tell me a little bit more about her work and inspiration.

How did you decide to become a designer?

I just did! The first pattern I wrote was because I couldn’t find a pattern that I needed to make and friends’ friends asked me to make it for them so I wrote the pattern up and said I would teach them. Two dyers, Three Fates Yarn and The Periwinkle Sheep, both suggested I just do it.

What did you do before becoming a designer and how does it inform your design work?

The first thing I ever designed was a scarf was my sophomore year of high school, so I had not really done anything at that point. I studied anthropology and middle eastern studies in college. After that I lived in NYC, Cairo, and Portland, Oregon. Many names and motifs are inspired by where I have been or studied.

When and how did you learn to knit?

Mrs. Struk, my first and second grade teacher, kept me in during recess until I learned how to tie my shoes. That didn’t work so she took my mother aside and told her I needed better eye hand coordination, so knitting or crochet would be good to learn. As my mother can’t crochet she taught me how to knit. My shoes are never tied still (I can tie them now) but I have knitting in my purse, car and everywhere.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Honestly, if I knew I would have an easier time coming up with names.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

If it will be self published, I’ll pull out the yarn and start painting stitches using my graphing program.

If it for a call for a third party publisher, I’ll pull up the mood board and paint stitches.

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

My favorite colors have not changed. I do use color differently, I once loved lace and variegated colorway but now I’ll use busier yarns with a solid with stranding or mosaic.

You recently published your first sweater design in Twist Collective. Do you plan to design more garments?

Absolutely! I am planning on releasing at least three more cardigans this year. I may also have a few pullover ideas bouncing around my head.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

I have two. Farina’s is a little bakery in Portland with great light, food, and the staff/owner are great people. Home is my other favorite place with my dog literally under foot.

What to stash this week: A bird in the hand

Sue of Sandpiper Yarns creates her lovely skeins two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean on the South Shore of Long Island, hence her beachy name. Her yarns are comprised of a number of sheep breeds, including Merino, Blue Faced Leicester, Polwarth, Finn, Gotland, Icelandic, Corriedale and Targhee, with guest appearances by alpaca, Tencel, silk and Angora.

Terri of Whole Knit ‘n Caboodle comes from a yarny family. Her sister, Mary, owns Perfect Blend Yarn & Tea in Saugerties — I’ll be collaborating with the shop for this year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show — and Terri dyes yarn. She has a huge selection of lovely colorways on a variety of fibers, as well as plenty of Fade combinations.

If you’re in the Connecticut area next weekend, you should definitely join Rebecca of Fuse Fiber Studio and Gabby of Once Upon a Corgi (and me!) for a pop-up shop and knit night at the Farmington Valley Arts Center. Rebecca and Gabby have even collaborated with one of the painters from a neighboring studio to create exclusive colorways based on one of her paintings!

I have a batch of Aimee’s Automne à Rhinebeck in stock and ready to ship! And if you’re interested in this Indie Untangled exclusive on LBA’s Merino DK, make sure to get on the list for a reorder, which is happening in mid-April. 

Get your hands on some Happy Little Project Bags for the Slipped Stitch Studios Bag of the Month. This tribute to the 1980s “leaders in imagination” include bags, accessories and three colorways from Anzula Yarns and Stay Classy Yarns. There will also be another cameo from Mr. Rogers. All of it goes on sale at 9 a.m. Pacific time today.

Laura’s latest design is inspired by a small island in the Pacific that you’ve probably never heard of, but that she’s been to twice, between Fiji and The Solomon Islands. Vanuatu features bright turquoise and dark sand that will make you want to escape somewhere sunny and warm.

Robynn is offering one free pattern with every three you buy from her Ravelry store, no coupon code required — just add four patterns to your cart and the cheapest will be free. Use it for any of her designs, from accessories to sweaters. Most include photo tutorials for special techniques.

Wild Hair Studio is having a Groundhog Day sale.

What to stash this week: Love and color

In 2015, my friend Alisa launched KitSpinQuilt, selling her handmade project bags and stitch markers, many with a geeky bent, and donating 30% of the purchase price to charitable causes. Since Alisa is a grad student on a limited budget, she decided this was the best way to give back. This year, your purchases from KitSpinQuilt will benefit the Hispanic Federation‘s Puerto Rico disaster relief efforts, helping the 40% of the island that still lacks electricity.

You should have what she’s having. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Kate of McMullin Fiber Co. is collaborating with charm maker Little Bitty Delights on yarn and stitch marker sets that celebrate three famous couples. Pictured here is her tribute to Harry Burns and Sally Albright from When Harry Met Sally. The colorways are inspired by their outfits during a reunion in the Personal Growth section of NYC’s Shakespeare & Co. bookstore (notice where the strawberry ice cream is…). Click the pic to see the other inspirations.

Sign-ups for the Spirit Trail Fiberworks Cosmic Color Club are now open! Jennifer offers yarn and sweater clubs and all the colorways — a mix of tonal solids and subtle speckles — are completely exclusive to members. Jennifer also has two new six-skein gradient speckle kits ready to ship, the beautiful result of a dye mistake. They are dyed on her Birte base, her DK weight Superwash Merino, Cashmere, and silk blend. Pictured above is her favorite, Crystal Cave.

I got to glimpse the yarn from Undercover Otter at VKL last week and I’m thrilled to welcome dyer Petra to IU! She’s doing preorders of her 40-plus repeatable colorways on three fingering-weight bases, but only through this Sunday.

Amanda of Crabapple Yarns, another IU newcomer, just had a shop update with a bunch of new speckled and tonal colorways that are perfect for combining. She also has a new base called Keen Sock, a wonderfully soft blend of 75% Superwash Merino and 25% nylon.

This third new girl, Sarah of Knittyandcolor, reintroduced her blazingly bright Ain’t It Fun colorway, which is her antidote to winter and ode to the band Paramore. It’s available on three different sock bases.

Karen of Round Table Yarns will be releasing at least a dozen new legends of King Arthur-inspired self-striping colorways in the coming months. The first two, Courtly Love and The Underwater Bridge, are now available.

IU goes to VKL NYC

Yes, it’s been a week since Vogue Knitting Live NYC, but because it was so epic this year (and because I came back to a string of “day job” deadlines) it means I needed a little more time to recover and reflect.

The marketplace was much more crowded this year, expanding outside the actual ballrooms on the fifth and sixth floors of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. It helped that I had an idea of where I wanted to shop and enjoyed browsing the booths of the Indie Untangled vendors at the show, including Fuse Fiber Studio, Youghiogheny Yarns and AlexCreates.

As you can imagine, the Stephen & Penelope booth, which included La Bien Aimée and Undercover Otter, were jam packed Friday and Saturday, before Aimée actually sold out, but it was great to see her gorgeous colorways in person, albeit from a distance.

While the yarn is great, we all know the best part of any knitting event is getting to hang with some of our favorite people. That includes Bronwyn, AKA Casapinka, who was showing off her All Points South, her pullover shawl (NOT a poncho) in the Dragonfly Fibers booth. And, yes, that’s me in my La Bien Aimée Automne à Rhinebeck Merino DK sweater (and my Porterness Studio necklace)!

I was also lucky enough to take classes from some of the best people in the industry, including Shawl Construction with Melanie Berg (the highlight was having her compliment my On the Spice Market shawl), Yarn 101 with Clara Parkes (this should be a required course for every knitter!) and Color Confidence with Andrea Mowry, shown here mastering the art of the Fade.

I added far more to my stash than I was counting on (including Domestic Superwash from Magpie Fibers that I’m going to use to finally knit my husband the sweater I’ve been promising) but the indulgences were so worth it. I think it was good preparation for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March…

What to stash this week: old and new

Jennifer of Porterness Studio has come out with new shawl pin designs. Her pieces have an Art Deco elegance to them, with a modern twist. It fits with her process, which uses the ancient lost wax casting process and modern technology of 3D printing. And she’s helping you treat yourself with a 20% off coupon code just for Indie Untangled readers.

Indie Untangled newcomer Ashley of Red Sock Blue Sock Yarn, based in Ontario, Canada, was inspired by her daughter’s love of Dr. Seuss when she named her yarn company five years ago. Her fun colors — tonal solids and vibrant variegated skeins would be great companions on your next knitting adventure. 

Aside from dyeing yarn, Sheila of BigFootFibers also has a podcast on YouTube. She recently teamed up with several other indie dyers for something called the Avalanche of Indie Dyed Yarn. This past episode included yarn from Yarn Over New York, SilkWorm Studios and IU’s Baad Mom Yarns. Also check out her new online shop, which has some Valentine-themed self-striping sock yarns.

Another IU newcomer, Potion Yarns, is introducing new colorways ranging from the dark and moody to bright neon. There are also Comfort Fade and So Faded kits. Dyer Johanna is also a hair colorist and is willing to help create your own custom colorway (for your yarn!).

The February 2018 Geek Chic Issue of Knitting Magazine includes a feature on Lola and her geeky yarn enterprise, Third Vault Yarns. The article includes Third Vault Yarns’ And You’ll Drop Your Weapon colorway, a yarn inspired by Rey from Star Wars and available to purchase on Lola’s site.

The next three Bags of the Month from Slipped Stitch Studios are inspired by a trio of inspirational guys, including Fred Rogers, LeVar Burton and Bob Ross. The bags for everyone’s favorite neighbor go on sale today at 9 a.m. Pacific Time.

Lisa The Knitting Artist is starting the year with with two new colorways. Early Snow Flowers and Green Rain Tears are available on Lisa’s Sock and Worsted bases, and all purchases come with a card with the image of the painting that inspired the color.

What to stash this week: vanishing spells and sales

Limited extras from the Slipped Stitch Studios Harry Potter Bag of the Month go on sale today at 9 a.m. Pacific time. After they sell out, Laura will cast a vanishing spell and they will not be made again.

You have until Monday, January 15th, to get 20% off all in-stock items in the Post-Rhinebeck Pop-up with the code INDIENEWYEAR. This includes skeins of luscious Merino/silk Starboard fingering from New Zealand’s Dark Harbour Yarn, pictured above in the OOAK Elsie Gusset colorway. If you’re at VKL this weekend, Rebecca of Fuse Fiber Studio will have some Stash Indie enamel pins and the last of the popular Indie Untangled Rhinebeck tote bags in her booth, and you’ll get a discount by saving on shipping.