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: Literary spark

Attention bibliophiles: You need to join this yarn club. Kate of McMullin Fiber Co. is kicking of her year-long Literary Society next month with Pride and Prejudice and ending with Little Women (click the link to see the full reading list). This is a very flexible club with a mix of semisolids, variegated colorways and speckles inspired by the classics. You can choose one, three, six, nine or all 12 shipments, and you get a choice of light yarns or heavier weights. Pick your, or a friend’s, favorite book for the perfect gift!

Rebecca of Fuse Fiber Studio recently had her final shop update of 2017. While some of her popular colorways have already sold out, there are still a few you can snag, like Pearls, pictured above on her Merino Singles base. Also look out for her Golden Girls-inspired Lanai on Fuse Merino DK.

MJ of Cat Sandwich Fibers just had a shop update with a bunch of new OOAK colorways. She is also launching her 2018 Monthly Mystery Sock Club, a commitment-free club. There will be a mystery sock-along — with prizes! — to go along with it.

Save 15% on Himalayan Summit and 100% Yak Sport weight yarn from Bijou Basin Ranch this week only, no coupon code needed.

Along with her single skeins, Marian of Marianated Yarns offers a three-month yarn club subscription that is available in several bases and in either tonal or variegated “Marianades,” as she calls her colorways. Membership comes with some great perks: each shipment includes a goodie and a Marianette mini-skein in variegated if your subscription is tonal or vice versa. There’s also free shipping on the rest of your yarn orders during your subscription, plus 10% off the colors of the month. Club sign-ups are open until December 20, with the first shipment going out the first week of January. 

Here’s a view from above of the DK version of Sandra’s stunning Glaciers and Wildflowers colorway, inspired by the natural beauty of Glacier National Park in Montana. It’s available to preorder only through next Friday!

This is just one of the fabulous projects from this year’s Indie Untangled Where We Knit Yarn Club. Last February, the inimitable Anne Hanson teamed up with Kim of The Woolen Rabbit to create this stunning rose red colorway and a cowl/scarf design called Shared Rib. You can expect exciting collaborations like this if you sign up for the 2018 club.

Next year, four indie dyer/designer teams — Hue Loco & SweaterFreak Knits, Pandia’s Jewels & C.C. Almon, Little Fox Yarn & Caitlin Hunter and Dark Harbour Yarn & Amy van de Laar — will collaborate on an exclusive colorway and accessory pattern inspired by the places they knit. Sign-ups run through Dec. 31.

Wild Hair Studio has three new fiber and yarn clubs launching in 2018.

What to stash this week: Wild yarns and glaciers

When Sandra of Duck Duck Wool signed on to create a colorway for the Knitting Our National Parks series, I was thrilled. When I saw her inspiration photo, a shot of Glacier National Park in Montana, I got even more excited. Then, when she emailed me the photos of her colorway, Glaciers and Wildflowers, I may have done a little yarny happy dance. How stunning is this?! And Sandra is dyeing it on not one base, but two — her Silky Singleton, a blend of 70% Merino and 30% silk for shawls and summer tops, and DK Limited, a Superwash Merino that you can use for hats, cowls, mitts and, of course, sweaters you can wear now. The yarn will be available to preorder here through Friday, Dec. 22, and will ship the last week of January 2018. As always, 10% of sales will be donated to the National Park Foundation.

Another Knitting Our National Parks installment means we get a limited edition POP Thru The Parks souvenir from That Clever Clementine! Vicki has saved one of her most POPular products for the final one of her collection. These fabric yarn bowls (which don’t have to be used only for yarn) will be available to preorder today starting at 9 a.m. Eastern time until sold out (previous batches have sold out in less than two hours so… head on over!).

If you’ve been looking around for that special shawl pin, or one to add to your collection, or if you just like looking at shiny things, I suggest you head over to the Porterness Studio website. Jen makes her shawl pins and buttons using the 5,000-year-old lost wax casting process, with each piece either hand carved out of wax or 3D printed in wax, cast in sterling silver or bronze and hand finished by Jen in Los Angeles. Her regular jewelry is pretty lovely, too. Indie Untangled readers get 20% off with the code Indie20.

Fresh off her trunk show at Woolyn, where I drooled over her yarn and samples, Lauren of Old Rusted Chair has released four new colorways. From top to bottom are Starboard, Prankster, Glint and Heatwave, which are available on Lauren’s Squish base, a 4-ply Superwash Merino.

Also fresh off her appearance at Woolyn last weekend, Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has released some perfect heavy-weight bases. Just in time for winter, you can now find a variety of DK weight yarns in various blends of Merino, nylon, Cashmere and sparkle. She even has a few fade kits. 

Katie of Never Enough Thyme has updated her shop with Christmas colorways, including heel/toe sock sets in Sugar Plum Fairy, Mistletoe’s for Two and Christmas Cookies. There are also lots of Cozy Christmas mini sets, perfect for knitting ornaments for your tree (don’t worry, there is still time).

For Week 2 of their annual holiday sale, Bijou Basin Ranch is giving you 15% off Tibetan Dream sock yarn and Xanadu Mongolian cashmere yarn, with no coupon code needed, through midnight Mountain time today. And all U.S. orders also ship free through Dec. 24.

If you’re short on time and yardage, but need some holiday gifts, Robynn’s Nullkommanix cowl just might be what you’re looking for. It’s named for how long it takes to make — 0.0 seconds — and is free for Robynn’s newsletter subscribers.

Since I’m waiting until after the craziness of the holidays for Aimée to ship her yarn to me, I’ve decided to extend the preorders for Automne à Rhinebeck a couple of weeks. My husband just requested a hat in the DK, so the magic of these skeins is real!

Here’s a look at the first-ever colorway for the first-ever installment of the Indie Untangled Where We Knit Yarn Club — Ami of Lakes Yarn and Fiber’s Drops of Honey. You can expect breathtaking exclusives like this if you sign up for the 2018 club. Next year, four indie dyer/designer teams — Hue Loco & SweaterFreak Knits, Pandia’s Jewels & C.C. Almon, Little Fox Yarn & Caitlin Hunter and Dark Harbour Yarn & Amy van de Laar — will collaborate on an exclusive colorway and accessory pattern inspired by the places they knit. Sign-ups run through Dec. 31.

Dye is Cast yarn is having a shop update today featuring new colorways, and a chunky beanie hat pattern will be free to download throughout the weekend.

Wild Hair Studio has new Star Wars-inspired colorways on mini batts and rolags, which are 15% off before Dec. 15.

What to stash this week: Still Automne

La Bien Aimée is dyeing up another batch of the breathtaking Automne à Rhinebeck for me to sell online. Aimée has put me on her calendar and is planning to ship the yarn to me before Vogue Knitting Live NYC in January. In the meantime, preorders of the yarn are now open! I will be taking them through Dec. 8 so we can get a better idea of the demand before she starts creating more of this Indie Untangled exclusive. It is available on La Bien Aimée’s Merino Singles fingering weight and Merino DK.

You don’t need a degree in yarn (though it may feel like you have one) to appreciate the knowledge that IU newcomer Katrina of Fluffy U Fiber Farm brings to her business. Based in Dover, Pennsylvania, Katrina and company raise various British breed and heritage breed sheep, including Blue Faced Leicester and Leicester Longwool, selling both natural and small-batch hand-dyed yarns in their shop. You may be familiar with them from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in Virginia.

IU newcomer Marian of Marianated Yarns has put together the perfect knitter’s Christmas gift. Her limited edition Knitmas Kits include a set of six mini skeins, a cowl pattern from Katinka Designs, notions, treats and fun extras.

Christine of Skeinny Dipping had a post-Rhinebeck shop update with tons of yarny goodness, including her new Polwarth Silk DK base. The squooshy non-Superwash yarn made its debut at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Today at 9 a.m. Pacific time, Laura is listing the second Slipped Stitch Studios Outlander-inspired Bag of the Month for sale. They’ve also once again teamed up with Forbidden Woolery for matching yarn.

There are only a handful of skeins of Jill Draper Makes Stuff’s exclusive Joshua Tree colorways available to preorder through the end of the day today. I’m looking forward to getting my own in a couple of weeks and casting on Kirsten Kapur’s Joshua Tree Cowl, pretending I’m on a road trip through the SoCal desert.

What to stash this week: Pre-Rhinebeck updates and sales

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers just had her last shop update before the Rhinebeck Trunk Show and it included a variety of bases in both regular and OOAK colorways. If you’re going to Rhinebeck, be sure to check out the latest batch of project bags in new limited-edition fabrics from the Oak Grove Quilter, AKA Stephanie’s mom.

Here are some more photos of Jill Draper’s gorgeous exclusive colorways for the third installment of Knitting Our National Parks and designer Kirsten Kapur’s Joshua Tree Cowl. Both are inspired by sunset at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The yarn will be available to preorder for a few more weeks.

Wild Hair Studio is discounting all custom blend and Mulberry silk top by 15% during the month of October.

Color Craze Yarn & Fiber is offering free U.S. shipping through the end of October.

Pre-Rhinbeck Untangling: Pam Maher of FiberCrafty

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I decided to create Indie Untangled a few years ago after hearing from dyer and maker friends about how it was getting more and more difficult to stand out online. My initial idea was for a handmade marketplace just for yarn and fiber, but I was daunted by what it would take to launch such a site without having any programming skills whatsoever.

Well, Pam Maher had that same initial idea and ended up running with it, working with a developer and launching her site, FiberCrafty, this past May. FiberCrafty is a marketplace specifically for yarn, fiber and knitting-related accessories. Similar to other handmade marketplaces, like Etsy, FiberCrafty lets indie dyers and small farms list products to purchase and, in return for providing a platform, takes a small percentage of sales.

After she launched, I had a nice conversation with Pam about her goals for the site and she agreed to be a sponsor of this year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show. Recently, I asked her about the process of launching FiberCrafty and her background as a knitter:

Tell me about what inspired you to start FiberCrafty?

I was in software sales for about 20 years and didn’t want to continue for the next 20 years. I began trying to figure out a way to have a career in the fiber crafting industry and loved the idea of using my software and sales experience in the fiber community. I noticed that as I shopped indie businesses on existing platforms, I was frustrated because I wasn’t able to shop the way I wanted to, using “fiber” language. Having a platform that spoke our language made sense to me and as I talked to others, it made sense to them also.

Yarn from Luce Knots on FiberCrafty.

What are some of the features that set FiberCrafty apart from other handmade marketplaces?

None of the existing marketplaces are designed for a specific craft. They are all very general and broad in their offerings and some are so bloated it is hard to find what you want. We mirror a lot of the categories and attributes that are on Ravelry so they are familiar and meaningful. If shoppers are looking for something specific, they can use the filters to help narrow down their search.

FiberCrafty is a small business, owned by one person, just like most of the indie business in this industry. Not only can I relate to many other business owners, I am also able to be flexible in site enhancements that we make going forward. My goal is to evolve FiberCrafty based on community feedback.

As a small business owner and fiber crafter, I want other small businesses to succeed, especially in the fiber crafting space. I have tried to make our fee structure extremely fair and sustainable. I don’t have special interests or investors that I have to please.

What have been your biggest challenges in developing the site?

It was a very expensive project and my husband and I have taken a big risk, but one that we believe in. It’s a little scary sometimes! I had to make some very careful assumptions about what would be most helpful to a business owner, and also what would be most helpful to shoppers. I worked with a developer, but there were still a lot of pieces of the site that I had to learn along the way, like payment processing and shipping. Because the site is so complex, tweaking one thing affected something else so we had to be diligent while making decisions and look at the site on the whole, rather than just that one part.

Fiber from Shari Arts on FiberCrafty.

What are some of your favorite yarns or products on the site?

Oh, that isn’t a fair question! There are so many different items! I don’t process fleeces but I have really enjoyed seeing all the farm shops opening and learning about the different fibers and breeds. As a knitter and spinner, I am a sucker for beautifully dyed braids of fiber and yarns. Of course, there are also some really cute bags and stitch markers. It’s not hard to find favorites!

When and how did you learn to knit?

I have always been crafty and started cross stitching when I was very young. I also made jewelry and dabbled in other crafts. At some point, my brother gave me a Coats & Clark booklet that included a “How to knit” section and I found it intriguing. I was about 22 and decided to try it so I went to an LYS, bought two skeins of yarn, needles and a short-sleeve top pattern. I taught myself with the booklet and never looked back. I didn’t have enough money to buy all the yarn so I never finished the top. Thanks to Ravelry I was able to find three more skeins in the same dye lot 20 years later!

Stitch markers from Distracted Knits.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I do! I occasionally crochet and also have a Lendrum spinning wheel. I usually default to knitting because it is so portable and flexible in terms of the level of complexity. I also enjoy cooking, sewing (mostly straight lines) and once in a while will attempt a random Pinterest craft project. I would love to learn how to weave but am resisting for now.

What are your favorite projects to knit?

I really love knitting shawls and cowls but I have so many! Hats are fun because they are quick but I also enjoy sweaters. I have never made gloves and am getting ready to make my first pair.

What is your most memorable FO?

I can think of two projects that I especially love. I made four Christmas stockings for my family and think they are so pretty. It is special to get them out every year. They turned out quite large so I struggle a little to fill them! I also crocheted a giraffe for my daughter, which was a fun project. I gave her a color wheel, showed her how to use it and asked her to choose four colors, then I dyed all the yarn for it. It presented a nice challenge and it turned out beautifully.

What to make with handspun yarn

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I’ve been contemplating a What to make with handspun blog post for a while now, but since I haven’t quite fallen down the spinning rabbit hole yet, I decided to ask Anne of Middle Brook Fiberworks, my fiber and spinning guru, for some suggestions. She ended up sending me a terrific write-up to share with you. Please include your additional suggestions in the comments!

“What can I make with this handspun yarn?” is a question I answer at every show. I can see why: skeins are usually one-of-a-kind, with not a lot of yardage and the texture is often irregular. It’s certainly possible to find sweater quantities of beautifully consistent handspun yarn, but it would be a significant investment. Shawls and other accessories that require less than 400 yards are great for handspun because any irregularities won’t matter — unlike in a sweater or socks, where you don’t really want unfortunately placed lumps of thick slubs. Plus, woolen-spun handspun yarn (spun with a low twist from loose clouds of hand-prepped fiber, rather than a compacted commercial combed top), knits up into a thick fabric that is not only exceptionally warm, but is remarkably lightweight and lofty. My handspun hat knit from woolen-spun CVM under my rain jacket hoodie is integral for my winter farm chores!

Another option is to combine millspun yarn with smaller amounts of handspun yarn as a highlight–for a pop of texture. The Dragonwell Cowl, pictured above, which I designed with Jolene Mosely, has a section of consistent 2-ply yarn, and a small section of highly textured art yarn in a coordinating color. I’ve used handspun yarn for both sections, but millspun yarn would work just as well.

One of my favorite handspun projects is my Handspun Hansel, a handspun version of Gudrun Johnston’s Hansel. The pattern calls for 550 yards of a main color, and less than 100 yards each of four contrasting colors. I made mine with all handspun, but I think it would be terrific with a millspun main color, with handspun contrasting colors.

My next project is going to be Laura Aylor’s Between Oceans. I’ve spun four skeins of aran-weight organic Polwarth in Cirrus for the body, but because I won’t be spinning a fifth skein only to be cut into fringe, I’ll be dyeing a skein of millspun Targhee wool to match.

What to stash this week: Say goodnight to North Cascades

Today is the last day to get your hands on the debut Knitting Our National Parks colorway from Backyard Fiberworks! Preorders close at midnight Eastern Time tonight.

Krista of Pigeonroof Studios is celebrating more than 10 years in business by updating her shop with Greatest Hits. They include Electric Rose (pictured above), Ricochet, Ghost Orchid and Pansies, dyed on American Sock yarn as well as Polwarth/silk and Superwash Merino spinning fiber. As a fellow Indie Untangled fan, you can get 10% off until July 8th with the code INDIEUNTANGLED. 

The yarn from IU newcomer Old Rusted Chair is much more colorful than its rustic name implies. Dyer Lauren hails from Nashville, and has a great line of semisolids, along with a ton of fun variegated and speckled yarns. She recently added some new sock sets, which include a 100g skein of speckles plus a 20g mini skein of a complementary tonal color. 

SpaceCadet’s SpaceMonster Mega Yarn Club, a yarn club devoted to worsted and bulky weight yarns, is now open to new subscribers for a limited time. Subscriptions are either six months or 12 months and include a gift along with the yarn.

What to stash this week: Tour de stash

If you’re a sock knitter, then you may be training for the Tour de Sock, a knitting competition that raises funds for Doctors Without Borders. Sue of Invictus Yarns has dyed up some gorgeous TdS colorways, including a variegated one that’s TDF.

Wild Hair Studio is one of the first vendors on a new marketplace just for fiber and yarn called FiberCrafty, with 15% off in the shop through June 10th.

What to stash this week: Kitted up

Over the weekend, I decided to get creative and put together some kits with The Woolen Rabbit’s newest bases. I have three pairs of Silky Biffle, a blend of BFL and silk, in three different colors that are available with Laura Aylor’s Pennant shawl pattern. I also have a few skeins of Kim’s new Dove base, a Merino/yak/silk blend that I just started using for Anne Hanson’s Shared Rib. Anne designed this clever ribbed cable pattern — which comes with short cowl, scarf and infinity ring options — for the first installment of the 2017 Where We Knit Yarn Club. I love it so much that I’ve decided to include Anne’s pattern at a discount, and before it goes on sale to the general public May 15, with the purchase of a skein.

Visit The Woolen Rabbit shop on Indie Untangled to get your hands on one of the kits. As a reminder, you also get 10% off through April 30 with the code IU3.

It’s finally beginning to feel like spring, and Kim Dyes Yarn is ready with a bunch of new colorways, including the beautiful Peaches pictured above. Her shop update, which takes place at noon Eastern Time today, will include new shawl length skeins on Croissant sock, a 100% Superwash Merino fingering yarn and bulky Cream Puff Superwash Merino.

There are only a couple skeins of the exclusive Berry Colorful Yarnings Indie colorway left! It comes on her self-striping sock yarn, perfect for socks, obviously, but also accessories — cowls, hats — and baby items. You also get 10% off through April 30 with the code IU3.

Beautiful Mess Yarn Works will be having an update of sock yarn inspired by Willie Wonka and his chocolate factory tomorrow.

Pandia’s Jewels has opened preorders for her 12th Doctor Who-inspired sock kit.

Go Knit Yourself is having a weeklong challenge exploring different dyeing techniques via newsletter.