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.