Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Mitchell Wool Co

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This is the sixth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled, taking place on October 14, 2022 and online. Tickets are now available!

Indie Untangled is all about indie dyers and you can’t get more indie than Sherry of Mitchell Wool Co. This family farm in Michigan creates fine wool yarns from their Cormo, Targhee and Finn flocks. The yarn is dyed using only plants, much of which they grow themselves. They also craft project bags and offer organic totes, apparel, sheep gifts and knitting tools.

Tell me the story about how your farm came to be.

We got into this circus because we had rolling pastures that were dying from nonuse. Sherry dreamed of a biodynamic farm that would eventually bring our soil back to life. Where chickens cluck about with our fine wool sheep. Heritage breeds of livestock coming back from the critically endangered status a few at a time under our careful stewardship. Ducks who control flies and pigs that rototill. A beautiful soup of diverse animal poops that would nurture our land back into green health. Kids that run wild in the safety of acres of land and who learn to respect the planet by directly caring for it.

Not a pipe dream, but a WOOL dream.

Skeins raised with love from the day the lambs are born. Each soul with a name. Nurtured by Luke. Who left a career in law enforcement to live a wholistic existence closer to his family. Colors dyed exclusively from nature and no plastic or petroleum to be found (beyond the tank of our farm truck). Working together as a family, supporting the community.

Growing something that MATTERS.

A woman scratches the neck of a sheep in a barn.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Today started with a walk down the lane past the dewy pastures filled with our highland cattle and fine wool sheep. I arrived to find fresh coffee brewing by Ann Marie (our shop assistant) who was setting up a birthday party table for Cindy, our dye production manager and bag sewist. I sat at my desk with a long to do list of product design, social media and office work.

Luke started with his daily practice of feeding and evaluating the wellbeing of the flock this morning, to find that Leo our Tunis ram had destroyed a brand new gate. I quickly left the office to assist Luke in determining if he had injuries (thankfully none) then we moved on to the lamb pasture to make long-term decisions about the 2022 babies.

Return to product design/ lunch with the family, then Cindy and Ann Marie shifted to harvesting the final crop of marigolds with urgency because we had a hard frost last night. Marigolds make our yellow dyes as we use only plant matter to dye our farm-raised yarn. Once done, Cindy returned to sewing a new backpack she designed from dead stock Pendleton wool and American-sourced leather.

Luke shifted to buying and installing a new gate, his to-do list abandoned. We then fielded a call from our local screen printer who had a problem with the For Flocks Sake sweatshirts and ordered more to supply them, with rush shipping, for this weekend’s fiber festival. Luke and I were supposed to ride our horses today, but who knows, tomorrow is a new one and we’ll try again!

The thing about a family run farm is that it’s hectic, but it’s also idyllic. Caring for the flock is what we do, above all else, ALWAYS.

Two beige sheep nuzzle an armful of colorful yarn.

Do you have a favorite sheep breed?

We breed Cormo and Targhee fine wool sheep and Tunis, which is an endangered heritage breed. But this is loaded question for us. It’s not the breed, we’ve chosen those for their ability to provide the best genetics possible for a great product.

Every animal on our farm has a name. We don’t have favorite breeds, we have unique relationships with specific sheep.

Charlotte is the first to run to the gate to give a morning kiss. She’s tailed by Iris, who loves a scratch on her cheeks. Hawking wants a full-out hug and Betty wants an extra treat. Dolly Parton doesn’t eat grain from a bucket — she has properly trained her shepherd to hand feed her. When we say “Know your yarn,” this is what we mean. It’s the connection with every single one that makes our mission rewarding.

A show special design printed on an organic cotton market tote with a black trucker hat, set of 5 stickers, three random mini skeins of farm raised yarn, a needle gauge and swatch gauge of walnut.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled?

We have a new bag design that is specific for Indie Untangled and only 25 are available! You can preorder them here.

Our organic cotton stash bags are made in the USA and screen printed locally using Sherry’s artwork.

We’ll have our new plant-dyed yarns from the 2022 shearing in 50g skeins that is squishably soft! And our super popular organic cotton USA made FOR FLOCKS SAKE teeshirts and sweatshirts. It’s a shop-the-farm experience packed into our little booth!

A yellow canvas backpack with a Mitchell Wool Co label.

What are some of your favorite FOs you or your customers have made with your yarn?

My original goal was to have just enough sheep to knit sweaters with my own farm-raised yarn. To grow the sort of yarn that I was seeking to buy, yarn with a story. From a farm that was raising sheep with kindness. It quickly grew into a commitment that we would become that source. To wear sweaters knit with yarn from OUR OWN SHEEP swells our hearts with joy! Both of our most-worn pieces are sweaters knit from our un-dyed Farm Friends flock. We adore the colors, but our natural grays bring us closest to when our fingers sink into the fleece of RBG, Minnie Purl and Rosa Parks.

A display of colorful Cormo yarn.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I taught myself to knit in 2018 with the dedicated help and guidance of my BFF Jessica Lepak using YouTube. It was the method that finally worked for me, I had tried to learn six times prior and it just didn’t sink in until I could repeatedly pause and watch then replicate something step by step.

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Currently on the needles? Let’s just say I’ve a dozen project pouches and three sets of needles. 😉 A lady reveals neither her true age nor the number of unfinished projects in her stash. But it’s our own yarn, obviously. #unapologeticyarnsnob