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Celebrating Breed-Specific Yarns with Solitude Wool

In northwestern Virginia, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll find the home of Solitude Wool. Since 2006, this woman-owned company has been dedicated to promoting sheep of many breeds and supporting sustainable agriculture.

Sandi Rosner Feb 20, 2024 - 8 min read

Celebrating Breed-Specific Yarns with Solitude Wool Primary Image

An assortment of undyed yarns from Solitude Wool. Photos by Gretchen Frederick, courtesy of Solitude Wool, unless otherwise indicated

Gretchen Frederick began selling yarn she handspun from the wool of her flock of Romney sheep at the farmers market in Leesburg, Virginia, in the late 1990s. When the Dupont Circle FreshFarm market in Washington, DC, asked her to become their wool vendor, she was thrilled to accept. But spinning enough yarn to meet the demand wasn’t easy. In 2006, she had to reduce the size of her flock because the land she had been leasing was sold. Her own farm could only support eight sheep—not enough to sustain a yarn business.

White and black sheep in a field with trees Romney lambs on Gretchen’s farm.

That’s when Gretchen teamed up with Sue Bundy, who was raising Karakul sheep on a farm nearby. Together, they envisioned a company that would buy fleece from local farms and work with small mills to create breed-specific yarns. Solitude Wool was born.

Local Focus, Global Impact

Solitude Wool sources fiber exclusively from small farms in the Chesapeake Fibershed. This encompasses all of the Washington, DC, and Baltimore metropolitan area, plus parts of Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York. They work only with breed-specific wool.

Solitude participates in the Livestock Conservancy’s Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em program, an initiative to preserve rare and endangered sheep breeds. By providing a market for rare-breed wools, Solitude supports and encourages small farmers to continue breeding these sheep, preserving global genetic diversity. You can find yarn and/or roving from Clun Forest, Cotswold, Jacob, Karakul, Leicester Longwool, and Tunis sheep at Solitude Wool, all of which are on the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List.

Four black-faced Karakul sheep look at camera

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