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In 2009, Mary Jeanne Packer founded Battenkill Fibers Carding & Spinning Mill to work with small farms, yarn companies, and even individual handspinners who wanted great yarn. The partnerships built around the mill are helping revitalize the regional wool economy and sustain shepherds and shops alike. We are far from the days when 13 water-powered mills lined the Battenkill River in Greenwich, New York, all processing American wool, but through collaborations across the textile industry, the prospects for high-quality yarn look bright.
For a farm with a few dozen sheep, a local yarn store wanting to make a special line of yarn, or even a handspinner with a prize fleece from the wool festival and no means to wash it, creating roving or yarn comes from a partnership with a mill built on expertise and trust. How should the fiber be washed, spun, and plied? What will bring out the best in the wool? The mill transforms and adds value to a year’s fiber crop, the results of the feed, care, and shearing that farmers condult year-round. Mary Jeanne relishes the opportunity to support members of the yarn community and make connections among them, so that a niche yarn company can source a special kind fiber or shepherds can keep their farms going with an additional source of revenue.
Seeing gaps in the regional textile industry and opportunities for sustainable growth, Mary Jeanne and yarn shop owner Gail Parrinello brought together a group of farmers, dyers, millers, designers, makers, distributors, and retailers in a network called the Hudson Valley Textile Project. One of the initiatives of the project is Clean Fleece New York, a medium-scale scouring facility that processes batches of fiber too large for a small mill but below the minimum for an industrial-scale scouring facility, which has just opened in fall of 2023.
More of our conversation with Mary Jeanne, including how to choose the right yarn structure for a knitted project, what surprising yarns you might be overlooking, and how to find the most wonderful yarns at a fiber festival, is available in the library for subscribers to Farm & Fiber Knits.
This episode is brought to you by:
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Hudson Valley Textile Project
Clean Fleece New York
Mountain Meadow Wool
Shaniko Wool Company
Green Mountain Spinnery
Laxtons Wooltrace DK
Foster Sheep Farm
Bare Naked Wools/Knitspot
The Woolly Thistle
Brooklyn General Store
Kingdom Fleece and Fiberworks