Washington County Fiber Tour Set for Last Weekend in April
Fifteen farms from Granville to Cambridge will host open houses during the 23rdAnnual Washington County Fiber Tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 25-26.
Visitors may also tour the Battenkill Carding and Spinning Mill in Greenwich, a commercial operation, to see how fiber is processed.
Participating farms have sheep, goats and alpacas, whose fiber products have won major prizes at the Eastern States Exposition, the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, New England Area Cashmere Goat Show, Empire Alpaca Extravaganza and the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival.
“Pick any farm as a starting point and enjoy meeting the farmers and their animals,” said Lubna Dabbagh of Blind Buck Farm in Salem.
A recent study by Helen Trejo of Cornell University found that Washington County has the most fiber-producing farms of any count in the state.
The tour is family-friendly and gives people a chance to see how spinning, knitting, weaving and felting is done. Kids especially like being able to get an up-close look at llamas, alpacas, bunnies, goats, sheep and lambs.
Of course, some farms have retail shops where people can purchase yarn and woolen apparel.
Several farms raise sheep, a diverse species with wool for products ranging from carpets to baby clothes. The tour’s most primitive sheep is the double-coated Icelandic, with its long silky fibers that cover a soft undercoat.
Another rare breed is the Leicester Longwool, which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both imported. Merino and Cormo sheep have very fine wool for clothing with next-to-the-skin softness.
The long-wooled Romney is the most popular on the tour, with six farms raising flocks of this breed. “They’re easy sheep to raise outdoors on pasture,” said Mary Pratt of Elihu Farm in Easton. “Their rugged constitution and heavy woolen coat helps them to thrive in rain or snow.”
Other farms raise Blue-Faced Leicesters and the Freisian, a dairy breed.
Five farms on the tour focus on alpacas.
“Alpacas are earth-friendly,” said Faith Perkins of Quarry Ridge Alpacas in Salem. “They’re economical to feed and have one of the finest fibers in the world. Besides that, they are fascinating!”
Gentle Angora rabbits are also featured on the tour along with Cashmere and Angora goats.
Farms promote the textile arts with demonstrations and workshops such as hand spinning, dyeing demonstrations, clipping fur from angora rabbits, felt making, and wool carding and blending fibers from different species.
Hand-spinners and farmers can also learn how to choose fleeces and live animals for their fiber quality.
Other activities include goat cart driving, sheep shearing, sheepdog herding and finger puppets for children. Individual farms also offer for sale breeding stock for sale.
For those who plan to spend the entire weekend, Washington County has a number of country inns, bed and breakfasts, and restaurants to choose from.
For information go to washingtoncountyfibertour.org.