Notlwonk Springs

Beyond Wool Trek....

Saturday, May 4th dawned bright and beautiful.  A great day for "WoolTrekking"!  By 10:00 on that lovely morning, cars, pickups, and vans were pulling up to Fred and Jo Knowlton's farm and floods of folks toting everything from food to spinning wheels were pouring into the Knowlton home to share fiber techniques, stories from past Wool Treks, "what have you been up to since last year" conversations, plans for new projects, and of course, food, food, food!  Spinning wheels were set up, knitting needles came out, and the fun was on!  By the time Fred gave the word and opened up the "Wool" part of the "Trek", everyone had had a chance to view sample wool from the fleeces that were for sale and all were anxious to get hands on fiber! 
The quiet before the storm! 

Fred was not kidding when he stated that this year's fleeces were the cleanest they have ever had!  They absolutely sparkled!

The atmosphere was friendly and frenzied as everyone fought for their fleeces!
(Not really fought, but everyone was anxious to get the fibers of their choice.)
Fred was everywhere at once, answering questions and making sure all could find what they needed.

At one point, Shelby (Fred and Jo's granddaughter), completely
disappeared behind the roving she was measuring out!!

Happiness is...Notlwonk Springs roving!  Dani is loving hers!

Vanessa and girls with their six lovely fleeces!

 As the sun traveled across the sky and the Wool Trek visitors chose their fibers and partook of refreshments, it came to be time for one of the highlights of the day!  Oh yes, time for the SKIRT SCRAMBLE!  In the days after shearing, Fred spreads out each and every fleece and he pulls off the wool from around the edges that doesn't pass his strict quality control standards.  The pieces he pulls off are call the 'skirt' of the fleece.  These pieces are collected and saved for Wool Trek day.  Beneath a tarp on the front lawn, most everyone knew, was the lumps of skirts waiting for just the right moment...
When Fred said GO!  The scramble was on!  Notlwonk skirts are known far and wide for their quality!
Something for everyone in a 'Skirt Scramble'!

As the events of the day drew to a close and it was time for folks to leave, there were reverberations of "see ya next year" and "what a great day"  and "what beautiful fibers!"  The food was fantastic and the camaraderie was outstanding.  For those who couldn't make it that day, plan on next year; same time, same place, first Saturday of May. 
Spinners take advantage of the gorgeous day to spin outdoors!

For those who can't wait until next May (there are many of us!) be glad to know that you will find Notlwonk Springs fibers well represented at the Snake River Fiber Fair in Idaho Falls on Friday and Saturday, May 18 and 19!  Please check out this article for more information and directions to the event!  Go on up and say hi to Fred and Jo!
If you STILL can't get your fill of lovely Notlwonk Springs fibers, not to worry, Knit Unique carries a great selection of their yarns and rovings in the shop!




It is time!!

Time for the the 21st annual Wool Trek

to Notlwonk Springs!

We have waited all year, the waiting is over!  May 4, 2013 marks the 21st annual event at Notlwonk Springs.  The event that draws fiber fiends from near and far to the Knowlton farm near Cornish, Utah.  (4420 West 14300 North to be exact).
The map to Notlwonk Springs! 
(Turn off of 23 at the red Cornish City building that is on the East side of the road)

Get out there at 10 and stay to whenever!  (That is a direct quote from Fred and Jo, the Wool Trek hosts!)  Find a potluck brunch, bring your wheels and needles and be prepared for stories and fun.  Notlwonk will have their beautiful fibers available for you to purchase and here is why you want to get there in the morning, a little secret:  they go QUICKLY!  Fleeces, roving, and yarn in wonderful natural shades of white, tan, brown, and gray!  Get 'em while they last! 
 If you are feeling brave and fast, join the 'Skirt Scramble'!  Get ready, get set, dive in for what you can scoop!  The 'Skirt Scramble' has been described, by 'scramble veterans, as "Like watching a bunch of hungry hens go after that one grasshopper that misguidedly landed in the chicken yard."  Another veteran's vivid description:  "Elbows flying, squee and oohs, dive bombing madness, wait, thats mine! Arms full, belly laughs, eyes wide, you're on my foot! Oomph, ha! All gone. Sad."  Oh yeah, get ya some!
Future Notlwonk Springs fiber:
"Who's this?"

"Nobody I know, do you know 'em?"
"No not me, what should we do?"

"Let's get outta here!"

Safe with mom.

Max finds a friend!

Knit Unique carries the beautiful Notlwonk fibers year around, just in case you sleep in on Saturday and miss out on your yarn or roving.  There is a full range of their natural colors of yarn in the shop.  We tell folks that they don't come in dye lots, they come in "sheep lots" as the colors vary by fleece.  Fred pointed out that each brown or black sheep's fleece is even different year to year, as the fleeces lighten with each shearing.  So even though there is usually yarn that is very similar in color, most people who desire enough wool for a larger project like a sweater purchase as much of the "sheep lot" as they can.  The whites are typically the same year to year.  Now, how fun would it be to get the same sheep's yarn or roving year after year!?  You can do that, Fred and Jo keep very close track of each one of their sheep's fleeces!

Some of the beautiful Notlwonk Springs yarn available at Knit Unique!

So come at 10 and stay to whenever, you will be glad you did!  See you there!




Springtime at Notlwonk Springs!

The view from Notlwonk Springs Farm on Shearing Day!

March 16, 2013 dawned clear and bright.  Shearing day!  Never having witnessed shearing day, I was anxious to see how the beautiful Notlwonk Springs yarns that we have at Knit Unique get their start!  Driving over through the beautiful morning, I knew it would be a great day.  Fred and Jo Knowlton, sheep owners extraordinaire, have a fantastic view from their home near Cornish, Utah.  Up behind the house, across a footbridge, and toward the sounds of electric clippers.  The shearing day has already begun! 
Waiting their turn are the Corriedale, Romney, and sheep who pull from the gene pool of both breeds.  They look so clean!  No hay chaff in the Knowlton's herd, Fred feeds pelleted hay, so avoiding the little bits of hay that can get stuck in the sheeps' wool coats and pop up in the yarn in spite of careful cleaning.
Most of the sheep that are sheared at Notlwonk Springs are the ewes, or mother sheep.  They are a couple of weeks away from lambing.  Fred explained to me that the best time to shear for quality of wool is a couple of weeks before lambing, as after the lambs are born, the ewes nutritional energy goes to keeping their babies healthy and thriving and not so much to the condition of the wool.
I was in for a treat as I watched future yarn being carefully clipped from the bodies of the sheep!  Amazing how much wool they carry around! 

Most of the sheep took the whole shearing process very well and once in "shearing position" held very still and relaxed while their fleeces were clipped off.  I was incredulous as to the beauty of the wool right off the animal!  Clean, soft, bright, soft, smell of lanolin, did I mention soft?  When the fleeces were off of the sheep, they were then gathered up, all in one piece, and placed carefully on a sheet of clean plastic in the Knowltons' trailer to be transported to their garage to undergo further pre-yarn treatment.  More about that later. 

A wonderful side event during the day was to be able to see the lamby bumps inside the sheeps' bellies!  Sometimes we could see them move!  Sometimes we could even see two bumps and know that there are twins on the way!  I couldn't help but wonder what on earth those lambs were thinking about the whole process.  After the sheep were sheared, they were moved to the next stop on the way back to their pasture.  My pen.  I was forced to put down my camera and get to work.  My job was to turn them over and hold them still so they could get their feet trimmed and their vaccinations so that they can walk around properly and be worm free and healthy all year long!  Again, the sheep were mostly very willing to be turned over and held while hoof trimming and shots were being administered!  Then, finally, they were released to go out with the rest of the herd.  Some jumped, some ran, some walked, but all were happy to go.

The first trailer load of fleeces!

Oops!  Two lambs who made an appearance a few weeks before they were expected get their vaccinations!
Two young girls learned a lot that day about record keeping and animal health!

Waiting their turn!

After a long day at Notlwonk Springs Farm and a fantastic lunch provided by Jo (sorry Jo, your secret is out, you put on a great spread!) we said see ya later to our friends and were invited to come out to witness the mysteries of "skirting". 

Kelley and I took the Knowltons' up on that offer and drove out on Monday to get some more wisdom from Fred (be careful of getting too much knowledge from Fred, he is apt to charge you for it!).  We were invited in to the garage where the fleeces are stored all safe and dry, and initiated into the mystery of skirting.  Kelley knew already, but I had never seen it done.  First, a fleece is selected, then it is spread, all in one piece, out on to the skirting surface.  At this point, it can be determined what needs to be discarded (dirty or undesirable wool), pulled off the edges and added to the 'skirt' pile (ah, hence 'skirting'...pulling the shorter pieces off around the 'skirt' of the fleece!), and any short fibers from shearing day can be plucked and discarded as well.  A word on the discarded skirts:  ever heard of a "Skirt Scramble"?  I know some of you have!  Apparently it is a popular event at Notlwonk Springs' annual Wool Trek!  More about that later.

A sea of beautiful fleeces at Notlwonk Springs!

Part of "skirting" a fleece is going through and plucking out whatever you don't want in your yarn or roving!
Kelley helps Fred and Jo "skirt" this lovely silver fleece.


Kelley, Jo, and Fred properly roll up this gorgeous silver fleece. 
It will begin the next step in its journey when Fred hauls it up to
Montana to be cleaned and carded into roving. 

The silver fleece "skirted" and bagged, ready to continue on its quest to be yarn!

Kelley and I drove away from Notlwonk Springs Farm glowing with excitement over the next crop of fibers!  We now know that the darkest yarns that we have in the shop (and somehow, we got away without being charged for this tidbit of knowledge!) came from the first shearing of the black or brown sheep.  Apparently, they lighten in color each time they are shorn.  I also came away with a greater appreciation of the care and love and work that goes into each and every skein of yarn or hank of roving.  The nutrition of the sheep is very important to the quality of the wool.  The handling and feeding methods are important to every yard of yarn.  The shearing technique is extremely important, as it is best to have the fleece shorn in one long clip, rather than two or more, which results in short fibers in your roving or yarn and contributes to weakness or breakage.  We also drove away with an invitation echoing in our ears to come back in a couple of weeks when the lambs start to make an appearance!  We can't wait to see the future of Notlwonk Springs fibers!
So, everyone, get out your calendars!  May 4th marks the 2013 Notlwonk Springs Wool Trek and you won't want to miss it.  Each year on the first Saturday in May, fiber fiends and fanatics from far and near converge on Notlwok Springs Farm for spinning, chatting, and fiber, fiber, fiber!  Yarn, roving, and fleeces galore!  Oh, and the skirt scramble...but more about that later...

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