Farm Grown Fun on the Washington County Fiber Trail

If you like to weave, knit, or crochet and have a passion for sustainable clothing, then it’s time to get out and explore the Washington County Fiber Trail!

Washington County has long been a hub for wool and fiber production in the Northeast. This long-standing local tradition provides a great foundation on which to build a thriving community. Today, local artists and farmers weave together a love of wool & fiber with a passion for visual arts in a variety of ways!

Enjoy a scenic drive from farm to farm and discover the finest fibers and yarns, meet local makers, and get to know more about the techniques and skill involved, all while being surrounded by cute farm animals that will for sure melt your heart!

You may find that some farms offer regular tours while others are open only on special occasions. Many locations on the trail are working farms, so be sure to check with each owner before heading over. After all, taking care of a herd is a full-time job!

And don’t forget about the annual Washington County Fiber Tour weekend each April. Dozens of fiber farms open to the public for demonstrations, sales, and visits with the animals.

The most common Washington County fiber produced here is wool from sheep, and for good reason! Sheep, like most fiber-producing animals, naturally grow their wool coats. This helps create a thermal barrier and regulate humidity to keep them warm in cold months.

As summer approaches, the wool is sheared off in favor of a shorter, summer coat which will then grow longer as winter approaches, repeating the cycle! Without shearing, a sheep’s fleece can become overgrown and matted. This makes wool and other animal fibers a sustainable, renewable and biodegradable material.

Plus, different breeds of sheep produce different “grades” of wool. This ranges from the soft merino wool found in scarves and sweaters to coarser fibers better suited to purposes like upholstery or insulation.

Natural wool yarn from Ensign Brook Farm

Find high-quality wool, felt and more on the Washington County Fiber Trail

Visit some of the county’s working sheep farms, like Ensign Brook Farm in the Greenwich area! Each offers its own range of products, from merino and romney roving and ready-to-use yarn, to organic eggs and meat.

Further north in the county are Crazy Legs Farm, a purebred Romney sheep farm, and Dancing Ewe Farm, where you can enjoy their sheep’s milk cheeses at a farm-to-table dinner or pick up wool yarn from those same animals!

Of course, sheep aren’t the only animals naturally creating workable fiber. There are several more exotic animal farms to visit along the Washington County Fiber Trail, too!

Haven Hill Farm Alpacas

Alpacas grow a similar style fiber coat to sheep, and the applications are similar, but in general, alpaca fiber is a bit lighter, softer, and less strong than a sheep’s. Excitingly, there are a few Washington County fiber farms raising alpacas, so you can see for yourself which you like best!

Parkland Alpaca Farm in Granville and Haven Hill Farm in Greenwich both specialize in these adorable fiber animals.

Dough Haven Farm also raises alpacas, but their specialty is cashmere. And guess what: that’s a natural fiber as well! Their special herd of cashmere goats are combed, not shorn like sheep or alpacas.

Cashmere goats have a double coat, like some dogs do: A layer of more permanent hairs called guard hairs and an undercoat of soft, down-like fur. As the weather gets warmer, they shed this undercoat, which is the cashmere fiber used for clothing and other fiber products.

Because it’s a bit more labor intensive and the goats produce less fiber per animal, cashmere is much more expensive and remains a luxury product!

A batt from Furry Face Fibers

Looking for more Washington County fiber?

You can find more exotic at Furry Face Fibers in Fort Edward. Their hobby farm focuses on angora and other blends from their rabbits! Like cashmere goats, angora rabbits shed their fiber, and growers will brush out the seasonal coats and collect it to be spun! You can find their angora and blended ​​batts at various markets throughout the season.

Want a hands-on look at exactly how these fibers go from sheared or shed to yarn? Battenkill Fibers in Greenwich is a full-scale, 6,000 sq. ft. commercial fiber mill servicing many area farmers and wholesalers. Take a tour to see how fleece is sorted, washed, and processed into roving, yarn, and other finished products.

Can’t wait until spring? Want to shop till you drop? The annual Adirondack Wool and Arts Festival each September features more than 100 local artisans, farmers, and crafts folk.

Find everything from natural materials for your fiber craft to finished woven and knit garments and gifts, plus pottery, jewelry, natural body care products, craft beverages, and more! Plus, experience herding and shearing demonstrations, wagon rides, and other family fun.

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