Island Fibers on Lopez Island

Maxine and I in the fleece room

I realized when I wrote my post on spinning that I never got around to telling you the reason we went to Lopez Island a few weeks ago.  We went because I needed to buy more fleece for spinning and the closest place to do that is Island Fibers on Lopez Island.  I could order fleece online, but what’s the fun in that?  A short ferry ride and I can feel and see the roving myself.

Island Fibers is only open by appointment, so I emailed them and got a prompt response.  We set a date and time for us to visit.  When we arrived, Val and I nearly swooned at the fleece room piled from floor to ceiling with yarn, fleece, and roving.

Val holding the Blue-faced Leicester

Maxine and Debbie run Island Fibers mainly by word of mouth and by attending local Farmer’s Markets and the San Juan County Fair.  They are semi-retired and working on slowing down – if the avid spinners that buy from them will let them!  Debbie is a weaver who does special orders.  Maxine spins, dyes, and plays with the wool.

On the day we visited, Maxine met us and showed us the yarn room, then we got down to business.  Not only did I want to buy fleece / roving, I need to interpret it, so I needed Maxine’s help.  She showed me different kinds of fleeces and we compared fiber length and strength.  Maxine taught me about crimp and how it determines the number of twists per inch to put into yarn.  Because I had so much to learn in order to teach others, we stuck to undyed wool.  That way I could see the fleece and roving in its natural, historic state.

We waded through a pile of roving (roving is cleaned and carded fleece).  Val and I oooohed and aaaahed, sighing over the softness.  The hardest thing was deciding how much of the different rovings to buy.  We had two bike panniers so we were limited a bit, but Tom assured me he would figure out a way to get anything I bought home.  I also wanted to get enough of each so I could at least make a hat out of the yarn that I spun.

Tom checks out the loom

I ended up buying about 50 ounces of wool roving in different colors and types.  Some brown, some white, some gray, and some with alpaca mixed in.  I also bought some Blue-faced Leicester, which is the softest thing I have ever touched.  Maxine also gave me some unwashed fleece so I could use that in my Living History demonstrations.

We enjoyed our visit to Island Fibers very much.  Maxine was a gracious host and took all the time I needed with me.  We stayed over an hour:  learning, touching, and buying.  I think I got enough roving to use until the San Juan County Fair which is the second week of August.  Maxine assured me she would be there with more roving so that I could continue to learn.