White Barn Sheep and Wool
New Paltz, NY
March - April 2017
Shot and Written for the Times Herald-Record
It was a warm spring day when Paula fired up two large pots with propane to begin dying. Artist, farmer and owner of White Barn Farm Sheep and Wool Paula Kucera was about to go to work creating a custom dye lot on a newly returned batch of carded and spun wool, sheered from the sheep on her farm in New Paltz, NY.
Just steps away from her fiber shop, Cormo and California Variegated Mutant, CVM for short, sheep sheep graze in their pasture. Once spring nears, Paula enlists the help of sheep sheerer Aaron Loux from Cummington, MA, nearby farmers and those just curious to see the proceedings of how to sheer a sheep as she systematically goes through her flock.
The first up to be sheered are the pregnant ewes since the hormones produced for birth will alter the quality of their wool. After the sheep are sheered, the fleece is then skirted for vegetable matter, dirt and overall quality. Once the fleece has been vetted, it is then bagged and tagged with the corresponding sheep it came from and sent off to Battenkill Fiber in Greenwich, NY, to be carded and spun into hanks of yarn.
Several months later, the yarn is then sent back to White Barn Farm Sheep and Wool, where Paula gets to work dying the fiber. Similar to dying an Easter Egg, a mixture of water and vinegar are placed into large pots, which are then heated. Then depending on the inspiration of the season Paula creates a custom dye lot. With spring in the air she concocts a vibrant pink color named “Hot House Flowers.” Once the dye is mixed and added to the pots, the hanks of yarn are soaked in a small tub of water. The next step in the process is to squeeze out all excess water before placing the yarn in the pot to absorb the dye, stirring occasionally to distribute it evenly before being removed. From there, the yarn is left to dry before twisting it into shape, and placing it in a basket for fiber fanatics to knit or crochet it into something beautiful.