Friday, July 10, 2009

Travels to Mohair Country and More....

When I was in my late 20's, I was working for The Yarn Company. We had a mill in Lowell, MA where we spun beautiful brushed and looped mohair in a giant brick factory building with tall windows. (That building is now part of UMass/Lowell if I'm not mistaken - I haven't been there in years.) I was in charge of the marketing and was really involved with trade shows, sales reps, magazines, and anything else that goes along with that kind of business. I had a blast and loved it all so much. I worked with a bunch of really fabulous people who are still great friends of mine. We were a small struggling little company. It was a lot of hard work to make it grow, which it did. It was my dream job which I lived and breathed for 16 years and I feel so fortunate, even now, to have had had such a great opportunity.

One of the perks of that job was that I got to travel lots of interesting places - in and out of the United States. Because we spun mohair, I got to know many of the Angora Goat ranchers who mostly lived in West Texas. They were great people - warm, enthusiastic, and wanting to do whatever they could to help their fiber sell. They were all members of The Mohair Council which also had an office in NYC headed by the wonderful Madelaine D'Addiego. Sadly, I have lost touch with them all now but I still remember their passion for their goats. The photo below is one they supplied my company with for mohair publicity. The bucks (male Angora Goats) are standing in a field of Texas blue bonnets. I have always loved this image and was really excited to see it on their website STILL over 25 years later.

I had the opportunity to travel to West Texas a few times. On one trip, my boss Pat Chew and I were invited to go on a special Mohair Tour, hosted by the Mohair Council. The photo below is of one of the ranchers and his Mexican workers inspecting some of the goats for condition.


I can still remember those short few days. We stayed at the
Y O Ranch Resort in Kerrville where there was a swimming pool with stools in it so you could swim and drink margaritas at the same time. This was a revelation to me back then. I found it bizarre and so Texas. I guess it must be commonplace in many resorts by now but back then it was amazing to me. The lobby of the hotel had mounted stuffed heads of all kinds of beautiful wild and domesticated animals. Many of the ranchers also kept exotic game for hunters to come in and shoot. Another concept I found new and so unlike the hunting that goes on where I live in the Northeast. At first I thought it strange but the more I learned, the more I realized that this was one way for the ranchers to keep their land productive and profitable. They were all about keeping their ranches going and it is something I really understand now that we are farming our place.


The members of the Mohair Council pulled out all the stops for this weekend. We were among a group of textile executives who used mohair in our products. Our mill was one of the largest customers of mohair selling to the blanket, coating and women's apparel business besides the handknitting and weaving trade. They treated us like royalty.

What I remember most was the long driveways - one took 45 minutes to get into where the houses were. That blew my mind. Our driveway is about 20 feet long! Along the way, we spotted exotic animals from Africa
and not so exotic animals like cattle, sheep, and Angora Goats. When we arrived at the homestead, we were greeted by welcoming ranchers and their wives. After a tour of the goats and an explanation of all that goes into making and growing of the mohair fiber, we were treated to an amazing Texas barbeque. What a treat and feast that was - a meal I will never forget.


Back at the Y O Resort one night, I tried goat (or cabrito) for the first time. It was just one of the times I have eaten goat which I find incredibly delicious. (A few years ago, we attempted raising Boer meat goats but that didn't last long!) It's amazing how goats can turn hard-scrabble land full of rocks (as seen in the photo above) into beautiful mohair fiber and tasty meat.

I have always loved mohair. Besides its beautiful luster, it takes color deeply and luminescently. I love the history of the Angora goats. Going to Texas and knowing the ranchers further cemented my love of the fiber. It's not surprising then that mohair is 25% of the fiber in my beautiful Julia Yarn.

This trip to Texas is one of the reasons The Farmer and I are starting our "Get Stitched on the Farm" classes at our place. We hope to make a memory for any of you who are able to attend. I've got a few people signed up but I'm hoping for more. Spread the word! It will be an intimate experience where you will learn about farm life, share our home, and learn a whole bunch about knitting, color, and embellishing knits. I hope you will check out the website and think about it if you are into such things. I promise you a memory for life.

I just found these photos in a drawer the other night. I never took many pics when I was traveling for work but for this trip I fortunately took along my camera. Here is a photo of Pat Chew with a Angora Goat. I love this photo because it was so no Pat to be patting a little goat. I still remember that she was trying to direct the goat for a good photo opp. And then this little fellow walked up to her. She put her camera aside and a gave him a little tickle behind the ears. If you knew Pat, you would find this photo amazing. Pat is the woman who hired me way back in 1984 when I was just slightly out of graduate school. Sadly, she passed away last year from leukemia. I thank her for the opportunity of a lifetime and my start in the yarn business.


I have just celebrated my 25th year in the handknitting business. It's amazing I'm still here doing it - finding new ways to make it work. I thank all of you who have bought my patterns, my books, and my yarn over the years. Your notes and letters make it all worthwhile.

16 comments:

Deborah said...

A spinning friend of mine owned Angora goats. When I lived in TX, it was always fun to visit her farm and all the fiber animals. She also had rabbits.

Knitting Out Loud said...

Congratulations on your 25 years! Your classes sound wonderful and we mentioned them in our newsletter this week. They are also on the Knitty blog. Loved your Texas story! I was on the road this spring, and had forgotten how different the rest of the country is from New England.

Anonymous said...

I do find that picture really amazing, but not for the tenderness to the goat.

Linda

alce said...

What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing your memories with us.

Okate said...

Happy Anniversary. I am so happy to see your designs in the marketplace and to read the farm posts. Thanks to you I now know about angora goats in Texas!

Pat Chew built a remarkable company. What a dream date to have worked with her.

Gretchen Joanna said...

The pictures are wonderful, the goats charming. Thank you much for sharing the story.

Sarah said...

It would have been fun to see a mill this week that was actually in production!

myartfullife said...

I love this meander down memory lane!!! Wonderful to learn more about mohair, Texas and its ranchers, and of course, your early years in the biz.
I would love to attend one of your weekend classes on The Farm but need more advance planning time. Any chance of dates further out in the calendar?
I emailed your first announcement to my knitting group and will continue to spread the word.

Karen said...

Wonderful. Thank you for taking us along.

Willow said...

Thank you for telling us these stories from the early years of the current fiber resurgence. You and Pat kept things going to get to this place and time. Lovely walk through nostalgia.

Susan said...

Your stories are the best thing ever...you should write a book of your stories (and a mitten book!) I have lots more ideas for you, too:) (that's making me laugh)

That's my two cents! I loved this post to no end. I want to hear more and more and more....

Hope you are well.
susan b anderson

Marie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marie said...

Happy anniversary, Kristin, and thank you for keeping this blog of inspiration even with your slow internet connection. I deleted the above comment because I had a question regarding the classes, and found the answer after I'd posted.

KSee said...

Thank you for sharing your start in the business. Sounds like a great job.

I too would be very interested in any future weekend classes you may have. I could not think of a better way to spend a few days and get to meet you, Julia and the Farmer.

Restlessmoon said...

I live in Central Texas not too far from the YO Ranch and Kerrville. My county once was one of the top producing wool and mohair counties in the states. Now, we have cattle. As a child I remember the bales of wool and mohair at the auction and supply store. Ranchers would bring in the wool and mohair, weigh it and sell it to the "middleman" starting the chain of commerce!!

Generic Viagra said...

I hope you will check out the website and think about it if you are into such things. I promise you a memory for life.