July 28, 2008
Today in the Limelight we have Josette from Enchanted Knoll Farm. In addition to having gorgeous yarn and roving, she and her family are also living an interesting life in Maine. I know you’ll enjoy learning more about the dyer behind this line!
Loopy: Hi Josette! Tell us how long you’ve been a knitter and how did you start?
Josette: Knitting, for me, was a series of stops and starts at first. For many years, I was convinced that I didn’t want to be a knitter. In fact, I sort of came into knitting by consequence of being a spinner, which was a consequence of raising sheep. When we moved to Maine 12 yrs. ago, we knew we wanted to grow our own food and possibly grow enough organic produce to sell. I also hand-milked a cow for a couple of years and sold the butter/cheese to neighbors and friends. When we bought our cow, a little lamb jumped up in the trailer with her. It had been quite a job to get her loaded and the farmer just waived her hand and said we could have the lamb. That’s how I fell in love with wool, sinking my fingers into his back to pet his wooly coat. I soon added more sheep to the homestead and got my first spinning wheel. Only a few years later, when I had started to accumulate an abundance of handspun yarn, did I begin crocheting again (had done this as a child) and, eventually, learned to knit. Like most things we are afraid of (going down the big slide the first time, etc.), it wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d assumed, and I was knitting along the slippery slope to yarn fanaticism in a jiffy.
Loopy: It sounds like that little lamb knew just what it was doing by jumping into the trailer to come home with you! What is your favorite item to knit?
Josette: I love shawls but end up knitting my 2nd favorite most – socks. I love socks because I need little ‘sessions’ of knitting throughout the day – they keep me sane. A sock, especially one done in a simple and functional style out of some exciting hand-dyed color play, is a perfect start to my day. Well, that and a cup of organic coffee. If I can fetch 15-20 minutes at the beginning of the day for sock knitting and a cup of coffee, I am a happy woman. I find myself coming back throughout the day to work a few rows at a time and re-visiting that sense of peace.
Loopy: What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Josette: Hmmm…Unfortunately, in terms of this question, I am incapable of remembering difficulty for a long time. It could be due to my naïve nature but I just like to take those things that fill you with angst or make you really nervous and ball them up and roll them away. I do know I have knit some lace shawls that were sort of tense and I think my first sock was entirely frustrating because I had such a hard time conceptualizing the heel. Then, I found Wendy Knits’ blog and have been comfortably knitting socks since!
Loopy: That’s really a nice thing to be able to do – forget angst and difficulty. I like that. How did you go from knitting to dyeing?
Josette: Actually, I went from dyeing to knitting. With my herd of Cotswold sheep, years ago, came some fleece. I had the best summer dyeing up the fleeces and carding them up to spin! It was there that I learned how to play with color, how to formulate the hues and tones, and how to mix and match color. When I knit it up, I figured out how much color and where I would need it for different items like shawls, socks, etc.
Loopy: We like the way you mix colors. How do you come up with your colorways, and do you have a favorite?
Josette: I can’t pick just one. My three top favorites are : Wood Elves (which was created one fall afternoon when I was sitting outside looking at the woods and thinking, “fall in Maine doesn’t look like the autumn colors traditionally depicted in reds, oranges, and browns but is rich with the evergreens and blue skies and golden leaves”), Queen Mermaid – which came about because of my fascination with the ocean, and Esmaralda (because it is a sort of marriage of the earthy ‘wood elves’ and the watery ‘queen mermaid’ in dark, rich color). In short, you can see I pretty much wear ‘color hunting glasses’ everywhere I go. I can’t help it anymore, it just happens. I can see two cars parked next to each other and stop to think, “hmm, look at how those two colors look next to each other’. Likewise, I can be in the garden, walking around the homestead, or just daydreaming and will be better able to recollect what I’ve seen if I can describe it in color.
Loopy: You’re a Color Hunter! What is your favorite part of your job? And your not-so-favorite part?
Josette: My favorite part is that I feel so comfortable when dyeing, knitting and spinning that it just sort of takes me away from everything. It’s like a total state of relaxed calm that I so enjoy. The not so favorite? That would be that the enjoyment of what I do sometimes means that I have a blurry idea of when to stop.
Loopy: It is hard to stop something like this, isn’t it? That’s why we love it so much. Tell us about your family and your farm!
Josette: This may be a long one. The family consists of James (aka Dad) and Things 1, 2 and 3 who are commonly called Emma (15), Gus (12), and Henry (8). We are all spinners, knitters, and some of us crochet. We moved to our homestead 6 years ago, after leaving our farm. In one summer, while camping here, James and I built a cordwood home by ourselves. Our remote acreage is surrounded by habitat for many water birds and other animals so we knew when we moved here that running power lines across the streams would not be an option. We were already committed to walking softly so we felt confident taking the plunge. Our 6 years on the farm had taught us much about caring for animals, growing crops, and generally being as self-sufficient as possible. We started with a very primitive power system and a generator and have since added more panels and solar equipment so that we power the house with solar power and use the generator to pump water. Within a year, we were working on building our actual home (the cordwood would then become the barn – a great round house for the sheep, which they love, because they love to pace. And when you pace a round house, you never have to stop pacing!). Living in our home as we build it has posed some challenges but the pleasure of making your own home a reality is empowering. In those six years, we’ve added a herd of sheep, some homestead hens, and a pig. When not dyeing, spinning and knitting, we grow a 1/4 acre organic garden every year and I can, dry, and preserve all sorts of jams, sauces, and veggies for the winter ahead (which, in Maine, is REALLY LONG). Fortunately, we love winter in Maine. The wildlife presence on our homestead is wide ranging – from an occasional bear to deer, to many species of owls, eagles, and, of course, so many other birds. Yet, we still get internet service, and we’re 5 miles from a town that serves our shopping needs. It’s a good balance for us, we think.
Loopy: Wow. It’s amazing to be living a life like that. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be where you are. So all of you are knitters and spinners?
Josette: All of us! I have made a particular effort not to force the kids or husband to knit. Instead, I went about it in a more strategic way (which is so not the norm for me) and just started to make them things I knew they’d love. Then, when they were sufficiently spoiled, they would inevitably start to ASK me to make them things. That’s when I’d start to suggest that maybe they’d like to learn so they could make whatever they wanted. James started spinning and knitting almost 2 years ago – and both Emma and Gus have been spinning and knitting for about 4 years. We’re the odd family that fights over who gets the spinning wheel next! Last, but not least, came thing 3 who became enchanted with knitting when I gifted him with an Errol owl from Charmed Knits last year. Suddenly, he realized he could knit TOYS! He’s just started spinning on the wheel – graduating from a spindle for a year or so.
Loopy: Very sneaky. And it worked! Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Josette: Sewing, gardening, reading, and long walks
Loopy: Your life sounds very filled up. What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Josette: I’m having my first day off (three, actually, IN A ROW) next week and the plan is to spend it camping on the beach with the kids and canoeing around the coves!
Loopy: We hope you have a great time and that you get more days off soon!