• Kate Stowell

In Love with “Authentic” Yarns

My love affair with “authentic” fibers has been going on for several years now. I say “authentic” because they are genuine and true to their source and owner. I’ll admit, I’ve been seduced by several different brands, and I don’t regret spending time with and loving each one of them. And yes, I am still happily married because my husband understands me so well.


It all began several years ago when I walked into my then-LYS and spotted a yarn display of skeins bursting with color. I looked, I squeezed, and then I saw a colorway that seduced me. It had MY colors! I did not recognize the brand name of this yarn produced in Maryland, but I liked what I saw and so I bought. There was something special about knitting with that yarn!


But then I was swayed by another authentic yarn brand. It happened unexpectedly, when I entered a yarn giveaway on Instagram. I won! Shortly after, I received 10 skeins of yarn in the mail, enough to make a sweater. And I received a touching note from the brand’s owner in Maine, who wished me much happiness with the yarn and asked me to please send a photo when I finished my project. So sweet!


Then I started my third love affair, this one with a brand located in my native state of Ohio. I was smitten with the idea that this authentic yarn was produced right in my former backyard, which I never realized raised sheep let alone spun yarn that was so gorgeously rustic. I wanted this yarn in the worst way but I had to settle on a long-distance romance, and that’s hard to sustain after a while.


My fourth affair began when I moved to Montana and then Wyoming, and it continues to this day. It has flourished among the many sheep ranchers, fiber spinners and dyers throughout these two states and nearby states. They forge a deep and rich connection between source and fiber product and, for me, the “authentic” part of this connection comes alive.


How? Definitely through the people themselves. I met many of them at the Copper K Fiber Festival last year. If you haven’t been, go! Dates this year are July 17 and 18. The connection also comes alive when I pass a ranch with sheep or alpacas. Or, as it came alive last summer, when we were driving a Montana back road and had to stop for a herd of sheep and several masterful ranchers and sheep dogs monopolizing the road.



One of my very favorite connections happened when a friend gave me some alpaca yarn she wasn’t going to use. There was not enough to knit the pattern I wanted. The tag on the yarn was from an art gallery in Buffalo, WY. I called there. They had not carried that yarn for some time but they told me who spun the yarn and I was able to find her online and connect. She lives in Clearmont, WY and said thought she had some yarn similar to what I already had of hers. We texted photos back and forth and she mailed me the yarn. I’ve been knitting with it and loving it, especially when I find a piece of straw here and there. Authentic doesn’t get any better than this!