It all started in 1984. One day it fully registered in my mind that our extra bedroom was filled with what seemed like hundreds of skeins of Bartlettyarn wool in every possible weight and color. It was basically a beautiful sight -- color everywhere -- but this was our "extra/guest" bedroom.
I had been raising sheep for about five years then and had always sent each year's shearing of wool to the mill in Harmony, Maine. It wasn't so bad when I had my original 8 registered Suffolk sheep, but finding I adored sheep, I kept buying and breeding more and more and getting rid of few.
The lambs born from Christmas through to Easter were just irresistible gifts from Mother Nature and each one was cuter and more precious than the next. They came in all colors. Two years in a rows the ewes gave birth to several spotted or piebald lambs. Mixed in with the other solid gray, white, and black lambs, they seemed to add a special joy and humor to the picture, especially when they all were frolicking about, jumping over and on each other while the moms gluttonously ate their food twice a day.
That indelible picture of bliss remains in my mind now, even years after having retired from the world of raising sheep. I had twenty five years intimately connected to the lives of my sheep -- Suffolk, Rambouliet, Finn, Targhee, Romney, Cottswold, and crossbred ewes, rams, and lambs. Oh yeah, there were Angora and Cashmere goats for a while, as well as the alpacas, Darth Vader and Yoda. These animals left me a full range of experiences from exhilarating to tragic that most people never have an opportunity to have. Actually though, these experiences can't be too different from giving birth to and raising human kids. I missed that but loved every minute of being a two-legged mom to all the four-leggeds.
Forgive the long, nostalgic digression, but back in ‘84 there was still all that wool yarn in the “guest” room. That needed a solution and my imagination pictured how wonderful it would be to spread out all the colors and share these yarns with others. I did know how to spin wool, but I didn't knit or crochet. Somehow, it seemed perfectly logical to open a yarn shop.
So. . . I scoped out our unused, walk-out basement garage for the home of my new shop. I was a full-time high school teacher at the time, but the summer of 1984 gave my husband and me time to panel the garage in rough-cut pine planks from the local saw mill. We built tables and racks and shelves and I ordered other things I thought a yarn shop should have. In November I had a grand opening and within a year I started knitting! Two years later, I took over one bay of our new three car garage for classes, hired teachers, and offered a wide range of classes in knitting, weaving, spinning, dyeing, and felting. Yes, I was young, totally naïve, ambitious, and a workaholic -- but what fun!
More than 25 years, and one big change of location, later, I still operate the yarn shop that I originally named the Sheep & Wool Shop in the upstate New York town of Marion. This name fit well for the first 20 years of the business. Then, sometime in 2005, a friend invited me to a bead show, just for fun to see what it was like. That one visit caused my childhood love of rocks and minerals to resurface and quickly evolve into a passion for gemstone beads. Perhaps predictably, that new passion soon morphed into a fascination with all beads and with jewelry making.
Today, the original shop name no longer fits. There are no sheep in the barn and there is much, much more on the shelves than wool yarn. All kinds of yarns, beads, jewelry, and supplies for all the fiber arts fill every nook and cranny in the shop, thus making the new name, Bead & Fiber Fantasy, a good fit.