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Montana, All The Way Down

By Madeline Keller-King

Now that we’re past Thanksgiving, the holiday season is officially here, and if you’re anything like me that means gift knitting (usually right up until the last minute)! In years past, I’ve been known to gift family members a single sock with an IOU for the second one inside. I’ve never felt guilty about that one; hand-knit socks are definitely worth the wait. As makers, we know each of these gifts comes with a story, and when we gift them, both we and the recipients become part of that narrative chain. I love the layers we get to add to these pieces.

A single sock Madeline knit up from some of her naturally dyed Montana Suffolk Wool/ Bamboo sock yarn. Upon finishing one she stole the needles to try another combination, whether or not she’ll end up with a pair is anyone's guess.

Some of my favorite projects are ones I often refer to as “Montana all the way down,” and of course here at the Fibershed, that’s rather the point. We have this wonderful fiber economy in our state: artists and makers, spinners and dyers, ranchers, mills, and shearers, the animals that grow the fiber and the spaces for them to thrive. In Montana, we have the ability to source our materials, be they fibers, yarns, or finished items, close to home. As we choose which precious yarn to cast on next, we can feel good about that choice knowing this way of making is sustainable, and that it not only protects these beautiful spaces, but also supports our neighbors and local communities. I often find myself thinking of how many hands the wool I work with must have passed through before it gets to mine, untold layers of story leading all the way back to the soil.

While those we gift these treasures to may not think of them with the same romanticism that I do as someone thoroughly “in the wool,” I can’t tell you the number of people whose faces I’ve watched light up when they pick up an item and I tell them that the wool is local, that the yarn was millspun just across the state, who the rancher is, that I’ve dyed it with local plants: Montana, all the way down. When we choose to seek out and use what our Fibershed has to offer, we put a bit of this place into what we make. I know I come with my own bias, but we get to live in this majestic state, and who wouldn’t want a bit of Montana in their winter hat?

Whether you’re looking for just the right thing for your own last-minute projects or are in search of the perfect gift for a fellow fiber enthusiast in your life, why not add additional layers of meaning by finding out what’s available near you? The business members on this website and the directory are great places to start, and if you have a local yarn shop in your area, ask if they carry anything from within the state. If they don’t, it’s a perfect opportunity to encourage them to do so! If you find something truly irresistible and don’t have any fiber-loving friends or family to gift it to this season, you can always treat yourself to something special to knit in the coming year, or better still, share the website with someone who loves you to provide a subtle hint as the end of December approaches.

We all need projects to occupy ourselves with through the winter months - and remember, we’re also gifting the makers and ranchers we give our business to, as well as helping our friends and neighbors make their own holidays brighter in the process, when we support our local Montana Fibershed.

Madeline is a natural dyer and handspinner living in Eureka, MT. She is a regular contributor to Spin Off Magazine and can be found on social media by her business name and handle Wooly Witch of the West. Her yarns, spinning fibers, and blog can be found on her website.


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