Interview with Sarah Solomon of Peace Fleece

Hello Pom Pals, we have a treat for you today! We've been chatting to Sarah Solomon, head of knitwear design for Peace Fleece, all about Peace Fleece yarn and the history of the brand! We've used Peace Fleece's Worsted for Kordy from Moon and Turtle and Eila from Ready Set Raglan, so if you were thinking of making either of these pullovers, read below to see the three words Sarah uses to describe this yarn! 

Don't forget that Peace Fleece are offering 10 skeins of their Worsted for August's KAL prize, so be sure to enter before midnight tonight to be in with a chance of winning! If you're new to the KAL, find out how to enter here.

Now, let's hear from Sarah... 

Please can you introduce yourself for our readers and tell us what you enjoy about working with Peace Fleece? 

My name is Sarah Solomon and I'm the head of knitwear design for Peace Fleece. Working with Peace Fleece is really a dream come true for me because it combines my interests in wool, craft, and design with a social element. The yarn itself is both beautiful and durable; it’s affordably-priced and the texture and colors make it a wonderful foundational yarn—a yarn to learn with and to grow with, to make useful, hard-wearing things for yourself and your loved ones. For me the Peace Fleece motto says it all: 'wool with a purpose'. There’s the purpose of what knitters choose to make with it, as well as the founders’ purpose of fostering community and peace by creating a yarn out of the joint efforts of different groups of people, using different types of wool. 


Peace Fleece's origin story is so rich in history; it's even embedded in the name! For our readers who aren't familiar, please can you speak to your yarn's connection with healing divides? 

Peace Fleece was founded by Peter Hagerty and his wife, Marty Tracy, who were farmers in Maine concerned with the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. They hit upon the idea that in order to promote peace and understanding between our nations there needed to be a personal connection between regular folks in both countries. Since they were sheep farmers, they focused on connecting U.S. and Soviet sheep farmers. They hoped that forging personal connections would bring about a better relationship and that shared experiences and goals would create the strongest bonds. They went to the Soviet Union in search of wool and created Peace Fleece using a blend of U.S. and Soviet wool, the first of its kind ever imported to the U.S.. 

For many years they traveled to the Soviet Union, working with their Russian counterparts on this project and forming many deep and lasting friendships. Eventually though, they thought that they might turn their attention to forging these kinds of relationships here at home, and they began working with Navajo sheep farmers in the Western United States, combining their fine wool fleece with non-native U.S.-raised wool and mohair. The Navajo have a long history of raising sheep and wool under very tough conditions, and like all wool growers today, they face difficulties in getting a fair price for their product. The foundation of this new chapter for Peace Fleece is to create a reliable channel for the Navajo to sell their wool and to increase the price that they receive for it.

Since the pandemic began, lots of knitters have been buying yarn online. What are three words you’d use to describe Peace Fleece’s Worsted, the yarn used in Kordy from Moon and Turtle and Eila from Ready Set Raglan

My three words might be a little unusual but they would be: “feel-good,” “halo,” and “enduring.”

Feel-Good
There’s just something about this yarn that is beyond words - it just makes you feel good when you’re knitting with it. It has an earthy wholesomeness that makes me feel very connected to the animals, people, and land that contributed to making it. 

Halo
Halo refers to the gorgeous sheen and downy glow that the mohair imparts to the yarn. When Peace Fleece is blocked and bloomed it has a beautiful luster and a soft hand. The combination of wool and mohair provides a superb balance of structure and drape, and that mohair haze in the final fabric makes your knitting look and feel unbelievably cozy. 

Enduring 
As someone who really likes to design knits that will stand the test of time, strength and durability are at the top of my list of wanted attributes. Peace Fleece strikes the perfect balance between just enough softness to make for pleasant wearing and sufficient strength to make your knits last. Usually I recommend every yarn for a specific purpose based on its attributes, but Peace Fleece is one of those rare yarns that is suitable for just about anything—from hard-wearing gloves and mittens, to toasty slipper socks, to your most beloved hat, or your coziest sweater. 

Peace Fleece have such unique colourways with lots of vibrant hues! We’d love to hear how you go about developing your colours! 

We’re so glad that the uniqueness of the colorways comes across to knitters, as these colors were designed in a very unusual way. Marty Tracy had the artistic vision for the colors. She would take long walks in the Maine woods and return with all sorts of things — handfuls of rocks, twigs, leaves, flowers, moss — things that represented to her the wonderful beauty and variety that could be found in nature. She would take these to the mill and work with the staff there to create complex combinations of colored fleece that captured the colors she saw in nature.

Peace Fleece is created from dyed-in-the-wool fleece, meaning it is dyed before it is spun. This process allows for a nuanced, painterly approach to creating colors that really sets it apart from yarn that is dyed after spinning.  In addition, every fiber accepts dye differently, so having a blend of different fibers adds even more depth and subtlety to the colors. You may also notice that many of the colors speak to Peace Fleece’s Russian roots, such as Volgassippi Blue (a combination of the Volga and Mississippi Rivers), Sahkalin Salmon, Sheplova Mushroom, and Kalinka Malinka. Even though the company’s mission has shifted, those color names represent the foundation of Peace Fleece's focus, and we feel that's important to hold on to.

The UK-based readers of Pom Pom would love to knit with Peace Fleece’s Worsted (Pom Team included)! Does Peace Fleece have any stockists we should know about, or future plans for a UK-based stockist (please, please, please)?

We are thrilled to hear that there is an interest for Peace Fleece in the UK. In many ways it is such an American yarn and since Americans so enjoy working with British wool, it’s lovely to think we can offer something in return. You can find a window into another culture through whatever your interests are, so for knitters that can be knitting with wool from another place. We don’t have any UK stockists as of yet but we would definitely like to expand our list of retail partners in the future. Stay tuned!

*** 

Thank you so much for your insightful and thoughtful answers, Sarah. We've learned a lot from reading about Peace Fleece's history and dyeing process, and we're sure our readers will, too! 

Pictured below is Kordy from Moon and Turtle, shown in Peace Fleece's Worsted.