Soon after we, Rob Bruce and Michele Armour, started Rosehaven Alpacas, we also started looking into the possibility of founding a fiber mill dedicated to the natural fiber industry, particularly the high-end alpaca fiber market. At the time, there were not many resources or examples to look to in the New York region.
We fell in love with our farm and the quiet country lifestyle it provided, and then came the alpacas, which have captured our hearts more than we could ever have imagined! When we first purchased our alpacas, the farm had a spinning mill (still does!). It was so gratifying to get our first yarn back that was from our individual alpacas. We were so excited!
At the time, we knew very little about yarns, knitting or crocheting, but that did not stop us from our adventure. As we started selling alpacas, we found that many of the buyers were knitters and fiber enthusiasts. Many of their initial questions centered on the fleece and the ways it could be used for yarns and, eventually, garments. Of course, we knew alpaca could be made into exceptionally fine fabrics and yarns that could produce wonderful clothes, but we really did not know much of that process. And, when one of the hand-knitters who visited our farm in those early days did ‘neck test’ with a skein of our yarn… and reject it – well it was disheartening, to say the least. The yarn she used was from one of our favorite alpacas, and we thought her fleece was wonderful. Live and learn. I realized then I needed to know more.
I sought out the best in the alpaca fiber world, and that brought me to Wini Lebreque. Her many classes on natural fiber production and management really changed my world. The first seminar I took with her helped me understand all the different items that alpaca fleece could be used for and some of the many ways in which it could be manipulated for its finest qualities. That seminar will always stay with me. I have taken many of her seminars since and am truly blessed by my experience with such a skilled and knowledgeable fiber artist.
As our experience and knowledge of alpaca fiber have grown, we have learned about skirting, sorting and grading the fleeces for the highest value. Our efforts are focused on producing the best quality product possible. As our knowledge grew, we were able to guide the mills, and select for the finest quality fleeces. We really started seeing the difference in the yarns that came back from the mill. There was definitely a difference in what we were having made from those early efforts — the quality and the feel of the yarn was immediately apparent. We could really see and feel the ‘fiber of the kings’ through our own yarns. As our yarns improved, we explored more ideas, including making natural material in 3 different colors. We had to go to Canada to do it – but they came back great! Rob even had a suit made from it, and it is one of his favorite suits…ever.
As our knowledge of the natural fiber process grew, so did the germ of an idea of starting another business in Sullivan county. We started putting hand knitters to work – and are always looking to hire more. It’s something they can do from their homes and not have to travel to work. It’s great for retired men and women and great for new moms or moms with school age kids. But that was only step one. We also wanted to do something for all farms, not just alpaca farms. We had the knowledge, and the experience to produce fine natural fiber products and yarns, what we did not have was the mill in which to do this work ourselves. Enter “The Mill at Rosehaven Alpacas.” Our mission is not to compete with the other area spinning mills. They have people that are highly trained to spin excellent yarn and we actually still send a lot of our fiber to them. We decided to focus our mill on benefiting true fiber fanatics, like us! The Mill at Rosehaven Alpacas is set up to card for natural fibers specifically for hand-spinners and felt-makers.
The mill has a boutique of fine products on-site. The boutique offers handmade fashions, as well as, designer-made pieces. Future plans include more production, as well as classes in spinning, felting, weaving and knitting.
We look forward to hosting you. Come see what we have in store for you!
Meet Holly Jacobs — Mill Manager
The Mill at Rosehaven is proud to have Holly Jacobs as our Mill Manager. Rob and I met Holly, and her husband Todd at the many alpaca shows we attend each year. As our life got busier and busier they started transporting and showing our alpacas. As our friendship grew, we learned we shared many of the same interests, including the desire to desire to start a mill for specifically geared alpaca fiber enthusiasts. Our mutual dream is now reality with the opening of the Mill at Rosehaven Alpacas in late 2015.
Holly is a true fiber enthusiast with knowledge of all types of natural fibers. She should be. Her love of animals goes far beyond alpacas. She and her husband Todd have quite the menagerie, including goats, sheep and, of course alpacas, but also chickens, rabbits, ducks, cats and dogs. Holly and Todd participate in the Great Pyrenees rescue association, as well as the Springer Spaniel rescue. In between time, Holly has managed to raise 3 kids too!
Holly has served on the board of the Southern Tier Alpaca association, and presently is the treasurer on the board of directors for the Empire Alpaca Association – which is New York States’ alpaca association. On weekends, she still finds time to go to alpaca shows and fiber events.
Holly is studying to become a certified fiber sorter. She has studied under Wini Lebreque and taken many classes with the Natural Fiber Producers group. Holly has a love of all things natural fiber. She is especially interested in creating unique products for our clients. Working with the mill has opened opportunities to interact with other fiber enthusiast and each day is a new natural fiber adventure.
Holly can be found at the Mill at Rosehaven Alpacas most days. Be sure to ask for her when you visit.
Our Antique Carder
This was our antique carder. Made in Italy in the 1920’s, it is a small carder and slow – but it started us on this journey. It is presently living its new life on the west coast – starting another mill on its way!!