MiVT: Mad River Fiber Arts and Mill

Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 1:54 PM EST
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WAITSFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont sheep make Vermont wool, and Vermont wool makes Vermont yarn.

Nobody knows that better than Waitsfield’s Susan Snider.

“I’ve always been a fiber artist ever since I was a young girl, before they even coined that term, I suppose. I learned how to sew, my grandmother taught me how to knit and so forth,” she said.

Snider won’t deny that she’s hooked on fiber arts.

“I don’t know, I really fell in love with the hands-on creative [aspect]. You know, back in those days we used to make all our own clothes, so that was kind of how it starts. Now, I really like the process of watching it go from raw wool into yarn,” she said.

Back in her school years, she spent a year in Sweden, learning how to hand-weave and hand-spin.

“Once you start to do that, you’re like, ‘Well, I may as well spin my own yarn, then I might as well dye my own yarn.’ And then the next thing you know, you’re... this,” she laughs, motioning to her shop.

“This” is Mad River Fiber Arts and Mill, opened five years ago after Snider left her job in the corporate world to pursue a lifelong passion.

“Basically, we make yarn,” she said.

Now, in her Waitsfield shop, Susan creates yarns to sell to the public. But she commissions custom work, too.

“When a farmer comes to us with their wool, and they want Sally the Sheep yarn, we can do that. And if we want to mix Sally the Sheep with Joey the Sheep, we can do that, too,” she explained while showing off her equipment.

The size of this shop and Snider’s expertise make opportunities limitless: goat, alpaca, you name it.

“Every breed of sheep, and there’s hundreds of them, have different characteristics. They process differently,” she explained.

Working with local farmers is her bread and butter. Snider says she’s part of the VT Fiber Shed, meaning her fibers are sourced exclusively from local farms. Then they’re processed, dyed and made into the yarn you see in stores.

From start to finish, it’s all done at Mad River Fiber Arts and Mill. The shop exists partially to serve the needs of the community, but also to bring awareness to the importance of local fiber production.

“I try to compare it to, you know, the craft beer, cider, cheese movement, shop local,” she said. “Well, it’s very much the same here.”

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