Local producers featured at Schweinfurth’s Fiber Market

Kate Pelkey, owner of Otter Lake Farm & Fiber in Weedsport, began making soaps and lotions more than a decade ago because she couldn’t find any that didn’t irritate her skin.

“Commercial facial cleansers and beauty bars are actually not soap,” she explained. “They are usually a detergent with man-made chemicals, including a variety of parabens that I found caused excessive dryness, redness, and acne. After years of frustration and dollars wasted using commercial products, I decided to make my own skincare products.”

Her products were so effective that it became a business soon after. It took longer to achieve the rest of her dream: raising sheep. She started her 5-acre farm in 2017. She will be selling her skin and fleece products Nov. 10 at the Schweinfurth Art Center’s second annual Fall Fiber Market. The event, set for noon to 4 p.m., will feature several vendors and a trunk show and book signing by artist and author Thomas Knauer.

“This market is a wonderful opportunity to pick up arts and craft supplies and holiday gifts,” said Davana Robedee, the Schweinfurth’s program director. “And even more exciting, all of our vendors are local, so you will be supporting Central New York businesses.”

Here are this year’s vendors:
    – Maureen Jakubson from Ithaca, selling Shibori scarves and hand-dyed and painted fabric
    – Two Loopy Ladies from Skaneateles, selling crocheted accessories
    – Lochan Mor Farm in Cato, selling roving, yarn, dyed locks, raw fleece, fiber wash, and finished products
    – Trinity Farm in Aurora, selling Icelandic and Shetland fleece and products; sheep milk soap and lotions; and needle felted birds
    – Otter Lake Farm & Fiber of Weedsport, selling fiber and skin care products and giving away decorated squash and gourds with every purchase

Shepherding is in Pelkey’s blood. The Cato native recently learned from her aunt that her great-grandfather raised sheep for meat in the Auburn area. But she became entranced with the idea of raising sheep after attending the CNY Fiber Festival in 2005.

“I had just learned to knit earlier that year,” she said. “My eyes were opened wide to the endless possibilities of the fiber arts. I left that festival with a spinning wheel and a couple pounds of roving, and the rest is history.”

She raises Romeldale/CVM and Gotland sheep, two relatively new breeds to the United States. “I chose the Romeldale/CVM because they are a fine fiber breed (which I enjoy spinning and knitting with) and of threatened status, per The Livestock Conservancy,” Pelkey said. “I chose the Gotland sheep (Swedish breed) because I just fell in love with how silky soft and lustrous their fiber is.” 

Both breeds are dual purpose: Pelkey raises them for their fiber and their meat, which she sells to School & Vine Kitchen and Bar in Jamesville, NY. Again, she is following in her great-grandfather’s footsteps, since he sold lamb meat to various restaurants in Auburn and surrounding areas.

Pelkey will be selling fleece products as well as her skin care products at the Schweinfurth’s Fall Fiber Market, including CVM combed top, alpaca roving, raw Gotland fiber, and blended mohair and Romney yarn.

At 2 p.m., artist and author Thomas Knauer of Clinton, NY, will display his quilts and give a talk about his inspiration and process. Following his talk, he will sign copies of his newest book, “Why We Quilt: Contemporary Makers Speak Out about the Power of Art, Activism, Community, and Creativity.”

Knauer says the book contains the history of quilts with a perspective through interviews of top art quilters about why people quilt when there is little practical need. It also contains images of some of the finest quilts made in the past decade.

Also on the agenda are demonstrations of spinning and needle felting by Trinity Farm. Local food truck Potatoes and Molasses will be available. Attending the fiber market and trunk show is free with admission, which is $10 per person. Members, exhibiting artists, and children 12 and under are free.