When Brooke Sinnes from the beautiful Napa Valley region, came into our shop a few years ago, we were so happy to meet her and her stunning hand-dyed yarns! We became instant fans. Naturally dyed, Brooke’s commitment to using locally sourced wool and fibers along with plants from Northern California are what make her yarns truly special. We’re so lucky to have such talent within driving distance from our shop! And extremely fortunate that Brooke is teaching her wonderful Natural Dyeing Workshop at Monarch. We thought it would be a great opportunity to get to know the maker behind her gorgeous brand, Sincere Sheep…
How did you get started with fiber arts? Your story behind Sincere Sheep is so inspiring. What motivated you to start dyeing yarn?
Initially I taught myself how to knit and crochet when I was about 12 years old. I kept it up through high school and at some point I must have said to my dad that I was interested in learning how to weave. The summer between high school and college I lived with my dad in Kansas City, Missouri and he noticed that the Kansas City Art Institute had an intro weaving class so I signed up. When I graduated college and moved back to Berkeley, California I wanted to keep weaving and found classes at the Richmond Art Center. From there I got interested in spinning and went looking for classes. The woman who taught me to spin was also teaching natural dye classes so I learned how to do that as well.
It was through the discussions that happened in those classes that Sincere Sheep was born. During that time I moved up to St. Helena and was exposed more to the wine industry. Also during that time the Slow Food movement was really gaining steam and I realized that concepts used to market wine and valued in food, such as terroir and local, could be applied to fiber and natural dyes. Additionally, at that time, American wool prices were really low. Many small sheep farmers in Sonoma County were choosing to compost, store, or even throw away their wool rather than buy the postage required to send their wool to the local wool pool. The price being paid was so low that it wasn’t worth it. Through my connections made in my spinning and dyeing classes I was able to purchase wool from local farmers and then I would send it to be processed at Yolo Wool Mill that was located just outside Davis. When the yarn and roving came back to me I naturally dyed it and then put the farm name and the sheep’s name on the label. Now, 15 years on, our primary focus remains single-source, breed-specific and custom-made yarns and fibers. The name of the ranch, location and breed is still identified on our label when it is traceable. We offer a diverse selection of custom made products from relationships with California and US wool growers, and small businesses. We buy our products from producers and companies who follow high standards and work in a sustainable way to support the local economy.
Your colors are beautiful! We love that you source local plants to dye your yarn, what are some of your favorites to dye with?
For my business, because I dye such a large volume, I don’t generally use foraged dyes though I do use some when teaching and for personal experiments. Locally fennel, Queen Anne’s lace, eucalyptus, and California pepper tree are all abundant and give nice yellows and even oranges, in the case of eucalyptus. I would love to partner with a local farmer to be able to use locally grown dyes in my work. Right now I have a small dye garden where I grow marigolds, weld, coreopsis, indigo, queen Anne’s lace, calendula, Navajo tea, Hopi sunflowers, artichokes, and madder. For Sincere Sheep I primarily use extracts since they are more efficient.
When you’re not dyeing, teaching and being an all around rock-star at running your business, what are some of your other passions and/or hobbies? Knit, crochet, weave or all of the above?
Even though knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning etc. have to do with my business I still consider them my hobbies and would love to spend more time doing them! I really enjoy sewing and all forms of embroidery. Some of my non-textile interests are reading, seeing movies, and gardening. I love to play cards and board games too!
We’re always looking for pattern inspiration, what’s currently on your needles or in your queue?
What isn’t on my needles?!? I am trying to knuckle down and finish some projects before starting anything new. Right now I am finishing a sample of the Veronika Cardigan by Shannon Cook in Cormo Worsted and the Wildberry Shawl by Annie Rowden and Andrea Mowry in Cormo Sport. I’m teaching some knitting classes at my local shop in Napa so I will be casting on for a second Bousta Beanie (pattern by Gudrun Johnston) for my stranded knitting class, a Lambda Shawl (pattern by Julia Farwell-Clay) for a class on provisional cast on and short rows, and a Metronome Shawl (pattern by Julia Farwell-Clay) for a class on intarsia.
Wonderful! We’re so excited to host you this month! What’s in store for Sincere Sheep this year? We love sharing events!
My next show is Black Sheep Gathering in Albany, OR at the end of June. I’m also teaching a series of dye classes at my home studio this summer. This fall I will be a vendor at California Wool and Fiber Festival in Boonville, CA and Lambtown in Dixon, CA. Also in the fall we will open sign ups for our Made Here! 2019 yarn club.
That sounds like a great year ahead! It’s always such fun and so inspiring to follow along with you on IG + your blog. Where can our readers find you?
I’m on Instagram as SincereSheep and that is definitely my primary social media outlet. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter but less regularly. My newsletter subscribers always get the new news first!
So great getting to know more about you, Brooke! Thanks for indulging all of us – always such a treat!