Meet Carol Collins
Carol grew up in the 1950’s, in West Brattleboro, VT, on The Round Mountain Farm, one of Vermont’s largest sheep farms. She fell in love with handling wool as she worked as part of her family’s annual sheep-shearing-operation and was once called a “spinning evangelist” by one of her students, Donald Schmidt.
Tobi von Trapp taught her to spin in 1973 and she spun for 9 years before her first spinning lesson. Carol studied spinning with Paula Simmons, weaving with Norman Kennedy and Kate Smith, knitting with Rita Buchanan, dyeing with Deb Menz and Kate Smith and many other leaders in the field.
Carol founded The Valley Friendly Spinners’ Guild in 1982 (which is still thriving, today) and started her business called “Singing Spindle Spinnery” also in 1982. She has been teaching; wool/fiber washing, carding, blending and spinning, knitting, crocheting, felting, dyeing, circular weaving and felting in her shop/studio and around New England for 39 years. She also produces and sells a wide array of wool crafts and ‘gifts from the garden’ (seeds, cut flowers, herb teas, potted perennials, garden produce).
Here I am in 1956 holding onto my family’s pet Southdown Ram we named Jackie. We bottle-fed him when he was a lamb because he didn’t have a mother who could care for him, so he grew up considering us his parents. The name of our farm was “Round Mountain Farm” on Abbott Road in West Brattleboro, Vermont. My love of wool came from working with my father and brother at shearing time to bale up the wool from each sheep and pack it into huge burlap bags which each held 200 lbs. of wool. I fell in love with the soft feeling and the smell of the raw wool, and I still love it to this day!
About Singing Spindle Spinnery
What is the business called Singing Spindle Spinnery all about? In 1971, my husband, Fred, and I bought and cleared a house-site on our 8-acre plot of land in South Duxbury, VT. We were both full-time teachers which allowed us to build our own home, with our own hands, that summer of 1972. In 1973, I learned how to spin wool into yarn and fell in love with wool and what we can do with it. Although I don’t keep sheep any longer, I raised a flock of sheep for 18 years and grew up on a farm where we had as many as 350 sheep and 10,000 chickens. I founded a local spinning guild called “The Valley Friendly Spinners” which is still going strong after 38 years.
I started my own business, called Singing Spindle Spinnery, in 1982, which continues to the present. As part of that business, I teach spinning, knitting, crocheting, felting (3 kinds), wool-washing, carding, blending, circular weaving and more. I sell spinning wheels and related equipment and many wool-craft products. I have a roadside stand that is operated using an Honor System. In the roadside stand, I sell my wool, yarn and wool-craft products including; crocheted hats, and scarves, baby booties, small felted balls, Felt-A-Ball Kits, Drop Spindle Kits, Felting kids and Circular Weaving Kits. I also sell the herb tea that I make each year using 10 different herbs.
A lot of my spinning business is actually teaching people to spin wool into yarn. I work with students all year long, but more in the colder months. When the weather warms, I’m working outdoors in the gardens much of every day. In the beginning, we chose the plot for our garden under the power lines along Route 100, because we knew that no buildings would go there.
In spring of ’72, my husband cut the Poplar trees that grew there, and I, myself, worked at removing the 20-foot-long roots of those Poplar trees from that plot. In the 48 years that have followed, we now have many gardens and many crops to care for. I am all organic and sell Rhubarb and Jerusalem Artichokes to local markets and to individual customers who stop by the garden. In the spring and fall I dig Horseradish roots and make small batches of Prepared Horseradish which I sell to 6 local food markets.
We have a small orchard of apple trees which supply us with good apples and in October we press the apples for our own cider. We store the apples in our root cellar for half of the winter months. The cider we store in the freezer for year-round use. I make cider jelly from our own cider and sell a small amount if we have more than we need for our own use. I raise blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, black currants, red currants, and gooseberries, and I make jam from these berries. I sell a portion of the jam I make.Each year, beginning in April I dig and divide perennial flowering plants and herbs, and pot a couple hundred plants which I sell by the roadside. By mid-to-late June they are pretty much sold out. In April/May I begin cutting the Jonquils, Daffodils, and Narcissus which I also sell. Sometimes local merchants order large weekly bouquets, and individuals sometimes order Wedding or special event bouquets, but most of the cut flowers are sold by the roadside. I make bouquets to sell, when I have time.
I have a small organic seeds business. I sell the packets of seeds in my roadside stand from May to October. The seed packets are also sold in three other local markets. I also take them with me when I do craft fairs.
I am also a writer and exhibit my photographs and sell cards made from the photos. I publish poems/gardening articles/stories/memoirs and do some public readings.
Here I am picking wool on the picker that my husband built for me in the 1980’s. We feed wool or other fibers through a picker to open up the fibers and make it easier to card. The next step is to card the wool on a drum carder. I use both hand-operated drum carders and an electric drum carder in my shop/studio. I love sharing what I’ve learned with anyone who is interested.
I keep learning every day. I have had wonderful interns in the past, and I would very much appreciate having one, two, or three interns to work with me this summer. There is much work and great opportunity for learning in several different areas.