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A hank of Peace Fleece
Peace Fleece once knitted up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Peace Fleece

First Impressions
Here's the story of how a Maine sheep farmer and his wife took international relations into their own hands. In 1985, Peter Hagerty and his wife Marty Tracy began purchasing wool from Soviet sheep farmers and blending it with American wool to create a new yarn and company, both named Peace Fleece. The label reads, "Warm wool from a cold war."

Hagerty—a product of the Milton Academy and Harvard—had moved to rural Maine with his wife to raise sheep, draft horses, and a family. When they began Peace Fleece, their hope was to help diffuse the threat of nuclear war through trade, using agriculture as a medium for bringing people together.

Since then, the demise of the Soviet Union has introduced new challenges in maintaining a steady source of quality fibers for Peace Fleece yarn.

Hagerty has expanded his net to include sources in the Central Asian republics, the Ukraine, and Romania. In the United States, he works with shepherds in Montana, Ohio, Texas, and Maine.

Made from sturdy wool blended with 30% mohair, Peace Fleece yarn is as beautiful, rugged, and complex as the lives of the people who produce it. At first glance, the yarn is rough, basic, and scratchy—like knitting with twine, as one person aptly described it.

But give it time, especially during blocking, washing, and wearing, and this yarn will work its way deep into your heart.

Peace Fleece is available in 36 colors. The heathered hues are truly exceptional for their vibrancy and depth.

Knitting Up
Peace Fleece is extremely easy to work with, making it ideal for beginners. The yarn flowed freely (albeit scratchingly) through my hands, and my stitches were even and consistent from knit to purl rows. In no time I was able to knit by touch alone, with no marked change in the results.

My skein did have periodic flecks of vegetable matter, most of which was easily removed.

I found myself periodically pausing to take in the yarn's rich and marvelous scent of lanolin, which conjured up memories of the New England yarn shops of my youth.

Blocking / Washing
You can't judge Peace Fleece accurately until after you've washed your knitted project. My stiff and listless swatches relaxed the minute they hit their warm bath.

I could feel the fibers bloom and the fabric become more fluid in my hands. There was no bleeding or fading, nor did the gauge change whatsoever.

Once dry, my swatches were clearly softer and more relaxed. The fibers bloomed into place, giving the swatches a far more cohesive appearance of fabric. A glassy halo emerged, presumably from the 30% mohair content. Even non-knitters could feel and see the difference.

Peace Fleece produces a warm and rugged fabric with great endurance and strength. My swatches survived every test with flying colors.

Short of sticking them in a blender and turning it on high (which even I didn't have the heart to do), I was unable to force my swatches into early retirement.

This is not a luxury yarn for refined next-to-the-skin wear. It is rough and honest and hard-working. Its occasional blemishes serve as a gentle reminder of the hardship it has endured and overcome.

The price can't be beat: At $6.50 per 200-yard skein, you could knit a medium-sized women's pullover for under $50.

After more than a decade, Peace Fleece (the company) has expanded its offerings to include handpainted knitting needles and buttons and handmade drop spindles from Russia, as well as a more rugged Israeli/Palestinian/Maine Island wool blend suitable for weaving and rug-hooking.

While his upbringing may have prepared him more for the board room than the sheep shed, Peter Hagerty remains clear on how he can maintain meaning in his life. "It's not about saving the world, not about world peace and famine," he writes. For him, "it is about the little things, doing what you can, keeping a thread of hope going no matter how thin."

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