This is the first in a series highlighting the people who make up our fibershed.
Patty Sanville wakes early. If it’s lambing season she checks the barn first, but most days she will start her day quietly knitting while she waits for the sun to rise. She relishes this time of day before it’s time to start on the many tasks a small farm requires. “Our farm was set up from scratch so we built in water and feed locations where needed so taking care of the animals takes very little time most days. That said, there are vegetable and dye gardens and a small orchard to tend. There is always something fiber related to do: skirting fleeces, washing fleeces, dyeing, making dye baths, testing patterns and teaching classes.” A good portion of every day is devoted to being an active supporter and participant in various sheep and fiber associations, both local and national.
Patty’s affinity for sheep started at a young age. “While I joke that I thought it was a way to have cheaper yarn to supply my knitting and crocheting habit, it was really a pull I’ve always felt towards sheep. It started when I was a 4-year old visiting Colonial Williamsburg. I was fascinated by the sheep there – their size and look made them very approachable. Many years later, when we moved to Maryland and my children got involved in 4-H, I seized the moment to start raising sheep”.
Budding Creek Farm raises Leicester Longwool sheep that are part of the Livestock Conservancy Rare Breeds Program and, not coincidently, the same breed they have in Colonial Williamsburg. Patty was delighted to obtain some of her stock from the Colonial Williamsburg program which fulfilled the dream of her 4-year old self wanting the sheep she first encountered at that historic place. Budding Creek Farm also has Romney sheep that remain from the children’s 4-H days and a few Romney-Corriedale mixes. Patty keeps her herd at between 10-15 sheep which is what the farm can sustainably support.
Spinning and knitting are daily activities for Patty. In addition to test knitting for others, she teaches a variety of needle arts at venues in our fibershed, as well as at her workshop on the property (and virtually since COVID). “I love the feeling of taking the wool from sheep that I’ve raised and creating a garment from their wool in a color I grew on the property. I want to share that feeling with others.” Patty noted that her grandparents farmed in the Chesapeake Fibershed region and that “every bit of who I am, came from this fibershed.”
As a small farmer, she says her most significant challenges are controlling the costs of processing fiber and the sometimes lengthy turnaround time of the mills. While these are obstacles, it doesn’t stop Patty. “I do all of this because it brings me joy. I love teaching others and sharing my passion.”