Photography by Paige Green
Colleen Simon has enjoyed an interest in fiber arts for as long as she can remember. She learned to knit as a child growing up in Minnesota, and recalls with fondness how she was intrigued by the spinning wheel in her mom’s attic. Today she owns a richly colored flock of ten ewes (CVM, CVM-Romeldale, and Merino-Romeldale), and two rams (Romeldale and Merino) on her 5-acre farm in Vacaville, California, and is breeding for shades of soft brown wool.
Colleen had been a horsewoman for many years, and learned to ride as a child, but it wasn’t until her daughter was in 4H around 17 years ago that the family got their first sheep, a Dorset named Martha. They tried raising goats during the 4H years as well, but found them too difficult, so sheep won the day.
Not surprisingly, the spinning wheel reappeared in Colleen’s life, and she took spinning lessons from Robin Lynde of Meridian Jacobs, a fellow Vacaville resident who at the time had a few sheep. Colleen bought her first fiber ewes from Robin, and her rams from Terry Mendenhall of Mendenhall Wool Ranch.
In addition to knitting and spinning, Colleen learned to weave and to felt, and felting has become her current love. She is fortunate in being able to collaborate with nearby friends, Jackie Post and Robin Lynde, who are also experienced fiber artists. They share equipment, such as Jackie’s felt loom, as well as fleece, since they each have different breeds.
Colleen’s business is called Fiber Confections, and her products include fleece, mill spun yarn in natural colors, and felt hats and pins. You can find her at a number of venues, including the Davis Farmers Market (from September through February), Lambtown Festival in October, and the Fibershed Wool & Fine Fiber Symposium. She also sells online via etsy. This Saturday, April 4, 2015, you can see Colleen’s creations at Meridian Jacobs’ Meet the Sheep event in Vacaville.
While visiting Colleen’s farm in Vacaville, it was apparent that much care goes into the property. She and her husband Jim had a landscaping business for many years, and their love of plants and trees is evident from the gardens surrounding their home. Jim also helps out with some of the sheep related tasks, and built a very functional barn for the flock.
The drought has brought challenges, and they have reduced the size of their garden and fine-tuned their irrigation to save water. With all the landscape trimmings they have been making compost piles, and Colleen is interested in learning more about compost and carbon farming, which has shown to increase soil water holding capacity and forage production—a valuable resource in this time of drought and rising feed costs.
We are grateful to Colleen and others in the Vacaville community that have joined our Fibershed Producer program — inspiring us by sharing their stories and knowledge, and building local fiber resources through their love of fiber arts.