Little Hill Woolworks
Tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started.
We are a collective of 2 humans (designer Nora Swan and farmer/felter Sam Stone) and 7 sheep who make "ultra local" hand-felted hats, baby booties, and whimsical accessories for kids and adults right on our hundred acre farm. We make our own felt by hand (from our own sheep's wool), and craft our hats, booties and other creations using original designs and patterns. We source everything as close to home as possible, so our goods are created "from the grass up" right here in Vermont.
We got started when my (Sam's) 3-year-old son Luca looked down at his plate one day and asked, “Mommy, who made this pasta?” Since moving to Vermont from Manhattan a year earlier my family had plunged headlong into mini-farm mode, raising sheep, growing food in our enormous garden, keeping bees and chickens, and getting all our meat, cheese and milk from neighboring farms. During that first year, Luca had become fascinated with the origins of so much of what he consumed. So when I said I didn’t know who made his pasta, he looked exasperated. “Everything is made by someone mommy,” he said. Duh.
This basic insight, so clear to three-year-old Luca on his farm, is not so obvious to many of us. Disconnected from the sometimes simple, sometimes incredibly complex processes that bring food to our table or put shoes on our feet, we can get lulled into thinking that stuff just "is".
I thought then, wouldn’t it be wonderful to somehow share this experience with our less, shall we say, “earthy” friends. I stared at my sheep, and my sheep stared at me. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if someone made baby booties out of the wool of individual sheep, and paired them with a little book that introduced the sheep and farm they came from?
I shared this idle thought with my friend, Nora, who surprised me and said, “Let’s do it!” Turns out, my mountain-hermit friend Nora lived a fabulous former life making hats for Broadway in pre-bubble New York City. (You really never know what you’ll find in them thar hills.)
Sooo, over the next few months I taught myself to felt and Nora dusted off her old hat blocks and got to work designing and making patterns for our line of baby booties, hats and other surprisingly high-fashion accessories. We plunged ourselves into the arcane yet...arcane world of bookmaking, and developed a series of tiny books to accompany each of our baby products.
Once we started selling our children's line, customers began asking for adult sizes, so we started designing hats and hair ornaments for adults as well. Our style is a little bit country, a little bit whattheheck? Whimsical, unusual, beautiful and playful. We pride ourselves on fine craftswomanship, and offer a unique combination of couture sensibility, old-school millinery techniques and earthy vermontiness. Response has been wonderful so far, and this year is shaping up to be much bigger than last!
Who/what inspires you?
We envision a world where one-year-old boys wear purple fedoras and toddlerettes wear 1920s-inspired beaded cloches. We’d like to see newborn gentlemen wearing tiny felt wing tips and bowler hats embellished with vintage buttons, and we’d absolutely love to see itty-bitty ladies completing every outfit with a feathered cocktail headband!
And don't get us started on our hats and hair adornments for women! (Let's just say Sam has been spotted hauling hay bales in frothy head wear on more than one occasion!). Just because we are hard working wild women of the woods doesn't mean we can't be spectacularly coiffed!
Our vision is not only to create fabulous items of adornment however; we are also on a mission to connect children with the origins of their essential possessions. We believe that knowing where things come from and how they are made enriches a child’s understanding and appreciation of our world. To this end, we accompany each of our goods with a mini-biography introducing our farm and the sheep that contributed the wool. Our sheep have distinct personalities, and we design along thematic “lines” that celebrate them.
Where do you sell and promote your work?
We take our goodies to various craft shows in Vermont and New England which is loads of fun playing dress-ups! We also sell through etsy.com, and our fancier ladies' accessories are featured in Adornment in Brandon. We do custom work as well, both locally and through etsy.
What are three things you can't live without?
Hmmm. Our children, artistic expression, and the natural abundance that surrounds us!
Tell us why you love living in Vermont
Ooh, we just love stuffing our children in and out of snowsuits all winter!
For real, we are constantly inspired by the beauty of the landscape, and the plucky individuality of the people here. There's just so much personality hiding under all those layers of thermal underwear!
What does term indie craft mean to you?
Indie craft is about a new energy and playfulness people are bringing to the creation of handmade goods. It's tied to an ethos of conscious consumption, sustainable production values, local-ism, and solidarity between the makers and the buyers.
Any new products, projects or news you want to share?
We are hard at work coming up with a spring line of shady hats and winsome headbands for kids and adults. We are also partnering with a neighboring farm to create a line of felted alpaca hats and baby booties. And we are collaborating with the talented Vermont-based jewelry designer Rebecca Zelis on a new approach to bridal finery - coming soon!
etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/