- Origins –
Peter and Marty moved to the small town of Porter, Maine in the foothills of the White Mountains in 1974 as part of the back to the land movement. Marty made pottery, Peter went logging with horses and they both started a small flock of sheep. But living at the end of a dirt road growing their own food, shearing their own sheep, and cutting their own firewood did not protect them from the threat of nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States.
In 1985 Peter had an idea and traveled to Moscow with a proposal. If he could find a Russian family who would sell him wool, he would buy it and bring it back to Maine, t to blend with American wool and make a yarn called Peace Fleece. Central to the creation of Peace Fleece was the belief that if historic enemies could do business together, the potential for conflict between them might be reduced. The Russian and American fiber would be spun together, and the hats and sweaters knit from this yarn would affirm that Soviet-American cooperation was possible. “Warm wool from a Cold War” became the Peace Fleece motto.
On his first trip that summer Peter met one of the few people in the whole of Russia who could make this dream a reality. He was able to buy one bale of Russian wool and have it shipped home. This shipment would be the first Soviet wool to ever legally enter the United States. Peace Fleece found ranchers from Montana and Maine to supply their American wool for the next six years. In the early nineties Peace Fleece expanded its offerings to include fleece from Israel, the West Bank, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Romania – that was blended with fleece from Cottage Hill Farm in Ohio, and mohair from Texas.
- Transition from Overseas to the USA –
In 2008 Peter and Marty’s son Silas was asked to film a horseback ride by the Lakota and Dakota Native Americans to commemorate the death by hanging of forty of their ancestors in 1863, the largest mass execution in American history. The effect the film had on Peter was profound and begged these questions. Rather than working overseas, should we not refocus Peace Fleece’s efforts to better understand what we did to the Native Americans? Might this not be an important step in healing the social and political divisions that plague our country today?
In 2010 Peace Fleece purchased its first native Rambouillet wool from the Cook Ranch on South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Reservation, beginning the journey of learning what happened to these tribes a century and a half ago. The following year Peace Fleece visited the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico and met with native ranchers to learn how it might assist them in the production and marketing of their wool.
For three consecutive years it has purchased fine wool from the Navajo. In 2014 Cottage Hill Farm in Ohio traveled to the Southwest with Navajo ranchers and both groups purchased high quality breeding rams, which will hopefully provide Peace Fleece with a future generation of ever improving genetics.
Peace Fleece continues to work alongside the Navajo Nation, spinning wool with meaning and producing lines of worsted & DK weight yarns, along with fleece and knitting needles.