Whidbey residents quest for fibers, farms | CORRECTED

When Mary Donaty was 10 years old, she fell in love. This love was unlike any other — assertive, quirky, with a penchant for eating hair bows. And the object of her affection? A llama.

Mary Donaty gives one of her Pygora goats a smooch at Paradise Found Fiber Farm. Pygoras are just one of three animals from which Donaty gathers fibers.

When Mary Donaty was 10 years old, she fell in love. 

This love was unlike any other — assertive, quirky, with a penchant for eating hair bows. And the object of her affection? A llama.

Today, 56 years later, Donaty raises llamas, alpacas and Pygora goats on Paradise Found Fiber Farm, tucked away in the forest of Clinton. She is also the founder of Whidbey Island’s annual celebration of fibers, the Whidbey Island Fiber Quest.

Donaty said she began the quest as a way of letting the public get a glimpse into the world of fibers, from raising and shearing the animals to spinning the spools. “I’ve organized this event so that we open our farms and share and tell the story of how we got to do what we individually do and how we work together as a unit,” she said. “I’ve been a fiber person for over 30 years and  [taken]many paths, many roads, tried farmers markets and things, and what I’ve found works best for me was to open my farm up and bring people here so I can give them a history lesson. I can give them the touch and feel of the animal. And I can show them what is possible to do with the fiber.”

In years past, Donaty has put together two events, one in fall and one in early summer. But this year, there is a twist: it will only be offered once, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, July 12-13.

“I switch it up every year,” she said. “We started out just with the fiber farms and then we did Fiber Quest with a Twist and involved other businesses on the island and we did it spring and fall.”

Competition and burnout associated with spring and fall events proved a hurdle. Donaty explained that she and others decided to host the quest once in the summer due to more favorable weather and light conditions which should allow attendees to better observe the production process. She has also limited participating businesses to those in the industry, explaining that, with so many other businesses involved, attendees found it difficult to experience everything.

“We hope that they concentrate just on fiber which is what the birth of this thing is all about, so it’s Fiber Quest with a Twist with a pair of sunglasses on,” she said.

Farm participants are Fern Ridge Alpacas, Paradise Found Fiber Farm, Pronkin’ Pastures Alpaca Ranch, Frosen Acres Alpacas, Olympic Mist Farm, Island Bliss Alpacas. Two shops, Knitty Purls and Whidbey Isle Yarns, Gifts and Teas, will also participate and sell local goods.

Lynn Sheffield, of Olympic Mist Farm Alpacas, said she has been involved with Fiber Quest since its inception. “I have a farm store here, so for me it’s a way for me to get people to come and visit the farm and the store and learn more about the fiber,” she said.

Sheffield and others will also demonstrate spinning to visitors.

“I think the event tends to attract people that don’t live here on the island, so it’s just a great way to expand information about the hobby farm life and farm life and [give] information about the alpaca fiber and spinning and weaving out to the general public and expand our customer base,” she said.

Most of the farms raise alpacas, which are nearly half the size of llamas and have shorter ears. Paradise Found Fiber Farm, of which Donaty is owner and operator, is the only farm that produces three fiber types — those from llamas, alpacas and Pygora goats.

Several of Donaty’s animals were rescued. She calls her farm a demonstration of the “circle of life;” the animals have a home and provide her with fibers to sell, which in turn pays for their food.

According to Donaty, a variety of fiber products will be for sale on farms and in the shops from roving to yarn and handmade items such as apparel and gifts.

Knitty Purls employee Lou Ann Toeppen said the event brings in quite a bit of foot traffic and helps both local farmers and businesses by spreading the word about Whidbey’s fiber offerings. Knitty Purls will be selling fibers and demonstrating spinning technique as a part of the quest.

Tickets are free and can be picked up at any participating retailer or farm, or online at whidbeyfiberquest.com.

At each location visited, participants will receive an initialed business card and have their ticket signed.

Patrons will have a chance to win a gift certificate in one of two ways: for every $25 purchase, the participant will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate; after visiting eight locations, participants will be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift certificate; some fiber shops will also have their own drawings and ways to win. Drawings for the $25 and $50 gift certificates will be held July 18.

 

More in Life

Need ideas for book lovers?

Librarians offer gift suggestions for all ages, interests

Making art to make a difference

Gerber, Hudson continue their seasonal fundraising tradition

All photos taken by Whidbey Camano Land Trust
Habitat restoration underway at preserve

Whidbey Camano Land Trust working to save forest, habitat

Tiny home project has big need

An idea for a tiny-house development is starting with a regular-sized home.… Continue reading

Learn how a trombone toots and a drum rolls

Saratoga Orchestra presents annual ‘Petting Zoo’ with holiday concert

Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News Group.
                                South Whidbey veteran Jill Johnson holds her miniature poodle, Sophie.
Veteran wants everyone to know, women served too

Despite misconceptions, women served in Vietnam, alongside men. They mattered, and they… Continue reading

Cherished Nutcracker ballet returns to South Whidbey

A young girl, clutching a wooden Christmas nutcracker, dreams of finding her… Continue reading

Global holiday traditions featured Saturday

Many countries represented at Langley Children’s Holiday Festival

Whidbey war memorial created at American Legion post

Names of fallen soldiers sought for Legion’s tribute

“Sheep Barn, Winter Morning,” oil painting on linen by James Tennison.
                                Part of December show at Rob Schouten Gallery, Langley.
Art & About: December features holiday shows

Gallery shows and receptions around Whidbey

WICA presents two Christmas comedy classics

“Owen Meany’s Christmas Pageant” and “Santaland Diaries” offer a double treat for the holidays

The (little) railroad Jack built

This year’s display may turn out to be Tingstad’s last