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She Turns Bunny Fur Into Socks
Vicki Johnson hand-shears her 25 Angora rabbits 3 to 4 times a year and knits the wool, blended with Merino sheep's wool, into crew socks that are worn inside shoes and boots across the globe. Vicki's little operation, Northland Woolens, Inc. started in her basement with wool she handspun and knit on two flatbed-knitting machines. The thriving business has since taken over a large storage building - filled with knitting machines - on the property she shares with her husband, Scott, a mile north of Nelson, Minnesota.

    Vicki acquired her antique knitting machines from a variety of places, the lastest ones coming from Montreal. With a myriad of interlocking parts, the machines look mysterious to the casual observer and take considerable time to learn to operate efficiently. Vicki has learned to fix breakdowns on her own, since sock knitting machine repairmen have to come from a state away when something goes wrong.

    The demand for Northland Woolens socks has grown far beyond the amount of Angora wool that Vicki's rabbits can produce so she now depends on other wool producers. Raw wool is sent to Crescent Woolen Mills in Two Rivers, Wis., for spinning. The wool/Angora blend socks are made in 5 styles and 4 sizes in 3 natural colors. "The wool blend socks with Angora are twice as warm as wool alone," says Vicki, who now sells several thousand pairs of socks a year.

    Marketing has progressed from word of mouth to taking wholesale orders at trade shows. Vicki has added knitted hats, headbands, mittens, vests and jackets. She employs a half dozen women who work on site. Others do hand work in their homes.

    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Vicki Johnston, Northland Woolens, Inc., 2380 Co. Rd. 9 N.E., Nelson, Minn. 56355 (ph 320762-0376; www.northlandwoolens.com).

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2009 - Volume #33, Issue #6