We are a family owned and run business, located on the sparsely populated Montana Rocky Mountain Front, where the vast, wrinkled Great Plains rise sharply to the rugged backbone of North America.
My husband and I are descendants of homesteaders who came to Montana in the early 1900's. We raise fine-wool sheep on our 3000-acre ranch, with many acres of our land devoted to wildlife. Our region is considered to be in the top 1% of prime wildlife habitat in the United States. Ranching practices and traditions in our part of the world have supported the natural world and you can see evidence of this in wooded riparian areas, rolling grasslands and abundant wide open spaces.
With this habitat designation comes some interesting challenges. Throughout the year, it is not unusual to have grizzly bears, mountain lions, coyotes, eagles and other wildlife as regular visitors. The combination of the predators mentioned and sheep creates problems from time to time. The situation is fairly manageable, however, with careful monitoring, electric fences and the addition of a guard llama named Juan.
We take great pride in our flock of Merino sheep, grown under wholesome and humane conditions. Our animals live in an essentially extreme climate, so their wool is noticeably loftier than that which is imported. Our breeding program includes Australian Delaine Merino genetics, from the purebred rams that we purchased eleven years ago. These genetics are now well established in our flock and this has dramatically improved the fiber length, while retaining the already present, soft, fine qualities of our wool. You will find that most of our selections retain some natural lanolin and are wonderful for next to the skin uses and for felting projects.
Our worsted weight, 3-ply fisherman, 1-ply light sport, 2-ply sock/sport, batts and roving are all processed at a small, family run woolen mill, 260 miles North of us in Alberta, Canada. In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint and to avoid the high costs of transporting our product across the country, we decided to use local mills exclusively. The mill in Canada is a day trip for us, and we have a great working relationship with the folks who own and run it. We can assure you that this mill is environmentally responsible and produces quality products the old-fashioned way. The wool is processed naturally, in contrast to larger mills, which often treat the wool with harsh chemicals to dissolve vegetable matter, mothproof or superwash. It is also non-carbonized (not heated to extremely high temperatures to destroy plant matter). In an effort to avoid this over-processing, a few flecks of straw may remain in the product, but are easily removed as you knit.
Much of the equipment at these mills dates back to the 1800's. The yarn is mule spun, a process developed during the last half of the eighteenth century. Mule spinning gives yarns characteristics all their own. Yarns spun on frames have a constant tension, and are spun and wound continuously, while mule spun yarns are drawn, spun, relaxed, then wound about 6 feet at a time. The draw allows for a more uniform product, and the relaxation of the tension allows the yarn to fluff. Many experts consider the mule to make the very highest quality of handwork yarns. Several customers recently suggested that I mention that our yarn is plied with a "Z" twist, a characteristic that is desirable for those who are interested in twining. It is also dyed in the wool for uniformity of color.
We offer a plethora of lovely 2-ply worsted weight yarn selections. They knit to a gauge of approximately 4.5 to 5 stitches to the inch on size 6 or 7 needles. They come in blends of 90% merino and 10% fine, kid mohair, 65% merino and 35% kid, and in 100% merino lambswool. We add fine, kid mohair to our wool because it adds a soft sheen and enriches the color, without the scratchiness associated with mohair. It also adds strength and is sometimes referred to as "nature's nylon". There are approximately 241 yds. per 4 oz. skein. Included in this line are muted heathers, solids and "all natural" choices. In 2008 we added a new line of very sturdy 3-ply heavy fisherman weight dyed selections to our menu and also offer this weight in a few all-natural choices. This weight knits to a gauge of about 3.5 - 3.75 stitches to the inch on size 8 - 10 needles, with approximately 160 yds. per 4 oz. skein. Our dyed 3-ply selections feature color blends that are unique to and designed by our little company. Each one is a tweedy, heathered blend of two to four colors. These blends create hues that can be found in our natural surroundings, here in Northern Montana. Last but not least, our light sport/fingering singles and 2-ply sport/sock weight selections offer lighter weight choices for socks,lace and fine fabric designs.
On August 1st 2008, my sister-in-law opened a little general store, Dupuyer Cache, on the main street of our small town. She carries snacks, drinks, gifts and such. She graciously offered us a place for our yarn, so we now have a brick and mortar presence, where knitters can view most of our products first-hand. The hours are 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, Wednesday - Saturday. If you would like to stop by on off days or times, just let us know and we will try to accommodate your schedule.
To make our long story short, we love our life here on the Front. We enjoy sharing a bit of our life with you and thanks for checking out our web store! If you have any questions, I will be happy to try to answer them.
Beaverslide Dry Goods
P.O. Box 153
Dupuyer, MT 59432
Phone: (406) 472 3283
Fax: (406) 472 3399