Merike Saarniit

If you were looking for Liisu Yarns, please note that it has merged with
The Unique Sheep
For information about
Merike Saarniit's
workshop schedule, click HERE
or on the Workshop tab at the left.
email me
This page was last updated on: November 20, 2011

    Merike is an Estonian/American with dual citizenship.   Being raised with a traditional Estonian upbringing (though in the US), she learned a variety of needle crafts early on.  Her Estonian Girl Guide leader Linda Leibak and her grandmother Rosalie Saarniit were tremendous role models for creative knitting adventures.

    Originally studied anthropology, married a British anthropologist and lived in a Basque sheep village of Beunza in the Yorkshire village of Shelf, then in south Florida where husband taught college.

    Completed degree in Studio Art, concentration on weaving in Senior year.  Long story short:  remarried and moved to North Carolina (first husband died).  As a member of Greensboro Weavers Guild, introduced to spinning in the 1980s.  Got a sheep, then they ended up with a sheep farm and started Carolina Homespun to sell spinning and weaving supplies.  Moved sheep farm and shop to Horsepasture, Virginia. 

   By this time, Merike was also dyeing yarns as Liisu Yarns.  She was one of the featured hand dyers in the book Handpaint Country (by Cheryl Potter) and included as the source for hand dyed yarns in the book Magnificent Mittens (by Anna Zilboorg). 

   She was also teaching a number of workshops, especially in spinning, dyeing, and weaving.  Her "Invitation to Spin" kits were instrumental in popularizing high whorl spindles (she had to special order them by the gross from Schacht Spindle Company) and the method of storing twist, stopping the spindle, then drafting confidently (aka park and draft).  She was also among the first (if not The First) to teach workshops in using the microwave oven to dye yarns.

  15years of sheep farming (80 sheep on 141 acres) was enough since they didn't start young.  Sold the farm, the shop, and moved 40miles up the mountain to Meadows of Dan near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

   In early 2005, as Merike was faced with a very tight workshop travel schedule and yarn orders to fill, Kelly Eells dove in to the rescue.  Kelly, a long-time dye assistant, assumed the responsibility for most of the operations of Liisu Yarns:  the production dyeing, marketing and order fulfillment.  Her positive energy, cheerful demeanor, great color sense and years of experience with the dyepots tremendously enhanced this business. Kelly shortly took over the entire business and, under her direction, Liisu Yarns merged with The Unique Sheep.  Merike was now able to devote more time to writing, designing and teaching.

   Merike is currently continuing her research into the wealth of Estonian knitting traditions and will be publishing a book (via XRX, Inc) soon.

Liisu?  In Estonian, Liisu is generally a "country girl" kind of name.  Liisu was the name of Merike's first sheep.  With the addition of more sheep, it became the name of her farm.  Though no longer farming, "Liisu" became so much a part of her life that when a name was needed for her hand dyed yarns, there it was.  Pronunciation?   "Lee-Sue" (accent on first syllable).
Published designs range from quite complex to very simple, but always striving to delight. examples include above left: Berry Cloche, above right: Origami Bear as seen in Knitter's Magazine, Summer'03 issue and in XRX Babies & Toddlers book.