Cassandra Harada is a knitter. Like millions of women (and some men) around the world, she uses two simple wooden sticks and a single skein of basic yarn to create items from simple socks for daily use to exquisite sweaters. Unlike most knitters, Harada uses yarn from sheep she raises on a farm in the United States, then exports the locally spun yarn around the world, including to her own business in Fuchu, western Tokyo.

“Wool has always been my passion,” she says, “and it ended up being a way for me to create a community in Japan.”

In 2006, Harada, who grew up in a farming village of fewer than 1,600 people, scraped together enough money to travel to Tokyo after a friend raved about his experience teaching English there. Harada was bedazzled by Tokyo’s sophistication and art — she has a degree in fine arts from Western Illinois University — but wool and knitting kept her tethered to her farm home in the U.S., and she searched for a way to combine the two worlds she loved. In 2012, she opened Hitsujidama (ball of sheep) in Fuchu, a shop that specialized in small-batch yarns, including the cashmere-like wool from the Cormo sheep — a mix of Corriedale and Merino breeds — that she raises on her family farm.