Notebook

goals
  • Slow yarn & process

    This art is a waiting game.

    Today, I'm scouring 2 dozen skeins of Texranch WORSTED. Two pots of 6 skeins each will fit on my stove at a time, each spending at least one hour there. (56 more are all queued up for their turn to shine.)

    As I tie the skeins and wet them out, letting them all sink to the bottom of the bucket at their own leisurely pace (this is how to know your yarn is thoroughly wetted, without squeezing and roughing up the fibers), I'm feeling sorta zen -- feeling like I don't mind that this is only the first of at least 8 steps before I can share a finished product. 

    Natural dyeing includes step after step that can't be rushed if you want to be happy with what comes out of the pot. Come to think of it, that's true of cooking, true of raising kids... probably true of most worthwhile endeavors.

    DAY ONE

    1.) Tie skeins and wet through.

    2.) Scour. Cool (read: wait).

    3.) Mordant. Cool.

    DAY TWO

    4.) Create dyebath(s) (boil then cool if using raw materials or mix extracts).

    5.) Dye. Cool.

    6.) Maybe overdye. Cool a bit.

    DAY THREE

    7.) Maybe overdye again. Cool.

    8.) Dry.

    DAY FOUR

    9.) Reskein.

    10.) Label.

    Moving slowly and deliberately through each movement of each step, I am content. 

    It's a labor of love, a slow process that -for me- must be flexible and subject to pause. When I feel impatient at it's slowness, I remind myself that it's this very quality of natural dyeing that allows me to wear so many other hats at the same time. Plus, I know that if I rush it, I'll be really unhappy with the product, unwilling/unable to share it, and uninspired to move forward (at least for a while). 

    I'm always telling myself to slow down (pretty evident looking back at Blue Highway's accomplishments so far). An oft-repeated motto this year, in business and life in general, has been "Just say NO to stress." As in, REFUSE it. Refuse to rush the process, to overly care if we're running late, to feel guilty if my house/office/studio isn't an Instagram dream, or when I drop a ball or three.

    Obviously, achieving this mindset is a constant work in progress, and, once achieved, it's fleeting.

    With so many ideas and inspirations swimming around, new methods to explore, untangling what has worked from what hasn't, coupled with general excitement... sometimes the path forward is unclear. Sometimes it's easier to stand still or debate and make plans rather than actually push forward into new territory. 

    When I'm stuck, I must remember to ask myself, What would you tell [a good friend] in your situation?  

    I'd tell her to slow down and enjoy the getting there. I'd tell her to take a step forward today, no matter how small, and then another and another. And remind her to celebrate all victories. 

    .....

    "You're doing really fine... You should take yourself out to lunch as soon as that yarn comes off the stove."

  • New yarns on the horizon

    New yarns on the horizon

    From the time I started dyeing, Blue Highway has been committed to US production, grown and milled. I do my best to make sure I can trace all wool back to the source. Backroads Worsted and Arcadian Single are both Rambouillet breed wool, grown and milled in Wyoming; Interstate Worsted is a blend of US grown fiber, milled in Michigan. These bases are all fantastic, but as I move my business forward, I will look to source even closer to home. 

    Now, I am excited to begin dyeing these two yarns you see above, which I hope can remain staples. They're grown just a few hours from me in the Texas hill country: heavy laceweight and worsted, both a blend of 48% superfine merino and 52% kid mohair. I have been invited out to visit the ranches, and plan to do so as soon as schedules allow! It's then milled up in PA, at a mill that's been in operation for over 100 years.

    I'm not sure what these bases will be called yet, but I've begun dyeing them with seasonal color ways, and I'm in love.

    Onion skins and fall marigold:

    Golden rod from my parent's place out in East Texas:

    And that brings me to introduce a bit of my color plan, going forward. Seasonal color ways like those pictured above are grown and/or harvested by me or my family -- they will be labeled as "seasonal" and I would encourage orders of them to include all that is needed for a project. Repeatable color ways will be formulated using natural dye extracts -- I order those from Botanical Colors, and Earthues, sourced sustainably from the world at large. Once the reapeatable colors are listed, if you do not see enough for a project you have in mind, please get in touch so that I can see about dying up a batch just for you. 

    Keep an eye on the Etsy store. I hope to have these yarns out for sale within the month, then to set up a regular Etsy update day each month.

    Happy Fall!

    :) Sarah

  • Slow Fashion October

    Are you following along and/or participating? If not, jump over here for all you need to know. In a nutshell, Nashville's Karen Templer of Fringe Association is building the conversation about slow fashion -- mindfulness about where our clothes (and the materials that make them) come from. 

    I am so ready to jump back into this convo that, for me, started in college. Joshua (then partner in crime/now husband) and I talked a lot back then about conspicuous consumption, our motives for buying each thing and the weight of consumer choices in society. We read Ishmael and some Derrick Jensen and MAN. We were all fired up for change. Ha! Of course, we had nothing but time for those conversations, and an in-person community that shared our sense of urgency about shaping the adult world we were about to become part of. Fast-forward 15 years or so, and things have changed a bit -- time flies, there are fewer of these talks, and that politically charged group of friends has spread across the country (still being awesome, I might add!).

    Last year, when I started dyeing yarn with plants and began to plug into this online community of conscientious makers, listening to Woolful, and following folks like Karen of Fringe (linked above), A Verb for Keeping Warm, Fibershed, Botanical Colors and SO MANY other creative and inspirational individuals, I realized that the consumer choices conversation is far from over. I'd taken a bit of a life break from it, but now I am here and ready to actively participate again.

    From the Fringe Association blog:

    “Week” 1,  October 1-4: YOU
    First let’s introduce ourselves: Where are you at with all this / What first got you interested in Slow Fashion / What are your skills / What do you hope to get out of Slow Fashion October / What are your personal goals for the month / Do you have a special project you plan to tackle this month?

    • To add to what I've shared above, I will say that, as a mom of 3 young kids, starting a small home business, trying to grow food and make things and teach things and do things... it's easy to take the cheap & convenient road where fashion is concerned. Often, that road leads to Target (where very little that ends up in my cart would pass the self-righteous scrutiny of my 20 year old self. Haha!) But really - I have no idea where Target garments come from, and would be willing to bet that those who made them were not paid a living wage, to say the least. So, one of my personal goals: Don't buy clothes at Target (or at any other super-convenient place that sells garments of questionable origins). A related goal: Go through the closeted bins of outgrown kids clothes and make sure those that can be used by my younger kids are being used. I will also aim to shop thrift and consignment shops more often (something I already do, but could do more). Another goal, accomplished yesterday: Go through my yarn stash and remember/re-plan garment projects for the family. Several sweater quantities of yarn exist in there that were purchased for just that - sweaters. I will make a plan to make them happen!

    • My special project for the month is a Riverbend Cardigan for myself, in Brooklyn Tweed Quarry. I looooove this yarn, purchased and shipped oh-so quickly from fibrespace. I will confess that I have another BT sweater cast on in Shelter, and I hope to make some progress on that one, too (with a goal of finishing before Christmas). Am I the only knitter who's been knitting for 10+ years and has not made more than one thing for her spouse? I love you Josh.

    More from Fringe:

    Week 2, October 5-11: SMALL
    handmade / living with less / quality over quantity / capsule wardrobe / indie fashion / small-batch makers / sustainability

    • My thoughts here stray a bit outside of fashion into the world of things because last year, we moved from a small, older home on the east coast to a much larger, newer home in the Houston area. All the houses out here are pretty huge, comparatively. Ours is far from the hugest, but when we moved our smaller home stuff in here... well, there is a lot of empty space. Relating to "living with less" and "quality over quantity," I am reminding myself that empty home space is not a bad thing. I am kicking to the curb that impulse to fill my house with "stuff," so that it looks more like the other houses out here. Josh and I both want most of the things in our home to have a story, or to support small-batch makers and/or sustainable/eco-concious businesses, wherever possible. Speaking of which, here are just a few small-batch makers from my Texas neighborhood:
    • http://www.recoopdesigns.com -- We don't have any dining room furninture b/c the dining room in our old home was converted into my son's bedroom... I resolve to not buy just any old table until we can afford one of these. I love their light fixtures, too.
    • http://www.pinemills.com -- Talented makers near where my parents live. We have some of their dinnerware, and I love it. It is beautiful and substantial, and it lasts.
    • http://www.folkfibers.com -- One day. One of these quilts. One day. (P.S. Check out her instagram feed if you're not already following. It's lovely.)
    • http://www.independencefarmsteadfibers.com -- This mill just opened last year, a couple of hours from me! I am hoping to move more and more of Blue Highway yarn production here, as I grow. I am committed to US fiber and US milling already, but the closer the better, and Dawn at Independence does a fantastic job.
    • Back to fashion and as for a capsule wardrobe, I will say that I, like many thousands of others, read the KonMari. Last year, I went through my closet and donated all that didn't serve a clear purpose or "spark joy." I'm enjoying having fewer clothes to launder! And I've done a pretty good job at not reaccumulating clothes. I do however have a stash of fabric, and another goal of mine for the month is to go through that and remember the garments I meant to sew. I know a couple of Scout Tee's are in the queue, with some Cotton + Steel and other fabrics I bought last year. I'm new to sewing, and I need to do some research on fabric sources that are in line with slow fashion values... Any one reading this have advice on that front?

    So, there you go! All caught up on my Slow Fashion blogging. Other topics for the month include LOVED, WORN and KNOWN. I will try to check back in again with my thoughts on those, but you can follow me on instagram for more frequent check-ins than occur here.

    Peace!