• Field Trip

    If you follow me on Instragram, you might know I spent last Sunday out at Independence Farmstead Fibers with shepherdess and yarn/fiber magician Dawn Brown. It was awesome. Dawn is doing a LOT to bolster the Texas wool and mohair industry and contribute to our local fibershed; she's also very welcoming, so --set to a day of interesting and inspiring conversation -- I got to help out a bit and learn first hand exactly what goes into making a skein of yarn.

    A while back, I purchased a couple of really lovely fleeces from Kami Noyes of Ranching Tradition Fiber, up in Whitehall, Montana. When I arrived at the mill, Dawn had already washed and conditioned them. The one we worked with on Sunday was a targhee fleece with a nice staple length and a high micron count... we worked about half of it during my day at the mill, and I've got a targhee/suffolk cross still left to go. (A really special shop update is in the works... I promise.)

    We began by weighing out small batches to feed through the carder:

    So floofy and clean! As we layed it out in tidy patches on the carder, we picked out any short cuts of wool ("seconds" -there weren't many), and VM (vegetable matter). There will still be some VM in the finished yarn, and I am totally ok with that. It's easily picked out as you work with the yarn, and IMO is a nice reminder of where it came from. 

    Into the carder it goes:

    and out comes ROVING:

    We filled several drums with serpentine roving, for about 2 hours. Going back and forth between weighing out the washed fiber, laying it out on the belt and picking out any bits, and occasionally squishing down the roving in those drums so they didn't overflow; changing the drums out as neccesary. There were also calculations (by Dawn) involved here that I totally understood at the time...

    After carding, there were more calculations and the roving was fed through the draw frame, where carded roving is combed, stretched, straightened, blended into a single "sliver." This may be done multiple times, as needed.

    After the draw frame, it was on to the spinner. Dawn's knowledge of how different fibers/breeds behave, and how one particular fiber might behave on any given day, really comes into play here. She knows how thin/how tight/how loose it can be spun without causing problems, and to achieve a beautiful and workable end result.

    After spinning, the bobbins full of single stranded yarn can move on to another machine to by plied (plyed? ply-ed?):

    And after THAT, the finished yarn rests, is steamed, then finally skeined... before it comes to me to be dyed.

    Whew. Are you tired yet? I'd toured the mill before and knew a lot of work and expertise went into artisan-milled yarn, but let me tell you, it is even more than I thought. I have a whole new respect for the process, and dyeing and working with this yarn will mean even more to me than before. I can't wait to share it with you! 

  • Out of the dye pots...

    Here's what I've been up to and took with me to the trunk show at Yarntopia this past Saturday. What's left will be listed on my Etsy shop, Monday, November 14th at 7pm central time. (The spinning fiber is all sold, but I wanted to document it here, nonetheless. I hope to do more of it in the future!) I think the only color/bases not pictured here are "amarillo by mornin" and a lighter shade of "barely" in TexRanch WORSTED, both of which will be listed in the update tomorrow. 

    HIGHLAND BULKY 100 % U.S. grown & spun MERINO

    "serenity now" dyed with logwood

    "turquoise trail" dyed with Saxon blue

    "herb garden" dyed with rosemary, lavendar and Saxon blue

    "rainy day" dyed with cutch, saxon blue and cochineal

    "barely" dyed with avocado pits

    TexRanch WORSTED 52% Texas-raised kid mohair + 48% Texas-raised superfine merino; U.S. milled

    "westward glow" dyed with marigolds and avocado pits

    "prairie highlights" dyed with East Texas goldenrod

    "summer bouquet" dyed with marigolds, hibiscus, coreopsis and madder root

    "shibori" dyed with organic indigo

    "la botella" dyed with osage orange and organic indigo

    "distracted" dyed with logwood and cochineal

    "pokeweed" dyed with pokeweed, logwood and cochineal

    "thistle" dyed with Texas bullnettle, saxon blue and cochineal

    "new growth" dyed with osage orange and saxon blue

    "twilight" dyed with logwood

    "native summer" dyed with onions and marigolds

    "barely" dyed with hibiscus

    "Old Town" dyed with madder

    "desert in bloom" dyed with avocado (sometimes hibiscus) and cochineal 

    "spiral shell" dyed with avocado, onion and black walnut powder

    "blue jean jacket" dyed with organic indigo

    "straw bale" dyed with Texas bullnettle

    "leaf peeper" dyed with onion skins and saxon blue

    Interstate WORSTED 100% U.S. grown & milled superwash wool

    "blue jean jacket"


    "amarillo by mornin" dyed with cutch

    "palo duro" dyed with madder

    TexRanch LACE 52% Texas-raised kid mohair + 48% Texas-raised superfine merino; U.S. milled

    "la botella (light)" dyed with myrobalan and organic indigo


    "mission" dyed with madder and indigo

    "spruce" dyed with onion skins and organic indigo

    "native summer"

    "blue jean jacket"

    Backroads WORSTED 100% Rambouillet, raised and milled in Wyoming

    "blue jean jacket"


    Heritage breed, Gulf Coast Native Roving raised & milled in Texas

    "battle of flowers" dyed with marigolds

    Mohair locks from "Gidget" the goat, raised in Texas


  • Seed Saver Cowl

    Here's an easy, mindful & meditative make. My favorite kind. I whipped up two in one week (!) -- gave one to my mom because she is great and kept the other. I really enjoyed my time with this project as both my early morning stitches, to awaken and mentally prepare for the day ahead, and as soothing, late evening decompression-knitting. It's a pattern that asks just enough of your skill and attention, but not too much. If you're a newer knitter, this will get you very comfortable with simple increases & decreases, while still allowing you to enjoy your work. A veteran stitcher? Then it's simplicity is here just in time to save your holiday sanity. Whew!

    In this very wearable accessory, tidy rows of seed stitch anchor bands of gathered stockinette (aka ruching). It's the perfect project to showboat that extra special skein of uniquely hand dyed yarn -- that one of a kind yarnicorn you found at a fiber festival or on vacation. The overall shape of this cowl is almost like you cut the top and the bottom thirds off of a circle. Its "middle of a bubble" shape makes it drape and lay just right when worn. Knit one (or two!) for yourself, and/or as a quick and lovely gift that is sure to delight.

    P.S. Have you ever looked into seed saving? Do you already do it? I'm a backyard gardener, and the overall theme I had in mind for this design was the cycle of planting, growth and decline in gardening. I find participating in this cycle as a gardener very grounding. Anyway, as I knit, I kept coming back to questions I had about seed saving, and seeds in general. I thought about how I have to explain to my kids why many of the seeds from food we buy at the store won't necessarily grow more food for us if we just stick them in the dirt. I thought about heirloom plants, the relatively modern practice of buying new seeds each season (though don't get me wrong, I love a good seed catalogue), and of seed saving rights and legality (and the fact that that's a thing)... One of my favorite aspects of knitting, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, is the potential for "AHA!" moments, or even just the quieter moments of understanding that come about from spending quiet time in this active, meditative state. My main AHA! moment knitting this cowl was that I should be a seed saver, not a seed buyer. Knitting this little accessory inspired a change in the way I want to grow food for my family, and a new challenge for me as a gardener!

    What might it inspire for you?


    - One skein Blue Highway Hand Dyes TexRanch WORSTED or approximately 225 yards of lovely and special worsted weight yarn.

    - US size 7 24" circular needle... Use a US size 6 if you tend to knit very loose (the yardage is close on this one). Tread lightly if you knit tight and usually to go up a needle size... you've been warned ;-)

    - one stitch marker


    - Don't stress too much over this, but DO see the above note on needle size. My finished/blocked gauge was 4 sts per inch in seed stitch; 5 sts per inch in stockinette. 


    - Blocked, laying flat and dry, loosely pulled into shape, cowl measures: 14" across at top (approx. 28" diameter); 16" across at bottom (approx. 32" diameter); 18" across at middle (approx. 36" diameter).


    Take a deep breath. Get comfy.

    Cast on 129 stitches (bottom edge of cowl). Join for knitting in the round, and place stitch marker to mark beginning/end.

    Rounds 1-5: Work seed stitch (k1, p1). (Rows 2 & 4 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Round 6/first increase round: (k3, kfb) to final stitch, k1 (161 total sts).

    Rounds 7-10: Knit.

    Round 11/first decrease round: (k2, k2tog) to final stitch, k1 (121 total sts).

    Rounds 12-15: Work seed stitch (k1, p1). (Rounds 13 & 15 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Round 16/increase round: (k1, kfb) to last stitch, k1 (181 total sts).

    Rounds 17-22: Knit.

    Round 23/decrease round: (k1, k2tog) to last stitch, k1 (121 total sts).

    Rounds 24-27: Work seed stitch. (Rounds 25 & 27 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Round 28: Repeat round 16 (increase round, ends with 181 sts).

    Rounds 29-34: Knit. 

    Round 35: Repeat round 23 (decrease round, ends with 121 sts).

    Rounds 36-39: Work seed stitch. (Rounds 37 & 39 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Round 40: Repeat round 16 (increase round).

    Rounds 41-46: Knit. 

    Round 47: Repeat round 23 (decrease round).

    Rounds 48 - 51: Work seed stitch. (Rounds 49 & 51 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Round 52/final increase round: (k3, kfb) to last stitch, k1 (151 total sts)

    Rounds 53 - 56: Knit. 

    Round 57/final decrease round: (k1, k2tog) to last stitch, k1 (101 total sts).

    Rounds 58 - 61: Work seed stitch. (Rounds 59 & 61 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Bind off all stitches, knitwise.

    Weave in ends.

    Block. Here's what I do: Soak in lukewarm water with a no-rinse soap for hand knits. Squeeze out water very gently, then roll the cowl up in a dry towel and step on it to remove excess moisture. Lay flat to dry, gently patting into shape. Rotate from time to time as it dries, to prevent fold lines.

    Wear it! Gift it! Feel accomplished and unique.

  • 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.


    1.) Tie skeins and wet through.

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

    3.) Mordant. Cool.


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

    5.) Dye. Cool.

    6.) Maybe overdye. Cool a bit.


    7.) Maybe overdye again. Cool.

    8.) Dry.


    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."

  • Texranch LACE at fibre space

    Here are all of the colors I sent to fibre space in Alexandria, VA a couple weeks back. If you're interested in getting some Texranch LACE of your own for a sweet summery shawl, just give 'em a call to see what's left and place a mail order! 703.664.0344

    Lavender is a favorite scent, color and plant of mine. (It's one of the few plants in my garden that survives all.) This skein's name may or may not be something I repeat to myself throughout some days. Sooooothing...

    Turquoise Trail is New Mexico State Rd 14, through northern NM. It's a national scenic byway through an area of the country that has always drawn me in. We eloped there!

    I love cactus blossoms and desert wildflowers. The speckles in this color way make me think of those pops of color amidst the sand. Google "Atacama desert in bloom" and you'll see one from my bucket list.

    This color brought me right back to enjoying my favorite treats in New Orleans:

    Golden, glowing... all from kitchen scraps. Natural dyeing is magical!

    Yellow blossoms on the roadside, in the pasture:

    Red dirt-ed Palo Duro canyon in the Texas panhandle is a little known gem (known to Texans, maybe). But totally worth a trip! My husband and I camped there on our way to New Mexico when we ran off to get married.

    This was a one-of-a-kind that I know a friend of mine snagged at the shop, but I will try my hand at it again. It made me think of the ancient (c. 1830's) farmhouse where we used to live in Vermont:

    New growth is good, and is always possible:

    Scattered showers (over new growth):

    "Enchanted", after the dome of pink granite in the Texas hill country known as Enchanted Rock. We camped there last year for my middle child's 8th birthday, on the night of a blue moon and a spectacular dry lightning storm. Native legends surround this landmark. It's even known to speak at night!

    Ever take the long way home just to see the sun set from the road? Or pull over to gaze at these colors in the sky? They were meant to be together:

    "Old Town" is a set of 3 mini reds that brought to mind brick sidewalks, bright red doors and the King Street Trolley from our old home in Northern Virginia:

    A darker shade of Palo Duro:

  • 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