Notebook

wool stories
  • 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

  • Yarntopia Trunk Show

    Woo-hoo! I'm pretty excited to take part in the yarn maker trunk show at my new LYS, Yarntopia (this Saturday, May 2nd, 10-2). If you're here on my blog thanks to the link in Sheryl's latest newsletter - Welcome! And welcome anyway if you're not!

    Let me introduce myself... I'm Sarah. Native Texan, recently returned after 10 years "abroad" ...that'd be Vermont and Washington, DC. We lived in the Montrose before we left 10 years ago, but with 3 kids (ages 10, 7 and 5) decided to call Katy home upon our return. Much of our family is here, and we are realizing you just can't beat being near family while you raise a family.

    I loved Vermont though. And I'm not ashamed to admit that, at least weekly, I entertain elaborate daydreams about owning an old farmhouse there, and how I will ultimately make that happen. It is my Soul State for sure. Sigh.

    DC was amazing, too! We were actually in Alexandria, VA. While there, I worked as a doula & childbirth educator, and also as a yarnista+ at my first LYS, fibre space. I miss my wooly community there something fierce and that is the main reason I am So Excited to attend this weekend's show -- Yes, I'd love to sell something, but mainly I just can't wait to get plugged in and meet some Texas yarn people.

    So, that's a bit about me personally.

    Blue Highway is commited to American wool and American milling. I want my little company to be a part of bringing our craft and our textiles home. I enjoy knowing about the ranch where my fiber was raised, and that the folks at my mill are committed to environmentally sound business practices, sheep to skein.

    Blue Highway yarns are artisinal; soft and rustic and (hopefully) reflective of a certain timeless American grace. I dye with natural dyes because that's what appeals to me - experimenting with living, growing, unpredictable, variable color. I also take joy in the seasonal aspect, and though many of my current dye extracts come from commercial suppliers, I plan on growing/harvesting more and more of them myself. I've planted a dye garden out back, and if you see someone alongside Highway 99 clipping black-eyed Susans, stop and say Howdy - it's probably me! kidding not kidding.

    Speaking of plans, I won't reveal them all here, but I will say I don't feel glued to yarn. Long term, I envision Blue Highway Hand Dyes branching out further into the textile arena as I learn more about the trade. 

    But, yes - for now? Yarn! Plenty of yarn. What I will have with me at the trunk show is just what I have dyed since starting out in February. Only 2 months ago! Wow. I can't believe that. It's not a ton, but it's a taste. 

    Here's a little peak: (some of these I've already shared over on Instagram)

    First up, a single-ply, fingering weight yarn. 100% Rambouillet wool, raised on a 4th generation ranch outside of Buffalo, WY. It is 380 yards; semi-slubby, rustic American wool, spun with a gentle twist, slightly energized. Very soft and shows beautifully in open lace-work. (I'll have a sample on to show it off!)

    Next, a pillowy 2-ply, 196 yard worsted weight Rambouillet.

    What is Rambouillet, by the way? It's an incredibly soft breed of sheep that originated from a Spanish Merino stock in the late 1700's that was known for producing some of the finest wool in the world. It does not itch, thanks to a nice, long staple length, and is still very similar to traditional Merino. (In fact, if you wear "merino" wool clothing that was manufactured in the USA, odds are it came from a Rambouillet sheep.)

    These were dyed with logwood, madder, quebracho, chestnut, cutch, osage orange, avocados, onion skins, cochineal, saxon blue, pomegranate, wattle... that's all I can think of at the moment, but there may be more. The yarn comes to me unwashed and untouched by harsh chemical processes. As such, there's the ocasional fleck of vegetable matter to prove it. And a high lanolin content, though I do wash the yarn prior to dyeing, with a gentle eco-friendly cleanser. I mordant with alum to improve wash and light fastness, and discharge the mordant bath into the dye garden. I cold-process mordant when I can to save energy and avoid heating the fiber more than I must.  You can trust that a lot of thought goes into each step of the process. This is Slow Yarn for sure. 

    I can't wait to meet at least some of you on Saturday! If anyone is still reading at this point, and even if you can't make it out on Saturday, I do hope you will follow along here and take part in this fun new journey.