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  • 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.

  • By fits and starts

    When I envision business growth and especially when I examine businesses that have been doing what I want to do for a while... I have this fairytale assumption that it happens quickly. Like in a week or two. I know it's silly! Totally naive. But that's the childish, underlying belief that I have to talk myself out of all the time. Businesses (and most things worthwhile, for that matter) take time, and Trial and Error, and fits and starts.

    I haven't dyed as much as I would have liked the last couple of weeks, but I've been examining logos, testing yarns and planning *gulp* budgets. 

    I've also been translating a messy dye notebook into something that'll be a bit easier to revisit and follow:

    I can't find the exact post, but over a year ago I found the idea over on this blog to use blank business cards and plastic card-holder sheets to organize a yarn dye notebook. 

    Like the working names? They may change. Still not sure if George Strait will come after me for naming a colorway after one of his songs. Or Larry McMurtry for that matter. Little known fact: Lonesome Dove is one of my all time favorite books and I've watched the mini-series more times than I'll ever admit.

    So... next steps. It is time to make my first indigo vat. *GASP* Yes, my first. I have dyed with indigo, I've just never cooked up the vat myself.  And as long as I'm being honest here, I will tell you that all I can think of when I see lye is that scene in Fight Club where Brad Pitt makes the kiss burn/scar on Ed Norton's hand. Ouch!

    Next-next step: logo. This is happening, and I'm super excited. I've examined round one and I love my options. Just need to provide some feedback.

    I'm also pretty pumped about a custom mill in the works. Though I will most likely continue dyeing my current worsted base as well because it's lovely. Just this morning, I ordered up a single-ply fingering to play with, and I'm going to experiment with liquid dyes and saxon blue from Botanical Colors. I've been enjoying watching Pigeonroof Studios' instagram feed; her experiments with liquid saxon blue are what piqued my interest there.

    Wish me luck! and focus! I'll keep you updated on my progress ;)

    Here's one final pic of my latest (almost finished!) color & wear test/sample:

    Progess pic from instagram. Pattern is Artichoke French by Laura Nelkin, in logwood purple, aka "Purple, plain and tall."