Currently showing posts tagged yarn

  • 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

  • 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."

  • Experimenting with color

    From the left (above), that's pomegranate, cutch, cutch over pom's exhaust bath, 3 red's exhaust bath with a little cutch, 3 reds (madder, cochineal and quebracho red), and logwood purple exhaust bath (bottom two skeins were twisted).

    You can see some color/strand variation in the cutch, and it's present elsewhere, too. I don't think I mind it. Aside from color, one of the things I'm experimenting with is how not to pull a hot, tangled mess from my dyepots -- twisting some skeins, very loosely twisting others then un-twisting mid-simmer; not twisting them at all then being extremely careful in how I move them around during their dye time. We'll see what finally proves out. I may try plastic shower curtain rings next (and hope they hold up to boiling water!). That's a trick I saw several other much much more experienced kettle-dyers using on Instagram. Thankful for that.

    The deep red by far has elicited the most excitement. Reds are exciting! I'm not going to list these for sale just yet, though. I feel the need to knit something up in this red especially, and see if/how the color bleeds and wears. It was tough to rinse clear after it's dye bath, with lots of color running, so I'm hesitant to embrace it as a permanant addition to the line-up. We shall see if it passes the tests. I like the pink that resulted from it's exhaust bath, though. 

    The gray that came from an old logwood purple exhaust may be a keeper. Just the solid gray up top; The gray/whites that resulted from twisted skeins will get a dip or two in the indigo vat. Just to see what happens. A deep slightly variegated blue, maybe? At least two of the pale yellows will also get indigo dips, in hopes of a pleasant green.

    Part of me really wants to tag these and list them on my Etsy shop (it's not live yet, but when it is there will be a shop link to it here on this site). I'm happy with them! However, this testing phase is important, I want to feel completely confident in my product.

    So this week was a heavy dye week, and aside from possibly getting an indigo vat going, next week will be more of a "business" week. I need to solidify goals and vision for color offerings. Need to decide whether to continue with my current worsted base or possibly commission a custom mill/spin (right now it's a two-ply worsted, and I'm thinking of a tighter 4-ply; still American wool of course).  I need to make plans for packaging/shipping Etsy orders, and transfer my many notebook dye notes, recipes and scribblings to a more organized catalogue/recipe book. Business-y stuff... Wish me luck with that! Dyeing is more fun.

  • Coming soon!

    Coming soon!

    Castilleja will be a free pattern, available soon here and on Ravelry as a PDF. It's an adjustable-size, worsted weight cowl. Pictured above is the small one (now finished) I knit up for my youngest, Bea. She's a pistol. And she quickly claimed this color for her own because orange is her FAVORITE.

    This is the first color I'm ready to show off, and the first I'm determined to repeat and keep in the final line-up. I wouldn't exactly call it orange, but I wouldn't exactly argue with a four-and-a-half year old if I didn't have to, either. It's the result of two dips in the dyepot; the first containing osage orange...

    The osage orange tree is related to the American mulberry and is named after the Osage indians of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. It was often planted to stem wheat field erosion in these states and others, but it's now somewhat overgrown and considered a nuissance by many landowners. I get my osage in liquid form from Earthues, whose supplier creates this colorant using downed trees and solor-powered technology. However, wood chips and/or sawdust will also create a potent yellow dyebath.

    Back to the cowl: Castilleja is the genus name for one of my favorite wildflowers, Indian paintbrush, a.k.a. prairie fire. To me, the elongated running-dash stitch pattern resembles the long, tall yellow & red wildflowers or tongues of flame. Maybe both.