FiberCrafty Files

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Brenda Vance of Split Rock Ranch

    Split Rock Ranch

    We hope that you enjoy this series featuring interviews with FiberCrafty shop owners. Our goal is to give you a little peek behind the scenes and a chance to learn more about our talented business owners. Today's post features Brenda Vance of Split Rock Ranch based in Florissant, CO.  Brenda and her husband Jim have 70 animals and after reading about all she does, I’m going to go take a nap! But first, let me share one of my favorite lines of this interview. “I love art that is eclectic, unique and distinctive and strive to create fiber art that meets those criteria.” What a lovely outlook!

    Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from, what crafts do you enjoy, what is your background, do you have any pets, etc? I grew up in Colorado Springs and we moved to our ranch in Teller County - about an hour west of Colorado Springs - in May of 1997. We raise, train and show llamas and harvest their fiber. We use them for packing, and have raised and shown our llamas earning numerous Grand and Reserve Grand Champion awards in the halter show ring. We started to pare our herd size down several years ago due to the drought and outrageous hay prices in Colorado and the surrounding area. We are now down to 15 llamas. One of our original two llamas is still alive and he turned 25 in July this year. We also have Nigerian Dwarf, Angora and Pygora goats - milk and fiber - what's not to love?!

    Three years ago a friend gifted a miniature horse mare (Paloma) to me and six months later we added a gorgeous little mini stallion named Nitro. On Mother's Day last year Paloma gifted us with a stunning little mini me colt who looks exactly like his sire, down to the two blue eyes and amazing personality. Two years ago I added a black and white tovero yearling mini filly and a year ago I brought home a yearling bay and white tobiano yearling mini filly. We plan to breed paint mini horses when these fillies are old enough. I would also like to start showing my little herd of mini horses. Nitro is trained to drive a cart (why do they call it trained to drive when they are actually pulling the cart?!) so I'd love to polish off our driving skills and cruise around the neighborhood. I wish I could spin horse hair because there's certainly enough of it around here!

    Mulberry Silk Yarn

    In addition to the llamas, goats and horses, we also have four cats (all rescued) and four standard Poodles and three toy Poodles. We fostered over 50 kittens from September 2007 to June 2011 (not all at the same time, thank God) but the poodles love to chase kitties so we no longer foster kittens but still support the cat rescue org. I also have chickens and ducks who normally produce more eggs than we can possibly eat. The dogs and cats sure appreciate the extra eggs!

    As for crafts that I enjoy, aside from dyeing, carding and basic fiber arts, I knit, crochet, weave and dabble in jewelry making. I love to keep my hands busy! Lately I've been working on a custom triangle loom making triangle shawls. This loom has large wooden pegs rather than small closely spaced nails so I use bulky yarns and I love how the shawls are turning out. I may even try working two triangles and then weave them together into a ruana or poncho, or even a blanket or two. So many possibilities!

    What is the name of your shop? Is there a story behind the name? My shop name is Split Rock Ranch. We chose the name Split Rock Ranch because there is a large rock formation on the ranch that has a pine tree growing out of it in a V shape and it split the rock as it grew. At the time we had no idea that there is a ranch in Wyoming named Split Rock Ranch - so there is no connection there. Lightning recently hit the tree and blew off large slabs of rock but so far it is still standing tall despite a crack in the trunk of the tree and black sooty marks on the rock.

    How long have you had your business? We started Split Rock Ranch in 1997 but made it "official" with the state of Colorado in 2005 when we trademarked the name Split Rock Ranch. Initially it was intended to just be raising llamas but it branched out into other fiber animals and then all types of fiber and fiber art.

    These custom fiber blends are very popular in Brenda's shop!

    What kind of products do you specialize in? Llama fiber when I have the chance to shear (which I haven't done on a regular basis for the entire herd for a few years due to a knee injury and subsequent knee replacement). I love to work with all types of natural fibers with a real love of definitive lock structure sheep fleeces such as Teeswater, Wensleydale, Lincoln, etc. and mohair. After my knee issues and I was unable to treadle a spinning wheel or stand for any length of time to card and dye, I started to order commercially prepared fibers just to keep my business alive while I healed. That part of the business has done very well so it keeps my stores stocked while I work on creating my own fiber art.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started?

    Brenda and her husband, Jim

    We started with two male llamas purchased in November 1996 and then moved to our ranch in May 1997. Llamas became an addiction after we added a pregnant female and another show quality male to our small herd. We went to our first llama show in January of 1998 - National Western Stock Show - and we were hooked on showing. When I started to shear our small herd, I needed to do something with their incredible fiber so I learned how to spin in 2000. Spinning raw fleeces required that I have fiber processing equipment so I bought a couple of drum carders and then started playing with different types of fibers, blending them into batts and rovings on my carders. Then I started dabbling in dyeing, starting with Kool-aid dyeing and quickly moving on to professional acid dyes. When my husband was laid off from his job in December of 2003 (he was a casualty of the MCI/Worldcom merger) I knew I had to get serious about my fiber business and ramped up my production and subsequently my sales. I worked a full time job in town (50 mile round trip) until June of 2008 when I "retired" from my "real job" to work the ranch and my fiber business full time. I've held numerous jobs over the years, mostly administrative and managerial positions, and the majority of it spent in the construction field, both commercial and residential. Again, the love of "creating" and "building" are probably what led me to the construction industry, even if I wasn't doing the actual construction part of the work.

    Do you have a favorite pattern that shows off your products? I honestly prefer not to use patterns. IF I use a pattern I tend to start with a pattern and then make it my own by changing things to suit my taste and preferences. I love when the yarn does all the work without having to work fancy stitches to create texture and visual interest. Several years ago I designed and created the first extreme fringe scarf using lockspun teeswater locks yarn spun by Esther at Jazzturtle. I had admired the lockspun yarn but nobody was using it for much so I decided to crochet or knit a base scarf with wool yarn and then crocheted the lockspun yarn along the edges to create an amazing work of fiber art. Those scarves sold as fast as I could create them. I love to think and work outside the box when I create and design.

    Hand dyed mohair locks.

    Is there anything else you would like to share? My husband and I have been married for over 33 years and he is very supportive of my work. When he retires, I may just put him to work processing fiber. He wants to learn how to weave so once we get a spaced cleared for our floor loom, I am hoping he starts to play with it and becomes hooked on fiber as well! My husband and I both volunteer on the Board of Directors of the health services district in our area. He is the Chairman of the Board and I am the Finance Officer. We are a special tax district supplying EMS and ambulance services as well as a skilled nursing center in Cripple Creek. When my husband joined the board over 13 years ago, the board voted to declare bankruptcy and dissolve the district. My husband was the only dissenting vote and he managed to convince the board to try some different tactics and they agreed. Since then the district has gone from 3/4 of a million dollars in debt to zero debt, we've completely remodeled the skilled nursing center, we've purchased new ambulances (with the help of grants providing half the cost) and we have a nice cash reserve set aside for future district needs. I joined the board in 2007 as a "temporary" board member until they found others to volunteer. After I became the Finance Officer and straightened out the paperwork disaster I was handed, they voted to keep me on as a permanent board member. I try to blaze my own path rather than follow in the footsteps of what others are doing - not just in business but life in general. I am inspired by the work of other fiber artists but generally give things my own special, unique twist when I create my fiber art. I love art that is eclectic, unique and distinctive and strive to create fiber art that meets those criteria.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)?

    Split Rock Ranch - Where fiber is our passion...and it shows!

    I love that FiberCrafty caters to FIBER and was created by and is run by a Fiber Artist who understands the unique issues of marketing, creating and selling fiber art. I think Pam does a fabulous job of promoting FiberCrafty and its sellers!



    Brenda, thank you for sharing about yourself and your shop! We are glad we had this opportunity getting to know more about you, Jim, your animals and your business. Brenda's products can be found for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, Split Rock Ranch.

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Marissa Wiltrout of The Spun Bunny

    We hope that you enjoy this series featuring interviews with FiberCrafty shop owners. Our goal is to give you a little peek behind the scenes and a chance to learn more about our talented business owners.

    Today's post features Marissa Wiltrout of The Spun Bunny based in New Salem, PA. Marissa is a busy mom and I’m especially impressed that she learned how to spin with Angora fiber!

    One of Marissa's favorites - Wood Nymph on Yak Silk DK

    Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from, what crafts do you enjoy, what is your background, do you have any pets, etc? I’m a homeschooling mom of four kiddos. (Ages 8,6,5,3). I knit, crochet, spin, dye, cross stitch and paint. We have 3 German shepherds, one english angora rabbit, six english/french angora rabbits and a hairless guinea pig.

    Is there a story behind the name of your shop? The name, The Spun Bunny, came from my first english angora, Snuffy. I taught myself how to spin using the fiber I collected from him.

    One of my favorites! Seven Deadly Sins mini skein set.

    How long have you had your business? Over 2 years

    What kind of products do you specialize in? Handdyed yarn and fiber.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? I've always loved crocheting since my grandmother taught me when I was little. I turned my love of yarn and creating into a business I could do while still allowing me to homeschool my kids.

    Do you have a favorite pattern that shows off your products? Not really, but I love seeing the different ways my customers use my yarns and fibers for their creations.

    Is there anything else you would like to share? I love collaborating with customers for custom orders and making their ideas come to life. All my yarns and fibers are dyed in small batches and given personal attention.

    Corriedale and tussah tilk noils rolags.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)? The service for shop owners! I love that when you have a question or concern, Pam is there to help.

    Marissa, thank you for sharing about yourself and your shop! We are glad we had this opportunity getting to know more about you and your business. I especially love the variety of color and products in Marissa's shop. You can find products for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, The Spun Bunny.

  • Knitting Math: Calculating Cast on Stitches

    Please check out the companion video to this blog post!

    I was planning a rectangular shawl project called Mini Bubbles but I wanted to make it wider and knit it horizontally, rather than vertically. Fortunately, someone had already knit the same shawl using the same yarn and was kind enough to include enough information that I was able to use for my calculations.

    The other knitter cast on 123 stitches and her finished measurement was 31" wide.  I wanted

    These are some of the bubbles that I have opened.

    my shawl to be closer to 54 inches wide. This is a shawl that will be heavily blocked so I knew there is a little wiggle room on the width.

    First I needed to determine her gauge, or stitches per inch. The standby, of course, is to knit a gauge swatch. But for a shawl where measurements don't need to be exact, I am using the existing project's stitches per inch information.

    Stitches per Inch Formula: Total # of Stitches/Total # Inches = # Stitches per Inch

    She cast on 123 stitches and the finished project was 31" wide.  Using the formula, I calculated the following: 123 stitches/31 inches = 3.97 stitches per inch

    Total Stitches Needed Formula: Stitches per Inch X Desired Inched = Total Stitches Needed

    I want my shawl to be about 54 inches wide so I needed to use this next formula and figure out how many stitches are needed: 54 Inches X 3.97 Stitches per Inch = 214.38 Stitches

    Knowing that I need to round the number to the nearest whole number (I won't be casting on .38 stitches) and the pattern for the shawl has a certain number of stitches, I needed to do some more math!

    My pattern repeat is a Multiple of 15 plus a fixed number of 18 stitches. The 18 stitches is only counted one time but the rest of the stitches need to be divisible by 15. For example: 15 + 18 = 33 30 + 18 = 48 45 + 18 = 63 ? + 18 = 214.38* We need to figure out how many multiples of 15 are needed. * We will drop the .38 because we rounded down.

    Refined Total Stitches Formula: Total Number of Stitches - Fixed Number of Stitches = ?/15 = Approximate Multiplier

    214 - 18 = 196 196/15 = 13.06*

    Final Total Stitches Formula: Multiplier x Pattern Repeat Multiple = Pattern Repeat Number of Stitches Pattern Repeat Number of Stitches + Fixed Number of Stitches = Final Total Number Stitches

    Now we can determine that 13 x 15 = 195 + 18 = 213 Stitches.

    Quick Check Formula: # of stitches to cast on /# stitches per inch = Should Equal Original measurement goal

    To do a quick check, let's divide 213 by our original Stitches Per Inch Calculation. We should Get something close to 54 inches, my original goal.

    213 / 3.97 = 53.65

    Looks great!


  • Knowing How You Learn

    Do you listen to the podcast Teaching Your Brain to Knit? I really enjoy it and find the “brainy” aspects of the podcast fascinating.  One topic often referenced in the podcast is different types of learners. If you aren’t familiar, there are several primary types of learners: Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic. I am a visual learner, but it’s funny how even though I am aware of that, I didn’t take it into consideration recently. I was trying to learn a new bind off and it took several resources before I found that one that made it crystal clear to me. It was a somewhat frustrating experience but also there were some really good takeaways and reminders about how my learning style is important. 

    The original hat. I should have used my Gleaner on this!

    Around Thanksgiving, I cast on a cowl to match a hat that I made several years ago. The plan to make this cowl has been in place for too long (since I made the hat) and I decided to stop putting it off. The yarn is Madeline Tosh Vintage in the Tart colorway and I bought it years ago on a business trip in Chicago.  


    I came up with the pattern for the hat myself but was feeling lazy and decided to look around for a complimentary pattern for the cowl. Almost immediately I found the Classic Cowl by Purl Soho which was PERFECT. It uses the same stitch pattern in the hat all the design work was done for me!

    The cowl pattern suggests a tubular cast on and this seemed like a good opportunity to learn a new technique for me.  I didn’t have any problems with the cast on and love the way it looks. I love it so much, that when I cast on a pair of Connectivity Gloves soon after, I decided to use a Tubular Cast on and Bind off.

    Isn't this a pretty cast on edge?

    Now… the gloves only have 36 stitches around. The Cowl has over 200. 212 to be exact. Here is where the lessons started kicking in.

    I needed to bind off the first glove so I went back to the cowl pattern to find the tubular bind off tutorial.  As I worked the bind off, it just didn’t seem right to me so I stopped and picked it out.  So then I went to my own bookshelf and grabbed my Cast On, Bind Off book (which, by the way, is not a book that I really love… I don’t find the directions very clear).  I took a look at the directions in the book and was confused because there were several variations of tubular bind off. So I poked around the internet for another tutorial and found one that looked pretty good and forged ahead. Again… it just didn’t look right to me so once again I picked it out. You don’t know what living is until you have picked out 2 tubular bind offs.  

    Once again, I looked for another tutorial. This time I resorted to video and as I watched the first one, I heard angels singing. Seriously. I was like, that’s it?? That’s easy! I got it! From there, I was able to successfully bind off, and it is glorious. 

    I took away a few lessons from this experience. First, by a very happy accident, I don’t have to learn this bind off on my 212 stitch cowl. Can you imagine? The gloves kindof became my practice project and I am so glad for it.  I’m not sure of the full lesson but it might be nice to try unfamiliar techniques on a practice swatch.

    The second lesson was finding the right tutorial for my brain.  I tried 3 different resources before I found the one that clicked for me. But when I found the right one, it was obvious. I am a visual learner. I know this about myself but I tend to favor written directions over video, even though I can better grasp a concept by video! It probably would have been smarter for me to look for a video after that first failed tutorial.

    I am just about done with the gloves and when they are finished, I will spend more time on the cowl because I can’t wait to wear it.  And I am pretty confident that I will nail the bind off.

    Cowl in progress - so squishy.

    I am so close to finishing! Yarn is from Junbug Fibers.

    If you are interested in making the cowl (which I really recommend!) or the gloves, there are some gorgeous worsted weight yarns available in FiberCrafty. The gloves do require Silver Spun yarn from Feel Good Fiber Company but they can be paired with any other wool worsted yarn.

    Happy Learning!


  • A Little Gift: Earbud Pocket

    A few years ago I saw a pattern for an earbud pouch and knew I needed to make it. In my house with one teenager and one almost teenager, they are essential. My husband and I also use them a lot. This is perfect for a quick gift, something that can be used and a stash buster!

    This is the first I made with minor mods.

    I made the Earbud Pouch by Mary Keenan. In the last few weeks the link to the pattern changed to Unavailable but it is actually still out there (you can find it on my project page, as of now the link works). The only mod I made was to cast on bottom up instead of from the cuff. I had a limited bit of yarn and wanted to make sure I wouldn’t run out.

    After using the pouch for a bit, I realized I wanted to make some tweaks. I wanted it to be a tiny bit roomier and bottom of the pouch to be wider but still have a gentle curve for aesthetics.

    A side by side comparison, original on the left, modified on the right.

    Here is the end result. It takes very little yarn and knits up quickly! I used fingering weight yarn but really any yarn would work. I suspect I will be making this again with worsted or DK and will report back, of course. That might need some stitch number changes. If you haven’t tried the Turkish Cast On, this is a great time to learn something new! If you mess up you haven’t lost much since the project is small. Unless of course you are scrambling to get final gift knitting done, stick with what you know. I haven’t decided if I prefer it to Judy’s Magic Cast on but I find it easier to remember.

    Earbud Pocket

    You can see the slight difference in shape.

    It's about 3" wide and 2 3/4" tall.

    You need about 6 grams or 20 yards of fingering weight yarn. Size US1 or US1.5 circular needles

    Setup: Using magic loop* and Judy’s Magic Cast On OR the Turkish Cast On, cast on 44 stitches (22 on each needle).

    Increase Rounds: Round 1: K Round 2: K1, M1R, K to 1 stitch on needle, M1L, K1. Repeat on second needle. Repeat rounds 1 and 2 three times total until 56 stitches are on the needles.

    Knit every round for 1 inch.

    Decrease rounds: Round 1: K1, SSK, K to 3 stitches on the needle, K2tog, K1. Repeat on second needle. Round 2: K Repeat rounds 1 and 2 four times total until 40 stitches are on the needles.

    Cuff and Bind Off: Every round: K2, P2 across needle ending on K2. Repeat on second needle. Repeat for a total of 6 rounds. Bind Off using suspended bind off in pattern (meaning knit each knit stitch and purl each purl stitch). Weave in ends.

    *If you prefer to use DPNs instead of magic loop, divide the stitches across 4 DPN needles (11 on each at cast on) and use a marker for beginning of round. End of Needle refers to the end of the 2nd needle.

    The modified pocket!

    I hope that you will enjoy this little pattern! I didn’t  test this pattern so if you need help or clarification in any way, please let me know. It may be that I need to tweak the directions and others will benefit too.

    One final comment, I first heard about this pattern on the One Twisted Tree blog, written by Danie, which I remembered but not the details.  I went back and looked at that post after writing this and realized that, without intention, my mods and "pattern" were extremely similar to those that Danie made! So, hats off to the original designer and a thank you to Danie for planting the seed. Great minds think alike!

    Knit and Rock on!

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Isis Perez of KnitSpin

    We hope that you enjoy this series featuring interviews with FiberCrafty shop owners. Our goal is to give you a little peek behind the scenes and a chance to learn more about our talented business owners.

    Isis, her husband and son.

    Today's post features Isaura Perez (Isis) of Knitspin based in Naperville, IL. Isis has an interesting history and Knitspin is truly her passion!

    Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from, what crafts do you enjoy, what is your background, do you have any pets, etc? I was born in Havana, Cuba, raised in New Jersey/New York area. I was always interested in yarn, my grandmother knew how to crochet and I learned from her. I learned to knit while working in New York, there was a yarn store near by and they had the most amazing Italian yarns that I have seen. No other colors in others yarns store could measure up to this store. The owner show me how to knit a scarf, then I learned to do knit sweaters and the passion for different type of fiber and color began. Ever since then, I have always wanted to play with dyeing yarn. Not until I move to Chicago, that I learned to dyed. I always wanted to be a Fashion Designer but could never attend school. So I took a lot of knitting classes from different yarn store and my creative came from there. I could not find yarn that I like in the colors that I wanted. So my interest in dyeing my own started. This has open a wide range of colors for me.

    An example of the fiber included in Isis' spinning fiber club.

    My background came from being a Specialist Colorist Cosmetologist. The education that I received from doing actual customers hairs, gave me the background education to transform my yarns and rovings into colorful beauty.

    The education that I received from doing actual customers hairs, gave me the background education to transformed my yarns and rovings into colorful beauty.

    I love to handdyed fiber and yarns, but I love more to spin the fiber. I also took weaving this year and I'm enjoying using my handspun yarns to make woven scarfs. We have a Cockatiel Bird, his name is RayRay, we had him for a long time.

    Superwash Merino fingering weight yarn.

    What is the name of your shop? Knitspin is the name of my shop. When I was looking for a name, I was trying too hard to find one. Then my husband said, look at you and see what you do then your name will come to you. Well at that time, I was learning to spin and I would knit with my yarn. so KnitSpin came to alive with what represent who I am and what I do.

    How long have you had your business? I have been in business 12 years, since August 2005.

    Isis also carries a lot of fiber for blending such as this gorgeous Firestar, as well as undyed fiber and yarn.

    What kind of products do you specialize in? Handdyed Roving, Handdyed Yarns Handspun yarns, but we also carry additional extras add- in fibers for blending with batts.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? I was taking spinning lesson and then I wanted to learn more about dyeing. My spinning teacher say let's give you a few lesson, by the time I finish my lessons, she said you know you have a great eye for color, you should make a business out of this. Six month later, I had a working business online and started going to fiber festival to sell my items.

    Goat's Milk Soap with a skein of yarn on it - a perfect gift for your knitting friends! Isis also has soap in the shape of a sheep.

    Is there anything else that you would like to share? I have my family to thank for their support, without them I could not do what I do today. My husband drives me to all the fiber festival, my son comes with us and he help set up the booth and he handles the cash register while I'm with the customers. This is a family affair and we run two business at the same time. We also sell Handmade soaps and I'm partner with my son, who helps me make them.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)? That is it is easy to navigate, That Pam is always available if I need help with the website. It is a pleasure being in a website that the owner is there looking after everything and not be hands off. I do appreciate everything she has done for me.

    Isis, thank you for the kind words! We are glad we had this opportunity getting to know more about you and Knitspin. You can find Isis's products for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, Knitspin.

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Shari Kalb of ShariArts

    We hope that you enjoy this series featuring interviews with FiberCrafty shop owners. Our goal is to give you a little peek behind the scenes and a chance to learn more about our talented business owners.

    Shari of ShariArts.

    Today's post features Shari Kalb of ShariArts based in Ashland, OR. Shari is a broadly talented artist and her passion for creativity is evident.

    Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, what crafts do you enjoy, etc? I live in beautiful Ashland, Oregon nestled in between the Cascade and Siskiyou mountain ranges. I have been an artist and craftswoman all my life. I make handmade books, paint, sew, make baskets, and spin yarn, dye fiber and yarns. I make lovely silk and wool nuno felted scarves and love to make hand painted silk scarves as well. I have been spinning for about 34 years and just over a year ago I started weaving as well. I love to dance and play music. I play guitar and conga drums and played percussion in a couple bands when I was younger. My passion is really centered around color and texture and I bring that into every art form that I do.

    Tell us about the name of your business and how you got started? I call my shop ShariArts because I do many different things and wanted one name that covered it all, so I didn't have to have different labels and web addresses for everything. I started ShariArts just after I retired from owning my own skin care salon in 2011.

    Merino/Bamboo/Silk Spinning Fiber

    What kind of products do you specialize in? I specialize in small batches of artisan hand dyed fibers of all types and hand painted yarns as well as handspun yarns, including art yarns.

    Every story has a beginning, what made you decide to start your business? I have always loved fiber and spinning. After closing my business and retiring, I decided that I wanted to devote my time to exploring color and texture. I love to paint and have had many art shows and been in galleries, but I got tired of hanging shows and I just wanted to have an online presence so I could stay home and be creative. I especially love to do custom dyes for people!


    What else would you like to share?

    Merino/Tencel Spinning Fiber

    I believe that my background in fine art gives me a good eye for color, texture, and value. I think my color combinations are unique and I understand how they will translate into a handspun yarn. My hand dyed fibers are also great for felting, nuno felting, and needle felting. I often use my own handspun yarns in my woven scarves and shawls. It gives the weaving a special unique texture. I love to work with people to get just the right color scheme and feel they are looking for, whether it is a hand dyed fiber, yarn, or nuno felted scarf.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)? I love that FiberCrafty is just for fiber arts and that it caters to people who love and appreciate fine fibers and yarns.

    Merino Tencel Spinning Fiber

    Shari, thank you for spending time us and helping us get to know more about you. You can find Shari's products for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, ShariArts. I love how much attention she puts into photographing her products. It is so easy to see the quality she adheres to! Earlier this year Shari sent some Merino/Silk/Bamboo fiber to me to spin and it just about spun itself!

    Spring Garden SW Merino Nylon sock yarn. This one is sold but I bet Shari knows where you can get some!

    SW Merino Nylon sock yarn.
  • FiberCrafty Field Trip! Shepherd's Gate Fiber Mill

    A couple of weeks ago, a local spinning group took a tour of a nearby fiber processing mill. We met at Shepherd’s Gate Fiber Mill in Louisburg, NC and it was such a fun experience! I learned so much about the machinery and what is involved with processing fiber. Shepherd’s Gate is a family owned and operated custom processing mill. They can handle almost any amount of fiber (minimum of 1 pound) and can process the fiber as much or as little as you want. They can also process different types including wool, alpaca and others.


    Alesia Moore and her mom, Ann Payne, were at the mill when we arrived. Early in 2017, Alesia found out about a processing mill in South Carolina that was closing. After talking with Ann and her dad, Dan, they decided to invest in and purchase all the equipment, which they moved to Louisburg, NC. The move was in March 2017 so it hasn’t been very long!

    Alesia shows us the tumbler.

    Alesia recommends that any fiber brought in be skirted in advance - this is done by removing the bits of fiber that should not be included in the final product. Once a fleece or fiber is received, it goes in the tumbler which looks a little like a giant Bingo wheel. The tumbler tosses the fiber and allows small bits, vegetable matter and other debris to fall out. After the fiber is tumbled, Ann washes the fiber to help remove lanolin and excess dirt. From there, the fiber is arranged on large drying trays and allowed to dry.

    The picker is next and it’s a machine that opens up the fibers. In goes rather clumpy locks and bunches of fiber. It is pulled through teeth and separated into a lofty and fluffy cloud. If needed, the fiber goes into the separator which helps pull out guard hairs and other short bits of fiber. Alesia said that it is very helpful in removing vegetable matter as well and she finds that most fiber benefits from a trip through.

    All of these steps get the fiber clean and prepped to be processed into their final form. From here the fiber can go through the carder to create roving or batts. If the customer wants roving or batts the process ends here. Otherwise the roving can go to the pin drafter which creates pencil roving. The fiber is often passed through two times and each pass combs and drafts the fiber 2.5 times. This helps to even out any thick and thin spots in the fiber and it is ready for spinning. Again, if the customer wants pencil roving, the process can stop here, or… it can go on to the spinner where it is spun into singles and then plied into yarn. Alesia and Ann can also custom dye the final product if desired.

    Now, this process is already lengthy but add into this the following considerations. Alesia and Ann have to clean each and every machine in between every batch of fiber. They also have meticulous notes and documentation throughout the mill allowing them to keep track of each individual batch of fiber in terms of who it belongs to, how it is to be processed and what it is. Many of the batches include custom blends whether is it to add another fiber type or blend colors. Everything done in the mill is managed individually and Alesia and Ann who are very hands on. I was overwhelmed by the level of organization they have to maintain (and I’m the kindof girl who likes some organization!)

    I have been very tempted by some of the fleeces available in the FiberCrafty shops but I don’t want to process them myself. Knowing that there is a mill very close by to me that will take care of all the prep involved makes it a doable project!

    I am so thankful that Alesia and Ann invited us to tour the mill. It was a very educational and fun afternoon and I appreciated seeing what goes into preparing and processing the fiber. If you are interested in reaching out to them, I am sure they would appreciate helping you. All of their pricing is listed on their website and they also provide relevant information for preparing your fleece. If you ever have the opportunity to tour a fiber mill, I encourage you to go!

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Melisa & Charlie Morrison of Alba Ranch

    We hope that you enjoy this series featuring interviews with FiberCrafty shop owners. Our goal is to give you a little peek behind the scenes and a chance to learn more about our talented business owners.

    Melisa & Charlie Morrison

    Today's post features wife and husband team Melisa and Charlie Morrison of Alba Ranch based in New Era, MI. Melisa is a wonderful story teller and I hope that you enjoy her tale spinning!

    Melisa, tell us a little bit about you and Charlie.  We are a husband and wife team of Fiber and Art. I learned how to hand spin and weave in Aberdeenshire, Scotland where Charlie was born. We lived there for the first 6 years of our marriage. We came west to Colorado and our ranch tract of undeveloped land to start homesteading. Recently we moved the entire Alba Ranch to MI only 5 miles from Lake Michigan. What a pallet of colors and various fun growing things to see for inspiration in the dye pot!

    Fiber from Lincoln Long Wool sheep are in her sampler kit.

    I hand spins yarns in all sorts of fibers and weights and am a mad scientist dyer. I paint the dyes on the yarn and fiber with the same passion I used to reserve for oil painting. Throw it and see what sticks! My new medium is now fiber instead of a canvas. I am really starting to reach and grow with my wearables and am starting to make more jackets, coats, shawls and skirts. I am at my most happy when surrounded by fiber with lots of color and texture....a cappuccino in my right hand, a fire burning brightly and my dogs all scattered around my feet.

    Charlie has been painting and doing photography for most of his life. His day job has him

    One of Melisa & Charlie's well-loved ranch hands in training, Morag.

    traveling all over the world in many countries seeing many things others can only dream of. He tries to have his camera and paint brush at the ready at all times to never miss THAT shot! When I ask him to make me a new wood thingy for my fiber which would be really cool if it could do.....he enjoys trying to figure out how to make it.

    The Ranch does take up a lot of time. We have considered downsizing and getting rid of the animals so many times but when it comes down to, they all seem to mostly stay. We currently have 10 dogs, 19 chickens, 2 llamas, 22 goats and so many cats we can't count them all....or is that just the kittens moving so fast that seems like there are millions of them?

    Greener Shades Starter Dye Kit - Add yarn or fiber and you have everything you need to try your hand at dyeing!

    Your ranch is called Alba Ranch, is there a story behind the name? When we moved out to our ranch tract in Colorado, we decided to name our place. In Scotland, it is very common for a house to be known by a name...sometimes even instead of a street address. Those names are used by the post office and everyone. We decided on Alba as it is Gaelic for Scotland.

    How long have you had your business? I have had my own business of some kind for several decades, but it has been mostly Fiber Art and Holistic Healing since 2005. Before that for several years it was only Holistic Healing.

    What kind of products do you specialize in? I have all sorts of breed specific fleeces, blings and add ins for blending, dye kits, fiber accessory tools and all my wearable art. Charlie has photography, oil paintings, and all the fiber accessory tools he makes for me.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? Mom taught me how to crochet a pot holder...but really she taught me how to weave a potholder on a potholder loom, than how to crochet and I never learned anything more except how to expand that shape into a scarf or a blanket. Fast forward 25 Years and I met a dog.....

    Yup a dog....walking in the woods. Murphy had a mom attached to the other end of his lead but

    Blended BFL combed top.

    Beautiful gray Gotland combed top.

    I never learned her name for months. One day after months and months of walking with Murphy and his mom (Debbie), she asked me to go to a meeting that was local where they did fiber stuff. I said I didn't know anything about fiber stuff except how to crochet pot holders, scarves and blankets. She said it didn't matter. The group was called Common Threads. NO one cared what I did just as long as it involved a thread…some kind of fiber. So I went. There I met Dora.

    Dora was Debbie's spinning teacher. I decided spinning looked cool so I hired Dora to come to my house to teach me. She taught me how to grade a fleece, how to separate it, how to card it by hand and with a drum carder, how to wash it if it was a sheep fleece, and how to spin on a drop spindle. Once I understood that concept, she gave me wheels! I went a little crazy. I started spinning and kept doing it. I only spun thick lumpy bumpy yarn and the little old Scottish ladies in the group would tsk tsk at all that fiber being wasted. I would defiantley say that I didn't want to spin that thin thread stuff. They said it would be hard to knit. I said I didn't know how to knit. They looked at me in sorrow like I was an under privileged soul and I would say that I crocheted like it was way more special than knitting. As the months went on at the Common Thread Group, I saw all sorts of folks doing all sorts of fiber things that was fascinating. It was not a guild, instead they were a group that met once a month to just work on projects and hang out. So I saw everything and could sit by anyone I chose and ask questions. It exposed me to things I may have never seen. We had a man in the group that ran it with his wife who was a weaver and a spinner. And we had some children that were in the group that were fabulous lace makers on this intricate little thingy that I never did learn what it was called.. I kept crocheting scarves and blankets.

    We moved back to the USA and out to Colorado and I told Charlie that I had to learn how to do something with all this yarn I was spinning as one could only make SO many scarves. I decided I should learn to weave and ordered a rigid heddle loom from Ashford. Charlie put it together. Charlie doesn't weave, however he is intricate to my process. I have never met a loom that I could put together or warp without Charlie. Warping makes my brain bleed. I cannot wrap my head around it. Charlie's background is art and engineering so he would say after a year helping me warp, "why can't you get this?" and I would howl in despair "I don't know....I just can't!" It took me over a year before I could warp that loom without Charlie doing it for me. After a year of Charlie warping it, when he went offshore I could warp it myself if I followed Ashford's book with step by step word instructions AND photos of every step and I thought really hard about each step. Eventually I would "get it". After yet another year, I could finally warp it without looking at the written instructions and only check the photos, another year and I could finally warp it on my own without his help or looking at anything. WHEW! So when I tell you I do not want to weave on a multiple harness floor loom ....EVER.... I am NOT joking. I also take offense at folks that say Rigid Heddle is a good beginning loom. I have made many of my intricate things on a rigid heddle loom and I plan on doing that for the rest of my life.

    Oh and I do spin that stupid little thin thread yarn now...but I still can't knit for my life even

    Melisa also offers dyed bamboo for spinning or blending.

    though I did try to learn eventually when the little ladies in the group were NOT watching. Don’t tell! So I taught myself how to weave on a rigid heddle loom, a triangle loom, on a twinning loom, frame loom, bow and arrow loom, butterfly loom, and how to crochet Tunisian Crochet, how to felt and how to sew. I have always been terrified of sewing…another issue and horror story with my mother… I decided to get over that. It helps that Charlie used to work with his mom and can read a pattern and sew a dress if he was so inclined. So I know if I get stuck with my machine not working, or not understanding something, Charlie will rescue me. But I don’t do patterns. Kinda like I don’t do warping. Both make my brain bleed. I went vintage and use a hand crank 1940’s Singer Sewing machine. I have been teaching myself to quilt and sew. Eventually I will get brave enough to go faster with my vintage treadle sewing machine and if I ever get really brave, I bought a vintage 1950’s Singer ELECTRIC machine too. Yes I went from having no sewing machine to having about 7 overnight. I also bought a brand new Juki serger… 8 years ago. I have taken it out of the box to look at it …..twice but I am still scared of it. That one is saved for later. All this has went into my fiber work….and it just goes on and on with me dragging Charlie into every one of my new projects.

    Eventually with hundreds of scarves one had to start selling them right? So you was just thin Common Threads that bound it all together....tangling and leading to the next one....

    And That's how the business started for reals.

    1 lb of ultrafine 15.5 micron merino combed top, also available in 1/2 lb.

    Do you have a favorite pattern that shows off your products? I would say my wearable art more than anything. Any of the woven triangle shawls, the crochet shawls, the woven rectangular shawls, the crochet ponchos, the scarves......I use all sorts of the fibers that are in my shop in all of them including anything that I grow with my fiber animals myself. Many times I hand card, blend, spin, dye, weave, crochet, sew and even felt in one project. One such project was not wearable art. I wanted it to be wearable art but as it progressed, it turned into numerous things until it finally settled on being a quilted wall hanging the size of a queen bed topper.

    Is there any other unique story you would like to share? People always ask us how Charlie and I met, being I lived in Michigan and he lived in Scotland. We met online. Eighteen and a half years ago....BEFORE it was cool.

    Fiber from this Angora Goat are in her Fiber Sampler kit.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)? I like the"look" of it. Clean lines, white backgrounds, simple use. And I absolutely love being able to write my descriptions in our "fiber language" and not have to make it fit some SEO for some site that is not all about fiber...because if it isn't fiber...what is the point?

    Melisa, thank you for spending time us and helping us get to know more about you, Charlie and your animals. You can find Melisa and Charlie's products for sale in their FiberCrafty shop, Alba Ranch. We mostly featured undyed fibers in this post but they also have beautiful dyed spinning fiber!

  • Detour: Pouf Making

    Spoiler Alert! Finished Pouf!

    Are you ever plodding along, happy with your current projects and then all of a sudden you are taking a detour?

    I mentioned previously that my desk is a little tall and I am a little short and I need something underneath to rest my feet on. Otherwise they dangle like I am a 4 year old.

    I decided to crochet a pouf with some acrylic that I have in my stash. Most of this is Knitpicks Brava but some of it is Berocco Comfort. I have enough in colors that go nicely together and that match my office, that I decided to make something stripey.

    Crochet is not my thing. I enjoy it but I also have to work harder at it. I am not as comfortable with crochet as I am with knitting. But… I do have a sense of adventure and am willing to figure things out. After searching for crochet pouf patterns on ravelry, I kept coming up empty handed. They were either too big or too tall. I liked the look of this one but I was looking for more control in the size while knowing that with my limited crochet experience, I wasn’t going to be heavily modifying any patterns. I also didn’t want to purchase any yarn and everything I have is worsted. After all my searching, I decided to crochet 2 circles, one each for the top and bottom, and one strip that would form the walls of the pouf. I exclusively used double crochet (DC) except for joining when I used single crochet.

    First circle done!

    Craftsy has a blog with a “crochet a flat circle” tutorial which was very helpful. I used this for the top and bottom and since I wanted to use DC, I started with 12 stitches.

    Now, towards the bottom of this tutorial, they show examples of things that can do wrong, like the wavy potato chip circle. That’s what mine did. I didn’t care though. I assumed that once I seamed and stuffed my pouf, it will “block” right out. No one has ever regretted that path of thought, right? My stitch count was 100% on track so I suspect my gauge is just off enough to give me the waves.

    I used several other tutorials to help me with this project. The Magic Ring, Neat Join for closing a round and adding a new color after a neat join (standing double crochet).

    Soooo close to finishing.

    When all the strip was almost finished, I used locking stitch markers to evenly attach it to the top and bottom circles. I needed to crochet a few more rows and when finished I joined the top and bottom circles to the strip. I wish I had taken more pictures at this point but I was DONE and ready to move on.

    The other side!

    After I finished seaming, I started stuffing. I had some shredded memory foam on hand and quite a bit of it. A while back, Scott and I got new pillows and they were too stuffed so I had opened the seam and removed some stuffing. I used all of that and then some polyfill. Once it was stuffed enough, I used single crochet to join the ends of the strip together.

    I actually really love how this turned out. It is really cute, functional and I found everything I needed around the house.

    Lessons Learned (there are always lessons, right?):

    In use!

    Should’ve lined it. There are little bits of shredded foam peeking out. I did consider getting an old pillowcase and stuffing that inside and then stuffing the case but I thought “Nah!”. I might have benefitted from going down a hook size to make the fabric a little more dense but it doesn’t bother me. Projects are never as fast in the real world as I think they will be. I must be delusional because I tell myself, oh, I’ll just whip that right out, it won’t take but a few days, a week tops! Will I ever learn? Stick around to find out.

    Overall, I’m going to call it a win! What do you think? Do you ever totally abandon the plans you have and veer of course for a detour?

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