Interview

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Alicia Baines of APLCrafts Handmade

    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 Alicia Baines of APLCrafts Handmade based in La Vergne, TN.  I learned a couple of new things about Alicia and hope you do, too!

    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 originally from New Haven, CT and have been living in middle TN for almost 14 years now. I've always enjoyed crochet as my first love even though knitting has kind of taken over for now as it's still pretty new in my life. I enjoy gardening even though I'm not very good at it.

    Romantic Endeavor is a fingering weight polwarth with 437 yards.

    What is the name of your shop? Is there a story behind the name? APLCrafts. It is named so because I have no talent in names so as many small business owners do, I chose my formal initials.

    How long have you had your business? I've had APLCrafts for 3 years. I've dyed yarn for 1.

    What kind of products do you specialize in? Hand dyed yarn. I love working with Merino, and Polwarth yarns.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? My story begins at the end of 18 years as a professional baker and food service worker. It's rough on your body and I found I couldn't do it anymore so I turned to the one thing that has always been with me. Yarn.

    Mysticxian is a rich blue DK weight superwash Polwarth with 246 yards

    Do you have a favorite pattern that shows off your products? I recently made the Susan Scarf for my best friend using For the Love of a Mermaid. I think it worked up beautifully.

    Blue Christmas is a gorgeous new colorway with sparkle! Fingering weight in 75% superwash merino, 20% nylon and 5% Lurex. 437 yards

    What else would you like to share? I've dipped my toes into crochet design and have a few patterns available on Ravelry. I've also this year started a podcast. It's very new but it's my own little corner of the world and I'm enjoying the process.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)?  As a shopper I like the many filter options in the search bar. As a shop owner I love and appreciate how easily I can adjust my inventory, and keep information if I'm out of stock so I don't have to re-write my listings.

    Alicia, thank you for sharing about yourself and a glimpse into your life! I didn't know you had crochet designs and enjoyed looking at your patterns. The Dragonfly Meets Butterfly shawl is exquisite! Alicia's products can be found for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, APLCrafts Handmade.

     

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Debi Roberts of BaaBerry Farms

    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.

    Meet Debi Roberts!

    Today's post features Debi Roberts of BaaBerry Farms based in Miller, NE.  When Debi isn't busy running her farm, she puts a lot of thought into designing her project bags and hand-dyeing yarn. She is also pursuing her dream of owning a fiber business and designating her farm as a sanctuary.

    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 currently live in the middle of Nebraska, after having moved here 5 years ago with my husband from South Texas, where we raised our 4 kids. Being a military brat, I have lived just about everywhere, including multiple countries. We own a 120 year old abandoned General store on just under 30 acres, where we raise our fiber flock of mainly Corriedale sheep. We have 5 Great Pyrenees dogs, 4 house cats, and 2 grouchy geriatric Pekingese house dogs. We also have about 26 laying hens, and a few dairy goats.

    Gorgeous Angora blend, hand-dyed yarn by Debi.

    I began playing with fiber as a very little girl. My Granny taught me to knit and crochet starting when I was 5 years old, so going on 48 years now. I also sew, quilt, and hand-dye all of our yarns. I have our yarns mill spun at a local to us mill, at just over 250 pounds of fleeces a year from our ladies in the pastures, I just cannot handle all the processing any more. We purchased our property in the hopes of opening a combination Yarn shop/Coffee shop. Hopefully sometime soon, we will see that dream come true.

    What is the name of your shop? Is there a story behind the name? BaaBerry Farms got its name as a result of my very sarcastic sense of humor. As this is a g-rated site, I will let ya'll sort out what it means.

    I can personally recommend the Uptown Bag, I love mine!  It's sturdy, roomy and travels well. Perfect for a medium to larger project. - Pam

    How long have you had your business? For just about a year and a half.

    What kind of products do you specialize in? We mainly produce hand-dyed mill-spun yarns, in several bases, and of course our project bags.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? Our business actually started as the result of several things. We knew it was what we wanted to do, and we were on track to actually open the brick and mortar store, when I was seriously injured at work. So everything came to a stand still. I decided after some recovery time, that in order to keep our sheep, and our property, I had to do something. So began the online shop, and attending Fiber Fairs when I was able, so that we could keep our sheep fed. After three major surgeries, in the last 2 years, and at least 2 more to go, it hasn't been easy.

    Debi's son models the BaaBerry Scarf.

    Do you have a favorite pattern that shows off your products? I personally adore the BaaBerry Scarf that I recently published on Ravelry (it's free!). It works up wonderfully in any of our yarns. I have been making them for years for family and friends.

    What else would you like to share? To say that it has been a challenge to start my own business doing what I love would be an understatement. Financially we were wiped out even before I got started, and starting a business with literally no budget is not something I recommend to anyone. It is a daily fight, and many times I have wanted to just walk away. But I love what I do, and I love my sheep. Hopefully my health will continue to improve over the next few years, and the dream of our brick and mortar shop will happen.

    Classic drawstring project bag, so versatile!

    We are also in the process of having our property declared Historically Significant, and as we are a non-slaughter farm, we are making some other changes to further insure that our ladies in the pastures live full and purposeful lives.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)? The best thing about having our shop on FiberCrafty, is Pam the owner. She has made an extremely user friendly site, and is always available to answer any questions and give feedback.

    Superwash merino yarn with sparkle!

    Debi, thank you for sharing about yourself, your lady sheep and your plans! I'm really excited to see your farm become a sanctuary. Debi's products can be found for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, BaaBerry Farms.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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…..so 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…..like 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 see.....it 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!

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Jennifer Blake of Bugbear Woolens

    We hope that you enjoy this new 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.

    Meet Jen! She's the genius behind Bugbear Woolens.

    Today we are featuring an interview with Jennifer Blake, the owner of Bugbear Woolens.

     

    Jennifer, tell us a little about yourself and your family. I grew up in Vermont for the most part, although I've also lived in NY, CT, and WA state. I ended up settling in Western Mass, on 5 acres of wooded land, at the end of a dead end dirt road. I love it here, although I could wish for faster internet access and maybe cell service, lol. I now live in the woods with my husband of almost 30 years, our 16 year old daughter, and the dog, 2 cats, a dozen chickens, a rabbit, and a hamster.

    We are all here for the same reason, because we love fiber! How did your love affair start?

    Silver Lining Merino Combed Top: 5.3oz superfine merino for spinning

    My love affair with all things fiber started when I was 7 when my stepmother taught me to crochet. My first Finished Object was a crocheted scarf for my mother, which I found in her belongings after she passed away, still in good shape. My mother taught me to knit shortly after that, and even back then I always wanted the good wool, never did like acrylic. After I left Hampshire College, I started working at Webs, where I added dyeing and weaving to my skillset. I only started spinning about 2 years ago, and love it dearly as well. (Note from Pam: I know you are wondering so I asked: she left Webs in 1995.)

    Sugar Skulls: 463 yards sock yarn, Merino/Nylon blend.

    Your shop has an interesting name. Is there a story behind it? My shop name is Bugbear Woolens. A little bit of a story, I've always been a fantasy gamer as well as an IT geek, so when I decided I had to have an internet domain, I picked bugbear.us, as bugbears are a common gaming creature. I had the domain for probably 15 years before I started the yarn business, and at that point, as I had the URL already, Bugbear Woolens just came naturally.

    How long have you had your business? This is my third year selling hand dyed yarn and fiber, as well as the occasional knitted item.

    Gemstones Sock, Zoisite: 463 yards sock yarn, Merino/Nylon blend

    Do you specialize in any particular products? Hand dyed yarn and spinning fiber.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? Honestly, I'd pretty much stopped knitting/weaving when I had my daughter. Being a new mother as well as working full time in IT didn't leave much time for hobbies. I started knitting again about 5 years ago, as my daughter was much more self sufficient. I started the business when my husband was laid off so I wouldn't feel guilty spending money on yarn.

    Mixed Berry: 5oz superfine merino combed top

    What makes your business unique? I don't really know how to answer this as I feel my work is unique due to how I see and interpret color. But then, I feel there are so many indie dyers doing amazing work...lucky knitters these days!

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty? I love that it really is focused just on fiber arts.

    Jennifer, thank you so much for your time! You can find her products in her FiberCrafty shop, Bugbear Woolens. Personally, I love how bright and vivid so many of your colorways are. And I am especially enjoying your Gemstones series.

    Hand spun yarn, Olive Garden. 475 yards, fingering weight superfine merino

    Correidale Combed Top, Burnt Peach to Grey: 5.4oz corriedale

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