Faces of FiberCrafty

  • Field Trip! Kathy of Wynham Farms with gotmygoat Goes to Africa

    I am delighted to share this guest blog post from Kathy Martin of Wynham Farms. Kathy raises Angora goats in Sequim, WA and she recently took a trip of a lifetime! Grab a cup of tea and enjoy a few moments of armchair traveling through Africa, visiting fiber farms, mills and weavers.

    So here I am, a semi-retired fiber farmer and fiber artist, thinking that my travelling days were relegated  to sane, safe stateside trips when Linda Cortright of Wild Fibers Magazine created a tour that could not be ignored: Angora goat farms, a mohair mill, a silk farm, sisal weavers, mohair weavers along with the beauty of the land and wildlife in South Africa and Swaziland. Could I challenge myself to 40+ hours of travel from WA state to another hemisphere? Could I leave my Angora goat farm, Great Danes, spinning wheels, triangle looms and comfort for the relative unknown?

    Swaziland Dancers.

    First, I should explain that Linda Cortright is not just the owner/journalist of a prime periodical, but she is a world traveler who meticulously checks out the potential journeys for Wild Fibers’ tours. Her small groups of 10-12 travelers enjoy safety, adventure, history, other cultures, fine lodgings – all of which she has researched and visited ahead of time. I had joined Linda on her first tour to the Falkland Islands in 2015 so I knew I would be well taken care of.

    This 15-day tour started out in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, close to the very tip of the continent. The group of 11 visited the Nelson Mandela Textile Arts Centre with interesting displays of  African weavings and beadwork.

    95 kg mohair bump

    On to the showroom of Mohair South Africa Ltd which produces ~50% of the world’s mohair, obviously dedicated to the advancement of the mohair industry. I have to interject with a link to a video “Mohair South Africa, Weaving Stories for a Lifetime”.  The video was filmed mostly at Wheatlands, a vast working farm that is steeped in 8 generations of family history which we called home for 2 nights. Prior to Wheatlands we visited Erekroon, a smaller farm of 17,000 acres (!) with about 1,000 Angora goats and 500 Merino sheep. Be still, my heart!

    While in Port Elizabeth we also visited a mohair processing mill. The scouring conveyor belt and the water conservation systems were impressive. There were hundreds of barrels full of freshly carded mohair. It would’ve been hard to sneak out some when the bumps alone weigh 95 kg (210 pounds). The spinning/weaving buildings on site were very high tech with tests being run on the yarns as they were being spun and with onsite laboratories to further test quality. I understood the quality control necessary after hearing that their custom orders were placed by fashion industry’s leaders such as Chanel. Glad they had an outlet with Oddments which I could afford!

    One of Adele's Ladies inspecting yarn.

    I will jump ahead here past the awesome hikes and unique landscapes of the Karoo, formed millions of years ago. Onto the awesomeness of Adele’s Mohair, a designer extraordinaire of knitting yarns. Adele ventured into the industry in 1983, educating and employing the rural women of the Xhosa tribe, and keeping in mind sustainability of the land. Again, be still my heart!

    Our next fiber related visit was at the Piggs Peak Craft Centre in Swaziland where we were welcomed by native dancers. The craft center not only had roadside shelters for smaller entrepreneurs but also housed the showrooms for Coral Stephens Weaving and for Tintsaba, both endeavors aimed at educating and employing local, rural women. We were honored to tour the studios of both art houses.

    Sisal baskets.

    Tintsaba Master Weavers showed us how their amazing baskets, home décor and jewelry are made from Sisal. The agave plants producing Sisal fibers grow wild and are harvested by industrious women who must have fingers of Superwoman strength. After stripping the leaves and drying the fibrous strands, the dyeing is done in rustic wood burning vats. These lovely women shared their trade in a special workshop with the Wild Fibers’ group, teaching us that their skills were not learned overnight. I will not be hired.

    Coral Stephens Weaving Studio uses mohair, raffia, cotton and silk to make outstanding home décor items, drapes, carpets and tapestries. We watched the labor intensive picking and hand carding of the mohair prior to spinning using pieced-together spinning wheels some of which might have been bicycles in their earlier days. The yarn is then dyed in wood burning, huge pots using very scientific measurements so that there are enough skeins of one colorway for their extra large weavings. One room alone must have had over 20 enormous looms, manual not machine driven.

    Coral Stephens curtains.

    The last of our fiber tours was taken at the African Silk Farm after spending several days on game drives. The farm grows its own mulberry leaves to feed the worms and macadamia nuts to feed its visitors. There were several outbuildings with windows for our viewing pleasures: moths into eggs into caterpillars into cocoons. I was pleased to see how easy they made it seem to gently cut the cocoon, releasing the live larvae to continue its life, and then winding the silk strands before spinning. What lovely garments and bedding tempted us!

    The 15 days sped by in a whirlwind of fibers and African wild animals seen without cages or moats. A truly Wild Fiber adventure which I consider my Trip of a Lifetime.

    I learned so much and am so thankful to Kathy for sharing her adventure with us. Africa is not a destination that I immediately associate with fiber! If you want to get some mohair of your own, or explore Kathy's shop full of locks and handspun yarn, you can find  Wynham Farms with gotmygoat on FiberCrafty!

  • 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: 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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