Autumn Yarn Mystery Box Complete!

A great big thank you to everyone who ordered an Autumn Yarn Mystery Box! We had a lot of great shares from happy customers, so I want to include some of those photos here.

I’ve added a few extra goodies to the shop. I also want to thank Laura at Laughing Cat Fibers and Erina at Gloomy Erina for collaborating on this box with me!

Natural Dyeing with Tansy and Iron Mordant

Summer is waning, and it’s time to harvest the gifts of the garden. This year I was blessed with a bounty of Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) which I grew for natural dyeing. This is my first time dyeing with tansy, and I’m pleased with the result, although I still have a lot to learn about natural dyeing!

Preparing the Dye Bath

I started by cutting the fresh tops, including flowers and leaves, while the plant was in bloom. I filled a stockpot to the top with the plant matter, and discarded any woody stems.

I covered the tansy with water, and put the pot on the stove on high heat. Once the water started boiling, I lowered the heat, covered the pot with a lid, and let it simmer for two hours.

Mordanting the Yarn

While my dye bath was boiling, I mordanted the yarn. For this project, I chose a 50/50 cotton and wool blend grown and milled in Virginia. You want approximately the same amount of fiber as dyestuffs. I had about one pound of each. The yarn started as a natural white color.

To make the mordant, I brought 2 quarts of water to boil in a stock pot (used only for dyeing). I added two tablespoons of alum (aluminum acetate) and one tablespoon of cream of tartar. Once the powder was fully dissolved, I removed the mordant from heat and added the yarn to soak.

(For more detailed information on mordanting, see the Botanical Colors website.)

Cooling the Dye Bath and Mordanting Yarn Overnight

After the dye pot had simmered for two hours, I removed it from heat. I let the dye bath and the yarn in the mordant solution cool overnight.

Adding the Yarn to the Dye Bath

The next morning, I strained the dye bath to remove the plant matter. I then removed the yarn from the mordant bath, squeezed out any excess liquid, and added it to the dye bath. There needs to be enough liquid for the yarn to freely move around in the dye bath. Mordant can be saved and used again.

Once all the yarn was added, I heated the dye bath on medium to just below boiling. (The dye pot should be hot and steaming, but not boiling.) I then lowered the heat and let the dye pot simmer for an hour.

The yarn became a lovely soft yellow. If you want yellow, you can let the dye pot simmer for a total of two hours. I decided I wanted to try for olive green. Once I saw the yellow color was saturated, after about an hour of simmering, I added 1/2 cup of iron mordant. (Iron mordant is rusty iron scraps in white vinegar allowed to sit for a month. I make it using bits of old iron found on the farm and keep it on hand.)

The dye bath immediately and magically turned an olive green! I mixed the yarn in the bath to ensure even color saturation and let it simmer for another hour. I then removed it from heat and let it cool several hours. Once cool, I washed and rinsed the yarn and hung it on the line to dry.

The yarn is a lovely sage green, and listed in the shop! If you would like to dye your own tansy yarn, below is a list of items you will need:

  1. Plant matter, fresh or dried
  2. Yarn of plant or animal fiber, or a blend
  3. Appropriate mordant
  4. Iron mordant, if desired
  5. Particulate mask and latex gloves, available at your local hardware store
  6. Stock pots, strainer, tongs and other utensils reserved for dyeing
  7. Water, filtered or spring if you have hard water

I also used some of the flower heads to Hapazome print a remnant of fabric that was already eco printed with fresh leaf indigo from my garden. I’m hoping to make a project bag or two.

Watch the video here!

Meet Kris: the Alchemist of Alk&Me!

Kris of Alk&Me will be dyeing the yarn for A Very Winey Yarntide Holiday Mystery Box! (Don’t worry. She loves wine. I checked!) I can’t wait to see the beautiful colors she will create in the dye pot just for us. Let’s learn a little about the alchemist — that is both scientist and artist — behind the stunning colorways!

Well, for starters, I’m kinda from Oklahoma and New York. I grew up living a little with my mom and a bit with my dad… a lot of back and forth to two totally different worlds and cultures, but I loved it! There’s a little country farm girl in my blood from Oklahoma (and college football!) and a lot of artsy bohemian from living in upstate New York. Now I’m a salon owner and stylist of 30 plus years, and own an indie dye company, both in Ohio.

I’m pretty Irish so anything that leans toward Celtic I love and when I spin I crank Loreena McKennitt. It just feels right and I lose myself completely.

I grew up crocheting. My Gram taught me, and until six-ish years ago that’s all I really knew about the fiber world. Then, one day I walked into my local yarn store, Longtail Knits and there was a lady spinning there and I was mesmerized. I was like, “Ooooh!! Like Rumpelstiltskin!!! Yesssss! How do I do this?”

And down the rabbit hole I went! Over the course of the next year I learned to spin, weave, knit, inkle loom… anything I could get my hands on. I did a little dyeing during that first year and a little more over the next few. I feel like I fell head over heels in love when I took a two-day workshop with Natalie Redding right before Covid hit. That was the turning point for me. I didn’t want just a hobby any longer. I wanted to dye all day, all the time. And it fit so well with having done color for so many years in the salon.

I started Alk&Me on July 1, 2021 just as an online store with the intentions of only selling online and maybe doing a few shows a year. Now, a year later, I still have my online presence with my website, but I also sell my yarns in a local yarn shop, teach macrame at the same store, teach dye classes and some weaving at my studio, and also do commissions. I do go to a few shows a year, but what strikes me deeply is I’ve found I have a passion for teaching fiber arts! I love watching the look on someone’s face when understanding hits. It’s glorious!!

So really my goal is to get as much going in my fiber life as I can handle so I can hang up my shears for good and be all fiber, all the time!

Kris also co-hosts the podcast Blue Tree Fiber Arts with Longtail Knits yarn store owner Jeannine. Join them bi-monthly on YouTube for discussions about all things fiber!

A Very Winey Yarntide celebrates the holiday season with beautifully dyed yarn in colorways that reflect your favorite wine varietals sipped by cozy firelight! Choose six 50 g skeins in rich tonal shades of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chenin Blanc, one 100g variegated skein of “Ipocras,” a traditional mulled wine, or choose both for a total of 400 grams of winey yarn deliciousness that work together.

Skeins will be wrapped individually, and can be opened over a period of days, or all at once! Also included is a wine glass, plus wine charm stitch markers and handcrafted lip balm made here at Chestnut Hills Farm and Fiber.

Take me to the Very Winey Yarntide Mystery Box Preorder!

Meet Laura: the Dyer Behind Laughing Cat Fibers!

Laura of Laughing Cat Fibers will be dyeing the yarn for the Autumn Yarn Mystery Box. I’m so excited to see how she interprets the themes using her creativity and expertise. Like many of us, Laura has found healing and community in fiber arts. Settle in, grab a cuppa, and let’s learn about the artist behind the stunning colorways!

My mother taught me to crochet when I was young, and my paternal grandmother taught me to sew. I grew up in a world full of color and art. My father was a graphic artist by trade and my mother — my inspiration — was one of the most amazing craftswomen I have ever known. Sadly, she passed away when I was only 14. I think on some level, my passion for the fiber arts began as a way to seek out a connection to her. Like most teens, I put down the crochet hook and was distracted by bad choices that stemmed directly from the trauma of losing her.

At 29, after years of instability, I hit rock bottom. I packed up and moved to Montana. I lived 5 miles up a dirt road in a tiny town at the north entrance to Yellowstone Park. It was here, communing with majestic nature all around me, I finally began to heal from my past. I picked up knitting needles and taught myself to knit by firelight in a log cabin in the most beautiful place on earth.

It was in Yellowstone where I first began selling my knitting for money. I carried a backpack full of hats and would visit locations to sell them to employees. In Montana, I began to see a future in the fiber arts world.

Five years later, I moved to Ohio to be with my amazing husband. (We’ve been together 17 wonderful years.) This is when I registered my first business, “It’s EWE Baby! This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Knitting” selling my finished knitwear. I look back now and have no idea how I knit the volume required to fill a booth. I had a niche in Cleveland, but my creative bug was not yet done transforming into the eventual butterfly.

Next, I learned to use a drop spindle, putting an ask out on Ravelry for a teacher not knowing that I would end up meeting a woman who, to me, was as talented as my own mother. Nancy taught me to use that drop spindle and introduced me to the most amazing group of women who have become dear friends. It was another of these amazing women, Linda, who taught me to use a wheel once I could afford one!

There was one last evolution of the butterfly to come — dyeing yarn. I think I thought about dyeing yarn for years before I finally made the leap. And it was a leap! One day, I was in a thrift store. I saw a turkey roaster on half price day. I bought it, some vinegar, and some Jaquard dye. I had no idea what I was doing. (When I say I am self-taught it is not an exaggeration.)

Those first experiments in the pot were life changing. I knew instantly I had reached the pinnacle of my evolution. I had found my true passion and my place in the fiber community. I knew at that exact moment, watching those colors strike the white yarn, that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. And thanks to all the amazing people who have supported me along this journey I am now living my dream every day!

The Autumn Yarn Mystery Box preorder closes July 31! Be sure to grab yours before they’re gone!

Volunteer Sunflowers Box Complete!

A great big THANK YOU to everyone who purchased a Volunteer Sunflowers box! 🌻 The final box has been opened, and I am now free to share! Also, thanks to Ann Tudor and Haven Herbs for partnering with me on this box.

I’m very pleased with this colorway, and am now offering it as dyed to order in the shop. Only available on cotton right now, eventually I will add other yarn bases as I test them and have samples.

The hat pattern is also available (shown here in a lighter colorway).

I made a couple of smaller project bags in the eco print cotton that are ready to ship.

I had a wonderful time curating this box, and it really helped me hone my dyeing skills. Thanks again for believing in me!

Friday Giveaway!

Happy Friday! It’s now July, and I can feel the light changing and days shortening, which means I’m daydreaming about autumn. 🍁 To celebrate three successful yarn mystery boxes in the books, I’ve decided to have a giveaway!

“Gourd Party” is my debut fall colorway, hand dyed on natural organic merino yarn here at the studio. You could win 1 skein in fingering or DK weight (your choice) plus this set of three stitch markers / progress keepers.

To enter this giveaway, simply sign up for my email list at this link. That’s it!

Want more chances to win? Share this post or tag a friend on Instagram. That’s three chances to win! Winner announced August 1, 2022. Good luck!

A Very Winey Yarntide Holiday Yarn Advent Mystery Box

Love yarn? Love wine? Love the holidays?

A Very Winey Yarntide celebrates the holiday season with beautifully dyed yarn in colorways that reflect your favorite wine varietals sipped by cozy firelight! Choose six 50 g skeins in rich tonal shades of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chenin Blanc, one 100g variegated skein of “Ipocras,” a traditional mulled wine, or choose both for a total of 400 grams of winey yarn deliciousness that work together.

The yarn is dyed by Alk&Me with acid dyes, and is available in natural (nonsuperwash) merino wool in fingering or worsted weight. There is also a wool roving option for handspinners. (If you want to mix it up, message me and I’ll create a custom listing for you.) I’m very excited to be working with Kris for this box. Her colorways are stunning!

Skeins will be wrapped individually, and can be opened over a period of days, or all at once! Also included is a wine glass, plus wine charm stitch markers and handcrafted lip balm made here at Chestnut Hills Farm and Fiber.

Boxes are limited, and preorders will close on August 1, 2022. Boxes will ship during the first half of November.

Tasting Box = 6 – 50 gram skeins of tonal yarns + wine glass + wine charm stitch markers + lip balm for $149

MulledWine Box = 1 – 100 gram skein of variegated yarn + wine glass + wine charm stitch markers + lip balm for $79

WineParty Box = 6 – 50 gram skeins of tonal yarns + 1 – 100 gram skein of variegated yarn + wine glass + wine charm stitch markers + lip balm for $179

Spinning fiber is Falkland/Merino and will be substituted for yarn as 2 ounce braids for 50 gram skeins, 4 ounce braid for 100 gram variegated skein.

Questions? Message me! I love curating fiber mystery boxes with an eye for detail and the environment in mind.

You can order right here!

Last Day to Order! Volunteer Sunflowers: A Summer Yarn Mystery Box

May 31 is the last day to preorder my summer yarn mystery box! The Volunteer Sunflowers colorway emotes a sea of emerald green foliage complemented by deep blues and pops of sunny gold. I’m excited by my dye tests and wish I could share an image of the results, but it’s a mystery, so you’re going to have to trust me. I can promise deep, rich color on a sustainable cotton base with a soft hand that is a pleasure to knit.

The Glow Box includes 100% cotton yarn from Virginia hand dyed here at Chestnut Hills Studio, summer sun skin care from Haven Herbs, and a glass progress keeper by Ann Tudor! The Shine Box also includes a handmade project bag, sewn from Virginia cotton canvas that has been eco-printed by me with indigo leaves, and a knitting pattern to go with the yarn.

For spinners, there is also a cotton roving option. The cotton top is grown and processed in Virginia, just like the yarn and fabric.

Only a few boxes are left. You can order at this link!

Spoopy Halloween Project Bag!

I often finish sewing and knitting projects, and people reach out to ask if they are available for purchase. I’ve decided to make items specifically for my shop to fill in around the mystery boxes. These items will be made with sustainability in mind— meaning natural fibers and fabric remnants from my personal projects.

This cute and spoopy project bag is based on one I made for personal use. I’ve improved the one listed in my shop with black accents and a reinforced base.

It’s roomy enough for a sweater or blanket project, perfect for fall knitting or crochet!

It has an outside zipper pocket for notions, and an inner slip pocket for small items. It is completely lined with coordinating fall leaves fabric, and fabric and cord are 100% cotton.

The basket shape makes it easy to work from. And the handles make it easy to carry. It is machine washable, so also easy to clean!

Link to purchase —-> Spoopy Halloween Project Basket Bag for Large Knitting, Crochet, Needlework Projects —Ready to Ship!