The Buckaloo View Milk House

First of all, I want to take a minute to say a quick thank you for the response to Friday's post. And thank you for all of your continued support in regards to Buckaloo View. I never cease to be amazed and touched by the love in this community. I've got a busy month ahead of me if I want to stay on schedule.

Last summer, I got it my head that the milk house would make a perfect little dye studio. At that time, I was knee deep in so many other projects, clearing it out and cleaning it up was not a priority. Instead, I stuck with dyeing under a little canopy in the yard on pleasant days.

Then, in December or so, I felt restless and started working in the barn, organizing and rearranging. Slowly but surely, floor space emerged as I cleared things out. I was getting myself prepped (and psyched) to have a little dye space in the barn come spring. The bitter cold of winter swept in and I took a break from working outside. Fortunately, that gave me the opportunity to mull over things a bit more and get a better plan of attack.

Traditionally, a milk house is just what it sounds like, a small room attached to a dairy barn used as a separate place to store the milk. I spent the first eight years of my life on a dairy farm a few miles from here. (We were not the farmers, just tenants in one of the houses.) There was a massive (at least to a kid) tank that took up the whole of that milk house. I remember it being noisy in there and the tank was cool to the touch. Looking back, I was also very lucky to be drinking that raw, rich Jersey milk (and it may have contributed to the fact that I was generally a pretty healthy kid.) Our milk house here at Buckaloo View hasn't been used for it's original purpose for many, many years and even when it was, it was a time before the large tanks and fancy equipment of our day. Instead, it's been serving as storage for tools and various odds and ends.

As I dig through the layers in the barn, I've been finding so many interesting things, like old wooden toolboxes, one of which must have been my grandfather's considering the initial written on the end. More screws and nails than I could ever possibly need. Graffiti from my cousins. Clever storage solutions. Shearers from my when my Dad's parents had sheep. Delicate bird skeletons. Buckets of rusty old things. Even a receipt from when my Dad ordered baby chicks back in the '70s.

There are some pitfalls to using the milk house as a dye studio, but I'm I can work around them. The pros outweigh the cons. It'll be wonderful to have a designated spot out of plain sight (no more buckets and jars strewn about the yard and sidewalk.) It'll also be wonderful to work even when the weather isn't the best. I can set pots to simmer while I work in the barn on other projects. It faces the south which will make solar dyeing more convenient and effective. And the fact that I'll be adding my own work history in the same place my father, grandfather, great grandfather and even great-great-grandfather once did, is pretty powerful. Each of us did something a little different here, but I too will hopefully derive a certain joy from tinkering away in the Buckaloo View barn, particularly in the milk house.

(I'll share more about the dye studio transformation as it happens.)

Buckaloo View Yarns (And Other Fiber Talk)

I should start by saying this post is not a "grand opening" announcement!  I just want to address some things on Buckaloo View yarns and indeed let you know when they will be available. As well as talk a bit about fiber, in general.

Right now is a powerful time to be involved in the fiber world as it seems the "slow" movement is gaining momentum here. More and more knitters and fiber lovers are going back to traditional yarns, pure fibers from small farms that are dyed naturally, spun by hand or processed minimally in smaller, independent mills. I think we like that our fiber has a story, that fiber has a history.

Ashley of Woolful has been pretty great in getting the word out about superwash (and slow fiber, in general.) I've come across a lot of knitters who are purging their stashes of superwash by selling or donating it, after they learn the truth behind its production. I personally have some superwash as well as wool/synthetic blends in my stash and don't plan on parting with them so quickly. And, in all truth, I'll probably still buy the occasional superwash yarn in the future. I know some of you hardcore purists might not respect that, but that is what feels right to me now.  First, there are a lot of indie dyers I'd like to support. But mostly, I'd like to start knitting more for family and friends but what often holds me back is their reluctance to have a 100% wool product to care for (or to wear against their skin.) For myself, I'm usually drawn towards pure, natural fiber. But since I've been knitting socks for well over half a year, I see the need for hardier yarn. Reaching for something superwash or with a bit of nylon in it is the easiest option. However, I do hope to challenge myself to research more breed-specific wool*, find ones known for producing fiber that is more hardy and long-lasting. My personal fiber journey will no doubt evolve as I redefine what I want and what I stand for, both for myself and for my stash.

However, this is all in regard to my own personal stash. When it comes to Buckaloo View yarns, I've drawn a clearer line. A while back, I made the decision to not dye any of future yarns with superwash or any other synthetic materials. It seems a little counterproductive to me to go through the process of dyeing yarn naturally on not-so-natural materials. And once I get footing, I'd like to dye on locally or ethically sourced yarn, perhaps yarn that I or another individual hand spun. (And perhaps someday, way down the line, I can offer my own plant dyed, hand spun, home raised fiber. That'll be quite a while though!) 

Right from the beginning of my natural dye journey, I've been getting my color straight from plants. It never occurred to me to buy dyes, even if they were natural. What interested me most was throwing a handful of flowers or walnuts in a pot and getting the color directly from them. So, in the past and in the future, I will always dye directly from plants. In the beginning, I thought of limiting myself to only using plants and materials that I sourced locally, things that I or my neighbors and friends grew or gathered. But I've decided I'd like to keep my options (and palette)  more open and include kitchen scraps such as avocado pits and onions skins. Once again, this is a process I'll grow with, seeing how things are received, how I feel in my heart about my choices, how much dye material I can get my hands on this coming season, etc.

Some of you may have seen a few fellow bloggers and knitters playing around with Buckaloo View yarn. I sent a small handful of skeins out into the wilds to see how they do. As of right now, I'm aiming to open the shop on the Spring Equinox. It seems fitting. So, March 20th, the Buckaloo View Shop will open! I'll have some of the 2014 Collection available right away, and hopefully have some early season yarns available. But after they are gone, you'll have to wait until I can dye new yarns.

PS: Thank you for all the Henny Hat love! I've started a Henny KAL if you'd like to join in!

*I'm really excited about this challenge and hope we can all share sources we've found, as well as our experiences and opinions on different breeds. There is a "Yarn Talk" thread at the BV group to do just that!

Introducing My First Knitting Pattern : Henny Hat

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A year ago I never would have thought I would design knitting patterns. But still, I jotted down ideas on slips of paper and in the corners of my sketchbooks. How would I translate this idea into a stitch pattern? How would it look as a cowl? A hat? A shawl? More and more, I started seeing inspirations for patterns all around me. These ideas have been gaining momentum in my mind and, thanks to the winter season, I have had time and courage to devote to making some of them happen.

The Henny Hat is not the first idea I had for a pattern, but it is the first one to come to fruition. I thought it would be fun to design a series of knits inspired by the women who came before me. This is the first pattern in that series. It is based on what I know about my Great-Grandmother, my father's mother's mother. I never met her but heard stories about what a great knitter she was. In a way, it's also inspired by my Grandma. She always encourages my crafty pursuits and crochets and knits herself. When she visits us, we are often found sitting together, I with my needles, she with her hook. Henny is a family name (short for Henrietta) that seemed to fit this pattern perfectly.

It's a simple design that is great for lace beginners. It's knit in a worsted weight which makes it come about quickly. The yellow hat was gifted to my Grandma and was knit with Buckaloo View Worsted IV (dyed with Marigolds.) The gray one I'm keeping for myself. It was knit with Quince and Co Lark in "Kumlien's Gull." More info on both of them can be found at my Ravelry. In the next month or so, I hope to release the matching shawl pattern. Details about a future Henny KAL will be announced soon. In the meantime, check the Henny Hat out on Ravelry or click below to purchase a copy!

Winter Dyes : Avocado, Berries and Turmeric

Back in December we had a surprisingly pleasant day and I happily spent it working in the barn while tending to dye pots. That day, I chose to work with avocados, berries, and turmeric. All of the fibers were mordanted with alum and cream of tartar.

The avocado was dyed with a deliciously soft skein of Ton of Wool Cormo. The result turned out much different from my first avocado dye last spring. I'm sure it's due mostly to the fact that the first was dyed with a superwash yarn. But I also wonder about the dyestuff. Although I used a higher ratio of avocados to fiber this time around, it was dried skins and pits, the latter of which were pale inside. Last spring, when I cracked the (frozen) pits open, they were a rich orange color. Regardless, the soft peachy beige color is a beauty.

The turmeric and mixed berries were done on a basic merino wool yarn. (A super cheap eBay find. It's not my favorite yarn, but it works well for testing out new dyes.) It might seem a little blasphemous to be using berries in dyeing instead of eating them, but most of them were "seconds," ones that were over-ripe or fallen to the ground. The result was a lovely plum color. Berries are notorious for not sticking to fiber very well and are less likely to be as lightfast over time. I've had luck so far with the former and only time will tell with the latter.

Finally, turmeric! Most of us have turmeric in our pantry and if you don't it's easy to get your hands on some, so it might be a great place to start if you're interested in natural dyeing. As could be expected, the final color is an orangey yellow. 

A lot of people have been emailing and commenting here, asking if I have any how-to's or tutorials on natural dyeing or if I can suggest any sources so they can learn, too. I am, slowly but surely, working on a series of dye posts, explaining a bit about dyeing and listing resources, and a hope to get them up by the spring. Many of you have also been asking when Buckaloo View yarns will be available for sale and I will announce that very soon.


A Yarn Wishlist

I've been dreaming about new yarns lately. Chatting with fellow fiber enthusiasts has made me aware of so many yarns I want to try this year. These twelve are the ones I'm coveting the most right now (a couple may even be finding their way to me as we speak...) Some are new finds while others are ones I've been dreaming of for ages. As you can see, I'm really drawn to rich, burgundy reds and dark, piney greens lately. And, of course, grays. Always, grays.

1. Quince and Co Owl in Hemlock   2. Quince and Co Owl Tweet in Buffalo Plaid   3. De Rerum Natura Ulysse in poivre et sel/salt and pepper  4. Manos del Uruguay Fino in Garnet Brooch   5. Madeline Tosh Merino Light in Laurel   6. Woofolk Far in 11   7. Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in Snowbound  8. Swans Island Washable Wool in Pewter   9. O-Wool O-Wash Fingering in Appalachian Stone   10. Hole & Sons Double Knit in Kimmeridge Clay 11. A Verb for Keeping Warm Pioneer in Grizzly Peak   12. Sincere Sheep Equity in Aegean

What yarns are on your wishlist?

(All photos in the above mosaic where taken from the shop they are linked to.)

Gifting No. 5 - Pinecone and Mulberry Hat

The Gifting Series is where I try to giveback, in my own little handmade way, to the people in my life that are important to me.

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The next creation in my Gifting series is a pattern called Pinecone and Mulberry by the ever-so-talented Melody of Mandarine's. Ever since it's release, I've held off casting on for this one because I'm normally a fan of a slouchier, more beret style hat. But then I had that aha! moment and knew just who I could knit it for, a longtime friend. I just shipped it out to her yesterday and really hope she likes it. Of course, now that I've knit it, I'd love one for myself!

It was (fittingly) knit with yarn that I dyed with mulberries last summer. I love the texture the stitches produce and stretchy-ness of the garter stitch. Melody just released a new pattern, a shawl called "Canopy" that I'm having a hard time resisting. I know I'll cast on for one someday, but in the meantime, I'm going to have a lot of fun researching yarns and daydreaming. 

What new releases have caught your eye lately? What have you knit as a gift recently?


Yarn Along : Knitting and Reading

I’m joining in Yarn Along this week hosted by Ginny of Small Things. It’s the chance for those of us who love knitting and reading to share what project is currently on our needles and which book we have our noses buried in. And I personally add what music I’ve been listening to as well.

I was going to share a neat, pretty, styled photo of my current knitting WIP and what I'm reading for today's Yarn Along post then I realized the above scene is a more accurate representation of what my brain and life feels like lately. This busyness is exactly why I'm trying to give up screens (TV, computer, phone) in the late evening and, instead, crack open a book. Right now, it's One Woman Farm by Jenna Woginrich. 

Most of my knitting right now is testing out future designs and doing far too much math and figuring and ripping and re-knitting the same thing over and over, so I'm very grateful for my Challenge socks this month. Abbey of Abbey Morris Designs offered me a sock pattern of my choice from her shop. I went with the Big & Little Annabelle because I had the perfect yarn to pair with it--Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label Fingering. The rhythm of the stitch pattern is a very welcome thing and even though it simple, it produces an impressive texture.

What are you knitting or reading?

PS: Abbey is also offering you a very generous 50% off any pattern in her shop up until the 14th of March by using the code "buckalooview."