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Knitting Natural Living Parenting

Exploring: Natural dyeing weekend at the goat farm

November 6, 2014

Well, it only took me two months to get these photos edited and post written. Between business plan writing, grant proposal research, knitting, parenting, working and traveling, editing photos somehow finds its way to the bottom of the list. It’s always fun though to go back through and remember how amazing of a time you had somewhere, doing something, with people you love.

Labor day weekend we set out to my friend Annie’s up in Humboldt county. If you remember, we visited her and her husband at their farm for the 4th of July holiday.  It’s a little bit of a trek, but somehow we’ve adopted the road warrior status this past year with all our traveling to Washington and Idaho, so we were set. I’m not going to complain about 6hrs straight of knitting time. 🙂

Annie and I had planned for this to be a dye weekend. This was my first time venturing into the world of natural dyeing and I was ecstatic to have an experienced and equally enthusiastic friend to lead the way. David even surprised me with a natural dye book in preparation for the pending extravaganza. The evening after we arrived Annie and I sat down with a stack of books (see bottom of the post for a link to each book in our dye library) and planned what to forage for the dye pots. The next morning we prepped the yarn, tying together skeins for each color we planned and using alum we began to mordant the lot of fiber. I hadn’t realized prior to this experience how involved dyeing actually is. There are a lot of steps and patience and timeliness is important, but it is incredible the satisfaction you get from each step along the way. We then took off to forage for our dye pots. Toyon, Blackberry, Scotch broom, Indigo, Cutch and my favorite, Marigold. Well they’re all my favorites really.

We only had a few pots and burners to make the rounds so we started with the Toyon and Marigold, then moved onto the Blackberry, Indigo, Scotch broom and then Cutch. I’m sure every dyers process is slightly different, a practice that evolves over time. Mine was closely guided by Annie, who’s been dyeing for several years and still giggles and squeals each time she sees the outcome, like it’s her first. It’s completely adorable.

After the dye pots had sufficient time to cook, we began dyeing the yarn. I should note here that I am leaving out a lot of the step by step process, primarily because any knowledge you could and should gain about natural dyeing should come from an expert in person or from books like these. Temperature is a very important thing when natural dyeing, making sure the dye pots don’t go above a certain degree.

Once each dye pot had been exhausted, we rinsed the yarn and laid them to dry, with the exception of the Toyon, which we did a post dip in iron (a bucket of rusty nails and odds and ends) as an experiment. I honestly couldn’t believe the colors that had seemingly come from just some random plants around us, and a few of them even considered weeds! Of course there was forethought put into which plants were chosen, directed by both Annie’s experience and the books we consulted…but still, how incredible is nature?! I cannot wait to plant our future dye garden at our ranch.

The remainder of our time with our friends was spent visiting an Apple orchard, bbq-ing and corn on the cob, knitting and planning for Little Woolens, and taking care of more kids than you can count. Baby goats that is. 🙂 I helped Annie on a couple shifts, feeding the many, many, MANY newborn goats, it was a humorous sight I’m sure.

I feel so blessed to have such an inspiring and incredible friend like Annie. Our times on their farm are a pleasant reprieve from the city life and their company is second to none. That might have something to do with her butterball of a daughter Louella too. 🙂

Recommended Natural Dye Books

Nature’s Colors by Ida Grae

Natural Dyes, Plants and Processes by Jack Kramer

Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess

The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing by Eva Lambert

What others do you guys recommend?

cow fields

goat farm

foraging natural dye

toyon natural dye

foraging marigolds

coltrane playing

louella on the farm


mordant yarn

dye pot

fresh yarn

mordant yarn



dye pot

dye pot

dye pot



marigold natural dye

tired mama

annie and fam

apple orchard



baby goats










marigold natural dye

toyon natural dye

natural dyeing


natural dye


Idaho Fiber Mill Life Parenting

Fiber mill: A reality check

October 7, 2014
coltrane the kid

Today I had the first of what I can only assume will be many reality checks when it comes to building a fiber mill. Actually, it probably was not the first, but merely the only one I can remember. Repression, it’s a good thing for the bold and the ambitious. In my first post about our new journey to build a fiber mill in Idaho, I talked about my desire to be transparent through all the steps. Well, those steps aren’t just physical steps such as purchasing equipment or building structures. Sometimes they’re very rudimentary. Like recognizing limits and re-evaluating expectations. These are good things in their own right, helping refine process and encourage growth.

We spent this very warm weekend at Full Belly Farm for their annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival. It was our first time and we were super excited about all the incredible workshops like Soil Building, Seed Saving, Medicinal Herb walks and the one I was looking forward to the most, a fiber workshop with incredibly knowledgeable women like Rebecca Burgess and Sally Fox. Saturday was full of great food and energy, however spending the day in 100 degree weather was enlightening for us native Pacific Northwesterners. At least I had the foresight to get a hotel room instead of camp, knowing that the weekend would present enough of it’s own challenges with the heat and a toddler.

So fast forward to Sunday morning. I had signed David and I up for separate workshops, thinking “I’ve got this. Let David go do his thing and I’ll bring Coltrane in the pack to the fiber talk and tour and he’ll nap.” Yeah, right. We got to the farm just in time for David to take off for his workshop and us to find coffee. Coltrane and I took our time at the car, slathering on sunscreen, packing the back pack, and doing all those tiny little things that somehow take an obscene amount of time. We were ten steps from the car, walking on the dusty dirt road that led to the food area and he biffed it. I mean full on knees to ground, bottomed out, face plant. He looked far more like David after that spill, with his much darker, dirt covered completion. 😉 Sometimes his chubby little feet get in the way. I scooped him up, doing my best to comfort him as he let the entire farm know of his battle with the dirt. We washed him down at the car, changed and headed back in search of coffee. After successfully scoring some brew, we took off to the car to get to the fiber workshop in time. As we walked back down that dusty dirt once more, Coltrane spotted a large telephone pole log lying on the road. He ran up to it, and folded his body over it. As I got a little closer I noticed it was covered in some sort of black dirt. As he unwrapped from the log and turned towards me, covered chin to shin in dark, black dust I knew this day was destined for greatness. So back to the car, third outfit of the day and we were off.

We got to the fiber workshop only 10min late which is a small victory any parent can appreciate. All strapped into the pack and armed with snacks, sticks and small screwdriver I found in the car (Coltrane is obsessed with tools) we walked into the small county grange hall of about 15 people. Rebecca was talking and I was hoping I hadn’t missed too much of it. I stood in the back and listened intently for about 15min. Then Coltrane started chattering. I looked longingly as another mother with her young babe quietly nursed. Boob magic just doesn’t work with a toddler. It became apparent that Coltrane planned on continuing his commentary so we ventured outside to eat some lunch (leftover pizza = parenting win #12325234) in the car. After he was done I got the pack back out and looked over. He lifted one little finger and began wagging it at me. Then he shook his head no with a big grin on his face, very clearly indicating his intentions. It was too hot outside with very little shade so we played in the car for the next 45min. I’m ashamed to say that most of that time I was bummed out. Bummed that I was missing the one thing I had really come to this festival for. Then it hit me as I watched him empty my makeup bag for the umpteenth time (because who likes kid toys?). Building a fiber mill as parents is going to be a very different journey than that of others. All the learning and workshops and festivals and expos and mill visits and building trips were going to be preceded by my number one calling, motherhood.

A few weeks back I was told a story about a woman who started a mill with two young children and then soon realized her limitations and sold off all her equipment. When I heard this I began to doubt what we were doing. I was a mother of a toddler and we have plans of having more kids…was I crazy for thinking we could build a mill too? Sure. What successful venture wasn’t done involving some crazy? Whatever the circumstances of that woman in that story, I don’t know, but what I do know is this. I am a mother and a wife. I am a woman. I have strength and I have power. I am a maker, and I am a believer. Here’s believing that’s enough.

Knitting Life Parenting

Exploring: A weekend on a goat farm

August 16, 2014
goat dairy farm

For the past 4 years we’ve celebrated 4th of July in the alley and on the rooftop of our apartment in Seattle, with friends and family. Our apartment was on Lake Union, with the most epic view of the fireworks at Gas Works park. 2014 is the first year we weren’t there to celebrate with them, and as with every new beginning and place, come new traditions and friends to celebrate with.

My dear friend Annie, husband and little Louella live in Northern California on the coast in Humbolt County. There they run a goat dairy and have an adorable farm house and garden. For this year’s 4th, we decided to get out of the city and drove North to spend the weekend with Annie and their tribe of goats. A weekend full of goats, gardening, bike rides, knit talk and baby hangouts, what more could one ask for?

We had planned to leave at 5am, but lets be real, who with a child ever leaves when planned?! So we finally made it out of town by 9am. 🙂 After a couple stops along the way, we made it to their place and celebrated what remained of the holiday with tasty goat meat burgers (amazing if you haven’t tried them), homemade hummus, a tasty kale salad fresh from Annie’s garden and beers. Coltrane and Louella had their own celebration of sorts, ransacking every pile of dirt they could, climbing in and out of the wheelbarrow and soaking up the afternoon’s coastal sunshine. We quickly deemed the plump duo the “chubby cheek gang”. Later in the evening we drove to where we had scouted a camping spot. This was an impromptu camping trip and with such, let’s just say it was an experience. Between the late night fireworks, campfire safety watch with a cruising toddler and interesting neighbors, David and I promised each other that the next camping trip would be off the beaten path and far better planned.

Saturday we spent the morning at the Arcata farmer’s market. Completely charming and full of tasty gluten-free, healthy and even raw food vendors. I love the small town farmer’s markets far more then one’s in the city. They’re always so full of life with local makers and growers. The rest of the afternoon we sat in Annie’s garden and talked knitting, wool dreams, aspirations and motherhood. David spent most of the day battling an epic backcountry bike ride through old logging and undiscovered trails. Annie took us on a tour of the goat farm, introducing us to all the hoofed residents, including MANY pregnant mama goats. We ended the day with another bbq, including more goat (steaks this time) and roasted veggies. An all around perfect day.

Before we left to head back to the city, we met up with Annie and Lou for breakfast at the Beachcomber Cafe, an incredible and tasty little place in Trinidad. The morning was spent watching Trane and Lou play and planning our next get together. We said our goodbyes and then stopped by the Trinidad Head Lighthouse for some amazing views and a couple final weekend memories before heading home.

We’re heading back up to visit over Labor Day and we have some pretty exciting things planned that I’ll make sure and share later on.


coltrane redwoods

coltrane and louella


breastfeeding and camping


farmers market






the goat farm