Yarn Dyeing with BlueMuleFiber
By Michele Thymmons and Beth and Ashley of BlueMuleFiber
Have you ever heard a story so inspiring you wanted to follow the person in your favorite social media account to see what they next come up with? Or loved the story behind a color of yarn or a product that you literally wanted to buy all the yarn? This is the case with Beth and Ashley a mother - daughter team of indie dyers that are Blue Mule Fiber. :). Not only do they have an amazing story about how they got started doing what they do, but they also make some of the most gorgeous yarn! Keep reading for their story and tons of ideas of what you can do with this yarn when you get your hands on it. :)
Blue Mule Fiber can be found at their website, and if you’re wanting to find them in a physical store they’re now in Shanel Holbrook’s store (website and Instagram) in Utah and Yarnivore (website and Instagram) in San Antonio, TX! Also check out the fun filled and yarn inspired Texas Yarn Lovers Event 27 April 2019 taking place at the Blue Mule Fiber Winery!!! Details for the event can be found at the Texas Yarn Lovers Event website.
In 2011, I (Beth) had retired from 27 years in the engineering business and 7 years as a real estate broker. We decided it was time to get out of the city so we bought a small 11 acre farm in Fayetteville, TX. My father had passed away, so my mother, Delores Daley (aka Mimi), moved with us. My daughter, Ashley Dalhart, and I decided that we didn’t want all of my mom’s farm knowledge to pass with her. We wanted her teach us all that she could, so we started with a small garden and a handful of chickens. We were caring for the chickens, gathering our own eggs, learning to can our own fruits and vegetables, and make jams and jellies. We added 3 dairy goats to the farm...two does and a buck. We learned to milk, twice a day, filter and store fresh milk, make cheese, make ice cream. It was a huge learning experience. We learned that we could not keep our buck with the milking does as his smell and hormones affected the milk.
Goats are very herd oriented and he was unhappy to be in a pen by himself, so we were going to get him a companion Mini Nubian goat, when I discovered that Angora goats weighed about the same as the Mini Nubian breed we were milking. My daughter and I decided that if we got the Angora we could learn to shear and possibly spin the Mohair we harvested. It’s funny how life leads you. I had always wanted to learn to spin...as a child Rumplestiltkin had been my favorite book, because of my fascination with spinning. Then life gets in the way and you forget your childhood dreams, until one day you realize you can actually do something you’ve always had a desire to do!
So we got the Angora. I found a lovely lady in Smithville, Charlene Steele of KidKat Ranch, on the Angora breeders registry, and she, along with her husband Dan, came to the farm and taught us to shear. At about that same time, a small fiber mill opened in Independence, TX about 40 miles from us, the Independence Farmstead Fiber Mill run by Dawn Brown. She was a life saver, as she taught us to skirt the fleece and then she washed it for us. While waiting to get the fleece back, my daughter and I started watching tons of YouTube videos on dyeing fiber. We ended up trying solar dyeing with mason jars, kettle dyeing on the stove, and microwave dyeing.
Now we had all this beautiful hand dyed fiber, it was time to learn what to do with it. I headed to Yarnarama in Paige, TX, to meet Susan Fricks, the owner, for a private spinning lesson. My husband had bought me a wheel for Christmas. So Susan, so very kind and patient, taught me the basics of spinning, which I promptly came home and taught my daughter. She was more interested in learning to make art yarn, but her full time job kept her from being free to take classes on weekends. So I headed to W. C. Mercantile in Navasota, TX to take art yarn spinning classes with Diana Fenn North of Feisty Fenn Fibers. What a fun class! The daughter purchased a heavy duty spinning wheel specifically built for art yarn and I showed her the basics of what I learned. She never looked back and started turning out exquisite art yarn. But now we needed to find a market for her yarn.
Susan Frick had suggested we go to the Kid n Ewe Fiber Festival to get some ideas, so Ashley, my mom and I travelled to Boerne to see a what a Fiber Fest was all about. Oh my, we had such a good time and met so many interesting and helpful people like Dr. Joe David Ross, who is considered the leading authority on Angora goats and Mohair in the US. So the next year, 2015, we applied for a booth and set up to sell our yarn. We had bought 3 more Angora goats and a couple of Miniature Harlequin sheep, filed a DBA, got a federal tax ID number, and applied for our sales tax number from the state of Texas. It didn’t take us long to understand that to make enough money at a show to warrant the booth price, the cost of traveling, hotels, eating out, we either needed a lot more animals or we had to figure out a way to supplement our hand spun yarn. We didn’t really have the time or space for more animals, so we decided that dyeing yarn couldn’t be that big of a step from dyeing fiber, so we started searching for places to purchase raw mill-spun yarn at wholesale prices.
We began to hone our yarn dyeing skills, trying various methods we found on the internet. I took a dyeing class from the well-known Laura Spinner. Putting several ideas together, Ashley and I found some dyeing techniques that work for us. The next year we went back to Kid n Ewe and applied to the Houston Fiber Fest. Our hand dyed yarn outsold our handspun yarn by a wide margin, and again we realized that we needed more hand dyed yarn and less handspun in our booth. So we adjusted what we were trying to sell.
It has taken several years, and paying attention to our market to finally figure out what our market wants from us. In the mean time, my mom decided she wanted to participate by learning to weave. I went back to Yarnaram and took Susan Fricks’ 3 day Weaving Bootcamp. I came home and showed Mom what Susan had showed me, and Mom is like a weaving savant! You would think she has been weaving all her life. She makes beautiful pieces out of our hand dyed yarn that we sell at the shows. My cousin, Nancy Naiser Davis, also joined up with us. She is our in-house knitting expert. Ashley, my daughter, is our crochet coach. The two of them are both fabulous at sales and they actually travel to all of our shows. My husband, Mike Gamble, even bought us a trailer to haul our yarn in! We added a couple of shows each year, sometimes applying to a couple of shows for one or two years before getting in.
Things really seemed to change for us in 2018. Designers started contacting us wanting to use our yarn to create their patterns. That was enormous for us. Phyll Lagerman of Lagerman Knits Studio, Dawn Ortega of Dawn O Designs, and Laurie Beardsley of LaurieBeaKnitting, all created us patterns and gave us samples using our yarn. Jenny King of Jenny King Designs created an incredible crocheted jacket as a gift for Ashley with our yarn. Then through the Dallas Fort Worth show and Instagram we met Christine Galdemez of Buttercup Creates, Kate Hammit of OneofAKate, and Kathryn Nevels Baker of The Stitch & Hook, young designers all making a name for themselves in the pattern and dyeing world. They all took our yarn and created exquisite pieces and patterns that they willingly shared with us. Another amazing thing happened this year. Instead of us applying to new fiber shows, new out of state fiber shows started inviting us to come out, such as Vogue Knitting Live! and Fiber Fun in the Sip.
It has all been so incredible and exciting. We feel so blessed and grateful. Everyone we have met has been so kind and instrumental in helping us to get to where we are. The fiber world is full of gentle, creative souls willing to share their inspiration. Ashley, Nancy and I are always happy and willing to answer fiber questions, inspire, and collaborate with other makers. It’s the best part of what we do. In 2019, you will find us at the Dallas Fort Worth Fiber Fest, Ply Away, The Contemporary Weavers of Texas Convention, the Houston Fiber Fest, Stitches Midwest, Fiber Fun in the Sip and the Best Little Yarn Crawl in Texas. We would love to meet you and see what your working on. If you see us, please stop in and visit. We LOVE to talk yarn! Our yarn is sold here on the farm in the Blue Mule Winery tasting room (did I mention we also make wine?) and our web site is www.BlueMuleFiber.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram and find us on Etsy as BlueMuleFiber .
Note - This post contains affiliate links, which means I will make a commission at no extra cost to you, should you click through and make a purchase.
Everyone creates, designs, and learns things differently. With this in mind, I’ve tried to include a variety of articles/resources below and will continue to add more even after the article is published. Most of these resources are free but others include classes or resources that are paid. To add to the incredible story Beth has highlighted above, I wanted to share with you various ideas of what you can do with the marvelous yarn from her and other yarn dyers we’ve highlighted in the past couple of months. Below are some ideas of where to find information about specific types of yarn art as well as makers in each field that have inspired me as well.
Weaving is such a diverse field and any type of yarn can be used to weave almost anything you can think of. From tapestries, to table cloths, to clothes, to handbags, macrame, and wall hangings. This form allows you to show your artistic talents using any size yarn or yarn combinations. Some of the people who inspire me for weaving as well as places you can start your own weaving journey include (but are definitely not limited to!):
The weaving loom is all about weaving tutorials and tools!!! She has so many amazing tutorials and tips to get you started on your own weaving journey!
byBelladesigns has gorgeous weavings for wall hangings of all sizes and colors. She uses yarn of all types and sizes and textures too!
The weaving on Instagram also has a lot of beautiful weaving wall hangings and other weaving art.
Crochet is my personal favorite and what I started with and have continued with all types of yarns and projects. You can use anything from small threaded yarn to create delicate, detailed lace work (tablecloths and gorgeous dresses) to thick yarn that you can crochet by hand. Pattern reading is important here but once you get the start and feel of a pattern or the crochet stitches, you can quickly adapt patterns to create the size and type of project you want. Stay tuned for a very exciting tutorial series in 2019 for Crochet (can you tell I’m quite excited for this? Details coming soon :) Some of the people who have created patterns I’ve personally used include the following (please let me know of additional ones I’m missing and I will gladly add them :):
- FiberandFern has created some amazing pieces and I have loved being a pattern tester for her! She was one of the first maker features here on VAMICreations on how to create your own crochet/knitting pattern.
- YarnHookNeedles has created some gorgeous pieces and also has tons of tutorials on her blog! I have loved being a pattern tester for her as well. She was another of the first maker features here on VAMICreations on how to start your own blog.
-KTandtheSquid has some gorgeous patterns and I’ll be making her my favorite pullover in the purple and grey she makes on the main pattern. You can buy several of her pattern combos at Bluprint (formerly known as Craftsy) to include the “my favorite pullover” and I’ll be showing you more pictures of this pullover and more in another tutorial later this month.
- The Hook Nook not only has gorgeous patterns but she also shares others patterns and stories on her blog! She has a truly inspiring story and seeks to support other makers through her blog and social media.
- Crystalbeardesigns has many versatile and beautiful patterns. I have used several of her pattens as gifts and for myself :) She’s constantly coming up with new ones and has anything from shawls to ponchos to sweaters etc.
- MJofftheHook - I love her patterns and have used them for gifts for kids and make some for myself as well! She has a ton of patterns for blankets, hats, scarves, and so much more! Several of her blanket patters will be featured in another tutorial later as you can find her patterns at Bluprint (formerly Craftsy).
- TL Yarn Crafts Toni is amazing and has patterns, tutorials, and a blog about all the yarn :) She is constantly coming up with new designs and ways of sharing patterns and tutorials with you.
- SeeLoveShare is both a knitter and crocheter and loves to highlight other makers as well. I used her gingerbread man pillow pattern extensively for a little one’s birthday party as a party favor. It is super simple and with gorgeous results!
-EvelynandPeter is a crochet pattern designer and has some gorgeous patterns ranging from the Kodiak Bomber (I’ll be making my own soon and am excited!) to sweaters to scarves and hats. She’s also a member of the Stitchtogetherofficial where you can join in on Crochet a-longs (CALs) with several other makers who create patterns and host CALs to crochet together virtually!
- MiramarWoods - has a gorgeous crochet pattern called the Archer’s Hood. I’ll be making my own red/white one this year :) Kristina is another one of the first of the Maker Features here talking about how she started carving her beautiful crochet hooks. She’s also a member of the Stitchtogetherofficial where you can join in on Crochet a-longs (CALs) with several other makers who create patterns and host CALs to crochet together virtually!
- All About Ami - has an amazing assortment of crochet patterns for purses (I’ll be making my own star stitch purse and wallet using her patterns this year), amigurumi, gloves, scarves, sweaters and so much more!
- pinkplumeriamaui - I’ve have also loved testing several of her beanie patterns and wear the Wonder Woman inspired one myself. :) She does all types of crochet projects from beanies to scarves and more.
While I have never knitted, there have been some absolutely gorgeous pieces that have almost started me down the path to learn knitting. Knitting is just as varied as crochet and there are just as many patterns. You an also knit using any size yarn or combo of sizes of yarns depending upon the project you desire to create. You can even hand knit with the huge chunky yarns. A lot of people that create crochet patterns have also created knitting patterns. Many people know knitting from the gorgeous heavy, chunky blankets that have become popular over the last couple of years. However, you can crochet or knit these :) Some of the people who have created patterns include the following (please let me know of additional ones I’m missing and I will gladly add them :):
- FiberandFern has created some amazing pieces and continually has new patterns in scarves, beanies, sweaters, etc. She was one of the first maker features here on VAMICreations on how to create your own crochet/knitting pattern.
- YarnHookNeedles has created some gorgeous pieces and also has tons of tutorials on her blog! She was another of the first maker features here on VAMICreations on how to start your own blog.
- Coco.crochet.lee has some gorgeous knitting and crochet patterns and also is a PBS TV Host for Knit and Crochet Now. She’s also a member of the Stitchtogetherofficial where you can join in on Crochet a-longs (CALs) with several other makers who create patterns and host CALs to crochet together virtually!
-BeCozi has some of the most amazing chunky yarns and works on all types of handknitting tutorials and other knitting tutorials.
- HookedHazel is both a knitter and crochet designer and a member of the Stitchtogetherofficial where you can join in on Crochet a-longs (CALs) with several other makers who create patterns and host CALs to crochet together virtually! She designed one of the two patterns in January’s CAL.
- The crafting diaries has some beautiful pieces and is a new knitter who shows some of her projects on her Instagram.
Not sure if this is truly a category but I wanted to have one more category that included all types of other art made via yarn. This one is a catch all but ranges from latch hook type projects to knotted rugs, etc. Some of the people who have created yarn art in this category include the following (please let me know of additional ones I’m missing and I will gladly add them :):
-vanessabarragao_work - this lady has the most amazing tapestries and yarn art that combines all of the above and more (weaving, crocheting, knitting, etc). She’s amazing and makes gorgeous pieces of art as a textile artist.
-Mikaelacastledine - she crochets and does collages and much more! Mikaela combines several types of yarn and fiber arts into one to make some beautiful pieces!
Thank you for joining us for this Yarn Dyer Maker Feature! Check out Beth and Ashley’s website for more on them, their story, where to find them, their farm, and yarn. And for additional yarn dyer and other maker features check out the Maker Resources page. I’d also love to hear from you about what types of resources you want more information on as well as Makers you would like to nominate for a Maker Feature! Please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment on this article! Looking forward to hearing from you and have a great day!