Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 Very Eventful

It's been a very hectic and eventful year. With medical visits to Dallas, new medications, holidays, travel, and the wonderful birth of our grandson, I have also decided to close my shop on Etsy. As of December 31, 2012, The High plains Knitter was officially closed. There are just too many things on the horizon to deal with, and I feel like it was just time for it.I have enjoyed being part of the Etsy Knitters, both here on my blog, and on facebook. I have found many friends here. Of course I have not stopped knitting, so I will of course have to post my projects here. I received some great Debbie Macomber yarn in the mail, yesterday, so I am starting a sweater, today, in red with green trim. I haven't used Gerbera Solid 100% wool before, but the touch is very soft, and it has a beautiful look on the skein. We'll see how it knits up. Our grandson is 6 months old now, and (I think) just adorable. We go to see him every chance that we get. He was just beginning to sit up the last time we saw him...oh and of course our son and daughter-in-law, too, lol. I hope we can all continue to connect.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

DJ Runnels American Handmade Artist

DJ Runnels is a lady that is on many on-line venues where I encounter her many talents. I think I first met her in Etsy Knitters Team. However, she also has a couple of twitter accounts where we keep in touch. We began to communicate after she advertised a really great sale on her yarns at her Artfire shop which has since moved to Life's an Expedition's main yarn shop, and hand wovens: You can get there by clicking on the title, or copy and paste the url. Somtimes she also has bulk yarn packages at:

The first picture (above) is a woven scarf that DJ made from one of her yarns. The second one is a scarflette that I knitted from that gorgeous yarn that I bought from her. Sadly, I haven't been able to get a real good picture of it. You can find these gorgeous yarns in her Zibbet shop (listed above).

I felt like we had a lot in common, and I'm even more sure of it, now. I also love putting beautiful yarns together for my projects. However, DJ is a much greater business woman, than I, who really knows how to market her products. She has really given me great advice. I love the fact that she makes her designer yarns from yarns that come from U.S. mills. The scarflette/collar above that I made from one of her great yarns and will soon be in my shop.

Promotion is one of your strong points, but if you had to choose between your businesses and knitting, which would it be?

My business. Knitting is more of a hobby for me. But the correct answer would be (e) none of the above. What I mostly live for is to pick up separate yarns, put them together and see what they look like. That was how my yarn sales started. I love to see what the yarns look like together. Once I start knitting or weaving them, the suspense is over. I want to set it aside and see what yet another combination would look like. I got obsessed with this aspect of the whole creative process and as I became better and better at coming up with inventive color combinations, the demand for my yarns grew and the yarn business took off. My yarn sales out-paced my knitting, weaving, paper mache, journal-making, vintage books, everything, in just a few months of starting Life's an Expedition. No one was more surprised than I was! I never set out to be a yarn designer or seller. Fortunately, the yarn combinations are what I love best, so everyone is happy.

The materials for your designer yarns come from U.S. mills. Is this a deliberate choice or did it just happen that way?

It just happened this way. Some of the finest mills are in the North Carolina area. But I am very patriotic. We devote large amounts of time to a charity that helps the deployed military overseas and their families back home. In fact, my secret fantasy is to sing our national anthem at the Superbowl, but if they ever ask me, I will decline as a public service. Not that my singing is horrible, mind you, but It's not that great, either. Still, just the thought of The Star-Spangled Banner gives me goosebumps. I used to sing it to my kids, all of the verses.

Those readers who are knitters certainly know why you would design and sell yarns, but what prompted you into the field of vintage?

In the first few months of business, my husband and I were still exploring what we wanted to do. He loved old books, and so do I, as I used to be a professional writer. So we accumulated a lot of books and sold them on eBay. I'm sure we've sold over two thousand by now, but I lost count. Now when we select books, we are more narrow in focus. We mostly offer non-fiction, such as art, history, science, travel. We want each book we offer to have something special about it.

Another factor which drove me towards vintage is my love of taking a vintage item and altering it in some way. I make journals from old dictionaries and cookbooks. And I love to paint and decorate wooden household goods, such as bowls, picture frames, trays. In the beginning, I was fairly timid with a paintbrush. Now I pounce without hesitation. You should see the decorating in my house. I just went wild.

What is the motivating force behind your on-line shops?

That's an easy one. I have several taglines that I use to promote Life's an Expedition. One of them is Adventures in Yarn. Another one is "Your expedition is about to begin." But my favorite one is this: Color. Nature. Texture. Culture. Everything that I said earlier about Color? I am the same way about texture, trees, leaf prints, botanicals, weaving from Guatemala, carved objects from Africa, anything that fits into those four categories. One day I had dinner with friends at the Olive Garden and one of them laughed out loud. She said it was fun to watch an artist explore everything. I was running my hand over the textured walls in the lobby, admiring the yellowish glow of a light as it hit a tan wall, analyzing the curly grapevines, waxing poetically over anything Italian, that sort of thing. I get the same way when I'm in another country. Or at Pier 1, for that matter.

I do love Dj's yarns, and hope she never quits making them.

Check out Dj's other shops here: Life's an Expedition imported goods, such as the Guatemalan tablecloths, and some miscellany:
Life's an Expedition books: new, used, vintage, antiquarian:
I usually put a sprinkling of items here, such as military birdhouses:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Natalie Redding American handmade artisan

I am so glad that I have had to opportunity to get to know Natalie Redding of Namaste Farms. She is an incredible artist, and can be found on facebook as Namaste Farms. In my secret "Walter Mitty" life, I would be doing what she does. But, as it stands, I will be buying her yarns, and making my items from it. That, in itself is a dream come true. You can visit her farm on line by clicking on the title of this post, or you can see some of her yarns by copying and pasting this link into your url

Natalie, you knit, spin your own wool, and breed your own sheep and goats. What brought you to the world of breeding?

I am an Animal Scientist with a B.S. and M.S. from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I have a deep affection and love of animals. Unlike many fiber fanatics, I started with the animals, and then fell in love with the fleeces.
Oddly enough, I learned to trim feet, and shear (and everything relating to flock management) before I ever spun a skein. I actually did not learn about fleece sheep in school...only meat breeds. I purchased Wensleydale Longwools quite by accident. It was then that my love affair with fiber began.

You are truly a made in America artisan from start to finish. What is your business philosophy?

I am a terrible business person. I would give everything away if left to myself. If it were not for Deborah at I would not have near the success I do. I mean this sincerely. She keeps me on track and has a lot of patience for my artistic idiosyncrasies. Her mantra to me is, "Make whatever you want and we will sell it." It is pretty hard not to be successful with a company that embraces everything you do.

Your sheep and goats have won show awards. Why are so exceptional?

My husband and I came from owning Thoroughbred racehorses. Conformational principles are very similar within animal species. This made it very easy to choose animals that were structurally sound. When it came to figuring out great fleeces; we ALL know, it is in the handle. How good does this fleece feel? I definitely had some help from experts in the beginning; the rest was having a very good tactile sense. My biggest mentor is Sharon Chestnutt (Cloudspun Farm). She is a very well known Angora Goat breeder and is a dear friend to this day. She was great at pointing me in the right direction and teaching me the basics.

You have recently become a certified member of the Cherokee nation. Would you share your journey in achieving this goal?

I recently was granted my tribal membership to Cherokee Nation. My children are also tribal members and it makes me feel so complete. My grandfather was a Cherokee and lived in Oklahoma. He died in the late 1970's from a self inflected gunshot wound and his entire legacy was not well regarded by my family. Because of this, I wasn't even aware that I was 1/4 Cherokee until the 1980's.
About 4 years ago my friend's mother (a Lenape Indian) told me I should enroll with Cherokee Nation. I found my grandfathers name on the Dawes roll and began the process.
Seriously, it was seemingly endless paperwork, but as of Dec. 21st, I am a full fledged member of Cherokee Nation. It is so funny that it made me feel so purposed. It also feels like my love of animals, agriculture and nature is truly in my blood.

How would you like to impact home-grown business in America?

I really want people to understand how important it is to appreciate farming and the importance of fiber arts. I have met so many amazing artists doing crafts I did not even know existed. I don't think the general public realizes how much time and effort goes into these arts. Much of this is because the US has relied on imported crafts and goods. I feel like this trend is starting to shift and American made goods and services are making a comeback. That's a fantastic thing.

Drop by and get to know Natalie and her products. They are made in America from American sheep and goats.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Handmade in America

I have always been a watcher. I watch everything, and it began at an early age. I remember thinking, at age 9, when the gov't reduced the amount of silver in our coins to almost nothing, that the money was almost worthless. From that point on the prices of things began to rise. I remember thinking, in high school, when Nixon took us off the gold standard, that since there was absolutely no standard for the printing of our money, that from that point on it was worth exactly what the gov't. would manipulate it to be. If they decided to print more of it, it would be worth less. If they decided to print less, it would be worth more. We were then under the whim of the gov't. To add to this, America makes almost nothing to sell to each other and to other countries, and what we do own is now micromanaged by the gov't. Those who produce handmade goods in the US experienced this in a big way this year as the hammering out of the new CPSIA regulations have been taking place. We had to fight to be able to produce anything for children at all without having to pay for outrageously expensive testing on all materials. My beef: if the offending materials come from outside the country, then why do we have to pay for it. Why not do the testing at the ports, and make the offending companies pay for it. Not feasible you say, I say it's more feasible than making every small business or crafter in this country pay to have it done every time a new batch of materials is purchased. After all, these companies make millions on sweatshop labor, and flood our market with cheap goods that become a lot more expensive because our sellers have to pay for the testing of their harmful products. I have to ask, if the price of children's products are going to sky rocket (and they will) as soon as, CPSIA is fully in effect, then why not spend the same money on a domestic handmade product. This country might even be allowed to produce again on a large scale.

I don't grieve over imports but, to have an economy that will thrive, you have to make something to sell. Since, we buy so much that comes from sweatshops, we are use to paying little for what we have. The only problem with that is that since we have little industry to make our money with, and the money we do make has been long spent by the gov't, their only answer is to print more causing us to spend more for everything. My answer to this is to buy made in America. Imports are not bad, but we must have some support for our own industry.

Since, I am not a person capable of starting a manufacturing plant in this country, my answer is to make what I can with my own two hands, and sell, or trade it to someone in this country or another. The point is that it was made in this country. I have always enjoyed using beautiful yarns made in other countries, and at times will continue to do so. But, I have made this decision: I will begin to buy yarns made in this country. Since there is only one place in this country that manufactures yarn, I will buy from them, or HANDMADE IN AMERICA by someone who spins.

There are many venues now to buy handmade. If you click on this blog title, it will take you to my shop. If I don't have anything you like, you can find almost anything on Etsy. And, just to list a few, there are Artfire, Zibbet, Cargoh, and more. You don't have to buy handmade (although it's almost all we have left), but buy American. I invite anyone who makes products in this country to post your business name and product in the comments section. If you are looking for made in America check out those who list their businesses in the comments. In the future, I am going to be blogging about made in America businesses. If you come across businesses handmade or otherwise list them in the comments. I will blog about some of them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Etsy Knitters and Crocheters on Parade

Bobbi of Kitty Grrlz makes bright, colorful novelty and art yarns. When I browse her yarn shop, I feel like a kid in a candy store. She also has a shop full of beautiful knitted items made from her beautiful yarns.

Tell us how and when you learned to knit

I learned how to knit at the DIY Trunk Show in Chicago, Illinois ( I was making jewelry at the time and did the show as the "Crafty Librarians". I had beautiful items from several librarians from across the country! It was a great show and I learned how to knit there.

The local Stitch n Bitch group was giving lessons up on the stage in the Auditorium. Our spot was very near there and since it is was quiet at first (and, a fellow librarian was there helping me) I went up to get my free lesson. They provided acrylic yarn and metal needles. They showed the cast on and then the knitting. I was all thumbs, seriously. I never thought I would get it! I felt like an idiot and was sure the girl trying to teach me thought I was too. BUT . . . when I got home I went out and bought some purple yarn (they had given me yellow, not really my favorite color) and started knitting. I just knit and knit and knit . . . I ended up knitting a long rectangular object that today most resembles a table runner (yes, I do still have it!).

THAT was the beginning. I jumped into knitting full speed ahead and by the next year at the very same show (2005 DIY Trunk Show), I was there with HAND KNIT items. Lots of them. AND, I wore the SWEATER that I knit. I still have that sweater and try to wear it to shows (though it doesn't fit as well as it did back then - I think it's time for me to knit a NEW sweater!)

You spin your own yarns, which are your favorite to work with?

My favorite fibers to work with are soft wools like merino and merino blends. I love merino/silk but lately have also really enjoyed spinning merino/tencel - the tencel adds a bit of shine to it but is still very soft. I enjoy spinning bamboo, too, because it is so soft and smooth. Sometimes spinning wool is tough on my hands, but the bamboo just slides and slips right through. My favorite yarns to spin are my "FunctionArt" art yarns, because I really get to play with colors and textures. I also get to use my large stash of novelty and specialty yarns for these types of yarns. (You can see them here - )
Really, though, I love spinning all types and like to go back and forth for variety.

Would you rather spin, or knit?

Most of the time, I think I'd rather spin, but there are times where I get into the "knitting zone" and all I want to do is knit. This usually happens in early Fall, or sometimes, in the middle of summer. I don't remember if it was last summer or the summer before, but I just started knitting, even though it was June/July. I knit up a bunch of my art yarns into cowls/neckwarmers, which are my favorite thing to knit since they are fairly fast and I don't have to do anything too fancy - the art yarn does it for me. Right now, though, I'm definitely in a spinning mode as I'm preparing for a big show in July (Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair - )

If you could live in any time period, what would it be and why?

Hmm, when I was in college the answer to this would have been the 60s because of the music and all that was going on at the time. But, now, I'm not sure. I'd probably be pretty content just living in THIS time. (The odd point is that if I *could* I'd just like to go back to my college years - the early 90s! Better music, less responsibility. ;) )

Tell us about Bug Juice.

Bug Juice is my boss! No, just kidding. She thinks she is, though. She is my second cat and one of the reasons for my name - Kitty Grrlz. When I was in college, I had a cat named Jinx, and she was the original Kitty GRRl, but then when I was working out in Roseburg, Oregon, the director brought a kitten into the library - a stray that she found by her house but couldn't take in since she had several cats already. The director was hoping to find a home for this stray kitten and even though I knew Jinx wouldn't be happy, I brought her home. That's how the Kitty Grrl became Kitty GrrlZ - and Bug Juice joined our household. I don't know what I would do without her - she keeps me company while I spin late into the night - her favorite spot is underneath my spinning chair. (You can see pictures of them both here -

You can get to Bobbi's shop by clicking on the title "Etsy Knitters and Crocheters on Parade. But you can get to her Etsy knit shop here. Her blog and her website Please do check them all out.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Etsy Knitters and Crocheters on Parade

Have you ever thought that you would like to keep your laptop looking really good? Well, Brenna, of Raven Haired did, and it took her into a new world. After getting to know her, check out her shop by clicking on the title "Etsy Knitters and Crocheter on Parade."

Your profile says you knit for family and friends. What do you make for them?

When I was first learning all I would make were scarves. Then I eventually branched out and started to make gloves and mittens, little stuffed animals and colorful blankets.

How did you come to the idea of making laptop sleeves?

On my last job my old laptop broke and I had to hurry and get a new one for work. The work I was doing was a lot of long hours and traveling. I was always on the go and often tired and it seemed like my lovely new laptop was always in danger of being dropped or getting scratched when I shoved it in my bag. A laptop is an expensive investment and I wanted to keep mine in good condition so soon enough I found some time to knit myself a sleeve for my laptop. Not long after that my friends and co-workers started to notice and ask me where I got it. The next thing I knew I had discovered Etsy and decided to give my little shop idea a try.

Do you sell your items on other venues, beside online?

I don't, yet. I have considered getting involved at art fairs and such but for know I'm just concentrating on promoting my shop online.

What interests you beside knitting and crochet?
So many things, but I have to say my passion next to knitting would have to be food. I love to cook and to grow my own food. And I love to eat, of course. Right now I'm living in an apartment with a small patio and it is covered with pots of herbs and peppers and lettuce.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

There are too many wonderful places in the world to choose just one. Hopefully throughout my life I'll get to try many new places but for now I'm thoroughly enjoying life in Fort Wayne, IN. It's finally warm here, my boyfriend and I are loving all of the great farmers markets and two wonderful yarn shops. What more could a girl want?

Lol, a local yarn shop does go a long way to make us happy!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Etsy Knitters and Crocheters on Parade

I really enjoy the amigarumi of many of our Etsy knitters, and that includes those featured in Bonnie Limberg's shop BL Beans. She also has terrific bags and purses. You can browse her shop by clicking on the title Etsy Knitters and Crocheters on Parade.I think you will like it as much as I did.

Your profile says that your grandmother taught you to crochet when you were nine years old. What was it that inspired you to take up knitting?

Actually it was my mom that taught me crochet at the age of 9. She did tatting too but I never got around to learning that before she passed away. My knitting started with a neighborhood mom that was taking a night class in beginning knitting. I was friends with her daughter and she taught us both as she was learning. I was about 13 years old then and I really liked working with 2 needles opposed to one. A little challenging at first trying to get my stitches so they didn't squeak when moving across the needles. My knitting was just a little too tight at first. With practice I got the hang of it. Once I started with baby booties it was on to baby sweaters, hats, mittens, scarves and adult sweaters. I like creating something plus it is relaxing for me.

What is your favorite fibre and why?

Favorite fiber..........that is a good question. I enjoy crochet and knit and I really like wool because of it's felting ability and end result from the hot water soaking. But for the feel and flow of the yarn in my hands as I work it I would have to say a yarn called I Love This Yarn. I find it at Hobby Lobby and it is so very soft to the touch and a dream to work with when I'm making critters/animals or sweaters for the grandkids.

What keeps you busy outside of knitting?

Besides knitting I enjoy reading by a variety of authors such as Dan Brown, Vince Flynn, Kathy Reich, Dr. David Jeremiah (to name a few) you can tell my reading varies mostly by mood and interest at the time. I love spending time with my grandchildren, all 6 of them, and being an active part of Celebrate Recovery/GriefShare at my church. Getting together with friends for dinner and coffee is a weekly occurrence, plus my weekly knitting group, a small Bible study group for new believers, and soon it will be gardening season here in southeastern Wisconsin. Grass cutting season is already upon us and I really LOVE cutting grass. I get out my iPod with my tunes, my ear protection, sun-visor, sunscreen, water bottle, and then it's just me and the lawn tractor for about 2 1/2 hours. Good thing the neighbors can't hear my singing over the lawnmower. Me, Abba and the open yard.......bring it on!

If you could change anything, what would it be and why?

What's with the hard question here? Ok, what would I husband. Now don't take that the wrong way. My husband is the love of my life and it took me way too long to find him. He has health issues that prevent him from doing things we would like to do like traveling and going for long walks. My life is very good and very blessed, but my husband being able to travel and walk with me ........well that would just be the icing on the cake for me and him.

What prompted you to start an Etsy shop?

My shop interest started about 3 years ago when I had been knitting more again and started making felted purses. I gave a few away as gifts and one of my friends said why not sell them. When I was getting compliments from strangers on my own felted purse, it was time to take the advice of my friends. After some thought and internet searching I came across the Etsy website. I couldn't believe there was such a place and the number of artisans on it was mind blowing. After checking Etsy out further and really liking what I saw I was ready to take the plunge. In Fall of 2009 I was finally ready to launch BL Beans.

And I am so glad that you did, Bonnie. Your knit and crocheted items are beautiful