What to stash this week: Harry Potter in NOLA

Aside from dyeing bright and cheerful NOLA colorways, Robyn of TeenyButton Studio also has a geeky side. Her latest offering is a Harry Potter Yarn of the Month Club — you pick your base and Robyn sends the yarn, with a colorway that will be exclusive for three months, or that will disappear from her lineup entirely.

Sarah of One Hand in the Dyepots has updated her shop with two new colorways. Above is Smokey Aubergine, a moody pink, purple and grey. There’s also Quantum, which uses a tie dye technique. 

The annual April knit along is going on in the Elliebelly Dye Works group on Ravelry.

Untangling: Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia, author of ‘Dyeing to Spin & Knit’

Felicia Lo started SweetGeorgia Yarns in 2005 like many indies, listing a batch of her hand-dyed skeins on Etsy, the handmade marketplace that had also just launched. She eventually turned SweetGeorgia from a one-woman show into one of the best known artisan yarn companies.

While leading the SweetGeorgia team, Felicia has been traveling to share her wisdom with a new generation of indies — I was fortunate enough to take one of her classes at Vogue Knitting Live NYC back in January. She also recently published Dyeing to Spin & Knit (disclosure: this is an Amazon affiliate link), a comprehensive guide to color and dyeing techniques for yarn and fiber, and how best to use these works of art in your projects.

The book is a must read for anyone venturing into dyeing, as an expansion on, or alternative to, Felicia’s classes. It is also a fascinating look at how your favorite skeins come to life. Aside from a guide to dyes, dyeing safety and measurements, there are tutorials on specific techniques, including immersion dyeing, to produce semisolid colors, and low-water immersion dyeing, used to get gently variegated skeins. The book also includes a section on spinning techniques and — bonus! — several knitting patterns that work well with hand-dyed yarn.

I had the opportunity to ask Felicia some questions about the book and her journey from indie to “mega indie.”

What inspired you to start dyeing yarn?

I came to dyeing after I learned to spin my own yarn and so really, I was first inspired to dye wool fibre. All the spinning fibre that was available to me locally was ecru or raw, undyed, and I couldn’t fathom spinning yarn that was devoid of colour. I tried buying some dyed fibre off Ebay early on because Etsy didn’t exist yet and had a terrible experience of it. So I figured I had to teach myself how to put colour on fibre myself. I started blogging about dyeing fibre and then quickly moved to dyeing yarn as well.

Low-water immersion dyeing.

How did this book come about?

It’s been on my mind for years and years that I’d like to write a book about colour and textiles but it was always the wrong timing or exact topic was eluding me. So when Kerry Bogert, the acquisitions editor at Interweave Press, approached me about writing a book, it was the perfect timing and she helped me see how I could contribute my voice to this beautiful and creative industry.

What do you think it adds that other yarn and fiber dyeing tutorials are missing?

It’s true, you can absolutely learn to dye yarn and fibre from online tutorials and blogs, but often those resources only provide you with simplified instructions without a great deal of insight into why we do things a certain way. Coming from both a science background (I studied Pharmaceutical Sciences in University) as well as an arts background (I studied and worked in graphic design for over 10 years), I love combining the analytical with the aesthetic. So this book shows how you can get significantly different appearances to your hand-dyed yarns simply by changing different variables in your dye process like modifying the volume of water or changing the time at which you add the acid to the dyepot. Seemingly insignificant choices can produce significantly different results. I go into great depth to show those experiments.

Heat setting a skein dyed in sections.

When you started the book, were you worried about creating competition from new dyers?

I truly, truly believe that being worried about creating competition is a symptom of a scarcity mindset and have tried to live and work in a way where I share my knowledge generously with the community. These fibre arts need us to teach each other, share our experiences, and grow the knowledge base in order to endure. It is my heart that we encourage each other to become new dyers, new spinners, new knitters, or new weavers. Only then can we all experience the joy that colour and craft can bring.

What would you say has led SweetGeorgia to stand out in the fiber industry?

Over the years, SweetGeorgia has become known for rich, vibrant, and stunningly saturated hand-dyed colour. Even though dyeing trends come and go, it is my hope that SweetGeorgia also is known for our commitment to producing truly excellent handcraft colour. What I mean is not just colour that captivates but also colour that is consistent from batch to batch and colour that performs reliably in washing and wearing. I think, ultimately, if we stand out in the fibre industry, I hope it is because pursue our dye work passionately and professionally.

At the start of your book, you recount many of your own “color stories.” Do you have a favorite color, or favorite colors, and how has dyeing changed them?

I do have a thing for fuschias and plummy purples… but then I also have a thing for harvest gold and olive greens… and also limey chartreuse… and sea glass aqua. There are just too many colours that I love. But dyeing my own colours has allowed me to deconstruct colours into layers of other hues and rebuild them in a more engaging way.

What have been some of your inspirations when creating colors for SweetGeorgia?

Always music. Since the beginning, I’ve always been inspired by songs or bands and live music, especially. But I’ve also been enamored with telling stories through colour… ideas like, how do you tell the story of unrequited love through a colourway? How do you express wistfulness or longing in a colourway? Those kinds of things keep me going. For me, it’s not about creating pretty colour. It’s really about using colour to communicate a message.

Can you explain your role at the company and what a typical day is like (if there is such a thing!)?

Since I founded SweetGeorgia in 2005, my role has evolved and I’ve gone from being a one-woman show where I did all the dyeing, bookkeeping, website design, customer service, emails, and twisting, tagging, and packaging yarns (phew) to leading a team of amazing artisans and creative people in this fibre arts adventure. My official title is “Creative Director” so that encompasses my work in designing new yarns, colourways, and palettes for each season as well as coordinating with team on our knitwear design collections, trade shows, and marketing work. There is no typical day, between juggling two kids, working on our podcast, writing blog posts and plans, and communicating with our team from my home office, every day is different!

What to stash this week if you’re not in Edinburgh

The folks over at Siidegarte have made up for you missing out on the Edin Yarn Fest and the Find Your Fade craze. They’ve curated three Find Your Fade kits that include seven 90g skeins of their gorgeous silk-infused yarn. The kits are available on three different bases, using both existing Siidegarte colourways and a few special edition ones. And there’s a discount, this weekend only!

Sheila and Lance of BigFootFibershave stocked their shop full of spring colors (it might be snowing in the Northeast today, but it felt like spring earlier this week!) including Robyn’s Egg, St. Patrick’s Day, and some Rainbow mini and mega mini skein sets.

Because who can resist something called a llamicorn, Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has her fun Pink Fluffy Llamicorns colorway available to pre-order through Sunday, March 19 at 8 p.m. Eastern. Plus, every customer gets a free Pink Fluffy Llamicorn stitch marker!

Socktastic, Lara Smoot’s latest sock pattern, was so addictive that it converted even her most sock-reticent test knitter, the lovely Michelle of Berry Colorful Yarnings. Use coupon code SisterlyLove for 40% off the pattern through March 15th.

Zombies are appropriate for any time of year, not just a certain holiday in October. My Mama Knits’ Zombie-themed yarns are now available on a variety of Superwash bases in varying weights, including DK and sock.

The latest from Stillwater Designs, Salt Pond, is a top-down crescent shawl worked with alternating sections of garter and slip stitch, framed by a simple eyelet border and inspired by the salt pond at Point Judith, RI.

What to stash this week: Spotted in the wild

I am one of the first to spread the word of Etsy and Indie Untangled newcomer BigFootFibers. This true mom and pop operation was recently launched by Sheila and Lance of Tulsa, Oklahoma, after they began dreaming about it last summer. They have both bright and springy, as well as rich and moody, semisolid and variagated colors available on bases like Yeti and Sasquatch Sock.

Ann Tudor has been crafting some seasonally appropriate stitch markers, including these adorable fish, which should help your next project come along swimmingly. To be really on the ball, go with her St. Patrick’s Day and Easter designs. 

Speaking of Easter, if you’re happy that it’s Peeps season, then you’ll really love Lara Smoot’s latest sock pattern.

Introducing Black Wolf Ranch, with Alpaca, Merino, Cormo and BFL yarns made with fiber from the ranch and others throughout Montana.

One Hand in the Dyepots has has added four new colorways to the Etsy shop.

The Yoshi & Lucy shop is stocked with spring-inspired yarns.

Inside the Asylum Fibers launch

A few weeks ago, my friend Stephanie invited me to a super-secret party, only revealing a couple of weeks before that this party was for the launch of her new hand-dyed yarn business! Last Friday, I joined a group of knitters to count down to the opening of the online shop for Asylum Fibers.

Backing up a bit, Stephanie (who has a fascinating background as an opera singer) organizes one of the New York City knitting groups I’ve been going to for the past couple of years, and has been teaching the group workshops on brioche and two-at-a-time socks. Last year, she started holding dye parties in her apartment, which I wrote about here. Once she had the equipment and ingredients on hand, she dove into dyeing headfirst.

What’s the meaning behind the name Asylum Fibers? Stephanie explains on her website:

One of my favorite quotes came from Marilyn Monroe – “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” While I believe this applies to people, I also think these statements suit hand dyed yarn magnificently. As your dyer, I fully intend to maintain my status as some combination of mad and ridiculous, and my aim is to give you asylum, using the most beautifully imperfect yarn.

There’s even a vinyl decal of the Marilyn quote on Stephanie’s wall that I wish I’d taken a picture of.

It was kind of cool to get a behind the scenes look at one of the shop updates that dyers regularly post about on Indie Untangled. And it came with some definite perks. Before the countdown to the opening of Asylum Fibers began, I and my fellow guests got to do a little pre-shopping. I focused on Stephanie’s non-repeatable Chaos colors, picking up this beauty on a light fingering weight.

After stuffing our stashes, and our faces with delicious pulled pork and cornbread, Stephanie gave each of us a massive faux plastic syringe filled with (an also pretty massive) Jello shot to celebrate as she opened her virtual doors.

The orders started coming in, including from some of my knitting friends and newsletter subscribers, and Stephanie even sold out of a lot of her Choas colors. I had my eye on a few of her repeatable colors, especially on her Funny Farm MCN base. But I do know where she lives…

What to stash this week: Mad for yarn

Get ready — tonight, at 10 p.m. Eastern, is the launch of Asylum Fibers. Stephanie, who organizes one of my knitting groups here in NYC, hand dyes semisolid, variegated, speckled self-striping and ombre colorways. Some will be non-repeatable “Chaos Colorways,” while there will also be zany regulars, with names like Bad Bad Girl, Hydrotherapy, Moody, and The Shower Scene.

Sandpiper Socks, Barbara Benson’s first ever sock pattern, has a very clever construction, using variegated yarn with a contrasting color that allows the complex colors to really sing.

Keya’s new Ripple Socks feature a lacy pattern that happens to be stretchy. These socks also holds their own against the randomness of variegated hand-dyed yarns.

This new diaper cover pattern from Knit Eco Chic is inspired by a knitting-related verse in a sacred song.

Indie Untangled newcomer One Hand in the Dyepot has a science-y approach to her work.

Another IU newbie is actually two — mother-daughter dye team Legacy Fiber Artz, with yarns inspired by television shows, movies and more.

Select yarns in the Dye is Cast Yarns Etsy shop are 20% off.

Elliebelly Dye Works has a new base that’s 65% Superwash Merino, 20% Silk and 15% yak.

IU on the road: Lisbon’s Retrosaria Rosa Pomar

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I’m sure it’s no surprise that after learning that I would be visiting Lisbon, Portugal, in early February, I headed to Google to scope out the yarn scene there. Through my research, I learned that the place to go was Retrosaria Rosa Pomar. I checked out the location, bookmarked the site and filed the information away.

After seeing our packed itinerary — which included trips to the Jerónimos Monastery, Pasteis de Belem for the famous custard tarts, the Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and Pena Palace — I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it but, after an inaugural tram tour around the city, the group was leaving to check into the hotel and we had some free time before dinner. I realized, with a quick consult of Google Maps, that the tram let us off on Rua do Loreto, right down the street from the shop. (Incidentally, while we were on the tram, one of the women in our group spotted another retrosaria, the Portuguese name for a haberdashery, and of course let me know — I was the knitter on the trip.)

Rosa Pomar opened her namesake shop in a former mannequin factory in 2009. It dovetails nicely with her work researching Portuguese textiles and is beautifully curated, with a mix of fabric, ribbon, notions, tools and, of course, yarn.

Much of the yarn here comes from some of the 14 breeds of Portuguese sheep, developed via collaboration with small factories and breeders associations; some are also handspun in small villages around the country. While some of the yarn felt sheep-y (read: rough for my somewhat princess-y skin) I was particularly drawn to the Beiroa, a DK-weight yarn made from the wool of the Bordaleira Serra da Estrela sheep, with a beautiful marled look and a promise of post-blocking softness, and the Zagal, a soft Portuguese Merino wool that Rosa designed a hat for, with a simple colorwork pattern inspired by a traditional handwoven blanket.

Gorgeous and inspiring colorwork samples filled the shop, and there was also a nice selection of books from some familiar faces, as well as Rosa herself. What also struck me were the yarn tags and ball bands, many of which featured illustrations.

Aside from yarn, I also took home a beautiful handwoven rag pillowcase (the exact one in the photo), made in Portugal out of old clothing. I was bummed that the shop had sold out of the tote bags with an original illustration found on the tag for the shop’s Larada yarn.

While I am so glad I paid this shop a visit — I could have spent all afternoon here — I was bummed that I didn’t get to meet Rosa herself, who is busy managing both the shop and a toddler. For now, I’ll just lose myself, and revisit Lisbon, via her Instagram feed.

What to stash this week: Anybody want a peanut?

It’s inconceivable that there are still Princess Bride bags and accessories available from Slipped Stitch Studios.

You bullet journalers will appreciate the new base from With Pointed Sticks. Fountain Pen, named after the height of luxury in writing instruments, is a blend of 70% Superwash Merino, 20% silk and 10% Cashmere. Susan’s also running an Instagram giveaway that ends today.

Just in time for the official start of baseball season (meaning spring training) Lindsay’s Pitch Cowl is a blend of triangles and parallelograms that recalls baseball stripes. A video tutorial is available for the more challenging bits.

Margaret of French Market Fibers is closing shop (::sob::) and is having the first of her final updates today at 11 a.m. Central. 

Check out the new Sand Layers Shawl kit from Bijou Basin Ranch.

IU newcomer Andre Sue Knits creates artsy painted sock blanks that provides a beautiful yet unpredictable colorway for your project.

IU on the road: A trip to London’s Loop yarn shop

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to visit London and Lisbon, joining my mother-in-law and more than two dozen of her friends on their annual ladies trip. Our itinerary was jam packed with museum and gallery visits (including the phenomenal Picasso Portraits exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery and Anselm Kiefer’s haunting Walhalla at the White Cube), but I couldn’t make it across the pond without seeing the yarny sites.

I hadn’t been back to London in 15 years, since I spent a semester there through the Friends World Program, now called LIU Global. I was certainly seeing a different side to the city, especially since I didn’t know how to knit back then.

After arriving at Heathrow Friday morning, one of the first things I did, after checking into the hotel, freshening up and getting a UK SIM card for my iPhone, was hop on the Tube and head to Islington, home to Loop, which is the London yarn shop to visit, especially if you’re an indie-obsessed knitter. Conveniently, shortly before my trip, Loop’s owner, Susan Cropper, published a London guide for knitters on Mason Dixon Knitting.

Before I left, I made sure to check out Loop’s website so I could strategically plan my shopping, for which I knew I’d have a short window (because we all know you can spend ages poking around yarn shops). It was there I discovered my first London souvenir: Viola yarn in a speckled pinkish purple dyed exclusively for Loop. It may seem strange to travel to London just to buy yarn from a dyer in Canada, but as Emily of Viola has a history in the UK, having done an apprenticeship at John Arbon Textiles in North Devon, it seemed a fitting purchase. Plus, it was exclusive!

I’ll likely be using it to knit Meghan Fernandes’s Wreath Shawl, designed exclusively for Loop for its 10-year anniversary in 2015.

With my yarn purchased ahead of time and waiting for me at the shop, I could focus on exploring. What first caught my eye were the cute drawstring project bags, in fun, bright colors, stamped with the Loop logo.

Then, I took in all the yarn from my indie favorites scattered around the shop. Among the familiar faces/labels were goodies from The Uncommon Thread and Eden Cottage, both based in the UK, and Germany’s DyeForYarn and Wollmeise.

I enjoyed taking in the shop’s overall aesthetic, which was very cozy, crafty, warm and welcoming.

At the end of my visit, I got to speak to Susan, who coincidentally grew up not very far from where I live now in Brooklyn! She has created one of my dream yarn shops, and I’m so glad I could pop in during my trip.

Next week, you’ll get to travel with me to Lisbon, where I made another great yarny discovery…

What to stash this week: Yarn love

Fides and Gaby at Siidegarte have released a limited edition Valentine’s Day colorway that is only available through February 19. The rose-inspired color — blush pink, mixed with an almost lilac silver and a tiny bit of green — is available on three bases: the laceweight Siide-Füürneem, a blend of silk and Royal Alpaca; Siide-Fideel, a silk/Merino fingering weight; and Siide-Liind, a mix of fine silk and Merino, combined with SeaCell.

Speaking of love, Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has special Outlander Wedding kits available for preorder through Feb. 19. The kits, inspired by the love shared between Jamie and Claire, contain a skein of Snug light fingering in the Tartan colorway, a project bag by Debra of Addicted to Sock Knitting in special Outlander Wedding fabric designed by Julia and a matching notions tin.

Aside from collaborating with Casapinka on her latest shawl design, Gray Area, and getting ready for upcoming shows, including Stitches West, Sue of Invictus Yarns has created a special colorway for Sock Madness.

Lindsay of Knit Eco Chic’s latest design, Alternating Paths, is a cozy cabled sweater that will keep you beautifully toasty during these winter months. It’s worked seamlessly, with some room for customization.

Picking complementary colors is a no brainer with Bijou Basin Ranch’s latest Master Color Series.

Sound of Music fans, this new club from Go Knit Yourself is for you.

Wild Hair Studio’s latest shop update includes some Harry Pottery-themed goodies.