Untangling: Asylum Fibers

Last month, I got to introduce you to Asylum Fibers, a brand-new dyeing operation started by Stephanie Jones, who I met via the knitting group she organizes here in New York City. I wanted to know a little more behind her inspiration for this new craft biz and share her story.

As I mentioned in my post about getting a behind the scenes look at her first shop update, Stephanie, who hails from Maine and now lives in Queens, N.Y., has a background as an opera singer — I actually got to see her perform a year ago and she is fantastic. While making her living in finance, Stephanie uses knitting and dyeing as her main creative outlets, along with crocheting and knitting. She creates bright and complex repeatable colorways, but her signature are unpredictable Chaos colors, which are OOAK and fleeting. Here’s a little peek inside the Asylum:

What made you decide to start your own dyeing business?

I love dyeing so much, and I can’t possibly use all the yarn myself. It only made sense to put it out there and see what the community would think. Every time someone purchases a skein, I feel justified in dyeing 5 more! I get so much joy seeing others knit with my yarn, and I really can’t think of anything quite like it!

A self-striping Chaos colorway.

How do you go about creating your colorways? Do you plan your repeatables ahead of time and improvise with the Chaos colors?

For the most part, my repeatable colorways have very specific inspiration. I have a word or phrase or idea that is translated into color within my mind. The next step is figuring out the recipe. Sometimes, the yarn comes out beautiful, but it’s not what I intended. In that case, we have a chaos colorway. I’ll let you in on a secret – Chaos 75 was my first attempt at Hydrotherapy. I absolutely loved it, but it was a lot greener than I wanted Hydrotherapy to be. Not all chaos colorways are failed attempts at a new recipe, though. Many are just for fun! I do use them for experimentation and find them to be extra special, since they’re essentially “limited edition”. Every chaos colorway is made up of no more than 5 skeins, so you know you have something special.

What are your favorite colors?

This depends so much on my mood. Black and grey are essential, but I also gravitate to blue, green, purple, and pink. Some days I’m all about yellow, and sometimes orange makes me really happy. ALL OF THE COLORS!

Bad Bad Girl on Golden Rule: Merino/nylon/stellina

What projects are you currently working on with your yarn?

Aside from a whole lot of swatching as I really settle on what bases I plan to keep long term, I have a couple projects going right now. I’m designing a two color brioche cowl in the round using Bedlam, my one ply super bulky base. I’m also doing a crochet along of the Movie Night Cocoon Cardi, using Errant Aran. I’m lucky to have some friends working on samples in my yarn as well. Anne is making a Waiting for Rain shawl using Golden Rule in Bad Bad Girl, while Devon is making a lace shawl using Lunacy Lace in a OOAK color I dyed special for her. Valerie is crocheting with Golden Age and Jenn has a skein of Bedlam Ombre that is soon to be a hat! I’ve seen some Instagram friends working with my yarn as well, which is so fun. I finally have Asylum Fibers up (at least in the most basic form) on Ravelry so we can all share our stash and projects there.

How did you learn to knit?

I learned at daycare when I was very young, but really started advancing in 2012 with the inspiration and motivation from other knitters in my Meetup group. When I ran into problems, I’d check Youtube for help. Since then, I’ve taken a ton of technique classes with great teachers including Lorilee Beltman, Steven Berg, Edie Eckman, Faina Goberstein, Franklin Habit, Amy Herzog, Felicia Lo, Nancy Marchant, Kristy McGowan, Alasdair Post-Quinn, Leslye Solomon, Debbie Stoller, and Stephen West.

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

I made a pink cotton sweater for my grandmother for her 80th birthday. The pattern was Peasy by Heidi Kirrmaier and is available on Ravelry. I used Debbie Bliss Bella, which was soft and pretty, but since it didn’t have much stretch, it made my hands tire very quickly. I’m glad I made this sweater, though, because my grandmother is extra knit-worthy and wears it all the time!

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Of course I do! Dyeing and knitting definitely dominate my craft time, but I also enjoy crochet, sewing, beadwork, painting, and scrapbooking. I’m planning to try soap making soon as well.

Any future plans for Asylum Fibers you can share?

I’d like to put together some fun blog posts discussing my color inspiration. I’m also planning to take my yarn on the road in the near future. Otherwise, keep an eye out for regular shop updates, and be sure to subscribe to my mailing list if you’d like reminders!

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!

Untangling: Lara Smoot

As a designer, Lara Smoot was an “early adopter” of Indie Untangled, and I’ve loved getting word of her latest designs — from her Game of Thrones-inspired shawls to her incredible colorwork socks — on the Marketplace.

For the 2016 Where We Knit yarn club, I paired Lara up with Dami of Magpie Fibers and they came up with a simple, beach-inspired pair of mitts in an icy blue. I’m hoping to cast on soon to help me get through the winter.

I spoke to Lara about her background and how she starts work on some of her more complex pieces:

When and how did you learn to knit?

My grandmother taught me basic knitting when I was in my early teens. She didn’t teach me how to purl and I wanted the scarf that I was knitting to look smooth (stockinette) so I figured out how to knit backwards. I put my needles down after that scarf and didn’t pick knitting up again until about 12 years ago and this time it stuck!

What made you decide to become a designer?

I wanted to create something new and unique and be able to share it with other knitters. My goal is to create patterns with clear and concise directions that produce beautiful results. Knitting should be fun and I try to have that come through in my designs.

What did you do in your “pre-designer” life and how does that influence your design work?

I showed horses for many years and designed and sewed custom riding clothing during that time. Creating custom garments that fit people taught me a lot about sizing and, of course, measuring. Later on, I worked in marketing for a nationally known insurance company and after that I was the director of social media for a yarn company. Working for the yarn company taught me a lot about the yarn industry and gave me so much insight on what goes on behind the scenes.

The Game of Thrones-inspired Fire and Blood.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Oh my gosh, I’m inspired by so many things! Patterns that I see in nature, the beautiful colors in a skein of yarn, music that I’m listening to, my favorite characters in a tv series. All those things inspire me.

You seem to design in a variety of colors. Which are your favorites?

I love bright colors and speckled and variegated yarns to work with. Pinks, purples, blues and green are some of my favorites. I love gray too. It’s the perfect complementary color to go with anything bright.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

Have a big cup of coffee! All kidding aside, it depends on the project. Sometimes I start with a sketch, sometimes I swatch before I sketch. With my colorwork designs, like Shark Bite and Fright Night, I create the chart first. I have an idea of what I want the piece to look like and keep tweaking the chart until it’s what I envisioned.

The Seacoast Mitts pattern from the 2016 Where We Knit yarn club.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

At home with my pugs in my lap and a good cup of coffee or tea while watching a knitting podcast.

Untangling: Gilmore Girls knits from lisa lucia

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From left, Lucia and Lisa at extras in Luke’s Diner. Lucia almost finished knitting one of their “Split Infinitive” wrap sweaters during the full day it took to film the diner scene in the “Winter” episode.

From left, Lucia and Lisa at extras in Luke’s Diner. Lucia almost finished knitting one of their “Split Infinitive” wrap sweaters during the full day it took to film the diner scene in the “Winter” episode.

Like so many knitters I know, I was very much looking forward to the new season of Gilmore Girls that premiered on Netflix November 25th. I tried valiantly to avoid spoilers on social media as I was waiting until after I came home from a post-Thanksgiving business trip to Chicago to start watching.

Instead of plot spoilers, my social media feeds blew up with photos of, and links to, two scarves worn by Rory and Paris in the first episode. I soon learned that two Chicago-based designers — Lisa Whiting and Lucia Blanchet of lisa lucia — had connected with Brenda Maben, the Gilmore Girls costume designer, who commissioned the designs, Dots & Dashes and Eponymuff. I had to learn more.

Since I was, coincidentally, in Chicago, I thought I’d be able to meet Lisa and Lucia for coffee at Lukes somewhere in the city last Monday, but they were busy launching kits for their patterns that evening. So, instead, I emailed them some questions and they filled me in on their whirlwind experience, with a written back and forth reminiscent of GG creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s rat-a-tat dialogue.

lisa-lucia-logo

Tell me how this collaboration came about. How did you meet Gilmore Girls costume designer Brenda Maben?

Lucia: Lisa met her first — she was a regular at the LYS Lisa owned in Chicago, Sifu Design Studio & Fine Yarns, which is also where Lisa and I met as well. I don’t remember exactly when I met Brenda, but I hadn’t been teaching/working at the shop for long before I began to look forward to buckets of tea and yarn talk with Brenda around our scarred green work table.

Brenda and Lisa, taking selfies in the shop.

Brenda and Lisa, taking selfies in the shop.

Lisa: I remember exactly when I met Brenda. It was at my first Sifu location in Andersonville. She came in wanting help with a project and she sat down at that same green table and we got to chatting. She was in town for a family gathering. At this point she was living in LA working on several different TV shows. We hit it off immediately. She was mostly living in LA at that point but when she made the permanent move to Chicago, Brenda started visiting us regularly at our Edgewater location.

Cell phone photos that Brenda sent Lisa and Lucia from set. Note: Rory’s “Dots & Dashes” scarf was originally knit in Mirasol Miski yarn in “Misty Grey” and “Denim,” but these colorways have since been discontinued. For the kits, they have substituted this with The Fibre Co.’s Knightsbridge, a llama/wool/silk blend.

Cell phone photos that Brenda sent Lisa and Lucia from set. Note: Rory’s “Dots & Dashes” scarf was originally knit in Mirasol Miski yarn in “Misty Grey” and “Denim,” but these colorways have since been discontinued. For the kits, they have substituted this with The Fibre Co.’s Knightsbridge, a llama/wool/silk blend.

laine

What was it like to see your designs on the small screen?

Lucia: Oh, it was pretty exciting, but not as surreal as it was to see them on the actors on set. Lisa has a good story…

Lisa: We were on set standing outside Luke’s diner waiting to be seated in our spots and up walks Liza Weil and I gasped. Not because it was her, but because she was wearing our scarf and it looked so good on her. Then I realized that she was smiling and nodding at me. I was so embarrassed thinking she might think I was some weird fangirl that I turned to Lucia with my face all beet red. Later, Brenda told me that she was acknowledging me as the designer of the scarf. I was bowled over!

Paris’s “Eponymuff” was knit with The Fibre Co.’s Road to China light in “Tanzanite” and “Topaz.”

Paris’s “Eponymuff” was knit with The Fibre Co.’s Road to China light in “Tanzanite” and “Topaz.”

Lucia: I’ll add that I also got a real thrill out of seeing our pieces hung up and labeled with our brand name in the costume department, because at that point, they were the very first products that “lisa lucia” had ever sold. We were really in just the planning stages of creating the business in the fall of 2015 when Brenda said she wanted to feature some of our stuff in the show. We still hadn’t even closed Lisa’s yarn shop yet! So things got super-accelerated all of a sudden because the show started filming in February immediately after the store closed so during that January, I personally knit four of the six pieces commissioned for the show myself while Lisa dealt with most of…everything else, including making sure I ate regularly.

In addition to the three pieces that made it into the final cut of the show — “Eponymuff,” “Dots & Dashes,” and Lane’s “Jumbo Coffee Sweater” — Brenda also bought three other sweaters from Lisa Lucia, including their “Split Infinitive” wrap sweater (the pattern for which is already available on Ravelry & was Yarnbox’s “Luxe” box kit for the month of November) as well as two others which are upcoming in the New Year.

In addition to the three pieces that made it into the final cut of the show — “Eponymuff,” “Dots & Dashes,” and Lane’s “Jumbo Coffee Sweater” — Brenda also bought three other sweaters from Lisa Lucia, including their “Split Infinitive” wrap sweater (the pattern for which is already available on Ravelry & was Yarnbox’s “Luxe” box kit for the month of November) as well as two others which are upcoming in the New Year.

Lucia: So anyway, while it was indescribably cool to see our pieces on the set and on-screen, I’m also really looking forward to seeing finished objects of these patterns knit by people we’ve never met.

Did the characters of Rory and Paris inspire the designs and the colors you chose?

Lucia: Well, it was more like the pieces were inspired by the show aesthetic in general, because they didn’t all end up where we thought they would. “Dots & Dashes,” for example, was originally supposed to be Lorelai’s, I think, though it totally makes sense that it would end up on Rory in that case. Brenda picked pieces out of our portfolio, some of which we came up with before we heard about GG, some of which emerged in the weeks immediately after we got that news, and in at least one case (Dots), Lisa first drew it up on scrap paper while Brenda was in the room.

Proto-”Dots & Dashes” sketch. Brenda opted for the blue/gray option.

Proto-”Dots & Dashes” sketch. Brenda opted for the blue/gray option.

Lisa: We had a very grammar/language-themed collection because of the quick witty banter that happens on the show. “Dots & Dashes” was because of the telegraph style speech patterns between characters. And “Eponymuff” was named in honor of Lorelai naming Rory after herself. And seriously, how could we not do a giant coffee mug on a sweater? We both are fueled by caffeine so we relate heavily to the necessity for coffee in one’s life!

Lucia: Oh yeah, and we also picked the color scheme for the “Jumbo Coffee Sweater” based on the interior set of Luke’s Diner and made it an intarsia raglan as a nod to Lorelai’s fondness for baseball tees. While the sweater I made for the show was knit out of Cascade 220 that we had on hand, some of those colors are now discontinued and since we’re also invested in supporting other independent fiber artists, for our upcoming (mid-December) kit we commissioned Michelle Kaston of Essential Fiber to custom dye yarn for us. Something else that’s great about this collaboration is that since three of the colors are used only for the duplicate-stitch detailing, Michelle is making mini-skeins for our kits to reduce waste and bring down material costs for both us and the consumer.

Original “Jumbo Coffee Sweater” sketch.

Original “Jumbo Coffee Sweater” sketch.

Lisa and Lucia’s friend Sian de Freyssinet modeling the kit version of “Jumbo Coffee Sweater.” Photo by Kim Saar Richardson.

Lisa and Lucia’s friend Sian de Freyssinet modeling the kit version of “Jumbo Coffee Sweater.” Photo by Kim Saar Richardson.

Lucia: The timing was all so whirlwind, and didn’t always match up, so things happened like we came up with a bunch of cute, food-themed pieces inspired by Sookie before it looked like Melissa McCarthy wasn’t going to be in the Revival, but by the time she signed on, it was too late to get those into production in time. And Brenda was considering this one really fitted, vintage-inspired sweater of ours for Rory, but Alexis was pregnant up until really soon before shooting began so we couldn’t get accurate measurements in time. As a result of things like that, a fair amount of what we’ve got upcoming will be Gilmore-inspired to some degree, since as other knitwear designers will probably agree, having the image of something in your mind – or even on paper – is just the bare beginning of all the work it takes to translate that into an actual garment much less a fully fleshed-out knitting pattern.

Do you know if any members of the cast or crew of Gilmore Girls are knitters?

Lucia: Well, Brenda, obviously.

Lisa: Alexis Bledel’s mom.

Lucia: She’s not a crew member obviously, but one of the sweetest things that happened while we were on set was when Alexis came up to a table where Lisa and I were knitting and asked to take a picture of us and our knitting to send to her mom. We are actually going to be doing an interview with Brenda soon specifically about the knitting episode so we’ll find out more then, but she has told us that that episode was basically a gift to her from the producers and that a bunch of the “knitting extras” in that episode were her friends.

Lisa: I would love to do a video interview of all three of us knitting.

Lorelai Gilmore wearing one of her signature baseball tees in an early-season Luke’s Diner scene.

Lorelai Gilmore wearing one of her signature baseball tees in an early-season Luke’s Diner scene.

Who are each of your favorite Gilmore Girls characters?

Lucia: This is a hard question! Hmmm, my favorite character whose last name isn’t Gilmore is probably Paris. I love “difficult” female characters and complicated, nuanced relationships between women in my fiction (Sookie, Lane and Mrs. Kim are also in the running).

Lisa: I actually didn’t watch GG as religiously as Lucia did. I watched it if it was on but I didn’t have two different VCR players recording Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the same time like Lucia did.

Lucia: Heh. Yeah, I was not messing around. Side note: I actually wrote my undergrad thesis about serial television narrative and the emergence of DVD box sets and Netflix back before streaming video.

Lisa: NERD. Anyway, I would say my favorite character now is Paris or Sookie. As a big girl, I tend to gravitate toward actresses who are bigger because it wasn’t always socially acceptable to be thickums. I like hearing the voices of beautiful funny rubenesque women.

Lucia: Me too, sweetheart.

Um, what else? My answer to the question that always comes up when people talk about GG – who should Rory end up with? – is multipart: a) I don’t really care, because the primary relationship for me on the show has always been between Rory and Lorelai; but, b) If I did care, I’d say Paris! In a different way, my favorite “character” is actually the town of Stars Hollow, because I grew up in a really small New England town (Marlboro, VT, population: 978) filled with eccentric weirdos and Gilmore Girls started airing the same year I moved across the country to go to the University of CA, Santa Cruz, so it was kind of a weekly tonic for my homesickness.

Lisa: Hence the videotaping!

Tell me about your design partnership and how it works.

Lucia: That’s evolving as we transition from the roots of our friendship and how we worked together in the store. It’s definitely entwined with both similarities and differences in our aesthetics, personality, strengths, etc.  

Lisa: We both have ADD/ADHD and for me specifically, I find working with another person increases my productivity because I am distracted less. We bounce ideas off each other. I have a fine art degree and have been in the creative pursuits my entire life. Lucia is, on the other hand, more academic. She is a literary genius and the best pattern editor I have ever met in person. Our aesthetic sensibilities are very similar and really meld well together. I tend to do a lot of colorwork and pieces that are technically challenging to knit. Lucia likes clean, interesting shapes that are relatively easy to knit but challenging to design.

Lucia: But even though one of our designs might be more “Lisa style” or “Lucia-esque,” we both have a hand in every piece we put out, whether it’s creative input or technical implementation.

Lisa: There is just so much to do when creating patterns. It isn’t just about putting some math down on paper and putting it up on Ravelry. We are committed to consistency, uniformity in our pattern drafting, and providing easy-to-follow, simple-yet-informative instructions so that any knitter at any skill level can pick up a pattern and feel confident they can do it. We are also writing our patterns to be a FULL range of sizes. It is hard to find beautiful designs that are outside of the range of Medium. There are a few designers who are doing a great job of this. Ysolda Teague is one of them and we really admire her for plowing that field!

To sum up, I couldn’t do this without Lucia. AND I WOULDN’T WANT TO. She is my best friend and even though we have some challenges in working with our disabilities we really are necessary for each other. She is one of my favorite humans!

Lucia: And now I’m blushing. Knowing Lisa has changed my life. In an alternate reality, I’m using my degrees to teach college kids about intertextuality and fanfiction; in this one, I knit sweaters for my favorite teevee characters, research the history and evolution of knitting pattern notation, and wrack my brain trying to figure out how to knit a cable that forms the shape of interlocking knit and purl stitches. I’m still the same flavor of nerd, but working with Lisa has helped me branch out beyond the sphere of language and analysis. Her way of being in the world reminds me that if you want to Make Something, you might as well just go ahead (and you don’t have to do it alone). We also have a larger community of knitters and artisans to help and inspire us, which includes people like Brenda. I’m so grateful for that.

In terms of the nitty gritty, there are very few practical aspects of pattern production that we don’t both take on to greater and lesser degrees, depending. Plus, even though Lisa draws all our sketches and diagrams, I have input on what a given image should look like; likewise, while I generally draft the final text of our patterns, Lisa is always involved throughout. The way we went about responding to these questions is a pretty good example of our working dynamic, actually: we both worked in the same Google doc on two separate computers, often at the same time, while also communicating with one another over email, phone, text, and in person. We talk to each other a lot when we’re physically apart, and can also spend vast amounts of time in the same room doing different things.

Lisa: IT’S ALL SO META. Because as we are finalizing this for you, we are also on the phone talking about how to end it. So I think this is where we say, THANK YOU!

Lucia: Yes, thank you!  So much!

Lisa: We really have enjoyed doing this questionnaire for you and we are excited to share more of our work in the very near future. See you all on Ravelry.

Untangling: Woolyn

Woolyn storefront

I’ve wanted to do a Q&A with Rachel Maurer, the owner of the new Brooklyn yarn shop Woolyn since I found out about the store last winter. It always fascinates me when someone opens an LYS, as I know it would be a dream come true to be surrounded by yarn and knitters all day.

For now, I’ll just live vicariously through Rachel, and spend tons of time in the shop — which I’ll definitely be doing during the Indie Untangled/Woolyn trunk show extravaganza, taking place the weekends of November 19th and 20th and December 3rd and 4th. We recently added the lovely Michelle of Berry Colorful Yarnings to the lineup, which will include her exclusive Indie colorway in self-striping sock yarn.

Tickets for the Saturday night party, which will include a meet and greet with a few of the dyers and makers, along with snacks and drinks, went on sale today here.

rachel

I know you have an extensive background in the yarn and knitting world, but tell me about what you did before opening Woolyn.

I came to the yarn and fiber world through Fashion Design. After getting my degree in Fashion Design, I worked for years as both a Designer and Technical Designer (which is similar to a tech editor in knit and crochet patterns in that there is a lot of checking over numbers and grading things in different sizes). I worked for a whole range of companies, which gave me a broad spectrum of experience with different facets of the industry. After leaving the industry, I ended up working in the yarn + fiber industry almost accidentally. I started out substitute teaching at a LYS, which turned into teaching on a regular basis and eventually becoming staff. At that point I was already working as a designer, both on self published designs and for other companies. As well as doing pattern editing and writing on the side. Phew! I was busy! After some years at the store, I left to focus on designing and editing full time.

Tell me about the decision to open Woolyn. Had you always wanted to own a yarn shop?

I think it is just about every serious knitter’s (and crocheter’s) dream to open a store, and I was no different. But it was always just a dream. It wasn’t until I learned that the space might be available that I decided to seriously consider the possibility. I sat down and made a whole bunch of lists and wrote a business plan (or three) outlining the type of store I wanted to have. Everything from the yarns I wanted to carry to the way the space would look to what we would do for classes. And I made many, many spreadsheets with my best guess as to what everything would cost and how it would work. Once I had some rough ideas and even rougher numbers, I began contacting vendors and other people in the industry to sound them out and to get a better idea of whether it was doable. At some point during the process, it turned from a completely crazy idea to maybe actually possible to full steam ahead Go!

How did you choose Woolyn’s location? I understand you grew up a few blocks from the store?

I did grow up a few blocks away. It is amazing how much the neighborhood has changed since then. It is really exciting to be part of the renewed vibrancy that is in the area. Especially with Brooklyn Bridge Park, this area is becoming a real destination – for tourists and locals alike. I’ve already had people from all over the world stop by the store!

Woolyn yarn

How did you decide on the dyers that you carry?

I knew from the first days of planning that I wanted indies and smaller companies to be a huge part of the store. And as local as we could get for as much as we could get. Not just with yarn, but with fiber, and project bags and other accessories as well. It is really important to me not only to support these makers, but I think by doing so we are helping to create a community of crafters that everyone who comes in the door of the shop is a part of.

Who are some of your favorite designers?

There are too many to name! Right now I have the Wild Lilies shawl from Simone Kereit of Owl Cat Designs on the needle as my “at home in the morning with the cat on my lap” project, and the Greta Hat from Tanis Grey from Lux Adorna as my “snatch a few minutes of knitting at the store” project. As well as a couple of my own designs in the works. For better or for worse, all my yarn crafting time and energy for the last year or so has gone into making samples for the store – and I imagine it will be that way for quite some time.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned from my mother and grandmother as a child. Interestingly, my mother and I are both lefties, but because my grandmother was a righty, both my mom and I do all our yarn crafting right handed.

Woolyn fiber
Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I crochet and spin. But over the years, I’ve tried just about everything that can be done with string. Weaving, tatting, macramé, needlepoint and embroidery to name a few. And of course, with my degree, I’ve done years and years of pattern making and sewing.

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

Probably my most ambitious project was making a city block [window] for the store I previously worked at. Through a combination of knitting, crochet and needle felting I faithfully recreated all the buildings and put it in a holiday cityscape, complete with dozens of sparkly crocheted snowflakes. I knew I might have gone a little far when I was making the lampposts. It took me over five months of doing very little yarn crafting except for the project, but in retrospect it was a lot of fun! Here’s a link to the project.

Untangling: Knit Stars

knitstars

Something very exciting is happening in the knitting world in October — and, believe it or not, I don’t mean Rhinebeck.

About a month ago, someone in my knitting group told me about Knit Stars, an online summit with classes from Stephen West, Hannah Fettig, Rosemary “Romi” Hill, Meghan Fernandes of Pom Pom Quarterly and many other members of the “knitterati.” The idea behind the summit, which runs from October 10 to 21, is to provide access to top-tier instruction without the expense of travel. You’re also able to watch the classes whenever you have time, even after the summit ends.

Along with the videos, Knit Stars includes the ability to snag yarn in exclusive colorways from several indie dyers, including The Uncommon Thread and Julie Asselin, who is also filming a class. It’s a great way to gather with the knitting community if you’re not headed to New York in a couple of weeks, or a nice instructional supplement to the yarn-buying and cider donut-eating you’ll be doing at Rhinebeck. Enrollment in Knit Stars reopens on Friday, so head here to sign up by Oct. 6.

I thought Knit Stars was such a cool idea and immediately reached out to the creator, Shelley Brander to learn a little more. Shelley also owns Loops, a bricks-and-mortar and online yarn shop in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as a branding company with her husband.

Tell me how the idea for Knit Stars came about.

My Knit Stars partner, Ashley, approached me at an online marketing conference. She had created the Modern Calligraphy Summit which was a tremendous success in the calligraphy space, and she asked if I’d like to collaborate. I loved the idea of bringing such a new, fresh platform to the yarn world – and enabling people around the world to come together and access the knowledge of the top Knit Stars.

How did you decide which instructors to include?

We considered many factors, including areas of expertise, teaching style, personality, and social media presence. We wanted a blend of the widely known (like Stephen West) and up-and-comers (like Julie and Jeff Asselin). Stephen travels and teaches a lot, but there are so many people who never have access to him. Hannah travels very little by choice, so it’s a really unique opportunity to have her teach in the Summit. Ultimately, I thought of the people I most love to hang out with and learn from at market and other industry events. The people I would invite to the ultimate yarn and cocktail party.

Hannah Fettig shooting a Knit Stars video.

How does the video production work? Do you send crews to film the instructors, do they come to you, or do they create their own videos?

For the free pre-launch videos, we interviewed the instructors via Skype. But for the actual Summit content, we went to them, utilizing a professional video and editing crew. I have a 30-year background in branding and broadcast production, and I wanted this to be the highest possible quality. Our team delivered, big time! The result is beautiful, engaging instructional content, mixed with mini-movies that give you a peek into each Star’s world, lifestyle and inspiration.

What have been the biggest challenges in putting Knit Stars together?

It’s been so much fun, I’ve barely noticed the challenges! It has been a LOT of work but so gratifying to hear everyone’s positive comments. I’d say the biggest challenge has probably been educating people about this platform, because it’s completely new to our industry. It’s hard for people to believe that they could get nine Stars’ full workshops at this price, and we have to explain that they will own the classes forever, and be able to refer to them again and again – which is so critical when it comes to knitting instruction. You can attend an amazing in-person workshop but it’s hard to absorb everything in the moment. You need to be able to go back, pause, rewind… and practice.

Are you planning for this to be an annual event?

Based on the huge response thus far, I would say yes. I also believe that once Knit Stars enrollees see the quality and depth of the content and bonuses, the word is going to spread, and there will be lots of demand for more.

Shelley Brander

Shelley Brander

How do you juggle running Loops while also organizing Knit Stars?

One word: Coffee. No, seriously, I have a tremendous staff (we call them the Loops Troops) and Ashley has been spectacular to work with. She is the one putting the nuts and bolts of the actual Summit together.

Tell me about how you learned to knit.

I was 16 and my family took a car trip from Tulsa to the east coast. We stopped in to see a friend of my mom’s who owned a yarn shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. She put the needles in my hands, and taught me to cast on. From there, I spent the rest of the car trip making a cable sweater (with orangutan arms!). The rest is history.

Do you have a favorite FO?

Whatever I’m designing for LoopsClub is my favorite FO of the moment. I get the most compliments on the coral Andromeda poncho that I made years ago from Knit Collage Stargazer, a 100% silk with cool brass paillettes, so I wore it in the Knit Stars video. We’ve had so many requests for the pattern, we’re bringing the yarn back from the discontinued pile with Amy from Knit Collage, and offering kits on LoopsLove.com to Summit enrollees!

Untangling: Pom Pom Quarterly

Pom Pom Quarterly co-founders and editors Lydia Gluck and Meghan Fernandes.

Pom Pom Quarterly co-founders and editors Lydia Gluck and Meghan Fernandes.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts with the generous sponsors of the 2016 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Although I run a knitting website, I still do a lot of writing for print, and so I have always appreciated the joy of flipping through a paper publication. When it comes to knitting magazines, Pom Pom Quarterly is by far one of my favorites. It has the feel of a small book and features beautiful patterns (my Waterlily, a design by co-founder and editor Meghan Fernandes, is one of my favorite garments), gorgeous photographs and illustrations and unique articles, such as a recent one on the science behind dyes.

Launched in 2012 by Meghan, an American in London (she has since moved back, and now lives in Austin, Texas) and Brit Lydia Gluck, Pom Pom is available four times a year via subscription and also at more than 250 locally-owned yarn and craft stores around the globe. There’s also a popular Pom Pom blog and podcast. Unfortunately, Meghan and Lydia won’t be able to make it to the Rhinebeck Trunk Show, as they will be busy preparing their display at the NY Sheep & Wool Festival, but I was thrilled when they agreed to be a sponsor. I chatted with them about the magazine and some of their favorite things:

Tell me all about how Pom Pom Quarterly got started.

Meghan + Lydia: We met while working at Loop, the gorgeous knitting shop in London, and found we had a shared love of knitting and craft, and of magazines too! We both felt that there wasn’t a knitting magazine around at the time that really spoke to us, or reflected the way we felt about craft and the plethora of indie dyers that had sprung up around the resurgence of interest in knitting and crochet. We decided to have a go ourselves at creating the publication we felt was missing, and after brainstorming in cafes and pubs the idea for Pom Pom was born. We designed all the patterns and wrote all the articles, friends helped out with modelling, photography and design, and somehow it all came together into a magazine we loved. We were so happy that other people loved it too! Now we are a slightly bigger operation of course, and work with designers, editors and writers and all sorts of brilliant people to make Pom Pom.

Why did you decide to go the print route?

Meghan + Lydia: We decided on print because we both love owning a beautiful magazine as a physical object, and we suspected that other knitters would feel similarly. It makes sense that people who spend time making lovely handcrafted things would appreciate the paper and quality of printing, and the fact that the magazine is printed in the UK. Because the mag is quarterly we think of it as collectible, and we try to make each issue timeless. For that reason we have no off sale date (until they sell out of course!), and we think of our print copies as little treats for knitters and crocheters, an investment that they will return to time and again… Of course we have digital versions available too for those who like wrinkle proof pages!

pom-pom-issue-6-autumn-2013

What would you say are the most important skills that each of you bring to the magazine?

Lydia: Meghan says I have good business sense, and I think she has a real knack for innovation. She is always the one wanting to mix things up and try new things, whereas I tend to get stuck in my ways. Meghan has tended toward the social media side of things, she always knows about what’s going on in the craft world way before I do! I am often happier hanging out with Excel, but we both love to chat and meet new people, which definitely comes in handy for what we do! We’ve both learned so much in the last five years, and I think we can both safely say we feel more confident now as stylists and editors. The one thing we definitely bring is enthusiasm for craft, and a love of print as a medium.

When and how did you each learn to knit?

Lydia: I learned to knit from a book one rainy Welsh summer about 10 years ago. A housemate of mine at university was a knitter, and after seeing her making things I was inspired, and decided that if I was stuck indoors while the weather was bad I might as well learn something new!

Meghan: My boyfriend’s mom taught me to knit when I was a teenager. I got really lucky because she was a great teacher and even bought me a sweater’s worth of yarn for my first project as a birthday present.

Who are some of your favorite indie dyers?

Lydia: Oh there are so many I love! I think Viola is definitely a favourite, and Uncommon Thread, Shilasdair and MadelineTosh… and I have always been a fan of Old Maiden Aunt too. But there really are so many brilliant dyers out there!

Meghan: They are changing all the time, and there are too many to count, but I love The Uncommon Thread, Camellia Fiber Company and Julie Asselin a lot at the moment.

pom-pom-issue-18-autumn-2016

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

Lydia: Hmmm, really memorable ones would probably be disasters like the first jumper I ever made, which did not fit the intended recipient. But memorable successes are the first pattern I ever wrote, my Overbury mitts from the first issue of Pom Pom, and my Quadrillion jumper, which was Meghan’s design, and is still my favourite jumper.

Meghan: My most memorable is probably so because it’s my most worn — my Beatnik sweater by Norah Gaughan. I remember finally getting to grips with cables on that project and having to drop and correct cabled stitches for the first time. It’s so wearable and classic Norah — timeless, clever and so wearable.

Which crafts, in addition to knitting, do you enjoy?

Lydia: I also crochet, and do a little embroidery from time to time, but I’ll have a go at anything! If darkroom photography counts then that is definitely a craft I was very into when I had access to a darkroom! I just loved the magic of seeing the image appear. Without a darkroom on hand I have been experimenting with cyanotypes, which are so easy!

Meghan: In addition to knitting, I love crocheting and calligraphy, and recently I learned to weave which is such a cool way to use the amazing yarns we have access to.

What is your favorite music to knit or craft to?

Lydia: Oh wow, I don’t know if I can pick a favourite. But recently I have been crafting to Emmlylou Harris, Joanna Newsom and Sia. Patty Smith and The Velvet Underground have always been big favourites of mine too. When I tried to do some sewing a few years ago I was really into The Moldy Peaches and Jeffrey Lewis so they always remind me of threading a sewing machine. When I’m drawing I have to listen to something with a beat.

Meghan: Like favourite indie dyers, the music I enjoy knitting to changes all the time too. In the iTunes/Spotify age, I still love listening to the radio — the station KUTX in Austin is a fave, as is the UK-based BBC Radio 6 which I still love to listen to two years after having moved away!

Untangling: Creativebug

The Creativebug team. Left to right: Chelsea Sena, Devlin Mannle, Fernando Santacruz, Jeanne Lewis, Kelly Wilkinson, Matt Novak, Erik Wilson, Ken Bousquet, Ursula Morgan, Stephanie Blake, Courtney Cerruti, Brian Emerick, Julie Roehm, Su Li, Liana Allday.

The Creativebug team. Left to right: Chelsea Sena, Devlin Mannle, Fernando Santacruz, Jeanne Lewis, Kelly Wilkinson, Matt Novak, Erik Wilson, Ken Bousquet, Ursula Morgan, Stephanie Blake, Courtney Cerruti, Brian Emerick, Julie Roehm, Su Li, Liana Allday.

This is the third in a series of blog posts with the generous sponsors of the 2016 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

These days, there is certainly no shortage of resources for receiving knitting instruction online, whether you do a Google search for a certain technique or need to re-learn the basics. But, sometimes you just want to really sink your teeth into a new technique or project, but don’t have the time, or the budget, to take a class with a well-known teacher.

There are a few sites that offer a way to take classes online, but I particularly like Creativebug. Run by CEO Ursula Morgan, Creativebug offers knitting classes from the likes of Marly Bird, Gundrun Johnston, Norah Gaughan and Jill Draper, as well as video instruction on sewing, quilting, jewelry making and paper crafts. The model is particularly unique, as it gives you the opportunity to pay a small monthly fee for access to as many classes as you’d like — which is especially nice if you want to explore crafts that go beyond knitting and crochet.

As I am a Creativebug affiliate (clicking the link above will allow me to receive credit if you decide to become a member), they were one of the first companies I considered as a new sponsor of this year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show. I recently chatted with Ursula about the business:

Tell me about how Creativebug got started.

In short, Creativebug was started with an idea and two cousins. Jeanne Lewis was chatting with an artist friend in New Orleans about an online art class that she had spent $160 to take and it was only available for three weeks. This triggered some thoughts for Jeanne. She thought about how she wouldn’t have three weeks straight to work on a class, so what if she could access a class that was affordable and available to fit within her schedule (even at 3 a.m.) as well as be available for as long as she needed. There were a lot of twists and turns with the initial idea. She eventually brought in her cousin Julie Roehm to help develop the business model, and after many, many long nights and days, www.creativebug.com was born.

How do you feel Creativebug sets itself apart from similar websites?

Creativebug is different for many reasons: we are subscription based versus a pay by class platform. For $4.95 a month you have unlimited access to over 700 classes, and each month you get to add a class of your choice to your Library to keep forever. Our videos are crafted in a documentary style, which we believe creates a more personable way of teaching/learning. We have also created an environment where we are able to offer classes on a plethora of crafts taught by instructors that support each other, and who like promoting and supporting each other’s craft. We are really proud of how unique our site is.

How do you choose your instructors?

We select our instructors very carefully. We think that it’s important to have instructors that are able to articulate the different ways one might approach the craft. While not exclusive, we usually have instructors who have established a name for themselves as an expert in their craft or have had a book published, which is also helpful in determining their teaching style.

Left: Jeanne and the dev team discuss changes to the site. Right: During the meeting, Urusula and Julie check in through a window that opens into Jeanne and Ursula’s office.

Left: Jeanne and the dev team discuss changes to the site. Right: During the meeting, Urusula and Julie check in through a window that opens into Jeanne and Ursula’s office.

What’s the average day like at the Creativebug HQ?

As you can imagine, there isn’t really an “average” day here in Creativebug HQ! Some days you’ll find us shooting in the studio, meeting with our great partners or having a crafternoon. We have Live Shoots every Tuesday and Thursday and we have our Numbers meeting every Monday with our entire team where we all contribute ideas on how to keep our business sustainable. One thing that we have every day is excitement, all while shop dogs Pup Charlie and Ollie run around playing with each other!

What are some of the biggest challenges for a site such as yours?

One of the biggest challenges for our site is consumer recognition. When people come across Creativebug, we want them to know who we are and feel confident subscribing to us. We are a new frontier, being “Netflix” for crafters and DIYers. There’s not really another service out there on a subscription basis that lets you swim in all lanes. So it’s important to us to explain to customers that they have access to hundreds of classes, getting that value proposition across. The other challenges are turning this digital business into a sustainable business, keeping people loyal and growing our subscription numbers.

creativebug-knitting

Have there been employees who have learned a new craft from a Creativebug class?

Tons!! I think that every single one of us has learned a new craft from Creativebug! I have learned how to make a beaded leather tassel necklace with Elke Bergeron that I am obsessed with,
Julie is painting now thanks to Yao Cheng’s watercolor class, Zenaida has picked up drawing, starting with Lisa Congdon’s Basic Line Drawing class, Li learned how to bake a pie with a delicious crust, Devlin learned how to knit twisted rib socks with Edie Eckman.

Is there a particularly unusual craft project that someone at Creativebug has done?

There are a few, but perhaps the most peculiar would be Faith’s Facebook “Bubble Print” live shoot. Who would have imagined that food coloring and dish soap could create such beautiful images to create cards and gift tags!

Untangling: Cathy and Heather of The Knot House

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Knothouse Cathy & Heather

This is the second in a series of blog posts with the generous sponsors of the 2016 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I first learned about The Knot House in Frederick, Maryland, when Dami of Magpie Fibers began posting to Indie Untangled, and she told me about the amazing yarn shop where she learned to knit and was inspired to start dyeing after seeing yarns from Duck Duck Wool and Western Sky Knits. A yarn store that carried many of my favorite indies? That sounded like a dream come true! In May 2015, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to visit the shop, housed in a beautiful old brick building, when the owners, Cathy Baucom and her daughter, Heather Tinney, organized their first indie pop-up during last year’s Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.

Heather gave me the lowdown on her and her mom’s decision to open a store devoted to indie dyers and shared their history as makers:

Tell me about the decision to open The Knot House. Had both of you always wanted to own a yarn shop?

No, actually. When we had talked about opening a yarn shop forever ago, we thought the internet would kill yarn shops. Then indie yarns became popular.

Mom was living in Alabama managing a small business for someone. I was and still am working for Motorola Solutions selling public safety communication systems (think radios for firefighters and cops). Anyway, my husband, Paul, asked me to go with him to look at a building that was for sale. He and his business partner were interested in it. It was a hair salon. The natural light was exceptional that day and when I saw the built in bookcases, my head was flooded with yarn shop ideas. It was November of 2012.

It had been three years since Kristi Johnson, owner of Shalimar Yarns, had closed her shop and committed to dyeing yarn. She was a big influence and is still one of our best supporters. Paul finally grew tired of trying to talk me out of it and agreed to the idea (once the building was purchased) under one condition: my Mom (Cathy) had to move here and run the day-to-day operation. I really think he thought we wouldn’t do it… He being the landlord was a challenge. Let me make it clear that we get no preferential treatment! Mom and I were planning on opening in September of 2013, so when he told me they were taking possession of the building in April and we had to sign a lease in May if we wanted the space, things got testy. At the end of May, Mom pulled up in a Penske Truck with all her belongings and we opened The Knot House the fist weekend of July 2013.

The Knot House

What did you both do before you became yarn shop owners?

Mom managed a pest control company in Auburn, Alabama. I still work for Motorola, so as you can imagine, the shop is a creative sanctuary for me.

Knothouse shelves

Why did you choose the dyers that you carry?

Easy question. We simply wanted to carry the yarns we wanted to knit with.

Knothouse WSK

When and how did you learn to knit?

I love telling this story. It was November and I was not inspired by the local quilt shop and in “make it” mode. One day I walked in to Kristi Johnson’s shop, Eleganza Yarns, and asked if she could teach me to knit. It was November, and she was busy. So, with my “I can do anything” attitude, I bought yarn, needles, and a instruction pamphlet. I was struggling with the cast on and my husband, Paul, said, “do you want me to show you how to do that?” I swear, I never knew he could knit and purl. He said his grandmother taught him. So I caught the bug and told Mom she had to learn too. Mom found a local shop in Auburn, and the owner taught her.

Who are some of your favorite designers?

In no particular order: Alicia Plummer, Joji [Locatelli], Amy Miller, Melanie Berg, Thea [Colman], Isabell Kraemer, Laura Aylor, Casapinka, Lisa Mutch, Heidi Kirrmaier, Lynn Di Christina, MediaPeruana, and Stephen West. I could go on.

Do either of you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I used to quilt a lot. Now it has its time and place. Mom used to needlepoint.

Knot House colors

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

For me it must be my Color Affection. I started it before we ever thought about opening The Knot House. I had been to Montreal and found Espace Tricot. We love these girls! Anyway, it was the first time I had ever seen Sweet Georgia yarns, so I picked three skeins. I was making it for Mom and then it turned into one of our first shop samples. LOL.

Mom says her favorites are the selfish knits she does for her great grandchildren. She has done some exquisite baby dresses. However, she does admit that Lisa Mutch’s Asunder Shawl is a great story. We had just gotten in North Bound Knitting’s yarn, and there were these two yellows. Mom is not a fan of yellow. Ever. We thought that would be the color that wouldn’t sell… so she used them. One was a perfect lemon color. Damn if we didn’t order those yellows three or four times. And one day, after the shawl had run its course, a man came in and offered Mom an unmentionable amount of money for it. He was quite charming as I remember because they were quietly talking in the other room while some regulars and I were knitting in the front. Mom doesn’t entertain selling samples usually. Next thing I know, she is wrapping it up in a pretty package, and off he went. All day she said she couldn’t believe she sold that shawl.

Untangling: Stephannie Tallent of Sunset Cat Designs

SunsetcatCherty

I didn’t know very much about Stephannie Tallent of Sunset Cat Designs when I started working with her as part of the inaugural Indie Untangled yarn club, other than the fact that she does wonderful things with lace, cables and textured stitches and that she is a fan of craft beer.

So, I did a little reporting before sending her some questions and discovered she had quite an interesting pre-designer history. As a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, AKA West Point, she served in the Army for four years. It’s quite a nice parallel with Christine of Skeinny Dipping, the dyer I paired Stephannie with for the club, who also has a history of service, with the Peace Corps.

I spoke to Stephannie about her background, her design inspirations and, of course, her favorite brew.

When and how did you learn to knit?

A neighbor taught me the basics, and I learned from books and magazines from there. The internet wasn’t around then!

How did you decide to go to West Point and join the Army?

It sounded interesting, lol. I had no idea what I was getting into with West Point! I do tell folks it was a valuable experience.

I served for four years in the Army as a Military Intelligence officer. I was stationed in Germany, which I loved; I got to live in southern Germany, including Munich. I was able to do some traveling around Europe as well.

I deployed with 1st Armored Division for Desert Storm as well.

Did you meet others in the military who knit?

No; though I knit a little bit when I was stationed in Germany, I didn’t meet any other knitters.

Sand-Ripples-Shawl-6
What made you decide to become a designer?

I started modifying designs then took the next step in creating my own! The Knit Picks IDP was just starting up, and Ravelry was really in gear, when I first started designing. Those two things made self publishing very accessible. I also realized I loved a lot of the tasks ancillary to designing: learning about layout, graphic design, and so on.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Anything! Nature to include plants (especially California native plants) and animals, architecture, geology, the ocean, towns and cities, stitch patterns, fabrics…

Caridwen-480-1

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

It really depends on the particular pattern and the reason and inspiration behind it. If I’m answering a call for submissions, I usually brainstorm what I would like to design that fits the call.

If it’s a single pattern to be self published, I generally have an idea of what I want to do (i.e. a cabled cowl) and I start by playing with stitch patterns.

If it’s a pattern for a collection, I brainstorm palette, yarn types and yarn companies, types of patterns, techniques to be used, etc. first before narrowing down individual patterns.

SunsetCat Beer

What’s your favorite beer or brewery?

My favorite brewery is The Bruery in Placentia, California. They do a really interesting mix of beers. Before going to their tasting room, I’d seen some bottles in stores, but they were primarily the Belgian-inspired beers like Mischief. I had no idea of the range of barrel-aged beers they did until we visited the tasting room. I was in barrel-aged beer heaven. They also do a lot of sours, and I’m starting to drink more of those. They’ve just opened a second tasting room (The Bruery Terreux) that focuses on farmhouse wild and sour ales that we’ve not yet visited.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

At home. I usually knit on my couch.