Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Suzanne Nelson of Groovy Hues Fibers

This is the ninth post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3.

Suzanne of Groovy Hues Fibers is a dyer based in my old stomping grounds of Long Island and she is a great example of what I love about my hometown (well, home land mass): friendly, funny and talented. Her colorways are random in the best possible way, inspired by things like movies and snarky phrases, but they are always colorful and Fun.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I think that my story is probably a little boring, because it is a version of the same story you hear from indie dyers over and over again! I taught myself to knit at the ripe old age of 25. It was during a brief time when I lived in southwest Florida, and there wasn’t much of a choice for yarn in general, let alone colors I preferred. This was before the popularity of Facebook crafting groups, but a Google search led me to discover that one could dye bare wool with food-safe coloring. I was hooked.

Then, life got in the way as it is prone to do, and I didn’t dye or knit for a long time. I met my now-husband in 2010, and he is an archaeologist specializing in textiles. He gave me a bunch of his natural dyes, and he taught me to spin. I picked up knitting again, and my first trip to Rhinebeck inspired me to try some acid dyes.

One day in our knitting circle, a woman grabbed a skein from my hands and demanded to know where I’d gotten the yarn. I told her I had dyed it, and she thrust some money in my face and begged me for it. How could I turn that down? I was working five jobs and could barely make ends meet. Several months later, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I were at a beer, bacon, and bourbon festival held on the same fairgrounds as Rhinebeck, and the food-and-alcohol-induced idea came from Thaddeus that I should try to sell some yarn. I thought he was insane. I still do, but now for different reasons!

Up to that point, I had fully planned on trying to pursue a PhD in Biological Anthropology. He was already almost done with his PhD in Archaeology, and I had only done a little bit of fieldwork with monkeys in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It was fun, but I did genuinely long for a “normal life.” (Little did I know that being a dyer is anything but normal!) I bought some extra dye and extra yarn, and there it sat. For months. I was petrified that it would fail. Several months later, I mustered the courage to post some extremely terrible photos of my yarn (I hadn’t learned to photograph it yet!) in a few Facebook groups, and people wanted it. Not quite six months after that, I was able to quit the other four jobs and work on Groovy Hues Fibers full-time! I haven’t looked back!

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

I’m weird. There is absolutely no question of this. When you see my colorway names, most of them are pretty fun. I have puns, I have movie quotes, song titles, television show themes, snarky phrases, and much more. Sometimes I have an idea in my head and take the dye to the yarn, but most of the time I dye the yarn and then try to figure out what it says to me. I love food-inspired yarn, because I live to eat. My husband and I plan fiber show vending based upon how good the breweries and restaurants are where we will be selling! I can’t lie — I do have several mundane, boring colorway names. If you see a boring name slapped on my yarn, you know that the yarn was named sometime around 2:30 in the morning the day of a fiber show, as I panicked and tried to get it all done in time!

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

My business name is Groovy Hues Fibers – we embrace the rainbow, and every color under it. I try to give equal attention to the insane, psychedelic brights as I do the earthy, tree-hugging tones. That said, I personally love orange. It’s a happy color. I tend to dye a lot of it, and I’ve been told that I do it in an inoffensive way, whatever that means! Ha! I am not a fan of hunter green — I have my reasons. But I force myself to dye it for those of you who do love it. As I’ve grown as a dyer, I personally have gravitated to making things for myself that are less bright, and more earthy. I noticed this at a few of my latest shows, so now I have to revisit the idea of putting brights out there for everyone else again. Not everything can be selfish dyeing. Or can it???

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that you find is challenging to create?

I think a lot of things are challenging to create. The perfect gold and the perfect green. Many people have ideas of what these colors should be — I know that I have my own set attitude about them. It’s often hard to translate something from my head onto the yarn, because you never know exactly how the fiber and the mixed dyes will marry. Mostly, I do what I want. I work very hard at it, and I put everything into creating a skein that I’d be proud to use. If the colors are giving me trouble, I overdye them and pretend that I fully intended for them to look exactly the way that they did! Sometimes what I thought were my worst dye days turned out to be the biggest sellers I’ve ever created.

How often do you update your online shop?

That’s a really good question! My only answer is, “whenever I can.” Some people can say they’ll update every Saturday night at 8 p.m. I have no such delusions of that kind of organizational skill. I do a lot of fiber and trunk shows, so during the spring and during the fall, I update the shop sporadically as I usually hoard inventory for these events. During the summer and winter, my online customers see a lot more updating from me. There are days I’m so excited by what I’ve dyed, that I update the shop as soon as the yarn is dry and I can take the pictures. I try to never keep the shop entirely bare, because that looks sad to me! The days of less travel are upcoming, so I plan to have far more yarn available for my online Groovies.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

As far as making money goes, dyeing is my only business. But, last year, my dog died suddenly and unexpectedly. To get out of my own head, I took up running. For some crazy reason, I kept on doing it. Most of the time, I feel like that is a job! I’ve been training for several big races. In March 2018, my husband and I will be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 Marathon in Washington DC under the Groovy Hues name as St. Jude Heroes — we’ve raised almost $3,000 from customers and friends for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital! This coming weekend, I’ll be completing at 10K in Central Park for the Save The Elephants foundation. On Thanksgiving, we have chosen a Turkey Trot 5K to benefit the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation. I suppose I have settled for a second job in charity! If I were to name a third job, it would be dyeing yarn for my husband. He is the designer for his growing brand, Archaeology Knits Designs. When you see gorgeous designs in my booth, chances are that he is the one who designed it. I’ve designed exactly one thing, and I hated doing it. I’m done now. As long as I keep him knee-deep in yarn, he’s a happy dude.


What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?

Honestly? To do mostly what makes ME happy. If I try to chase after every yarn trend to fill whatever the Ravelry pattern du jour is, it will be inconsistent and people will not know what to expect from me. If I do what I love, then chances are, someone else will love it, too. I do speckle yarn. I do make yarn for fades, and doodlers, and whatever everyone else wants to make — but I do it my way.

I’ve also learned to never scoff at any application of the fiber arts. I don’t believe in yarn snobbery. If someone comes into my booth and he/she has only ever worked with acrylic and needs help, I help them. Even if they don’t buy from me. I am all about keeping the fiber arts alive — that’s what’s most important to me.

I’ve also learned that we can never know what people want. I can dye a colorway that I hate, and it will sell out at a show. I can dye something that, on paper, should sell in seconds, and it goes untouched for several shows! Not knowing what to expect keeps it fresh.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned about owning a business is that I absolutely have to make time for myself, or I will begin to resent that which I’ve worked so hard to build. Taking more than a week off to get married and go on a honeymoon was really, really hard for me this year — but I’m so glad I did it. I came back with a refreshed love for what I do.

Lastly, I’ve learned that I can sell all of the yarn in the world online, but it doesn’t make me as happy as when I am vending at even the smallest of shows. Meeting with people and watching them touch my products is the most satisfying feeling in the universe. I love watching people buy things that sing to them. It reinforces that I made the right decision in life! Playing with dye and chatting with fiber crafters is so much better than examining monkey poop in the jungle!

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Kim Kaslow of The Woolen Rabbit

This is the eighth post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3. There are only a few tickets left to the Friday night sneak peek party. Get yours now!

Kim of The Woolen Rabbit was one of the first dyers I discovered when I fell down the indie rabbit hole. In fact, one of my friends organized a trip to her New Hampshire studio several years ago and I’m still kicking myself for not going (something about having too much yarn? I kind of laugh at that now — I did not have too much yarn compared to now). Kim was also one of the first dyers I contacted when I launched Indie Untangled in 2014 and I’m thrilled that she’s participated in my little venture, posting to the marketplace, sending yarn to sell at last year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show and, finally, participating in this weekend’s show at Woolyn.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I have been dyeing yarn now for about 15 years. I started off with a bunch of sweet angora rabbits. I would dye their fur with Merino and have it processed into pin drafted roving for spinning. As I ventured further into dyeing, I found that I preferred dyeing yarn, so I moved more in that direction. After seeing a beautiful-in-the-skein yarn I dyed knit up horribly in the finished item because of the pooling, it became my goal to really focus on creating non pooling yarns, which I think I have been able to accomplish for the most part.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Frequently I look to nature for colorways. The subtle blending of colors in nature are always such an inspiration for me. Coloway names… usually whatever pops into my mind. Years ago I had a color way named Iggy Pop… ha!

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

I love the colors of autumn, so I frequently turn to them when creating — colors such as New England Red, Butterscotch Pudding, Oakmoss, Birch Beer and Enchanted Forest. I don’t think my preferences have changed much as I love muted colors, but I am trying to challenge myself with some of the newer ways of dyeing. Not there yet, but I love new challenges!

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that you find is challenging to create?

There are times when I am focusing on creating a particular color but I just can’t get the exact color I am aiming for no matter how many times I try. But sometimes what I end up with can be an unexpected surprise. Many of my most popular colorways were created this way.

How often do you update your online shop?

My online shop is all dyed to order, so I don’t do massive updates. Years ago when I first discovered the world of hand-dyed yarns and the anticipated updated shops only to be disappointed that the yarns that I wanted sold out faster than I could type, I decided then that I would not do shop updates, but dye to order instead. So far it has worked for me, even though my customers do have to wait seven to 10 days for their yarn, unless I happen to have some from a show on hand. I am so fortunate to have some wonderful customers!

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

Over the years, I have run my business both ways — as my main business and with another job. When I was growing my business up, I was fortunate to be working at home which gave me a lot of freedom to learn the business and create. I left that job to pursue dyeing full time which I did for a number of years. Now, with my children grown and on their own, I went back into the work force part time, so that I would be around people, but I still enjoy the rest of my time creating in my studio.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?

Time management and discipline, which is not always easy with an artist’s brain. It’s always my biggest challenge, but so important. One of the very best things are the amazing people I have met along my journey in this amazing field we are so fortunate to be a part of!

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Denise Gronda of Yoshi & Lucy

This is the seventh post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3.

I first met Denise of Yoshi & Lucy at last year’s Indie Untangled @ Woolyn Trunk Show. She was sitting next to me at Rachel’s long back table and introduced herself as an indie dyer who happened to live a few blocks away. What a great neighborhood find! She’s since posted often to the Indie Untangled marketplace and I used one of her hot pink colorways to knit a pussy hat last winter. I’m excited to see more of her yarns in person at Woolyn this weekend. Have you grabbed your tickets for the sneak peek party yet?

Yoshi & Lucy

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I started dyeing yarn because I’m a big fan of hand dyed yarn. I was curious about how to dye yarn so I found some Youtube videos and books. After six months of playing around, I had more yarn than I knew what to do with. I was also hating my current job so I decided to take the plunge and start my own business.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

I do a lot of experimenting and try to come up with colorways I would love to knit. Sometimes I have an idea beforehand but usually I just play around and see what happens. I’ll admit I’m very bad at picking colorway names so I usually take photos of the new yarn and send them to my best friend who is a genius with naming colorways.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

My favorite color is purple and I have probably have too many purple colorways. Of course I try to expand the colors I offer with each update.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that you find is challenging to create?

There is my Rainbow Dash colorway which was the result of an experiment. It is a multiple step colorway and sometimes it doesn’t come out as it should. I do end up selling those as “misfit” skeins. People seems to like them even if it isn’t exactly as I intended.

How often do you update your online shop?

I try to have at least three updates per month.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

Dyeing is my main business and it’s the best job I have ever had.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?

I had to learn how to balance the business side and creative side of the business. I need time to create but I also have to do administrative tasks and keep up with my social media accounts so that my business will grow.

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Charisse Dicarlo of Color Craze Fiber

This is the sixth post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3.

As I’m primarily a knitter, Charisse Dicarlo’s work for Color Craze Yarn and Fiber wasn’t on my radar, but when Rachel introduced me to her Etsy shop a few months ago, I immediately added it to my favorites. Charisse not only dyes roving that tempts me to take up spinning, but also creates stunning variegated-speckle mashups using lots of pinks, purples and blues… and plenty of other colors. She lives north of New York City in Valhalla.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I started dying shortly after I started spinning back in 2008. First it was roving for spinning and I realized How will I ever spin all of this roving? and quickly started an Etsy shop. As of early this year I took my dying experience over to the other side known as yarn and kinda fell into an interview with Kristy Glass. Kristy gave me a few roads to go down, and inspired me to start a podcast that I’m so new at. I think I have 10 episodes so far. I had my first trunk show this year in May, posted on the Indie Untangled site, then got an email from you inquiring about the Woolyn trunk show. And here I am today — so exciting!

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

My colorway names? I’ve recently noticed that I name them (for) what they remind me of when it’s out of the pot and dried. Like, my colorway Bronx Life came to life as it reminded me of the park we always went to as a child. It consists of greys and a little bit of red, which resemble the swings and the slides. So, in essence, it’s whatever comes to me as soon as I look at it. It’s a weird process, but it works. Sometimes I let my little one name them — I like to see what a 10-year-old’s mind comes up with. I first started naming them (for) songs that I knew in the electronic age we live in, but it wasn’t making sense to me so I started looking deeply into it and feeling the color.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

My god, yes. I seem to work with a lot of purple I love the way it wicks out and blends so well within each other. But it goes back and forth from time to time. Lately I love the neutrals and the fall colors. My recent project is Leventry by Sarah Jordan [https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/leventry] using my Beach Sand and NYC Snow Day colorways and I love the way the neutrals are working together. They are my new found favorites. They will be at the trunk show.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that you find is challenging to create?

I’ve tackled speckles, I dipped into kettle/tonal. My favorite technique that I do is saturated color all throughout in different colors that complement each other with speckle on top. The only thing I hate that happens when I come up with new colorway is the muddiness that sometimes happens, so I’ll just overdye it and it comes out beautiful most of the time.

How often do you update your online shop?

I try and update every week, but I feel like it’s a little challenging because there are so many dyers out there and if you don’t update you may lose your opportunity. Sometimes I find it’s hard to get noticed being that there are so many of us out there. It takes that one customer that knows someone and then it’s a trickle effect as it did when I did my first trunk show this year. It is a labor of love for sure. You have to nurture the Etsy shop, and social media is key. So updates on Instagram are so important. I still have loyal customers that always come back because they know what they’re getting. I get compliments all the time. I always say to myself as the skeins dry, “I hope this is good enough.” Then you get the person that goes wild over it; at that point I’m like, “Phew!!!”


Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

It seems like it’s become my main baby. I’m just very grateful that I’m able to be here full time for my daughter, and having an absolute supportive man by my side makes it all worth it. I stopped for a little while about six years ago — life happened, if you know what I mean — then met a truly great man that threw me back into it and I found a new love of fiber and a new love of my life, my best friend all over again. Together, from here, he makes the possibilities endless.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?

1. CUSTOMER SERVICE. I have 100 percent positive feedback and I always add little trinkets to the order. I always loved getting little extras when I supported fellow Etsy-ens. I’m very good with returns, although I haven’t gotten not one yet. I mail packages out right away, mostly the same day, unless I’m away or it’s after 5 p.m.

2. The fiber/yarn community is so very supportive, warm, and helpful. It’s like a secret society. Especially when you participate in these events, you are so overwhelmed at how many knitters and spinners there are in one place altogether at the same time. My better half looked at me like, “Are you serious?”

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Lauren Bardelline of Old Rusted Chair

This is the fifth post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3. Tickets for the Friday sneak peek party are on sale now!

When Rachel, the owner of Woolyn, and I were coming up with ideas for this year’s Indie Untangled trunk show, we decided to stay local and feature dyers from the Northeast. Lauren Bardelline of Old Rusted Chair is the exception to this, but we figured Nashville was close enough to the Eastern Seaboard to work for our “shop local” theme. Plus, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on Lauren’s bright, fun colorways.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I had been working in an office job and wasn’t in love with that work. For almost a decade I had been knitting, and eventually got into test knitting and learning how to tech edit. I wanted to get deeper into the fiber arts community — I even worked part-time at a local yarn store in Oakland — and decided to try dyeing yarn to see if I was any good at it. It turns out, I was! I had struggled with every other form of art I tried, like painting, drawing, or pottery, but mixing dye and applying it on my favorite fiber just made sense to me.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Naming colorways can feel stressful sometimes. When I first started dyeing, I was inspired by the music I would listen to while working. Now I have a running list of words and phrases that I enjoy and think would work well as names. Sometimes there’s some banter back and forth between me and my husband until I land on the perfect name.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

Purple has been my favorite color for many years, and that hasn’t changed! Because of dyeing, I am now obsessed with mixing purple and orange together.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that you find is challenging to create?

I have a vision of an orange that I’ve been trying to create, and now I have a bag full of orange samples I’ve made throughout my testing. Something on the reddish side, but I haven’t been able to make my vision a reality yet. I’ll know it when I see it!

How often do you update your online shop?

Every two to three weeks.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

Main business. When I first opened up my shop, I was still working full-time in San Francisco. I moved to Nashville in April 2017 and started working on my business, Old Rusted Chair, full time.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?

I learned I can’t do it all, and that’s OK! I’m not the best at understanding social media marketing or building a website. Fortunately, there are lots of people in this community who are experts at the things I’m not great at, and they are more than willing to let me pay them for their help!

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Carolyn McKenna of Swift Yarns

This is the fourth post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3. Tickets for the Friday sneak peek party are on sale now!

Carolyn McKenna lives north of me in Queens, NY, but I first met her down in Maryland, where she was doing the 2017 Maryland Sheep & Wool indie pop-up at The Knot House. I have been trying to get her and her yarns on Indie Untangled after learning about Swift Yarns through The Knot House newsletter, but she’s been busy wholesaling to a variety of shops. Well, I am very excited to get to spend a few days with Carolyn and surrounded by her lovely colorways at Woolyn in a couple of weeks!

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I started dyeing yarn because there is almost no hand-dyed yarn in the entire borough of Queens. I had three small kids when I started to really get into my fiber and it was very hard for me to get to any yarn stores. I started to buy some online but I was disappointed in the websites. Many, in my opinion, didn’t portray the yarns very nicely. Necessity is the mother of invention and I needed yarn! So I figured if I can’t get the yarn I want, I will make some.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

New York City is a real inspiration. It’s a colorful city but I can get inspiration from almost anything I see. One of my colorways, Ikat, is inspired from a pillow cover I own. And sometimes I just let the dyes be what they want. I usually start with an idea and then let go. Sometimes when you try to control too much you just end up disappointed. It’s important to have fun.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

I have rediscovered my love of color through dyeing! I was an architect before I started this adventure and we use a lot of natural colors, wood, concrete, stone, etc. A lot of greys and browns. I’m so happy to be using every color now.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that you find is challenging to create?

Purple is the color I go to the least. I personally do not wear purple and I don’t think I look good in purple which is probably why I don’t make it. But I’m starting to get over this.

How often do you update your online shop?

I barely update online. It is a lot of work to update the online shop and I’m so busy between trunk shows and shop orders. When I do stock the shop, I let my email subscribers know about it.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

I still work part-time with my husband’s construction management business. My architecture background is very useful but we are working towards me becoming a full time dyer.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?

I’ve learned you can and should do what you love. I have moments of real peace and fulfillment when I dye. I love making people happy. It becomes a full circle. When I make others happy they in turn make me happy. It’s been one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time.

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Rebecca Picoult of Fuse Fiber Studio

This is the third post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3. Tickets for the Friday sneak peek party are on sale now!

Most indie dyers start out in their kitchens. After taking a dyeing class with SweetGeorgia’s Felicia Lo at Vogue Knitting Live NYC last year (along with me!), Rebecca Picoult moved into her own studio at the Farmington Valley Arts Center in Connecticut. She named her brand new business Fuse Fiber Studio for the factory where the arts center is housed, which used to manufacture safety fuses for mining.

Rebecca has a range of semisolids and variegated colorways with the requisite speckles and fun names like Honey Butter, Free Dive and All the Speckles. Learn more about Rebecca and her business before meeting her and seeing her yarns next month:

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

It was all kind of a whirlwind really. Although I’ve been a knitter (and yarn hoarder) forever, I never actually planned to become a yarn dyer. In January this year I forced my sister to come with me to Vogue Knitting Live in NYC. Since she doesn’t knit, but is an artist herself, we took all the dyeing classes offered by Felicia Lo. We came home so inspired, that on a whim we went to see if there were any studios available at a nearby community arts center that I have always loved. My sister marched right up and asked for an application for me before I could chicken out. The rest as they say is history… I got the keys to my studio on February 1st, I published my first knitting pattern Exordium on March 19th, and my online shop opened on April 1st. So, I guess you could say that once I put my mind to something — look out!

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

My colorways and names are all based on the things I love most in the world: places I’ve traveled, my favorite books and movies, my favorite things in nature and funny family stories. For me, every color tells a story. My goal as a dyer is for people to find something in my colors that resonates with them and sparks their own happy memories and feelings.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

When I first started dyeing I was so careful and deliberate when mixing colors for fear of turning everything brown. Ironically, as I’ve developed my skills and become more confident I find that my brown dyes are actually my favorite — they make the best speckles. Speckled neutrals are definitely my favorite colors to create right now.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that you find is challenging to create?

The only two times that I have had to throw yarn in the garbage were when I have tried to create a yellow colorway. For some reason, I can’t make the soft buttery yellow I envision into a reality.

How often do you update your online shop?

I try to have a shop update once or twice a month, but wholesale orders, events and trunk shows sometimes get in the way of that. I always announce my shop updates on Instagram and Facebook to let people know they are coming.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

Dyeing is my only business, but I still have a full-time mom job. I think lots of my fellow dyers and designers can relate to that. 🙂

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?

Hands down the best thing I’ve learned is that I can start and run a business!Discovering that I have something to offer the world, and the creative community in particular, is extremely satisfying and nourishing for my soul.

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Shanna Felice of Lambstrings Yarn

This is the second post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3.

It’s always exciting to find a new indie dyer whose colors you love, but it’s even more exciting to learn of one based not too far from you. Shanna Felice runs Lambstrings Yarn from her home on Long Island. She’s been a fixture at the Long Island Fleece and Fiber Fair held every May and I recently got to see her yarns in person at the sixth annual Kings County Fiber Festival in October and was blown away by her soft semisolids and lightly speckled colorways. I’m sure you’ll also fall for them when you see Shanna’s yarn at Woolyn.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I went to school for Fine Arts and earned my MFA with a concentration in painting. During that time, I was knitting for leisure between paintings and schoolwork. It was a great way to clear my head while continuing to create. Some time after graduating the masters program, I just felt I needed a break from the formal art world and my paintings. I picked up the needles and began to experiment with new yarns, colors, and more advanced patterns. I loved how knitting, like fine arts, was about “problem solving,” taking all the parts (yarns/paints/skills) and making them work together to create something whole. I enjoyed the challenge, it was the reason I got into art in the first place.

I quickly realized that I was interested in a specific spectrum of colors, and of course I was at the mercy of whatever colors I could purchase from other dyers. I thought “Hey, I could dye my own yarns, colors that I like and would want to use… after all, I have experience with color theory and mixing.” So I got myself some dyes and tools and started experimenting, I thought it was going to be a cinch, “yellow and blue make green.” Well no, not when you’re using acid dyes and mordants! This was not oil painting, this was a whole different animal of color mixing and behaved as such. I was going to have to learn color theory all over again, and call me crazy, but I was excited. I went all in, keeping a detailed notebook of color recipes and inspiration, and acquiring more and more dyes. Over the next year I dyed A LOT of yarn with much success and some failure, ending up with more than I could ever use myself. Naturally the next step is to share what I’ve created with others. This is how I was going to get my art out into the world! I started my Etsy shop and had such a positive response from customers that I kept going.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Inspiration comes from so many places. Nature, literature, nostalgia, and emotions are what most inspires my colors and names. Sometimes I get inspire by a mistake along the way, and a color that was meant to be one thing becomes something totally different.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

I love dark colors, the darker the better for my personal style, So I tend to dye darker than most. But yes, since I started dying yarn I’ve become more open to bright colors like pinks and pops of neon, and they’ve made their way into some of my colorways.

My style tends to be dark and neutral with hints of color.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that you find is challenging to create?

Not one specific colorway, but greens — most greens — they just don’t like me. It is my most challenging color family to work with. I have several successful and beautiful green based colorways, but the roads traveled to reach them were LONG and WINDY.

How often do you update your online shop?

Usually the shop is updated every two weeks. During busy seasons and holidays I will update weekly for customer convenience.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

I worked full time for many years at a craft store as supervisor of the yarn department. I now work there a few days a week and dyeing has become my main business.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?

A few things.

1. I knew the fiber community was strong, but I never knew just how wonderful it really was until I started Lambstrings Yarn. These are some of the most kind, generous, and supportive people I’ve ever met. And the enthusiasm, the fiber community LOVE what they do! I don’t think you find the same level of passion and enthusiasm anywhere else in the craft world.

2. In the creative world, if you don’t believe in what you do, it’s just not going to work.

3. I’ve learned how to be more confident. This is more of a personal growth, but it’s worth mentioning I think. The level of self discipline and confidence it requires to be one’s own boss and really taking ownership of business decisions and yes, even setbacks, has spilled over into other aspects of my life. I went from being uncertain about this fiber venture in the beginning, to feeling like it’s the best thing I ever did.

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Julia Wardell of Pandia’s Jewels

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This is the first post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3.

Pandia’s Jewels first came to my attention through dyer Julia’s fun collaborations with project bag company Slipped Stitch Studios, including designing original artwork for their Labyrinth Bag of the Month. She has since wowed me with her lovely variegated colorways and subtle speckles, such as those in the Regency Collection, a series of colors inspired by the world of Jane Austen.

Julia lives in Salt Point, N.Y., which is not far from Rhinebeck… or Brooklyn. I can’t wait to see her yarns at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, which takes place the first weekend in December and kicks off with an opening night preview party (early shopping!), with tickets available this Friday.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I had taken a break from crocheting and knitting about eight or nine years ago, and when I decided to pick up the hook and needles again I found myself designing. But there were times when I was unable to find the yarn base and colors that I wanted. It’s hard when you have a vision in your mind to bring it to life the way you want when you can’t find the right materials. So I figured why not, if I am already designing, then how hard would be to take the next step and dye my own yarn? And that’s how I ended up being an indie dyer.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

My inspiration comes from a bunch of different places. There are times when I am inspired by a single color. And then I spend months experimenting with different shades of that color through various dye techniques. Sometimes the colors and names can come from television, movies, books, and even paintings. Right now I am really into watercolor floral paintings and it’s been an interesting process translating one artistic medium into another.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

I love the color purple and I personally tend to hang out in the darker end of the color spectrum. There was a phase a few years back where I went through some neon colors, but that didn’t last long. I have noted that this past year my color palette has been muted with ecru, tan, pink, burgundy, and of course purple. But I will say that as a dyer I have to remind myself that it’s not always about what I like and sometimes I find myself strangely gravitating towards colors outside of my comfort zone.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that you find is challenging to create?

I would love to dye rusty reds and dark blues but for some reason they elude me. But I keep trying and I am determined to figure it out. Don’t be surprised if one day you see my shop filled with these colors because I finally mastered how to dye them.

How often do you update your online shop?

I try to update my shop on a regular basis, usually at the end of the week. But there are times when that update is sprinkled about the week. Let’s be honest, It’s all over the place. I would say the best way to stay updated on what is happening in my shop is to follow me on social media.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

I used to be a substitute teacher, but dyeing has become my full-time job and I love it.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?

It was a lot of trial and error at first. But I think that’s about standard when you are trying to build something from the ground up. One of the things I love the most is the fiber community. It’s one of the most creative, supportive, and loving communities to be a part of. And its given me the opportunity to collaborate and work with some truly inspiring women.

Trunk show auction to benefit ACLU-NY, PPNY & The Trevor Project

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There’s been a lot of talk on social media recently about feeling a desire to give back during these uncertain times. With so many knitters coming together for the Indie Untangled/Woolyn trunk show this weekend, Rachel and I thought it created the perfect opportunity to do just that.

We will be holding a small silent auction this weekend to benefit a few organizations we think do important work. The prize will include some choice skeins from the assortment of goodies that have arrived for the trunk show and two exclusive colorways from the 2016 Indie Untangled Where We Knit yarn club. Donations will be split equally among three organizations — ACLU – NY, Planned Parenthood NYC and The Trevor Project.

The items will be available to view and bid on during the first weekend of the trunk show. If you can’t make it to the shop or you don’t live nearby, you can place bids virtually via the WoolynBklyn Instagram page on Saturday. If you see an item you’d like to bid on, type in the maximum amount you’d be willing to spend and we’ll add you into the list of bids placed at the store. Bids will increase by a minimum of $1 above the previous bid, so you’ll only be committed to the amount of the last highest bid + $1 no matter what your maximum was. Bidding will end 6 p.m. Sunday, November 20th.

Unfortunately, because of the cost of shipping, we won’t be able to ship internationally (unless you’d like to also contribute additional for postage), but we will be happy to send it out items domestically.

If you have any questions, email info@woolyn.com or call the shop at 718-522-5820.

Here’s a peak at some of the prizes:

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Tickets are also still available for the Saturday night party and meet and greet with some of the indies. Looking forward to seeing some of you this weekend!