What to stash this week: Falling for color

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers has created a few kits for Speckle and Pop, Stephen West’s mystery KAL, which launches Sept. 29. The shawl calls for a speckled fade of three colors, along with five mini “pop” skeins. One of the kits is already sold out, so grab yours if you want Stephen to take you on a colorful journey.

Julia of Pandia’s Jewels, based in the Hudson Valley — which is gorgeous year round, but particularly in the fall — has launched her Fall into Halloween Collection. It includes some old and new seasonal colors, both speckled and tonal, as well as some OOAK dye jobs.

We of course consider hand-dyed yarn works of art, but here’s yarn that is truly art inspired. Lisa The Knitting Artist has started dyeing up gorgeous hand-painted and tonal yarns to match her equally gorgeous knitting-inspired paintings. The hand-painted yarn comes with a card printed with the image that inspired the colorway.

You have through the end of the day today to preorder La Bien Aimée’s Automne à Rhinebeck, Asylum Fibers’ Rhinebeck’s All the Craze and Eloise Narrigan-designed tote bags for pickup at the the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show on Oct. 20.

There are still a few skeins left of The Woolen Rabbit Silky Biffle BFL/silk sport in Corn Husk, which would be perfect for a fall shawl, hat or mitts. Use the code YAYRHINEBECK for 20% off through Oct. 1, or until the yarn is sold out.

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!

Vogue Knitting Live NYC 2017: A weekend of color

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For me, this year’s Vogue Knitting Live in New York City was all about color. Yes, I know that knitting in general, and the world of hand-dyed yarn in particular, is already pretty focused on color, but my experience this weekend very much revolved around it. Believe it or not, I didn’t really think about this common theme when I picked my classes — two-color knitting with Amy Detjen on Friday morning, a color theory class with designer Veera Välimäki on Friday afternoon and a dyeing class with Felicia Lo, the owner of SweetGeorgia, on Saturday morning — but it definitely worked.

The classes

Amy’s class was a pretty straightforward technique lesson. Our homework was the start of a basic colorwork hat, moving on to using the second color in class. Amy provided instruction on how to capture longer “floats,” or the long runs between colors, and stressed the importance of keeping an even tension in both your right and left hands. I will need to practice this more, as knitting with my left hand is like learning to knit all over again, but I now feel confident enough to attempt a colorwork pattern.

Veera provided an overview of basic color theory, as well as her insights into mixing both complementary and contrasting colors, especially when using hand-dyed yarns. I enjoyed seeing the examples from her own designs (such as her Stripe Study Shawl, pictured above) and, during our in-class exercise, encouraged one of my classmates to pair her earthy green with a bright yellow and melon color.

Of course, I had to show off one of my favorite FOs, Veera’s Urban, which she was thrilled to see in person, as she’s only seen photos of the projects on Ravelry.

My dyeing class was probably the best one of the weekend. While I’ve had some experience with kettle dyeing and hand painting yarn, Felicia provided some practical information on using the right ratio of dye to fiber weight, as well as techniques to use for creating layered colors. Much of this will be in her newly-published book, Dyeing to Spin & Knit (disclosure: this is an Amazon affiliate link) which I can’t wait to get my hands on. If it’s anything like her in-person class, this book will be indispensable.

We started off the hands-on portion of the class by creating a set of mini skein gradients. As there was limited space and time, we had to split into groups of three and each create one color value (the lightness or darkness) of the gradient. Felicia had already mixed the dye powder and water, so we just had to measure out the right amount for our specific color value.

For the other techniques — low-water emersion dyeing and resist dyeing, in which you twist and untwist the skeins to get a more subtle dispersion of color — we had to choose color by committee, and ended up each make a contribution. Luckily, I was paired with some experienced classmates, including Sharon of Knit Style Yarns. For the low-water emersion skeins, we decided on orangey pink, medium blue, purple and yellow to create what I first dubbed Funfetti cake and which I later decided was very My Little Pony-esque. Our layered color started off with a short dip in light pink dye, followed by a jammy purple, mixed by yours truly, and a lighter violet.

The class definitely inspired me do some more dyeing myself and experiment with the techniques while making my own color choices.

The Marketplace

Of course, no VKL would be complete without a trip or two (or three) to the marketplace.

I spent a fair bit of time in the Backyard Fiberworks booth, as a tiny portion of it had some Indie Untangled merch! I had teamed up with Alice, and Vicki of That Clever Clementine, on some special Indie Untangled kits that were available at the show. The kits were a big hit, and I was also thrilled to see the rest of Alice’s yarn get scooped up — the booth was very popular. She had some wonderful sock yarn mini-skein sets that were perfect for one of Melanie Berg’s designs. I snagged a pinky purply set called Dove in a Plum Tree and a light pink semisolid called Mallow to make On the Spice Market.

Aside from Backyard, I loved taking in the Neighborhood Fiber Co. booth (I’d heard at Rhinebeck that Karida wasn’t going to be at VKL this year, but luckily she ended up changing her mind!). I fell in love with a sample she had of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s Boko-Boko Cowl, knit with Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Sock yarn held together with Chromium, which has steel wool to make the little points stand up. It was such a deviation from the patterns I’m normally drawn to, but it was so sculptural and interesting that I had to make it. I feel like it could be a great stand-in for a statement necklace, with the bonus of keeping me warm.

Speaking of necklaces, I was very impressed by the products at Knitten Jen’s Beads. She had kits to make your own beaded beads (wooden beads covered in beaded stockinette stitch fabric), ready-to-string beads and finished pieces. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to DIY it or get a ready-made necklace, but I was definitely intrigued.

I also paid a visit to the Yarn Culture booth, which focused on a small collection of indies, and learned that my favorite discovery from last year’s VKL, Crave Yarn, has branched out with a new venture called Brim Collections, featuring gorgeous mill-dyed skeins and coordinating patterns. I am hoping to learn more from Amor of Crave/Brim Collections and will report on it further…

And, I made sure to get my VKL NYC limited stitch markers from Marsha of One Geek to Craft Them All.

Aside from classes and shopping, my weekend was rounded out by many familiar faces (on Saturday, I could barely get to the elevators without seeing someone I knew from my various knitting circles) and spending time with my nearby knitting friends.

Yarn dyeing, hands on

dyeing-setup

You would think that as someone who runs a website devoted to indie-dyed yarn, that I would have had some experience actually dyeing yarn. Well, believe it or not, I didn’t — until very recently.

A few weeks ago, Stephanie, a knitting blogger who runs one of my NYC knitting groups, organized a dyeing workshop at her apartment. While I had been tempted to take a dyeing class before, I had never followed through, and this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

Stephanie had a few different bases to dye with, including BFL/nylon sock yarn and Bulky Targhee, which is what I ended up working with. She set up a soup pot on her stove for kettle dyeing and also had the option of hand-painting yarn on her counter. After seeing one of the knitters dye a gorgeous silvery gray sock blank and a couple others create a beautiful variegated colorways, I decided to try my hand at both methods.

dyeing-painting-1

After pre-soaking the hank, I started adding the color, a mix of black and blue to get gray. Then, after the dye had penetrated, I removed the yarn from the pot and set it out on the plastic-wrapped counter to begin my painting. Using eye droppers, I covered a bunch of the hank with dark purple and then added a dash of yellow. I had wanted to include some green, but the yellow was a better choice, as it ended up turning green in the spots that the blue dye came through — my kindergarten color education definitely paid off!

dyeing-lisa-yarn-process

After “cooking” the painted yarn in Stephanie’s crockpot, I rinsed out the yarn in her bathroom sink and hung it up to dry in the shower.

dyeing-lisa-yarn-drying

Stephanie said the colors became much more vivid as the yarn dried, and snapped a great photo of it in the hank before she wound it in a cake that I can knit from.

dyeing-yarn-hank

I’m thinking of making a hat with an interesting stitch pattern to break up the colors.

Of course this doesn’t mean I won’t leave the majority of the yarn dyeing to the seasoned pros who post to Indie Untangled, but I’ve definitely been bitten by the dyeing bug.

Green Day

irish-eyes-rocket

St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect day for showing off your best green hand knits. If you don’t have any — or don’t have enough! — get a head start on next year with these envy-inducing shades from Indie Untangled dyers. Above is the appropriately-named Irish Eyes by Cedar Hill Farm Company.

Sea Lillies, an exclusive colorway by Sweet Georgia Yarns for A Good Yarn Sarasota

Sea Lillies, an exclusive colorway by Sweet Georgia Yarns for A Good Yarn Sarasota

Winter Green by Berry Colorful Yarnings

Winter Green by Berry Colorful Yarnings

Kinglet Moss by Stitchjones

Kinglet Moss by Stitchjones

Glastonbury by Round Table Yarns

Glastonbury by Round Table Yarns

Into the Forest by Third Vault Yarns

Into the Forest by Third Vault Yarns

Indie is the new black

Cease and Desist

Recently, when my almost-5-year-old nephew requested a black hat to go with his school uniform, I was at first a little disappointed. Like most knitters, I’m generally drawn towards vivid colors — black is for boots and store-bought cardigans, amiright? — and I figured I’d also have to go with a very plain pattern because any interesting detail would get lost in black yarn. Then I remembered that a bunch of dyers have black colorways, so I went clicking through the Indie Untangled marketplace to see what I could find.

I ended up contacting the lovely Christine of Skeinny Dipping, who had actually, a few months ago, suggested her new Cease and Desist color as one of the stripes for my Nangou (I ended up going with pink and teal to match Duck Duck Wool’s Night Bokeh). Christine dyed up two skeins of C&D on her Journey Worsted base, one of which I’m using for Stephen West’s Windschief — it’s just complex enough without having anything go missing in the darkness.

Since I thought black was such an interesting color choice for a dyer, I decided to ask Christine a few questions:

What made you decided to create a black colorway?

If you look in my closet you will find a lot of black. My dresses are black (or a really dark color), my store-bought cardigans are black, etc. My husband says I always look like I’m ready for a funeral. I like it because it matches everything easily and the last place I want to spend time at is a clothing store. But while there’s black everywhere in store fashion there isn’t a lot of black in the yarn world — certainly not enough for me. Ask me to pair two colors together? I can do it but I’ll really want black to be one of them. Three colors? Impossible (this is why I still haven’t knit a Color Affection). I need one of them to be black so the scarf goes with my cardigans and dresses. Voila! Cease and Desist was born.

Without giving too much away, how does one actually create a shade of black? Do you use black dye, or is it a combination of other colors?

Like any other colorways it depends. My Cease and Desist is very simple — one dye. But you can create very beautiful blacks — just have a look at Blue Moon Fiber Arts. They have an amazing line of blacks in their Raven Clan series.

Is it challenging to give a black colorway “depth”?

Again, it depends. Are you going for a semi-solid black, a tonal, or something using a resist? I feel like tackling a black color presents the same challenge as any other color.

What pattern suggestions do you have for black yarn, with it either as a main or accent color?

For an accent color, I love Aileron by Dieuwke van Mulligan. Colorwork projects are also great for black, like Pointy Pointy Mittens by Adrian Bizilia or Jazz Hands by Kate Davies. Stripes are great, too: Accelerating Stripes Fingerless Gloves by the Churchmouse Yarns people, Mon Petit Gilet Raye by Isabelle Milleret. And anything brioche. I also use black for the heels on a lot of my hand-knit socks.

Here are some of my other favorite black colorways by IU’s artisans:

Slick by Dark Harbour Yarns

Black is Black or Black Pearl by Dragonfly Fibers

The Pit by Invictus Yarns

Baby Got Black by Magpie Fibers

Peter’s Shadow by Duck Duck Wool

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Laurie Gonyea of Feel Good Yarn Company

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FGYC Laurie Gonyea

This is the second in a series of interviews with the fabulous sponsors of the 2015 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I think it’s safe to say that using any kind of yarn would make a knitter feel good, but Laurie Gonyea of Feel Good Yarn Company has created something particularly unique.

A few years ago, the Washington, DC, resident discovered a yarn spun with silver produced by a company in Turkey. She at first thought about importing it, but instead decided to see if it could be created with American-sourced fiber. Laurie — who was running a company called Knit Outta the Box, which sold “emergency” knitting kits to gift shops and other places — got in touch with the staff at North Carolina State University’s College of Textiles (which has a spinning lab — how cool is that?!) and they worked to develop a yarn made with cotton grown in North Carolina and spun with a small percentage of silver filaments, also made in the USA. Many say silver has healing properties for people with arthritis and diabetes, hence the company’s name. These aren’t FDA-approved claims, of course, but silver’s conductive properties also make it useful for swiping smartphone touchscreens, and Laurie’s Texting Mittens are popular.

Feel Good Yarn Company offers fingering- and sport-weight yarn, as well as patterns, and Laurie recently started working with Maryland-based indie Alice O’Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks — who will be a vendor at this year’s trunk show — to add some color to the SilverSpun line.

How did you come up with the idea to develop yarn spun with silver?

The idea of spinning fibers with precious metals is a very old one — they have been doing it since the time of the Sultans — so I didn’t come up with the concept. What I did come up with though, was the idea to develop and produce a yarn spun with silver using only American sourced fibers and spun entirely in the USA. I worked with the Spin Lab at North Carolina State University to develop my yarn and to this day they are still spinning it for me.

FGYC beauty shot

I understand you’re collaborating with indie dyers on SilverSpun colors. Can you talk about what’s in the works?

Alice O’Reilly, from Backyard Fiberworks, does all of our hand dyeing. She has an amazing sense of color, and every colorway she has come up with has just been stunning. Initially, we worked together on just exclusive colorways, but now she is dyeing all of our “repeatable” colors in our SilverSpun Sock.

Are there any challenges that come with dyeing yarn that contains silver?

This is really a question that should be asked of Alice, since I am not a dyer, but from what I can tell, really the only issue is that because the yarn is cotton it shrinks quite a bit (7%-12%) the first time it is submerged. Consequently, when I put up skeins for her to dye I add 10% to the length just to make sure that the skeins are not short yardage-wise.

The silver in the yarn doesn’t accept the dye, so all of our dyed (and natural) yarns have a slight sparkle to them.

What colors would you love to see your yarn in?

I’m already seeing them! Alice has come up with some stunners! We did a Summer Sock Club this summer and all of the colors had a “summery” theme — Sea Glass, Nectarine Dream and Watermelon Crush. I think to date, though, my favorite has been Razzelberry, a mixture of berry colors. It was gorgeous!

Feel Good Yarn Company's Razzleberry colorway, dyed by Alice O'Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks.

Feel Good Yarn Company’s Razzleberry colorway, dyed by Alice O’Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I was 6 years old and my mother taught me.

Laurie's Pompeii Hat

Laurie’s Pompeii Hat

What are the inspirations behind your pattern designs?

I really don’t do a lot of designing these days — running Feel Good Yarn Co. keeps me pretty busy — but I did release a pattern last fall called the Pompeii Hat that was inspired by the beautiful mosaics that I saw in Pompeii, Italy. The hat is knit using the mosaic technique, so I thought the name fit perfectly.

You also ran another successful company, Knit Outta the Box. What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?

Knit Outta the Box was my first company that I started in 2008. It is no longer around except for a few patterns that we sell online. When I first started KOTB I was talking to an old high school friend that ran a very successful company and he told me to try and work out of my house for as long as I could. He said renting office/warehouse space was very expensive and if I could prevent from having to deal with the overhead cost of rent, I would be able to put more money into my pocket. FYI — I’m still working out of my home studio and totally making it work!

Untangling: caterpillargreen yarns

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catherine_heatshot_600x600

When I think of the process of hand dyeing or hand painting skeins of yarn, I usually envision something fairly artistic, or sometimes I picture a mad scientist working in a lab coat. When I heard that Catherine Gamroth of caterpillargreen had used her engineering and computer science background to create a more efficient way of creating self-striping yarn, my mind went to some Rube Goldberg-esque contraption. Turns out, I wasn’t too far off…

Catherine, who’s based in British Columbia, earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, working for several years in the sustainable building design field and for the local water utility. She later returned to school for her master’s in computer science. Catherine started knitting while in graduate school and it immediately displaced all her other hobbies. Her business has taken off since she posted on Indie Untangled a year ago, and the self-striping shawl yarn she released last fall has been wildly popular (and even got a mention from The Yarn Harlot!). Catherine was kind enough to give a glimpse into her intriguing process:

Tell me how you got started dyeing yarn.

So, I was minding my own business one day when I was bitten by a radioactive spider. I thought nothing of it at the time, but woke up the next morning with the ability to shoot colourful yarn right out of my wrists…oh…wait…that’s not right.

What got me started dyeing was the challenge of finding a more efficient way to make self-striping yarn. Anyone who has dyed their own self-striping yarn will tell you that it is a very labour intensive process. The first skein I ever dyed took me what felt like days, mostly spent unwinding and untangling yarn.

So most of my time has been spent developing a dyeing process, rather than learning the techniques and subtleties of the art of hand-dyeing. As a result, I am very much a one-trick pony, but it’s a really neat trick.

finger_paint_self_striping_yarn_600x600

Can you tell me a little bit about your custom dyeing process? How does your engineering and computer science background come into play with dyeing?

Oh, you mean my army of robots? Yeah, they were going to take over the world but I convinced them to focus on yarn domination first.

I kid. Mostly.

We have quite an elaborate set-up for our dyeing – pulleys, motors, valves, etc. – that takes makes our process much more efficient. That’s not a royal we, either. My husband is my co-conspirator in all of this.

two_skeins

What’s the story behind the name caterpillargreen?

I think I got it from a paint chip while I was trying to think up a user name for Flickr. Great story, right?

What would you say inspires your colorways?

Overall, I would love to create self-striping yarns that don’t scream “novelty” but have some of the depth and elegance that you see in semi-solid hand-dyed yarns.

Is there a colorway that you’ve found is challenging to create, or to get “just right”?

I feel like I am still on the steep part of the learning curve for designing with colours. So far, I have just played around until I find something I like. I’m not sure I’ve achieved “just right” yet, but it is a fun challenge.

Caterpillargreen concrete_and_tulips_shawl

Victoria, BC, appears to have a very vibrant knitting and fiber community. Can you say how that has impacted your business?

I have been blown away by the encouragement and support we have received from our local fiber community. Our first day of business – the first time anyone outside our immediate family had seen our yarn – was at Victoria’s big fiber festival, Fibrations. Not only did people buy our yarn (!) but they came to introduce themselves, to congratulate us, and to welcome us to the local scene. From a business point of view, making those connections and getting our yarn into the hands of prominent knitters, designers and bloggers has been a huge part of our success so far.

Catherine has generously offered a skein in the colourway of the winner’s choice. To enter, comment with a link to the shawl pattern you would like to make with the yarn (Catherine has some great suggestions on her website). You have until the end of the day my time on Sunday, June 28, and then I’ll be picking a winner by random number generator. Good luck!

What to stash this week: IU’s hottest yarn clubs

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I decided to channel my inner Stefon in this week’s Friday blog post. For those of you not familiar with SNL, or who haven’t watched the show in recent years, Stefon is a flamboyant NYC ambassador and regular Weekend Update guest who clued us in to hot city clubs with some… colorful characters, like “a Russian guy who runs on a treadmill in a Cosby sweater.” And Indie Untangled has some colorful yarn clubs on the marketplace this week (if you want to make a Cosby sweater, that’s totally up to you):

If you’re a Peanuts fan, this club will make you want to do a Snoopy-like happy dance. Tami of Eternity Ranch Knits has launched a Peanuts yarn club and is taking pre-orders. Each month, members will receive a 463-yard skein of 75% Merino/25% nylon fingering weight yarn that’s custom dyed to match the fabric for that month’s bag. You can get just one month’s installment or all three.

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Carrie of Alpenglow Yarn is offering a club with naturally-dyed yarns, and it has some unique features. Club members receive mini skeins of six or eight colors, a detailed explanation of the dyeing process and the final recipes for each color. Also included will be ideas for multi-color projects that you can make with the mini-skeins. Then, after you receive your club shipment, you also have a month in which you can get full skeins of any of the club colors for 20% off. There are only a few spots left, so you should act fast.

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You might want to make sure you’re snacking on something before looking at these new fall colorways dyed up by Sarah of Sarah’s Spindle. The alpaca-Merino, silk and cashmere blends come in various weights and colors reminiscent of spiced peaches, roasted corn muffins, homemade fudge and, of course, pumpkin. (OK, I think I’m ready for my pumpkin-flavored everything now.)

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If Billy Joel was a knitter, he’d be in a DK state of mind. Cheryl and Jenn of June Pryce Fiber Arts have added Beavertail, a lovely 3-ply DK weight yarn of Polwarth wool and silk, to their Etsy shop. If you can’t decide on a full skein of one color, Beavertail is available in ombre mini skein sets of 600 yards (100 yards per mini).