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!

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.