Untangling: Astral Bath Yarns

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As an artist, Ridgely Schantz has long brought colors to life on paper and canvas. A few years ago, she added wool to the list, unleashing such striking and complex colorways as Famous Blue Raincoat and Scheherazade on the knitting world. (Seriously. The names of her colors — inspired by mythology, alchemy, movie titles and many other things — are almost as awesome as the colors themselves.)

Only weeks after learning to knit, Ridgely decided to take a dyeing workshop with designer Bristol Ivy at the Portland Fiber Gallery near her home in Maine. A snowstorm the day before didn’t stop Ridgely from attending and, fortunately for those of us on the hunt for that Ultimate Shade of _______, dyeing yarn was not as mysterious as she had imagined.

Coincidentally, after I wrote about the Astral Bath open house last week, my good friend Jess saw my post on Facebook and told me that she’d met Ridgely years ago when she lived in NYC, and remembers the amazing tea paintings she did.

While a skein of Astral Bath may not be as big of an investment as a painting, Ridgely’s yarn is no less coveted than a work of art. Her Etsy shop routinely sells out within minutes of an update. The demand for Ridgely’s gorgeous yarn was actually one of the reasons behind my decision to launch Indie Untangled — I wanted to give knitters a head start in snagging a skein or sweater quantity of Circe or Snackwagon.

As you sit tight for word on Ridgely’s next update, there’s an opportunity to win a skein that she dyed up especially for one lucky reader.

Describe the meaning behind the name Astral Bath.

It’s kind of silly. Around 2010 I put together a website to catalogue my paintings and drawings, and I called the site Astral Bathysphere Cartography. I liked the ABC of it all, and I liked the image of my imagination floating around in an antique diving bell and mapping its adventures. So when I decided to open a shop to sell my yarn, I wanted a name that tied my work with color and yarn to my other creative work. So I grabbed the part of the name that could plausibly refer to dyeing. Also, on another tangent, I was thinking about the intensive Ancient Egyptian embalming processes, where the spirit has left the body, so the body must be “put away” neatly in case it’s needed later. In my case, I’m preparing a body (yarn) to accept a new spirit (color).

Can you say how painting and drawing informs your work as a dyer?

When I started dyeing, I told my mom it was like painting but on a hyperdimensional surface. I think most of how my prior experience as a painter/draughtsman has informed my current work is that I’m comfortable putting a new idea to the test. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else. Creating something new doesn’t have to be a white-knuckle experience. Furthermore, I’m extremely comfortable with materials and have always been curious about how to combine them in interesting ways. I’ve always taken an alchemical approach to my painting, so this is in many ways and extension of that and a perfect way to demonstrate how art, craft and science can share the same space.

Do you have a favorite color or colors?

When you asked me that, my mind flooded with all of them. When I say it’s red, it’s really only a certain kind of red—think of the brightest, richest, most light-infused cherry you can think of. It’s not pink but it’s got so much clarity and brilliance under its surface, it hints that way. And I love navy blue and deep teal and black grape and piercing purples. I could go on all day. Lately, I’ve been learning about greys and really getting into their possible varieties. I never wore grey growing up, and I love a new adventure.

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

I’ve been laboring over The Perfect Green off and on for the past few months. Greens are easy to make but hard to perfect and in this process, I’m learning exactly what parts of the green family attract me, and why. The Perfect Green is hard to describe, of course, but it’s a blue-leaning without going teal, and saturated. Slightly darker than medium, but not all the way to pine. I always catch myself humming “Greensleeves” while I’m working on it so it definitely has something medieval going on. There are definitely some contenders in the hand-dyed world, but so far, none of them have been mine. Plucky’s Pinehurst and Tosh’s Laurel live in the same neighborhood, if that helps.

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned as you’ve been running Astral Bath Yarns?

Time management (still getting the hang of that one) and sequential prioritization come to mind first. I’m really getting a handle on “OK, first I need to do this, then this, then this.” Similar skills to what I imagine a chef or a lab chemist might pick up on the job.

Tell me about your non-dyeing background. I know you’ve worked for the menswear designer Alan Flusser. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Virginia Beach. I never felt very much like a local, even though I loved the beach and being so close to the water and made friends and so forth. There isn’t much imbedded culture there; it’s still a tourist town with a naval base and people tend to come and go. I had a pretty idyllic suburban childhood, with more than the usual swimming hours clocked in. But when I hit high school, I got good grades so I could go away to school. Most of the really interesting kids in my school pretty much did the same thing. Fun fact: my high school crush turned into an art world darling.

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What do you enjoy doing when you’re not dyeing or knitting?

It’s sort of scary how little time there is outside of that nowadays. So, I’m trying to get the hang of balance. That said, I still have a drawing habit and I’ve been getting the needlepoint urge again. And I will read anything with words on it.

Cukor

For the giveaway, Ridgely dyed this skein of blurple that she named George Cukor, after the director of such classic films as The Women, My Fair Lady (a personal fave) and The Philadelphia Story. To enter, comment on this post and tell us your favorite movie.1 You have until the end of the day my time on Sunday, June 29, and then I’ll be picking a winner by random number generator. Good luck!

1. Comments are moderated to prevent spam and will appear after I approve them.

57 thoughts on “Untangling: Astral Bath Yarns

  1. I don’t know if it’s really my favorite, but the movie I make a point of watching annually?

    “Dirty Dancing.”

    In part, because of Patrick Swayze. But also because it was Honi Cole’s last flick.

    I was completely captivated when my niece and her brand-new-husband beautifully replicated the lift, as part of their first dance, at their wedding!

  2. Everyone, don’t bother entering because MINE!

    Right now I think my favorite movie is Star Wars. The original. I’m feeling very retro scifi right now.

  3. Favorite movie: Clue. I love Tim Curry, and I love the silly absurdity of the whole thing. Also, Madeline Kahn is made of win. 🙂

  4. Dammit, how did Erica get here before me? Shouldn’t she still be asleep over there on the West Coast?? 😉

    My favorite movie is Clue. The end. The best. Will watch anytime anyplace and my husband will tell you that I will recite the dialogue along with it. I can’t help it. Mostly. Mrs. Peacock, forever and ever, Amen.

    (I see I have a kindred spirit up there, Hi Danielle!)

  5. Ridgely’s colors are amazing! Now, for time to knit some of them!!

    My favorite movie is “PeeWee’s Big Adventure.” It’s got so many zany bits strung together, it feels like all the summer vacations of my life in one movie!

  6. Good morning AstralStalkers…you KNOW that skein is MY color!
    I love both versions of The Philadelphia Story (Cukor’s as well as High Society), but I keep coming back to Charade. Then there’s Repo Man and, and, and….

  7. Probably You’ve Got Mail. Or any of the Harry Potter movies. All of those are watched regularly in my house.

  8. Ridgely’s yarns are so fantastic and are quite possibly…probably…my newest obsession.

    My favorite movie. That’s a toughie, but I think I’m going to go with “Paint Your Wagon”. Love the music, love the humor, and most especially love Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood!

  9. I have to pick just one? I think my biggest guilty pleasure right now is that horrible rom com “The Holiday”. I keep recording it off TV and my husband keeps asking me to delete it.

  10. Just one movie?? I guess it would have to be “The Empire Strikes Back.”

    Now hand over the yarn! Ridgely dyes such amazing colors and bases, congrats to whoever wins it!

  11. My absolute favorite movie is Grosse Pointe Blank. Quirky and fun but still a lot of action. I’ve seen it dozens of times and it never gets old.

  12. My favorite movie is “French Kiss” with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. My husband and I know every line, and still chuckle watching it together.

  13. Can the Lord of the Rings trilogy count as one movie? I don’t think I could pick just one of them….if I had to pick a single movie on its own, I’d say Out of Africa.

  14. I enjoyed reading the profile of Ridgely! I have lots of favorite movies, but right now “a Hard Days Night” is on my mind. There’s a 50th anniversary remaster coming out next week & I’m looking forward to seeing it in the theater again.

  15. Love this skein, as with all Astral Bath that I have seen so far! I am a huge George Cukor fan, and Adam’s Rib is my favourite Cukor movie. But my all-time favourite film is Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. It is perfection.

  16. oh my, isn’t that gorgeous yarn!

    for my favorite movie i’m going with ‘The Breakfast Club’ and if anyone is curious, i am totally Allison though i think most would mistake me for Claire.

  17. Oh my, that is some of the most gorgeous yarn already and I do covet pretty much any purple Ridgely creates as they all are so perfect for me

    Now for a favorite movie, that is a tough one, especially as with no movie theatre in my town for the last 10+ years, we’ve hardly ever seen a movie (as the 45-60 minute trip to the nearest theaters isn’t worth it)

    If i go back in time and am limited to one and i go for something that isn’t from a book, i’d have to say ‘When Harry Met Sally’ as an old favorite.

  18. I can attest that Ridgely brings gorgeous colors to life (Snackwagon!). Photos don’t really do the colors justice.
    My favorite movie is the Princess Bride.

  19. I adore Babe – “I’m a pig, what are ewe?” Most adorable movie ever. Thank you for the gorgeous giveaway!

  20. OMG! What an amazing purple… I so hope it’s repeatable 🙂

    Only one movie though… that’s difficult…

    I do love Indiana Jones and his whip 😉 but I’ll have to say Star Wars – Return of the Jedi
    Love the ewoks, Princess Leia in that outfit and Admiral Ackbar!

  21. Choosing one favourite movie is like choosing one favourite from amongst Ridgely’s colours, even one single of her reds from the cornucopia of her amazing colour sense coupled with her imagination.
    Goodbye Mr. Chips with Robert Donat?
    Bringing up Baby with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant?
    Follow the Fleet for the perfection that is Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire?
    Four Weddings and a Funeral?
    Love Actually?
    Dirty Pretty Things for Stephen Frears amazing direction?
    Chariots of Fire?
    ET?

    Where to go?
    If I have to choose only one, it would have to be Some Like It Hot. Nothing short of perfection.

  22. Ridgely is a yarn dyeing genius! Having been a fan from almost the beginning I can say that there is no color that she doesn’t make shine.

    Favorite movie really is a tie between Sound of Music and Cinderella. I guess Cinderella will have to win because it was my wedding theme.

  23. Favorite movie: The Royal Tenenbaums
    Favorite yarn dying goddess: Ridgely Schantz
    Favorite knitting needle color: Caspian
    Favorite food: Bean Burritos

    Goodness, I hope I win!

  24. Favorite movie has always been and will always be Ghostbusters. Why my parents thought it was okay to show a two-year-old, I’ll never know. Much like I’ll never know how Ridgely manages to create such phenomenal colors.

  25. Look out, purple lovers!

    My favorite movie is Jurassic Park. It was a life changing experience for me watching it for the first time. I can pretty much thank this movie for my love of science (even if I know now that much of the movie was just incorrect).

    Science rules. Purple rules too.

  26. Such a tough decision. If I go by the number of times I’ve watched any one film, I’d have to say The Breakfast Club.

  27. Adding my name to the hat!

    Favorite movie is a tough one … but you can always count on ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. I must have been 5 or 6 when I saw just the part on Hoth, and wondered why there were kangaroos out in the snow with people on them!

    I see a few other original trilogy answers, so I know I’m in a good crowd 🙂

  28. Mary Poppins because I love animated movies and it was the first to combine live actors and animation. Plus, the idea of laughing so much that one floats to the ceiling like a balloon has always appealed to me!

  29. I’m definitely a Star Wars geek and have passed the love of the movies to my six year old. That was a real proud mom moment when I realized he had come to love the movies!

  30. Favorite movie? Why Philadelphia Story. It’s the story, the actors, the location, the soft focus, and Katharine Hepburn’s clothes.

  31. Loved reading the the background & process of naming Astral Bath. Gorgeous shades! Favorite film as of this minute…Lilies of the Field.

  32. Last summer was my summer of Maine knitting. Everything I knit was either by a Maine related designer and/or dyer (or both). Then the theme just kept going. Next on to my needles is a sock by Lara Smoot and they will look great in Ridgely’s yarn.

    Favorite movie: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  33. I could say my favorite movie is The Color Purple because,,, well, you get it.

    But it’s not.

    I do adore The Philadelphia Story & have seen it probably a dozen times at least.

  34. I loved reading this interview! AB yarns are next on my must have list – the only problem being the shop stalking and picking a colour. Congrats on all your success Ridgely!

  35. Ridgely’s colors are all gorgeous. and I’m anxiously awaiting another update!

    I don’t know about favorite, but the movie I can watch over and over is The Fifth Element.

  36. Oh heavens, to pick a favorite! Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant, since I just watched it with my 11 year old to introduce her to a real classic and my favorite actor.

  37. Love the classics – An Affair to Remember <3, Rebecca – so hard to favour just one! Thanks for the intro to Ridgely and those gorgeous colourways – mmmmmmm – who can stop at one of those as well?

  38. Love Astral Bath yarn especially in Purple! Picking one movie is hard and I have to go with my teenage cheesy pick… Breakfast Club.

  39. Picking a favorite movie is like picking a favorite song, but one of the movies I can watch any time, any mood is A League of Their Own… followed closely by Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and anything with Bill Murray.

  40. My favorite movie is “The Fifth Element” because it’s silly and fun and science fiction and has Gary Oldman.

  41. Blurple isn’t a color; it’s indigo! Oh, and I totally love it. My favorite movie changes all the time, but I’ve always been a fan of The Blues Brothers and Strictly Ballroom.

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