Untangling: Lakes Yarn and Fiber

Ami

Just like the semisolid skeins she dyes in the kitchen of her 100-year-old cottage in the mountains of northern Idaho, Ami Volz of Lakes Yarn and Fiber has many interesting layers. Growing up in Coeur d’Alene, a small town on the north shore of Coeur d’Alene Lake, Ami followed her grandmother, aunt and dad into nursing. When she’s not creating colors inspired by the natural beauty surrounding her in Idaho’s lake country, Ami works as an RN on the cardiac floor of a local hospital.

The fiber arts have also become a big part of Ami’s family. A couple of years ago, she and her dad began raising a small flock of Finnsheep, a breed closely related to Shetland and Icelandic sheep. Ami has posted pictures of her cute lambs on Ravelry and has even asked for help in naming the children of sheep parents Charlotte and Wilbur (see what they ended up being named below). Ami plans to make the fiber from her sheep available in her Etsy shop, where she also sells beautiful handspun, so her work in the fiber arts literally runs from start to finish.

You recently celebrated your first year in business! Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I grew up with a grandmother who was a prolific and accomplished knitter. I started knitting in high school when she sent me yarn and needles to get started. I’ve been knitting on and off, but mostly on ever since.

I love yarn, and especially hand-dyed yarn, so it was just a natural progression of my obsession with wool. I spent about a year reading books and researching online and then finally jumped in and started dyeing. I then spent another year of craft time dyeing over 1,000 samples of different colors while I taught myself how to mix all of my own colors from primary dyes. After my two years of research I finally felt like I’d spent enough time honing my dye skills and Lakes Yarn and Fiber was born.

How long have you been been breeding sheep? Is that pretty unique in your part of Idaho?

My dad and I have been raising sheep since 2012, so we are still very new at shepherding. Eventually, we hope to have a small herd of 12 or so ewes and after keeping all of our lambs this year, we are well on our way. We chose Finn Sheep for their relatively small size, lovely wool and friendly nature. Raising sheep has been an extremely rewarding experience and I’m hoping that in the near future (as soon as my sheep finish growing this year’s fleece actually) to offer fleeces for hand spinners for sale through my shop. Since we live in a relatively rural area raising animals is a big part of life here although most of the sheep in my area are raised for meat instead of wool.

The whole flock. The lambs are, from left: Nibs, Stella, Cocoa, Liesl and Luna.

The whole flock. The lambs are, from left: Nibs, Stella, Cocoa, Liesl and Luna.

Your colors are so bright and cheerful. What are your inspirations?

I live in a place that is literally cloudy and grey eight months of the year, so I almost always find myself drawn towards clear, bright colors. In the summer I pretty much live outdoors at the lake which I think is what makes me love all the blue green colors of water. Beauty Bay was named after a bay in Coeur d’Alene Lake that is literally that deep of a blue green color on a summer day. Obviously, the outdoors and the area I live in was the inspiration for my business name. The bases of my yarns are also named after lakes I frequent in the area. Hayden is where I grew up swimming in the summer and Fernan is where I rowed crew in college. I haven’t picked bases yet to name after my favorite lakes, but they are coming soon.

BeautyBay

Do you have a favorite color or colors?

Teal! I love blues and greens and green-blues and blue-greens. I like other colors too, but anything on the blue green end of the spectrum is bound to get an ooh and aah from me.

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

I have a really hard time with multicolor and variegated yarns. I would love to dye some of the beautiful speckled colors that lots of indie dyers do, but I tend to be sort of uptight (even though I like to think I’m not).

Is that because it’s technically challenging to get what you want, or because you prefer semisolids?

I think it’s a combination of both — I do prefer semi-solids, but even though I love to layer dye, I find it difficult to put colors together that will contrast and blend without ending up a muddy mess. I have never had any horrible disasters when dyeing variegated yarns, but I have had a quite a few that I’ve over dyed to just be a semi solid.

How do you squeeze in the fiber arts with such a busy job?

Fortunately for my yarn business, nursing has very flexible hours. I work 12 hour shifts, so on days I work I’m gone from 6 a.m. to about 8:30 p.m. However, I work way less days then a traditional 9-5 so it enables me to put more effort into dyeing. My husband also helps with shipping – if I get orders on days that I work he’s always willing to run to the post office.

IMG_9602

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

Mostly that I have great friends and family who are endlessly supportive and always ready and willing to squish a skein of yarn and help me name a new color even though they aren’t remotely interested in yarn. I’ve also learned that my husband will put up with the wet wool smell and heaps of yarn strewn all over the house drying because he knows dyeing makes me happy. I’m still a very new and very small business, but I’ve had amazing interactions with knitters and spinners from all over the world. Nothing delights me more than seeing yarn or fiber that I dyed being made into beautiful new projects.

He'e Nalu

IMG_1271

Speaking of beautiful projects, Ami has generously offered up these two skeins of her Single Fingering AND a copy of cabinfour’s He’e Nalu pattern for a giveaway. To enter, take a look the Colorways page on Ami’s new website and comment here with three of your favorites. You have until the end of the day my time on Sunday, July 6, to comment. Good luck, both in the giveaway and narrowing down those gorgeous colors!

This giveaway is now closed.

48 thoughts on “Untangling: Lakes Yarn and Fiber

  1. I, too, am a great lover of teal, so I appreciate Ami’s eye for it in all it’s beautiful variety!

    If I had to, abstolutely HAD TO narrow my faves down to three? I’d go with January Morning, Big Sky Blue, and Andrea.

  2. Oh boy. I feel like I’m duplicating ThatCleverClementine’s comment, but I’m totally with her! I love teal (and blue and green and blue-green and green-blue) too. I love January Morning, Soft Linen and just to mix it up, Tweet Tweet. Thanks for introducing us to Lakes Yarn and Fiber!

  3. Great post! I’m a fan of all things jewel-tone, but if I had to narrow it down, Andrea, Big Sky Blue, and Marigold are my faves:)

  4. Lovely yarn in lots of amazing colours – my short list would have to include Emerald city, Beauty bay and D’Anjou. Thank you

  5. Ooh, such pretty colors! I love Electric Feel, Bayview and Mist. …and Emerald City, and Letter A.

    Thanks for sharing a little about what you do.

  6. I have the unique pleasure of knowing Ami personally and recently visited her winding room (her home). Her color sense is awesome. It was really hard to limit my choices both in bases and colors. I just swatched for the Shaken and Stirred cardi using her new Maple Sport base and plan to cast that one on tomorrow. The stitch definition is wonderful and I’m really happy with the color combo for this cardi. The Silk Single really glows and I will start Stephen Wests new Dotted Rays in it this week. Ami has a generosity of spirit and keen color sense. We spent a day dyeing together before she opened her shop – well truly she spent the day teaching me about dyeing! I had such fun and learned so much from her. Now if I could just decide on a pattern for the SQ of purple Maple Sport!

  7. They were all so beautiful, I kept changing my mind as I scrolled, but my ultimate favorites were Andrea, Beauty Bay, and Rose Quartz.

  8. It’s so hard to pick just 3! I like Beauty Bay, Depths, and Wintersong. Ami is wonderful. She did a custom dye job for me before and it was beyond perfect.

  9. Ami’s colours are stunning. My favourites would be Beauty Bay, Cloak, Darkwash, Emerald City and Peony. Generally I lean towards blues, teals and greens, so Ami’s colours are right up my alley. I’m not usually a fan of pink, but to me Peony is the perfect balance of warm and cool.

  10. This is so hard. All of the colors are gorgeous! If I have to choose only three, I’d say Bayview, Depths, and Frances.

  11. It was difficult picking only 3 colors……..went with my favorite colors DarkWash, Beauty Bay and Frances.

  12. Beautiful yarn and lovely colors! Would love to knit something with Frances, Sea Glass or Bayview 🙂

  13. Lovely colors! Cloak is the first to catch my eye. It is gorgeous. I also really like Soft Linen and Frances.

  14. I bought some of Ami’s gorgeous yarn to give as a gift and I hated to part with it!

    Picking just three favorites is hard! I like them all! But if I have to choose, I like Bayview, Electric Feel, and Peony.

  15. I definitely can’t pick only three favourites…I even have 3 different colours sitting in my etsy cart right now! But since Lisa insists, here would be three of the best: breeze, wapiti, and soft linen. SO gorgeous. I love how clean and crisp all of Ami’s colours are!

  16. Alder, Frances and Emerald City are my choices. I love bright and bold and have used Frances, which turned out beautiful. Amy’s yarn is fun to work with!

  17. Love these Q&A posts. It was very hard to pick only 3 colorways as I love almost all of them. My favorite three are Alder, Beauty Bay and Hansa

  18. Frances! Followed closely by Hansa and Peony (can you pick the theme??) That shawl is awesome – so simple and so effective.

  19. I just love Wapiti. It’s such an amazing neutral. There are lots of blues that catch my eye too, but Wapiti is it for me!

  20. I have some of Ami’s yarn already! I love it all. Like Ami, I’m partial to blues, greens, blue green, green blue, etc….

    I have cloak and gentle Herimone already in my stash, so I’m going to pick 3 different colors.

    Beauty Bay, soft linen, and letter A.

  21. Great interview – thank you! And I love those sheep pics….. 🙂 As for the yarn, so many of the colours speak to me……hard to pick just three, but here goes: Winter Song, January Morning and Big Sky Blue.

  22. Geez, that wasn’t easy. I’ll go with January Morning, Sea Glass and Greystone. Thank you for the giveaway!

  23. I’m not the only one to have a hard time choosing, I see, but I’ll go for Darkwash, Moustache Man and Sanders as my three 🙂 Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  24. They are all gorgeous and I am very impressed with the yarn and young lady! I love Letter A , Hansa and Andrea. I will certainly favorite and be back to order!

  25. I am totally addicted to Ami’s gorgeous bases and colorways. My absolute favorites are Beauty Bay, D”Anjou and Hansa but I want them all. I also think her yarn photography rocks and someday wish to have a weathered chair just like hers upon which to photograph my stash.

  26. I’m going to branch out from my usual teals!

    Alder – Such a rich, complex green
    Tweet Tweet – I’ve been looking for a sunny, clear, happy yellow, and this may be it!
    Cloak – Love the complexity of this…it’s very mysterious!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *