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.
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.
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.
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.
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.