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.

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