Untangling SweaterFreak Knits

While I tend to discover most designers and patterns on Ravelry, I actually learned about Jenny of SweaterFreak Knits via Instagram. I was drawn to her modern, clean aesthetic and the use of subtle speckles in many of her shawls.

Despite her name, I approached her about pairing up with Nicole of Hue Loco to design a one-skein accessory pattern for the Indie Untangled Where We Knit yarn club. The result was Nicole’s Chelsea Park Cowl, a lovely shawl/cowl hybrid that looks so easy to throw on with a spring outfit. It is now available to purchase by non-club members.

Read on to learn more about Jenny’s career as a designer and about how the cowl got its name.

How did you decide to become a designer?

It happened organically. I have always preferred to knit things out of my head and after plenty of encouragement from Ravelry community, I started writing up the instructions to my ideas which became patterns.

Is there anything from your software developer side that transfers over to design?

Actually, it’s a great question and the answer is yes! Software development is all about planning and details which is very similar to knitwear design. The math behind grading requires quite a bit of focus and attention to detail. Similarly, writing the pattern is akin to writing code – both essentially are a list of instructions. You will find that many designers were involved in tech before they started designing because it really does employ the same part of the brain.

How did you come up with SweaterFreak Knits and why do you use it as your designer name?

My very first project after a long hiatus was a sweater. Wanting specific sweaters really was the reason that I picked up the needles again. This was back in 2006 and in 2007 Ravelry made its debut. I chose SweaterFreak as my nick and of course I had no idea I will end designing knitwear! In 2011 when I released my first pattern, I considered changing the moniker but since so many people knew me already I decided to keep it.

Jenny’s latest pattern, White Light.


When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned how to knit in 1985 when I was 7 years old. My maternal grandmother, Rivkah, taught me and I liked it right away. She was an avid crafter and actually preferred to crochet but she taught me both. We also share total love for yarn! She had a sizable stash and I grew up with lots of fabric and yarn around me. Most of my family two generations back were dress makers so I feel that making clothes with my hands is really something I am meant to be doing.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

It’s a bit of everything – sometimes I get a particular idea in my head, maybe from seeing it somewhere or just something I have wanted for awhile. I love browsing fashion magazines and see the clothing evolve. My personal favorite decade is the ‘60s which has lots of different elements – classic tailored pieces as well as boho-hippie style ones. I love both equally. Often times, the yarn itself starts everything in motion. For example, when you touch hearty unprocessed wool, you think fair isle.

The Vegas top.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

The first step is to sketch it. This usually gives me a good idea of what garment or accessory is going to look like, what kind of shaping it will involve. Sometimes, I use colored pencils to sketch, if the design is colorful.

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

My absolutely favorite color is blue – all shades of it, except periwinkle. It hasn’t really changed. I also love various shades of grey, green and natural. Lately, I have really gotten into yellow and mustard colors – they just look so smashing with grey!

Jenny’s most popular pattern is her Everyday Shawl.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

Definitely outside, either in the park (closest to me is Chelsea Park!) or on the beach, or even my backyard! Somehow the combination of fresh air, warm wind and wool in my lap equals heaven. I could do this forever!

Untangling: Wool and Wine

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As evidenced by the popularity of the Knitting & Gin pin, knitters like their adult beverages. Massachusetts resident John Martin took the idea a step further with his new book, Wool and Wine (affiliate link). John, who developed an appreciation of yarn and knitting from his wife, Melissa, came up with the idea for a book about yarn and wine during a project management course. Though he didn’t actually have to publish the book to pass the class, he decided to go forward with the project anyway.

In his self-published book, John expertly weaves the stories behind a dozen indie dyers and yarn companies, including Indie Untangled regulars Eden Cottage Yarns, The Woolen Rabbit and Cedar Hill Farm Company, together with those of their vineyard “pairings,” such as the Rhinebeck favorite Hetta Glögg. There are also suggested patterns for the yarns, with samples knit by Melissa and photographed out in nature (the patterns themselves are not included in the book, but you can purchase them on Ravelry).

John explained how he came up with the pairings in our interview:

How did this book come about?

The book actually began as a project for graduate school. I was taking a project management class and needed to come up with a “project” to work on. I had always been interested in writing a book and on a whim, I suggested that as a possible option to the professor. She approved the idea and I was on my way! As part of the course, I was required to come up with a subject for the book, budget, market research, timetable and many other related tasks.

My final assignment was a presentation detailing the project from start to finish and when I was done, the professor said to sounded like a great idea and to let her know if I ever actually wrote the book. I had the market research showing that there was interest in the idea so after giving it some additional though, I decided to give it a try. I figured that even if it didn’t work out, it would be a fun project to work on with my wife and daughter.

I am not sure how other books are written by in my case, I had a very detailed, step-by-step plan! As I started each new step, I would think, “Will I be able to get everything done or will this be the step that I get stuck on?” Gradually, one step turned into the next. There is a Christmas special called “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” which has a song called “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” – I am always reminded of that as I think about the process that I went through! After about a year of tiny steps, I had Wool and Wine.

Wine from Dry Creek Vineyards and yarn from The Woolen Rabbit.

How did you come up with the dyer and vineyard pairings? I notice that each are from different parts of the world.

Initially, I thought that the pairings might be one of the harder parts of creating the book. The dyers/yarns and vineyards/wines were actually chosen independently and to some degree based on a particular individual actually wanting to participate in the project. I started with an idea that I wanted to include a wide variety of wines and yarns – things that perhaps folks were not as familiar with; a spiced wine for example or a relatively new dyer – to make the book more interesting. However, just reaching out to someone did not guarantee that they would want to be in the book so it was impossible to try to plan the pairings ahead of time.

Ultimately, we ended up with a group of wines and yarns that may or may not have something in common. The big fear was – what if I am not able to find a good pairing for one of them?

As it turned out, the pairings just seemed to develop by themselves based on a wide variety of criteria. In the case of Long Ridge Farm and Poocham Hill Winery, they are located within a mile of each other in New Hampshire and are run by college friends, so they obviously needed to be together. Some of the yarns were very elegant and sophisticated and seemed to go best with a rich, refined red wine. Some yarns were light, bright and fun and were paired with sunny, summery rosés and white wines. In the case of the glögg, which is a Nordic spiced wine, it has a long history of being served in cold weather and what better yarn to work with in the winter than a soft, buttery, bulky (Hedgehog fibres in the case of the book). In the end, everything just seemed to have a natural match!

It was fun to talk about the pairings at the beginning of each section and provide the reader with the reasons why the pairing was created – I really had a picture in my head of the wine being drunk while someone knit or wore a piece made with the yarn. A good example is the chapter featuring a beautiful yarn from Kim Kaslow (The Woolen Rabbit) and a nice zinfandel from Dry Creek Vineyard. The color inspiration for the yarn was the 1940s and I can really picture a starlet wearing a shawl made from the yarn (a design from Paulina Popiolek is highlight in the chapter), at an elegant black tie gathering with a glass of zinfandel in her hand.

Meadow by Paulina Popiolek

Did you visit any of the wineries?

I wish that I had been able to visit them all! Poocham Hill Winery is relatively close to my house and I was pleased to be able to spend some time with Steve Robbins and Mame ODette, learning about their history and operation. Many of the other wineries were generous enough to provide me with time on the phone so that I could conduct my interviews remotely.

The first wine tasting that I ever went on with my wife was to Dry Creek Vineyard in California. Until that time, I selected wine based on cost more than anything else, so I was not sure what to expect when we arrived! The staff there were extremely generous with their time and talked about the differences in the types of wine, how they were aged and what types of food to pair them with. It really opened up a whole new world for me. I remember later in the day wondering how people established vineyards and opened wineries. When I started working on this project, one of the first wineries I reached out to was Dry Creek and was thrilled when they agreed to take part in Wool and Wine.

What was the publishing process like?

I have been involved in writing, editing, photoshoots, printing and layouts for a number of years professionally but never with publishing. Honestly, it was a bit daunting at first – saying “I want to write a book” is a lot easier than actually doing it! Because of my background, the creation of the content was fairly straightforward. While I was interviewing, writing, photographing and editing, I started researching how exactly to take all of that information and make it into a book. In my case, I wanted to self-publish, so there was a lot of research done on the exact process. Luckily, there is a lot of good information available to educate yourself!

There was a very surreal point where after almost a year of work, I just needed to press a button and the book would actually be published and available for sale! I remember thinking that there must be more to it than that! Some type of fanfare or something! But no, in the end, it just came done to a simple click of a button.
That is not the end of the process of course. Once you have a book and folks can purchase it, you need to let everyone know that it is out there. The marketing and promotion can be a bit of roller coaster – big sales followed by very few purchases – but I have been working for a number of years as a marketer so I am a bit more comfortable with that aspect of the work.

What is your professional background and how do you think it informed your book?

If you look at my background, I doubt that you would connect it to a book or at least not to a book about wool and wine! My undergraduate degree is in Biology and my focus was on Environmental Science and Ecology. I am still working on my graduate degree part-time (one and a half classed left!) and that work is in Business, specifically Organizational Leadership. Professionally, I have worked for a number of scientific instrumentation companies and am currently a regional marketing manager for a company that manufactures weather detection equipment (like the weather radars you see on the television news). So, from that perspective, I might well be writing a book on a scientific subject of some sort.

However, if you look beyond the obvious, a lot of the skills that I have picked up along the way have been helpful with the project. I have done a lot of writing for industry publications as well as creating technical papers, brochures, websites, etc. – activities that have helped me to learn how to communicate with people using a lot of different types of media. Photography and photoshoots have always been part of my job, as has the creation of graphics, designing and editing. All of those different things have played a part in helping me not only visualize and create Wool and Wine but also in its promotion and sale.

My specific interest in yarn and knitting stems from spending a lot of time next to my wife on the couch as she created beautiful things (and my wearing many of them!) – I caught the knitting bug from her. I always found the entire process fascinating – self-stripping yarn is amazing! – and wondered how people got their starts. Very similar to that first day wine tasting when I starting wondering about the people behind the scenes. That is really what the book is focused on – the people behind these wonderful products – how they got their start, what inspires them and where they want to go in the future. The history behind knitting and its profound effect on people are also fascinating and I enjoyed weaving that into the stories as well.

Tell me about your knitting story.

One of the things that I will always remember about my grandmother was her knitting and crocheting. She always had one project or another going and she was really the only knitter I remember seeing when I was young. When the weather got cold, she would focus on making slippers for everyone in the family – taking requests for colors, pom-poms, reinforced heels and just about anything else you could want. I do not ever recall a time when I did not have a pair under my bed. She would also make blankets for each family member when they became engaged so that they would have one handmade item to start their new life with – I still have the one that she made for my wife and me.

Knitting faded from my life as I got older. It did not return until after I was married and I can attribute its comeback to my love of baseball. Or rather, my wife’s indifference to the sport. As I would settle down to watch a game she quickly started to look for something to occupy her time while she kept me company. She started to teach herself knitting and gradually became more and more proficient. My contribution at first was strictly as a model but I soon started to see yarns that I never had encountered in my grandmother’s knitting basket. I began to accompany her on trips to fairs and yarn events and to poke around yarn shops (our first Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY together was in 2008!). The excitement and passion of the knitting community really is contagious and soon I was looking over her shoulder at podcasts and flipping through books. It was just a short hop from there to making my first tentative attempts at a washcloth!

Fabergé by Laura Aylor in Rosy Green Wool Cheeky Merino Joy

What kinds of projects are you usually working on?

My knitting skills are still in their infancy – the majority of the knitting for Wool and Wine was carried out by my wife. However, I am lucky to have such a skilled knitter in the house for teaching, tips and corrections (probably more corrections than anything else!). I am currently finishing off a hat and this summer, after my current graduate class is completed, I would like to move on to socks, which are a natural progression in my learning. I am hopeful that I will be able to progress to the point that I will not be yelled at for knitting too tightly!

What is your favorite wine and favorite yarn to work with?

My favorite wine really depends on what I am eating but I favor Malbecs if they are available (especially from Argentina and Chile). I also like a nice, chilled white during the summer. I have been fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling over my career and have enjoyed trying regional wines in many parts of the world. You can find a good wine just about any place if you take the time to look. I wanted to highlight that in the book as well and was lucky enough to be able to include some wines from non-traditional locations such as Maine, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Texas. One piece of advice that I was once given was to find a wine that you enjoy and drink it – it does not matter how much it costs, where it comes from or what others think of it. If you like it and are happy enjoying it, then it is a good wine.

Regarding yarn, I am drawn to natural colorways – likely because those are colors that I would tend to wear myself (although I do occasionally sport some pretty crazy sock colors!) – and most definitely hand-dyed indie yarns. I really admire the entire dying process and how complex it can become; it is a true art form. A yarn that has a very deep palette with multiple layers of color definitely catches my attention. With so many innovative technique and unique colors, there is always something new to discover in the world of yarn, which contributes to its uniqueness and excitement. Something that I came to admire during my research for the book was the organic wools and production techniques that are starting to become more popular and I hope to be able to learn more about that in the future (thanks to Rosy Stegmann and Patrick Grubaen of Rosy Green Wool for getting me started!).

John was generous enough to donate a copy of Wool and Wine for a giveaway! To enter, comment on this post with your favorite type of wine and/or vineyard. The giveaway will run through midnight EDT on Wednesday, May 2. A winner will be chosen via random number generator.

This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to winner Annie!

Untangling Casapinka

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I have to admit that when I first learned of the designer Casapinka, I was kind of intimidated by the idea of approaching her about posting on Indie Untangled. I had discovered her Loop shawl at the first Maryland Sheep & Wool indie pop-up at The Knot House and thought she was so talented with her innovative use of variegated yarns. I was also in awe of her colorwork skills with the Fall Is a Color hat that she designed for the 2015 Rhinebeck Trunk Show. When I learned she has worked as an ER doctor, I was convinced she was one of those people that is just so amazing at everything that you should probably hate them.

However, after getting to know Bronwyn (her real name), I was thrilled to find she is one of the most down to earth and hilarious knitters I’ve ever met. Her patterns simultaneously wow me with their brilliant use of color and crack me up with hilarious names like Welcome Back Garter, Mick Jagged and Your Slip Is Showing. I recently asked her to tell me a little bit more about her process and give me a small peek behind the speckled curtain:

You’ve worked as an emergency medicine doctor. How did you decide to become a designer?

Designing found me rather than my deciding to become a designer. I was very ill with Lyme Disease and I couldn’t stand lying around doing “nothing.” At least knitting made me feel productive… and then I found indie-dyed yarns. And I got addicted. You see where this is going!

How did you come up with Casapina and why do you use it as your designer name?

I chose the name Casapinka in 2007 when my husband and I bought a house that needed some work. Design blogs were just getting started and I would post about painting my dining room hot pink, wallpapering my dishwasher, that sort of thing. So the “Casa” part refers to the house and the “Pinka” was just chosen at whim… and then when I segued into knitwear design I just kept the name because it fit me.

When and how did you learn to knit?

As an exchange student in high school, I lived in New Zealand, land of three million people and 70 million sheep. I was stranded one week in the rain during spring vacation at a friend’s house on Lake Taupo. It poured for days and her sister knit most of a sweater during this time. It looked so boring and lame to be knitting, but as the week went on, we’d watched a bunch of movies and had nothing to show for it — and she had this amazing sweater. I actually thought those tiny needles and the slowness of knitting meant actually making a sweater was impossible, but as a metaphor for anything difficult, knitting consistently builds on itself. I was completely hooked and learned how to knit intarsia immediately so I could “draw” with my yarn.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Color! I adore rich color, hand-dyed yarn, and how different stitches work to show off the colors in the yarn. It usually begins with a color combination that catches my eye or a stitch pattern, a photograph, or some combination of the three. Seeing how indie dyers combine their colors is also inspiring and I never tire of looking at their Instagram posts.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

It all begins with the yarn. If I know I want to knit something in particular (for example, I’m working on a swing coat right now) I don’t do anything until I find the right yarn. Sometimes, the yarn isn’t available in enough yards. Sometimes, it’s discontinued or in another country, or looks different in person compared to online. I adore when a local yarn store has a yarn for me because it’s the best of all worlds.

If a dyer has contacted me to do a design, I have to get the yarn first. Sometimes I’ll do a private Pinterest board with the dyer to get an idea of a particular inspiration that they would like, but usually I get free reign. If I try too much to make it into something specific I fall flat on my face. And finally, I’m sometimes asked to submit a proposal or draw a design that I have in mind. My drawings are laughable and do not reflect what goes on in my head. I can’t seem to make my vision go through my hand onto paper — just onto knitting needles.

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

Despite the moniker “Casapinka” I adore aqua. All shades of aqua! I also love pink but not all colors of pink. A gorgeous blue-red cannot be beat. Magenta (is that considered pink?) and recently certain greens are on my radar. It has absolutely changed and constantly changes, especially with the invention of speckled yarns. Suddenly, I can have a tiny bit of a certain color and it grows on me until I’m in love, like some of the gold/yellows… Oh, and did I mention coral? That’s a new obsession!

You’ve published a few sweater designs, but is there a reason you stick to shawls and accessories?

This is entirely by accident. I’ve made and designed a lot of sweaters but didn’t publish them because I don’t enjoy grading of sizes — and only learned about the all-important technical editor a few years ago. I’m fairly addicted to shawl knitting but I also have plans for more sweaters. The portability of accessories is also handy, as I have ended up knitting during swim meets, robotics practices, and Rubik’s Cube competitions. I actually have a tunic, a sweater, and a coat coming out in conjunction with Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

I love, love, love knitting in airports. I’m a plane/airport geek and can sit there for hours staring out at the runway, coffee by my side, phone turned off. I’m one of the rare humans who welcomes an airport delay (if I have my knitting, of course).

Untangling: Katrina Updike of Fluffy U Fiber Farm

You don’t have to take a trip to the UK to find wool from British Breed sheep. You simply have to visit — or visit the website of — Fluffy U Fiber Farm in Dover, Pennsylvania.

Shepardess Katrina Updike has been raising British and rare breed sheep, including Blue-Faced Leicester, Gotland, Leicester Longwool and Teeswater, for the past 18 years, and she hand dyes all of their yarns for knitters and roving for hand spinners. I asked Katrina to tell me a little bit more about the farm.

Tell me how your farm got started.

I actually started out with two Blue-Faced Leicester ewes in the backyard in an old tractor shed. Eventually we built a small pole barn. My husband travelled a lot so each time he went away I would add another sheep or goat or two. Eventually we were able to purchase part of my husband’s grandparents’ farm and the rest, as they say, is history.

How did you decide to raise British breed and rare breed sheep?

I raised a bunch of different sheep breeds over the years. But, I’ve always had Blue-Faced Leicester sheep since the beginning. So it was just natural to start adding other British/rare breed sheep to the flock.

Where does the name Fluffy U come from.

I actually was going to call our farm the Updike Funny Farm but wasn’t sure anyone but me would find the humor in the name. But, I finally settled on Fluffy U Fiber Farm because our sheep are big and fluffy and U for our last name. Being able to bring the farm and farming back into the family the name seem appropriate.

How has the business changed over the last 18 years?

The business has progressively changed in order to keep up with the times. At first it was just roving and some basic yarn. But, as we have grown we have added more yarn and roving blends, books and notions, project kits and classes at the farm as well as doing fiber shows for the past six years. It has been a challenge for us as we sell and use very little commercial product in our line of yarn. But, there is no greater satisfaction for me than being able to tell someone which sheep or goat their yarn came from.

Do you knit yourself and, if so how did you learn?

My grandmother taught me to crochet as a child, but I didn’t start knitting until I was 19. A wonderful woman named Kay Thompson taught me. I’ve been knitting ever since then.

How did you get started spinning?

I took a class at the Mannings with Tom Knisley. Tom is a great teacher with a lot of patience for all of us who haven’t a clue how to make the wheel work correctly. So, since that class I have probably been spinning about 10 years.

What are some of your favorite projects made with Fluffy U Fiber yarn?

A cardigan made with our BFL using a daisy stitch in all white, our Conewago Shawl and Cassius Shawl that I have made using our natural blend yarn and also coopworth tencel blend yarn. Right now I’m really enjoying knitting fingerless mitts using my handspun yarn from the sheep.

What are some the best things you’ve learned running Fluffy U?

Knitting is universal you can always find a way to communicate. Everything is an experiment what might work for one show may not work for another. Be true to yourself and your dream. You can’t please everyone. There are more nice, crazy fiber people than not.

Untangling MK Nance

Designer MK Nance first popped on my radar (AKA the Indie Untangled Marketplace) at the end of 2014. Since she tends to design her accessory patterns with indie-dyed yarn, she was a perfect fit for the website and also for the Where We Knit Yarn Club, in which I pair together dyers and designers, who collaborate on an exclusive colorway and one-skein pattern.

For last year’s club, Nance bended the rules slightly and used two half skeins of Three Fates Yarn Terra Sock to create not one, but two patterns with a two-color cable design that has become her trademark. The Crystal Springs cowl and Jenkins hat are now available to purchase. I recently asked Nance to tell me a little bit more about her work and inspiration.

How did you decide to become a designer?

I just did! The first pattern I wrote was because I couldn’t find a pattern that I needed to make and friends’ friends asked me to make it for them so I wrote the pattern up and said I would teach them. Two dyers, Three Fates Yarn and The Periwinkle Sheep, both suggested I just do it.

What did you do before becoming a designer and how does it inform your design work?

The first thing I ever designed was a scarf was my sophomore year of high school, so I had not really done anything at that point. I studied anthropology and middle eastern studies in college. After that I lived in NYC, Cairo, and Portland, Oregon. Many names and motifs are inspired by where I have been or studied.

When and how did you learn to knit?

Mrs. Struk, my first and second grade teacher, kept me in during recess until I learned how to tie my shoes. That didn’t work so she took my mother aside and told her I needed better eye hand coordination, so knitting or crochet would be good to learn. As my mother can’t crochet she taught me how to knit. My shoes are never tied still (I can tie them now) but I have knitting in my purse, car and everywhere.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Honestly, if I knew I would have an easier time coming up with names.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

If it will be self published, I’ll pull out the yarn and start painting stitches using my graphing program.

If it for a call for a third party publisher, I’ll pull up the mood board and paint stitches.

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

My favorite colors have not changed. I do use color differently, I once loved lace and variegated colorway but now I’ll use busier yarns with a solid with stranding or mosaic.

You recently published your first sweater design in Twist Collective. Do you plan to design more garments?

Absolutely! I am planning on releasing at least three more cardigans this year. I may also have a few pullover ideas bouncing around my head.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

I have two. Farina’s is a little bakery in Portland with great light, food, and the staff/owner are great people. Home is my other favorite place with my dog literally under foot.

Untangling: Jennifer Porter of Porterness Studio

If there’s anything I love to shop for more than hand-dyed yarn, it’s handmade jewelry. Jennifer Porter of Porterness Studio combines the two with her products, which include beautiful necklaces and earrings and equally chic shawl pins and buttons. They’re all made from the 6,000-year-old lost wax casting technique, in which jewelry is made by pouring molten metal into a mold created from a wax model that is later melted away. Jennifer, a fellow knitter, hand crafts her products from the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. I recently asked her about her process and background as a knitter and crocheter.

How did you get started making and selling jewelry?

My first real foray into the jewelry business actually happen in my childhood. I fondly remember my sister and I, age 11 and 12, making and selling handmade pompom animal pins to friends, family and door to door around the neighborhood. It was wonderful to see the neighborhood adorned with our humble little pins.

However, my official jewelry-making career began in 2007. I started out offering jewelry on Etsy that was inspired by and incorporated beautiful mid century German glass beads. In the early days, I would search high and low for these tiny colorful glass sculptures and once found, I would spend hours combining them into one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. Little did I know that the spark of intrigue and fascination for these unique beads would lead me to discover the allure of many processes of ancient jewelry-making. Eventually, my curiosity for these early techniques inspired me to enroll in my first lost wax casting course.

I was immediately enthralled with the 6,000-year-old lost wax casting technique and it has maintained its ranks as my favorite and primary method of my design process.

After over a year of intense study, practice, and personal refinement of this ancient process, I created Porterness Studios.

How did you choose the method that you use?

I chose lost wax casting method for not only for its place in ancient art history but because of a personal desire to preserve and showcase what this amazing process can create. While it is not the quickest, or the easiest process to master or utilize, the results are simply amazing and create beautiful heirloom pieces.

You still crochet and knit? What are some of your favorite things to make?

My knitting story is hardly unique, I’m sure, and is standard for most of our fellow knitters and crocheters. My grandmother first taught me how to crochet when I was 10, and I would pick up the hook from time to time.

Fast forward to the day I stumbled upon the magical world of indie dyers. I immediately was reminded of those first few German glass beads that really fueled my journey into lost wax casting. This was one reason why I wanted to design a collection specifically intended to harmonize with heirloom knitted and crocheted garments. If I would have known about hand-dyed yarn when I was 10, I probably would never stopped. Now, I’m finding myself buying yarn just to look at it as a spirit object in my home.

As a relatively new knitter I’m firmly ensconced in hat- and scarf-land but I plan on casting on a poncho very, very soon. Wish me luck.

When did you decide to create shawl pins and buttons?

I have been secretly making shawl pins and buttons as gifts for my mother for quite some time now. She is the prolific knitter and designer in the family, so I must credit her amazing designs for the inspiration to create the Porterness Studios Fiber Age Collection. It was really just a matter of time and encouragement before the yarn bug would bite me too and lead me to create pieces that can harmonize with knitted garments.

What have been your most popular sellers?

The Demi-sec tiny bubble fork and Circular shawl pin.

What inspires your designs?

I draw inspiration from all over but art history, ancient cultures, and Modernist and Mid Century design have all played a significant role in my collections.

As of late, I have been nerding out on all of the mind blowing fiber art garments and hand dyers on Instagram and Ravelry, and they are quickly becoming huge inspiration to create new designs.

How often do you create new designs?

I start my day with a cup of coffee and new design. I’ll wake up to design for 20 minutes or hours depending on the day (or my level of productive procrastination). A design is my morning meditation and mental yoga. A small percentage of those pre-coffee designs make it into production, but it is a daily process.

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

Learning how to transmit my passion for my designs and my design process to others has been one of my biggest challenges, and something that I have spent considerable time working on this year. The lost wax casting process is mystical and fascinating and I am absolutely thrilled that so many other people seem to share this excitement and passion once they learn about it, too.

This year I also began learning and integrating 3D modeling into my design process and it has opened up my design potential in ways that previously would have required a team of people, with 20+ years of experience, and thousand of dollars of equipment. This new skill allows me to create work with a small eco footprint by cutting out waste and designing within a small workspace. The versatility of 3D molding opened my design process so I can offer items that are complicated and refined right out of the gate. It’s also really exciting to be at the forefront of a new production process that combines the ancient art of lost wax casting with new and modern design and manufacturing technologies like 3D modeling and printing.

But I am always striving to learn and grow. Since starting Porterness Studio and developing each subsequent collection, I have worked to refine and further develop all of the techniques and processes I utilize both modern and ancient, and this ancient modernism toolbox has manifested itself into every facet and design of Porterness Studio.

Untangling Invictus Yarns

Sue of Invictus Yarns was one of the first dyers I reached out to when I began putting together Indie Untangled four years ago. Since then, she has become one of the most prolific posters, with a beautiful range of products that include her standout gradient and rainbow miniskein sets and expertly dyed variegated colorways.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

It was something that seemed fun to try. A few people asked me to dye skeins for them, too, and before I knew it, I had a shop and had a booth at Lambtown, a local fiber show. I haven’t looked back, and have discovered that I really enjoy my time in the dye pots!

How did you decide on the name Invictus Yarns?

The feelings of strength, courage, and determination that came with with the process were just amazing, and I wanted something that would convey them. As soon as Invictus came into my head, I knew it was the direction I wanted to go.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

I get this question fairly often, and am almost embarrassed to give a truthful answer, but for the most part, I let the skeins hang to dry and let them tell me what they want to be called. Sometimes I’ll have an idea before I dye them, but for the most part, the name comes to me after they’re dyed.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

Purple is definitely my favorite color, but I’ve always loved jewel tones. I was never a fan of oranges, but have to admit that it’s become a fave lately.

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

It seems like I’m always on the hunt for the perfect red. I don’t think I really realized how many different shades there were before I started dyeing! I think the biggest challenge is often with getting accurate pictures for the shop, especially for reds and greens.


How often do you update your online shop?

It varies, but usually several times a month.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

I still have another job, but have cut it down to just a few hours per week so that I can spend more time on the shop. Dyeing is definitely my main business.

What are some of your favorite FOs you or your customers have made with your yarn?

I think that changes every time I see another project! : D I love seeing the projects on Ravelry and at shows! A Phoenix-Wing shawl that was knit for a booth sample will probably always be one of my faves, tho. It was like wrapping myself in a giant hug when I opened it.

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

Hmmm. This may sound really silly, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind: I felt rather awkward when I began doing fiber shows, but learned that it can be a real blast to chat with people. As an introvert, that was a biggie, even if it sounds pretty basic. It also goes along with the whole Invictus strength-courage-determination thing, now that I think about it! It can still be a challenge trying to determine how much to chat and how much to let people just browse without coming across as though you aren’t acknowledging them, if that makes sense.

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Suzanne Nelson of Groovy Hues Fibers

This is the ninth 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.

Suzanne of Groovy Hues Fibers is a dyer based in my old stomping grounds of Long Island and she is a great example of what I love about my hometown (well, home land mass): friendly, funny and talented. Her colorways are random in the best possible way, inspired by things like movies and snarky phrases, but they are always colorful and Fun.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I think that my story is probably a little boring, because it is a version of the same story you hear from indie dyers over and over again! I taught myself to knit at the ripe old age of 25. It was during a brief time when I lived in southwest Florida, and there wasn’t much of a choice for yarn in general, let alone colors I preferred. This was before the popularity of Facebook crafting groups, but a Google search led me to discover that one could dye bare wool with food-safe coloring. I was hooked.

Then, life got in the way as it is prone to do, and I didn’t dye or knit for a long time. I met my now-husband in 2010, and he is an archaeologist specializing in textiles. He gave me a bunch of his natural dyes, and he taught me to spin. I picked up knitting again, and my first trip to Rhinebeck inspired me to try some acid dyes.

One day in our knitting circle, a woman grabbed a skein from my hands and demanded to know where I’d gotten the yarn. I told her I had dyed it, and she thrust some money in my face and begged me for it. How could I turn that down? I was working five jobs and could barely make ends meet. Several months later, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I were at a beer, bacon, and bourbon festival held on the same fairgrounds as Rhinebeck, and the food-and-alcohol-induced idea came from Thaddeus that I should try to sell some yarn. I thought he was insane. I still do, but now for different reasons!

Up to that point, I had fully planned on trying to pursue a PhD in Biological Anthropology. He was already almost done with his PhD in Archaeology, and I had only done a little bit of fieldwork with monkeys in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It was fun, but I did genuinely long for a “normal life.” (Little did I know that being a dyer is anything but normal!) I bought some extra dye and extra yarn, and there it sat. For months. I was petrified that it would fail. Several months later, I mustered the courage to post some extremely terrible photos of my yarn (I hadn’t learned to photograph it yet!) in a few Facebook groups, and people wanted it. Not quite six months after that, I was able to quit the other four jobs and work on Groovy Hues Fibers full-time! I haven’t looked back!

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

I’m weird. There is absolutely no question of this. When you see my colorway names, most of them are pretty fun. I have puns, I have movie quotes, song titles, television show themes, snarky phrases, and much more. Sometimes I have an idea in my head and take the dye to the yarn, but most of the time I dye the yarn and then try to figure out what it says to me. I love food-inspired yarn, because I live to eat. My husband and I plan fiber show vending based upon how good the breweries and restaurants are where we will be selling! I can’t lie — I do have several mundane, boring colorway names. If you see a boring name slapped on my yarn, you know that the yarn was named sometime around 2:30 in the morning the day of a fiber show, as I panicked and tried to get it all done in time!

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

My business name is Groovy Hues Fibers – we embrace the rainbow, and every color under it. I try to give equal attention to the insane, psychedelic brights as I do the earthy, tree-hugging tones. That said, I personally love orange. It’s a happy color. I tend to dye a lot of it, and I’ve been told that I do it in an inoffensive way, whatever that means! Ha! I am not a fan of hunter green — I have my reasons. But I force myself to dye it for those of you who do love it. As I’ve grown as a dyer, I personally have gravitated to making things for myself that are less bright, and more earthy. I noticed this at a few of my latest shows, so now I have to revisit the idea of putting brights out there for everyone else again. Not everything can be selfish dyeing. Or can it???

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

I think a lot of things are challenging to create. The perfect gold and the perfect green. Many people have ideas of what these colors should be — I know that I have my own set attitude about them. It’s often hard to translate something from my head onto the yarn, because you never know exactly how the fiber and the mixed dyes will marry. Mostly, I do what I want. I work very hard at it, and I put everything into creating a skein that I’d be proud to use. If the colors are giving me trouble, I overdye them and pretend that I fully intended for them to look exactly the way that they did! Sometimes what I thought were my worst dye days turned out to be the biggest sellers I’ve ever created.

How often do you update your online shop?

That’s a really good question! My only answer is, “whenever I can.” Some people can say they’ll update every Saturday night at 8 p.m. I have no such delusions of that kind of organizational skill. I do a lot of fiber and trunk shows, so during the spring and during the fall, I update the shop sporadically as I usually hoard inventory for these events. During the summer and winter, my online customers see a lot more updating from me. There are days I’m so excited by what I’ve dyed, that I update the shop as soon as the yarn is dry and I can take the pictures. I try to never keep the shop entirely bare, because that looks sad to me! The days of less travel are upcoming, so I plan to have far more yarn available for my online Groovies.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

As far as making money goes, dyeing is my only business. But, last year, my dog died suddenly and unexpectedly. To get out of my own head, I took up running. For some crazy reason, I kept on doing it. Most of the time, I feel like that is a job! I’ve been training for several big races. In March 2018, my husband and I will be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 Marathon in Washington DC under the Groovy Hues name as St. Jude Heroes — we’ve raised almost $3,000 from customers and friends for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital! This coming weekend, I’ll be completing at 10K in Central Park for the Save The Elephants foundation. On Thanksgiving, we have chosen a Turkey Trot 5K to benefit the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation. I suppose I have settled for a second job in charity! If I were to name a third job, it would be dyeing yarn for my husband. He is the designer for his growing brand, Archaeology Knits Designs. When you see gorgeous designs in my booth, chances are that he is the one who designed it. I’ve designed exactly one thing, and I hated doing it. I’m done now. As long as I keep him knee-deep in yarn, he’s a happy dude.


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

Honestly? To do mostly what makes ME happy. If I try to chase after every yarn trend to fill whatever the Ravelry pattern du jour is, it will be inconsistent and people will not know what to expect from me. If I do what I love, then chances are, someone else will love it, too. I do speckle yarn. I do make yarn for fades, and doodlers, and whatever everyone else wants to make — but I do it my way.

I’ve also learned to never scoff at any application of the fiber arts. I don’t believe in yarn snobbery. If someone comes into my booth and he/she has only ever worked with acrylic and needs help, I help them. Even if they don’t buy from me. I am all about keeping the fiber arts alive — that’s what’s most important to me.

I’ve also learned that we can never know what people want. I can dye a colorway that I hate, and it will sell out at a show. I can dye something that, on paper, should sell in seconds, and it goes untouched for several shows! Not knowing what to expect keeps it fresh.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned about owning a business is that I absolutely have to make time for myself, or I will begin to resent that which I’ve worked so hard to build. Taking more than a week off to get married and go on a honeymoon was really, really hard for me this year — but I’m so glad I did it. I came back with a refreshed love for what I do.

Lastly, I’ve learned that I can sell all of the yarn in the world online, but it doesn’t make me as happy as when I am vending at even the smallest of shows. Meeting with people and watching them touch my products is the most satisfying feeling in the universe. I love watching people buy things that sing to them. It reinforces that I made the right decision in life! Playing with dye and chatting with fiber crafters is so much better than examining monkey poop in the jungle!

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Kim Kaslow of The Woolen Rabbit

This is the eighth 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. There are only a few tickets left to the Friday night sneak peek party. Get yours now!

Kim of The Woolen Rabbit was one of the first dyers I discovered when I fell down the indie rabbit hole. In fact, one of my friends organized a trip to her New Hampshire studio several years ago and I’m still kicking myself for not going (something about having too much yarn? I kind of laugh at that now — I did not have too much yarn compared to now). Kim was also one of the first dyers I contacted when I launched Indie Untangled in 2014 and I’m thrilled that she’s participated in my little venture, posting to the marketplace, sending yarn to sell at last year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show and, finally, participating in this weekend’s show at Woolyn.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I have been dyeing yarn now for about 15 years. I started off with a bunch of sweet angora rabbits. I would dye their fur with Merino and have it processed into pin drafted roving for spinning. As I ventured further into dyeing, I found that I preferred dyeing yarn, so I moved more in that direction. After seeing a beautiful-in-the-skein yarn I dyed knit up horribly in the finished item because of the pooling, it became my goal to really focus on creating non pooling yarns, which I think I have been able to accomplish for the most part.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Frequently I look to nature for colorways. The subtle blending of colors in nature are always such an inspiration for me. Coloway names… usually whatever pops into my mind. Years ago I had a color way named Iggy Pop… ha!

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

I love the colors of autumn, so I frequently turn to them when creating — colors such as New England Red, Butterscotch Pudding, Oakmoss, Birch Beer and Enchanted Forest. I don’t think my preferences have changed much as I love muted colors, but I am trying to challenge myself with some of the newer ways of dyeing. Not there yet, but I love new challenges!

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

There are times when I am focusing on creating a particular color but I just can’t get the exact color I am aiming for no matter how many times I try. But sometimes what I end up with can be an unexpected surprise. Many of my most popular colorways were created this way.

How often do you update your online shop?

My online shop is all dyed to order, so I don’t do massive updates. Years ago when I first discovered the world of hand-dyed yarns and the anticipated updated shops only to be disappointed that the yarns that I wanted sold out faster than I could type, I decided then that I would not do shop updates, but dye to order instead. So far it has worked for me, even though my customers do have to wait seven to 10 days for their yarn, unless I happen to have some from a show on hand. I am so fortunate to have some wonderful customers!

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

Over the years, I have run my business both ways — as my main business and with another job. When I was growing my business up, I was fortunate to be working at home which gave me a lot of freedom to learn the business and create. I left that job to pursue dyeing full time which I did for a number of years. Now, with my children grown and on their own, I went back into the work force part time, so that I would be around people, but I still enjoy the rest of my time creating in my studio.

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

Time management and discipline, which is not always easy with an artist’s brain. It’s always my biggest challenge, but so important. One of the very best things are the amazing people I have met along my journey in this amazing field we are so fortunate to be a part of!

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Denise Gronda of Yoshi & Lucy

This is the seventh 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.

I first met Denise of Yoshi & Lucy at last year’s Indie Untangled @ Woolyn Trunk Show. She was sitting next to me at Rachel’s long back table and introduced herself as an indie dyer who happened to live a few blocks away. What a great neighborhood find! She’s since posted often to the Indie Untangled marketplace and I used one of her hot pink colorways to knit a pussy hat last winter. I’m excited to see more of her yarns in person at Woolyn this weekend. Have you grabbed your tickets for the sneak peek party yet?

Yoshi & Lucy

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I started dyeing yarn because I’m a big fan of hand dyed yarn. I was curious about how to dye yarn so I found some Youtube videos and books. After six months of playing around, I had more yarn than I knew what to do with. I was also hating my current job so I decided to take the plunge and start my own business.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

I do a lot of experimenting and try to come up with colorways I would love to knit. Sometimes I have an idea beforehand but usually I just play around and see what happens. I’ll admit I’m very bad at picking colorway names so I usually take photos of the new yarn and send them to my best friend who is a genius with naming colorways.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

My favorite color is purple and I have probably have too many purple colorways. Of course I try to expand the colors I offer with each update.

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

There is my Rainbow Dash colorway which was the result of an experiment. It is a multiple step colorway and sometimes it doesn’t come out as it should. I do end up selling those as “misfit” skeins. People seems to like them even if it isn’t exactly as I intended.

How often do you update your online shop?

I try to have at least three updates per month.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

Dyeing is my main business and it’s the best job I have ever had.

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

I had to learn how to balance the business side and creative side of the business. I need time to create but I also have to do administrative tasks and keep up with my social media accounts so that my business will grow.