Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Stacie Dawson of Must Stash Yarn

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Stacie Dawson of Must Stash Yarn

This is the 12th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

It’s not very hard to find indie dyers who carry semisolid, variegated and (the ubiquitous) speckled yarn. Self-striping skeins, on the other hand, aren’t as common, with only a few companies specializing in it. Stacie Dawson of Must Stash Yarn is one of those indies who is synonymous with stripes. Here’s how she decided to go down that path.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I have my friend Claire to thank for that. She hosted a “Dye Your Own Skein” party using Kool-Aid and I was hooked.

I have always been creative so, over the years, I tried lots of different ways of expressing my creativity… with music, acting, decoration, stenciling/embossing/calligraphy, cross stitch, sewing, painting and the fiber arts of crochet, knitting, spinning and weaving. It was the fiber arts that spoke loudest to me and so learning yet another way of manipulating fiber was a natural progression for me. Like knitting, I obsessively gobbled up every dyeing resource I hold lay my hands/eyes on! Took classes with professional hand dyers, bought books, did workshops and practiced, practiced, practiced.

Why did you decide to focus on self-striping yarn?

Self striping was the second thing that I dyed, ever. If you have ever met me then you may have heard me joke that I am like the “Hair Club for Men” owner… I am not just the president, I am also a client. I just love knitting with self-striping sock yarn so much and when I first started dyeing, there were not a lot of options in the market; I felt like there was a niche that I could help to fill.

Originally, I didn’t want to be known as a one trick pony and so I dyed tonals as much as self striping. After about two years of always running behind, I realized that I needed to focus in order to realize my goals. Now we produce self striping on only four bases, limited tonals and so can have a steady stream of skeins available in the shop each week.

Yarn with red, yellow, blue, purple, gray and brown stripes.

What did you do before you started Must Stash and how does it inform your business?

I was a medical office administrator. I handled their books, hiring, staff management, training, supplies ordering, new equipment acquisition/maintenance, billing, etc. If it had something to do with running the business, I handled it! Yes, running a business, even one as different from being an indie as a medical office, was extremely beneficial to starting my own business. I was already familiar with setting up and reconciling books, paying taxes and being fiscally responsible and in this gig, I get to play with yarn almost everyday!

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Inspiration comes from all around me! If you are familiar with Must Stash, then you have probably noticed that we have quite a few pop culture-inspired colorways. The names are usually drawn directly from the inspiration… we aren’t subtle. Some names pop into my head while designing/dyeing and some from my family, like Martian Rainbow, was suggested by my husband.

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

If I had to pick just one, it would be grey. I am a sucker for neutrals like brown and grey and don’t even get me started about that place where gold and silver meet… absolutely divine. I wouldn’t say my color preferences have changed a great deal since becoming a dyer but I would say that my palette has expanded substantially. For example, I wasn’t much for pastels or for garishly loud colors, either, but now, I have an appreciation for almost everything from sunglasses bright down to barely there… there is beauty in color, period.

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

The perfect amber. A liquid gold that has life and vitality and practically flows as you knit it. Other than a certain color, I would love to create a true self striping that does not repeat for an entire sock… that would be an amazing thing!

Yarn with Blue, red, green and purple stripes.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My mom taught me to knit when I was 9. She was an avid crafter and enjoyed creating beautiful and practical things. That winter she was knitting matching dress for us to wear for Easter. I was so intrigued by it that I begged her to teach me the mechanics of the stitches. I knit a rectangle about three inches wide and 10 inches long and it was a struggle for every inch!

I soon gave it up and put my supplies away and there they stayed for several years. However, every now and again, I would get a longing and so the bag of supplies would come out of the closet and we would sit down to learn again and after knitting a rectangle it would go back into the bag and back into the closet. This cycle repeated until 2010 when I pulled that bag out again, used YouTube tutorials and never stopped knitting.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Not really. I have enjoyed crocheting, spinning, cross stitch and weaving but none of them has captivated me like knitting.

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

I have a Tailwind that I knit with one of my Affirmation color ways and a natural skein that I find myself using a lot when the weather cools down and I would love to knit a Color Affection with two solids and a self striping but I need to decide on the colors.

You cannot imagine how much I enjoy seeing what my customers make with Must Stash! Of course, there are lots and lots of socks that are so well knit that they inspire me to make myself another pair but it’s the shawls and sweaters that really make me drool. Recently an IGer showed off her Strange Brew color work sweater she is knitting with one of my rainbow self striping in the yoke… so beautiful and fantastic.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Pom Pom Quarterly’s Sea Change issue

An African American woman models a blue and sand textured wrap on the cover of Pom Pom Quarterly

The cover features Seelig by Katrin Schubert, modeled by Arrish Wol. All photos by Shingi Rice, with make-up by Eleanor Hammond.

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Pom Pom Quarterly‘s autumn issue focuses on the conversations about racism and white supremacy in the fiber industry that have been taking place since January. Called “Sea Change,” it includes sand- and surf-inspired garments by designers and makers, including some who were brought to editors Lydia Gluck and Meghan Fernandes’ attention due to the movement for more diversity and inclusion in the knitting community.

Over its seven-year history, Pom Pom has featured models of diverse races and ages, and has plans to continue working with a larger range of designers. I asked Lydia how she and Meghan tackled this topic in the issue, which was released August 30, and how they plan to continue to address inclusivity going forward.

How did you decide on the sea as a metaphor for the ongoing discussion about diversity and white supremacy in the fiber industry?

We had been thinking about a sea-themed issue for a while, as it’s almost an obsession for me; I grew up on the Welsh coast and will always go for a salty dip if I can. The sea is also part of Meghan’s father’s background. He is from the tiny seaside state of Goa in India, and that heritage really resonated for Meghan at this time. I guess the sea has always been a source of solace and inspiration, but we hadn’t quite found the right time to do the issue. When we were thinking about putting together this autumn we realised it was the perfect time for the sea theme. We think that the outward-looking feeling that the shore gives, along with the place for reflection it provides is a great way to embody the expansive feeling of trying to create a genuinely inclusive and welcoming space. The sea is always changing, and we hope to carry on growing and changing too.

How was your approach to this issue of the magazine different than previous ones?

We had been spending a lot of time following and engaging with the racism, diversity, and inclusion conversations that have been more present online in the knitting world and felt that we had to start putting what we were learning into practice. We want to make Pom Pom a good option for people who feel that they aren’t represented in the knitting world at the moment. For this issue we put more time into making sure our line-up of contributors and collaborators was more diverse in various ways, and we hope that through diversity will come inclusion and we know Pom Pom will only be richer for it.

Our approach has also been different in terms of layout; we added pages to the magazine so that we could increase the font size – something we have wanted to do for a long time and finally have been able to because we have changed the way we ship the magazines (yay logistics!). We also added sizes to make our sizing more inclusive. We owe so much to the BIPOC and other marginalised voices who have been bringing to our attention what needs to change to make publications accessible and inclusive and we couldn’t be more grateful that they have done such difficult and dangerous work to make our world a better place. They are the heroes in this story.

A woman models a mosaic sand and blue sweater

Trove by Emma Ducher, modeled by Gina Patch.

What does diversity and inclusion look like for Pom Pom?

Diversity and inclusion looks like the magazine being accessible, welcoming to, and representative of anyone who wants to be part of our community. We want to work with and amplify the voices of people whose perspectives and experiences aren’t usually included in and reflected by the media.

Who has most inspired the Pom Pom team as you’ve taken on anti-racism work?

The team behind Unfinished Object have been particularly inspirational. Without those voices, we don’t think the movement would have burst forth in January in the way that it did. We are all making progress, and continuing to make progress now thanks to their work.

A sand colored cabled sweater modeled by the sea

Fata Morgana by Sylvia Watts-Cherry

What advice would you give to crafters and fiber business owners looking to take on anti-racism work?

Remember that whether racism exists in the knitting world is not a debate. That’s step one. Then educate yourself; we would say visiting Unfinished Object is a good place to start, and the anti-racist educators @rachel.cargle and @laylafsaad have plenty of resources. Make sure to be respectful when you are visiting spaces held for and by marginalised people, and check whether an answer to your question already exists before asking it.

The most important thing is to be ready to learn and get things wrong. There’s a lot of fear around saying the wrong thing, but we think it’s important to make sure that fear doesn’t come from a place of defensiveness or thinking that people will deliberately misinterpret you. If you get something wrong and receive critique from the community, it’s vital to listen and make sure you take feedback on board. No one is expected to be perfect, but we think it’s worth holding yourself to a high standard, while being kind to yourself. We can and must do better as a community, and in order to do that we have to be ready to rigorously examine our deeply embedded biases and our unequal societies.

And, if it’s possible for you, do pay people for the education you have received from them. Ko-fi is a great way to do that. Again we want to emphasise that we are following the lead of others in this regard, and we advise doing the same.

I’ve noticed this is the first published design for a few of the designers in the magazine. How do you work with designers who haven’t self-published a knitting or crochet design before? How are you finding new designers and dyers?

We have always worked with designers who haven’t been published or self-published before. Most issues of the magazine have had an open call for submissions because we are always interested in finding people who are not yet part of the knitting scene. We try and provide as much support as we can when we are working with new designers. We know there’s a lot about the process that might be new, so we are on hand to answer questions and can provide help with technical aspects, for example getting assistance with grading if needed. We are always honoured when someone entrusts their vision to us, whether they are a new designer or not, so our main concern is making sure we do their creativity justice.

We also spend a lot of time looking for new designers and dyers online through social media, and if appropriate reach out to people who we think would be interested in working with us. Sometimes people email us too! If we go to shows we make sure to go and check out stands that we don’t yet know.

A peach hat with cables

Timbre by Meghan Fernandes

Have either of you knit any of the designs from the issue (aside from Meghan’s Timbre hat, of course!) or do you plan to knit them?

I am working on Astragal by Ainur Berkimbayeva in some beautiful avocado-dyed yarn from Hey Mama Wolf, and I’m planning to make Eventide by Inyoung Kim next. Meghan is waiting to get her hands on some of Ocean Rose’s yarn to make Fata Morgana by Sylvia Watts-Cherry. If we had time we would make every pattern… but at least we get to live vicariously through our reader’s projects online!

Speaking of Timbre, how did you decide to include a pattern from Meghan in this issue?

When Pom Pom first started we both designed a lot of the patterns (we did all of them for Issue 1!) but as the business has grown we’ve had less and less time to design. Turns out running a magazine is pretty time-consuming! And of course we love making the patterns that we publish. But every now and then, if we have time, we like to design, and if we feel we have an idea that fits the brief then we’ll pitch it to the other and to the team. Meghan’s hat was perfect for this issue because the mohair cables skim over the surface and look like little rivulets, and the rhythmic quality of cables made us think of the sound of waves. I designed a sweater (Woodwardia) for Issue 28 this year which I loved, but we both feel that one design a year is probably plenty for us!

Are there plans for a plus size issue?

We don’t have plans for a specific plus size issue at the moment. We have increased our sizing, so we are intending for every issue to feature a larger range of sizes so that our patterns are accessible to more bodies. We plan to continue featuring a range of models of different sizes too.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Aimée Gille of La Bien Aimée

Aimee Gille of La Bien Aimee in an orange sweater

This is the eighth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I’ve been extremely pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming lucky to have been able to work with the talented Paris-based Aimée Gille of La Bien Aimée since 2017, when I approached her about creating the first of three custom colorways for Indie Untangled. This year, I’m excited to welcome Aimée’s full range of bases and colorways courtesy of Brooklyn General Store, one of my local yarn shops that began carrying her yarns last year.

While they’re waiting to enter Indie Untangled in the morning, ticket holders will get to pretend they’re in Paris and enjoy a coffee and a croissant, courtesy of the La Bien Aimée coffee cart, which is new this year.

Aimée, an American expat living in France, founded her yarn and tea shop L’OisiveThé in 2008 and later opened a second shop, La Bien Aimée, which also houses her dye studio. Here’s a look inside her operation.

It must be challenging running two shops and a dye studio! How do you manage it all?

In the beginning year of La Bien Aimée, it was quite hectic. I ran back and forth between both shops A LOT and sometimes I would have to close one to run to the other, but after a few months I got some help by hiring another employee to help with the two shops. In year two of La Bien Aimée, my husband joined me to help me run both my businesses. I would not have been able to do it without him and from there we are grown to a current team of 13 people.

The yellow storefront of La Bien Aimée yarn.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

I am very inspired by nature and my travels. I am also inspired by my childhood and where I grew up, which was in Kansas, and my Korean heritage. I also have made 11 colors inspired by Game of Thrones!

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

I would say that one of my favourite colors to design is the color pink. I am constantly developing new pinks each season. But my absolute favorite color is yellow. I created a color called Yellow Brick Road in the first months of launching my yarn brand and it’s stayed true to itself from the beginning. Whenever a new sweater design comes out, I immediately want to knit it in Yellow Brick road. Yes, I do have a lot of yellow sweaters and I’m so happy about that.

The interior of a yarn shop.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned to knit form my mother when I was a child. She started off by showing my how to weave in my ends and often let me help her. I didn’t knit much after learning, and it wasn’t until I was a young adult living in Paris as an expat that I found my way back to knitting.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I only knit. I have tried other crafts, but I always come back to knitting. I would like to learn to sew though. I have not really tried that yet.

Steel dye pots in a row.

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

I really love my Mon Manet Light by Jonna Hietala in our custom spun Merino Sport base. It’s in Yellow Brick Road Graffiti and I wear this sweater all the time. I love seeing West Knits shawls using La Bien Aimée. I am also always so excited to see any FO that my clients have knit — just to see them wearing their knitted garments in my yarn bring my so much joy. Another sweater that I really love is Love Note by Tin Can Knits, I can’t wait for the cool weather to arrive. I will be wearing this all the time over my dresses.

What advice would you give an indie dyer just starting out?

I would say, have fun! I learned everything I know by tinkering around in the studio. Maybe study a little color theory and learn about safety when dyeing so that you can keep dyeing as long as you want and not get sick. Also, if you want to have a go at this as a business, be creative and don’t look at what the others are doing.

Yellow yarn with pink and purple speckles.

La Bien Aimée’s new Lyra colorway, which will debut at Indie Untangled.

What plans can you reveal for Indie Untangled?

We will be bringing a new base called Cashmerino to Indie Untangled and we will be revealing four new colors, plus a new custom color for Brooklyn General Store that goes very well with our fall palette. I look forward to seeing all the knitters, so please come by the booth and say Hi! Show me your knits, too!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Plied Yarn Co.

Two women hold skeins of colorful yarn.

Karida Collins, foreground, and Ann Weaver, the co-owners of Plied Yarn Co.

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

For years, Karida Collins of Neighborhood Fiber Co. and designer Ann Weaver have expertly brought together color. Recently, the longtime collaborators embarked on an exciting new venture, co-founding Plied Yarn Co. to produce a unique product: woolen-spun yarn that is hand dyed and then plied at the mill.

I was excited to see hints of their new venture pop up on Instagram a few months ago, and now that their cat is out of the bag, I’m thrilled to announce that I will be hosting this new yarn line in my booth at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show!

Tell me how Plied Yarn Co. came about.

Plied Yarns is a collaboration between Karida Collins, founder and president of Neighborhood Fiber Co., and Ann Weaver, knitting instructor and designer. We traveled to Harrisville Designs for a weeklong weaving workshop, which included a mill tour. After the tour, we talked excitedly about the potential for creating a woolen-spun hand-dyed yarn unlike any yarn that was on the market. We refined our ideas and conferred with Harrisville for about a year, figuring out how we could create the yarn we envisioned. Then came a nerve-wracking period of trial and error (the possibility that what we wanted just wouldn’t work was always looming). Finally, we spun and dyed a small test batch and then a larger batch, which was enough to start selling.

How is it different from other hand-dyed yarns?

Plied is different from other hand-dyed yarns in two significant ways. First, unlike the majority of hand-dyed yarns, it is woolen spun, not worsted spun. Woolen spun yarns are not Superwash, and they are lighter and loftier than worsted spun yarns. After washing and blocking, woolen spun yarns bloom beautifully, which makes them suitable for knitting at a wide range of gauges. Second, we hand-dyed each of the plies in each color separately, and then we return them to the mill for plying. The result is complex, multilayered colors because each ply is semisolid.

Skeins of colorful yarn on a curved wooden stool.

What expertise would you say each of you brings to the table in this venture?

Karida brings a dozen years of yarn-dyeing and selling experience, which is invaluable. She not only has the expertise to create the colors we envision, but also has the business insight that comes from over a decade in the industry. Ann brings a strong color point of view from nearly a decade of teaching color theory for knitters and creating designs based on color interaction. Additionally, we both bring our contacts — designers, shops and events — and what we’ve learned from them to the yarn we’re creating. Our goal is to make yarn that is both exciting and appealing to a wide range of fiber artists.

What plans does Ann have for designs in the yarn?

Ann has reworked a few of her designs in Plied, and she is developing a few new designs to be released in 2020. Currently, she is focused on working with other designers and sample knitters to ensure that Plied designs reflect a variety of viewpoints and styles (and she’s really busy making the yarn).

Karida, how does Plied fit into the overall vision you have for Neighborhood Fiber Co.?

Karida imagines herself as a yarn baron, much in the style of past oil barons. Or Mr. Monopoly. Mainly, she wants to wear a monocle. Plied and Neighborhood Fiber Co. have significantly different production processes, even though they’re both hand-dyed yarns. Ideally, Plied will be the beginning of a new kind of offering from Neighborhood Fiber Co. and its affiliates (what we call the Neighborhood Fiber Co. Lab). We want to have a wide variety of yarns, in addition to the wide variety of colors.

Arms up in the air holding bundles of colorful yarn.

How did each of you learn to knit?

Ann learned from her mom, who taught her to knit and purl. Beyond the knit and purl stitches, she is self taught. Over the past few years, she’s taken workshops with other teachers, both local and nationally known, whenever she can to improve her skills and broaden her perspective.

Karida learned to knit right after college. Suddenly faced with the realities of budgeting a life in Washington, DC, with an entry-level salary, she and her friends started looking for ways to have fun at home. Her best friend taught her to knit, and she felt like she was finally doing what she was meant to do.

Do you enjoy other crafts in addition to knitting?

When she’s not knitting, Ann quilts, weaves, crochets, cross-stitches and embroiders, and rummages around at thrift stores, yard sales, auctions and, occasionally, the trash for the “supplies” she needs for these projects. Karida enjoys starting projects and then letting them languish in assorted bins and bags around the house. She has dabbled in quilting, weaving, crochet, cross-stitch, embroidery, rug tufting and basket-weaving. Her main hobby is chasing her 19-month-old son around the house and sneaking in naps whenever she can.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the fiber industry?

First, be prepared to work VERY HARD for a long time. Have a source of income outside your fiber industry pursuit that pays your bills (being independently wealthy works, too). Then, don’t give up. Even when all of your friends and family tell you to quit and get a “real job,” refuse to admit defeat. Take risks! Don’t worry about the long-term financial consequences. You were never going to pay back your student loans anyway. Or move to Baltimore. You can afford to do anything here. Look at us. Living the dream.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Anne Vally of Little Skein In the Big Wool

A woman sits at a desk looking down.

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

For most people, crafting evokes the same feelings as getting into a good book. Anne Vally decided to bundle that feeling up into curated kits for knitters through her business, Little Skein In the Big Wool. While Anne has expanded beyond her hand-sewn project bags to include her own hand-dyed yarn, she has continued to remain true to the values that she started out with.

Tell me about how you started a project bag business?

I started Little Skein with the idea of making project bags and kits that would bring to life my love of books. Knitting is something that’s central to who I am — and so are books. I make the things I want to use: project bags that tell a story, kits that not only make me eager to knit them, but that also fill me with the happiness and rich emotion of a favorite story.

I started out on Etsy with my first kit (Velveteen with Susan B. Anderson) but pretty quickly moved to littleskein.com. Details are important to me, and I wanted to create an experience where shopping for a kit or project bag of mine felt like being welcomed home. Something special, full of good feelings, just for you.

What did you do before you launched Little Skein In the Big Wool and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

I live in San Francisco and before starting Little Skein, I was a program officer at a large California foundation for more than a decade. Foundation work is not easily explained, but the big picture is that I made grants to nonprofits around California that were (and are still) working to create positive social change.

My foundation work absolutely informs how I run Little Skein. My degree is in economics, so I’m particularly attuned to how I run my business. I talk a lot on social media about fair pay for makers, the importance of art, and making room at the table for everyone.

I believe the way a business operates adds something intangible and important to the final product.

An African American person holds a bouquet of colorful yarn

When did you decide to incorporate yarn?

I’ve always worked with other yarn dyers for my kits, but I started dyeing yarn myself about three years ago. I realized I was becoming increasingly involved in designing the colors, and I also had a vision of the final fabric I wanted. It became a passion for me to figure out how to make that vision come to life.

Like many knitters, I often fall in love with yarn that’s showy in the skein but doesn’t always create a fabric I enjoy. So, my journey in learning how to dye yarn was to create a yarn that makes a subtle and complex color of fabric—one that might look semi-solid from a distance, but up close would have little hints and gradations of color with itsy bitsy, random pops of intensity.

For the first year, I studied, experimented, and dyed only for myself. But now I have an outdoor dye kitchen (an essential in foggy San Francisco) and I do periodic Live streams on Instagram where I show what I’m dyeing. I still work with other dyers, but about 90% of the yarn I offer is now dyed by me.

Tell me about how your yarn is sourced and dyed.

I source my yarn from three mills: two in the U.S. and one in Canada. I’m especially interested in what each yarn will be used for: a sweater? socks? a shawl? I’ve chosen bases that are ideal for a particular purpose. I think my start as a sewist and project bag maker is a big influence. I’m interested in the fabric.

For example, my sock yarn, House Sock, is 90% American Targhee wool and 10% nylon. It’s different from the multi-purpose sock yarn that most dyers offer. Mine is especially perfect for socks. The Targhee wool is soft and sproingy when you knit with it, and it makes a plush, hard-wearing sock.

A woman knits with green yarn

When and how did you learn to knit?

It feels like I always knew how to knit. My Nonnie and grandmother knit, but their knitting was for utility. I remember knitting as a young adult, but it was when my son was about 2 that I felt this deep urge to make things for him. I picked up my needles to knit fruit for his play kitchen (I started with this strawberry!). Oddly enough, I didn’t feel daunted by the tiny stitches or knitting in the round. I just kept at it, and my boy’s delight at getting a new piece of “fruit” every few days was rocket fuel to me.

Then, I discovered Ravelry and, boom, down the rabbit hole I went!

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

If it involves making something by hand, I have probably tried it. I am a sewist, I draw, embroider, cross-stitch, play with polymer clay, and have recently begun block printing on fabric. (I’ll be debuting something special with my new block prints at the Rhinebeck trunk show!)

A project bag with a city skyline holds two skeins of gray and aqua speckled yarn

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

That it’s possible to do good and do well at the same time.

I believe that knitting, reading, and making things by hand is art, and art matters. Using your imagination ripples out into the world in powerful ways. Art changes you, and in turn you change the world for the better. (Not an original idea, though! This is from Neil Gaiman.)

I try to lead by example. I make sure that everyone who works with me is compensated and valued. I believe diversity makes our community better, and I believe in sliding over to make space at the table for everyone. This shows up in the causes I support, in the inspiration for some of my kits, and in discussions I lead on Instagram.

The Knot House gets ready for Indie Untangled and Rhinebeck

A woman with light brown hair, pearls and a pink sweater takes a selfie with a woman with gray hair and a black shirt.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

You can always depend on Heather and Cathy, the owners of The Knot House yarn shop in Frederick, Maryland, to stay on top of trends in the fiber world. Their shop always features the hottest indie dyers and they themselves are prolific sweater knitters.

I asked them to walk us through their preparations for Rhinebeck and Indie Untangled, and give a look at what’s new for their in-house yarn line.

Who are you both most looking forward to seeing at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show?

I don’t think there is anyone specific we look forward to seeing. The biggest treat is meeting the customers that don’t live locally that support us! We get to put faces with names and hopefully get to see some of their FOs. I love it when Mom and I are separated and people say, “Oh, hi, Heather, where’s your Mom?” Everyone loves Mom. We also love to see other LYS owners, indie dyers, podcasters and designers.

Tell me about some of the most recent dyers that you’ve stocked your shop with.

This past summer we added Hu Made, Lichen and Lace and Life In the Long Grass. Of course we have some new things we will be adding this fall such as a Western Sky Knits worsted, Skein and a few others we are working on.

Are there any indie dyers and designers that you think should be on knitters’ radars?

Yes! As for indie dyers, I think knitters should pay attention to Swamp Bunny and Murky Depths Dyeworks. There are so many talented dyers…

Designers: Tara-Lynn Morrison (I love her recent Frid Sweater). I like Tamy Gore‘s recent patterns. We also think Lily Turner of Wishbone Yarn creates magnificent yarns and designs. We are also watching others such as Denise Bayron, Handmade Closet, Christina Danaee and Camilla Vad.

Multicolored yarn in a large pyramid.

What’s new with your in-house yarn line?

Thanks for asking about our Knot House Yarns line! I have added La Di Da Worsted base for the 2019/2020 season. It is a 4-ply (plied twice) 100% Superwash Merino (same as the La Di Da DK). Mom and I are currently looking at new bases to add in the spring.

I should also add that Mom and I will be vending at the Black Mountain Indie Extravaganza the weekend following Rhinebeck! It will be our first event out of The Knot House and we are both excited and nervous. Dates for the event are October 25th and 26th it will be held during SAFF at Black Mountain Yarn Shop.

What are your favorite projects that customers have made with your hand-dyed yarn?

Oh my. There are a couple of favorites. I don’t know how many people have made the Ranunculus, but it has been a favorite this summer, along with the Soldotna Crop. It is so fun to see the color combos.

A link and taupe sweater in front of shelves stocked with a rainbow of yarn.

What are you each planning to wear to both Indie Untangled and the New York Sheep & Wool Festival?

Mom will be wearing her Black Thorn and Tweedside, both Lily Turner designs.

I will be wearing Andrea Mowry’s The Daydreamer, Thea Coleman’s Violet Aster and Caitlin Hunter’s Ghost Horse.

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Mom is working on Stonecrop and a couple of other test knits. I am working on the Feeling Groovy Cowl by JumperCables and Campside Drop by Alicia Plummer.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Asylum Fibers

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers in a pink sweater

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

It’s been incredibly cool to see how Stephanie Jones of Asylum Fibers has grown her business since launching in early 2017. I met Stephanie when she was organizing a knitting group in midtown Manhattan, and just this spring saw her yarn all the way in New Orleans at the Quarter Stitch.

I’m excited to have her back at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show for the third year in a row! I’ve interviewed Stephanie before, so asked her to share a bit about how her business has evolved and what she has planned for the event.

How has your business and aesthetic changed at all since launching two years ago?

I think my colorways have become more cohesive as I’ve learned more about how I want to see the yarn work up. My focus is much more on what the finished object will look like as compared to when I first started dyeing. I still have a lot of fun with the process, though!

Purple variegated yarn

Forbidden

Which of your colorways are your favorites?

This is always changing, but right now I do really love Forbidden and Absolem. I’m also digging a brand new color called Aura. It reminds me a little of an oil slick. I tend to gravitate to bright or saturated colors with muddled speckling.

Have your favorite colors changed since you became a dyer?

Yes and no. Despite my tendency to wear a lot of black, I’ve always been someone who appreciates a bright pop of color, usually in pink or blue. That’s still true, but sometimes I dye a color that I wouldn’t have normally been drawn to, and suddenly I’m intrigued. This happened recently with Shocked (a neon yellow), and I actually enjoy wearing that color now. I’ve also gotten more into green and orange lately.

An aqua to dark blue fade of yarn

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

I have seen some amazing Soldotna Crops recently. I’m especially loving the ones using my sparkle DK base in unexpected color combos. Another great FO I saw recently on Ravelry is a Half Moon Oracle shawl, knit in Creepy Graffiti and Vacant Stare along with a very light grey yarn from another dyer. The contrast is striking. As a dyer, creating fade sets is a ton a fun. There is a Chevron Shenanigans shawl knit in a golden yellow to hot pink fade kit that I absolutely love as well.

A box of orange, purple, pink and green yarn.

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

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to trust my instincts. It’s great to see what everyone else is up to, but I think being true to one’s self is where true success lies. Also, you don’t have to be for everyone. Do what you really like and what you’re good at, and don’t worry about everything else.

I have also find that having the right tools can make all the difference. I remember when I first purchased kitchen prep tables for my setup, the height of the table totally alleviated the back discomfort I had experienced with my original setup. The skein twister is another favorite tool of mine. It saves time from twisting so I can spend more time on the fun stuff! Even my shipping label printer made a huge difference in my efficiency.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled?

I have a deep, moody event colorway planned, which I’m very excited to show everyone. In addition, Melissa Alexander-Loomis (aka skeinanigans) is designing a sweater with really unique construction and fun use of color. I’m looking forward to displaying that and preparing kits for the new design. I’m bringing lots of brand spanking new colors with me, too.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Dragonfly Fibers

Kate and Nancye of Dragonfly Fibers

Kate Chiocchio and Nancye Bonomo of Dragonfly Fibers.

This is the third in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Dragonfly Fibers is one of the first indie dye companies I discovered, though it had launched in 2006, before I had even started knitting. Kate Chiocchio and Nancye Bonomo, based in suburban Washington, DC, were part of the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia) scene that has produced a lot of indie talents. They and their yarn are familiar to anyone who has attended Maryland Sheep & Wool, Vogue Knitting Live NYC and Rhinebeck in recent years, with vivid colors like the fiery Airport Hot Sauce or explosive Firecracker.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

Dragonfly Fibers began with our love of color and texture. Kate learned to quilt and sew, and then became fascinated with fiber. Learning to felt, spin, and knit evolved into a need to dye it. We learned so much from other dyers and spinners, both local and in the blogosphere. We got our start at the same time as Karida of Neighborhood Fibers and Gryphon and Sarah of the Sanguine Gryphon, and later Cephalopod Yarns. We all supported each other and shared resources and processes. We still believe strongly that this collaboration is what our community is all about.

Black, blue, yellow, pink and green yarn

How did you decide on the name Dragonfly Fibers?

Kate is fond of skulls and dragonflies. While she really wanted her branding to feature skulls, her Stitch and Bitch buddies forcefully advocated that dragonflies would be friendlier and maybe sell yarn more effectively. Kate is still not sure about this.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?
Nancye is partial to the purples, such as Royal, Arya, and Heroine. Kate has loved Riptide and Rocky Top since they first came on the scene. They both love Dragonberry.

When and how did you learn to knit?

Kate learned from her mom at age 8. She knit one lumpy red scarf, and put the needles down until after age 40. She bought some wooden needles and How to Knit booklet and hasn’t looked back. Nancye learned during a January term in college and then picked it back up in earnest after the birth of her first child.

Pink purple yarn

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Definitely! We love spinning, felting, and weaving. Lately, we have been sewing like mad fiends and dipping our toes into eco-dyeing and visible mending.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that is challenging to create?
Great question! We are completely visual, and love to create from images. Oxidizing copper and the beach, sand included, are both great challenges. Also,the perfect red to purple gradient has yet to be achieved.

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

For Kate, it is an Empire Ave Cardi knit in Dance Rustic Silk many years ago. Nancye loves her Fair Isle Skirt in Traveller; knitted skirts are just so fun.

Light blue lacy cowl

You were one of the earliest indie dye brands I discovered. How have you navigated the changes in the industry over the years?

While we work hard to bring the new yarns, projects, and colorways that our customers crave, we have remained true to the original spirit of Dragonfly. We bring a unique style of dyeing to the industry that is not truly replicated anywhere else. Our colors are bold, and often combined in unexpected ways. There are many beautiful yarns out there but only one company that makes the Colors of Happiness.

What are you bringing to Rhinebeck?

So many things! An exclusive 2019 Rhinebeck colorway inspired by the great state of New York. Two new kits: three combos for Andrea Mowry’s Stonecrop sweater and rainbow sets to make the Love is Love hoodie by our own Susan Powell. “Starter packs” for Caitlin Hunter’s Soldotna Crop in 2 and 4 oz Traveller. All of our yarn bases, including mohair and silk laceweight Faerie, our newest yarn. Huge quantities of our most popular colorways. And, last but definitely not least, Dragonfly Farewell Tour tote bags.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Danielle Romanetti of fibre space

Danielle Romanetti of fibre space

This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I remember my first visit to fibre space. It was at the tail end of a fall 2012 road trip I took with my husband that started in Maryland at the Verdant Gryphon open house and included Charleston, Savannah and Colonial Williamsburg. I had already bought plenty of yarn at the beginning of the trip, but when I realized that our drive home would be taking us right past Alexandria, Virginia, and it would be the perfect midpoint for lunch, I knew I had to go to the shop. I ended up getting my first skeins of Neighborhood Fiber Co. and a recommendation of where to get some delicious cupcakes that fueled our drive back to NYC through the pouring rain.

Danielle Romanetti’s shop has moved locations a couple of times since that visit, but it still retains what I consider yarn store perfection: a welcoming atmosphere with plenty of comfy seating, great lighting and design, and a commitment to indie brands, with a focus on local businesses.

Tell me the story of how fibre space came to be. Had you always wanted to own a yarn shop?

My shop is really an extension of my original business – Knit-a-Gogo, Inc., which I opened in October of 2006 to offer knitting classes in the DC metro area. Initially, I taught beginner and intermediate classes at coffee shops, bakeries and even public libraries in and around Washington, DC. Utilizing these spaces required a solid relationship with the businesses that hosted us and has led to the collaborative philosophy that fibre space now maintains. As my customers grew in number, so did the community of knitters and crocheters, as well as the number of classes being offered and my staff of instructors.

Eventually, the Knit-a-Gogo community really needed a permanent home – a place where stitchers could meet outside of classes, buy quality supplies and and share with other stitchers. In 2009, this dream became a reality when Knit-a-Gogo became fibre space and opened its doors in historic Alexandria, VA. I am so excited to have finally put down permanent roots at our new building, 1319 Prince Street.

A blue building with the fibre space logo and green Adirondack chairs out front

What did you do before you became a yarn shop owner and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

I was a professional fundraiser and event planner for international nonprofit organizations. I have a background in international development, with a specialization in Latin America. The event planning and marketing background is certainly a huge asset to my business. Working for a rather large international organization helped me to learn a ton about marketing campaigns and how to effectively implement them. I use that experience in planning all of our seasonal marketing, events, etc.

How do you choose the dyers and brands that you carry?

I have a commitment to supporting small and indie brands as much as possible. I often make decisions on a brand because of their origin story or even their owner. I like to support businesses whose owners are amazing, engaging and forward-thinking women. In general, you will find many brands at our shop that aren’t in many other places. I like to keep things unique, as we have so many yarn shops in our area. It helps us to be a destination.

A wall of Neighborhood Fiber Co. hand-dyed yarn

You were carrying indie dyers since the beginning. How would you say the explosion of indie dyers has changed your business?

It’s interesting. We went through a few years of carrying a ton of indie hand dye from many, many different dyers, including international. I made a shift a few years back to focusing on fewer of the dyers but having a wider range of yarns from the ones that we do stock. This seems to be working right now. Our customers know that we are a destination for Neighborhood Fiber Co. [editor’s note: Neighborhood Fiber Co. is also an Indie Untangled sponsor], Miss Babs, Hazel Knits, Freia, the Periwinkle Sheep and Knerd String and more as we get orders from them almost monthly to restock. We also have a good inventory of our locals (Neighborhood Fiber Co. again), Havirland, Fully Spun [an Indie Untangled vendor] and the Fiberists.

Despite the hand dye explosion, we are still a huge stockist of traditional beautiful wool yarns. Our customers buy a lot of De Rerum Natura, Brooklyn Tweed, Kelbourne Woolens and Stonehedge Fiber Mill.

Interior of a yarn shop

Can you talk about any new products the shop is going to carry or special events in the works?

I am really excited about the new yarn project that Karida Collins and Ann Weaver are working on. We will be launching Plied Yarn at our shop on November 9th. The wool is hand dyed by the Plied team and then plied to create a marled yarn in fingering weight [Plied is also an Indie Untangled sponsor].

We are also hosting Miss Babs for our annual Mega Miss Babs Trunk Show on September 14-15. It is a wonderful event, where Miss Babs brings up a huge quantity of yarn and takes over our store space with yarn, kits and samples made from her yarn.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was very young. I made a scarf for my Cabbage Patch doll. I relearned from her when I was in graduate school and visiting. Their dial-up internet access wasn’t sufficient and I was bored! It quickly became a huge part of my life and my therapy for anxiety.

Artwork on an orange wall

Artwork lines the walls at fibre space.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I do also crochet, although certainly not as much as knitting. I also sew and run, although its been a few years since I ran a marathon!

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

Well before I opened the shop, I used to attend the trade show with Karida of Neighborhood Fiber Co. to help her sell to yarn shops. Olga Buraya-Kefelian was working on a design in two of her yarns, and I volunteered to do the knitting. It was the Murasaki Pullover. It was amazing to see Olga’s creation process first hand and to be part of it. I was still knitting it on the early morning flight to the show with Olga but we got it done, and I was able to wear it at the show.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Stephen West

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Stephen West holds up a pink striped shawl

Stephen models his Mohairino Medley shawl. Photo by Darren Smith.

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

If you were asked to compile a list of rockstar knitwear designers, Stephen West would most likely be at the top of it. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native, who has a background in dance, brings a performer’s creativity to his work, and has seen Bowie-esque transformations, starting with subdued designs like his Boneyard Shawl, transitioning to edgier pieces, such as Transatlantic from his Westknits Book Two, and then to Shrowls and Ribbed Dickeys, and more recently to incredibly complex brioche lace.

Recently, Stephen collaborated with Malia Mae Joseph, the co-owner of the Stephen & Penelope yarn shop in Amsterdam, which Malia originally founded, to release West Wool, a line of non-Superwash yarn comprised of Falkland Merino and Texel, a breed of domestic sheep originally from the island of Texel in the Netherlands.

We’re also excited to have Stephen as the special guest for the Indie Untangled after party at the appropriately-named Dutch Ale House in downtown Saugerties! He’ll be at the 6 p.m. dinner seating to hang out and take photos. Tickets are limited and available here.

How did you decide to become a knitwear designer?

I began designing knitting patterns ten years ago after the owner of my first local yarn shop, Klose Knit, in Urbana, IL, asked me to write a simple pattern during the local Boneyard Arts Festival. I named that first shawl the Boneyard Shawl and started designing simple hats and shawls during that first year of designing patterns. I love the interaction of sharing a design and seeing the colorful variations when knitters customize the patterns and make them their own. I began by modifying patterns which taught me a lot about construction and simple math modifications to existing patterns. Once I started to design my own patterns, my mind couldn’t stop racing with ideas so it was a great fit for me.

How does your background in dance inform your work?

I was very improvisational as a dancer and I also improvise most of my designs while I knit. Sometimes I start a piece thinking it will be a hat or a cowl and it evolves into a modular shawl or sweater. I always loved to create and compose my own dances and that joy and passion for creating something from scratch translated into all of my knit shawls and sweaters. When I was dancing and performing more, I always had down time between rehearsals and performances which I filled with knitting.

Stephen West models a multicolor striped shawl

A collage of Stephen modeling his Cozy Corner Shawl. Artwork by Stefan Gunnesch.

Your aesthetic has changed since your early days of designing, transitioning from neutrals, greens and mustards to bright pops of color. How did that transformation come about?

I have always been fascinated with color, but I started embracing more vibrant colors after I moved to Amsterdam and started collaborating with other artists like my friend Alexandra Feo, a talented photographer, dancer, and knitter from Venezuela. We began collaborating on Westknits photos and approached them with a more mindful planning process. We ebraced fashion, styling, and makeup combined with the knitwear to produce more dynamic images. That was around 2013. That year sparked a joyful shift in my approach to combining colors and I was also traveling much more after that collecting inspiration around Europe and during my visits to Iceland. Soon after, I encountered the work of Belgian fashion designer Walter van Beirendonck. He continues to be an inspiration to me with his vivid use of color and unapologetic style in the fashion world. Yarn companies and hand dyers are always coming out with new colors. I start most of my designs with the yarn first, so yarn heavily influences my evolving design style.

On a related note, what are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

I love yellow, especially golden yellow. Currently, my favorite color is anything fluffy. I love mohair and brushed alpaca yarns.

A model shows off a lacey brioche shawl.

Stephen’s Suriously Holey shawl. Photo by Yunfei Ren.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Yarn yarn yarn. I have a colorful cabinet of yarn at home where I start most of my designs. Quite often I’ll create the first prototype of a design with a dozen or more colors. Then, I’ll look at the design and rework it with a more focused color palette. I play a lot with theme and variation so many designs are based off of previous explorations in short rows, and graphic striped effects.

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

I try to write down the pattern while I knit. I used to not write my patterns down the first time so I always re-knit them a second time. I’m getting better at writing patterns down while I knit to save time.

West Wool Bicycle yarn in grey, light blue, gold, light pink and bright blue.

West Wool Bicycle yarn. Photo by Darren Smith.

How did the development of West Wool come about?

Malia and I wanted to create a yarn for our store in Amsterdam and one that we could take to shows as well and something missing from our shop collection was an extensive solid range of non-superwash wool. We wanted a soft fiber that maintains structure and stitch definition so we chose a Falkland Merino blended with 10% Texel which is a Dutch sheep breed. Texel wool is quite toothy and give a little bite and loftiness to the soft merino wool. We debuted West Wool earlier this year in Bicycle, a fingering weight yarn with two plies gently twisted around each other, and a more bouncy DK weight yarn called Tandem. I particularly love Tandem because the stitch definition is so crisp and squishy. We can’t wait to release more colors and bases in the future.

What are some interesting things you learned when creating your yarn line?

We learned that two people with totally different color tastes can put a beautiful collection of yarn together. Malia has a super sophisticated approach to color and loves gray so you will see six shades of gray and some subtle and saturated tones throughout the palette. I always love a vibrant color pop so we injected some statement colors to balance out the neutrals. We are excited to expand the color range to make even more complex color combinations for stranded knitting and striped projects. We both had some yarn production ideas years ago that were never fully realized so we’re glad we waited until now to create our dream yarn just the way we wanted to do it.

We’ve learned to be very patient and thoughtful throughout the process to not rush anything too quickly. I try to carry these lessons through into my design work these days too. I used to be more quick and immediate with my decisions and design process, but now I let ideas simmer and cook longer until they are more mature and developed. The end result is always something I’m more proud of and I have fewer regrets these days. I rarely regret not doing something these days. Developing big projects like West Wool together with Malia or creating my Westknits books is an exercise in patience because there are so many components that go into the final product, but the beautiful result is always worth it in the end.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned to knit when I was sixteen years old from some friends in high school while we were rehearsing a school musical. I carried knitting with me everywhere from the beginning and became the knitting guy in high school. I haven’t put my needles down since.