Kitterly gets ready for Rhinebeck

From left to right: Kitterly co-founders Elizabeth Rowen and and Mari Bower.

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Can you believe it’s exactly one month until Indie Untangled — and Rhinebeck?! Before this popular knitting weekend extravaganza, I asked Elizabeth Rowen and Mari Bower, the founders of Kitterly, which sells knitting and crochet kits, to talk about their plans for Rhinebeck and their predictions for this year’s most popular Indie Untangled and Rhinebeck sweaters.

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

We’re really excited to see the variety of products, new products that inspire us and catch up with our vendors and meet new ones!

What are each of your Top 5 favorite Kitterly kits from the last year?

Mari: From a site popularity standpoint, the Sushi Scarf by Stephanie Shiman and Wonderland Yarns is a perennial favorite with our customers.

We’ve been so fortunate to work with so many amazing designers like Andrea Mowry, Isabell Kraemer and Melanie Berg, to name a few. It’s been fun to meet and feature designers from all over the world.

Liz: I love them all! Our designers as so talented and it’s always so inspiring to work with them.

Sushi Scarf by Stephanie Shiman.

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

Mara of Aya Fibers
Steffi of Uschitita
Renee of Spun Right Round
Aimee of La Bien Aimée

There are so many more we could list but we’re running out of space!

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

Mari: Depending on weather I’m going to wear my newly knit Humulus pullover by Isabel Kraemer knit in The Fibre Company Cumbria and Spincycle Dream State. I hope to be able to finish my Rose cardigan, knit in Olann Sock Sport, in time.

Liz: I’m going bring my Sheltered poncho by Andrea Mowry, my Sipila pullover knit in Olann Singles as well as my Impressionists shawl by Helen Stewart. Hoping to have my Comfort Fade cardi in Olann complete too!

The Throwback © Andrea Mowry

What do you think is going to be the most-seen sweater at Rhinebeck this year?

Mari: I’ll think we’ll see a bunch of The Throwback cardis by Andrea Mowry, Sipila by Caitlin Hunter, Rose cardigan by Andrea Mowry, Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies and Weekender by Andrea Mowry.

Liz: I imagine we’ll see many Fading Points by Joji, Comfort Fade Cardi by Andrea Mowry and The Doodler by Stephen West.

Tell me the things that are currently on your needles.

Mari: Rose cardigan by Andrea Mowry and Separate Ways by Joji.

Liz: Comfort Fade Cardi by Andrea Mowry, Neridah by Ambah O’Brien and a test knit for Lesley Robinson of Knit Graffiti.

A WIP of Mix and Mingle by Andrea Mowry.

What are each of your favorite FOs from the last year?

Mari: Weekender by Andrea, Mix and Mingle, a Kitterly Special project for Kitterly by Andrea Mowry, and Kobuk by Caitlin Hunter.

Liz: Too many to name!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Amor Valdez of Crave Yarn

This is the eighth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

The upstate New York LYS Yarn Culture has been a fixture at knitting marketplaces around the country — this will be Patti and Mitch’s fourth year as a vendor and sponsor for the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Show.

Yarn Culture always brings a variety of dyers and indie yarn companies. This year, they will be representing Crave Yarn, Spun Right Round, The Uncommon Thread and WalkCollection. I decided to learn a little bit more about Amor Valdez, the New Mexico based dyer behind Crave who also has an LYS of her own — AMORES in Santa Fe.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

My dyepot journey was catalyzed by a hunt for pistachio green. I wanted to knit a shawl for a friend in her favorite color, as a personalized gesture to say, “I see you and love you.” Her favorite color, you likely guessed, is pistachio green. The hunt in my LYSs was in vein, but it did lead me to the doorstep of perhaps the most life-changing lighting bolt of an idea… maybe I can dye the color myself.

I found an online course created by Kim McKenna. In this course Kim guides you through the process of creating a color wheel in tiny mini skeins to get acquainted with color theory and dyeing methods simultaneously. Well, once I got started I just couldn’t stop with the mini skeins and color play. Approximately 200 mini skeins later, I dyed my first full skeins in, predictably, pistachio green. Even though I was at the tail end of graduate school at the time, I dove full tilt into the realm of color and fiber. And when I completed my degree, I respectfully tucked it away, and started Crave Yarn… as I couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else.

Explain how your Crave yarn is dyed, as I understand it’s done on a much larger scale than other home or studio-based dyers.

Crave operates on two scales simultaneously. As my wholesale representation expanded, I found myself dyeing 10+ pots a day of a single colorway and eventually felt that there must be a better way to fulfill this portion of yarn demand. At that time, my colorways were primarily semi-solids. So I explored the prospect of working with a small batch dyehouse. Of course, a dyehouse small batch is 10 to 20 times larger than my personal dyepot capacity. So I focused my energies on creating beautiful color stories in the form of cohesive color palettes. For each palette, I dyed an average of 50 samples per color to find precisely the hue that I was after to fit in with the full color spread. I made a tandem shift toward custom-milled yarn bases, giving me the freedom to create the fiber blends, weights and yarn structures that I dreamed of. These yarn lines are the result of my artisan passions, but can now be maintained and reproduced on a scale that allows me to reach more shops and fiber artists with my fiber and color love.

Another reason for this shift was to create space in my studio schedule to return to my artisan passion for color play with more freedom. Alongside my solid colors, I threw myself into the creation of one-of-a-kind colorways on my custom bases and on any other yarn bases that inspire me to explore the beautiful and infinite possibilities of color. These colorways are available in my Santa Fe Shop, AMORES, and soon online. They will also be featured in the Yarn Culture booth at the Indie Untangled Trunk Show!

Tell me about the decision to open AMORES and how it stands apart from other yarn shops.

AMORES Yarn Shop + Studio is my wildest fiber dream come true. The first time I stepped into a yarn shop, I was immediately struck by cupid’s arrow. That was eight years ago, and I think I have been planning my own shop since that very moment. One year ago, I felt that the time had arrived to pluck the notion from my daydreams and begin the search for a location. In 300 square feet and with the endless support and talents of my family, AMORES was born. It is a beautiful sunlit showroom where I feature the fibers that I love and the colorways I create. Along with a wide selection of knit samples that inspire my customers (and myself) to try new techniques, to embrace the elegance of simplicity and to imagine the power of color to uplift mood and self (not an overstatement). Aside from a small lovingly-curated collection of notions and tools, the shop is focused on my fiber projects and collaborations.

By far, the greatest gift received by opening the shop is the community. I have met the most amazing and kind individuals, fellow Santa Feans and visitors alike. It really has been wonderful to join and serve our ever growing knitting community in a new way— and to create a space where fiber lovers are valued and celebrated for their craft and friendship.

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

I definitely have favorite colors, but since becoming a dyer it is basically a rapidly changing and hugely expansive category for me. I fall in love with new colors every time I step into my studio or hang a new colorway in the shop. So I would have to say that more than changing my “favorite colors,” my dye life has changed the way I see and value color.

My favorite colors change with my mood, with the quality of the light, with the season, with a song transition on the radio. It’s an extremely dynamic and playful aspect of my life, for sure. Above all, I think I am acutely tapped into the way colors make me feel about the moment, the day, myself, the place I find myself in, the world and about what is possible.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned how to knit 14 years ago when I was pregnant with my youngest daughter. I made a garter scarf… although as I think of it now, I’m not sure I actually finished it. It didn’t really stick at that point. Then I got curious again in 2008 and like a message from the gods I stumbled upon the newly minted Ravelry. Fun fact about me, my right brain (the artist’s realm) basically has two speeds, meh OR let’s buy the farm. When I found Ravelry and started knitting again, I was an overnight zealot.

I also crochet, which was the first fiber art I learned sitting at the hem of my grandmother’s skirts. My grandmother whispers to me through crochet stitches, and in that there is love. But my design life and most fervent passion resides in knitting. The super short story of all this is: I LOVE YARN!

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

I strive to capture the beautiful color transitions of our New Mexico sunrises and sunsets. Santa Fe is surrounded by mountain ranges in virtually every direction and the sun’s comings and goings at the edge of those mountainous peaks is magnificent. Those are the colorways that I often seek in my dyepots. I’ve arrived at many beautiful colorways in this pursuit, but I’m still reaching to capture the incredibly dynamic color symphonies of our northern New Mexico skyscapes.

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

Rather than specific projects, I think my favorite FOs fit into a particular category, gift knitting. I am always impressed by the generosity of knitters to execute thousands upon thousands of stitches in completing a beautiful project, to then turn around and gift it to someone. Wow! Knitters knit for family and friends as a gesture of love, they knit for strangers in crisis, they knit for peace and advocacy. Amazing! And in this category I also include the occasional gift of knitting for oneself. When a knitter takes the time to bestow a kindness on themselves through the slow and mindful practice of knitting, to create beauty and know that they deserve to enjoy the fruit of their energies… that too is a well deserved gesture of love.

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

The entrepreneurial community of the fiber arts industry has revealed two outstanding truths to me: 1) Women are AMAZING; operating at levels of ingenuity and integrity that are endlessly inspiring; 2) Kindness and empathy are as relevant in business as they are to all human experiences; passion and ambition fit just fine alongside the goals of leading a just, compassionate and charitable life.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: PostStitch

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

We knitters have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to sources for indie yarn. If you’re up for surprises, a subscription box is a great opportunity to try out a new dyer or small yarn company.

PostStitch is one of the ideal ways to discover new dyers, and Megan Graddy puts together some fantastic finds, including Indie Untangled dyers such as JunkYarn, Marianated Yarns and Circus Tonic Handmade.

How and when did PostStitch get started?

My mom had worked in knit shops for as long as I can remember and she always loved helping customers pick out new projects, even me who lived 500 miles away. Surprise projects from her were such a thrill to receive. Not only did I not have to drive an hour to my local yarn shop, but I didn’t have to agonize over what to buy once I got there. Plus, my mom was always sending me the latest and greatest yarn.

In 2014, we launched PostStitch to bring this yarny joy to other knitters. We want to expose knitters to yarns they may not have access to and encourage them to knit something they may not ordinarily knit, so that they can experience their craft in a new way.

How do you decide on which dyers to include in your subscription boxes?

We love discovering a new yarn or rediscovering an old favorite and sharing it with our members. There’s no set formula as to how we pick a yarn for one of our kits. We like to vary the weight, blend, and style of the fiber from month to month while choosing yarns that aren’t widely accessible or too commonplace. We follow trends on Instagram and Ravelry, and go to TNNA and other retail shows to find the yarn we feature. We also love when a dyer reaches out to us directly. We have found some of our favorite yarns that way.

Are the patterns designed exclusively for PostStitch, already published or a mix of both?

We don’t have a set formula when it comes to choosing a pattern. We like to keep our projects seasonal, small so they can be started and finished within the month, and complementary of the yarn we’re using. We also like to challenge our members to learn a new skill, while still keeping the project doable and fun for all skill levels.

We may fall in love with a pattern that is a few years old, discover one through a pattern distributor, use a pattern the dyer has written, or collaborate on a new design with a designer we have met at Vogue Knitting Live. We make it a point to use a mix of designers and feature patterns that are not super popular or free. It’s all about delivering something “new” to our subscribers.

Can you talk about any new dyers or designers you’re planning to work with?

Sure… as long as you don’t go dropping spoilers to our subscribers in our Ravelry group! While they might not necessarily be new dyers or designers (but possibly new to our subscribers), we’re anxious to connect our knitters with two fiber brands in particular – Emma’s Yarn, who we met at one of our Florida yarn shops, and Idaho-based Palouse Yarn Company, who we met at a Vogue Knitting Live event. We were also thrilled to meet a couple of designers on the floor at TNNA who will be designing new patterns for us – Ellen Thomas of The Chilly Dog and Jennifer Dassau of The Knitting Vortex.

Which subscription that you offer is the most popular?

We have three subscription types – KnitStitch (with Big, Middie and Lite customization options), SockStitch, and Notions Box. Our KnitStitch Big subscription is our original and most popular. It features a one- to two-skein accessory project with printed pattern, yarn, needles from ChiaoGoo, and notions. It’s everything you need to knit a project start to finish. But our newest subscription kit – the Notions Box – is quickly becoming a favorite. It’s perfect for those who have too many WIPs or an overwhelming stash. Our Notions Box delivers unique notions that we hope will inspire you to knit more efficiently (or have more fun) as you work through your WIPs.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My mom taught me how to knit in 2000 when I was a senior in high school. I had been a competitive swimmer for most of my life, but when an injury sidelined me, I had a lot of time to fill. My mom taught me the basics and I absorbed all I could from the women around the table at the shop she worked. It would have been nice to have YouTube tutorials available, but there is something special about in-person lessons and learning the different quirks and hacks of seasoned knitters.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Currently, the only other “craft” in my life is cleaning up the crayons, paint, and paper scraps of my three girls (they’re 6, 4, and 1) who we call our interns, but have big plans to learn how to crochet and weave. One day!

Tell me about your most memorable FO.

This is like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid! We have knit so many memorable projects, but our most beloved will probably be Ysolda Teague’s Scroll Lace Shawl that we paired with Luna Grey Fiber Arts’ Zeta yarn. It was the project that we featured in our very first kit back in 2014 and to say we knit picked over every little detail would be an understatement. But, in the end, it was so well received and we wear that cozy, soft shawl with lots of pride.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Carol Feller

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This is the sixth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I have long been a fan of Carol Feller‘s designs. Her Akoya and Carpino patterns have been favorited for a while, waiting for the perfect yarn.

When I heard the news that Carol would be making a trip from Ireland to Rhinebeck — and that she wanted to see Indie Untangled in particular! — I was thrilled. Here’s a chance to learn a little more about her, and how her background as a structural engineer informs her stunning designs.

How did you decide to become a knitwear designer?

I really sort of fell into knitwear design! When I left school I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, swinging between art and science/maths. I started by doing a year in art college but I really missed working with numbers, so after the year I switched to engineering, specializing in structural engineering. I spent several years working in engineering and when my second son was born I set up an online natural parenting shop. After my fourth son was born I sold the business and intended to become a full-time mum. That plan didn’t work out too well for me, by the time he was 5 months old I was craving some mental stimulation. I discovered an online yarn shop that had just opened up in Ireland and I started to relearn how to knit. It came back to me very quickly and I was obsessed!

Within a year I had published my first pattern and from there my first book was only a few years later. For the first time in my life I had found the perfect blend of art and maths. It’s very hard to be a knitwear designer without enjoying both ends of the spectrum; you need to be able to imagine and create the knitwear and then have the ability to do the number crunching to manipulate all the different sizes and make sure they work.

How has your training as a textile artist and then as a structural engineer informed your designs?

Starting off as a structural engineer — or any type of engineer — makes you a very logical thinker. The design, whether it is a garment or a building, has to make sense. When knitting, every stitch sits one on top of another. If you need it to be bigger you have to increase and if you need it smaller, you need to decrease. This means that design has to follow a logic path, and makes sense. This ability to dissect a design’s construction gives me the tools to turn design on its head and create new construction techniques and directions.

Carol’s Ribosome sweater.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

You many notice that I design a lot of cardigans. This is probably because I wear cardigans almost all the time! I think frequently designers like to design what they find useful on a personal level. After that it becomes about combining shapes, colours and stitch patterns in ways that make me happy. I often find that I have a picture of what I want to design, from there I combine sketching and swatching to see if I can make it work or how I need to change the initial idea so that it flows and makes knitting sense. I love autumn (fall) in shops; they are filled with new colours, knits and shapes. I spend a few mornings wandering in town getting a feel for the colours and trends of the season, zoning in on ones that mesh with my own aesthetic perspective.

You have created your own yarn line. How did that come about and what does that entail?

My yarn line happened accidentally, but it was a very happy accident! The yarn company, Fyberspates, distributes my patterns and self-published books and they had just started a yarn line with Rachel Coopey, Sock Yeah! I was saying how much fun that sounded and they suggested that I also start a yarn line with them. Between us we decided on the fiber blend; the two main criteria I had were that I wanted a sport weight yarn and I didn’t want a Superwash. After that I planned out the colours for the yarn (they are dyed by the mill) and got a yarn label designed. It was such a fun experience creating a yarn line and it somehow feels like it adds an extra dimension to my design work being able to work all the way from the yarn right through to the finished design.

Carol’s Coiled Magenta.

Is there a construction method you haven’t tried yet?

I don’t think so! There are a few construction techniques that I’ve use very rarely but I think I’ve given most a try. I’ve knit sweaters from the bottom up, top down and from side-to-side. I’ve tried raglan, set-in sleeves, circular yokes, drop shoulders and contiguous. I have designed sweaters in pieces and seamed them together but it’s not my favourite method. I’m definitely a fan of seamless in all its guises!

When and how did you learn to knit?

I actually have almost no memory of learning to knit. In primary school in Ireland when I was small everyone learned to both knit and sew. It has however changed now and is dependent on individual teachers and their personal preferences. My mother was able to knit but found it too slow, preferring to crochet or sew. Her mother however was a fantastic knitter, producing new sweaters for all her 5 children every September when they went back to school. As I learned to knit so young it feels like a very natural thing for me to be doing, very similar to writing or reading. It was when I picked up knitting however as an adult that I learned how to refine my knitting and read a pattern.

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

I swatch, swatch, swatch. It doesn’t matter what is in my head or what I draw on paper if the yarn doesn’t agree, it won’t work! So, I swatch, sketch and them measure. Once this is done I can start working on the numbers and write up the bones of the pattern. This way when I begin knitting the finished piece I can tweak and rewrite the pattern as I work to make sure it’s as accurate as possible.

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

My colours are usually on the rustic end of the scale; all shades of green, rusts, ochres and pumpkin plus the very useful grey. In the yarn line I had an advantage because of the fiber content of the yarn. With 20% yak it means that the base, undyed colour of the yarn is a light beige. This means that all the colours that are overdyed on it will have a muted, rustic feel. I started with all my favourite colours and then grouped them into neutrals and brights/contrasts so that there were lots of options to combine colours. I do find as a designer that I have to fight against my own colour biases especially with larger projects. When I do books I try to have a good range of colour representation if possible.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: The Yarnover Truck

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Barbra and Maridee in front of the truck.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

There’s a meme I’ve seen floating around social media about how great it would be to have a truck that would drive around your neighborhood ringing a bell and selling yarn. Well, the Yarnover Truck is that meme come to life.

Based in Southern California since 2013, the Yarnover Truck is the brainchild of Barbra Pushies and Maridee Nelson, two knitting friends who realized the dream of owning a yarn shop with a unique business idea. They outfitted a former Little Debbie snack truck with cubed shelving and offer a large selection of indie dyers, including several who post on Indie Untangled, and set up shop at breweries, parks, fiber festivals and special events. I had the pleasure of visiting a few years ago and it was everything I dreamed it would be.

Tell me how the idea for the Yarnover Truck came to be.

Barbra and Maridee were friends from a knitting group. One night at group, Maridee mentioned she was thinking about opening a yarn store. She had a name and a location all picked out, but the financial realities of a brick and mortar yarn store seemed overwhelming.

Later that week during her weekly knitting class at work, Barbra brought up her friend’s yarn store idea. It was always a dream of Barbra’s too, but like Maridee, it always seemed just out of reach. One of the members of the knitting group suggested a yarn truck and immediately Barbra was enamored with the idea. Hours of Google research on mobile retail business and one overwhelmingly long email to Maridee later, they found themselves on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood talking with one of LA’s first mobile boutiques. On July 5, 2012, the idea of the Yarnover Truck was born and the Truck launched March of 2013.

What did each of you do before you became yarn shop owners?

When we started the truck both of us were working in the entertainment industry. Barbra had worked in animation production management for Walt Disney Studios for seven years. She was lucky enough to assist with the knitting portions of Disney’s 50th animated feature, Tangled and on the Winnie the Pooh movie. Both Rapunzel and Kanga were “taught” to knit by Barbra.

Maridee worked in marketing for a variety of different companies in Minneapolis (where she grew up) and in Los Angeles, most recently working in theatrical advertising for Warner Bros. Studio for many years on many popular movie franchises. Jumping in to run the Yarnover Truck full time felt very natural taking all the knowledge learned in a variety of industries and putting it into running our successful venture.

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

When we started the Yarnover Truck, indie dyeing was still growing and starting to get more popular every day. We decided to make the focus of the products we sold on the truck hand-dyed yarns and work hard to showcase as many other small companies as possible.

Our goal is to find unique and talented dyers and show them off to our customers. We try and have things on the Yarnover Truck that you won’t see in many other shops in our area. We know that shopping with us takes a bit of effort from our customers so we work hard to make it worth their while and have thing they won’t find anywhere else.

What are some of the biggest challenges of owning a mobile business? What are some of the greatest rewards?

Our biggest challenge is to find locations where we can bring the truck to reach the most people. We cover a large area in Southern California going from San Diego up to Santa Barbara with visits to Palm Springs and the Inland Empire occasionally too. It’s hard to know all the best spots in such a large region so we rely on our customers who know their neighborhoods best to help us find good spots.

Our greatest rewards follows along this same storyline – we have some of the greatest customers around! We have lots of loyal yarnies who are willing to come and find us in all of the different locations where we bring the truck. They often tell us how they love to “stalk” us and to check out the new places we find for the truck.

Since you’re in Los Angeles, have you had a lot of celebrity customers?

We haven’t yet had many celebrities come on the truck and we think because we move around so much and are rarely the same spots often. We do dream of getting Julia Roberts on the truck one day and are still working our industry contacts to hopefully make it happen someday.

But being in Los Angeles, with ties to the entertainment biz has enabled us to be “knitting consultants” for a major motion picture called “Backseat.” Last fall we received a call from the prop master on this film set in the 1970s. He was looking for help to teach the extras used in the scene to knit and crochet properly and to provide some props to be included in the scene. The film is set to release near the end of this year so we won’t know how much of our work will be seen but it was a great time and definitely something we hope to do again someday!

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

The truck is gearing up for fall and we have lots of fun things planned. In addition to our regular schedule, we will be part of the San Diego Yarn Crawl in September featuring a trunk show from indie dyer Destination Yarns. We’ve worked with Jeanne to create a special colorway just for the crawl too.

Plus, we will be bringing the truck to the Stiches SoCal show in Pasadena in early November. We get to drive the truck right onto the showroom floor and we will be featuring the wonderful work of Dragonfly Fibers in our booth. Plus we will be launching a new exclusive color we’ve developed with Kate and her team. We love working with the talented dyers to create new and special colorways whenever we can!

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Barbra is a self-taught knitter and over the years, she has worked hard to teach herself new techniques and challenge herself with large projects. Both her grandmother and grandfather were excellent knitters and Barbra always wished they had lived to see her become the skilled knitter she is today. Her favorite thing to knit is sweaters, always adding extra length for her long arms.

Maridee has been crocheting since she was 12. Her grandmother first taught her the craft as something to help pass time during an extended hospital stay. Fifteen years ago, she took up the craft again and this helped lead to the creation of the Yarnover Truck. She had Barbra teach her to knit, too, so she is a bi-stitual crafter these days

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Owning a yarn shop means that most of the projects we work on are shop samples. We love being to show off the beautiful yarns we carry on the truck and know how a great sample can really help us sell lots of yarn!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Nomadic Knits

Becky (left) and Melissa (right) heading out to find all the local yarn.

This is the third in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

You may know designer Melissa Kemmerer by her adorable sheep-y sweaters. You may not know that she and former yarn shop owner Becky Beagell are creating a new knitting magazine, called Nomadic Knits, that will focus on local regions and feature indie dyers, producers and designers. Their first issue, which will look at the knitting scene in Florida, is set to be released in the coming weeks.

How did the idea for Nomadic Knits come about?

Becky loves to travel, and recently sold her house and closed her yarn shop, The Glitter Ninja, to explore the country in a van with her poodle, Bubba. Melissa loves knitting and has been designing for several years. We wanted to find a project that could incorporate both of these passions while allowing us the freedom to expand the idea and grow with it as we discover new possibilities. There may have been a few cocktails involved as the original idea came to life.

Aside from designs, what will the publication include?

Each issue will feature local dyers or fiber producers, as well as articles about the local knitting scene and some interesting finds. The Florida issue includes information about fibers that are great for knitting in warm weather, a cocktail made with local ingredients, and tips for knitting on the beach.

Shadows in the Rain, a shawl design included in Issue One, using Be So Fine 100% bamboo yarn by Kristin Omdahl.

Why did you decide to focus on Florida for the first issue?

Both of us happened to be spending last winter in south Florida, not far from each other, and we wanted to share all of our knitting fun with the rest of the fiber community. We also wanted to correct the misconception that no one knits in Florida. It’s actually full of amazing dyers and passionate knitters!

Can you reveal what regions other issues will focus on?

Our second issue is focusing on New York, specifically upstate (everything north and east of NYC), where we both grew up. After that, we have plans to explore the southwestern United States. From there… the world!

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Melissa: My aunt taught me the basics when I was 16, and after a year of garter stitch scarves, she introduced me to patterns and how to read them.

Becky: After a few failed attempts at learning from family members, I taught myself to knit on a circular loom. Then one day I decided it was time to learn to use sticks and I grabbed a copy of Stitch ‘N Bitch by Debbie Stoller, and I was off and running. Or knitting.

Do either of you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

We both LOVE shopping for craft supplies, a hobby in itself! Melissa dabbles in cross-stitch, and wants to learn more advanced embroidery and basic sewing. Becky is your standard maker, trying anything she can get her hands on.

Becky’s dog, Bubba, joining in the photo shoot fun, with design Take Me To The Beach, knit in Sprout Sock by The Fiber Seed.

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Melissa: I crocheted an enormous acrylic blanket while I was in college. It took me about four years to complete it, as it was entirely in single-chain, and I only worked on it sporadically. The tension changed from year to year, and one end is loose and wonky, while the other end is so tight, it’s almost bullet-proof. My dad proudly displays the blanket on his couch, and I have never crocheted another thing.

Becky: A few years ago I made what I thought was going to be a trendy, chunky sweater. It became lovingly known as the Wooly Grimace at The Glitter Ninja. Does anyone remember Grimace, the McDonald’s character? Anyway… it was LARGE and purple and ridiculous. It probably weighed about forty pounds. We kept it around for comedic relief and threatened to make grumpy knitters wear it during knit club.

Where are each of your favorite places to knit?

Melissa: In theory, I love to knit outside, soaking up the sunshine by the pool or on the beach, but in reality, I can usually be found knitting in a cozy chair, binge watching Netflix.

Becky: I love knitting in the car. Unfortunately, Bubba can’t drive, so I usually only get to do that while Melissa and I are on yarn tour and she’s at the wheel. Qualified drivers, feel free to submit your applications.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Espace Tricot

Espace Tricot owners Lisa and Melissa.

This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

While I haven’t visited Espace Tricot yet (emphasis on yet, as I am hoping to go sometime soon after a trip scheduled for last February was cancelled by the flu), I feel like I have because of owners Lisa Di Fruscia and Melissa Clulow’s approachable podcast.

When I do get to visit, I will be all over their selection, which includes yarn from local dyers Julie Asselin and Tanis Fiber Arts and goodies from Twill & Print, and excited to see their beautiful patterns in person.

Tell me the story of how Espace Tricot came to be. Had both of you always wanted to own a yarn shop?

Melissa first picked up a set of knitting needles back in 2008, and something just clicked. Meanwhile, across town, Lisa had turned to knitting while her newborn son napped afternoons away in the car (his preferred location). As two newly minted yarn lovers, hooked on the creative and stress-relieving properties of the craft, we soon met at a local knit night and became fast friends. Over the next year we daydreamed about creating the ideal knit shop – in an aspirational but totally idle sort of way. One day, when a local yarn shop owner who was moving out of town asked Melissa if she knew of anyone who might be interested in subletting her space, it took one phone call to Lisa and about five seconds for us to decide we would be the ones to take over the lease and open a store. Three months later, Espace Tricot was born!

What did each of you do before you became yarn shop owners and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

Lisa was a physical education teacher by profession and had worked most recently in the area of personal/spiritual development while Melissa’s varied background combined clinical psychology, non-profit management and website design and development. Neither of us had specific experience running a retail business, but we optimistically believed we had the personal and professional qualities, work ethic, and initiative necessary to make a go of it.

Fundamentally, creating and growing a successful store requires both practical and organizational skills, as well as interpersonal abilities. These aspects are especially important in the knitting world insofar as we are serving a community of people who love to share, learn, create, and connect through our craft. Having backgrounds in education and psychology enhance our capacity to understand our clients and to guide them in their projects, choices and learning in a supportive and instructional way.

Furthermore, Melissa’s experience in management and web development and Lisa’s work as a physical education teacher contribute to our ability to keep the various aspects of our business running smoothly. That said, we also recognize the limitations of our skill-sets and do not hesitate to engage outside professional assistance when necessary (e.g. accounting, product photography)!

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

As we’ve grown in our business, we’ve gained a better understanding of knitters and the market as a whole. We would say that the selection of dyers, and brands in general, is more art than science and there are many factors that enter into our decision-making process.

First, we consider our current inventory and determine whether there are particular weights or textures missing and prioritize filling those gaps. We constantly evaluate our shelves to decide if yarns need to be retired and replaced in order to breathe new life into our staples. We meet with yarn reps on a regular basis to see whether their product lines suit our needs and often ask for samples to knit up test swatches before finalizing our decisions.

This all sounds very methodical, but we are also not above making impulsive decisions when we fall for a yarn, even when any rationale for adding it to our shelves is entirely lacking. We are knitters, after all! When selecting hand-dyed yarns and smaller brands we rely heavily on our instincts, we tune in to what is capturing the attention of knitters, and keep a keen eye on sparks flying out in the ether.

Sometimes the clues are ephemeral and sometimes they are more concrete, taking the form of repeated customer requests! We might see something at a festival, twig on to something through social media, receive an e-mail from a new hand dyer, or develop a personal relationship with a producer. We also look to Ravelry for guidance. We check up on popular yarns and those gaining momentum and take note of what our favourite and/or popular designers are knitting their patterns with.

What made you decide to start a podcast?

Lisa had begun to delve into the fountain pen world and wanted to learn more about these curious instruments so turned to YouTube to find out more. She stumbled upon a podcast by a young entrepreneur with an online pen shop and mentioned it to Melissa. Melissa quickly set about exploring this intriguing world of podcasts within the knitting community and was immediately hooked on the plethora of wonderful channels already available. We didn’t dare dream of starting a podcast ourselves (what?! no way would we ever!), but on the urging of Lisa’s husband we decided to film an episode just to see if we could do it. Needless to say, we took great comfort in knowing our initial effort wouldn’t see the light of day if we felt it was just too terrible. And now here we are, 20 episodes later and counting.

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

We are always on the hunt for new and exciting products and often bring them in irrespective of the season. This fall, however, we are turning our focus towards stranded colourwork projects and are working to bring our customers on a journey with us as we learn more about the incredible properties of minimally processed 100% wool. We are so excited by all of the beautiful rustic and breed-specific sheep yarns we’ve ordered and look forward to encouraging knitters to move beyond their immediate reactions to these yarns as scratchy or rough towards an appreciation of their warm, comforting, versatile and aesthetically stunning properties!

We’ve developed new relationships with the distributors of Rauma, BC Garn, and Garthenor, and are restocking our current offerings from Brooklyn Tweed, Tukuwool and Quince & Co. We’re also adding new lines from Kelbourne Woolens, Julie Asselin, Rowan and Lopi. Of course, all of these will find a home among our wide selection of hand-dyed yarns from producers such as Madelinetosh, Hedgehog Fibres, Artfil, Julie Asselin and Koigu as well as lines from Shibui Knits, Woolfolk, Lang, mYak, Berroco, Cascade and many others!

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Interestingly, both Lisa and Melissa learned to knit around the same time in March 2008. At that time Lisa was at home with her 18-month old son and was looking for an outlet to express her creativity and to reconnect with herself. She found a little shop that was offering Learn to Knit classes and the rest is history.

Melissa had just moved to Montreal and asked her mother to teach her how to knit as part of a strategy to find community in her new city. Shortly after, we met at a local knit night and it was love at first sight! We’ve been great friends, business partners, and obsessive knitters ever since. Having each other has been wonderful for our knitting progress — we encourage and motivate one other, take great pride in each other’s successes, and support one another through the inevitable failures –- usually with wine!

Do either of you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Lisa loves to dabble in art for self-expression, including painting, drawing, journaling, or collage, while Melissa enjoys a bit of weaving and sewing. Of course, all of these take a back seat to knitting…

Espace Tricot’s Wrapped in Lino shawl.

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Every project that has pushed our skills to the next level has led to a great sense of accomplishment (e.g. first pair of socks, first sweater, first colourwork project, etc). For Lisa, however, the most memorable ones are the projects she has knit which required kilometres of knitting and sheer perseverance, such as her Wrapped in Lino and European Road Trip shawls. She is also especially proud of her latest design, Étoile Maritime, which required her to figure out how to increase while maintaining a star mesh rib design!

Melissa’s favourite projects are usually those to which she’s added a strand of silk and mohair for that halo quality she can’t get enough of! Her most memorable ones, however, have been designs such as her Chevron Baby Blanket and Getting Warmer cowl which have resonated with so many knitters on Ravelry and which made her think that perhaps she had something to offer in the area of simple, straightforward knitwear design.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Jennifer Tepper Heverly of Spirit Trail Fiberworks

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Since I started attending the New York Sheep & Wool Festival in 2011, I’ve known of Spirit Trail Fiberworks, one of the very first indie dyers to come on the scene. I gravitated toward Jennifer’s striking blues and her silky soft bases. Five years later, I purchased my first sweater quantity of Sprit Trail Birte, a luscious blend of Merino, Cashmere and silk that I used for Mary Annarella’s You Wear It Well, which is one of my all time favorite sweaters.

Shortly after I showed off my sweater at Maryland Sheep & Wool, where Jennifer also vends, she started posting on Indie Untangled, and I got to see what a variety of colors she creates on her luxurious bases. Jennifer’s Subscriber Inspiration Colors, in which she dyes colors based on a photo taken by one of her newsletter subscribers, are particularly unique, and I’m so looking forward to what she comes up with for installment for the Knitting Our National Parks series later this year.

If you’re going to Rhinebeck, Spirit Trail should definitely be on your shopping list.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I left my career in commercial real estate in Washington, DC, in 1998, after my son was born in late 1997. My daughter followed in 2000, and it was around mid-2001 when I started thinking about what I would do next for work. I had left real estate because I wanted to stay at home with my kids, so I was looking for something I could do from home.

I had started knitting again when I was pregnant with my son, so was really focused on trying to figure out how to turn knitting and textiles into a business. In early 2002, I took a dye workshop from Barbara Gentry at Stony Mountain Fibers in Charlottesville, Virginia, and then a few more dyeing classes at the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild. It was during the workshop with Barbara that a lightbulb went off in my head and I thought, “I could totally do this from home!” It seemed like it would be much more feasible than trying to knit for pay, so that’s what I did!

I spent the rest of 2002 investigating dyes and yarn suppliers, festivals and shows, website design… all the fun stuff. Then I started playing and experimenting with dyes and different yarn bases and fibers. I officially opened Spirit Trail Fiberworks in January 2003 with a small online shop, applied to all the shows I could and started doing shows that fall with the Knitter’s Review Retreat and the Fall Fiber Festival of Virginia. MDSW and NYSW followed the next year, along with a few other East Coast shows I did for a few years.

I was definitely on the very early side of the indie dyer explosion. I can remember customers at NY and MD looking at my yarns and saying they didn’t know what to do with them; indie dyeing just wasn’t much a thing yet. The industry has certainly evolved since then, and it’s been fun to watch and participate in this evolution.

How did you decide on the name Spirit Trail Fiberworks?

I sort of fell into my real estate career (my dad was a local DC architect and I worked in his office after college), and really, the entire 15 years I worked in real estate I pretty much longed to be doing something more creative. I have a degree in English literature with concentrations in fine art and philosophy, so the business world was not where I thought I’d ever be.

When I was trying to come up with a name, I came across a concept in Navaho weaving called the Weaver’s Pathway, or Spirit Trail. I wrote up a description of what it means and where it comes from on my website.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Gosh, everything. An image, an idea, a song, an impression. I get a lot of inspiration from the beautiful area where I live, in the shadow of Shenandoah National Park. But I get inspiration from all sorts of places. Usually, the colorway name comes from whatever inspired the color, but when I’m dyeing based on a feeling or impression it’s more difficult to put a name to the color. Sometimes there’s a lot of back and forth between myself, my friend Brooke who works for me, and my mom who also works for me — each of us throwing out words or phrases, and building from there until we get to the final name.

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

My favorite colors definitely change. I used to be drawn to earth tones like deep greens, browns and more muddy colors. Then it was grays and neutrals. These days, my favorites tend to be aqua blues and oranges. I’m sure they’ll change again. My ideas about color have definitely changed since I became I dyer. I used to have certain colors I hated – bubblegum pink and pastel colors, for instance. For years, I just didn’t dye pink at all. That’s definitely evolved – there are no colors I don’t like or won’t dye. I wouldn’t even say there are colors I wouldn’t wear anymore; I’m game for just about anything.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My mom taught me to knit when I was 14. Being the over achiever that I was/am, my first project was a long, cabled tunic in some nasty acrylic yarn (because that was mostly what was available back then). I pretty much cried through the entire process and my mom was not sympathetic at all, since I’d insisted on starting with something so big and complicated. I got through it, wore that tunic until it was frayed and pilled and nasty, and continued knitting through high school and college. I stopped knitting during my real estate years, started up again when I got pregnant with my son, and haven’t stopped since. He’ll be 21 later this year.

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

One color I’ve been trying to create but have never done to my satisfaction is a “shimmery” silver on a wool yarn. It’s easy to get silk or Stellina to be a shimmery silver, since they’re already shimmery or sparkly. But to get a silver-gray with the characteristics of metallic silver on a matte base is tough. I’m still working on that.

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

This is a hard question! I absolutely love seeing what my customers make with my yarn. It’s hard to pick a favorite. Of my own projects, I love my Traveler Tunic by Joji Locatelli that I turned into a dress and my Gola sweater that I test knit for Laura Nelkin with the addition of some fun vertical stripes (editor’s note: Jennifer is wearing it in the photo at the beginning of this post).

Other favorites include North Shore, (I wear this one all.the.time; pictured above), the “Caragh Sweater” I made for my daughter, Caragh, Obsidian (so super-sexy), Beck (crazy-gorgeous!), Starting Point (love how this kit turned out) and Lotus Mittens (I’m a sucker for anything colorwork).

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

I’ve learned so much. The one huge benefit of my past career, which I now appreciate very much, is that I am really good at budgets, spreadsheets, financial forecasting – all the business aspects of running a business. But, beyond appreciating my experience much more now than I ever did before, I’ve learned quite a few valuable lessons over the last 16 years.

First, customer service is key. It’s essential for a small business. My focus is creating the best quality work so I have happy customers; I really work to have the best customer service I can in every aspect of my business.

Second, it’s a business, not a hobby. My prices have to reflect realistic margins (while still staying as competitive as possible) that will allow me to continue to run my business.

Third, work can’t take over every aspect of life. This last one is the most difficult for me – the work/life balance – because I’m so Type A and can get pretty obsessive. It’s so easy to let work consume every waking minute (and more), but in order to have a full life and not get burned out, there need to be boundaries. About six or seven years ago, I really put the brakes on my business because I felt it was growing beyond what I could manage, with two small children still at home, and keep it to my philosophy, which was that it remain a small business, and that I am the one dyeing all the yarn (the latter has been my driving focus since day one, and it certainly limits growth potential). Hindsight being 20/20, part of me regrets that decision now, but it was the right one for me to make at the time. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint, so I have to make decisions to the best of my ability, and then continue to move forward.

Last, if you have your own small business, it’s essential to love what you do, at least if you’re going to do it well. But no matter how much you love your job, some days it’s going to be WORK and not so much fun. My gauge that I’m doing well is when I can successfully dye and have it turn out great, even when I’m not in the mood to do it, and that 29 days out of 30 I love what I do. A good friend of mine is a potter and he told me once, “You can only create something once. After that, it’s just production.” This is so very true, so to keep my creativity alive and well, I started dyeing non-repeatable colors (my “Lucky Pots”) in addition to repeating colorways. His answer was to build himself a salt-fire kiln, since the salt firing process is more unpredictable. So that’s how he creates one-of-a-kind work, versus his major production work. It’s essential to keep things fresh, and feed your soul with your work.

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!