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

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.

A woman sits at a desk looking down.

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: 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.

Indie turns 5 at Rhinebeck

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Organizing each year’s Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show is like completing a new knitting project. With nearly every one, I learn something new that makes me a better knitter. I get a little help — sometimes a lot of help — from my fellow stitchers. And I have late, often sleepless nights coming up with solutions to tricky problems.

And, as much as I knit, my stash continues to grow…

There were a lot of changes this year. The show moved to a new venue in Saugerties, which provided much more space, and natural light, for shopping than our previous home at the Best Western. We expanded the hours. It was also, for the first time, a fully ticketed show, and we utilized shuttle buses to ensure the venue’s parking lot wouldn’t be overtaxed. After the unprecedented crowds, long lines and parking issues of last year, these were things that had to be done, though I regret this meant that not everyone who wanted to come was able to.

While many shoppers were anxious about this new system, it was, overall, a relaxed and celebratory atmosphere — with a little bit of that festival frenzy thrown in.

My fellow helpers and I — including Petrina Hicks, a knitting friend who I discovered, via Instagram, lives across the street from me and is an event planner! — learned a lot from this year’s show. I know it will help ensure that future Indie Untangled events, whether it’s a kickoff to Rhinebeck or special event in Brooklyn, become my, and your, favorite FO yet.

And speaking of knitting friends, here are some photos of Indie Untangled 2018 taken by my talented friend Carolina of Triple C Photography.

Working the Night Shift at the Spincycle Booth.

Designers Catherine Clark and Caitlin Hunter pose for one of many pics.

A shopper spotted with multiple Indie Untangled bags.

A wall of color at the Hue Loco booth.

More beauties at Junkyarn.

Checking out the colors from IU newcomer Hu Made.

Taking a (short) break from shopping in the MDK Lounge.

Colorful project bags from That Clever Clementine and wooden goodies from Katrinkles.

Showing off my All Points South while taking in my other indie FO.

Rhinebeck Untangling: Woolly Wormhead

This is the 14th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I have long been a fan of Woolly Wormhead‘s designs — her Castiel is one of my favorite FOs — so I was thrilled to hear that she was flying over from the UK to attend Rhinebeck this year.

Woolly, as she calls herself, is a self-proclaimed “hat architect” who takes the knitted head covering to new levels.

I’m also excited to announce that Woolly will be partnering with Stephanie of Asylum Fibers for the 2019 Where We Knit Yarn Club.

How did you decide to become a knitwear designer?

It wasn’t something I decided upon, it just kinda happened. When I was medically retired from my teaching job I wanted to keep my brain active so I started blogging and writing down what I was making, and how. And it grew from there.

How has your education in textiles, art and design informed your work?

In my mind what I do now is the perfect marriage of my various paths of study. My very first career was as an Electronics Engineer, focusing on systems, logic gates etc, and for a long time I didn’t see the relevance of that to my work! I changed course and studied first Industrial Textiles and then Fine Art Textiles, before finally completing my post grad in Education. All of these play a part in my work but I think my Fine Art Textiles degree was really where my interest in 3D and sculptural textiles matured. Training and practicing as a teacher really cemented my ability to teach effectively, especially as I focused on not only Art and Design during my post grad, but also learning styles and abilities.

Why did you decide to focus on hats?

Again, I can’t say this was a conscious decision but it was an obvious one. I come at my knitting from a 3D sculptural angle and Hats are the most 3-dimensional item we can wear. Having a very short attention span is often a hindrance but with Hats we only need to make one, and they’re relatively quick, too.

Do you think you’ll ever design a different accessory or garment?

Nope! I’ve no interest in garments beyond the few things I make for myself when I get time. And I’ve little interest in fashion, with the exception of sub-cultures.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Construction, structure and numerical patterns. I’m very much about the 3D but I do like to have a mathematical structure that resonates and I’m often told this is evident in my work.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My mum taught me to knit when I was 3 years old, and I’ve not had a period of more than a few months without something on the needles since.

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

That depends… it depends on how it’s going to be structured. I don’t sketch my designs, I make notes. I’ll swatch if there’s a particularly difficult stitch pattern involved or a new to me method that I want to try out, but otherwise I treat my sample as my swatch. Sideways designs are usually charted before I cast-on; vertical designs are written as I knit.

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

My favourite colours to wear are completely different to my favourite colours to design with! I wear all blacks unless it’s a smooth dark grey. I like an easy wardrobe, when it’s all black everything goes with everything. When it comes to knitting it’s probably useful to remember that I don’t knit for myself! I’m drawn to jewel tones, strong colour and particularly colours that aren’t flat. If I know who’s going to be modelling the design then skin tone always comes into play. I rarely do pale or subtle colours and I’m allergic to white. Over time I don’t think my palette has changed much, but there are a lot more hand dyed yarns available that there used to be, and with more variance and more sophisticated techniques, too.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: The Perfect Blend

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This is the 13th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Last November, after I checked out the Saugerties Performing Arts Center and decided it was the perfect new venue for Indie Untangled, I paid a visit to The Perfect Blend Yarn & Tea Shop. First of all, I couldn’t not pay a visit to a well-regarded LYS less than a mile down the road. But, I mainly wanted to see what the shop was like before reaching out to the owner, Mary Ebel, about collaborating on the show, which I knew would bring quite a lot of visitors to the little town. Since I hadn’t yet signed the contract for the new venue, I went “incognito,” and didn’t reveal the real reason I was there.

Mary welcomed me and my mother-in-law warmly, and she and I chatted like knitting-obsessed folks do about the projects we were working on and hoping to make one day. I learned about the yarn club the store runs, with hand-dyed colorways inspired by the beauty of the Hudson Valley. Mary brewed some Harney & Sons tea for us to sample and I picked out a colorful navy, teal and orange basket that now holds all my WIPs by my living room sofa.

Later, after I reached out to Mary and revealed the true reason for my visit that day, she became an indispensable part of the planning team for the fifth annual Rhinebeck Trunk Show, connecting me to local resources and rallying together the local merchants to give Indie Untangled visitors a warm welcome not unlike the one I received during my first visit, with a free shuttle service, sit ‘n’ knit stations and even an after party — plus a little yarny surprise.

I recently learned a little bit more Mary about how she became the owner of one of the Hudson Valley’s loveliest yarn shops.

Tell me about the decision to open The Perfect Blend. Was running a yarn shop a longtime dream of yours?

Yes it was a long term plan — as I imagine lots of knitters have dreams of opening a yarn shop, too!

Fortunately for me, I had the support of my family and friends to make it happen. My husband retiring early from law enforcement and taking on a second career in sales allowed me to leave my full-time job and pursue this yarn shop dream job (though I dreamed it much differently… I thought there would be time to sit and knit).

After eight years of teaching friends at home and my husband settling into his new career, I “retired” and opened a shop. Seemed everything fell into place as I worked towards the opening. The location, in the small village of Saugerties, was the only storefront I looked at. And it’s perfect – a bit rustic with brick wall and charming atmosphere.

Why did you decide to focus on yarn and tea?

Growing up with a family of makers, my mother was always knitting, but she also, sewed, crafted, tried just about everything — except cooking. My dad, an engineer, loved building, woodworking, fixing things, problem solving. He and friends built our family cottage in Maine in 1950s. There are seven of us “kids” and we were all encouraged to learn a craft. For the last 30 years or so, our family Christmas has been handmade. We make something six times, one for each family member. It’s creative and fun!

Though each of my siblings have some sort of hands-on crafting talent, mine was knitting. I have sweet memories of knitting with my mother during quiet early mornings in Maine. I love knitting, and teaching people to knit.

And the tea: well, a few reasons. First reason was I wanted something other than yarn to bring people into the shop. Turns out, that was a good decision — they’re looking for tea, and wouldn’t normally walk in a yarn shop, then discover the beautiful yarns, and talk about how they “always wanted to learn” … ”Oh, and you teach classes?” And bam — new knitter!

We’re Irish and there are lots of tea drinkers in the family. The tea kettle is ON when we’re together, from early morning to late at night!

As with knitting and crocheting, making tea is slow process – it’s peaceful and calming. It’s what you do to relax and unwind, or to help you feel better. And it all works with The Perfect Blend: of yarn, or tea blends, or of the community of knitters and crocheters.

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

Prior to opening the shop, my career was in human resources. The last 13 years in benefits and employee relations for our local hospital system. Though my background did not include retail or anything in the fiber world, I’m a good listener, confidential and love to help people.

My position at the hospital was to serve the people that took care of people, helping them resolve an issue so that they could get back to their jobs of patient care. That’s why an LYS is better for me than an online store. Though we tried for a few months last year, it’s not for me, and most of our online sales happened in the shop. We like the interaction with our customers and have fun! And just like HR, we don’t discuss politics and we’re confidential — I won’t tell anyone how much yarn you bought!

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

The brands and the products change over the years and will continue to. We started carrying basic, core brands that I was familiar with: Cascade, Noro, Classic Elite, etc. In the beginning, I used the advice and guidance of reps for what to buy and what was trending. Now, I research myself, attend TNNA and always listen to my customers.

As we evolve and grow our shop, the yarn choices will change too. There’s always something new that we must have! Although we carry many classic yarns for the projects you’ll have 10 years from now, we do carry a variety of yarns, not novelty, but some trendy yarns for our adventurous knitters and crocheters. From Cashmere and yak to cotton and wool, and lots of perfect blends in between.

Who are some of your favorite designers?

Hardest question right here! There are so many talented designers, who could ever pick a favorite?

Let me say this though, we just had two days of classes with Ann Budd (she’s amazing!). Her Intro to Sweater Design Class – wow! We all know that there’s tons of math in knitting, but now I have a whole new respect for what it takes to design it, from concept, to gauging, choosing the right yarn, sizing… there are so many factors. It was an amazing class! One person commented that “We don’t pay enough for patterns.”

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

We met a few new vendors at TNNA trade show in June. Gleeners recently arrived and we’re planning a demo day soon. We’re also bringing in some fun products from Knit Baah Purl — sheep-y wine glasses, mugs and notecards. We’re also xcited to bring in Dragonfly Fibers.

As for special events, it doesn’t get any better than having Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show a half-mile away from the shop! We’re thrilled and super exited to have this event come to Saugerties!

When and how did you learn to knit?

I was taught by my mother on the porch of our summer cottage in Maine. Not sure of my age, I think around nine, but I remember where I was sitting and the yarn (split-y cotton) and the big wooden needles. Pretty sure there were other neighborhood kids learning at the same time, but I clearly remember where I was sitting and the moment I “got it!”

Is there an FO that you’re particularly proud of?

Through the years there were definitely many proud moments when I discovered a new technique, such as German short rows, or when I made my first sweater, or did Fair Isle for the first time, and a cabled sweater. After all these years there’s always something new to learn — that only another knitter can be excited about, too!

Getting ready for Rhinebeck with Mason-Dixon Knitting

This is the 12th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting have been corresponding about knitting since 2003, so they know a thing or two about Rhinebeck. This year, they will be the hostesses with the mostest in what is being dubbed the MDK Lounge at the fifth annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show.

I recently asked Ann and Kaye about their plans for the big weekend:

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

An event like Indie Untangled gives us the opportunity to see our invisible internet friends in actual 3D human form — it’s incredibly good fun. We’ll be in the Indie Untangled Lounge all day — beginning at 1 p.m. rope drop! — so we hope to say Hi to as many folks as we can. Really looking forward to talking yarns and designs with everybody. Pub nights are kind of a branded thing with us. We love a good sit ’n’ knit.

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

The MDK Shop, our online yarn emporium, features a bunch of dyers that we admire and respect so much — a number of them are Indie Untangled vendors, and we’re proud to be working with them. Recently, that group includes Julie Asselin of Julie Asselin Yarns, Amy Lee Serradell of Canon Hand Dyes and Alice O’Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks. We met them all at Indie Untangled, so it’s a bit of a reunion to get to see them again. And we have an MDK exclusive, beautiful yarn coming soon from Karin Maag-Tanchak and Jill Draper.

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

We often say we’re living in a golden age of yarn — it’s hard for us to keep up with the dyers who are emerging on the scene, but what a wonderful problem to have. Naturally-dyed yarns are really making us happy these days. Brooke Sinnes of Sincere Sheep is brilliant at pairing beautiful fibers with her color sense. Marcia McDonald of Lana Plantae gets these incredibly vibrant colors from plant dyes. And Meg Anderson of Nutmeg Yarns is working in the gentlest, softest palette imaginable.

Ann’s Birkin by Caitlin Hunter.

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

We hope for a daily high of 57 degrees, because that is the perfect temperature for SWEATA WEATHA. Ann has about a half dozen potential sweaters, ranging from Carbeth by Kate Davies (in case there is a blizzard—that thing is HOT) to Birkin by Caitlin Hunter (fingering weight). Kay is madly knitting away on a vintage Kaffe Fassett kit from 1986 that is going to ROCK THE FESTIVAL one of these days (three years since cast-on! This could be the year!). If the Kaffe is not quite ready for showtime, and even if it is, Kay’s brand-new Savage Heart Cardigan by Amy Christoffers is going to make its maiden voyage this year.

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

Our prediction: many, many, many yoke sweaters. When have we ever had such a bumper crop of yoke designs? My guess: Humulus (Isabell Kraemer). More Birkins (Caitlin Hunter) Fades being found all over the place. And Carbeth, our Bang Out a Sweater sweater of 2018, will surely be everywhere if the temps are cool enough. (You could cast one on right now and get it done in time. We aren’t kidding when we say BANG OUT.)

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Ann: Making a giant Parallelogram Scarf by Cecelia Campochiaro from MDK Field Guide No. 5: Sequences. And Thea Colman’s Appleseed Mitts from MDK Field Guide No. 8: Merry Making. And every other pattern from that Field Guide because we’re in the midst of a giant Bunchalong on MDK, where knitters are making holiday gifts in multiples. I’ve got ten weeks and a mighty momentum getting warmed up.

Kay: Currently blocking: three (three!) Stranded Diamonds Hats from MDK Field Guide No. 8. Next up: untold numbers of Slip-Stitch Caps and Appleseed Mitts and Chalice Cowls from Field Guide No. 8. I’m going to win the Bunchalong. (Wait — I’m not eligible to win the Bunchalong. But: bragging rights!)

Stranded Diamonds Hats from MDK Field Guide No. 8.

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

Ann: I love my Birkin yoke sweater by Caitlin Hunter so, so much. I used Backyard Fiberworks Sock in the shades of Jamberry and Patio, aka the loudest colorway I’ve ever made. It makes me feel pretty and witty and bright.

Kay: My most recent FO is always my fave. I love love lurve my Savage Heart Cardigan, and may cast on a second one in Spud & Chloe Sweater, because it’s such a perfect match for the pattern. I also have to give a big thumbs-up to the Parallelogram Scarf from Field Guide No. 5. I’ve made 2, which are really 3, since the second one was a double-wide version. Once you start some soothing sequence knitting with Freia Fibers’ slow-changing Shawl Balls, you can’t really find a good stopping point. Just… keep… knitting…

The Knot House gets ready for Rhinebeck

This is the 11th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

The Knot House in Frederick, Maryland, is an LYS that really supports indie dyers. It’s where trunk show vendor Dami of Magpie Fibers learned to knit and launched her company and always showcases the latest and greatest at their indie pop-up during the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

I asked owners Heather and Cathy to give us a look at their plans for Rhinebeck and also learned about a new dyer who has come on the scene…

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

Hu Made. We haven’t met Amanda, so we are looking forward to meeting her and seeing her yarns in person.

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

We have two that we have added recently:

1) Nice & Knit – We love their Sock and DK. They have great colors and are just a pleasure to work with.

2) Chasing Rabbits – Love the Sock and her colors.

Cathy and Heather

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

I have to give myself a plug here. We have our own hand-dyed yarns now. We launched our La Di Da DK and Mo Debonair Mohair earlier this fall. With the focus on sweaters, we have focused on tonal solids.

How did you decide to dye your own yarn?

I don’t really know. I had thought about it before but never really thought of myself as an artist. But Mom and I thought I should try to supplement the shop. So Mom ordered yarn and I ordered dye and got started.

Where do you dye?

I currently dye in my home kitchen but we are working on building out a small studio in the basement.

What inspires your colors?

I have always loved textiles and have been known to spend way to much on decor fabrics. I love a room done well with pops of color. So I get a lot of inspiration from home decor pictures and fabrics. I also love timeless fashion. Matter of fact, I took a picture of Uma Thurman in the streets of NYC in 1987 and used it to come up with a small collection. In my option, yarn colors have to be truly wearable. I will be doing a sock weight in variegated fun stuff soon!

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

Not exactly sure yet, but I’m sure Mom and I will both be wearing something from Boyland Knitworks and/or Andrea Mowry.

An FO of Caitlin Hunter’s Tecumseh.


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

Tecumseh and The Throw Back!

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Mom is working on Caitlin’s Ramblin Woman Cardigan [a pattern that is debuting at Indie Untangled] using Knot House La Di Da DK. I am working on Millie by Nice & Knit and the Aim True Hat by Caitlin Hunter.

Cathy’s Sipila sweater.

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

I think mine is still Sunset Highway and Mom’s is her Sipila sweater.

Viola’s ‘Knits About Winter’

This is the 10th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Ever since I discovered indie-dyed yarn, Viola has been one of the dyers whose yarns I have lusted after. Emily’s colors are lightly speckled, but not the eye-poppingly bright speckles that have become popular in recent years. They’re more like gelato, with subtle swirls that look good enough to eat.

While following Emily’s business over the years, through her work experience with UK-based mill John Arbon Textiles — which created a line of colors inspired by her — to her move to a studio in Mooresburg, Ontario, and development of bases, like her Mooresburg DK, it was my dream to have her vend at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show. So I was thrilled when, earlier this year, Amy of Pom Pom Quarterly asked if Emily could have a booth to sell her yarns, which would be featured in Knits About Winter, a book of Emily’s designs that Pom Pom Press was publishing in the fall.

In advance of the premier of Knits About Winter at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival (you can preorder your copy from the Merritt Bookstore to pick up in their booth at the festival), I spoke to Emily about the book and her work as a dyer.

What inspires the designs in Knits About Winter?

Knits About Winter is entirely inspired by the winter landscape surrounding my home in Mooresburg, Ontario. I moved here at the beginning of a very cold and snowy winter a few years ago and was almost instantly captivated by the quiet magic of winters here. Winter can be cold and harsh but also mysterious and magical. My goal with each of the designs in Knits About Winter was to create patterns that would be warm and comfortable in the cold of winter, all the while remembering the colours, shapes and light of winter.

Did you come up with new colorways for the collection?

Yes! There are four new Viola colourways that are launching at the same time as the book. Each colourway is also inspired by Mooresburg winters past and present. I knew roughly what I wanted each colour to be, but did a lot of visual research and experimenting before I landed on the finished colourways. Visual research is one of the most fun jobs that I have, especially in winter, because it involved frequent snowshoeing adventures with my camera! Each colourway is inspired by a variety of different sights in my winter landscape. I decided to combine elements of texture, light, shape and, of course, colour that stood out to me and suited the palette I wanted to achieve.

Do you have a favorite pattern from the collection and, if so, why is it your favorite?

My answer to this question changes every day, so I suppose they’re all my favourites. My focus was to create designs that would be versatile and serviceable, yet beautiful. I also wanted to create pieces that would be easy to layer and wear together, so I think of these patterns as a knitted outfit rather than individual pieces. I can honestly say that I can’t wait to wear all of them, and am so pleased with their minimalistic beauty and wearability.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

After working in a small knitting store in Toronto, I discovered the wonders of hand-dyed yarns. It didn’t take long before I was experimenting with dyes for myself, and just a little while longer before customers at the shop claimed skeins for themselves. The business grew quickly from there, along with my dyeing and business skills. I learned everything as I went along, through lots of trial and error and lots of making mistakes.

How did you decide on the name Viola?

That was an easy decision actually. Viola is the name of both of my grandmothers! Both women were seriously talented knitters and made my sister and I countless amazing outfits. One grandma is even known to have been able to knit whilst reading a book and snacking (I think apple slices were her favourite).

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

That’s even trickier than choosing a favourite design from the book! I find that my colour preferences change reliably with the seasons, even more than they change through the years. Since I started dyeing yarn I have developed a more focused way of observing colours around me. Right now (and I think always) I know that I am drawn to complex, layered and hazy colours. I’ll always pause to inspect a colour under frost or water or behind mist. Reflections in puddles or the sky hidden by clouds. A bright colour might catch my eye, but it is usually the murky tones, textures and light around that colour that interest me. I also like to explore the balance between warm and cool in colours, and often prefer shades that land right in the middle.

That said, I do have some favourite starting points, they become more faded and subdued in the winter and a little more colourful towards the summer. All types of pink, copper, peach, beige, gold and olive are my go to shades, and I use these colours more often than you might think in all Viola colourways.

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

This happens to me quite often, actually. The more layers of dye in a colourway, the easier it is to tip too far in one direction or another and become too hazy or simply transform into another colour altogether. Often I discover great new ideas when overdyeing colours that I’m not happy with, and that’s just what happened with a colour called Peat that I’ve been struggling with for months. I’ll get there, because it is a beautiful and moody colour (and I want to knit a sweater with it!) but often the first run of a colour is almost impossible to recreate for me.

Tell me about the decision to work for John Arbon. What were some of the best things you learned while there and how did it inform your dyeing?

About three years after I “accidentally” started Viola I was feeling overwhelmed by how quickly the business had grown. It was a fluke that John and Juliet had a job opening up exactly when I contacted them, and even more of a fluke that they took a chance on a Canadian girl they’d never spoken to before! I think it only took about a month or two from contacting them, to boarding the plane to England.

I loved working for John and Juliet as well as living in beautiful North Devon. I learned more that I could have ever hoped to about fibre, yarn construction and operating loud and dangerous fibre processing machinery. I think the most useful thing that I took away from my time at John Arbon Textiles was John and Juliet’s attitude, creativity and work ethic. I never slacked off at Viola, but would often struggle when a problem arose. Running a small business, this happens at least once a day. Watching John and Juliet navigate similar issues rationally and calmly taught me that there is no ready made solution and I have to figure it all out for myself. I still struggle with complicated problems and decisions, of course, but take comfort in the fact that I am in control of the journey as well as the outcome.

How has having a new studio space changed your business?

I have been working in the new studio space for just over two years. When we renovated the space I was optimistic that it would make my dyeing process more efficient and as of about three months ago, it finally did. My answer to this question two years ago would have been that the new space will allow me to dye more yarn and be more productive. While that would have been fantastic, I think my business gained something even more valuable – resiliency. Countless things have broken, gone wrong, fallen apart, frozen, blown up and been eaten by ants. Just at the moment that one problem was fixed, the next one materialized. Amidst it all, I simply had to keep going and deal with the issues as they arose. The new studio space as taught me that good things take time, and lots of patience. It’s working really well at the moment, but I am still braced for the next potential catastrophe.