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 basked 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.

Kitterly gets ready for Rhinebeck

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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.

The latest in the Bijou Basin Ranch Indie Dyer Series

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

Bijou Basin Ranch is known for producing yak, Cashmere, Paco Vicuna and Qiviut blends from a small ranch just outside of Elbert, Colorado. Owners Carl and Eileen Koop also collaborate with some indie dyers, such as ModeKnit Yarns of Minnesota and MJ Yarns of Seattle, who create a little magic in their dye pots and complement their luxurious blends.

Here are some of the latest yarns from their indie dyer series:

Autumn Spice

This is a coordinated collection for colors dyed by MJ Yarns on BBR’s new Himalayan Summit fingering base, a 50/50 blend of yak and Superfine Merino.

Explore Collection

Dyed by Colorful Eclectic on 50/50 yak and silk lace weight, Shangri-La. Each of the colorways in this series would look fantastic on its own, but are designed to pair together, as in the Blood of My Blood shawl from BBR’s Outlander collection, pictured above.

Reflections Collection

Dyed by Colorful Eclectic on Lhasa Wilderness yak/bamboo yarn. Each color in Reflections contains all five colors, with one being the predominant color.

Gobi

Hand-dyed colors from MJ yarns inspired by the Sheildmaidens of Nordic mythology, and popularized in Richard Wagner’s opera “The Valkyrie.” The yarn base is Gobi, a blend of baby camel and silk.

Stripes

Self-striping colors on Himalayan Summit dyed by Modeknit Yarns.

Gradients

Hand dyed on Tibetan Dream by Modeknit Yarns.

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!