Pre-Spotlight Untangling: Jilly & Kiddles

A woman wearing a blue and orange sweater stands over a table of colorful yarn.

This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Spotlight, taking place from May 14-16, 2021.

I first met Jill of the yarn company Jilly & Kiddles at a Brooklyn yarn event (remember those?) a couple of years ago, and she is just as fun and approachable as the name of her company would suggest. In fact, Jill received a slew of nominations for the Spotlight show from some of her loyal customers, and their words say it all:

“Jill is an amazing dyer – her yarn is absolutely amazing and should be shared. I belong to her Sock of the Season group where her gorgeous colors never disappoint. I also purchased her 2020 Advent which was extraordinary!!” –Eileen

“I would like to see Jilly & Kiddles in the spotlight. Jilly’s yarn is amazing to work with. The colors and color combinations she creates are exquisite! She works hard to create fun collaborations with other makers. Her newsletters are like receiving emails from your favorite friend. She manages to make each of her customers feel special.” –Christine

“I have made a few colorwork sweaters recently and of all of the main color yarn I enjoyed working with and the final project of Jilly and Kiddles yarn. The yarn is lush and springy and the dyer is helpful, answering questions quickly and thoroughly.” –Susan

If you’re up for some fun on the Saturday of Spotlight, and want the chance to win some of Jill’s beautiful yarn, sign up for our virtual trivia game, which Jilly & Kiddles is sponsoring. She’ll also be hosting an informative session in the Spotlight lounge on Saturday on yarn substitution.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

Around five or six years ago I started to become pretty obsessed with hand-dyed yarn. I loved the bright colors and creative combinations I was seeing, but found when I knit them up, they weren’t what I expected. It was difficult to find indie yarn that created the finished objects I desired. If you’ve ever adored a skein of yarn, but not the fabric it creates, you know exactly what I mean.

I began looking for colorful yarn that created more of a muted, soft overall color. I wanted the varied colors of hand-dyed, but in something that was really wearable for me and fit into my own style and wardrobe. Along the way, I found a couple of larger companies making the look I wanted, but not many. I wondered if I could do this myself and be able to get exactly what I wanted. I’d taken a yarn dyeing workshop with an indie dyer many years ago at a retreat and loved it. Maybe this is something I could learn?

I started watching tutorials and reading every yarn dyeing book I could get my hands on. I bought some supplies and started experimenting in my garage. Boy, was dyeing fun! Long story short: I loved it and I couldn’t stop. Sometimes I got what I wanted and sometimes I didn’t, but I was learning so much and I knew this was something I wanted to continue doing. There were other people who were looking for the same kind of yarn I was looking for and I wanted to be able to offer it to them. That’s when my yarn dyeing business became a dream I needed to make reality.

What inspires your colorways?

My colorways are inspired by nature, in two ways. There’s the usual way… something in nature catches my eye, like a flower, sunset, or landscape, and I want to recreate it. The other way nature inspires my yarn is the way I create colorways, layering and mixing colors. Have you ever looked at a purple flower really closely and realized that there are a ton more colors to it than just the purple your eye first registered? You might see purples, blues, pinks, and even maroon, brown or gray! Nature uses many hues and shades to create beautiful colors, and I use this concept in my own yarn dyeing and colorway creation. My colorways feature lots of layers of different colors to create something wearable and pleasing to the eye.

Purple, orange and pink yarn.

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

This is a great question! My favorite colors have always been orange and blue and they still are. However, creating colors from primaries really opens your mind to different hues and variations of colors. I’ve found that there isn’t a color I don’t like, if I can get the right version of it. For example, it’s not that I don’t “like” pink, it’s that I don’t like every pink. Find the right one, and it can be magical!

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

I’ve always struggled to create the perfect olive green color, but I just recently nailed it and I’m so excited about that! Something about it was such a huge challenge, and it feels good to have made it work after years of trying to get the color in my mind onto the actual yarn. The other color I think many dyers struggle with is a great black. It can be tough to get the saturation you desire.

Multicolored skeins of yarn.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Spotlight?

Nope, it’s a secret. I’m just teasing! Of course I can. For my Indie Spotlight show special, I’m offering limited quantities of several different minis sets in unique colors. These are not going to be produced again, so this is the only way to get your hands on them. They’re on a new fingering weight base I haven’t offered before and I couldn’t be more excited about it! Indie Spotlight is going to shine a light on my small business, and all I can say is it’s going to “sparkle” under it! These ready-to-ship minis sets are exclusive to Spotlight and in limited quantities.

I’m offering free shipping worldwide with any purchase of $100 or more (USD) and any order of $40 or more will receive a free stitch marker too! (These offers are valid the weekend of the event and include standard shipping only. Stitch markers are while supplies last.)

I’m also doing a How-To demo Saturday from 4-5 p.m. on Yarn Substitution from a Dyer’s Perspective, that I think will be really helpful for a lot of makers. It features ways to save money and use your stash — even the stuff you don’t think you can wear. I’ll give you tricks to make the yarn you want to use work in more patterns, and we’re going to talk a lot about color — how to substitute so it looks amazing, how to pick colors that work for you, and how to “fix” colors you love but don’t think you can wear. Be sure to join us and bring your questions!

When and how did you learn to knit?

After many attempts to learn as a child over the years, I finally learned to knit in 2005 while I was pregnant with my third child, or “Kiddle” as we like to call them. I taught myself. I had a little how-to pamphlet book from a craft store, some plastic needles and acrylic yarn. When I got stuck, I looked online at tutorials (back then they were more of the photos style, not videos like you see now) or in my pamphlet. I took out books from the library and just figured it out on my own. Ravelry was just starting out while I was learning, and that was a great resource for me, too.

A lilac sock.

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

Gosh, there are so many great ones! One of my customers chose a dark gray (now called Graphite) and an orange (Lava Lamp) to make Stephen West’s Starflake shawl during the KAL and he did SUCH an amazing job. The colors are right up my alley and I’ve wanted to make one of my own ever since. It’s gorgeous. I adore my Clayoquat sweater, designed by Tin Can Knits, and knit in Ideal DK base. It was my first (and only) steeked project and it turned out so well. I wear it all the time and it still looks great! My friend Nadine made a beautiful magenta pink version Denise Bayron’s Waves of Change Jacket in Aurora Aran and I love the way it turned out and that the Sassy Pants colorway she chose is a perfect fit for her personality! My favorite FOs of my customers are often when they choose colors that I wouldn’t normally wear or choose for myself, but they’re the exact right fit for them. I can tell how happy they are with the projects and it brings me a lot of joy to share in that with them.

What’s currently on your needles?

I’m working on a Jayne Hat for my son in custom dyed colors (any Firefly fans out there?) and I have the Current Mood shawl by Knit Graffiti going right now as well. It’s my first Brioche project and it’s a lot of fun.

An orange shawl.

You are passionate about empowering makers to use the yarn they want. What’s your favorite yarn substitution story?

This is a toughie. I help people choose and substitute yarn all the time, so it’s hard to narrow down to just one. Any time I can help someone choose a combo of “their” colors that work with a colorwork pattern in the same way it was originally designed, it’s a win in my book. There is one substitution I helped customers make a lot, and that was when Andrea Mowry’s Weekender sweater first came out. It called for worsted weight yarn, but in a very fluffy and light yarn. My Aurora base is an Aran/heavy-worsted weight, but it’s very soft and drapey and isn’t a great fit for that particular sweater if you want it to look and feel the same as the original version. I found if I worked two strands of Velvet Sock (my single-ply fingering-weight base) together, I created yarn that was worsted weight, with just the right amount of drape and spring to it to make the Weekender perfectly!

Many of my customers ordered Velvet yarn for that pattern, sometimes all in one color, and sometimes two different colors held together for a marled effect. My favorite combo was a very colorful variegated called Rustle held with a busy tonal green called Spruced Up. I have a sample in that combo and several of my customers made that exact version as well! It is a great base substitution that allowed for some fun color play and ended up using less yarn overall than making it in aran/worsted weight. So my customers saved money and got the results they were looking for, which is really satisfying.

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