Heather of Sew Happy Jane has embraced the rustic wool trend with her new line of non-Superwash yarn. She’s dyed her new 100% Peruvian Highland Wool in 10 colorways — eight semisolids and two speckled/variegated — that coordinate beautifully, making it perfect for colorwork. At $18 per 246-yard skein, it’s also an inexpensive entree into the world of crunchy yarn. Heather is taking dyed-to-order preorders until May 25.
Tomorrow, Stefania and Giulia of Lanivendole are launching orders for their next yarn club/collaboration. The Mind Wanderers Yarn Club is themed around where we go when we get lost in our thoughts while knitting. Each club bundle will include three skeins of their luxurious and local blend of Italian wool, Cashmere and alpaca and two accessories from Italian makers.
Debbie of Murky Depths Dyeworks is evoking the childhood nostalgia of the 64 Crayola box (the one with the sharpener on the back) with her new mini skein sets. Each set includes five 80-yard skeins of Deep Sock, perfect for colorwork hats, fingerless mitts or as sweater accents. Debbie is also offering 15% off, using code CXL15.
If your Startitis is flaring up, house your new WIPs in one of Rock Solid Designs’ new project bags! There are sweet honeybees and cheerful yellow poppies to get us in the mood for our socially-distanced spring, as well as reminders of the travels in our future.
Heather of Pumpkins and Wool has launched her new Sock Kits, featuring one 463-yard skein and one 92-yard mini in a super soft Superwash Merino/nylon blend.
Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns’ next update, taking place on Monday at 1 p.m. UK time, will include a summer-ready restock of laceweight yarns, including Titus Lace (Merino/silk) and Askham Lace (baby alpaca/silk).
Karen Whooley’s new book, Modern Italian Lace Crochet, will be released on June 2 and you can preorder it now. The book includes 10 new crochet designs inspired by her Italian heritage.
A silver lining to yet another canceled festival is that independent publisher Cooperative Press has used the opportunity of a virtual Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival to re-release two of their most popular titles: the appropriate-for-these-times Doomsday Knits: Projects for the Apocalypse and After, edited by Alex Tinsley, and Subversive Socks, edited by Tabetha Hedrick. Both books are only available to preorder until this Sunday, May 3, so grab yours before they become harder to find than unsalted butter.
Tomorrow, Heather of Sew Happy Jane will be participating in the Virtu-wool fiber festival hosted on Facebook, and her virtu-wool shop will be updated with new colorways and old favorites. Get a preview at 10 a.m. EDT on Facebook and learn how you can enter to win a prize.
The inaugural Virtu-wool Fiber Festival is a two-day event taking place tomorrow and Sunday featuring 20 vendors from across the U.S. Each day, between 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT, vendors will present their products via a livestream.
Austin, Texas-based Gothfarm Yarn specializes in blends of naturally-colored fibers from rare and uncommon breeds of sheep and other furry animals, working with small farms and mills.
Heather of Pumpkins and Wool created six new super ’80s-inspired colorways for some retro fun during this bogus situation we’ve found ourselves in. Colors such as Ms. Pacman and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun have also been discounted.
Michelle of Crafty Flutterby Creations has launched a KAL called Parallelominis that encourages you to dive into your collection of mini skeins and scrap yarn to create artistic color combinations.
The KAL runs through May 17 and every participant that shares their FO gets a free pattern and a chance to win a $50 gift certificate for Crafty Flutterby Creations. Indie Untangled readers get 60% off the Parallelominis pattern through the end of March with code INDIELOVE.
Kate of McMullin Fiber Co. is having a spring cleaning sale and a giveaway rolled into one. Every $20 spent in the shop between now and April 12 enters you to win prizes, including a Joji & Co. needle wallet, a $100 shop credit, a $50 shop credit, and a crochet hook from Furls and some of Kate’s yarn to go with it. Edit: This giveaway will now be taking place via Instagram. Stay tuned for updates.
Terri of Whole Knit ‘N Caboodle has added over 150 new colors to her website, and will be sending a check to your LYS for every online purchase.
Laura of Slipped Stitch Studios has once again teamed up with Julia of Pandia’s Jewels for the Yarnies to the bone collection. The ready-to-ship update goes live today at 9 a.m. Pacific, and there is a special yarn colorway available to preorder on Julia’s website.
What’s more appropriate than cats and yarn? A book about cats and yarn! Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns has collaborated with Marna Gilligan of ‘an caitin beag’ for Cat Knits, a book of 16 knit designs featuring kitties and Eden Cottage yarns.
Susan of Sunflower Designs is also hosting a KAL for her Love in the Time of Coronavirus shawl, with proceeds from the pattern split evenly between the CDC foundation and Meals on Wheels Covid-19 Response Fund.
Crochet is having a moment, and Karen Whooley’s Whimsy shawl is a colorful, project with easy crochet stitches and lace. Get the pattern at 10% off through the end of March with the code 10offmarch.
The dyers collaborating with me on this Indie Untangled Eight Nights of Hanukkah Kit all have their own beautiful aesthetics: Spencer and Reggie of The Fiberists create vibrant semisolids, Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has a talent for subtle speckles and Raya of Blissful Knits is known for her colorful mini skeins. While their full skeins/mini sets for the kit will be a surprise, here is an example of their talents.
Preorders are open only through the end of the day today. I hope you celebrate with us!
Sue of Invictus Yarns is also getting ready for the holidays (it’s not too early!) and has been adding to her collection of holiday colorways, restocked some that had sold out and have added gift cards to the shop.
Issue 4 of the NF Magazine comes out today and is filled with fall warmth. It includes four knitting patterns and three cold-weather recipes.
Andi Smith’s newest book for Cooperative Press, called Scarves Two Ways, will make you a scarf knitter again. The book, released at Rhinebeck, includes a dozen new scarf designs using a variety of techniques. The patterns are both charted and fully written out, hence there are two ways you can create them. The motifs from scarf to scarf also riff off each other. You can save $6.95 through the end of 2019 by using the code STARGAZER on Ravelry.
Designer Kathleen Dames and Alice O’Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks have taken us to New York and Paris through their Knit Like A Local series of bookazines from One More Row Press. Recently, they launched I Knit San Francisco, a fiber journey through the Bay Area, which is available to preorder. Here’s more about their latest trip.
How did you decide to include San Francisco for your latest book?
We started talking about San Francisco after attending Stitches West a couple of years ago. There is a vibrant knitting culture in Northern California, lots of great yarn shops, local designers and dyers, and, as we all know, the weather in San Francisco is such that having something woolly on hand is always a good idea. Plus, we both have connections to the area: Alice’s grandparents lived south of San Francisco (and her brother lives in the city now), while Kathleen worked for two different publishers, one in Sebastopol and the other in Pacific Grove, so she has spent working time in the area, in addition to more touristy visits.
Which designers do you have lined up for I Knit San Francisco?
We are thrilled to have Vilasinee Bunnag (founder of The Loome) in collaboration with Kathleen, Faina Goberstein, Juliana Lustenader, Audry Nicklin, Sonya Philip (100 Acts of Sewing), Yvonne Poon (Gamer Babe Knits), Sloane Rosenthal (co-founder of brand new Hudson + West yarn company with Meghan Babin), Heatherly Walker (the Yarn Yenta), Julie Weisenberger (founder of Cocoknits), and Kelly White, plus yarns from Bay Street Yarns, The Dye Project, Hudson + West Co., Little Skein in the Big Wool with help from Seismic Yarns, Love Fest Fibers, Sincere Sheep, Speckled Finch Studios, Twirl Yarn, and A Verb for Keeping Warm. Getting to know the designers and dyers is the best part of this job.
What are each of your favorite designs from the book?
We love them all (of course)! Seriously, every book we publish is a whole new wardrobe we want to knit.
So far Julie’s rug, Half-moon, made with Love Fest Fibers crazy cool and crazy big yarn, and Sloane’s Ferry Building pullover in WELD from brand new yarn company, Hudson + West Co. (Sloane’s bicoastal partnership with Meghan Babin, former editor of Interweave Knits) have been most popular on our Instagram feed.
Aside from designs, what will the book include?
We interview each designer, so you will learn a little about their design journey and, of course, their favorite local things, particularly places to go that you might not know about and restaurants to try. Then, we take you on our three-day Yarn Crawl from Santa Rosa up in Sonoma County all the way down through Napa County to the East Bay and San Francisco itself down through Santa Cruz to Pacific Grove on Monterey Bay. We definitely recommend taking more than three days, if you want to do the whole tour – we had to be ruthlessly efficient in our research trip due to time constraints, but our doing so means you can take your time and enjoy everything a little more thoroughly.
What surprising things did you learn about San Francisco while doing your research?
That walking around is no joke! Coming from the east and being used to walking everywhere (New York City and Washington, D.C., for us are walking and subway-riding cities), the hills of San Francisco are deceptive. What seems like a doable walk is an intense workout. We also were surprised/not surprised to notice the quality of the light. As intensely visual people, we were both struck by that West Coast golden light, and we think Alli did a great job of capturing it in our photos.
There has been an explosion of local “bookazines,” such as the By Hand serial and Nomadic Knits. How would you say One More Row Press is different?
We start with the question “Where shall we (as knitting people) go next?” Then we work hard to find local designers, some new and others more established, who design across many categories and for varying skill levels, and then we collaborate with them to find yarn partners that make each project sing.
Beyond the interviews and yarn crawls, we also seek out local photographers and models who bring the designs to life on location. We focus on curating a collection that is rooted in place with additional information that allows you to go to that place and make your own personal connections (or be an armchair travel knitter).
What other cities or places are next for your series?
That is the question we are asked AND that we ask everyone we meet! Our “To Visit” list includes: Chicago (where Kathleen grew up), Kyoto (or Tokyo), London, Detroit (people keep mentioning it, and there are a lot of yarn stores in the area, so we are totally intrigued), and Los Angeles. We have also talked about Italy, Cuba, Australia, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, though we have been focused on individual cities thus far.
It’s a matter of finding the right people (designers, dyers, LYSes) and making the timing work for everyone (including us with our own jobs and families to manage). We are also in talks to do a crochet book with a handful of designers using their favorite buildings as inspiration for elegant, wearable crochet garments and accessories.
Pom Pom Quarterly‘s autumn issue focuses on the conversations about racism and white supremacy in the fiber industry that have been taking place since January. Called “Sea Change,” it includes sand- and surf-inspired garments by designers and makers, including some who were brought to editors Lydia Gluck and Meghan Fernandes’ attention due to the movement for more diversity and inclusion in the knitting community.
Over its seven-year history, Pom Pom has featured models of diverse races and ages, and has plans to continue working with a larger range of designers. I asked Lydia how she and Meghan tackled this topic in the issue, which was released August 30, and how they plan to continue to address inclusivity going forward.
How did you decide on the sea as a metaphor for the ongoing discussion about diversity and white supremacy in the fiber industry?
We had been thinking about a sea-themed issue for a while, as it’s almost an obsession for me; I grew up on the Welsh coast and will always go for a salty dip if I can. The sea is also part of Meghan’s father’s background. He is from the tiny seaside state of Goa in India, and that heritage really resonated for Meghan at this time. I guess the sea has always been a source of solace and inspiration, but we hadn’t quite found the right time to do the issue. When we were thinking about putting together this autumn we realised it was the perfect time for the sea theme. We think that the outward-looking feeling that the shore gives, along with the place for reflection it provides is a great way to embody the expansive feeling of trying to create a genuinely inclusive and welcoming space. The sea is always changing, and we hope to carry on growing and changing too.
How was your approach to this issue of the magazine different than previous ones?
We had been spending a lot of time following and engaging with the racism, diversity, and inclusion conversations that have been more present online in the knitting world and felt that we had to start putting what we were learning into practice. We want to make Pom Pom a good option for people who feel that they aren’t represented in the knitting world at the moment. For this issue we put more time into making sure our line-up of contributors and collaborators was more diverse in various ways, and we hope that through diversity will come inclusion and we know Pom Pom will only be richer for it.
Our approach has also been different in terms of layout; we added pages to the magazine so that we could increase the font size – something we have wanted to do for a long time and finally have been able to because we have changed the way we ship the magazines (yay logistics!). We also added sizes to make our sizing more inclusive. We owe so much to the BIPOC and other marginalised voices who have been bringing to our attention what needs to change to make publications accessible and inclusive and we couldn’t be more grateful that they have done such difficult and dangerous work to make our world a better place. They are the heroes in this story.
What does diversity and inclusion look like for Pom Pom?
Diversity and inclusion looks like the magazine being accessible, welcoming to, and representative of anyone who wants to be part of our community. We want to work with and amplify the voices of people whose perspectives and experiences aren’t usually included in and reflected by the media.
Who has most inspired the Pom Pom team as you’ve taken on anti-racism work?
The team behind Unfinished Object have been particularly inspirational. Without those voices, we don’t think the movement would have burst forth in January in the way that it did. We are all making progress, and continuing to make progress now thanks to their work.
What advice would you give to crafters and fiber business owners looking to take on anti-racism work?
Remember that whether racism exists in the knitting world is not a debate. That’s step one. Then educate yourself; we would say visiting Unfinished Object is a good place to start, and the anti-racist educators @rachel.cargle and @laylafsaad have plenty of resources. Make sure to be respectful when you are visiting spaces held for and by marginalised people, and check whether an answer to your question already exists before asking it.
The most important thing is to be ready to learn and get things wrong. There’s a lot of fear around saying the wrong thing, but we think it’s important to make sure that fear doesn’t come from a place of defensiveness or thinking that people will deliberately misinterpret you. If you get something wrong and receive critique from the community, it’s vital to listen and make sure you take feedback on board. No one is expected to be perfect, but we think it’s worth holding yourself to a high standard, while being kind to yourself. We can and must do better as a community, and in order to do that we have to be ready to rigorously examine our deeply embedded biases and our unequal societies.
And, if it’s possible for you, do pay people for the education you have received from them. Ko-fi is a great way to do that. Again we want to emphasise that we are following the lead of others in this regard, and we advise doing the same.
I’ve noticed this is the first published design for a few of the designers in the magazine. How do you work with designers who haven’t self-published a knitting or crochet design before? How are you finding new designers and dyers?
We have always worked with designers who haven’t been published or self-published before. Most issues of the magazine have had an open call for submissions because we are always interested in finding people who are not yet part of the knitting scene. We try and provide as much support as we can when we are working with new designers. We know there’s a lot about the process that might be new, so we are on hand to answer questions and can provide help with technical aspects, for example getting assistance with grading if needed. We are always honoured when someone entrusts their vision to us, whether they are a new designer or not, so our main concern is making sure we do their creativity justice.
We also spend a lot of time looking for new designers and dyers online through social media, and if appropriate reach out to people who we think would be interested in working with us. Sometimes people email us too! If we go to shows we make sure to go and check out stands that we don’t yet know.
Have either of you knit any of the designs from the issue (aside from Meghan’s Timbre hat, of course!) or do you plan to knit them?
I am working on Astragal by Ainur Berkimbayeva in some beautiful avocado-dyed yarn from Hey Mama Wolf, and I’m planning to make Eventide by Inyoung Kim next. Meghan is waiting to get her hands on some of Ocean Rose’s yarn to make Fata Morgana by Sylvia Watts-Cherry. If we had time we would make every pattern… but at least we get to live vicariously through our reader’s projects online!
Speaking of Timbre, how did you decide to include a pattern from Meghan in this issue?
When Pom Pom first started we both designed a lot of the patterns (we did all of them for Issue 1!) but as the business has grown we’ve had less and less time to design. Turns out running a magazine is pretty time-consuming! And of course we love making the patterns that we publish. But every now and then, if we have time, we like to design, and if we feel we have an idea that fits the brief then we’ll pitch it to the other and to the team. Meghan’s hat was perfect for this issue because the mohair cables skim over the surface and look like little rivulets, and the rhythmic quality of cables made us think of the sound of waves. I designed a sweater (Woodwardia) for Issue 28 this year which I loved, but we both feel that one design a year is probably plenty for us!
Are there plans for a plus size issue?
We don’t have plans for a specific plus size issue at the moment. We have increased our sizing, so we are intending for every issue to feature a larger range of sizes so that our patterns are accessible to more bodies. We plan to continue featuring a range of models of different sizes too.
For most people, crafting evokes the same feelings as getting into a good book. Anne Vally decided to bundle that feeling up into curated kits for knitters through her business, Little Skein In the Big Wool. While Anne has expanded beyond her hand-sewn project bags to include her own hand-dyed yarn, she has continued to remain true to the values that she started out with.
Tell me about how you started a project bag business?
I started Little Skein with the idea of making project bags and kits that would bring to life my love of books. Knitting is something that’s central to who I am — and so are books. I make the things I want to use: project bags that tell a story, kits that not only make me eager to knit them, but that also fill me with the happiness and rich emotion of a favorite story.
I started out on Etsy with my first kit (Velveteen with Susan B. Anderson) but pretty quickly moved to littleskein.com. Details are important to me, and I wanted to create an experience where shopping for a kit or project bag of mine felt like being welcomed home. Something special, full of good feelings, just for you.
What did you do before you launched Little Skein In the Big Wool and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?
I live in San Francisco and before starting Little Skein, I was a program officer at a large California foundation for more than a decade. Foundation work is not easily explained, but the big picture is that I made grants to nonprofits around California that were (and are still) working to create positive social change.
My foundation work absolutely informs how I run Little Skein. My degree is in economics, so I’m particularly attuned to how I run my business. I talk a lot on social media about fair pay for makers, the importance of art, and making room at the table for everyone.
I believe the way a business operates adds something intangible and important to the final product.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.)
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!)
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…
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.
You may know designer Melissa Kemmerer by her adorable sheep-y sweaters. You may not know that she and former yarn shop owner Becky Beagell are creating a new knitting magazine, called Nomadic Knits, that will focus on local regions and feature indie dyers, producers and designers. Their first issue, which will look at the knitting scene in Florida, is set to be released in the coming weeks.
How did the idea for Nomadic Knits come about?
Becky loves to travel, and recently sold her house and closed her yarn shop, The Glitter Ninja, to explore the country in a van with her poodle, Bubba. Melissa loves knitting and has been designing for several years. We wanted to find a project that could incorporate both of these passions while allowing us the freedom to expand the idea and grow with it as we discover new possibilities. There may have been a few cocktails involved as the original idea came to life.
Aside from designs, what will the publication include?
Each issue will feature local dyers or fiber producers, as well as articles about the local knitting scene and some interesting finds. The Florida issue includes information about fibers that are great for knitting in warm weather, a cocktail made with local ingredients, and tips for knitting on the beach.
Shadows in the Rain, a shawl design included in Issue One, using Be So Fine 100% bamboo yarn by Kristin Omdahl.
Why did you decide to focus on Florida for the first issue?
Both of us happened to be spending last winter in south Florida, not far from each other, and we wanted to share all of our knitting fun with the rest of the fiber community. We also wanted to correct the misconception that no one knits in Florida. It’s actually full of amazing dyers and passionate knitters!
Can you reveal what regions other issues will focus on?
Our second issue is focusing on New York, specifically upstate (everything north and east of NYC), where we both grew up. After that, we have plans to explore the southwestern United States. From there… the world!
When and how did both of you learn to knit?
Melissa: My aunt taught me the basics when I was 16, and after a year of garter stitch scarves, she introduced me to patterns and how to read them.
Becky: After a few failed attempts at learning from family members, I taught myself to knit on a circular loom. Then one day I decided it was time to learn to use sticks and I grabbed a copy of Stitch ‘N Bitch by Debbie Stoller, and I was off and running. Or knitting.
Do either of you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?
We both LOVE shopping for craft supplies, a hobby in itself! Melissa dabbles in cross-stitch, and wants to learn more advanced embroidery and basic sewing. Becky is your standard maker, trying anything she can get her hands on.
Becky’s dog, Bubba, joining in the photo shoot fun, with design Take Me To The Beach, knit in Sprout Sock by The Fiber Seed.
Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.
Melissa: I crocheted an enormous acrylic blanket while I was in college. It took me about four years to complete it, as it was entirely in single-chain, and I only worked on it sporadically. The tension changed from year to year, and one end is loose and wonky, while the other end is so tight, it’s almost bullet-proof. My dad proudly displays the blanket on his couch, and I have never crocheted another thing.
Becky: A few years ago I made what I thought was going to be a trendy, chunky sweater. It became lovingly known as the Wooly Grimace at The Glitter Ninja. Does anyone remember Grimace, the McDonald’s character? Anyway… it was LARGE and purple and ridiculous. It probably weighed about forty pounds. We kept it around for comedic relief and threatened to make grumpy knitters wear it during knit club.
Where are each of your favorite places to knit?
Melissa: In theory, I love to knit outside, soaking up the sunshine by the pool or on the beach, but in reality, I can usually be found knitting in a cozy chair, binge watching Netflix.
Becky: I love knitting in the car. Unfortunately, Bubba can’t drive, so I usually only get to do that while Melissa and I are on yarn tour and she’s at the wheel. Qualified drivers, feel free to submit your applications.