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

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

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

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

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

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

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

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

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

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

How did you decide on the name Spirit Trail Fiberworks?

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

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

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

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

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

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

When and how did you learn to knit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to stash this week: yarn chicken

Jennifer at Spirit Trail Fiberworks has been doing a fun collaboration with her newsletter subscribers in which she dyes a colorway inspired by a photo sent by one of her readers. February’s colors — one main and two complementary — are inspired by a photo of a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte chicken. The yarn will be available to pre-order until February 19 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

Jennifer has also created her latest design with TV knitting in mind. Craic — Irish Gaelic slang for “fun, a good time, a good conversation” — is a crescent-shaped, fingering-weight shawl with some garter, stripes and texture. It is knit with two 400-yard skeins of fingering, and you can even mix and match bases to get an even more interesting texture. Don’t forget that you can receive 20% off your order of any in-stock yarn through February 28 with the code Indie. 

Marian has a new six-skein gradient set called Beekeeper in the colorways Beeswax, Protect the Pollinators, Honeycomb, Dumbledore, Queen Bee and Hive Mind. It is currently available in fingering weight on her Scrumptious HT base, which is 80% Superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere and 10% nylon in three sizes.

Cat Sandwich Fibers is having a shop update this Sunday, February 18, with lots of new OOAK colorways and new Cat Sandwich enamel pins.

Pam’s latest design, Checkpoint, is a two-color sideways triangle with garter and what she promises to be easy intarsia.

Acadia Lights, the fifth colorway in the Knitting Our National Parks series by Asylum Fibers, is available to preorder through next Friday, February 23. You can get some ideas on what to make with either the Solitary Fingering or Golden Goose DK here.

What to stash this week at Rhinebeck or Whinebeck

Anne of Middle Brook Fiberworks is debuting her Vintage No. 3 today! The yarn, which is a blend of fleeces from her Shetland flock — natural brown from Roobie and grey from Poppy and Quin — prime alpaca and cultivated silk, will be available at the Indie Untangled trunk show and online at 5 p.m. Eastern time.

Preorders for Carrie Sundra’s SkeinTwister opened this week, and even if you’re not a dyer, you can still join in the fun of the launch. Carrie, who is also a natural dyer through her company Alpenglow Yarn, has collaborated with Brooke of Sincere Sheep and created AlpenSheep. Just for the launch, they’ll both be dyeing Brooke’s Cormo Sport yarn, with beautifully twisted skeins available for sale in multiple colors. If you’re trying to cut down on the yarn buying, especially considering what weekend it is, they also have some fun gear, including rocks glasses, coffee mugs and T-shirts, featuring Pirate Red, the SkeinTwister’s sassy mascot. 

If you’re going to Rhinebeck this weekend, make sure to stop by the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth in Building A to see tons of new colors and a few new bases.

Laura of Slipped Stitch Studios has a whole bunch of goodies for sale, including bags with limited edition Frida Kahlo, cactus and unicorn fabrics. Today, at 9 a.m. Pacific time, she’ll release Hocus Pocus extras, part of a tribute to the awesome Halloween movie. Then on Wednesday, the Slipped Stitch Studios Facebook page will hold a Facebook Live flash sale. And, last but not least, next Friday is the release of the October Bag of the Month, inspired by Pinky and the Brain.

Grab Eyelet of the Tiger, BBR’s new project kit for their newest yarn, Himalayan Summit. The lacy cowl is perfect for variegated colorways, like Old Fashioned Villian by Modeknit Yarn, pictured above.

Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has been busy dyeing new tonal and speckled colorways on several of her fingering weight bases that are perfect for your next fade. There are also some OOAK colorways sprinkled in.

If you’re going to Indie Untangled tonight, there will be a limited number of kits with both of Jill Draper’s exclusive colorways for the third installment of Knitting Our National Parks, along with a code to download designer Kirsten Kapur’s Joshua Tree Cowl. Both are inspired by sunset at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. If you can’t make it, the yarn will be available to preorder for a few more weeks (the pattern is for sale on Ravelry).

Pam Sluter’s latest design, the Haygarden shawl, was created in collaboration with Hampden Hills Alpacas. The sample will be on display this weekend at Rhinebeck in Building 39, booth 9.

IU newcomer Big & Bitty Bags has new bucket bags with a drawstring closure.

What to stash this week: Falling for color

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers has created a few kits for Speckle and Pop, Stephen West’s mystery KAL, which launches Sept. 29. The shawl calls for a speckled fade of three colors, along with five mini “pop” skeins. One of the kits is already sold out, so grab yours if you want Stephen to take you on a colorful journey.

Julia of Pandia’s Jewels, based in the Hudson Valley — which is gorgeous year round, but particularly in the fall — has launched her Fall into Halloween Collection. It includes some old and new seasonal colors, both speckled and tonal, as well as some OOAK dye jobs.

We of course consider hand-dyed yarn works of art, but here’s yarn that is truly art inspired. Lisa The Knitting Artist has started dyeing up gorgeous hand-painted and tonal yarns to match her equally gorgeous knitting-inspired paintings. The hand-painted yarn comes with a card printed with the image that inspired the colorway.

You have through the end of the day today to preorder La Bien Aimée’s Automne à Rhinebeck, Asylum Fibers’ Rhinebeck’s All the Craze and Eloise Narrigan-designed tote bags for pickup at the the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show on Oct. 20.

There are still a few skeins left of The Woolen Rabbit Silky Biffle BFL/silk sport in Corn Husk, which would be perfect for a fall shawl, hat or mitts. Use the code YAYRHINEBECK for 20% off through Oct. 1, or until the yarn is sold out.

Untangling: Asylum Fibers

Last month, I got to introduce you to Asylum Fibers, a brand-new dyeing operation started by Stephanie Jones, who I met via the knitting group she organizes here in New York City. I wanted to know a little more behind her inspiration for this new craft biz and share her story.

As I mentioned in my post about getting a behind the scenes look at her first shop update, Stephanie, who hails from Maine and now lives in Queens, N.Y., has a background as an opera singer — I actually got to see her perform a year ago and she is fantastic. While making her living in finance, Stephanie uses knitting and dyeing as her main creative outlets, along with crocheting and knitting. She creates bright and complex repeatable colorways, but her signature are unpredictable Chaos colors, which are OOAK and fleeting. Here’s a little peek inside the Asylum:

What made you decide to start your own dyeing business?

I love dyeing so much, and I can’t possibly use all the yarn myself. It only made sense to put it out there and see what the community would think. Every time someone purchases a skein, I feel justified in dyeing 5 more! I get so much joy seeing others knit with my yarn, and I really can’t think of anything quite like it!

A self-striping Chaos colorway.

How do you go about creating your colorways? Do you plan your repeatables ahead of time and improvise with the Chaos colors?

For the most part, my repeatable colorways have very specific inspiration. I have a word or phrase or idea that is translated into color within my mind. The next step is figuring out the recipe. Sometimes, the yarn comes out beautiful, but it’s not what I intended. In that case, we have a chaos colorway. I’ll let you in on a secret – Chaos 75 was my first attempt at Hydrotherapy. I absolutely loved it, but it was a lot greener than I wanted Hydrotherapy to be. Not all chaos colorways are failed attempts at a new recipe, though. Many are just for fun! I do use them for experimentation and find them to be extra special, since they’re essentially “limited edition”. Every chaos colorway is made up of no more than 5 skeins, so you know you have something special.

What are your favorite colors?

This depends so much on my mood. Black and grey are essential, but I also gravitate to blue, green, purple, and pink. Some days I’m all about yellow, and sometimes orange makes me really happy. ALL OF THE COLORS!

Bad Bad Girl on Golden Rule: Merino/nylon/stellina

What projects are you currently working on with your yarn?

Aside from a whole lot of swatching as I really settle on what bases I plan to keep long term, I have a couple projects going right now. I’m designing a two color brioche cowl in the round using Bedlam, my one ply super bulky base. I’m also doing a crochet along of the Movie Night Cocoon Cardi, using Errant Aran. I’m lucky to have some friends working on samples in my yarn as well. Anne is making a Waiting for Rain shawl using Golden Rule in Bad Bad Girl, while Devon is making a lace shawl using Lunacy Lace in a OOAK color I dyed special for her. Valerie is crocheting with Golden Age and Jenn has a skein of Bedlam Ombre that is soon to be a hat! I’ve seen some Instagram friends working with my yarn as well, which is so fun. I finally have Asylum Fibers up (at least in the most basic form) on Ravelry so we can all share our stash and projects there.

How did you learn to knit?

I learned at daycare when I was very young, but really started advancing in 2012 with the inspiration and motivation from other knitters in my Meetup group. When I ran into problems, I’d check Youtube for help. Since then, I’ve taken a ton of technique classes with great teachers including Lorilee Beltman, Steven Berg, Edie Eckman, Faina Goberstein, Franklin Habit, Amy Herzog, Felicia Lo, Nancy Marchant, Kristy McGowan, Alasdair Post-Quinn, Leslye Solomon, Debbie Stoller, and Stephen West.

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

I made a pink cotton sweater for my grandmother for her 80th birthday. The pattern was Peasy by Heidi Kirrmaier and is available on Ravelry. I used Debbie Bliss Bella, which was soft and pretty, but since it didn’t have much stretch, it made my hands tire very quickly. I’m glad I made this sweater, though, because my grandmother is extra knit-worthy and wears it all the time!

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Of course I do! Dyeing and knitting definitely dominate my craft time, but I also enjoy crochet, sewing, beadwork, painting, and scrapbooking. I’m planning to try soap making soon as well.

Any future plans for Asylum Fibers you can share?

I’d like to put together some fun blog posts discussing my color inspiration. I’m also planning to take my yarn on the road in the near future. Otherwise, keep an eye out for regular shop updates, and be sure to subscribe to my mailing list if you’d like reminders!

Untangling: Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia, author of ‘Dyeing to Spin & Knit’

Felicia Lo started SweetGeorgia Yarns in 2005 like many indies, listing a batch of her hand-dyed skeins on Etsy, the handmade marketplace that had also just launched. She eventually turned SweetGeorgia from a one-woman show into one of the best known artisan yarn companies.

While leading the SweetGeorgia team, Felicia has been traveling to share her wisdom with a new generation of indies — I was fortunate enough to take one of her classes at Vogue Knitting Live NYC back in January. She also recently published Dyeing to Spin & Knit (disclosure: this is an Amazon affiliate link), a comprehensive guide to color and dyeing techniques for yarn and fiber, and how best to use these works of art in your projects.

The book is a must read for anyone venturing into dyeing, as an expansion on, or alternative to, Felicia’s classes. It is also a fascinating look at how your favorite skeins come to life. Aside from a guide to dyes, dyeing safety and measurements, there are tutorials on specific techniques, including immersion dyeing, to produce semisolid colors, and low-water immersion dyeing, used to get gently variegated skeins. The book also includes a section on spinning techniques and — bonus! — several knitting patterns that work well with hand-dyed yarn.

I had the opportunity to ask Felicia some questions about the book and her journey from indie to “mega indie.”

What inspired you to start dyeing yarn?

I came to dyeing after I learned to spin my own yarn and so really, I was first inspired to dye wool fibre. All the spinning fibre that was available to me locally was ecru or raw, undyed, and I couldn’t fathom spinning yarn that was devoid of colour. I tried buying some dyed fibre off Ebay early on because Etsy didn’t exist yet and had a terrible experience of it. So I figured I had to teach myself how to put colour on fibre myself. I started blogging about dyeing fibre and then quickly moved to dyeing yarn as well.

Low-water immersion dyeing.

How did this book come about?

It’s been on my mind for years and years that I’d like to write a book about colour and textiles but it was always the wrong timing or exact topic was eluding me. So when Kerry Bogert, the acquisitions editor at Interweave Press, approached me about writing a book, it was the perfect timing and she helped me see how I could contribute my voice to this beautiful and creative industry.

What do you think it adds that other yarn and fiber dyeing tutorials are missing?

It’s true, you can absolutely learn to dye yarn and fibre from online tutorials and blogs, but often those resources only provide you with simplified instructions without a great deal of insight into why we do things a certain way. Coming from both a science background (I studied Pharmaceutical Sciences in University) as well as an arts background (I studied and worked in graphic design for over 10 years), I love combining the analytical with the aesthetic. So this book shows how you can get significantly different appearances to your hand-dyed yarns simply by changing different variables in your dye process like modifying the volume of water or changing the time at which you add the acid to the dyepot. Seemingly insignificant choices can produce significantly different results. I go into great depth to show those experiments.

Heat setting a skein dyed in sections.

When you started the book, were you worried about creating competition from new dyers?

I truly, truly believe that being worried about creating competition is a symptom of a scarcity mindset and have tried to live and work in a way where I share my knowledge generously with the community. These fibre arts need us to teach each other, share our experiences, and grow the knowledge base in order to endure. It is my heart that we encourage each other to become new dyers, new spinners, new knitters, or new weavers. Only then can we all experience the joy that colour and craft can bring.

What would you say has led SweetGeorgia to stand out in the fiber industry?

Over the years, SweetGeorgia has become known for rich, vibrant, and stunningly saturated hand-dyed colour. Even though dyeing trends come and go, it is my hope that SweetGeorgia also is known for our commitment to producing truly excellent handcraft colour. What I mean is not just colour that captivates but also colour that is consistent from batch to batch and colour that performs reliably in washing and wearing. I think, ultimately, if we stand out in the fibre industry, I hope it is because pursue our dye work passionately and professionally.

At the start of your book, you recount many of your own “color stories.” Do you have a favorite color, or favorite colors, and how has dyeing changed them?

I do have a thing for fuschias and plummy purples… but then I also have a thing for harvest gold and olive greens… and also limey chartreuse… and sea glass aqua. There are just too many colours that I love. But dyeing my own colours has allowed me to deconstruct colours into layers of other hues and rebuild them in a more engaging way.

What have been some of your inspirations when creating colors for SweetGeorgia?

Always music. Since the beginning, I’ve always been inspired by songs or bands and live music, especially. But I’ve also been enamored with telling stories through colour… ideas like, how do you tell the story of unrequited love through a colourway? How do you express wistfulness or longing in a colourway? Those kinds of things keep me going. For me, it’s not about creating pretty colour. It’s really about using colour to communicate a message.

Can you explain your role at the company and what a typical day is like (if there is such a thing!)?

Since I founded SweetGeorgia in 2005, my role has evolved and I’ve gone from being a one-woman show where I did all the dyeing, bookkeeping, website design, customer service, emails, and twisting, tagging, and packaging yarns (phew) to leading a team of amazing artisans and creative people in this fibre arts adventure. My official title is “Creative Director” so that encompasses my work in designing new yarns, colourways, and palettes for each season as well as coordinating with team on our knitwear design collections, trade shows, and marketing work. There is no typical day, between juggling two kids, working on our podcast, writing blog posts and plans, and communicating with our team from my home office, every day is different!

Vogue Knitting Live NYC 2017: A weekend of color

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For me, this year’s Vogue Knitting Live in New York City was all about color. Yes, I know that knitting in general, and the world of hand-dyed yarn in particular, is already pretty focused on color, but my experience this weekend very much revolved around it. Believe it or not, I didn’t really think about this common theme when I picked my classes — two-color knitting with Amy Detjen on Friday morning, a color theory class with designer Veera Välimäki on Friday afternoon and a dyeing class with Felicia Lo, the owner of SweetGeorgia, on Saturday morning — but it definitely worked.

The classes

Amy’s class was a pretty straightforward technique lesson. Our homework was the start of a basic colorwork hat, moving on to using the second color in class. Amy provided instruction on how to capture longer “floats,” or the long runs between colors, and stressed the importance of keeping an even tension in both your right and left hands. I will need to practice this more, as knitting with my left hand is like learning to knit all over again, but I now feel confident enough to attempt a colorwork pattern.

Veera provided an overview of basic color theory, as well as her insights into mixing both complementary and contrasting colors, especially when using hand-dyed yarns. I enjoyed seeing the examples from her own designs (such as her Stripe Study Shawl, pictured above) and, during our in-class exercise, encouraged one of my classmates to pair her earthy green with a bright yellow and melon color.

Of course, I had to show off one of my favorite FOs, Veera’s Urban, which she was thrilled to see in person, as she’s only seen photos of the projects on Ravelry.

My dyeing class was probably the best one of the weekend. While I’ve had some experience with kettle dyeing and hand painting yarn, Felicia provided some practical information on using the right ratio of dye to fiber weight, as well as techniques to use for creating layered colors. Much of this will be in her newly-published book, Dyeing to Spin & Knit (disclosure: this is an Amazon affiliate link) which I can’t wait to get my hands on. If it’s anything like her in-person class, this book will be indispensable.

We started off the hands-on portion of the class by creating a set of mini skein gradients. As there was limited space and time, we had to split into groups of three and each create one color value (the lightness or darkness) of the gradient. Felicia had already mixed the dye powder and water, so we just had to measure out the right amount for our specific color value.

For the other techniques — low-water emersion dyeing and resist dyeing, in which you twist and untwist the skeins to get a more subtle dispersion of color — we had to choose color by committee, and ended up each make a contribution. Luckily, I was paired with some experienced classmates, including Sharon of Knit Style Yarns. For the low-water emersion skeins, we decided on orangey pink, medium blue, purple and yellow to create what I first dubbed Funfetti cake and which I later decided was very My Little Pony-esque. Our layered color started off with a short dip in light pink dye, followed by a jammy purple, mixed by yours truly, and a lighter violet.

The class definitely inspired me do some more dyeing myself and experiment with the techniques while making my own color choices.

The Marketplace

Of course, no VKL would be complete without a trip or two (or three) to the marketplace.

I spent a fair bit of time in the Backyard Fiberworks booth, as a tiny portion of it had some Indie Untangled merch! I had teamed up with Alice, and Vicki of That Clever Clementine, on some special Indie Untangled kits that were available at the show. The kits were a big hit, and I was also thrilled to see the rest of Alice’s yarn get scooped up — the booth was very popular. She had some wonderful sock yarn mini-skein sets that were perfect for one of Melanie Berg’s designs. I snagged a pinky purply set called Dove in a Plum Tree and a light pink semisolid called Mallow to make On the Spice Market.

Aside from Backyard, I loved taking in the Neighborhood Fiber Co. booth (I’d heard at Rhinebeck that Karida wasn’t going to be at VKL this year, but luckily she ended up changing her mind!). I fell in love with a sample she had of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s Boko-Boko Cowl, knit with Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Sock yarn held together with Chromium, which has steel wool to make the little points stand up. It was such a deviation from the patterns I’m normally drawn to, but it was so sculptural and interesting that I had to make it. I feel like it could be a great stand-in for a statement necklace, with the bonus of keeping me warm.

Speaking of necklaces, I was very impressed by the products at Knitten Jen’s Beads. She had kits to make your own beaded beads (wooden beads covered in beaded stockinette stitch fabric), ready-to-string beads and finished pieces. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to DIY it or get a ready-made necklace, but I was definitely intrigued.

I also paid a visit to the Yarn Culture booth, which focused on a small collection of indies, and learned that my favorite discovery from last year’s VKL, Crave Yarn, has branched out with a new venture called Brim Collections, featuring gorgeous mill-dyed skeins and coordinating patterns. I am hoping to learn more from Amor of Crave/Brim Collections and will report on it further…

And, I made sure to get my VKL NYC limited stitch markers from Marsha of One Geek to Craft Them All.

Aside from classes and shopping, my weekend was rounded out by many familiar faces (on Saturday, I could barely get to the elevators without seeing someone I knew from my various knitting circles) and spending time with my nearby knitting friends.

Yarn dyeing, hands on

dyeing-setup

You would think that as someone who runs a website devoted to indie-dyed yarn, that I would have had some experience actually dyeing yarn. Well, believe it or not, I didn’t — until very recently.

A few weeks ago, Stephanie, a knitting blogger who runs one of my NYC knitting groups, organized a dyeing workshop at her apartment. While I had been tempted to take a dyeing class before, I had never followed through, and this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

Stephanie had a few different bases to dye with, including BFL/nylon sock yarn and Bulky Targhee, which is what I ended up working with. She set up a soup pot on her stove for kettle dyeing and also had the option of hand-painting yarn on her counter. After seeing one of the knitters dye a gorgeous silvery gray sock blank and a couple others create a beautiful variegated colorways, I decided to try my hand at both methods.

dyeing-painting-1

After pre-soaking the hank, I started adding the color, a mix of black and blue to get gray. Then, after the dye had penetrated, I removed the yarn from the pot and set it out on the plastic-wrapped counter to begin my painting. Using eye droppers, I covered a bunch of the hank with dark purple and then added a dash of yellow. I had wanted to include some green, but the yellow was a better choice, as it ended up turning green in the spots that the blue dye came through — my kindergarten color education definitely paid off!

dyeing-lisa-yarn-process

After “cooking” the painted yarn in Stephanie’s crockpot, I rinsed out the yarn in her bathroom sink and hung it up to dry in the shower.

dyeing-lisa-yarn-drying

Stephanie said the colors became much more vivid as the yarn dried, and snapped a great photo of it in the hank before she wound it in a cake that I can knit from.

dyeing-yarn-hank

I’m thinking of making a hat with an interesting stitch pattern to break up the colors.

Of course this doesn’t mean I won’t leave the majority of the yarn dyeing to the seasoned pros who post to Indie Untangled, but I’ve definitely been bitten by the dyeing bug.

Green Day

irish-eyes-rocket

St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect day for showing off your best green hand knits. If you don’t have any — or don’t have enough! — get a head start on next year with these envy-inducing shades from Indie Untangled dyers. Above is the appropriately-named Irish Eyes by Cedar Hill Farm Company.

Sea Lillies, an exclusive colorway by Sweet Georgia Yarns for A Good Yarn Sarasota

Sea Lillies, an exclusive colorway by Sweet Georgia Yarns for A Good Yarn Sarasota

Winter Green by Berry Colorful Yarnings

Winter Green by Berry Colorful Yarnings

Kinglet Moss by Stitchjones

Kinglet Moss by Stitchjones

Glastonbury by Round Table Yarns

Glastonbury by Round Table Yarns

Into the Forest by Third Vault Yarns

Into the Forest by Third Vault Yarns

Indie is the new black

Cease and Desist

Recently, when my almost-5-year-old nephew requested a black hat to go with his school uniform, I was at first a little disappointed. Like most knitters, I’m generally drawn towards vivid colors — black is for boots and store-bought cardigans, amiright? — and I figured I’d also have to go with a very plain pattern because any interesting detail would get lost in black yarn. Then I remembered that a bunch of dyers have black colorways, so I went clicking through the Indie Untangled marketplace to see what I could find.

I ended up contacting the lovely Christine of Skeinny Dipping, who had actually, a few months ago, suggested her new Cease and Desist color as one of the stripes for my Nangou (I ended up going with pink and teal to match Duck Duck Wool’s Night Bokeh). Christine dyed up two skeins of C&D on her Journey Worsted base, one of which I’m using for Stephen West’s Windschief — it’s just complex enough without having anything go missing in the darkness.

Since I thought black was such an interesting color choice for a dyer, I decided to ask Christine a few questions:

What made you decided to create a black colorway?

If you look in my closet you will find a lot of black. My dresses are black (or a really dark color), my store-bought cardigans are black, etc. My husband says I always look like I’m ready for a funeral. I like it because it matches everything easily and the last place I want to spend time at is a clothing store. But while there’s black everywhere in store fashion there isn’t a lot of black in the yarn world — certainly not enough for me. Ask me to pair two colors together? I can do it but I’ll really want black to be one of them. Three colors? Impossible (this is why I still haven’t knit a Color Affection). I need one of them to be black so the scarf goes with my cardigans and dresses. Voila! Cease and Desist was born.

Without giving too much away, how does one actually create a shade of black? Do you use black dye, or is it a combination of other colors?

Like any other colorways it depends. My Cease and Desist is very simple — one dye. But you can create very beautiful blacks — just have a look at Blue Moon Fiber Arts. They have an amazing line of blacks in their Raven Clan series.

Is it challenging to give a black colorway “depth”?

Again, it depends. Are you going for a semi-solid black, a tonal, or something using a resist? I feel like tackling a black color presents the same challenge as any other color.

What pattern suggestions do you have for black yarn, with it either as a main or accent color?

For an accent color, I love Aileron by Dieuwke van Mulligan. Colorwork projects are also great for black, like Pointy Pointy Mittens by Adrian Bizilia or Jazz Hands by Kate Davies. Stripes are great, too: Accelerating Stripes Fingerless Gloves by the Churchmouse Yarns people, Mon Petit Gilet Raye by Isabelle Milleret. And anything brioche. I also use black for the heels on a lot of my hand-knit socks.

Here are some of my other favorite black colorways by IU’s artisans:

Slick by Dark Harbour Yarns

Black is Black or Black Pearl by Dragonfly Fibers

The Pit by Invictus Yarns

Baby Got Black by Magpie Fibers

Peter’s Shadow by Duck Duck Wool