Post-Rhinebeck Untangling: Heather Love of Hellomello

A woman knitting while surrounded by yarn.

This is the 14th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Hellomello Handspun is a Brooklyn hipster indie yarn company: dyer Heather Love was using farm-fresh yarn before it was cool.

Heather starting out selling handspun, hence the name, and then fell down the rabbit hole of sourcing local wool, like the super springy and soft Cormo she offers on a range of hand-dyed colorways (designer Paula Pereira used it for Yullana, a sweater that’s part of a collection she launched this past weekend at Indie Untangled and the New York Sheep and Wool Festival).

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I’ve always been a bit of a textile nerd, so by the time I made it to art school I was a pretty experienced seamstress and had a regular side hustle “restyling” vintage clothing and stitching for a few local designers. Because of this, I made an effort to spend most of my studio time exploring other artistic avenues, including glass and photography. With the exception of a few bookbinding classes, my only textile class was a year-long African Dye Resist intensive that I took for fun.

Really and truly, hand-spinning was what got me started down the rabbit hole though. I took a class 10 or 12 years ago and got hooked. Fleeces were purchased. There was a lot of experimentation with carding and dyeing. Pretty soon, I had “too much” handspun and started selling it. It’s funny how things circle back around sometimes.

Purple hand-dyed yarn.

How did you come to source local yarn blends and how challenging is it to do this?

At a certain point, I realized that I couldn’t keep up spinning everything by hand — most people seemed more interested in my dye work, anyway. The problem for me was that I really wasn’t inspired by the idea of using a standard Superwash wool. Like most hand-spinners, I crave the tactile spring and softness of lanolin-rich wools. So in 2010, I decided to try sending a few fleeces to the mill for processing and had a small batch of my own yarn made. What I got back changed everything.

There are a lot of challenges in manufacturing. Sourcing fleece is just the start. Everything about milling takes time, a long time, and a lot can go wrong along the way. Prices climb higher with every season, but, in the end, I know it’s a worthwhile endeavor and I love being able to create amazing yarns that no one else has. My runs are very limited but that’s what keeps it interesting. Every batch is a little different and, with hand dyeing, every skein is uniquely beautiful.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Brooklyn by way of Boston. The city is ever changing, sometimes exhausting, always inspiring: music, fashion, traffic and graffiti. There is always something new to photograph and explore. I am lucky to have lived in such vibrant cities and have met so many wonderful people along the way.

A hank of bright orange yarn.

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

I don’t have a favorite, I need the whole box of crayons. For me, it is all about the interaction and influence of colors on one another. I love how a color changes based on what it is paired with. The more vibration, the better I like it.

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

At the moment, I’m obsessed with super-saturated neons. I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with layering color and over dyeing these lately and there are a couple of surprises in the works for VKL in January.

A black cropped sweater with bobbles.

Paula Pereira’s Yullana sweater in Hellomello Cormo.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My grandmother taught me to knit and crochet when I was young. As a kid I spent a lot of time stitching intricate little acrylic outfits for my army of Barbies. I favored crochet for its quicker finish until I started knitting garments for myself in high school. These days, I can knit much more quickly than I crochet.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Sewing is my other craft job. I wrote book called 30 Minute Sewing a few years back. I’ve also worked as an on-set tailor, stylist, costume designer and sewing instructor. I especially love the quiet pleasure of hand sewing techniques like embroidery, Sashiko and quilting.

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

I was floored when my friend told me that Stephen West used my yarn in his Amazing Technicolor Dream Sweater and featured it in one of his sweater books — I had no idea.

Recently, there was also a really beautiful Soldotna by Pia Cooperman.

Melissa Fitzpatrick made a killer Tecumseh.

But, one of my all-time favorite neons is the Maria Sweater by Yamil Anglada. It’s like bottled sunshine.

What to stash this week at Indie or not

A woman models a mustard textured sweater.

One of my favorite parts of the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show is getting to see indie yarn in action with the beautiful samples on display. I’m particularly excited to see designer Paula Pereira’s capsule collection that’s debuting at the show. This collaboration between Paula and two indie dyers from my hometown of New York City — Debbie of Murky Depths Dyeworks and Heather of Hellomello Handspun — is a sophisticated and fun set of designs. It includes three sweaters, a triangular shawl knit with a textured fabric and a pair of socks with a geometric stitch motif.

A collage with a night sky and purple yarn.

If you’ll be at Indie Untangled today, you’ll also get to see Kate and Nancye of Dragonfly Fibers’ Petrified Forest colorway, inspired by Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, in person. It is available to preorder online until next Friday, October 25. As always, 10% of sales will be donated to the National Park Foundation.

Christmas packages

Is your mother a hamster? Does your father smell of elderberries? Or do you just need a shrubbery? Then you’ll want to preorder this Monty Python Advent Calendar from Fairy Tale Yarn Co.

Purple bags

Laura’s Hocus Pocus-inspired Bag of the Month collection shipped out early, so you can get the extras in time for Halloween. Pounce like a black cat today at 9 a.m. Pacific.

A taupe lace wrap.

Fall definitely requires a light layer of warmth, so check out this new lace wrap from White Lies Designs.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Candice English of The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers

Candice English of The Farmer's Daughter Fibers

This is the 13th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers first caught my eye when I was at The Knot House for the 2017 Maryland Sheep & Wool indie pop-up. I was intrigued by dyer Candice’s subtle palette that was comprised of many of my favorite colors: berry pinks, steely grays and watery blues.

In the last few years, Candice, whose home state of Montana infuses her brand, has become involved in Indie Untangled and this year I’m excited for her to debut a new concept at the Rhinebeck Trunk Show — she will be taking over part of the lounge at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory with her Sisters United initiative, a massive fundraiser that benefits organizations that are dedicated to supporting Native American women.

At the show she will be collaborating with another IU veteran, Rochelle of Home Row Fiber Co., to offer her October initiative with custom Sisters United bag, a skein of a custom FDF colorway and a pattern. All proceeds from this collaboration are donated to the initiative.

How would you say your heritage has informed the story of The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers?

When I first started our company, I was going through all of the first initial steps anyone does; brainstorming about branding, what story we wanted to tell, who was our target audience, etc. It first started with knowing that a lot of people I would run into in Portland and Seattle would be totally enamored with the fact I was from Montana. I thought a lot about that and realized a lot people are seeking from this slower-paced, easygoing, hard-working lifestyle. Then came a naming of The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers from a song my cousin sings me by Merle Haggard. Something clicked once we named it and our heritage became the focus and center around the culture and art of FDF.

What inspired you to launch the Sisters United Initiative?

In June of 2017 a young girl named Ashley Heavyrunner Loring went missing on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The way her case was handled was messed up, and I knew that if she was a white girl things would have went a lot differently. I didn’t know Ashley personally but something about her going missing touched a nerve that had been brewing for sometime. I see all of these issues every single day that effect American Indians and at a certain point it becomes too much. The anxiety was really eating at me and it felt like I would explode if I didn’t try to help. By January 2019, FDF had that ability.

Sisters United bags

Tell us about the organizations that benefit from the initiative.

This changes all the time and you can find a list on the Sister’s United page of our website. Recently we set up a $5,000 college scholarship for a Native American student and our next project we will be putting together healing bundles for trauma survivors. I am doing some of the ground work with our local human trafficking and MMIP (Murdered and Missing Indigenous People) task force, so this helps steer us to see where we are needed.

How do you decide on the artisans to work with for the project?

This year everyone has reached out to me, which has been amazing! At this point I could honestly make Sister’s United my full time job. So without the help of my fellow makers I could not pull this off. I ask them to have creative control on what they are contributing and we follow their lead, it makes it manageable for me.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I first started doing a lot of natural dying — my mom practices traditional plant medicine — and I wanted to bring my love of fiber together with her love of plants. Three years later and I was in a job where I was working 60-plus hours a week and really unhappy in general. I knew I wanted to do something within the knitting industry, but plant dying was too spiritual for me to want to sell out. So I tried using acid dyes and fell in love with the process.

Blue speckled yarn

Crow Camp

Which of your colorways are you most proud of?

Crow Camp is probably up there, one of my favorite artists Kevin Red Star sent me a Christmas card one year (btw this was one of those mailing list type cards, but that didn’t stop me from being a dorky fan girl!) and I replicated his colors on Crow Camp. I sent it to him and he thought is was pretty cool!

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

Anything blush colored, pinks, purples, raspberry. Always and forever!

How did you learn to knit?

I was using one of those Kniffty Knitter looms and my husband encouraged me to ask my friend Brooke to teach me how to “really” knit. I always say those were his famous last words! Poor guy just wanted me to make him some hats and now we have family business based off the industry!

Golden speckled yarn

Ode to Autumn

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I am getting back into traditional beading! I love to do any new fun craft with my daughter too.

What advice would you have for people just getting started in the industry?

Don’t focus on what everyone else is doing. Listen to your inner creative spirit and let that be your driving force to how you want to run your business. I remember it being really difficult for me at first to decide where and how I wanted to grow Farmer’s Daughter, as there are so many different routes you can go. First, make sure it makes you happy when you are doing it, and second it will eventually make you some money because it matters more than you think in the beginning. Burnout is real, but having financial stability is a good cure.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Stacie Dawson of Must Stash Yarn

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Stacie Dawson of Must Stash Yarn

This is the 12th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

It’s not very hard to find indie dyers who carry semisolid, variegated and (the ubiquitous) speckled yarn. Self-striping skeins, on the other hand, aren’t as common, with only a few companies specializing in it. Stacie Dawson of Must Stash Yarn is one of those indies who is synonymous with stripes. Here’s how she decided to go down that path.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I have my friend Claire to thank for that. She hosted a “Dye Your Own Skein” party using Kool-Aid and I was hooked.

I have always been creative so, over the years, I tried lots of different ways of expressing my creativity… with music, acting, decoration, stenciling/embossing/calligraphy, cross stitch, sewing, painting and the fiber arts of crochet, knitting, spinning and weaving. It was the fiber arts that spoke loudest to me and so learning yet another way of manipulating fiber was a natural progression for me. Like knitting, I obsessively gobbled up every dyeing resource I hold lay my hands/eyes on! Took classes with professional hand dyers, bought books, did workshops and practiced, practiced, practiced.

Why did you decide to focus on self-striping yarn?

Self striping was the second thing that I dyed, ever. If you have ever met me then you may have heard me joke that I am like the “Hair Club for Men” owner… I am not just the president, I am also a client. I just love knitting with self-striping sock yarn so much and when I first started dyeing, there were not a lot of options in the market; I felt like there was a niche that I could help to fill.

Originally, I didn’t want to be known as a one trick pony and so I dyed tonals as much as self striping. After about two years of always running behind, I realized that I needed to focus in order to realize my goals. Now we produce self striping on only four bases, limited tonals and so can have a steady stream of skeins available in the shop each week.

Yarn with red, yellow, blue, purple, gray and brown stripes.

What did you do before you started Must Stash and how does it inform your business?

I was a medical office administrator. I handled their books, hiring, staff management, training, supplies ordering, new equipment acquisition/maintenance, billing, etc. If it had something to do with running the business, I handled it! Yes, running a business, even one as different from being an indie as a medical office, was extremely beneficial to starting my own business. I was already familiar with setting up and reconciling books, paying taxes and being fiscally responsible and in this gig, I get to play with yarn almost everyday!

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Inspiration comes from all around me! If you are familiar with Must Stash, then you have probably noticed that we have quite a few pop culture-inspired colorways. The names are usually drawn directly from the inspiration… we aren’t subtle. Some names pop into my head while designing/dyeing and some from my family, like Martian Rainbow, was suggested by my husband.

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

If I had to pick just one, it would be grey. I am a sucker for neutrals like brown and grey and don’t even get me started about that place where gold and silver meet… absolutely divine. I wouldn’t say my color preferences have changed a great deal since becoming a dyer but I would say that my palette has expanded substantially. For example, I wasn’t much for pastels or for garishly loud colors, either, but now, I have an appreciation for almost everything from sunglasses bright down to barely there… there is beauty in color, period.

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

The perfect amber. A liquid gold that has life and vitality and practically flows as you knit it. Other than a certain color, I would love to create a true self striping that does not repeat for an entire sock… that would be an amazing thing!

Yarn with Blue, red, green and purple stripes.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My mom taught me to knit when I was 9. She was an avid crafter and enjoyed creating beautiful and practical things. That winter she was knitting matching dress for us to wear for Easter. I was so intrigued by it that I begged her to teach me the mechanics of the stitches. I knit a rectangle about three inches wide and 10 inches long and it was a struggle for every inch!

I soon gave it up and put my supplies away and there they stayed for several years. However, every now and again, I would get a longing and so the bag of supplies would come out of the closet and we would sit down to learn again and after knitting a rectangle it would go back into the bag and back into the closet. This cycle repeated until 2010 when I pulled that bag out again, used YouTube tutorials and never stopped knitting.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Not really. I have enjoyed crocheting, spinning, cross stitch and weaving but none of them has captivated me like knitting.

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

I have a Tailwind that I knit with one of my Affirmation color ways and a natural skein that I find myself using a lot when the weather cools down and I would love to knit a Color Affection with two solids and a self striping but I need to decide on the colors.

You cannot imagine how much I enjoy seeing what my customers make with Must Stash! Of course, there are lots and lots of socks that are so well knit that they inspire me to make myself another pair but it’s the shawls and sweaters that really make me drool. Recently an IGer showed off her Strange Brew color work sweater she is knitting with one of my rainbow self striping in the yoke… so beautiful and fantastic.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Shannon Steinberg of Woodsy & Wild

Shannon of Woodsy and Wild

This is the 10th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Zippered project bags have a pretty standard look, but Shannon of Woodsy and Wild has managed to elevate the simplest of shapes, with roomy pockets, functional handles and fashionable fabrics. Her Birch bag is one of my favorites, as it’s small enough to stash in a large tote, but big enough to stuff full and use as a primary carry-all.

Tell me about how you started a project bag business?

I took a break from my academic career a few years ago when I was pregnant with my second son to spend more time with my kids, but I realized pretty quickly that being a full-time, stay-at-home mother was also leaving me feeling unfulfilled. I had started sewing a few years earlier, and decided on a bit of a whim to give opening a small business a try. I couldn’t quite find the exact project bag I wanted, that gave me the same joy as the beautiful, lovingly hand-dyed yarns I was knitting with, but I knew I could make it. So I spent a lot of nights in my sewing room after my son had gone to sleep playing with prototypes, and fine-tuning, and problem-solving, and that creative thinking and challenge really brought back something I had been missing.

Eventually I had enough confidence in what I what I was making, and my husband gave me some gentle encouragement to believe in myself and put my work out there, and I opened an Etsy shop. I love making beautiful things for other makers, and the creative challenge of designing new things and maintaining a growing business, and haven’t looked back!

Floral zipper bags

What did you do before you launched Woodsy and Wild and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

I’m a scientist by training — I have a PhD in microbiology and immunology. I think my attention to detail comes from that background, and it helps me a lot with the product development process.

In science, one of the things that it really teaches you is to embrace failures and learn from them — day in and day out you are trying new things and a great many of your experiments don’t turn out the way you thought they would, but you can always learn something from them. When I’m designing a new item for the shop, it generally goes through a lot of iterations and prototypes before I’m truly happy with it (those sky-high standards also probably come from my scientific background!), which probably would frustrate a lot of people, but I really enjoy that fine-tuning!

And the other thing that a PhD-level training really instills in you is the ability to research, to figure out for yourself just about anything. I don’t have a background in business, or design, or manufacturing, but I do love to teach myself new things, and owning a small business is always throwing new challenges at you. Whenever I need to learn a new skill, whether it’s how to work with a new kind of hardware or how to build a new website, I really enjoy researching all the knitty gritty details, even if most people would probably just skim over a lot of it and get right to the creating. And I’m always confident that with enough time and research, I can figure anything out.

Gray project bag

How did you decide on the types of bags to create?

I started Woodsy and Wild because I was having a hard time finding exactly what I wanted in a project bag. I have a natural, minimalist aesthetic, and if I’m going to carry something around with me everyday, and leave it sitting out in my house, which is what I do with my project bags and other knitting gear, I really want it to fit in with my style and my life. I find a lot of beauty in strong, well-made materials that will age well and evolve over the life of an item, which is why I only use natural fibers and solid metal zippers and hardware.

It was also really important to me to design bags that would fit in with my daily life — I have two little boys, and we travel often. So, secure pockets and closures are designed into all of my bags because I need things to stay put when I toss my bag in the car or an airplane overheard compartment, and to keep little fingers from making off with my scissors and stitch markers.

I love the rustic elegance of linen, and I designed my signature line of project bags (the Birch Bag, Sapling and Maple Tote) to really celebrate that. They have the soft structure of a crisp linen, with clean design lines that show off the fabric while adding some features that make life easier for a knitter. And I love how they get softer and develop a lovely gentle rumpled texture the more you use and love them. They’re really my dream bags.

How do you find your unique fabrics?

I think a lot of that comes back to my love to research. I have a lot of patience for searching all the nooks and crannies of the internet for good sources! Most of my patterned fabrics come from various online fabric shops, and some of them are small-batch, digitally-printed fabrics from Spoonflower. There are so many indie surface pattern designers there creating beautiful designs, I can spend hours pouring over all the options!

The waxed canvas I use in the Maple Totes comes from a wonderful U.S.-based, woman-owned small business; they hand-wax every yard with the most gorgeous-smelling local beeswax. A gracious tip from a fellow project bag maker led me to them — I love how kind and collaborative our indie fiber business community is! I’m also very lucky that my LYS is also an amazing sewing and quilting shop, and the owner will often clue me in to new fabrics that she thinks I will like, and order extra for me of special fabrics (like all the lovely Rifle Paper Co. fabrics I love!) and she even helped me get in touch with and set up a wholesale account with my linen supplier.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My grandmother taught me when I was very young, probably 5 or 6 years old. She also taught me to crochet and hand sew around the same time, but the knitting is what really stuck! We lived pretty far away, but whenever we went to visit I remember her inviting me into her stash of yarns and fabrics and letting me take whatever I liked, and helping me get started with a new project. And then the next time we visited I would show her what I had made! It was a really special way to keep her close even though she was hours away.

I put knitting aside for quite a while as I got older, but I picked it back up when I was working on my PhD because I needed somewhere to channel my creative energy and help me manage the stress. That’s when I discovered Ravelry, YouTube knitting tutorials and knitting podcasts, and I spent the next few years teaching myself all the things! I still get to knit with my grandmother, and I’ve even been able to teach her a few things! I’m hoping we might get to teach my oldest son how to knit together in another year or two.

Red needle case

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting and sewing?

In addition to making bags, I also do a lot of garment sewing. Sewing and knitting are really my only crafty hobbies, but I also love to cook and have an ongoing love affair with sourdough bread baking. And I am an enthusiastic, if not very skilled, gardener.

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

I think running a fiber business has been like introvert therapy for me! I’m naturally very shy and reserved, but the fiber arts community is so engaging and it’s easier to get to know someone when you know going in that you have a shared love of craft! Owning a business has encouraged me to get involved and participate in conversations and actually get outside my comfort zone. And there are so many opportunities to meet and talk to new people, whether it’s on Instagram or Ravelry, at my local Sip ‘n’ Stitch, or at events.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Aimée Gille of La Bien Aimée

Aimee Gille of La Bien Aimee in an orange sweater

This is the eighth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I’ve been extremely pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming lucky to have been able to work with the talented Paris-based Aimée Gille of La Bien Aimée since 2017, when I approached her about creating the first of three custom colorways for Indie Untangled. This year, I’m excited to welcome Aimée’s full range of bases and colorways courtesy of Brooklyn General Store, one of my local yarn shops that began carrying her yarns last year.

While they’re waiting to enter Indie Untangled in the morning, ticket holders will get to pretend they’re in Paris and enjoy a coffee and a croissant, courtesy of the La Bien Aimée coffee cart, which is new this year.

Aimée, an American expat living in France, founded her yarn and tea shop L’OisiveThé in 2008 and later opened a second shop, La Bien Aimée, which also houses her dye studio. Here’s a look inside her operation.

It must be challenging running two shops and a dye studio! How do you manage it all?

In the beginning year of La Bien Aimée, it was quite hectic. I ran back and forth between both shops A LOT and sometimes I would have to close one to run to the other, but after a few months I got some help by hiring another employee to help with the two shops. In year two of La Bien Aimée, my husband joined me to help me run both my businesses. I would not have been able to do it without him and from there we are grown to a current team of 13 people.

The yellow storefront of La Bien Aimée yarn.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

I am very inspired by nature and my travels. I am also inspired by my childhood and where I grew up, which was in Kansas, and my Korean heritage. I also have made 11 colors inspired by Game of Thrones!

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

I would say that one of my favourite colors to design is the color pink. I am constantly developing new pinks each season. But my absolute favorite color is yellow. I created a color called Yellow Brick Road in the first months of launching my yarn brand and it’s stayed true to itself from the beginning. Whenever a new sweater design comes out, I immediately want to knit it in Yellow Brick road. Yes, I do have a lot of yellow sweaters and I’m so happy about that.

The interior of a yarn shop.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned to knit from my mother when I was a child. She started off by showing my how to weave in my ends and often let me help her. I didn’t knit much after learning, and it wasn’t until I was a young adult living in Paris as an expat that I found my way back to knitting.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I only knit. I have tried other crafts, but I always come back to knitting. I would like to learn to sew though. I have not really tried that yet.

Steel dye pots in a row.

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

I really love my Mon Manet Light by Jonna Hietala in our custom spun Merino Sport base. It’s in Yellow Brick Road Graffiti and I wear this sweater all the time. I love seeing West Knits shawls using La Bien Aimée. I am also always so excited to see any FO that my clients have knit — just to see them wearing their knitted garments in my yarn bring my so much joy. Another sweater that I really love is Love Note by Tin Can Knits, I can’t wait for the cool weather to arrive. I will be wearing this all the time over my dresses.

What advice would you give an indie dyer just starting out?

I would say, have fun! I learned everything I know by tinkering around in the studio. Maybe study a little color theory and learn about safety when dyeing so that you can keep dyeing as long as you want and not get sick. Also, if you want to have a go at this as a business, be creative and don’t look at what the others are doing.

Yellow yarn with pink and purple speckles.

La Bien Aimée’s new Lyra colorway, which will debut at Indie Untangled.

What plans can you reveal for Indie Untangled?

We will be bringing a new base called Cashmerino to Indie Untangled and we will be revealing four new colors, plus a new custom color for Brooklyn General Store that goes very well with our fall palette. I look forward to seeing all the knitters, so please come by the booth and say Hi! Show me your knits, too!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Plied Yarn Co.

Two women hold skeins of colorful yarn.

Karida Collins, foreground, and Ann Weaver, the co-owners of Plied Yarn Co.

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

For years, Karida Collins of Neighborhood Fiber Co. and designer Ann Weaver have expertly brought together color. Recently, the longtime collaborators embarked on an exciting new venture, co-founding Plied Yarn Co. to produce a unique product: woolen-spun yarn that is hand dyed and then plied at the mill.

I was excited to see hints of their new venture pop up on Instagram a few months ago, and now that their cat is out of the bag, I’m thrilled to announce that I will be hosting this new yarn line in my booth at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show!

Tell me how Plied Yarn Co. came about.

Plied Yarns is a collaboration between Karida Collins, founder and president of Neighborhood Fiber Co., and Ann Weaver, knitting instructor and designer. We traveled to Harrisville Designs for a weeklong weaving workshop, which included a mill tour. After the tour, we talked excitedly about the potential for creating a woolen-spun hand-dyed yarn unlike any yarn that was on the market. We refined our ideas and conferred with Harrisville for about a year, figuring out how we could create the yarn we envisioned. Then came a nerve-wracking period of trial and error (the possibility that what we wanted just wouldn’t work was always looming). Finally, we spun and dyed a small test batch and then a larger batch, which was enough to start selling.

How is it different from other hand-dyed yarns?

Plied is different from other hand-dyed yarns in two significant ways. First, unlike the majority of hand-dyed yarns, it is woolen spun, not worsted spun. Woolen spun yarns are not Superwash, and they are lighter and loftier than worsted spun yarns. After washing and blocking, woolen spun yarns bloom beautifully, which makes them suitable for knitting at a wide range of gauges. Second, we hand-dyed each of the plies in each color separately, and then we return them to the mill for plying. The result is complex, multilayered colors because each ply is semisolid.

Skeins of colorful yarn on a curved wooden stool.

What expertise would you say each of you brings to the table in this venture?

Karida brings a dozen years of yarn-dyeing and selling experience, which is invaluable. She not only has the expertise to create the colors we envision, but also has the business insight that comes from over a decade in the industry. Ann brings a strong color point of view from nearly a decade of teaching color theory for knitters and creating designs based on color interaction. Additionally, we both bring our contacts — designers, shops and events — and what we’ve learned from them to the yarn we’re creating. Our goal is to make yarn that is both exciting and appealing to a wide range of fiber artists.

What plans does Ann have for designs in the yarn?

Ann has reworked a few of her designs in Plied, and she is developing a few new designs to be released in 2020. Currently, she is focused on working with other designers and sample knitters to ensure that Plied designs reflect a variety of viewpoints and styles (and she’s really busy making the yarn).

Karida, how does Plied fit into the overall vision you have for Neighborhood Fiber Co.?

Karida imagines herself as a yarn baron, much in the style of past oil barons. Or Mr. Monopoly. Mainly, she wants to wear a monocle. Plied and Neighborhood Fiber Co. have significantly different production processes, even though they’re both hand-dyed yarns. Ideally, Plied will be the beginning of a new kind of offering from Neighborhood Fiber Co. and its affiliates (what we call the Neighborhood Fiber Co. Lab). We want to have a wide variety of yarns, in addition to the wide variety of colors.

Arms up in the air holding bundles of colorful yarn.

How did each of you learn to knit?

Ann learned from her mom, who taught her to knit and purl. Beyond the knit and purl stitches, she is self taught. Over the past few years, she’s taken workshops with other teachers, both local and nationally known, whenever she can to improve her skills and broaden her perspective.

Karida learned to knit right after college. Suddenly faced with the realities of budgeting a life in Washington, DC, with an entry-level salary, she and her friends started looking for ways to have fun at home. Her best friend taught her to knit, and she felt like she was finally doing what she was meant to do.

Do you enjoy other crafts in addition to knitting?

When she’s not knitting, Ann quilts, weaves, crochets, cross-stitches and embroiders, and rummages around at thrift stores, yard sales, auctions and, occasionally, the trash for the “supplies” she needs for these projects. Karida enjoys starting projects and then letting them languish in assorted bins and bags around the house. She has dabbled in quilting, weaving, crochet, cross-stitch, embroidery, rug tufting and basket-weaving. Her main hobby is chasing her 19-month-old son around the house and sneaking in naps whenever she can.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the fiber industry?

First, be prepared to work VERY HARD for a long time. Have a source of income outside your fiber industry pursuit that pays your bills (being independently wealthy works, too). Then, don’t give up. Even when all of your friends and family tell you to quit and get a “real job,” refuse to admit defeat. Take risks! Don’t worry about the long-term financial consequences. You were never going to pay back your student loans anyway. Or move to Baltimore. You can afford to do anything here. Look at us. Living the dream.

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

A woman sits at a desk looking down.

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

For most people, crafting evokes the same feelings as getting into a good book. Anne Vally decided to bundle that feeling up into curated kits for knitters through her business, Little Skein In the Big Wool. While Anne has expanded beyond her hand-sewn project bags to include her own hand-dyed yarn, she has continued to remain true to the values that she started out with.

Tell me about how you started a project bag business?

I started Little Skein with the idea of making project bags and kits that would bring to life my love of books. Knitting is something that’s central to who I am — and so are books. I make the things I want to use: project bags that tell a story, kits that not only make me eager to knit them, but that also fill me with the happiness and rich emotion of a favorite story.

I started out on Etsy with my first kit (Velveteen with Susan B. Anderson) but pretty quickly moved to littleskein.com. Details are important to me, and I wanted to create an experience where shopping for a kit or project bag of mine felt like being welcomed home. Something special, full of good feelings, just for you.

What did you do before you launched Little Skein In the Big Wool and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

I live in San Francisco and before starting Little Skein, I was a program officer at a large California foundation for more than a decade. Foundation work is not easily explained, but the big picture is that I made grants to nonprofits around California that were (and are still) working to create positive social change.

My foundation work absolutely informs how I run Little Skein. My degree is in economics, so I’m particularly attuned to how I run my business. I talk a lot on social media about fair pay for makers, the importance of art, and making room at the table for everyone.

I believe the way a business operates adds something intangible and important to the final product.

An African American person holds a bouquet of colorful yarn

When did you decide to incorporate yarn?

I’ve always worked with other yarn dyers for my kits, but I started dyeing yarn myself about three years ago. I realized I was becoming increasingly involved in designing the colors, and I also had a vision of the final fabric I wanted. It became a passion for me to figure out how to make that vision come to life.

Like many knitters, I often fall in love with yarn that’s showy in the skein but doesn’t always create a fabric I enjoy. So, my journey in learning how to dye yarn was to create a yarn that makes a subtle and complex color of fabric—one that might look semi-solid from a distance, but up close would have little hints and gradations of color with itsy bitsy, random pops of intensity.

For the first year, I studied, experimented, and dyed only for myself. But now I have an outdoor dye kitchen (an essential in foggy San Francisco) and I do periodic Live streams on Instagram where I show what I’m dyeing. I still work with other dyers, but about 90% of the yarn I offer is now dyed by me.

Tell me about how your yarn is sourced and dyed.

I source my yarn from three mills: two in the U.S. and one in Canada. I’m especially interested in what each yarn will be used for: a sweater? socks? a shawl? I’ve chosen bases that are ideal for a particular purpose. I think my start as a sewist and project bag maker is a big influence. I’m interested in the fabric.

For example, my sock yarn, House Sock, is 90% American Targhee wool and 10% nylon. It’s different from the multi-purpose sock yarn that most dyers offer. Mine is especially perfect for socks. The Targhee wool is soft and sproingy when you knit with it, and it makes a plush, hard-wearing sock.

A woman knits with green yarn

When and how did you learn to knit?

It feels like I always knew how to knit. My Nonnie and grandmother knit, but their knitting was for utility. I remember knitting as a young adult, but it was when my son was about 2 that I felt this deep urge to make things for him. I picked up my needles to knit fruit for his play kitchen (I started with this strawberry!). Oddly enough, I didn’t feel daunted by the tiny stitches or knitting in the round. I just kept at it, and my boy’s delight at getting a new piece of “fruit” every few days was rocket fuel to me.

Then, I discovered Ravelry and, boom, down the rabbit hole I went!

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

If it involves making something by hand, I have probably tried it. I am a sewist, I draw, embroider, cross-stitch, play with polymer clay, and have recently begun block printing on fabric. (I’ll be debuting something special with my new block prints at the Rhinebeck trunk show!)

A project bag with a city skyline holds two skeins of gray and aqua speckled yarn

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

That it’s possible to do good and do well at the same time.

I believe that knitting, reading, and making things by hand is art, and art matters. Using your imagination ripples out into the world in powerful ways. Art changes you, and in turn you change the world for the better. (Not an original idea, though! This is from Neil Gaiman.)

I try to lead by example. I make sure that everyone who works with me is compensated and valued. I believe diversity makes our community better, and I believe in sliding over to make space at the table for everyone. This shows up in the causes I support, in the inspiration for some of my kits, and in discussions I lead on Instagram.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Asylum Fibers

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers in a pink sweater

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

It’s been incredibly cool to see how Stephanie Jones of Asylum Fibers has grown her business since launching in early 2017. I met Stephanie when she was organizing a knitting group in midtown Manhattan, and just this spring saw her yarn all the way in New Orleans at the Quarter Stitch.

I’m excited to have her back at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show for the third year in a row! I’ve interviewed Stephanie before, so asked her to share a bit about how her business has evolved and what she has planned for the event.

How has your business and aesthetic changed at all since launching two years ago?

I think my colorways have become more cohesive as I’ve learned more about how I want to see the yarn work up. My focus is much more on what the finished object will look like as compared to when I first started dyeing. I still have a lot of fun with the process, though!

Purple variegated yarn

Forbidden

Which of your colorways are your favorites?

This is always changing, but right now I do really love Forbidden and Absolem. I’m also digging a brand new color called Aura. It reminds me a little of an oil slick. I tend to gravitate to bright or saturated colors with muddled speckling.

Have your favorite colors changed since you became a dyer?

Yes and no. Despite my tendency to wear a lot of black, I’ve always been someone who appreciates a bright pop of color, usually in pink or blue. That’s still true, but sometimes I dye a color that I wouldn’t have normally been drawn to, and suddenly I’m intrigued. This happened recently with Shocked (a neon yellow), and I actually enjoy wearing that color now. I’ve also gotten more into green and orange lately.

An aqua to dark blue fade of yarn

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

I have seen some amazing Soldotna Crops recently. I’m especially loving the ones using my sparkle DK base in unexpected color combos. Another great FO I saw recently on Ravelry is a Half Moon Oracle shawl, knit in Creepy Graffiti and Vacant Stare along with a very light grey yarn from another dyer. The contrast is striking. As a dyer, creating fade sets is a ton a fun. There is a Chevron Shenanigans shawl knit in a golden yellow to hot pink fade kit that I absolutely love as well.

A box of orange, purple, pink and green yarn.

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

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to trust my instincts. It’s great to see what everyone else is up to, but I think being true to one’s self is where true success lies. Also, you don’t have to be for everyone. Do what you really like and what you’re good at, and don’t worry about everything else.

I have also find that having the right tools can make all the difference. I remember when I first purchased kitchen prep tables for my setup, the height of the table totally alleviated the back discomfort I had experienced with my original setup. The skein twister is another favorite tool of mine. It saves time from twisting so I can spend more time on the fun stuff! Even my shipping label printer made a huge difference in my efficiency.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled?

I have a deep, moody event colorway planned, which I’m very excited to show everyone. In addition, Melissa Alexander-Loomis (aka skeinanigans) is designing a sweater with really unique construction and fun use of color. I’m looking forward to displaying that and preparing kits for the new design. I’m bringing lots of brand spanking new colors with me, too.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Dragonfly Fibers

Kate and Nancye of Dragonfly Fibers

Kate Chiocchio and Nancye Bonomo of Dragonfly Fibers.

This is the third in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Dragonfly Fibers is one of the first indie dye companies I discovered, though it had launched in 2006, before I had even started knitting. Kate Chiocchio and Nancye Bonomo, based in suburban Washington, DC, were part of the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia) scene that has produced a lot of indie talents. They and their yarn are familiar to anyone who has attended Maryland Sheep & Wool, Vogue Knitting Live NYC and Rhinebeck in recent years, with vivid colors like the fiery Airport Hot Sauce or explosive Firecracker.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

Dragonfly Fibers began with our love of color and texture. Kate learned to quilt and sew, and then became fascinated with fiber. Learning to felt, spin, and knit evolved into a need to dye it. We learned so much from other dyers and spinners, both local and in the blogosphere. We got our start at the same time as Karida of Neighborhood Fibers and Gryphon and Sarah of the Sanguine Gryphon, and later Cephalopod Yarns. We all supported each other and shared resources and processes. We still believe strongly that this collaboration is what our community is all about.

Black, blue, yellow, pink and green yarn

How did you decide on the name Dragonfly Fibers?

Kate is fond of skulls and dragonflies. While she really wanted her branding to feature skulls, her Stitch and Bitch buddies forcefully advocated that dragonflies would be friendlier and maybe sell yarn more effectively. Kate is still not sure about this.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?
Nancye is partial to the purples, such as Royal, Arya, and Heroine. Kate has loved Riptide and Rocky Top since they first came on the scene. They both love Dragonberry.

When and how did you learn to knit?

Kate learned from her mom at age 8. She knit one lumpy red scarf, and put the needles down until after age 40. She bought some wooden needles and How to Knit booklet and hasn’t looked back. Nancye learned during a January term in college and then picked it back up in earnest after the birth of her first child.

Pink purple yarn

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Definitely! We love spinning, felting, and weaving. Lately, we have been sewing like mad fiends and dipping our toes into eco-dyeing and visible mending.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that is challenging to create?
Great question! We are completely visual, and love to create from images. Oxidizing copper and the beach, sand included, are both great challenges. Also,the perfect red to purple gradient has yet to be achieved.

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

For Kate, it is an Empire Ave Cardi knit in Dance Rustic Silk many years ago. Nancye loves her Fair Isle Skirt in Traveller; knitted skirts are just so fun.

Light blue lacy cowl

You were one of the earliest indie dye brands I discovered. How have you navigated the changes in the industry over the years?

While we work hard to bring the new yarns, projects, and colorways that our customers crave, we have remained true to the original spirit of Dragonfly. We bring a unique style of dyeing to the industry that is not truly replicated anywhere else. Our colors are bold, and often combined in unexpected ways. There are many beautiful yarns out there but only one company that makes the Colors of Happiness.

What are you bringing to Rhinebeck?

So many things! An exclusive 2019 Rhinebeck colorway inspired by the great state of New York. Two new kits: three combos for Andrea Mowry’s Stonecrop sweater and rainbow sets to make the Love is Love hoodie by our own Susan Powell. “Starter packs” for Caitlin Hunter’s Soldotna Crop in 2 and 4 oz Traveller. All of our yarn bases, including mohair and silk laceweight Faerie, our newest yarn. Huge quantities of our most popular colorways. And, last but definitely not least, Dragonfly Farewell Tour tote bags.