Indie Untangled Everywhere Untangling: Deep Dyed Yarn

Stephanie Stratton of Deep Dyed Yarn.

This is the eighth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.

There are many indie dyers who start their business after learning how to spin yarn. Stephanie of Deep Dyed Yarns is one of those dyers. She’s also one of the few indies selling hand-dyed fiber as well as yarn in the Indie Untangled Everywhere marketplace. Here’s her story.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

My yarn dying adventures began as a snowball effect. In January of 2007, I bought my first spinning wheel and became hooked. It wasn’t long before I had amassed a large amount of handspun yarn.

There was no way I would use all of the yarns spun, so an Etsy store was created. To my utter delight and astonishment, it all sold. More fiber was purchased to be spun and I thought, Why not try my hand at Kool-Aid dyeing? From there, I progressed to commercial acid dyes and began listing hand-dyed fibers. There came a point where I could not keep up with supply and demand of handspun yarn, so han-dyed, mill-spun yarns were added to the line-up.

A friend encouraged me to try a local festival in the fall of 2007. The first booth consisted of a card table and bread rack. It was such a warm, welcoming, and shockingly successful experience, I began looking for more to attend. Pennies were saved and trailers to haul displays were purchased. A small metal building was constructed that has evolved and been improved upon a little each year. One year it was insulation, another was a ceiling, another was proper ventilation, enclosing the dye area, etc.

It has been a 13-year journey of love, friendship and sometimes tears. There have been so many amazing people who have influenced me. I am so grateful to everyone who has encouraged, uplifted, supported and been there for me in not just my journey as a dyer, but all of us as a community.

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

Black goes with everything in my humble opinion. In all honesty, I love all colors. Maybe a few more than others, as I can’t get away with wearing yellow or orange, but that doesn’t mean I snub my nose at all the pretty shades, tones and hues they contain.

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

No, I pretty much dye what I like. Color combos are tested in the pots and if I really love it, they make it online or to the festival floor.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled Everywhere?

So… I might be a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl. This is a new style of show for me and while ideas are brewing, I do not have a concrete plan in place. I am hoping to showcase some of the most popular colors and colors that complement them. Maybe a little time talking about what it’s like spending so much time on the road. Oh, and there’s always time for showcasing patterns using my colors as well as a studio tour! My one goal is to not drop the ‘F’ bomb, lol!

When and how did you learn to knit?

A funny thing happened on a returning British Airways flight from London Heathrow to JFK in New York. The year was 1997 and it happened to be my first overseas trip for a tour of Scotland.

Upon takeoff, the lady next to me pulled her knitting out of her bag and began to knit a simple corner-to-corner afghan for her soon-to-be-arriving grandchild out of some very lovely yellow wool she bought while visiting England. I asked question after question about what she was doing at the ends and she explained they were yarn-overs to make the blanket grow larger with every other row and purling to keep the edges from curling. And she kindly suggested that I find a local yarn shop when I got home for lessons.

Shortly thereafter, I fell asleep and did not wake up until after the flight landed. No joke, I have slept through tornados and earthquakes, so a plane landing was a walk in the park for me! Once home, yarn and metal needles were bought at a big box store and I taught myself the ‘e’ cast-on and how to knit, purl and yarn-over.

Feeling confident and thrilled with my progress, the next step was a visit to the local yarn shop where more yarn and a simple little pattern was purchased. And, that’s where trouble started. The kind lady on the flight mentioned something about not knitting like her, but I was so groggy that I didn’t remember that part in the thrill of teaching myself by mimicking what I remembered her doing. It was so frustrating because nothing I did would make the pattern show up. K, P, K2tog, SSK, YO….. NOTHING WORKED!

That is until I checked out Kids Knitting by Melanie Falick at the local library. I followed the steps page by page and not advancing until the next step. Casting on and knitting the first row were simple and then the next set of directions said to TURN THE WORK! I about died of laugher! You see, I taught myself how to knit back and forth instead of turning the work because that is what the very patient lady on the plane had done.

Since you sell fiber, do you spin?

I certainly do and feel it has made me not just a better knitter and judge of yarn, but also a better dyer. When you spin, the colors and combinations of colors you use can drastically change the outcome of your yarn.

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

In no particular order:

Monnie’s Vintersol using Grit in colors Seafoam, Whisp, and Smoke.

My Night Shift (Christopher Sala) using Figment in colors Velvet Underground and Appaloosa.

Jan M’s Honey Comb Aran sweater using Grit in color Caramel (pictured above).

ZueZuesKnots’s Tecumseh Using Still in colors Summer Berries, Coraline, and Caramel.

What’s currently on your needles?

Light in Shadows by Milja Uimonen using Align in colors Driftwood and Caramel.

Indie Untangled Everywhere Untangling: Northern Bee Studio

Melissa of Northern Been Studio with a friend.

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.

When we and other people envision knitting, crocheting and fiber crafts, we often conjure up images of frolicking amongst sheep, goats and other farm animals, though for most of us our fiber story is set against a backdrop of binge-watched TV shows and honking horns (though the latter is mainly me and my fellow city-dwellers!).

The name Northern Bee Studio is a true expression of dyer Melissa’s setup in Rib Lake, Wisconsin: she and her husband have bees, chickens and cats, and this year they welcomed some Sannen goats, the largest of the dairy breed. They milk them daily and make cheese, yogurt, ice cream and soap from their milk.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

It really started with spinning. I had wanted to learn how to spin for so long. When we lived in Juneau, Alaska, a friend messaged me that she had just bought a couple wheels off of Craigslist. This would have been about 2008-ish. She wondered if I was interested in buying one of them for her because she thought she didn’t need both (hah!). Sure! Well, I watched videos and requested books from the library and made some stuff that eventually resembled yarn. The problem was, I didn’t know where exactly to get hand-dyed prepared top to spin besides Etsy. I had ordered a bunch from Etsy when I first started and shipping was killer. So, I decided to find somewhere to order undyed top in a kind of large amount (back when I thought a pound would last me a while) and played around with Kool-Aid and food coloring. I had so much fun with it and got such great feedback that I decided to try dyeing yarn.

I started out with Knitpicks Bare and went from there. I would make longies for our kids and little hats and things and people in my knitting group loved my colors. Well, the owner of the shop that I used to work at liked the yarn too and asked me to dye as much as I could for the upcoming tourist season. This is when I used to dye yarn one skein at a time on the stovetop. So much has changed! Fast forward 12 years and here I am with a dedicated studio space, dyeing thousands of pounds of yarn a year and still enjoying every minute of it.

What inspires your colorways?

I get inspired by nature so much of the time. I get inspired by the different flowers in our gardens, the plants and trees around us and if it is the middle of winter and I want to work on a new colorway, I love to look at pictures of nature on Pinterest where the colors are broken down.

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

Almost any blue has always been and will always be my favorite color. Especially the turquoise-ish blue of the bee in my logo. It is such a great color that goes so well with so many other colors.

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

I am still challenged by Grellow. I mean, I really like the one I do now but I don’t feel like it is exactly right. And I have experimented and overdyed so much yarn over the years trying to get just the right tone, I have kind of just told myself that I just need to be happy with the Grellow I have, not the Grellow I want.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled Everywhere?

Sure! We have been working on setting up a mini-booth in the Studio and I plan to have a wall with a skein of every one of our colors on it. That way I can show everyone how the colors play across the skeins. I have our show special colorway that I can’t wait to show off more —- it is inspired by the Indie Untangled Everywhere logo and I just love it. I also plan to have my Yak Sock mini skein sets ready for the event and maybe it is aiming too high, but I hope to show off the Advent sets that I have been working on. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

When and how did you learn to knit?

When I was a kid, my mom taught me how to crochet. Every winter, she would sit and crochet blankets for everyone. I cherish the blankets I have, even though over the years, the Red Heart yarn has gotten kind of scratchy. Fast forward to 2006. My husband and I had been restationed to the island of Saipan [Melissa’s husband serves in the U.S. Coast Guard] and I was pregnant with our first child. I had read about this nifty new website, Ravelry, on someone’s blog and was seeing more and more fantastic knitting projects. My mom had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and her sleeping schedule was really wild. So, we would talk during my day (which was her night, Saipan is 15 hours ahead of Central Standard Time) and she would help walk me through the basic steps over the phone. She was an avid thrifter and garage sale junkie so anytime she saw yarn or knitting needles, she would buy them and send them to me. I still have so many of those old aluminum straight needles she sent me, I don’t think I could ever get rid of them. With her help, random tutorials I found online and a new friend that had grown up on Saipan and was a knitter (hey Deece!), the rest is history.

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

You know, I really love seeing all the FOs and WIPs from my customers. One of my favorites is seeing the Advent set projects, those for me are such a challenge… coming up with 24 to 25 new colors that work together every year really pushes my creativity in a good way. And I love all the different designs that the designers do, we have so many great patterns to choose from. I also love seeing my yarns being used with other indie dyers’ yarns in large projects. It’s fun when you know the dyers personally, and you can see how your yarns play so well together and know how the purchases really help them, too.

Three goats with fall leaves.

Melissa’s Sannen goats.

What’s currently on your needles?

Oh gosh, that’s a slippery slope. I am a serial starter. I am really trying hard to make more pairs of socks this month. It is Socktober after all. But I have so many WIPs that are just sitting, so the struggle is real over here. Currently on the needles:

High Desert Socks
No Frills Sweater
Octopus Mittens (probably my 10th pair, they’re so fun!)
Dissent Cardigan
Scrappy Pillows (crochet version)
And a secret Advent test knit for Ambah

Indie Untangled Everywhere Untangling: North Light Fibers

A group photo with people and dogs.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.

North Light Fibers, which I had the pleasure of visiting in 2016, is the very definition of a fiber escape. It’s based on Block Island, a Rhode Island community reachable only by ferry that feels like a combination of coastal New England and the Irish countryside. I’m excited to be working with them after admiring their yarn and business for so long.

Sven Risom, who runs North Light Fibers with his wife, Laura, has a wonderful way of describing what he refers to as a “micro yarn mill,” so I’ll let him take it away!

Tell me the story of how North Light Fibers came to be.

Laura and I started North Light Fibers in 2010. We knew we wanted to move to Block Island (Rhode Island) which is a small community of 900 people in the winter and about 15,000-20,000 in the summer. The island to 7 miles long by 3 miles wide and the place that we wanted to call home. It is lovely.

We then had long discussions about what to do when we moved to Block Island since we wanted to do something with fiber. We had moved all over the country doing different jobs in business or nursing and wanted to do something together with lasting impact. While we considered starting a yarn shop, that was not truly feasible given the seasonality of the island. We then met the people that make the equipment which is now in our yarn studio and fell in love with the plan to produce and create yarn here on the island. The equipment is small and to the scale of Block Island as we produce small batches of kettle-dyed yarns and design the fiber blends to our liking. Laura is a phenomenal knitter and designer and develops different fiber blends, weights, colors and patterns in addition to all the designers that we work with.

Unfortunately, when we decided to move forward with the yarn studio and had negotiated for a long-term lease on a building, we were informed by the Town that there was no “permitted use to make a product” on Block Island. So, we had to spend the next year and 12 public hearings to change the zoning laws by creating a “light industry” permitted use. Since then, a few other small companies have started and now a furniture maker is starting up on Block Island making small-batch furniture. We are one of the only year-round businesses and the only manufacturer and exporter from Block Island.

The only offshore wind farm is located 3 miles off the Island’s south bluffs. Based on this, it turns out that North Light Fibers is the only manufacturer in the U.S. that is 100% powered by offshore wind! We also installed solar panels and have developed extensive green practices. Our vision in 2010 was to have a zero carbon footprint and we have attained that goal!

A pile of colorful yarn sitting on a rock.

North Light Fibers Water Street.

How do you source the fiber for your yarn?

North Light Fibers is located on a small animal farm, the 1661 Farm and Gardens. The animals range from alpacas, llamas and camels to yaks and Scottish Highland bulls as well as Jacob sheep and a variety of goats. There are also many more animals that make the farm quite an interesting place. While we use the fiber from the farm in our felting kits, bird balls and dryer balls, we do not use it for yarn as it is older and not to our quality standards.

We have been very fortunate over the years to work with many small alpaca and sheep farms around the country, mostly in the Northeast, including Virginia and West Virginia. While at one point we were sourcing fiber from 116 different farms, we have narrowed that down a lot and have also been sourcing fibers from around the world more broadly.

Over the past 10 years we are have learned a lot about fiber and how the environment, animal health and feed can dramatically impact the quality of the fiber and therefore yarn. For example, our Cashmere comes from Mongolia and some of our wool from the Falkland Islands. This is very important for we also use a lot of domestic Merino. While all of our wall is a Merino they are not sourced from the same location by intention. As you may know, the Falkland Islands Merino has a longer staple length, is finer (smaller micron count) and also has a different shaped crimp compared with the domestic Merino. Each is very good in their own respect. For example, we designed for our Water Street yarn (40% Cashmere/60% Super fine Merino) with the highest-grade domestic Merino and blend it with Cashmere. The fiber length and crimp blend well together to create an amazing yarn. On the other hand, our Atlantic and Spring Street yarns are 100% Merino wool sourced from the Falkland Islands. The fiber for it is softer and has better drape than the domestic Merino. So not only do we use different fibers but we also source similar breeds from different locations to make the best yarn possible.

How much yarn does your mini mill produce each year?

That is a very interesting question, but before talking about capacity, I would like to make a few clarifications. First of all, we do not consider North Light Fibers to be a mini mill. In the past, we have called our business a “micro yarn mill” which is very different. Mini mills follow a service model as they process fibers for different farms. For example, if a farmer has 40 alpacas or 30 sheep, they can send the fiber to a mini mill, which will turn their fiber into yarn. North Light Fibers does not produce any yarn for other businesses. Our business is more like a microbrewery — a small-scale brewery, or in this case a small-scale yarn producer or mill.

Over the past two years, we have begun to shift our focus to the two key areas of our business: the Dye Studio and the Yarn Studio. As we will share during the Indie Untangled event, we kettle dye all of our fibers in 10-pound batches. Usually we produce 20 pounds when we dye as we have two vats. The key thing is that we dye fibers and not finished yarn.

When the dying is finished, we bring the fibers up to the yarn studio where are we pick, card, spin, ply, steam and finish the yarn. While there are machines, a significant amount of hand work goes into the yarns along the way. We physically touch each yarn at least 20 times during the process and QC all the yarn by hand.

As far as the total volume that we produce, it’s very subject to the types of yarns and blends that we are making. Most importantly, we produce enough so that our knitters can purchase yarn from the same production date to finish their project. I mention a “production date” because we blend colors within the manufacturing process — therefore the date of dying is less important to us as the date when the colors are blended on the carder or throughout production process.

A pile of marled yarn.

North Light Fibers Seaside.

What inspires your colors?

Being 15 miles off the coast and located well into the Atlantic, we have amazing light and colors as well as different shades of earth tones here on the island. The bluffs show layers of soil millions of years old and the number of ponds is amazing… all within 1.5 miles of the ocean. The animals on the farm, the island itself, the ocean, the beaches, the sunsets, the sunrises and the rocks on the shore inspire us daily. If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll see that we post a lot of pictures of the island and different colors and blends. The island is an inspiration.

In addition to inspiration about colors, we also get really inspired by how to blend fibers and make the colors in unique ways. For example, Water Street has beautiful heathery colors that come alive when the garment or accessory is knit or crocheted. The flecks of different colors creates a unique palette. For example, we produce a green color in Water Street that we called Enchanted Forest. While one may think of this color as a dark green, there are actually flecks of purple and light green within the yarn that bring it alive and make it very complex and exciting.

In our recent introduction of Seaside, we have blended 50% Supima cotton and 50% Merino wool to create a very exciting worsted weight yarn. Given our acid-based kettle dye process, we are not able to dye plant fibers so therefore Seaside has a very soft palette as the cotton is white. The color, though, is unique as the yarn is designed in a marled fashion with each ply being a different color, creating a beautiful fabric or textile that really moves with the colors.

The water Street and Seaside colors differ greatly from our Atlantic and Spring Street yarns, which have much deeper hues.

Another big aspect of North light Fibers yarn is that all our lines have at least 14 colors. Forever Lace (80% alpaca/20% bamboo) has about 27 colors! We work hard to have a full line of colorways with exciting and unique main and contrast colors for different designs.

A pink cabled poncho modeled on a beach.

The Sailboat Poncho in Seaside designed by Deborah Newton.

Can you talk about some of the business challenges you’ve had to overcome during the pandemic?

Being on a small island connected by only a ferry or small airplane creates unique challenges. As we mentioned earlier, some of the zoning issues that we faced impacted our business for the first two years, but we overcame those. Of course, shipping gets to be a little bit more expensive, but the island provides an amazing inspiration and a beautiful place to live and enjoy. Nothing like being in the middle of nonstop inspiration!

Probably the biggest challenge that we faced in those early years was “how to make a really beautiful yarn that we were proud of.” While it seems relatively straightforward, making a high-quality yarn is not a simple task. On a daily basis, we have challenges in the dye studio or with a spinner or on one of the carders, but that honestly is part of the fun of running North Light Fibers: being able to overcome those challenges and create a product that we love.

2020 has been especially difficult for everyone in the yarn industry. We’ve been working very hard to present our yarns in the best way possible, yet clearly, the reduction in shows and delayed retreats has impacted our business significantly. We are very excited to be part of the Indie Untangled Everywhere event and look forward to helping knitters, crocheters and fiber enthusiasts learn more about our business.

One of the things that we have enjoyed most has been working with designers. We are awed by the ability of many of the designers we work with to create unbelievably stunning fabrics and garments in creative ways. Seeing their inspiration and their ability to turn a design concept into reality is fantastic.

Does everyone on the North Light Fibers team knit or do other fiber crafts?

Yes, everyone is involved in fiber in different ways. While Laura is clearly the leader of the company and an amazing knitter, weaver and crocheter, she is also the inspiration for so much of what we do. Many of us have made hats and different garments, done a lot of needle and wet felting, created kits and designed new knitting and crocheting kits. But Laura is the clear leader and knitter. We all feel and know the pleasure of creating a finished garment or design from the yarn that we created.

A green and white geometric shawl.

The Islander by Melanie Berg.

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

North Light Fibers has been honored to work with many great designers such as Deborah Newton, Melanie Berg, Olga Buraya-Kefelian, Andrea Mowry, Bristol Ivy, Thea Coleman, Patty Lyons, Mary Jane Mucklestone, Nora Gaughan, Gudrun Johnson, Charles Gandy, Kate Gilbert, Melissa Leapman and many other world-renowned designers as well as local designers such as Sophia Scallora, Charon Littlefield, Renee Batchelder and others who designed their first garments and patterns here at North Light Fibers. It is hard to pick our favorites, but there are a few relationships that stand out. Deborah Newton, who lives in Providence, Rhode Island, has become a major part of our little company. She has designed many garments and has offered advice along the way that’s been immeasurable. A few example designers and FOs include:

Charles Gandy is an outstanding designer that we met earlier in the life of the company and he designed a pair of wristers with titled welted squares — still one of the most fascinating and intriguing designs we have.

Andrea Mowry designed Ramble in Water Street, which is a stunning blend of brioche and garter stitch.

Fiona Ellis designed one of the most amazing sweaters we have ever seen in Proscenium with our Atlantic worsted-weight yarn. The cables, design, button sides and A-Frame design are truly beautiful.

Melanie Berg recently designed The Islander in our Forever Lace yarn that has a stunning geometric structure. This will be classic design for years to come.

In addition to working with great designers, we have also worked hard to form partnerships to knit and weave finished goods for our studio store, given how many tourists and non-knitters visit the island. For example, we have formed a lifelong relationship with the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center, a non-profit weaving center for blind and visually-impaired people. In addition, years ago we started working with Women for Women International, a nonprofit that helps women in war-torn countries to knit a range of garments and accessories for the store. We have worked with Stitches 22 in Bosnia for over nine years, sending them our yarn and designs, which they turn into finished garments that we sell here. These relationships, and the ability to help those who are less fortunate, is a real actualization of our early vision for North Light Fibers.

Indie Untangled Everywhere Untangling: 29 Bridges Studio

A woman with brown hair wearing red cat-eye glasses.

This is the third in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.

It’s always so fascinating to hear what people did before they took on the official title of Indie Dyer. While Mary of 29 Bridges Studio has a professional background — working in various positions a large, federal medical library — that doesn’t seem to overlap with her business slinging yarn, her college education was heavy on the fiber arts.

I got to meet Mary during the Business Untangled event that I organized back in January. This is my first time working with her through Indie Untangled and I’m looking forward to sharing her yarns in the marketplace.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I was very fortunate to discover the fiber arts program at my college. I was not pursuing a studio art degree but needed a creative outlet. The first time I saw a floor loom I was in love. I focused my program on weaving and learned to dye the yarn and fiber for my projects.

In my college program, after I completed the first two required courses I continued in an “independent study.” I did this for two years and also included textile history and a science-based class that included testing and analysis. My weaving work was shown in juried student art shows.

After college, I focused on my career, but in 2016 dyeing started calling to me. I jumped back in, was accepted to my first market in 2017, and I’m looking forward to what the future brings.

What’s the significance of the name 29 Bridges?

The name “29 Bridges Studio” is inspired by my hometown, Pittsburgh – the city of bridges. The bridges connect the diverse communities of the city and you can’t go anywhere in Pittsburgh without crossing a bridge. To me, my company name also symbolizes the bridges and connections we are building in our fiber community. Yarn and fiber have a way of bringing people together and I’m lucky to work with amazing people in this industry.

Skeins of fuzzy yellow and pink speckled yarn.

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

My favorite color is a nice dark mustard. I will buy things just because they are mustard colored not because I need them. I am a neutral lover at heart which may seem incongruous with being a dyer but that’s my jumping off point for anything I dye. I start neutral and then add color.

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

Anything really bright. Dyeing with bright colors stresses me out but I hope to conquer them someday.

Skeins of colorful yarn.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled Everywhere?

We’re very excited to debut some new samples for project inspiration (with kits!) as well as a new Indie Untangled Everywhere-inspired color.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I was an artistic and crafty kid and making was always my happy place. When I was five, I pretended to be sick so that I could stay home from school and hang out with my mom. That day she taught me to knit with some 1970s gold-mustard yarn. This might be why my favorite color is mustard!

A stack of colorful knits.

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

I’m always blown away when I see something that a customer has made with my yarn. Fiber and yarn lovers are so creative and the combinations that they put together are as unique as they are.

I remember the first time that a customer came up to me at an event in sweater she had knit my yarn. I was speechless. It was an Alyeska sweater and it was gorgeous. I like to think that I make the colors and my customers paint the masterpiece.

Skeins of teal, yellow and gray yarn.

What’s currently on your needles?

I’m working on the sleeves of a Felix sweater using my own DK MCN in Aubergine. So as not to embarrass myself, I won’t tell you how long I’ve been working on it! But I think my timing is going to be perfect because the leaves are turning and sweater weather is right around the corner.

Indie Untangled Everywhere Untangling: Lanivendole

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Two women, one in a gray sweater and one in a black and gold colorwork sweater.

From left to right, Giulia and Stefania of Lanivendole.

This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.

I first learned of Lanivendole at Barcelona Knits last November. While the Italian company was already on my list to check out, I was seriously enabled by May Khaw, a talented Singapore-based designer who I met and befriended during that wonderful trip. She had done some damage in their booth at Woollinn in Dublin earlier in the year and was planning some upcoming designs in their yarn (May’s latest design for Spanish knitting magazine Bellota is in Lanivendole’s A Chic Blend, comprised of Brogna wool, alpaca and mohair).

After taking in their soothing colors, I was then captivated by the story of the company. Owners Stefania Benzi and Giulia Pighi Guerra create and hand dye yarn custom milled in Italy, comprised of wool and alpaca fibers from local breeders. I was surprised to learn that small-batch, breed-specific yarns weren’t all that common in a country with a long history of textile production.

I had been planning to host their yarn in my booth at the in-person Indie Untangled show in October, but instead I’m excited to introduce you to them virtually.

Tell us the story of how Lanivendole came to be.

The idea took shape after a few years of conducting a textile arts association in Genova; by that time we managed to get a good knowledge of different fibre types and especially their behavior in both dyeing, blending and spinning by hand. We met during a hand-spinning workshop and soon after we started to figure out how to build our own yarn production. It was a slow process, that began with a long search to find the right mills to work with small batches, that are not so common in Italy; then, we started to test yarns’ compositions and structures, to start dyeing and test all the shades we had in mind.

Skeins of soft orange, pink and blue yarn.

How have you found the sheep breeders you work with?

In Italy there are not so many farms that raise herds for fibre purposes, and when we started the whole thing 10 years ago, there were nearly no small local yarn producers as well, so when we started searching for local fibres to use in our workshops, we easily got to all know each other! It was basically done through word of mouth from one trusted breeder to another, and that was how we met also the first mill we worked with.

How do both of you work together to decide on your color palette?

The very first palettes of our hand-dyed bases were studied and decided at the table, making tests and choosing together which colors better represented our ideas. Now we do like to create more freely shades and collections, so it happens that some inspiration comes to life from one of us and is presented to the other, or we plan a theme/mood board to follow, get to the pots and share the results… and modify the samples until we agree on the best result.

A basket of yarn in light and dark grays.

What are each of your responsibilities when it comes to the business? What are the unique things that each of you bring to your company?

Stefania: I deal with all the paperwork and administrative jobs, purchases and commercial promotion with shops and designers, and write our newsletter.

Giulia: I take care of all the photography for both our website and social media, our Instagram profile and keep in contact with breeders and the mills.

We share all other activities and decisions, from order fulfillment to dyeing, from planning to email replying — the best thing about this collaboration is that we balance each other.

A skein of pale blue and gray yarn.

Tell me about how each of you learned how to hand spin and knit.

Stefania: I learned knitting from my grandma as a child, paused and took up the needles again many times during high school and university, and then it became a vital habit in my life since my first pregnancy. By that time I self studied hand-spinning, reading books and watching online courses… that was one of the most satisfying goals I reached!

Giulia: I started knitting a few years ago, mostly self-taught and keen to take needles only in chilly seasons, also because my farm duties give me a little more spare time. I learned hand-spinning attending a workshop that Stefania held, with the aim to spin my own cashmere goats hair… I soon realized that the opportunities could be far wider if I got the heavenly fibre spun.

Anyhow, we both would love to hand spin a special edition yarn someday!

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled Everywhere?

The main news we’re thrilled about is that we’ll have two bases with brand new palettes debuting at the event!

One is our Stormy Blend DK weight — made of 70% wool and 30% black alpaca — that we’re now hand dyeing in an earthy palette on the darkest grey base Ombra.

The second one is our beloved 100% wool base, A Pure and Simple Wool, from selected flocks of Abruzzo uplands that we’ve been expecting from the breeders for two years, and now we’ll finally have a rich new array of shades to show off.

Last but not least, our custom color on A Chic Blend – made of 60% wool, 20% alpaca and 20% mohair – which we hand dyed exclusively for Indie Untangled Everywhere! We can’t describe the color without spoiling, but we adore it!

Rustic Sample Box subscribers will find the custom color, along with shade cards of both the new bases mentioned above.

A peach and forest green colorwork yoke sweater.

Do you enjoy other crafts in addition to knitting?

Stefania: Being the only niece of a skilled seamstress, I always carry the dream to sew my own clothes… but never actually started, but I must admit that my crafty side is well satisfied with knitting, dyeing and spinning, anyway.

Giulia: I recently discovered photography to curate our IG profile, and found out a new world I love!

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Stefania: I’m onto the sleeves of an awesome Jupiter Crop by Boyland Knitworks, and towards the end of Hikari Tee by Yamagara.

Giulia: I’m in the middle of a dreamy Pink Velvet by Andrea Mowry, and just started my very first pair of socks, Garia from Laine 52 Weeks of Socks.

Indie Untangled Everywhere Untangling: Scratch Supply Co.

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The owners of a local yarn shop.

Travis, Jessica and Karen of Scratch Supply Co.

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.

Four years ago this month, Jessica Giordani and Karen Zook launched Scratch Supply Co., a craft store and inclusive home for makers in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Since then, they along with their partner Travis, have transformed the shop into a showcase for indie, women, POC/BIPOC, queer and otherwise underrepresented dyers and makers.

Scratch’s monthly Cast-On Club — I’ll be curating the October box! — celebrates the diversity of the fiber community with an exclusive colorway, and the shop features many indie brands that are familiar to Indie Untangled readers — Cat Sandwich Fibers, Fuzz Family, Julie Asselin — and some that may not be.

Since Petrina, Indie Untangled’s event producer, introduced me to the Scratch folks at Vogue Knitting Live NYC in January, I’ve enjoyed getting to know them and share in their enthusiasm for our amazing indie community (they’ll also be sponsoring the Bingo night that Petrina is hosting the Friday of Indie Untangled Everywhere, which means some great indie prizes!).

Tell me about the decision to open Scratch Supply Co. Did you ever think you’d own a yarn shop?

Not really! We didn’t even decide to open a yarn shop at first — we started as a multipurpose craft store with a handwork makerspace in the basement.

When we first opened the doors, we barely had any yarn at all. We had like two shelves with 40 skeins of yarn total and some hopeful shade card boxes — and we were SO proud of those two shelves. The best thing you could say about us was that we were scrappy. If you wanted to knit a sweater you could make something with stripes or wait for us to order a sweater’s quantity of one color. We were trying! Fortunately for us, our enthusiasm resonated with the knitting community, and they stuck with us through this awkward period while we found our footing, fine-tuned our offerings, and started stocking a full range of colorways in quantities large enough to make something bigger than a hat.

Over the last four years we’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to create a welcoming and inspiring space, and grow — with our amazing community of makers — into the LYS we were meant to be.

A bathtub full of yarn.

What you each of you do before you became yarn shop owners and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

The three of us met after Travis and Jessica moved to Connecticut after Travis left the Marine Corps. Jessica opened a small bakery and Travis and Karen met while they were enrolled in a PhD program in Comparative Literature.

We all have experience with research and working independently, and we’ve all been teachers in some capacity at some point. Jessica has previous experiencing running a retail shop, Karen has a background as a freelance writer, and Travis has government training in getting shit done.

We bring a lot of flexibility and a can-do, make-it-work spirit to Scratch. Since we all live together this is truly a family business. We’ve put our hearts into creating a space and a community that reflects who we are, and we like to make the members of our community part of that in any way we can. Our path from idea to execution is lightning-fast — our real area of expertise is in Doing The Thing. (Sometimes the thing is fixing your knitting, sometimes the thing is installing light fixtures, sometimes the thing is finding a way to keep our community connected during a pandemic.)

Why did you choose the dyers and brands that you carry?

First and foremost, we fill our shop with the yarns that we want to knit with! We have a carefully-curated selection that is constantly evolving. We are committed to supporting small makers and small mills, and providing our community access to with quality materials that they won’t find in just any LYS. We are enthusiastic about working with talented people in our industry whether they are established or just starting out. The fiber industry is diverse, and we believe that the dyers and makers that we work with should reflect that.

For us, there’s no value in filling our shop with yarn that you can get everywhere else. Our favorite thing is when people walk into the shop and announce “You have all the yarns that I follow on Instagram!”

The interior of a yarn shop.

Who are some of your favorite designers?

We love designers who are doing interesting things! It’s cold in New Hampshire so we’re sweater knitters at heart. We love Jessie Mae, Fatimah Hinds, Shay Johnson, Lavanya Patricella, Isabelle Kraemer, Maxim Cyr and Jacqueline Cieslak.

Crochet designers we’re following are Toni Lipsey, Vincent Williams, Twinkie Chan and Stephanie Erin.

Can you talk about any new products the shop is going to carry or special events in the works?

In September we just celebrated our fourth birthday, which is our biggest event of the year and kicks off a wildly-busy fall season!

We’ve been expanding our yarn selection since March to get ready for the long winter. We’ve recently brought in three bases by Julie Asselin, DK and bulky weight yarn from The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers, fresh Spincycle, lace mohair, worsted and fingering-weight yarn from SweetGeorgia Yarns, the Nightshades from Harrisville Designs and two new fingering-weight bases from Junkyarn.

One of the best things about Cast-on Club (our monthly subscription box) is that we always have something amazing on its way to us — every month a different dyer sends us something new and exclusive! Indie Untangled is curating our October box, and in November our featured dyer is Doug Lopez of Knittinbro.

A family in knitwear, with a dog, sits on a sofa.

The Scratch family, including Violet and Scarlet.

When and how did you learn to knit?

Karen learned as a child from her mom, and knit/unknit/reknit a rectangle from the same skein of red Red Heart until she left for college. She couldn’t tell the difference between the right side and the wrong side of her fabric, so she had a strip of masking tape wrapped around the bottom of one of the horrendous plastic straight needles to help her keep it straight. After college she started a post-bacc program with an endless workload. She was living in Philadelphia and there was an amazing LYS right around the corner, so she started obsessively knitting just to hold a finished object in her hands once in a while. (Fortunately by then YouTube had been invented, which gave her the opportunity to increase her skills!)

Jessica learned to knit when she moved to Minnesota for grad school. There was a woman in her program who would knit through seminars, and since she didn’t know anyone and it was very cold, this seemed like a great hobby to take up. She didn’t know that LYSs existed, so she picked up a Susan Bates pamphlet and some bouclé yarn and taught herself how to knit while watching Pulp Fiction on repeat. She had been knitting for three years before she could read a pattern and learned a lot of problem-fixing techniques through trial and error.

Travis doesn’t knit (we’re wearing him down!), but has a lot of opinions about color, fiber content and design.

A letter sign that reads ALLAREWELCOME and @SCRATCHSUPPLYCO in pink and white.

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

The first sweater Karen ever knit for herself was bottom-up with seamed sleeves. She was very excited about knitting it and bought crazy-expensive alpaca yarn that wasn’t really suited to the pattern… it turned into such a fiasco that it’s currently stuffing a dog bed.

In 2011, Jessica promised her mom a sweater. She knit all but one sleeve, and that sweater lived in project bags until it was finally consigned to the bin in 2020. It just wasn’t meant to be… but don’t worry, mom will finally get her sweater this year.

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Jessica is knitting the Ghost Ranch hat using Dyed in the Wool in Payback and Street Light in Nightshades. It’s the squishy, Halloween-y hat of her dreams!

Karen is working on a gift knit that she’s going to try to keep a surprise so won’t spill the beans on that just yet. She just cast on a Pressed Flowers shawl by designer Amy Christoffers in Juicy DK from The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers.

Weaving together Stardust in Basin

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A red and yellow sunset through mountains and a weaving project that echoes the scene.

A few weeks ago, after Robin of Birch Hollow Fibers chose an inspiration photo for her installment of Knitting Our National Parks, I contacted the photographer to get permission to use the photo and send a use fee.

Through my text thread with Nina Mayer Ritchie — her husband, Eric, was the photographer for the Great Basin National Park photo that Robin picked, but they both take the stunning photos in her feed — I learned that there was a deeper connection to the fiber arts — and a fascinating story that the reporter in me had to tell.

Nina has been taking Navajo weaving lessons from Emily Malone of the Spider Rock Girls, a family that has been weaving rugs for four generations. Emily’s mother, Rose Yazzie, owns a Hogan, a traditional dwelling of the Navajo people, and has a flock of sheep that provides the wool for their pieces, which they sell (I’m planning to post an interview with Emily as well). Above is an in-progress rug that Nina is weaving inspired by a photo she took of sunset through the “Window” at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Nina and Eric also have an impressive track record in the national parks, having visited 48 out of 62, some with their two young children. Both Nina and Eric are MedsPeds physicians (dual board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics), and they have been working over the last several months in Chinle, Arizona, the geographic center of the Navajo Nation, which for a period of time had the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per capita in the country. Eric is the chief medical officer of the Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital there and Nina works with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health as a public health doctor.

I spoke with Nina about learning Navajo weaving, her family’s parks visits and about the public health response to the coronavirus in the Navajo Nation. In addition to supporting the parks, 10% from the sales of Robin’s colorway will be donated to the NDN Collective COVID-19 Response Project.

Weaving with raw fleece.

Emily Malone of the Spinder Rock Girls uses raw fleece for a weaving project.

Tell me about your weaving lessons. Have you done any other fiber crafts (knitting, crochet or spinning)?

I started taking weaving lessons from a local weaver in March 2018. She is part of a family of weavers called the Spider Rock Girls. Her mother weaves and taught her, and then she taught her daughters. They live near Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly. According to Navajo teachings, Spider Woman lives atop Spider Rock and bestowed the gift of weaving to the Navajo. The Spider Rock Girls keep their own herd of sheep and sheer them to spin the wool into yarn for weaving.

This weaver has been offering weaving lessons to a small group of us over the last few years. She made looms for all of us, and we would typically meet one to two times per month to weave and learn together. Now with COVID, that has been put on hold, but we each have our own loom at home and weave individually. I learned how to crochet with my Yiayia (grandmother) when I was a little girl, but weaving in the traditional Navajo way with a loom is completely different!

A Native American woman spinning cream-colored yarn.

Emily spinning yarn from her sheep before weaving.

It sounds like you and Eric are longtime hikers! When did you start visiting national parks?

We actually didn’t start “seriously” hiking until our honeymoon to Kauai in June 2008. After that, we immediately moved to Boston to start our residency training and found that during our off-time – without having access to a car – we would walk/hike the entire Boston area pretty regularly… roughly 11-12 miles on an average weekend day.

The first national park we visited together was the Grand Canyon, where we hiked North Rim to South Rim with my father during the last week of June 2009. It was the first time we had ever visited the Southwest, during record high temps, and we were smitten. It was one of the most formative experiences of our lives and we truly became enchanted with this part of the country. After that, we kept seeking ways to return to the Southwest to visit more national parks and to complete clinical rotations with the Indian Health Service.

We had always felt strongly about providing medical care to underserved populations and the Indian Health Service seemed like the best fit for us. As we visited more and more national parks, both out West and back East, we realized that our time spent in the parks was incredibly restorative and balancing especially while juxtaposed to our hectic schedules as medical doctors. We have visited 48 out of 62 national parks so far and it is our bucket list to visit them all together. As we started having children, our little boys visited the Grand Canyon as their first national park when they were each 2 weeks old. They have visited over 25 national parks each.

A mom and dad, each with a child on their back, pose in front of red rocks.

The Ritchies at Arches National Park in Utah.

Do you have a favorite national park?

This is the toughest question for us, and we get asked this all the time! I think we love different national parks for different reasons, and each could be considered a favorite in their own way. We are also very lucky to live close to so many of them, and we get to revisit these ones (roughly 15 of them) over and over again. Before spikes in visitation over recent years, I think we would easily say that Zion, Yosemite and Glacier were our top three, as these parks truly fill you with awe and wonder when you are immersed in them. However, as those parks have become more and more crowded, even during the “off season,” we have a new appreciation for the parks that are either off the beaten path or have enough space to really spread out. These include Death Valley and Big Bend.

A boy in front of a large tree.

James, the couple’s youngest son, in front of a Bristlecone Pine in Great Basin National Park.

What’s the story behind your photo of the tree at Great Basin?

This photo is from an incredible camping trip we took a few years ago to celebrate our youngest son’s first birthday… with the oldest living things on the planet: Bristlecone Pines in Great Basin National Park! This was his 17th national park visited during his first 12 months of life.

We had the coolest campsite up on Wheeler Peak, and spent an entire afternoon hiking around the impressive Bristlecone Pines, scouting out a favorable one to photograph later that night… My husband then hiked back out over a mile in the dark (while I stayed back, cozy with the kiddos in our camper) to reach this awesome tree and photograph it with the night sky. Such a fun memory!

How did you and Eric begin working for Native American healthcare organizations?

During our first year of residency, we attended a Grand Rounds held by two other married physicians that had completed our same residency program a few years prior. They had been working with the Indian Health Service in the middle of the Navajo Nation and everything they shared with us about their experiences truly spoke to us. We arranged to have two clinical rotations with the IHS, one in 2009 and the other in 2010, and fell in love with the communities we served. We decided to join the IHS in Chinle, AZ (the geographic center of the Navajo Nation) after completing our residencies in 2012 and have been here ever since. I transitioned into public health in 2014 with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and Eric is still with the IHS.

Can you talk about how the COVID-19 crisis has hit the Navajo Nation and Native Americans particularly hard and what kind of work have you and your colleagues been doing to address this?

As many have probably seen in the news, the Navajo Nation had the highest rate of cases per capita in the country for a period of time. Contributing factors include remote and impoverished living conditions (difficulty accessing resources, such as medical care, grocery stores, etc.), lack of running water and electricity, multigenerational/overcrowded households where the virus can easily spread throughout the family, higher incidences of underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and lung disease, limited access to broadband/internet, as well as difficulties with “staying home” when folks have to travel long distances to obtain supplies. With strict and comprehensive public health measures, such as universal masking, social distancing, limiting capacity in essential businesses, and curfews, the Navajo Nation decreased their case counts and have been flattening the curve. The mortality rate among Navajo is still the highest of any ethnic/racial group. Through our work, and collaborations with other philanthropic groups, we have been integrally involved in the public health responses here: increasing testing, increasing hospital capacity, increasing resources and securing PPE, developing and distributing educational materials, expanding contact tracing, supporting communities through delivery of goods and water to households, etc.

A snow-covered mountain reflected in water at sunset.

Oxbow Bend at Grant Teton National Park in Wyoming.

How has the pandemic impacted your travels? As physicians, do you have any advice for people looking to safely explore the country?

The biggest way the pandemic impacted our travels is that it prevented us from taking previously scheduled time off. With Navajo Nation weekend curfews and the increased workload, we needed to stay put and work. No more weekend camping trips for around three months straight, which is very atypical for us (we usually camp almost every weekend). As things have slowly improved on the Navajo Nation, we have been able to venture out a little more, but we are sticking to dispersed/boondock camping in more remote areas to remain physically distanced from others. We are now discovering some hidden gems.

I think the advice we would offer folks looking to safely travel during pandemic times is to think about their own risk tolerance and how that (and their actions) may affect others. Getting through this is going to take a “team” effort and we all need to do our part.

Outdoor spaces are generally the safest option for recreating, and getting there by personal vehicle is preferred. Identifying places that are not crowded is ideal.
I know we all love to visit our iconic national parks but these spaces are at risk of being “loved to death,” especially during these challenging times when everyone is looking to get outdoors and away from others. It’s getting harder to achieve this as our national parks get more and more congested. I would encourage travelers to look for hidden gems closer to home in other public lands that don’t normally get as much attention as our national parks.

Untangling Tamy Gore of Narrow Path Designs

Tamy Gore of Narrow Path Designs

Tamy Gore of Narrow Path Designs

Earlier this year, I had the honor of collaborating with Tamy Gore of Narrow Path Designs — along with Sarah of The Dye Project and Thao of Nerd Bird Makery — on the Rosé and Rambouillet kit.

Tamy published her first design, the Out of Winter shawl, on Ravelry in May 2016, and it shows off her skill at combining speckled and semisolid colorways of hand-dyed yarn. She also creates lovely garments with just semisolids. Her Dusky Rose shawl, which is now available individually as well as with the kit (of which there are only a few left), is one of those stunning shawl designs, and uniquely combines garter, brioche, short rows and slipped stitches in an elegant garment.

How did you decide to become a knitwear designer?

I really just decided to try my hand at it. I had modified a few cowls before but never really designed anything on my own, and so I figured I take the plunge and I haven’t stopped since.

How did you come up with Narrow Path Designs and why do you use it as your business name?

The name was actually chosen by my husband and it stems from Jesus’ words in the Bible in regards to entering by the narrow gate, meaning that He is the only way to salvation and so calling all people to come to Him. I love and am thankful for that and so I kept the name and added Designs to it.

A woman models a pink shawl.

Tami’s Dusky Rose shawl for the Rosé and Rambouillet collaboration.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I was taught in 2013 by my goddaughter and her siblings. I smile each time I think of those days and the many mistakes I made and how extremely patient these children were with me. 🙂 It took a while for me to understand (especially purling!), but I finally got it.

Do you do any crafts other than knitting?

Not at this moment, but I would like to start using my sewing machine. I got a vintage machine from a sweet friend, but haven’t really buckled down to use it yet.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Nature. Birds and other animals, plants and changing seasons. I love playing with different colors, and yet there are a few colors that always seem to end up in most of my designs.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

I draw. Sometimes that means I’m drawing on a napkin if we’re out for dinner, or I have my handy notepad and pencil with me. 🙂 The design starts to form in my mind and then I start playing around with it on paper. I usually change the design as I’m knitting it and rarely ever stick to the original idea.

A multicolored triangular shawl

Tamy’s Milu shawl.

Do you think you’ll ever design sweaters or will you stick to accessories?

It’s definitely in the plan, but we’ll see what happens. 🙂

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

My favorite colors are yellow, rusty orange and shades of pink and peaches. They haven’t really changed since I first started and I would be surprised if they did, but you never know. 🙂

Post-Rhinebeck Untangling: Debra Gerhard of Spruce Lane Designs

Debra Gerhard of Spruce Lane Designs in gray sweater with a pink and red geometric yoke

Debra Gerhard models her Once Again sweater.

This is the 17th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Debra Gerhard of Spruce Lane Designs has a background as a designer, but not in fashion. For years she worked as an environmental engineer, addressing environmental impacts. These days, her design work involves taking hand-dyed yarn and turning them into colorful geometric sweaters and shawls with stripes, lace, cables and other textured stitches.

How did you decide to become a knitwear designer?

I was never one to follow a pattern exactly as written. I would usually use the pattern as a “guide” and then add my own shaping, motifs, edgings or other personal touches. A number of years ago after I left engineering to be home with my son, I started sample knitting for a few yarn companies which subsequently lead to technical editing of patterns. Around this same time, I took a few knitwear design classes at the Rhode Island School of Design.

I released my first design, Checks Mix Cowl, which was based on a swatch I had done for one of my classes. However, I didn’t release anything else for about two years after this initial design and instead spent my time doing more technical editing for a number of designers and yarn companies. I finally made the leap to mostly designing around 2017 and now I find myself struggling at times to turn out all the ideas I have in my head. I love the process, and I especially enjoy seeing knitters’ interpretations of my patterns and their use of color combinations and various yarn bases.

How has your background as an environmental engineer informed your work?

As an environmental engineer, I would be charged with designing and applying the best remedy for addressing environmental impacts. And just as each impacted site presented a unique set of issues, I find that the processes I used to identity these issues and form a solution are very similar to the processes I use in my designing. I have also found that my love of math is deeply ingrained in designing and grading. I love to see the numbers unfold, and I enjoy applying geometrical concepts to some of my shawl designs.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

I take my inspiration from a variety of sources: an architectural detail, a colorful sunset, a spider web I may spy when out for a hike, bark on a tree, nature, found objects and many other sources. I have been known to tell my hubby to “pull over” so that I can take a picture of something that inspires me. I am drawn to color and patterns. I like to create colorful knits that fuel the imagination of each knitter and hopefully inspires them make my pattern their own.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My mom taught me how to knit when I was 10. My mom knits continental style, which suited me fine as I am left handed. I started with the garter stitch scarf and seamed hat as my first knitting items and continued with more hats and a few mittens. I didn’t knit much during junior high and high school, but in college I picked it up again and knitted the “boyfriend” sweater. I started to seriously knit in my late 20s after getting married, and I haven’t stopped since that time.

A pink speckled lace shawl.

Sunrise Over Bryce for Knitting Our National Parks.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

After deciding on yarn, I will make a large swatch of the design/motif that I have in mind to see how the colors play together and to get gauge. Once I’ve gotten gauge, I will work up the numbers and write out a draft of the pattern, including any charts, if needed. I like to have the pattern completed as much as possible before I begin knitting so that I am in a sense, “testing” my own design and I have the ability to make edits as I knit.

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

My favorite colors are purples, reds and other rich, saturated colors, and that hasn’t changed much. I also like the playfulness of speckled yarn with the surprising pops of color. Additionally, I am just starting to explore the color and textural effects of working with two strands of yarn, specifically a mohair/silk base coupled with a Merino base.

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.