Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: The Perfect Blend

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This is the 13th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Last November, after I checked out the Saugerties Performing Arts Center and decided it was the perfect new venue for Indie Untangled, I paid a visit to The Perfect Blend Yarn & Tea Shop. First of all, I couldn’t not pay a visit to a well-regarded LYS less than a mile down the road. But, I mainly wanted to see what the shop was like before reaching out to the owner, Mary Ebel, about collaborating on the show, which I knew would bring quite a lot of visitors to the little town. Since I hadn’t yet signed the contract for the new venue, I went “incognito,” and didn’t reveal the real reason I was there.

Mary welcomed me and my mother-in-law warmly, and she and I chatted like knitting-obsessed folks do about the projects we were working on and hoping to make one day. I learned about the yarn club the store runs, with hand-dyed colorways inspired by the beauty of the Hudson Valley. Mary brewed some Harney & Sons tea for us to sample and I picked out a colorful navy, teal and orange basket that now holds all my WIPs by my living room sofa.

Later, after I reached out to Mary and revealed the true reason for my visit that day, she became an indispensable part of the planning team for the fifth annual Rhinebeck Trunk Show, connecting me to local resources and rallying together the local merchants to give Indie Untangled visitors a warm welcome not unlike the one I received during my first visit, with a free shuttle service, sit ‘n’ knit stations and even an after party — plus a little yarny surprise.

I recently learned a little bit more Mary about how she became the owner of one of the Hudson Valley’s loveliest yarn shops.

Tell me about the decision to open The Perfect Blend. Was running a yarn shop a longtime dream of yours?

Yes it was a long term plan — as I imagine lots of knitters have dreams of opening a yarn shop, too!

Fortunately for me, I had the support of my family and friends to make it happen. My husband retiring early from law enforcement and taking on a second career in sales allowed me to leave my full-time job and pursue this yarn shop dream job (though I dreamed it much differently… I thought there would be time to sit and knit).

After eight years of teaching friends at home and my husband settling into his new career, I “retired” and opened a shop. Seemed everything fell into place as I worked towards the opening. The location, in the small village of Saugerties, was the only storefront I looked at. And it’s perfect – a bit rustic with brick wall and charming atmosphere.

Why did you decide to focus on yarn and tea?

Growing up with a family of makers, my mother was always knitting, but she also, sewed, crafted, tried just about everything — except cooking. My dad, an engineer, loved building, woodworking, fixing things, problem solving. He and friends built our family cottage in Maine in 1950s. There are seven of us “kids” and we were all encouraged to learn a craft. For the last 30 years or so, our family Christmas has been handmade. We make something six times, one for each family member. It’s creative and fun!

Though each of my siblings have some sort of hands-on crafting talent, mine was knitting. I have sweet memories of knitting with my mother during quiet early mornings in Maine. I love knitting, and teaching people to knit.

And the tea: well, a few reasons. First reason was I wanted something other than yarn to bring people into the shop. Turns out, that was a good decision — they’re looking for tea, and wouldn’t normally walk in a yarn shop, then discover the beautiful yarns, and talk about how they “always wanted to learn” … ”Oh, and you teach classes?” And bam — new knitter!

We’re Irish and there are lots of tea drinkers in the family. The tea kettle is ON when we’re together, from early morning to late at night!

As with knitting and crocheting, making tea is slow process – it’s peaceful and calming. It’s what you do to relax and unwind, or to help you feel better. And it all works with The Perfect Blend: of yarn, or tea blends, or of the community of knitters and crocheters.

What you do before you became a yarn shop owner and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

Prior to opening the shop, my career was in human resources. The last 13 years in benefits and employee relations for our local hospital system. Though my background did not include retail or anything in the fiber world, I’m a good listener, confidential and love to help people.

My position at the hospital was to serve the people that took care of people, helping them resolve an issue so that they could get back to their jobs of patient care. That’s why an LYS is better for me than an online store. Though we tried for a few months last year, it’s not for me, and most of our online sales happened in the shop. We like the interaction with our customers and have fun! And just like HR, we don’t discuss politics and we’re confidential — I won’t tell anyone how much yarn you bought!

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

The brands and the products change over the years and will continue to. We started carrying basic, core brands that I was familiar with: Cascade, Noro, Classic Elite, etc. In the beginning, I used the advice and guidance of reps for what to buy and what was trending. Now, I research myself, attend TNNA and always listen to my customers.

As we evolve and grow our shop, the yarn choices will change too. There’s always something new that we must have! Although we carry many classic yarns for the projects you’ll have 10 years from now, we do carry a variety of yarns, not novelty, but some trendy yarns for our adventurous knitters and crocheters. From Cashmere and yak to cotton and wool, and lots of perfect blends in between.

Who are some of your favorite designers?

Hardest question right here! There are so many talented designers, who could ever pick a favorite?

Let me say this though, we just had two days of classes with Ann Budd (she’s amazing!). Her Intro to Sweater Design Class – wow! We all know that there’s tons of math in knitting, but now I have a whole new respect for what it takes to design it, from concept, to gauging, choosing the right yarn, sizing… there are so many factors. It was an amazing class! One person commented that “We don’t pay enough for patterns.”

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

We met a few new vendors at TNNA trade show in June. Gleeners recently arrived and we’re planning a demo day soon. We’re also bringing in some fun products from Knit Baah Purl — sheep-y wine glasses, mugs and notecards. We’re also xcited to bring in Dragonfly Fibers.

As for special events, it doesn’t get any better than having Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show a half-mile away from the shop! We’re thrilled and super exited to have this event come to Saugerties!

When and how did you learn to knit?

I was taught by my mother on the porch of our summer cottage in Maine. Not sure of my age, I think around nine, but I remember where I was sitting and the yarn (split-y cotton) and the big wooden needles. Pretty sure there were other neighborhood kids learning at the same time, but I clearly remember where I was sitting and the moment I “got it!”

Is there an FO that you’re particularly proud of?

Through the years there were definitely many proud moments when I discovered a new technique, such as German short rows, or when I made my first sweater, or did Fair Isle for the first time, and a cabled sweater. After all these years there’s always something new to learn — that only another knitter can be excited about, too!

The Knot House gets ready for Rhinebeck

This is the 11th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

The Knot House in Frederick, Maryland, is an LYS that really supports indie dyers. It’s where trunk show vendor Dami of Magpie Fibers learned to knit and launched her company and always showcases the latest and greatest at their indie pop-up during the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

I asked owners Heather and Cathy to give us a look at their plans for Rhinebeck and also learned about a new dyer who has come on the scene…

Who are you both most looking forward to seeing at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show?

Hu Made. We haven’t met Amanda, so we are looking forward to meeting her and seeing her yarns in person.

Tell me about some of the most recent dyers that you’ve stocked your shop with.

We have two that we have added recently:

1) Nice & Knit – We love their Sock and DK. They have great colors and are just a pleasure to work with.

2) Chasing Rabbits – Love the Sock and her colors.

Cathy and Heather

Are there any indie dyers and designers that you think should be on knitters’ radars?

I have to give myself a plug here. We have our own hand-dyed yarns now. We launched our La Di Da DK and Mo Debonair Mohair earlier this fall. With the focus on sweaters, we have focused on tonal solids.

How did you decide to dye your own yarn?

I don’t really know. I had thought about it before but never really thought of myself as an artist. But Mom and I thought I should try to supplement the shop. So Mom ordered yarn and I ordered dye and got started.

Where do you dye?

I currently dye in my home kitchen but we are working on building out a small studio in the basement.

What inspires your colors?

I have always loved textiles and have been known to spend way to much on decor fabrics. I love a room done well with pops of color. So I get a lot of inspiration from home decor pictures and fabrics. I also love timeless fashion. Matter of fact, I took a picture of Uma Thurman in the streets of NYC in 1987 and used it to come up with a small collection. In my option, yarn colors have to be truly wearable. I will be doing a sock weight in variegated fun stuff soon!

What are you each planning to wear to both Indie Untangled and the New York Sheep & Wool Festival?

Not exactly sure yet, but I’m sure Mom and I will both be wearing something from Boyland Knitworks and/or Andrea Mowry.

An FO of Caitlin Hunter’s Tecumseh.


What do you think is going to be the most-seen sweater at Rhinebeck this year?

Tecumseh and The Throw Back!

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Mom is working on Caitlin’s Ramblin Woman Cardigan [a pattern that is debuting at Indie Untangled] using Knot House La Di Da DK. I am working on Millie by Nice & Knit and the Aim True Hat by Caitlin Hunter.

Cathy’s Sipila sweater.

What are each of your favorite FOs from the last year?

I think mine is still Sunset Highway and Mom’s is her Sipila sweater.

Kitterly gets ready for Rhinebeck

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From left to right: Kitterly co-founders Elizabeth Rowen and and Mari Bower.

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

Can you believe it’s exactly one month until Indie Untangled — and Rhinebeck?! Before this popular knitting weekend extravaganza, I asked Elizabeth Rowen and Mari Bower, the founders of Kitterly, which sells knitting and crochet kits, to talk about their plans for Rhinebeck and their predictions for this year’s most popular Indie Untangled and Rhinebeck sweaters.

Who are you both most looking forward to seeing at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show?

We’re really excited to see the variety of products, new products that inspire us and catch up with our vendors and meet new ones!

What are each of your Top 5 favorite Kitterly kits from the last year?

Mari: From a site popularity standpoint, the Sushi Scarf by Stephanie Shiman and Wonderland Yarns is a perennial favorite with our customers.

We’ve been so fortunate to work with so many amazing designers like Andrea Mowry, Isabell Kraemer and Melanie Berg, to name a few. It’s been fun to meet and feature designers from all over the world.

Liz: I love them all! Our designers as so talented and it’s always so inspiring to work with them.

Sushi Scarf by Stephanie Shiman.

Are there any indie dyers and designers that you think should be on knitters’ radars?

Mara of Aya Fibers
Steffi of Uschitita
Renee of Spun Right Round
Aimee of La Bien Aimée

There are so many more we could list but we’re running out of space!

What are you both planning to wear to Indie Untangled and the New York Sheep & Wool Festival?

Mari: Depending on weather I’m going to wear my newly knit Humulus pullover by Isabel Kraemer knit in The Fibre Company Cumbria and Spincycle Dream State. I hope to be able to finish my Rose cardigan, knit in Olann Sock Sport, in time.

Liz: I’m going bring my Sheltered poncho by Andrea Mowry, my Sipila pullover knit in Olann Singles as well as my Impressionists shawl by Helen Stewart. Hoping to have my Comfort Fade cardi in Olann complete too!

The Throwback © Andrea Mowry

What do you think is going to be the most-seen sweater at Rhinebeck this year?

Mari: I’ll think we’ll see a bunch of The Throwback cardis by Andrea Mowry, Sipila by Caitlin Hunter, Rose cardigan by Andrea Mowry, Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies and Weekender by Andrea Mowry.

Liz: I imagine we’ll see many Fading Points by Joji, Comfort Fade Cardi by Andrea Mowry and The Doodler by Stephen West.

Tell me the things that are currently on your needles.

Mari: Rose cardigan by Andrea Mowry and Separate Ways by Joji.

Liz: Comfort Fade Cardi by Andrea Mowry, Neridah by Ambah O’Brien and a test knit for Lesley Robinson of Knit Graffiti.

A WIP of Mix and Mingle by Andrea Mowry.

What are each of your favorite FOs from the last year?

Mari: Weekender by Andrea, Mix and Mingle, a Kitterly Special project for Kitterly by Andrea Mowry, and Kobuk by Caitlin Hunter.

Liz: Too many to name!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: PostStitch

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

We knitters have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to sources for indie yarn. If you’re up for surprises, a subscription box is a great opportunity to try out a new dyer or small yarn company.

PostStitch is one of the ideal ways to discover new dyers, and Megan Graddy puts together some fantastic finds, including Indie Untangled dyers such as JunkYarn, Marianated Yarns and Circus Tonic Handmade.

How and when did PostStitch get started?

My mom had worked in knit shops for as long as I can remember and she always loved helping customers pick out new projects, even me who lived 500 miles away. Surprise projects from her were such a thrill to receive. Not only did I not have to drive an hour to my local yarn shop, but I didn’t have to agonize over what to buy once I got there. Plus, my mom was always sending me the latest and greatest yarn.

In 2014, we launched PostStitch to bring this yarny joy to other knitters. We want to expose knitters to yarns they may not have access to and encourage them to knit something they may not ordinarily knit, so that they can experience their craft in a new way.

How do you decide on which dyers to include in your subscription boxes?

We love discovering a new yarn or rediscovering an old favorite and sharing it with our members. There’s no set formula as to how we pick a yarn for one of our kits. We like to vary the weight, blend, and style of the fiber from month to month while choosing yarns that aren’t widely accessible or too commonplace. We follow trends on Instagram and Ravelry, and go to TNNA and other retail shows to find the yarn we feature. We also love when a dyer reaches out to us directly. We have found some of our favorite yarns that way.

Are the patterns designed exclusively for PostStitch, already published or a mix of both?

We don’t have a set formula when it comes to choosing a pattern. We like to keep our projects seasonal, small so they can be started and finished within the month, and complementary of the yarn we’re using. We also like to challenge our members to learn a new skill, while still keeping the project doable and fun for all skill levels.

We may fall in love with a pattern that is a few years old, discover one through a pattern distributor, use a pattern the dyer has written, or collaborate on a new design with a designer we have met at Vogue Knitting Live. We make it a point to use a mix of designers and feature patterns that are not super popular or free. It’s all about delivering something “new” to our subscribers.

Can you talk about any new dyers or designers you’re planning to work with?

Sure… as long as you don’t go dropping spoilers to our subscribers in our Ravelry group! While they might not necessarily be new dyers or designers (but possibly new to our subscribers), we’re anxious to connect our knitters with two fiber brands in particular – Emma’s Yarn, who we met at one of our Florida yarn shops, and Idaho-based Palouse Yarn Company, who we met at a Vogue Knitting Live event. We were also thrilled to meet a couple of designers on the floor at TNNA who will be designing new patterns for us – Ellen Thomas of The Chilly Dog and Jennifer Dassau of The Knitting Vortex.

Which subscription that you offer is the most popular?

We have three subscription types – KnitStitch (with Big, Middie and Lite customization options), SockStitch, and Notions Box. Our KnitStitch Big subscription is our original and most popular. It features a one- to two-skein accessory project with printed pattern, yarn, needles from ChiaoGoo, and notions. It’s everything you need to knit a project start to finish. But our newest subscription kit – the Notions Box – is quickly becoming a favorite. It’s perfect for those who have too many WIPs or an overwhelming stash. Our Notions Box delivers unique notions that we hope will inspire you to knit more efficiently (or have more fun) as you work through your WIPs.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My mom taught me how to knit in 2000 when I was a senior in high school. I had been a competitive swimmer for most of my life, but when an injury sidelined me, I had a lot of time to fill. My mom taught me the basics and I absorbed all I could from the women around the table at the shop she worked. It would have been nice to have YouTube tutorials available, but there is something special about in-person lessons and learning the different quirks and hacks of seasoned knitters.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Currently, the only other “craft” in my life is cleaning up the crayons, paint, and paper scraps of my three girls (they’re 6, 4, and 1) who we call our interns, but have big plans to learn how to crochet and weave. One day!

Tell me about your most memorable FO.

This is like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid! We have knit so many memorable projects, but our most beloved will probably be Ysolda Teague’s Scroll Lace Shawl that we paired with Luna Grey Fiber Arts’ Zeta yarn. It was the project that we featured in our very first kit back in 2014 and to say we knit picked over every little detail would be an understatement. But, in the end, it was so well received and we wear that cozy, soft shawl with lots of pride.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: The Yarnover Truck

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Barbra and Maridee in front of the truck.

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

There’s a meme I’ve seen floating around social media about how great it would be to have a truck that would drive around your neighborhood ringing a bell and selling yarn. Well, the Yarnover Truck is that meme come to life.

Based in Southern California since 2013, the Yarnover Truck is the brainchild of Barbra Pushies and Maridee Nelson, two knitting friends who realized the dream of owning a yarn shop with a unique business idea. They outfitted a former Little Debbie snack truck with cubed shelving and offer a large selection of indie dyers, including several who post on Indie Untangled, and set up shop at breweries, parks, fiber festivals and special events. I had the pleasure of visiting a few years ago and it was everything I dreamed it would be.

Tell me how the idea for the Yarnover Truck came to be.

Barbra and Maridee were friends from a knitting group. One night at group, Maridee mentioned she was thinking about opening a yarn store. She had a name and a location all picked out, but the financial realities of a brick and mortar yarn store seemed overwhelming.

Later that week during her weekly knitting class at work, Barbra brought up her friend’s yarn store idea. It was always a dream of Barbra’s too, but like Maridee, it always seemed just out of reach. One of the members of the knitting group suggested a yarn truck and immediately Barbra was enamored with the idea. Hours of Google research on mobile retail business and one overwhelmingly long email to Maridee later, they found themselves on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood talking with one of LA’s first mobile boutiques. On July 5, 2012, the idea of the Yarnover Truck was born and the Truck launched March of 2013.

What did each of you do before you became yarn shop owners?

When we started the truck both of us were working in the entertainment industry. Barbra had worked in animation production management for Walt Disney Studios for seven years. She was lucky enough to assist with the knitting portions of Disney’s 50th animated feature, Tangled and on the Winnie the Pooh movie. Both Rapunzel and Kanga were “taught” to knit by Barbra.

Maridee worked in marketing for a variety of different companies in Minneapolis (where she grew up) and in Los Angeles, most recently working in theatrical advertising for Warner Bros. Studio for many years on many popular movie franchises. Jumping in to run the Yarnover Truck full time felt very natural taking all the knowledge learned in a variety of industries and putting it into running our successful venture.

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

When we started the Yarnover Truck, indie dyeing was still growing and starting to get more popular every day. We decided to make the focus of the products we sold on the truck hand-dyed yarns and work hard to showcase as many other small companies as possible.

Our goal is to find unique and talented dyers and show them off to our customers. We try and have things on the Yarnover Truck that you won’t see in many other shops in our area. We know that shopping with us takes a bit of effort from our customers so we work hard to make it worth their while and have thing they won’t find anywhere else.

What are some of the biggest challenges of owning a mobile business? What are some of the greatest rewards?

Our biggest challenge is to find locations where we can bring the truck to reach the most people. We cover a large area in Southern California going from San Diego up to Santa Barbara with visits to Palm Springs and the Inland Empire occasionally too. It’s hard to know all the best spots in such a large region so we rely on our customers who know their neighborhoods best to help us find good spots.

Our greatest rewards follows along this same storyline – we have some of the greatest customers around! We have lots of loyal yarnies who are willing to come and find us in all of the different locations where we bring the truck. They often tell us how they love to “stalk” us and to check out the new places we find for the truck.

Since you’re in Los Angeles, have you had a lot of celebrity customers?

We haven’t yet had many celebrities come on the truck and we think because we move around so much and are rarely the same spots often. We do dream of getting Julia Roberts on the truck one day and are still working our industry contacts to hopefully make it happen someday.

But being in Los Angeles, with ties to the entertainment biz has enabled us to be “knitting consultants” for a major motion picture called “Backseat.” Last fall we received a call from the prop master on this film set in the 1970s. He was looking for help to teach the extras used in the scene to knit and crochet properly and to provide some props to be included in the scene. The film is set to release near the end of this year so we won’t know how much of our work will be seen but it was a great time and definitely something we hope to do again someday!

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

The truck is gearing up for fall and we have lots of fun things planned. In addition to our regular schedule, we will be part of the San Diego Yarn Crawl in September featuring a trunk show from indie dyer Destination Yarns. We’ve worked with Jeanne to create a special colorway just for the crawl too.

Plus, we will be bringing the truck to the Stiches SoCal show in Pasadena in early November. We get to drive the truck right onto the showroom floor and we will be featuring the wonderful work of Dragonfly Fibers in our booth. Plus we will be launching a new exclusive color we’ve developed with Kate and her team. We love working with the talented dyers to create new and special colorways whenever we can!

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Barbra is a self-taught knitter and over the years, she has worked hard to teach herself new techniques and challenge herself with large projects. Both her grandmother and grandfather were excellent knitters and Barbra always wished they had lived to see her become the skilled knitter she is today. Her favorite thing to knit is sweaters, always adding extra length for her long arms.

Maridee has been crocheting since she was 12. Her grandmother first taught her the craft as something to help pass time during an extended hospital stay. Fifteen years ago, she took up the craft again and this helped lead to the creation of the Yarnover Truck. She had Barbra teach her to knit, too, so she is a bi-stitual crafter these days

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Owning a yarn shop means that most of the projects we work on are shop samples. We love being to show off the beautiful yarns we carry on the truck and know how a great sample can really help us sell lots of yarn!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Nomadic Knits

Becky (left) and Melissa (right) heading out to find all the local yarn.

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

You may know designer Melissa Kemmerer by her adorable sheep-y sweaters. You may not know that she and former yarn shop owner Becky Beagell are creating a new knitting magazine, called Nomadic Knits, that will focus on local regions and feature indie dyers, producers and designers. Their first issue, which will look at the knitting scene in Florida, is set to be released in the coming weeks.

How did the idea for Nomadic Knits come about?

Becky loves to travel, and recently sold her house and closed her yarn shop, The Glitter Ninja, to explore the country in a van with her poodle, Bubba. Melissa loves knitting and has been designing for several years. We wanted to find a project that could incorporate both of these passions while allowing us the freedom to expand the idea and grow with it as we discover new possibilities. There may have been a few cocktails involved as the original idea came to life.

Aside from designs, what will the publication include?

Each issue will feature local dyers or fiber producers, as well as articles about the local knitting scene and some interesting finds. The Florida issue includes information about fibers that are great for knitting in warm weather, a cocktail made with local ingredients, and tips for knitting on the beach.

Shadows in the Rain, a shawl design included in Issue One, using Be So Fine 100% bamboo yarn by Kristin Omdahl.

Why did you decide to focus on Florida for the first issue?

Both of us happened to be spending last winter in south Florida, not far from each other, and we wanted to share all of our knitting fun with the rest of the fiber community. We also wanted to correct the misconception that no one knits in Florida. It’s actually full of amazing dyers and passionate knitters!

Can you reveal what regions other issues will focus on?

Our second issue is focusing on New York, specifically upstate (everything north and east of NYC), where we both grew up. After that, we have plans to explore the southwestern United States. From there… the world!

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Melissa: My aunt taught me the basics when I was 16, and after a year of garter stitch scarves, she introduced me to patterns and how to read them.

Becky: After a few failed attempts at learning from family members, I taught myself to knit on a circular loom. Then one day I decided it was time to learn to use sticks and I grabbed a copy of Stitch ‘N Bitch by Debbie Stoller, and I was off and running. Or knitting.

Do either of you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

We both LOVE shopping for craft supplies, a hobby in itself! Melissa dabbles in cross-stitch, and wants to learn more advanced embroidery and basic sewing. Becky is your standard maker, trying anything she can get her hands on.

Becky’s dog, Bubba, joining in the photo shoot fun, with design Take Me To The Beach, knit in Sprout Sock by The Fiber Seed.

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Melissa: I crocheted an enormous acrylic blanket while I was in college. It took me about four years to complete it, as it was entirely in single-chain, and I only worked on it sporadically. The tension changed from year to year, and one end is loose and wonky, while the other end is so tight, it’s almost bullet-proof. My dad proudly displays the blanket on his couch, and I have never crocheted another thing.

Becky: A few years ago I made what I thought was going to be a trendy, chunky sweater. It became lovingly known as the Wooly Grimace at The Glitter Ninja. Does anyone remember Grimace, the McDonald’s character? Anyway… it was LARGE and purple and ridiculous. It probably weighed about forty pounds. We kept it around for comedic relief and threatened to make grumpy knitters wear it during knit club.

Where are each of your favorite places to knit?

Melissa: In theory, I love to knit outside, soaking up the sunshine by the pool or on the beach, but in reality, I can usually be found knitting in a cozy chair, binge watching Netflix.

Becky: I love knitting in the car. Unfortunately, Bubba can’t drive, so I usually only get to do that while Melissa and I are on yarn tour and she’s at the wheel. Qualified drivers, feel free to submit your applications.

Untangling SweaterFreak Knits

While I tend to discover most designers and patterns on Ravelry, I actually learned about Jenny of SweaterFreak Knits via Instagram. I was drawn to her modern, clean aesthetic and the use of subtle speckles in many of her shawls.

Despite her name, I approached her about pairing up with Nicole of Hue Loco to design a one-skein accessory pattern for the Indie Untangled Where We Knit yarn club. The result was Nicole’s Chelsea Park Cowl, a lovely shawl/cowl hybrid that looks so easy to throw on with a spring outfit. It is now available to purchase by non-club members.

Read on to learn more about Jenny’s career as a designer and about how the cowl got its name.

How did you decide to become a designer?

It happened organically. I have always preferred to knit things out of my head and after plenty of encouragement from Ravelry community, I started writing up the instructions to my ideas which became patterns.

Is there anything from your software developer side that transfers over to design?

Actually, it’s a great question and the answer is yes! Software development is all about planning and details which is very similar to knitwear design. The math behind grading requires quite a bit of focus and attention to detail. Similarly, writing the pattern is akin to writing code – both essentially are a list of instructions. You will find that many designers were involved in tech before they started designing because it really does employ the same part of the brain.

How did you come up with SweaterFreak Knits and why do you use it as your designer name?

My very first project after a long hiatus was a sweater. Wanting specific sweaters really was the reason that I picked up the needles again. This was back in 2006 and in 2007 Ravelry made its debut. I chose SweaterFreak as my nick and of course I had no idea I will end designing knitwear! In 2011 when I released my first pattern, I considered changing the moniker but since so many people knew me already I decided to keep it.

Jenny’s latest pattern, White Light.


When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned how to knit in 1985 when I was 7 years old. My maternal grandmother, Rivkah, taught me and I liked it right away. She was an avid crafter and actually preferred to crochet but she taught me both. We also share total love for yarn! She had a sizable stash and I grew up with lots of fabric and yarn around me. Most of my family two generations back were dress makers so I feel that making clothes with my hands is really something I am meant to be doing.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

It’s a bit of everything – sometimes I get a particular idea in my head, maybe from seeing it somewhere or just something I have wanted for awhile. I love browsing fashion magazines and see the clothing evolve. My personal favorite decade is the ‘60s which has lots of different elements – classic tailored pieces as well as boho-hippie style ones. I love both equally. Often times, the yarn itself starts everything in motion. For example, when you touch hearty unprocessed wool, you think fair isle.

The Vegas top.

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

The first step is to sketch it. This usually gives me a good idea of what garment or accessory is going to look like, what kind of shaping it will involve. Sometimes, I use colored pencils to sketch, if the design is colorful.

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

My absolutely favorite color is blue – all shades of it, except periwinkle. It hasn’t really changed. I also love various shades of grey, green and natural. Lately, I have really gotten into yellow and mustard colors – they just look so smashing with grey!

Jenny’s most popular pattern is her Everyday Shawl.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

Definitely outside, either in the park (closest to me is Chelsea Park!) or on the beach, or even my backyard! Somehow the combination of fresh air, warm wind and wool in my lap equals heaven. I could do this forever!

Untangling Casapinka

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I have to admit that when I first learned of the designer Casapinka, I was kind of intimidated by the idea of approaching her about posting on Indie Untangled. I had discovered her Loop shawl at the first Maryland Sheep & Wool indie pop-up at The Knot House and thought she was so talented with her innovative use of variegated yarns. I was also in awe of her colorwork skills with the Fall Is a Color hat that she designed for the 2015 Rhinebeck Trunk Show. When I learned she has worked as an ER doctor, I was convinced she was one of those people that is just so amazing at everything that you should probably hate them.

However, after getting to know Bronwyn (her real name), I was thrilled to find she is one of the most down to earth and hilarious knitters I’ve ever met. Her patterns simultaneously wow me with their brilliant use of color and crack me up with hilarious names like Welcome Back Garter, Mick Jagged and Your Slip Is Showing. I recently asked her to tell me a little bit more about her process and give me a small peek behind the speckled curtain:

You’ve worked as an emergency medicine doctor. How did you decide to become a designer?

Designing found me rather than my deciding to become a designer. I was very ill with Lyme Disease and I couldn’t stand lying around doing “nothing.” At least knitting made me feel productive… and then I found indie-dyed yarns. And I got addicted. You see where this is going!

How did you come up with Casapina and why do you use it as your designer name?

I chose the name Casapinka in 2007 when my husband and I bought a house that needed some work. Design blogs were just getting started and I would post about painting my dining room hot pink, wallpapering my dishwasher, that sort of thing. So the “Casa” part refers to the house and the “Pinka” was just chosen at whim… and then when I segued into knitwear design I just kept the name because it fit me.

When and how did you learn to knit?

As an exchange student in high school, I lived in New Zealand, land of three million people and 70 million sheep. I was stranded one week in the rain during spring vacation at a friend’s house on Lake Taupo. It poured for days and her sister knit most of a sweater during this time. It looked so boring and lame to be knitting, but as the week went on, we’d watched a bunch of movies and had nothing to show for it — and she had this amazing sweater. I actually thought those tiny needles and the slowness of knitting meant actually making a sweater was impossible, but as a metaphor for anything difficult, knitting consistently builds on itself. I was completely hooked and learned how to knit intarsia immediately so I could “draw” with my yarn.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Color! I adore rich color, hand-dyed yarn, and how different stitches work to show off the colors in the yarn. It usually begins with a color combination that catches my eye or a stitch pattern, a photograph, or some combination of the three. Seeing how indie dyers combine their colors is also inspiring and I never tire of looking at their Instagram posts.

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

It all begins with the yarn. If I know I want to knit something in particular (for example, I’m working on a swing coat right now) I don’t do anything until I find the right yarn. Sometimes, the yarn isn’t available in enough yards. Sometimes, it’s discontinued or in another country, or looks different in person compared to online. I adore when a local yarn store has a yarn for me because it’s the best of all worlds.

If a dyer has contacted me to do a design, I have to get the yarn first. Sometimes I’ll do a private Pinterest board with the dyer to get an idea of a particular inspiration that they would like, but usually I get free reign. If I try too much to make it into something specific I fall flat on my face. And finally, I’m sometimes asked to submit a proposal or draw a design that I have in mind. My drawings are laughable and do not reflect what goes on in my head. I can’t seem to make my vision go through my hand onto paper — just onto knitting needles.

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

Despite the moniker “Casapinka” I adore aqua. All shades of aqua! I also love pink but not all colors of pink. A gorgeous blue-red cannot be beat. Magenta (is that considered pink?) and recently certain greens are on my radar. It has absolutely changed and constantly changes, especially with the invention of speckled yarns. Suddenly, I can have a tiny bit of a certain color and it grows on me until I’m in love, like some of the gold/yellows… Oh, and did I mention coral? That’s a new obsession!

You’ve published a few sweater designs, but is there a reason you stick to shawls and accessories?

This is entirely by accident. I’ve made and designed a lot of sweaters but didn’t publish them because I don’t enjoy grading of sizes — and only learned about the all-important technical editor a few years ago. I’m fairly addicted to shawl knitting but I also have plans for more sweaters. The portability of accessories is also handy, as I have ended up knitting during swim meets, robotics practices, and Rubik’s Cube competitions. I actually have a tunic, a sweater, and a coat coming out in conjunction with Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

I love, love, love knitting in airports. I’m a plane/airport geek and can sit there for hours staring out at the runway, coffee by my side, phone turned off. I’m one of the rare humans who welcomes an airport delay (if I have my knitting, of course).

Untangling MK Nance

Designer MK Nance first popped on my radar (AKA the Indie Untangled Marketplace) at the end of 2014. Since she tends to design her accessory patterns with indie-dyed yarn, she was a perfect fit for the website and also for the Where We Knit Yarn Club, in which I pair together dyers and designers, who collaborate on an exclusive colorway and one-skein pattern.

For last year’s club, Nance bended the rules slightly and used two half skeins of Three Fates Yarn Terra Sock to create not one, but two patterns with a two-color cable design that has become her trademark. The Crystal Springs cowl and Jenkins hat are now available to purchase. I recently asked Nance to tell me a little bit more about her work and inspiration.

How did you decide to become a designer?

I just did! The first pattern I wrote was because I couldn’t find a pattern that I needed to make and friends’ friends asked me to make it for them so I wrote the pattern up and said I would teach them. Two dyers, Three Fates Yarn and The Periwinkle Sheep, both suggested I just do it.

What did you do before becoming a designer and how does it inform your design work?

The first thing I ever designed was a scarf was my sophomore year of high school, so I had not really done anything at that point. I studied anthropology and middle eastern studies in college. After that I lived in NYC, Cairo, and Portland, Oregon. Many names and motifs are inspired by where I have been or studied.

When and how did you learn to knit?

Mrs. Struk, my first and second grade teacher, kept me in during recess until I learned how to tie my shoes. That didn’t work so she took my mother aside and told her I needed better eye hand coordination, so knitting or crochet would be good to learn. As my mother can’t crochet she taught me how to knit. My shoes are never tied still (I can tie them now) but I have knitting in my purse, car and everywhere.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Honestly, if I knew I would have an easier time coming up with names.

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

If it will be self published, I’ll pull out the yarn and start painting stitches using my graphing program.

If it for a call for a third party publisher, I’ll pull up the mood board and paint stitches.

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

My favorite colors have not changed. I do use color differently, I once loved lace and variegated colorway but now I’ll use busier yarns with a solid with stranding or mosaic.

You recently published your first sweater design in Twist Collective. Do you plan to design more garments?

Absolutely! I am planning on releasing at least three more cardigans this year. I may also have a few pullover ideas bouncing around my head.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

I have two. Farina’s is a little bakery in Portland with great light, food, and the staff/owner are great people. Home is my other favorite place with my dog literally under foot.

Untangling Invictus Yarns

Sue of Invictus Yarns was one of the first dyers I reached out to when I began putting together Indie Untangled four years ago. Since then, she has become one of the most prolific posters, with a beautiful range of products that include her standout gradient and rainbow miniskein sets and expertly dyed variegated colorways.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

It was something that seemed fun to try. A few people asked me to dye skeins for them, too, and before I knew it, I had a shop and had a booth at Lambtown, a local fiber show. I haven’t looked back, and have discovered that I really enjoy my time in the dye pots!

How did you decide on the name Invictus Yarns?

The feelings of strength, courage, and determination that came with with the process were just amazing, and I wanted something that would convey them. As soon as Invictus came into my head, I knew it was the direction I wanted to go.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

I get this question fairly often, and am almost embarrassed to give a truthful answer, but for the most part, I let the skeins hang to dry and let them tell me what they want to be called. Sometimes I’ll have an idea before I dye them, but for the most part, the name comes to me after they’re dyed.

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

Purple is definitely my favorite color, but I’ve always loved jewel tones. I was never a fan of oranges, but have to admit that it’s become a fave lately.

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

It seems like I’m always on the hunt for the perfect red. I don’t think I really realized how many different shades there were before I started dyeing! I think the biggest challenge is often with getting accurate pictures for the shop, especially for reds and greens.


How often do you update your online shop?

It varies, but usually several times a month.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

I still have another job, but have cut it down to just a few hours per week so that I can spend more time on the shop. Dyeing is definitely my main business.

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

I think that changes every time I see another project! : D I love seeing the projects on Ravelry and at shows! A Phoenix-Wing shawl that was knit for a booth sample will probably always be one of my faves, tho. It was like wrapping myself in a giant hug when I opened it.

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

Hmmm. This may sound really silly, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind: I felt rather awkward when I began doing fiber shows, but learned that it can be a real blast to chat with people. As an introvert, that was a biggie, even if it sounds pretty basic. It also goes along with the whole Invictus strength-courage-determination thing, now that I think about it! It can still be a challenge trying to determine how much to chat and how much to let people just browse without coming across as though you aren’t acknowledging them, if that makes sense.