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.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Stacie Dawson of Must Stash Yarn

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Stacie Dawson of Must Stash Yarn

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

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

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

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

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

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

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

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

Yarn with Blue, red, green and purple stripes.

When and how did you learn to knit?

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

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

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

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

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

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

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

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Shannon Steinberg of Woodsy & Wild

Shannon of Woodsy and Wild

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

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

Tell me about how you started a project bag business?

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

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

Floral zipper bags

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

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

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

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

Gray project bag

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

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

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

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

How do you find your unique fabrics?

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

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

When and how did you learn to knit?

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

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

Red needle case

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

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

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

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

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Asylum Fibers

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers in a pink sweater

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

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

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

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

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

Purple variegated yarn

Forbidden

Which of your colorways are your favorites?

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

Have your favorite colors changed since you became a dyer?

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

An aqua to dark blue fade of yarn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled?

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