Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival seems to have snuck up on me this year. While I don’t have a stashing plan in mind (which probably means I’ll do more damage than I planned), I’m looking forward to spending time with beloved fiber friends and meeting some of my favorite indie business owners.
To help you plan, here’s a roundup of the Indie Untangled vendors at both the pop-up at The Knot House and the Howard County Fairgrounds, and a peek at just some of the goodies they’ll be bringing.
THE KNOT HOUSE INDIE POP-UP
This is the fifth annual indie pop-up that Cathy and Heather of The Knot House are throwing. In the spirit of the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, it brings together a collection of dyers and makers from around North America. Unlike the IU Rhinebeck show, it runs all weekend, with a preview party on Friday night from 5 to 9 p.m.
Dragon Hoard Yarn is a one woman show run by Trysten out of Utah. Her style is inspired by pop culture, geeky fandoms, and witchy themes.
I’ll be bringing the entire Outlander collection, including:
Lallybroch (green), Red Jamie (Orange), Clan Fraser (blue), and Je Suis Prest. (Blue and brown). I’ll also be giving a sneak peek at a new design coming out in July! The Moondrip Summer Tee will be showcased, and I will be there to help people create kits!
The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers specializes in hand-dyed yarns inspired by dyer Candice’s cultural heritage and Montana roots.
Aimee & Brian are the dyers of Little Fox Yarn, based just outside of Richmond, Virginia. Their subtle, wearable colorways are inspired by the Blue Ridge Mountains where Aimee grew up.
We will be at the Knot House Indie Dyer Pop Up this weekend. We will have all of our usual lineup of tonal yarns including our new Vixen Lace base.
See the festival map here.
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C28
Bare Naked Wools offers natural, dye-free, artisanal yarns in single breed and wool blends, wool and alpaca blends, and unique luxury blends.
• The hat is the “Happy Dog Cap” which we will be selling at MDSW as a kit with Betty King Natural Dyes Merino DK.
• The pullover sweater is “Multigrain”
• The lace shawl is “Harrier”
• The yarn is Better Breakfast DK, a luxury alpaca blend
Outside North, Booth N1
Bijou Basin Ranch provides sustainably harvested, high quality exotic yarns & fibers dyed by various indie dyers across the country. After 15 years of merchandising yarn, BBR will be closing its doors by the end of the year, so don’t miss your chance to see, feel and purchase at our last MDS&W Festival!
Pictured clockwise from the top left are:
Solids by MJ Yarns on Xanadu, 100% Mongolian Cashmere
The Valkyries Series by MJ Yarns on Gobi, 35/65 baby camel/Mulberry silk
The Mariposa Series by Colorful Eclectic on Himalayan Summit, 50/50 yak/Merino — brand new at the show!
Various colors by ModeKnit Yarns on Tibetan Dream, 85/15 yak/nylon
Outside Lower Corral, Booth LC9
Dragonfly Fibers has been dyeing high-quality yarn and fiber in suburban Washington, DC, for more than ten years. We’re known for our vivid and saturated tonal and variegated colorways, and we have gorgeous neutrals, too! Come see all that’s new and beautiful in the Lower Outside Corral!
Our brand-new tote bag is free to the first 25 customers both days and all purchases over $125. Available for purchase for $12.
Our newest yarn, Faerie, an ethereal mohair-silk blend, is perfect for warm-weather knitting. The Jocelyn colorway (shown in Pixie, also in Jocelyn) makes for a beautiful spring Elton, by Joji Locatelli.
Our show exclusive colorway, Carroll Creek Park’s bright and happy colors make it perfect for spring! It will be available on multiple bases. Supplies are limited, so be sure to stop by early in the morning for the best selection.
We will also have three great kits for the brand-new Casapinka design, Magical Thinking, which made its debut last Saturday during LYS Day.
Barn 5, Booth 14
We specialize in British and U.S. rare and heritage breed sheep. We gain our inspiration from the sheep themselves and the beautiful countryside. For those participating in the Shave Em to Save Em and the 52 weeks of sheep programs we will have both natural spinning fibers and yarns produced from the sheep here at the farm.
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B13
Knittyandcolor specializes in eye popping bright, unique pastel, and fun speckled yarn and fiber. Her husband, Subterranean Woodworks specializes in finely crafted, exotic wood and hand dyed Turkish spindles.
Outside Lower Corral, Booth LC18
Created by sisters, Helen and Mary Beth, Toad Hollow makes project bags and hand dyed yarn. Our products all have a whimsical sense usually based on books and fandoms we love. Limited quantities of our Maryland 2019 color, “Crab Pickin,” will be available this weekend.
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B2
Wolle’s Yarn Creations will be at MDSW for the third year and we are bringing our amazingly soft and deluxe Cotton/Silk yarns as well as our new Cotton/Bamboo yarns. Also, new this year: DK Cotton yarns, perfect for all your summer tops. Stop by and touch our yarns — feeling is believing.
Also at the festival will be:
Backyard Fiberworks, Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C4
Crafty Flutterby Creations, Barn 3, Booth 5
Into the Whirled, Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B16
Middle Brook Fiberworks, Main Exhibition Hall, Both B26
This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.
Since I started attending the New York Sheep & Wool Festival in 2011, I’ve known of Spirit Trail Fiberworks, one of the very first indie dyers to come on the scene. I gravitated toward Jennifer’s striking blues and her silky soft bases. Five years later, I purchased my first sweater quantity of Sprit Trail Birte, a luscious blend of Merino, Cashmere and silk that I used for Mary Annarella’s You Wear It Well, which is one of my all time favorite sweaters.
Shortly after I showed off my sweater at Maryland Sheep & Wool, where Jennifer also vends, she started posting on Indie Untangled, and I got to see what a variety of colors she creates on her luxurious bases. Jennifer’s Subscriber Inspiration Colors, in which she dyes colors based on a photo taken by one of her newsletter subscribers, are particularly unique, and I’m so looking forward to what she comes up with for installment for the Knitting Our National Parks series later this year.
If you’re going to Rhinebeck, Spirit Trail should definitely be on your shopping list.
Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.
I left my career in commercial real estate in Washington, DC, in 1998, after my son was born in late 1997. My daughter followed in 2000, and it was around mid-2001 when I started thinking about what I would do next for work. I had left real estate because I wanted to stay at home with my kids, so I was looking for something I could do from home.
I had started knitting again when I was pregnant with my son, so was really focused on trying to figure out how to turn knitting and textiles into a business. In early 2002, I took a dye workshop from Barbara Gentry at Stony Mountain Fibers in Charlottesville, Virginia, and then a few more dyeing classes at the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild. It was during the workshop with Barbara that a lightbulb went off in my head and I thought, “I could totally do this from home!” It seemed like it would be much more feasible than trying to knit for pay, so that’s what I did!
I spent the rest of 2002 investigating dyes and yarn suppliers, festivals and shows, website design… all the fun stuff. Then I started playing and experimenting with dyes and different yarn bases and fibers. I officially opened Spirit Trail Fiberworks in January 2003 with a small online shop, applied to all the shows I could and started doing shows that fall with the Knitter’s Review Retreat and the Fall Fiber Festival of Virginia. MDSW and NYSW followed the next year, along with a few other East Coast shows I did for a few years.
I was definitely on the very early side of the indie dyer explosion. I can remember customers at NY and MD looking at my yarns and saying they didn’t know what to do with them; indie dyeing just wasn’t much a thing yet. The industry has certainly evolved since then, and it’s been fun to watch and participate in this evolution.
How did you decide on the name Spirit Trail Fiberworks?
I sort of fell into my real estate career (my dad was a local DC architect and I worked in his office after college), and really, the entire 15 years I worked in real estate I pretty much longed to be doing something more creative. I have a degree in English literature with concentrations in fine art and philosophy, so the business world was not where I thought I’d ever be.
When I was trying to come up with a name, I came across a concept in Navaho weaving called the Weaver’s Pathway, or Spirit Trail. I wrote up a description of what it means and where it comes from on my website.
What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?
Gosh, everything. An image, an idea, a song, an impression. I get a lot of inspiration from the beautiful area where I live, in the shadow of Shenandoah National Park. But I get inspiration from all sorts of places. Usually, the colorway name comes from whatever inspired the color, but when I’m dyeing based on a feeling or impression it’s more difficult to put a name to the color. Sometimes there’s a lot of back and forth between myself, my friend Brooke who works for me, and my mom who also works for me — each of us throwing out words or phrases, and building from there until we get to the final name.
Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?
My favorite colors definitely change. I used to be drawn to earth tones like deep greens, browns and more muddy colors. Then it was grays and neutrals. These days, my favorites tend to be aqua blues and oranges. I’m sure they’ll change again. My ideas about color have definitely changed since I became I dyer. I used to have certain colors I hated – bubblegum pink and pastel colors, for instance. For years, I just didn’t dye pink at all. That’s definitely evolved – there are no colors I don’t like or won’t dye. I wouldn’t even say there are colors I wouldn’t wear anymore; I’m game for just about anything.
When and how did you learn to knit?
My mom taught me to knit when I was 14. Being the over achiever that I was/am, my first project was a long, cabled tunic in some nasty acrylic yarn (because that was mostly what was available back then). I pretty much cried through the entire process and my mom was not sympathetic at all, since I’d insisted on starting with something so big and complicated. I got through it, wore that tunic until it was frayed and pilled and nasty, and continued knitting through high school and college. I stopped knitting during my real estate years, started up again when I got pregnant with my son, and haven’t stopped since. He’ll be 21 later this year.
Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that is challenging to create?
One color I’ve been trying to create but have never done to my satisfaction is a “shimmery” silver on a wool yarn. It’s easy to get silk or Stellina to be a shimmery silver, since they’re already shimmery or sparkly. But to get a silver-gray with the characteristics of metallic silver on a matte base is tough. I’m still working on that.
What are some of your favorite FOs you or your customers have made with your yarn?
This is a hard question! I absolutely love seeing what my customers make with my yarn. It’s hard to pick a favorite. Of my own projects, I love my Traveler Tunic by Joji Locatelli that I turned into a dress and my Gola sweater that I test knit for Laura Nelkin with the addition of some fun vertical stripes (editor’s note: Jennifer is wearing it in the photo at the beginning of this post).
Other favorites include North Shore, (I wear this one all.the.time; pictured above), the “Caragh Sweater” I made for my daughter, Caragh, Obsidian (so super-sexy), Beck (crazy-gorgeous!), Starting Point (love how this kit turned out) and Lotus Mittens (I’m a sucker for anything colorwork).
What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?
I’ve learned so much. The one huge benefit of my past career, which I now appreciate very much, is that I am really good at budgets, spreadsheets, financial forecasting – all the business aspects of running a business. But, beyond appreciating my experience much more now than I ever did before, I’ve learned quite a few valuable lessons over the last 16 years.
First, customer service is key. It’s essential for a small business. My focus is creating the best quality work so I have happy customers; I really work to have the best customer service I can in every aspect of my business.
Second, it’s a business, not a hobby. My prices have to reflect realistic margins (while still staying as competitive as possible) that will allow me to continue to run my business.
Third, work can’t take over every aspect of life. This last one is the most difficult for me – the work/life balance – because I’m so Type A and can get pretty obsessive. It’s so easy to let work consume every waking minute (and more), but in order to have a full life and not get burned out, there need to be boundaries. About six or seven years ago, I really put the brakes on my business because I felt it was growing beyond what I could manage, with two small children still at home, and keep it to my philosophy, which was that it remain a small business, and that I am the one dyeing all the yarn (the latter has been my driving focus since day one, and it certainly limits growth potential). Hindsight being 20/20, part of me regrets that decision now, but it was the right one for me to make at the time. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint, so I have to make decisions to the best of my ability, and then continue to move forward.
Last, if you have your own small business, it’s essential to love what you do, at least if you’re going to do it well. But no matter how much you love your job, some days it’s going to be WORK and not so much fun. My gauge that I’m doing well is when I can successfully dye and have it turn out great, even when I’m not in the mood to do it, and that 29 days out of 30 I love what I do. A good friend of mine is a potter and he told me once, “You can only create something once. After that, it’s just production.” This is so very true, so to keep my creativity alive and well, I started dyeing non-repeatable colors (my “Lucky Pots”) in addition to repeating colorways. His answer was to build himself a salt-fire kiln, since the salt firing process is more unpredictable. So that’s how he creates one-of-a-kind work, versus his major production work. It’s essential to keep things fresh, and feed your soul with your work.
I usually like to go to fiber festivals with some sort of plan. At this year’s Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, while I had a few things that I know I wanted to snag, like Anne of Middle Brook Fiberworks’ Vintage No. 4 (a blend of Shetland, fine wool, silk and a bit of ramie — the next best thing to cuddling her sheep!), I let myself get swept away in it all. Some of my purchases were guided a bit by Instagram:
Some of them were impulse buys, like the not-pictured Jill Draper Kingston, which I guess technically wasn’t an impulse buy since the color I wanted was sold out and I ended up buying it on Etsy Tuesday.
Aside from stashing, I also had fun taking everything in and spending time with my fiber friends.
The Knot House
The weekend started as it usually does at The Knot House indie pop-up. Well, it started with an amazing dinner at Black Hog BBQ a few blocks away. Then, after making sure my hands were completely clean of sauce, I petted the yarn.
The Friday night kickoff party was a much calmer affair than last year thanks to the early bird shopping that I couldn’t make it in time for. It was a nice atmosphere for chatting and snapping photos.
Weather wise, this was probably the best Maryland to date. The temperatures were perfect T-shirt and shawl weather, whereas previous festivals were either “I really regret wearing any handknits” or “What is this, Rhinebeck?”
After snagging my Vintage No. 4 (which may become a Charlie’s Cardigan), I visited the Into the Whirled booth to see the Bruce Canyon-inspired Hoodoos in person and admired the rest of Cris and James’s new speckles.
Cris of Into the Whirled took inspiration from a photo of sunrise over Thor’s Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park for Hoodoos, named for the tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins or badlands. ITW has only recently made the move into speckled yarn, but as you can see the results are stunning. You can preorder the yarn here through May 25. And see it in person in their booth if you’re going to Maryland Sheep & Wool this weekend.
Speaking of stunning, if you’re not sure what to make with the yarn, Deb Gerhard of Spruce Lane Designs just released Sunset Over Bryce, an asymmetrical triangle shawl with texture and lace that uses two skeins of Hoodoos. And she’s offering $1 off until June 30th with the code Thor.
Star Wars fans, you might want to hop on this May 4th update from Slipped Stitch Studios. It goes live at 9 a.m. Pacific time with three fabrics, New Yarn socks, and a Princess Leia enamal pin.
Heather of Hellomello Handspun hand selects special fleeces from her favorite farms and has them spun in small batches at a family-owned mill in upstate NY. She then lovingly hand dyes these unique bases in Brooklyn. Check out the selection on her Etsy shop.
Suzanne of Groovy Hues Fibers recently had a shop update devoted to bases that she doesn’t normally bring to fiber festivals and trunk shows, including Smoothly Groovin’, a single-ply fingering weight base made of Superwash Merino and Mulberry silk, and Bambooin’ ‘n Groovin’, a fingering-weight base made of Superwash Merino, bamboo and nylon. You’ll also find fun colorways like Emo Little Pony and Ludicrous Speed: They’ve Gone To Plaid!
Jennifer of Spirit Trail Fiberworks designed Panier, her new hat pattern, especially for her new base, Andromeda, a DK-weight, single-ply 100% Superwash Merino. It’s debuting at MDSW this weekend, along with some other great products.
Katrina of Fluffy U Fiber Farm will also be at MDSW, bringing kits for her very own Conewago shawl, beads strung for spinning and art batts, just to name a few things. If you’re not headed to Maryland, Katrina will be listing everything on her website afterwards and is offering free shipping until June 30th.
Alisa of Knitspinquilt will be vending along with yours truly on May 12 at the first Moms & Makers Market in NYC. She’ll be bringing three sizes of project bags, stitch markers, notions tins, and a couple of small surprises.
If you’re a turtle fan, Heather is hosting a Turtle-Along — a KAL with her turtle-themed patterns in her Ravelry group starting June 1. To prepare, all seven of her turtle patterns are 20% off.
Lambstrings Yarn has more Fading Point kits in stock.
I’ve always thought of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival as the more low-key fiber festival. Aside from the fact that I’m not organizing a massive Friday trunk show (I leave that to Cathy and Heather, the owners of The Knot House), there’s no “Maryland sweater” to knit because it’s usually not sweater weather, last year being the exception.
However, as I’ve been putting together the shopping guide for the weekend, I’ve realized that the stashing temptation is anything but low key.
Here’s a roundup of the Indie Untangled vendors at both the pop-up at The Knot House and the Howard County Fairgrounds, and a peek at just some of the goodies they’ll be bringing.
I plan to be at the festival on Saturday, sporting a new shawl by Deb Gerhard that she designed with Into the Whirled’s Bryce Canyon-inspired Knitting Our National Parks colorway, which you can see below. I’ll be at the ITW booth at 12:30 p.m. for an Indie Untangled meetup, and you can see the yarn and the design in person. Hope to see you there!
THE KNOT HOUSE INDIE POP-UP
This is the fourth-annual indie pop-up that Cathy and Heather are throwing. In the spirit of the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, it brings together a collection of dyers and makers from around North America. Unlike the IU Rhinebeck show, it runs all weekend, with a preview party on Friday night from 5 to 9 p.m.
Sandra, who is based in nearby Virginia, will have some of the Indie Untangled Knitting Our National Parks colorway, Glaciers and Wildflowers (pictured above), on hand, along with her famous speckled skeins.
Julie hails from Montreal, with a beautiful palette of dreamy semisolids and subtle speckles.
Pictured clockwise from the top left are Good Morning Fredrick, an event exclusive, a Nuances set (five 28-gram mini skeins of Leizu Superwash Merino/silk fingering) in Pivoines, and a selection of colorways.
Candice will be coming to the show all the way from Montana, bringing her soft, Western-inspired colorways.
Pictured clockwise from the top left are Half Breed, Heartbreak Hotel and Paul Newman in Foxy Lady (70% Merino/30% silk), Monarch in Mighty Mo (70% kid mohair/30% Mulberry silk), and Gary Cooper and Are You Sure Hank Done It That Way on Foxy Lady.
Aimee is another Virgina-based dyer, known for her beautiful semisolids.
Pictured clockwise from the top left are Old Favorite, Loganberry on Vixen (Superwash Merino and silk fingering), various colors of Vixen, and her Blue Boy, Silver Birch and Deep Water colorways.
Vicki sews her adorable and functional project bags in Maryland. She will bring a variety of zipper bags, including some made with a sparkly linen fabric that is perfect for showing off your fiber flare.
See the festival map here.
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C4
Alice, who is based in Silver Spring Maryland, will be bringing her popular semisolid and speckled colorways and mini-skein kits.
In the first image, pictured clockwise from the top left are Backyard Fiberworks Sock in Urchin, Stormcloud, the Spiced Cider mini skein set, and Mallow.
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C28
Famed designer Anne Hanson will be bringing stunning samples made with her line of custom-milled yarns that show off the natural creams, browns, and greys.
Pictured above is the Deep Dive sweater knit in Better Breakfast Fingering (55% Merino, 35% dehaired alpaca and 10% nylon), the Polypore shawl knit in Chebris lace (60% Merino/40% mohair), and a selection of Better Breakfast Worsted (65% Merino, 35% dehaired alpaca).
Outside North, Booth N1
Based in Colorado, this mom and pop operation specializes in yak blends and in the last few years they have begun collaborating with indies on hand-dyed colorways.
Pictured clockwise from the top left are the Gobi base (baby camel and silk) in the Valkyrie-inspired hand-dyed colors, Shangri-La Lace (50/50 yak and Mulberry silk) in the Explorer collection, new stickers that they will be handing out, and variegated Shangri-La Lace.
Outside Lower Corral, Booth LC9
Also from Maryland, Kate and her crew are MDSW veterans, bringing a huge selection of colorful yarns.
Pictured above is the Maryland Mini color pack and Andrea Medici’s Calverts and Crossings Cowl, along with Dragonfly’s show exclusive colorway Boardwalk Lights, named after Ocean City, Maryland, at night.
Barn 5, Booth 14
Shepardess Katrina Updike has been raising British and rare breed sheep, including Blue-Faced Leicester, Gotland, Leicester Longwool and Teeswater, for the past 18 years on a farm in Pennsylvania.
Pictured clockwise from the top left are a selection of her BFL fingering, a sample of Katrina’s Spring Lilac colorway, Merino Bulky in Tropical Breeze, Pebble Beach and Lilly Pad, and beads strung for spinning.
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B16
New York-based dyer Cris is known for her semisolid and variegated colorways, and she has recently moved into speckles, including her colorway for the Indie Untangled Knitting Our National Parks series.
Pictured clockwise from the top left are the new speckled colorways, batts in various colors, Shokan Singles single fingering in the Bryce Canyon-inspired Hoodoos colorway (which you can see in person in her booth and preorder here), and braids of fiber.
Outside North, Booth N12
Sarah, who is based in Georgia, is known for her eye-poppingly bright colorways. Aside from yarn and fiber she’ll also be bringing Turkish spindles made by her husband under the name Subterranean Woodworks.
Pictured clockwise from the top left are new colorways Smoky Quartz and Neon Lotus, along with the spindles and fiber braids.
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B26
Anne offers yarn blends made with the fiber from the sheep on her New Jersey farm as well as stunning handspun. At the festival, she’ll be debuting her Vintage No. 4, organic Polwarth coordinating sets, and lip balm.
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth A30
Jennifer, another Virginia-ite, is a master of dyeing a variety of colors on both rustically sheepy and luxurious silk bases.
Pictured clockwise from the top left is a set of Aurora (single-ply fingering Superwash Merino), Selene (DK-weight, non-shrink organic wool), stitch markers from Katrinkles, and Jennifer’s new enamel mugs.
You can see more goodies in Jennifer’s sneak peek post.
Here are some other vendors I’m looking forward to visiting:
The Buffalo Wool Co.
Outside Upper Corral, Booth UC1
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B9
Jill Draper Makes Stuff
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C31
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B29
Outside North, Booth N2
Neighborhood Fiber Co.
Outside East, Booth E7
North Light Fibers
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C9
Following on the heels of her luxuriously rustic Vintage No. 1, Anne of Middle Brook Fiberworks has introduced Vintage No. 2. It’s a blend of hand-selected fleeces, including 40% Cormo and Merino from a sheep named Marshall in New York’s Hudson Valley and 15% alpaca fleece from Angel. There’s also 35% superfine Shetland and 10% cultivated silk. Anne has hand dyed this DK-weight yarn in five deliciously soft and bright colors.
Speaking of pettable yarn, Siidegarte’s silk/cotton base looks absolutely divine. Called Siide-Gfroit, which is Swiss German for “enjoyable,” it comes in 10 colors inspired by the Pantone Spring 2017 palette and would be perfect for summer projects.
Calling all literature lovers: the Regency Collection from Pandia’s Jewels features yarn inspired by Jane Austen characters and novels. There are three-skein and four-skein kits, while three of the four colors are available individually. The collection is available to preorder until May 14.
Spencer Hill Naturally Dyed Yarn is welcoming spring with two new bases. Ruth is a Superwash Merino fingering-weight single that takes on her natural dyes beautifully, while Meg is a non-Superwash organic wool in what Barbara calls a “sporty/DK-ish weight.” Also new are naturally-dyed sock blanks.
Still looking for a Mother’s Day gift, or need to leave some hints? Go Knit Yourself’s Gift of Yarn program is the perfect solution. The way it works is you or your loved one buys the package and then the gift recipient chooses the color and fiber. Conveniently, Melanie is also celebrating Small Business Week with 15% off through tonight at midnight with the coupon code SMALLBIZWEEK.
This is the second in a series of blog posts with the generous sponsors of the 2016 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.
I first learned about The Knot House in Frederick, Maryland, when Dami of Magpie Fibers began posting to Indie Untangled, and she told me about the amazing yarn shop where she learned to knit and was inspired to start dyeing after seeing yarns from Duck Duck Wool and Western Sky Knits. A yarn store that carried many of my favorite indies? That sounded like a dream come true! In May 2015, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to visit the shop, housed in a beautiful old brick building, when the owners, Cathy Baucom and her daughter, Heather Tinney, organized their first indie pop-up during last year’s Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.
Heather gave me the lowdown on her and her mom’s decision to open a store devoted to indie dyers and shared their history as makers:
Tell me about the decision to open The Knot House. Had both of you always wanted to own a yarn shop?
No, actually. When we had talked about opening a yarn shop forever ago, we thought the internet would kill yarn shops. Then indie yarns became popular.
Mom was living in Alabama managing a small business for someone. I was and still am working for Motorola Solutions selling public safety communication systems (think radios for firefighters and cops). Anyway, my husband, Paul, asked me to go with him to look at a building that was for sale. He and his business partner were interested in it. It was a hair salon. The natural light was exceptional that day and when I saw the built in bookcases, my head was flooded with yarn shop ideas. It was November of 2012.
It had been three years since Kristi Johnson, owner of Shalimar Yarns, had closed her shop and committed to dyeing yarn. She was a big influence and is still one of our best supporters. Paul finally grew tired of trying to talk me out of it and agreed to the idea (once the building was purchased) under one condition: my Mom (Cathy) had to move here and run the day-to-day operation. I really think he thought we wouldn’t do it… He being the landlord was a challenge. Let me make it clear that we get no preferential treatment! Mom and I were planning on opening in September of 2013, so when he told me they were taking possession of the building in April and we had to sign a lease in May if we wanted the space, things got testy. At the end of May, Mom pulled up in a Penske Truck with all her belongings and we opened The Knot House the fist weekend of July 2013.
What did you both do before you became yarn shop owners?
Mom managed a pest control company in Auburn, Alabama. I still work for Motorola, so as you can imagine, the shop is a creative sanctuary for me.
Why did you choose the dyers that you carry?
Easy question. We simply wanted to carry the yarns we wanted to knit with.
When and how did you learn to knit?
I love telling this story. It was November and I was not inspired by the local quilt shop and in “make it” mode. One day I walked in to Kristi Johnson’s shop, Eleganza Yarns, and asked if she could teach me to knit. It was November, and she was busy. So, with my “I can do anything” attitude, I bought yarn, needles, and a instruction pamphlet. I was struggling with the cast on and my husband, Paul, said, “do you want me to show you how to do that?” I swear, I never knew he could knit and purl. He said his grandmother taught him. So I caught the bug and told Mom she had to learn too. Mom found a local shop in Auburn, and the owner taught her.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
In no particular order: Alicia Plummer, Joji [Locatelli], Amy Miller, Melanie Berg, Thea [Colman], Isabell Kraemer, Laura Aylor, Casapinka, Lisa Mutch, Heidi Kirrmaier, Lynn Di Christina, MediaPeruana, and Stephen West. I could go on.
Do either of you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?
I used to quilt a lot. Now it has its time and place. Mom used to needlepoint.
Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.
For me it must be my Color Affection. I started it before we ever thought about opening The Knot House. I had been to Montreal and found Espace Tricot. We love these girls! Anyway, it was the first time I had ever seen Sweet Georgia yarns, so I picked three skeins. I was making it for Mom and then it turned into one of our first shop samples. LOL.
Mom says her favorites are the selfish knits she does for her great grandchildren. She has done some exquisite baby dresses. However, she does admit that Lisa Mutch’s Asunder Shawl is a great story. We had just gotten in North Bound Knitting’s yarn, and there were these two yellows. Mom is not a fan of yellow. Ever. We thought that would be the color that wouldn’t sell… so she used them. One was a perfect lemon color. Damn if we didn’t order those yellows three or four times. And one day, after the shawl had run its course, a man came in and offered Mom an unmentionable amount of money for it. He was quite charming as I remember because they were quietly talking in the other room while some regulars and I were knitting in the front. Mom doesn’t entertain selling samples usually. Next thing I know, she is wrapping it up in a pretty package, and off he went. All day she said she couldn’t believe she sold that shawl.
As most of us knitters do, I started off my trip to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival vowing not to buy that much yarn. In anticipation of a move, and knowing that I only had room for maybe a few skeins in the small set of drawers that houses my stash, I vowed to be good this past weekend. Overall, I was, and I spend most of the time enjoying the company of my friends and making progress on the multiple projects I had cast on in the last month, likely in anticipation of Maryland purchases (there must be an ulterior motive when I become non-monogamous in my knitting).
After a slightly delayed Amtrak ride down through the endlessly soggy weather with my friend Stefanie, we were picked up by Lynn and made sure to hit Fibre Space for the Hazel Knits trunk show. It was nice to finally get to meet Wendee after admiring her gorgeous blues, purples and grays. I was drawn to her Divine Merino/Cashmere/silk base in a luminous blue-tinged gray called Reflection, which I thought would make the perfect Featherweight. Unfortunately, there was only a single skein remaining, so I cursed the Stashing Prevention Gods and vowed to order a sweater quantity online at some point.
Our next stop was The Knot House for the Indie Pop-up, where I anticipated doing most of my damage. Wearing my Nangou in Duck Duck Wool’s incredible Night Bokeh, I of course was drawn to her huge table filled with 80/20 Merino Silk Fingering in lots of speckled yumminess. I was also thrilled to get to see Christine of Skeinny Dipping there, next to her display of fun-named colorways like Wacky Tabacky and Space Pants.
I also admired the special Knot House Indie Pop-up colorways from Western Sky Knits and Northbound Knitting, spied some mini skeins from Pigeonroof Studios and drooled over Dami of Magpie’s incredible gradient wrap.
One of my favorite discoveries at the pop-up was Laura Silberman/Clay By Laura‘s ceramic yarn bowls, mugs (made especially for the pop-up!) and small bowls with knitting-related terms, which I scooped up two of.
Spincycle Yarns, a company I hadn’t been familiar with, had a fun display of hand-dyed, milled handspun.
My haul was quite restrained, compared to last year’s, and included another of Sandra’s speckled lovelies in 80/20, called After Party, and Christine’s Mericash Fingering in Space Pants (because it’s gorgeous and I can’t resist the SNL/Peter Dinklage reference).
After a night of staying up late, and anticipating the mud after days of rain, the crew staying at Chez That Clever Clementine took our time getting ready and made it to the fairgrounds around noon (so no Jennie the Potter mug this year). My main mission was to get to Jill Draper’s booth to grab an Edradour kit, a shawl by the awesome Thea Coleman designed with Jill’s Mohonk Cormo yarn, which I’ve been admiring forever.
Once that mission was accomplished, I spent the rest of my time browsing and made sure to take in my friend Anne’s booth for Middlebrook Fiber Works (formerly A Little Teapot), where, aside from her lotion bars, fiber and spun necklaces (dyed that vivid red by Dragonfly Fibers!), she displayed silk scarves that she dyed using materials found on her vast property in rural New Jersey.
And then, my friends and I of course stayed up far too late, knitting, eating, chatting and having such a great time that we forgot about our planned game of Knitters Against Swatches.
Last year was my first time at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I enjoyed experiencing a fiber festival other than Rhinebeck, with what felt like a slightly smaller crowd (at least when it came to snagging a Jennie the Potter mug!) and warmer temperatures that were perfect for showing off fingering-weight shawls.
I really loved starting off the weekend with the indie pop-up at The Knot House, a local yarn shop housed in a beautiful historic building in Frederick, Maryland, about a half hour from the fairgrounds. Cathy and Heather, the mother/daughter team who run the shop, will be hosting another event this year!
The mix of dyers at the 2016 pop-up include Indie Untangled artisans Duck Duck Wool, Magpie Fibers and That Clever Clementine, who were there last year, as well as Skeinny Dipping and Pigeonroof Studios. In addition, there will be yarn from O-Wool, YOTH Yarns and Spincycle Yarns, pottery from Clay by Laura and shawl pins and more from Jul Designs. Some of the talented dyers/makers — including Sandra of DDW, Dami of Magpie, Vicki/That Clever Clementine and Christine of Skeinny Dipping — will be there in person.
Of course, what would be an event without coveted show exclusives? Heather says nearly everyone there will have a special item for the event, such as a limited colorway or pattern. There will also be special colorways from some of the indies the shop regularly carries, including Northbound Knitting and Western Sky Knits, as well as the new Aerie base from Shalimar Yarns, which is a Merino, mohair and kid silk blend.
Cathy and Heather have also designed special event bags, shown above, with a limited number available for sale and an entry for a free bag with a skein of featured yarn from EACH DYER.
The pop-up will take place on Friday, May 6, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, May 8, from noon to 5 p.m. If you’re on Periscope, I’m planning to broadcast from the event on Friday eventing, so be sure to follow me (I’m indieuntangled, natch) to get a taste of the beautiful products on display!
I was already pretty excited about experiencing my first Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival when I decided earlier this year that I was going to clear my calendar and make the trip down. I was looking forward to spending a relaxing weekend hosted by Vicki, AKA That Clever Clementine, showing off my newest shawls and sleeveless knit tops, perhaps buying a few skeins. But when Heather first emailed me in February about the indie pop-up she was putting together at The Knot House, her shop in Frederick, MD, I knew my budget would be in trouble. The vendor list was pretty incredible, with several dyers from this site: Duck Duck Wool, French Market Fibers, Lakes Yarn and Fiber, Magpie Fibers and Western Sky Knits, as well as O-Wool and YOTH Yarns.
Leaving Friday morning, I hitched a ride with my friends Lynn and Stefanie and we arrived in Frederick around 4 p.m., an hour before the shop opened for the pop-up preview. Vicki, who was selling her bags and yarn bowls, was already inside setting up and we waited patiently on the sidewalk, happily knitting away on our respective projects and talking yarn with the one woman who made it there before us.
The line got a little longer as we waited, but the crowd was just the right size: big enough to classify this as a fiber Event, but allowing enough space to comfortably shop.
French Market Fibers was my first stop. As a stay-at-home mom, Margaret has limited time to dye, and her Etsy updates tend to sell out faster than it takes me to decide what I want. Here, I had the luxury of taking everything in and figuring out what I had to have (um, all of it) before claiming two skeins of Gelato in Warehouse Sock and one Midnight on the Moonwalk Uptown Sock.
I also admired some of Ami’s recent variegated skeins. She had mentioned when I interviewed her last year that she found dyeing them challenging, but you wouldn’t know it from the results.
I was very excited to finally meet Dami of Magpie Fibers, who posted to Indie Untangled shortly after launching her line at The Knot House in December. I knew from the photos she posted that she had beautiful colors, but seeing them in person was another story. Instead of creating individual colorways, Dami dyes in a gradient, so it was very easy to find colors that complemented one another.
This is Ysolda Teague’s Hediye shawl, using Dami’s awesomely-named colorway, Rhinestone Cowboy.
In person, Dami was just as lovely as her yarns — with great hair to match.
Sandra of Duck Duck Wool was popular, of course. I finally snagged a skein of her Night Bokeh colorway that went so fast at last year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show, and admired her newest “accident,” Little Black Knit.
Vicki also had a ton of beautiful stuff. I could always use a new project bag, but I held off on buying since I’m already collaborating with her on a couple of things…
The Knot House was so inviting, housed in a beautiful historic building with a ton of natural light streaming in through the big front windows. Heather and her mom, Cathy, have created a wonderful business with a drool-worthy selection of indies, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you happen to be nearby (Frederick is also a cute, walkable town with some cool-looking shops).
Then, of course, there was the festival itself. There were definitely some pros and cons. The pros? Since there’s a suggested donation instead of an admission fee, it was easy to stroll in and make a beeline for Jennie the Potter, where the line for limited-edition mugs wasn’t quite as long as it is at Rhinebeck. My friends and I even got to her booth 25 minutes after it opened and were still able to snag some of the last ones.
Isn’t he cute? (I mean the mug.)
There was also this sign, which I think everyone took a photo of. Well played.
The main con was that since MDSW tends to take place on the first warm weekend of spring, knitwear was a little tough to to pull off. My Urban was fine in the morning, but by the afternoon I was quite toasty (next time I’ll wear a T-shirt). I was able to show off my Night’s Watch shawl by the talented Lara Smoot — who I also finally got to meet! — but between the heat and the limited shade, I was fried a lot sooner than I am at Rhinebeck. But, overall, I enjoyed what felt like a more laid-back version of the New York festival. It gave me an opportunity to just relax and enjoy time with friends and not feel too much pressure to add to my stash…
But I did, of course. Here’s the haul, which aside from the Duck Duck Wool, French Market Fibers, Magpie and Jennie the Potter, includes handspun earrings and a Lotion Baah from Anne of A Little Teapot Designs, who scored a spot in the festival a few weeks ago.