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.

Meet Grace, Espace Tricot’s newest addition

Lisa and Melissa of Espace Tricot

This is the 16th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Espace Tricot is a modern yarn shop located in Montreal, Canada, and owners Lisa Di Fruscia and Melissa Clulow recently began venturing beyond its carefully curated selection of yarns, notions, accessories, books and patterns, and established its own hand-dyed yarn line.

Their newest addition is Grace, a singly-ply Merino. Working with local hand-dyer Annie Paaren, Lisa and Melissa created a palette of 28 colors, designed to reflect the unique atmosphere both of Montreal and the store. The name Grace is inspired by both the luxury of the Merino/silk/Cashmere blend and Espace Tricot’s location in the neighborhood of Notre-Dâme-de-Grace.

Colorful skeins of yarn.

The color palette ranges from essential neutrals through moody hues and perfectly balanced brights. All the colors are inspired by Melissa and Lisa’s aesthetic as shop owners and knitters, and include the shades they have been drawn to knit with over the years. Annie combined their input with her own dyeing expertise to craft a cohesive and complex palette.

Grace is ideal for sweaters, such as Espace Tricot’s Gracious sweater, as well as “one-skein-wonder” patterns. You can also hold it with a mohair/silk blend for projects like the Bonjour/Hi cowl and Frankie sweater.

In naming the colors, Lisa and Melissa wanted to reflect Montreal’s geography, architecture and history, along with Quebec’s culture and identity:

The warmth of Opéra and Truffle recalls lazy strolls along Montreal’s quirky streets of brick terraces. Take a cosy walk on Mount Royal in fall with the bold autumnal colors of Érable and Sous-bois. Revel in the frolics of Cirque du Soleil with Cirque. Bask in the bright summer sun by the river with the dappled tones of Printemps and Nuage. Adventure out east to take in the beauty of the Gulf of St Lawrence with Tadoussac, Baleine, and Madeleine. Or dress up in your most low-key glamorous “I woke up like this” neutrals for a stylish lunch in the Old Port in Leonard and Chateau.

And of course, don’t miss a trip to Espace Tricot’s brick-and-mortar store, where the staff will greet you with a friendly “Bonjour/Hi!” in a nod to Montreal’s bilingual spirit. You might even bump into Les Filles – “the girls” Lisa and Melissa themselves.

You can also meet them virtually on their YouTube channel.

What to stash this week: yarn to dye for

Red yarn

Elizabeth Colorful Eclectic has launched her Murderino Collection, inspired by the hit true crime/comedy podcast My Favorite Murder, and named for its adoring fan base. The collection includes nine colors with a black dappled effect. They include the signature red dubbed “Stay Sexy, Knit a Sweater,” and a chilling green called “Toxic Masculinity Ruins The Party Again.”

And perhaps the best thing about this collection? Through the end of the year, Colorful Eclectic is donating $2 from each skein of the Murderino Collection sold to End the Backlog, an initiative to eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits in the United States.

A yarn skein menorah and the words Indie Untangled presents Eight Nights of Hanukkah.

I have fond memories of celebrating Hanukkah as a child, deciding which present to unwrap each night. Should it be the one that I know is a cassette I’ve been lusting after because of how it’s shaped and sounds when you shake it? Or the large package that has to be a Cricket doll?

With that in mind, I was inspired to collaborate with some fellow Jewish fiber friends — Julia of Pandia’s Jewels, Spencer and Reggie of The Fiberists and Raya of Blissful Knits — on an Indie Untangled Eight Nights of Hanukkah Kit! Kits will include individually-wrapped items from all of these folks, plus a few special surprises.

We’re partying like it’s the 5780s with an ’80s-themed palette inspired by the colors in the skein-menorah above. Preorders are limited and open only until November 15.

A drawstring bag with women scientist fabric.

Alisa is back after a semester in England for graduate school and debuted sweater-sized bags at Indie Untangled. They are now available in her Etsy shop! There are both drawstring bags and box bags in a size designed to hold a worsted weight sweater quantity of yarn. As always, Alisa will donate 15% of the sale price to RAICES Texas. 

Skeins of powder blue yarn.
Sue collaborated with designer Adrienne Fong, who recently lost her battle with cancer, on a special colorway called Wisdom. She will be donating $10 for each skein sold to the American Cancer Society in Adrienne’s memory.

Fall foliage and green to red ombré yarn.

Prior to this year’s Indie Untangled, Shireen of The Blue Brick embarked on a fall ombré colorway, taking inspiration from her own photo of fall foliage to create leaf peeping in yarn form. Autumnal premiered at IU and it is now available on the Indie Untangled website on Killarney Sock (regular and 800-yard Woolly Mammoth) and Manitoulin Merino Sparkle. ⁣

This colorway will also be at the Indie Goes West: Hollywood Edition popup in LA on November 9.

8 Nights of Hanukkah Gift Set

Stephanie of Rock Solid Designs, who creates project bags, is collaborating with other makers for holiday gift sets. Her 12 Days of Christmas and 8 Nights of Hanukkah gift sets include items from Fairy Tale Yarn Co, TurtleMade, One Sock Wonder bags and Me Time Botanicals. Preorders are up now, and packages will ship in late November/early December.

A gift tag that reads "This gift is brought to you by Netflix."

Augusta of adknits just had a shop update filled with gift tags and festive stitch markers for your holiday knitting, new notecards and the latest sticker in the Knitional Park Series.

McMullin Fiber Co. Le Societe d'Orsay

Kate has opened sign-ups for her Le Societe d’Orsay, a yarn club where each month’s colorway will be inspired by art from the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. She is also once again celebrating Socktoberfest with some amazing giveaways and a 24% off sale.

An aqua drawstring bag with pink yarn balls and the words Knit Happens.

Laura is once again collaborating with artist Cynthia Frenette on some knit-centric items! Orders open today at 9 a.m. Pacific time and close on Monday at midnight.

Julia of Pandia’s Jewels is opening preorders for her Purple Magic yarn set today.

Post-Rhinebeck Untangling: ‘I Knit San Francisco’

The cover of I Knit San Francisco

This is the 15th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Designer Kathleen Dames and Alice O’Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks have taken us to New York and Paris through their Knit Like A Local series of bookazines from One More Row Press. Recently, they launched I Knit San Francisco, a fiber journey through the Bay Area, which is available to preorder. Here’s more about their latest trip.

How did you decide to include San Francisco for your latest book?

We started talking about San Francisco after attending Stitches West a couple of years ago. There is a vibrant knitting culture in Northern California, lots of great yarn shops, local designers and dyers, and, as we all know, the weather in San Francisco is such that having something woolly on hand is always a good idea. Plus, we both have connections to the area: Alice’s grandparents lived south of San Francisco (and her brother lives in the city now), while Kathleen worked for two different publishers, one in Sebastopol and the other in Pacific Grove, so she has spent working time in the area, in addition to more touristy visits.

Which designers do you have lined up for I Knit San Francisco?

We are thrilled to have Vilasinee Bunnag (founder of The Loome) in collaboration with Kathleen, Faina Goberstein, Juliana Lustenader, Audry Nicklin, Sonya Philip (100 Acts of Sewing), Yvonne Poon (Gamer Babe Knits), Sloane Rosenthal (co-founder of brand new Hudson + West yarn company with Meghan Babin), Heatherly Walker (the Yarn Yenta), Julie Weisenberger (founder of Cocoknits), and Kelly White, plus yarns from Bay Street Yarns, The Dye Project, Hudson + West Co., Little Skein in the Big Wool with help from Seismic Yarns, Love Fest Fibers, Sincere Sheep, Speckled Finch Studios, Twirl Yarn, and A Verb for Keeping Warm. Getting to know the designers and dyers is the best part of this job.

A yellow knit rug.

What are each of your favorite designs from the book?

We love them all (of course)! Seriously, every book we publish is a whole new wardrobe we want to knit.

So far Julie’s rug, Half-moon, made with Love Fest Fibers crazy cool and crazy big yarn, and Sloane’s Ferry Building pullover in WELD from brand new yarn company, Hudson + West Co. (Sloane’s bicoastal partnership with Meghan Babin, former editor of Interweave Knits) have been most popular on our Instagram feed.

Aside from designs, what will the book include?

We interview each designer, so you will learn a little about their design journey and, of course, their favorite local things, particularly places to go that you might not know about and restaurants to try. Then, we take you on our three-day Yarn Crawl from Santa Rosa up in Sonoma County all the way down through Napa County to the East Bay and San Francisco itself down through Santa Cruz to Pacific Grove on Monterey Bay. We definitely recommend taking more than three days, if you want to do the whole tour – we had to be ruthlessly efficient in our research trip due to time constraints, but our doing so means you can take your time and enjoy everything a little more thoroughly.

Woman models a gray sweater on a beach.

What surprising things did you learn about San Francisco while doing your research?

That walking around is no joke! Coming from the east and being used to walking everywhere (New York City and Washington, D.C., for us are walking and subway-riding cities), the hills of San Francisco are deceptive. What seems like a doable walk is an intense workout. We also were surprised/not surprised to notice the quality of the light. As intensely visual people, we were both struck by that West Coast golden light, and we think Alli did a great job of capturing it in our photos.

There has been an explosion of local “bookazines,” such as the By Hand serial and Nomadic Knits. How would you say One More Row Press is different?

We start with the question “Where shall we (as knitting people) go next?” Then we work hard to find local designers, some new and others more established, who design across many categories and for varying skill levels, and then we collaborate with them to find yarn partners that make each project sing.

Beyond the interviews and yarn crawls, we also seek out local photographers and models who bring the designs to life on location. We focus on curating a collection that is rooted in place with additional information that allows you to go to that place and make your own personal connections (or be an armchair travel knitter).

Woman models a white sweater with pom poms.

What other cities or places are next for your series?

That is the question we are asked AND that we ask everyone we meet! Our “To Visit” list includes: Chicago (where Kathleen grew up), Kyoto (or Tokyo), London, Detroit (people keep mentioning it, and there are a lot of yarn stores in the area, so we are totally intrigued), and Los Angeles. We have also talked about Italy, Cuba, Australia, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, though we have been focused on individual cities thus far.

It’s a matter of finding the right people (designers, dyers, LYSes) and making the timing work for everyone (including us with our own jobs and families to manage). We are also in talks to do a crochet book with a handful of designers using their favorite buildings as inspiration for elegant, wearable crochet garments and accessories.

What to stash this week: Jump into the Leaf Pile

A purple sweater with two skeins of yarn.

Last year at VKL NYC, after taking a dyeing class with the duo, I was chatting with Julie Asselin about the upcoming Indie Untangled show and had one of those lightbulb moments that led to a question: would she and Jean-Francois be up for creating a custom Nurtured colorway for IU? They enthusiastically agreed and I requested a peachy pink with a hint of purple. The result is Leaf Pile, which reads purple from afar, but up close is incredibly nuanced. I’m so excited to debut the yarn in the Indie Untangled shop this week, along with some other goodies.

Pink orange and speckled yarn.

Heather of Sew Happy Jane is having a shop update today at 5 p.m. Mountain time that features “perfect pairing” yarn bundles and warm and toasty worsted weight yarn.

A collage with a night sky and purple yarn.

Today is the last day to preorder the Dragonfly Fibers Petrified Forest colorway, inspired by Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. As always, 10% of sales will be donated to the National Park Foundation.

Handmaine Knits has a Star Wars-themed Advent-style calendar called Holidays On Hoth.

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: Candice English of The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers

Candice English of The Farmer's Daughter Fibers

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

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

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to launch the Sisters United Initiative?

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

Sisters United bags

Tell us about the organizations that benefit from the initiative.

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

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

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

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

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

Blue speckled yarn

Crow Camp

Which of your colorways are you most proud of?

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

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

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

How did you learn to knit?

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

Golden speckled yarn

Ode to Autumn

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

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

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

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

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Stacie Dawson of Must Stash Yarn

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Stacie Dawson of Must Stash Yarn

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

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

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

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

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

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

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

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

Yarn with Blue, red, green and purple stripes.

When and how did you learn to knit?

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

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

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

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

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

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

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

The Perfect Blend Yarn & Tea Shop welcomes you to Saugerties!

Perfect Blend Yarn shop interior

This is the 11th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

The Perfect Blend Yarn & Tea Shop has all sorts of extra treats in anticipation of your visit to Saugerties!

The shop will have extended weekend hours during the festival:

Friday, October 18, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday, October 19, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday, October 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Emma's yarn booth

On Friday from noon-3 p.m., there will be special appearances by Becky and Melissa from Nomadic Knits, along with designer Laura Dobratz and a trunk show from Emma’s Yarn, which is run by Laura’s daughters, Emma and Aspen.

The shop will also have a special souvenir edition of its Perfect Blend Inspirations Yarn Box, featuring a beautiful collaboration with Nomadic knits and Whole Knit n’ Caboodle.

Four golden skeins of yarn

Autumn Hearth from Pandia’s Jewels.

From 4-9 p.m. on Friday, the shop will welcome Julia of Pandia’s Jewels with a special pop-up.

A sock in rainbow yarn.

Self-striping yarn from Whole Knit n’ Caboodle.

On Saturday, Terri of Whole Knit n’ Caboodle will be at the shop with a trunk show from 1 p.m.-8 p.m.

The shop will also be showcasing Cocoknits and Kelbourne Woolens trunk shows throughout the weekend.

The Saugerties merchants will join Mary in welcoming everyone to the village! Be on the lookout for yarn embellishments throughout, make dinner reservations and be sure check out Destination Saugerties for additional adventuring while you’re there.

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.