Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Stephen West

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Stephen West holds up a pink striped shawl

Stephen models his Mohairino Medley shawl. Photo by Darren Smith.

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

If you were asked to compile a list of rockstar knitwear designers, Stephen West would most likely be at the top of it. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native, who has a background in dance, brings a performer’s creativity to his work, and has seen Bowie-esque transformations, starting with subdued designs like his Boneyard Shawl, transitioning to edgier pieces, such as Transatlantic from his Westknits Book Two, and then to Shrowls and Ribbed Dickeys, and more recently to incredibly complex brioche lace.

Recently, Stephen collaborated with Malia Mae Joseph, the co-owner of the Stephen & Penelope yarn shop in Amsterdam, which Malia originally founded, to release West Wool, a line of non-Superwash yarn comprised of Falkland Merino and Texel, a breed of domestic sheep originally from the island of Texel in the Netherlands.

We’re also excited to have Stephen as the special guest for the Indie Untangled after party at the appropriately-named Dutch Ale House in downtown Saugerties! He’ll be at the 6 p.m. dinner seating to hang out and take photos. Tickets are limited and available here.

How did you decide to become a knitwear designer?

I began designing knitting patterns ten years ago after the owner of my first local yarn shop, Klose Knit, in Urbana, IL, asked me to write a simple pattern during the local Boneyard Arts Festival. I named that first shawl the Boneyard Shawl and started designing simple hats and shawls during that first year of designing patterns. I love the interaction of sharing a design and seeing the colorful variations when knitters customize the patterns and make them their own. I began by modifying patterns which taught me a lot about construction and simple math modifications to existing patterns. Once I started to design my own patterns, my mind couldn’t stop racing with ideas so it was a great fit for me.

How does your background in dance inform your work?

I was very improvisational as a dancer and I also improvise most of my designs while I knit. Sometimes I start a piece thinking it will be a hat or a cowl and it evolves into a modular shawl or sweater. I always loved to create and compose my own dances and that joy and passion for creating something from scratch translated into all of my knit shawls and sweaters. When I was dancing and performing more, I always had down time between rehearsals and performances which I filled with knitting.

Stephen West models a multicolor striped shawl

A collage of Stephen modeling his Cozy Corner Shawl. Artwork by Stefan Gunnesch.

Your aesthetic has changed since your early days of designing, transitioning from neutrals, greens and mustards to bright pops of color. How did that transformation come about?

I have always been fascinated with color, but I started embracing more vibrant colors after I moved to Amsterdam and started collaborating with other artists like my friend Alexandra Feo, a talented photographer, dancer, and knitter from Venezuela. We began collaborating on Westknits photos and approached them with a more mindful planning process. We ebraced fashion, styling, and makeup combined with the knitwear to produce more dynamic images. That was around 2013. That year sparked a joyful shift in my approach to combining colors and I was also traveling much more after that collecting inspiration around Europe and during my visits to Iceland. Soon after, I encountered the work of Belgian fashion designer Walter van Beirendonck. He continues to be an inspiration to me with his vivid use of color and unapologetic style in the fashion world. Yarn companies and hand dyers are always coming out with new colors. I start most of my designs with the yarn first, so yarn heavily influences my evolving design style.

On a related note, what are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

I love yellow, especially golden yellow. Currently, my favorite color is anything fluffy. I love mohair and brushed alpaca yarns.

A model shows off a lacey brioche shawl.

Stephen’s Suriously Holey shawl. Photo by Yunfei Ren.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Yarn yarn yarn. I have a colorful cabinet of yarn at home where I start most of my designs. Quite often I’ll create the first prototype of a design with a dozen or more colors. Then, I’ll look at the design and rework it with a more focused color palette. I play a lot with theme and variation so many designs are based off of previous explorations in short rows, and graphic striped effects.

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

I try to write down the pattern while I knit. I used to not write my patterns down the first time so I always re-knit them a second time. I’m getting better at writing patterns down while I knit to save time.

West Wool Bicycle yarn in grey, light blue, gold, light pink and bright blue.

West Wool Bicycle yarn. Photo by Darren Smith.

How did the development of West Wool come about?

Malia and I wanted to create a yarn for our store in Amsterdam and one that we could take to shows as well and something missing from our shop collection was an extensive solid range of non-superwash wool. We wanted a soft fiber that maintains structure and stitch definition so we chose a Falkland Merino blended with 10% Texel which is a Dutch sheep breed. Texel wool is quite toothy and give a little bite and loftiness to the soft merino wool. We debuted West Wool earlier this year in Bicycle, a fingering weight yarn with two plies gently twisted around each other, and a more bouncy DK weight yarn called Tandem. I particularly love Tandem because the stitch definition is so crisp and squishy. We can’t wait to release more colors and bases in the future.

What are some interesting things you learned when creating your yarn line?

We learned that two people with totally different color tastes can put a beautiful collection of yarn together. Malia has a super sophisticated approach to color and loves gray so you will see six shades of gray and some subtle and saturated tones throughout the palette. I always love a vibrant color pop so we injected some statement colors to balance out the neutrals. We are excited to expand the color range to make even more complex color combinations for stranded knitting and striped projects. We both had some yarn production ideas years ago that were never fully realized so we’re glad we waited until now to create our dream yarn just the way we wanted to do it.

We’ve learned to be very patient and thoughtful throughout the process to not rush anything too quickly. I try to carry these lessons through into my design work these days too. I used to be more quick and immediate with my decisions and design process, but now I let ideas simmer and cook longer until they are more mature and developed. The end result is always something I’m more proud of and I have fewer regrets these days. I rarely regret not doing something these days. Developing big projects like West Wool together with Malia or creating my Westknits books is an exercise in patience because there are so many components that go into the final product, but the beautiful result is always worth it in the end.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned to knit when I was sixteen years old from some friends in high school while we were rehearsing a school musical. I carried knitting with me everywhere from the beginning and became the knitting guy in high school. I haven’t put my needles down since.

What to stash this week: planning ahead

Gray yarn with green, gold and aqua speckles

In time for fall knitting, the Indie Untangled exclusive Hudson and Kingston colorways are now available to preorder on La Bien Aimée Merino DK, squishy 100% Superwash Merino, and Super Sock, with 75% Merino and 25% nylon, for socks and sweaters that require something more lofty than singles. They will ship at the end of September, in time for sweater weather. Of course, if you want to plan ahead, there’s some quick-knitting Merino Aran still in stock.

An amber semicircular shawl

K.M. Bedigan of the Sweater Sisters design team has just released a new shawl pattern, Antenor, a half circle shawl with yarn-over increases and knits and purls forming a gentle textured fabric. Kits with WayfaringYarns Shambhala, luxury blend of 50% baby yak and 50% mulberry silk come in five hand-dyed color choices and are on sale through Saturday, August 3.

Alice in Wonderland bags

Go down the rabbit hole of a Slipped Stitch Studios Alice in Wonderland Bag of the Month extras update today at 9 a.m. Pacific Time.

Black, white, purple and aqua butterflies

Michelle’s Flutterby holders have undergone a colorful metamorphosis, with three new colors joining the lineup. These 3D-printed notions can be used to mark stitches, track your progress, mark pattern repeats, hold other stitch markers, count rows, mark the right side and hold dropped stitches.

Skeins of golden yarn

Just in time for fall knitting, Shanna of Lambstrings Yarn has debuted a new colorway called Apothecary.

Pandia’s Jewels will have new Regency Collection colors in the shop today.

Eternity Ranch Knits is having a Christmas in July sale.

Indie Untangled by the numbers

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Rhinebeck trunk show illustration in coral, navy and mustard

Illustration by Eloise Narrigan

When I organized the first Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show in 2014, I got together the group of a dozen vendors by asking dyers and makers who had posted to the online marketplace if they wanted to bring a suitcase of their products to a meeting room at the Best Western. Since I started organizing this in June of that year, only four months prior to the festival, I even post-stalked them on Ravelry to see if they were already going to be at Rhinebeck.

This year, starting in March, I received more than 100 applications — 105 to be exact — for roughly 36 spaces. I had a jury of 10 people, plus my co-planner, Petrina, helping me make this incredibly tough decision. We wanted to make sure we had varied styles and a selection of non-yarn goodies, and that we brought in some new faces.

Here’s a look at Indie Untangled by the numbers:

36 spaces, including in the lounge at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory, where Candice of The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers and designer Caitlin Hunter will be debuting an exciting new project

32 yarn companies (plus three others — The Blue Brick, Gauge Dyeworks and Onyx Fiber Arts — who will be providing exclusive colorways for the Indie Untangled booth)

9 bag and accessories makers/designers, bringing project bags, enamel pins, stitch markers, buttons and more

2 fiber-themed jewelry makers — that you can actually wear, not just for your projects!

1 needle vendor — after the past few years of sponsoring, Signature Needle Arts will finally be at the show!

Of these vendors, 25 of them are new (four of them — Julie Asselin, Twill & Print, La Bien Aimée and Nerd Bird Makery — had a presence at last year’s show, but now they will be bringing a full line-up) and they are marked with an asterisk on the event page.

If that all seems a bit overwhelming, ticket holders will receive a PDF guide prior to the show, so you can strategize your shopping.

Untangling Christine of Skeinny Dipping

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Skeinny Dipping was one of the first yarn companies to advertise on Indie Untangled, way back in 2014. I was smitten by Christine’s glowing colorways, particularly her rich reds and complex browns and greens (and I am generally not a brown or green person) and learned a little more about her when she vended at the first-ever Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show that same year.

Christine’s background includes working in East Africa with the Peace Corps, which has inspired some of her colorway names (Malaria Dreams and Vervet), as have SNL (I Need More Cowbell and Space Pants) and food (Brown Butter and Blue Raspberry Slurpee).

When she’s not dyeing or traveling around the world with her husband and their adorable Chihuahua, Gracie, Christine knits incredible colorwork sweaters. Her yarn is currently available in the Indie Untangled Virtual Trunk Show.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

Dyeing yarn was never on my radar. Like many dyers I had gotten to a point in my life where the normal job wasn’t possible and I had to find something to do.

Christine with a “mama” from her village in Kenya.

What did you do in the Peace Corps?

I was an agroforestry extensionist in the Peace Corps. This was my primary assignment through the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. I worked with other local Kenyan extensionists in my location (similar to a county) providing technical assistance to subsistence farmers in my region.

My area of expertise was agroforestry, which is a multi-purpose land use system that promotes fuel wood security and improved crop yields on subsistence-sized plots. Together with my Kenyan counterparts we also addressed water and sanitation issues, health education (such as HIV prevention) and any other issues that farmers encountered. I also had some secondary projects like teaching how to bake without an oven, which was a project that happened by accident.

What inspires your colors?

Sometimes it’s a word or phrase that inspires the color (Space Pants from SNL). Other times, it’s the parasitic diseases of tropical Africa or the nut sacks of Kenyan monkeys (Malaria Dreams and Vervet). If it’s disturbing, I’m pretty sure I’ll get a good colorway out of it.

Tinsel-ectomy on Journey Worsted.

Which of your colorways are you most proud of?

I’m proud of them all in their own way, but my favorites are the ones that glow even though they’re extremely saturated and dark. Those take a lot of experimentation to get right, and I have to redo the recipes for each base since different fibers take the dyes differently.

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

My favorite color has always been green, and there were a lot of colors I didn’t like before I became a dyer, like yellow and red. But I found that I started to like them if I could get them murky and saturated, so I’ve come around to those colors. I still don’t like pink, though, except for Adobe Wan Kenobi, and that’s only because I’ve pushed that colorway to the line between coral and red. I love gray and black, too.

Christine knit Sweaterfreakknits’ Birch Sap shawl in a colorway called Adobe Wan Kenobi.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My grandmom first taught me to knit when I was seven. I only knew the knit stitch, and I had some horrid pink acrylic from Woolworths. Like a lot of kids, I was interested for 10 minutes and then put it aside till I was much older. I picked it up again during my pre-service training in the Peace Corps. We get three months of intensive training in-country before our service officially begins, and it was during this time that our trainers encouraged us to develop another hobby other than reading. We managed to cobble together the rest of the knitting basics like casting on and binding off from within our group. I made a lot of scarves and potholders until the next extension group of volunteers arrived. There was a hat knitter in that group and luckily she was based near me, so I learned how to make Anna Zilboorg’s hats. Aside from when I was in grad school and working full time, I haven’t stopped knitting since then.

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

I cannot dye less saturated colorways to save my life. I do have Salt Marsh, Zingbat, Vintaged and Blue Raspberry Slurpee but I hated all of them when I came up with them. But everyone else liked them, so they got to stay.

Olives on Journey Worsted.

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

It’s not so much that there are certain projects that are my favorites, but moreso when my customers make something with a colorway they say is not from a color group that they normally like. Those are my favorites — if I can get you to be open to a color group that you didn’t like before, that is the ultimate compliment.

2018 Year In Review: IU exclusives

One of the best things about running Indie Untangled is getting to work with talented dyers to come up with exclusive colorways, whether it’s for the Rhinebeck Trunk Show, the Knitting Our National Parks project or the Where We Knit yarn club. And while I love collecting hand-dyed yarn as much as the next knitter, I truly enjoy seeing those colorways put to use in beautiful sweaters, shawls, cowls and more.

For the 2018 Indie Untangled Year In Review, I’ve compiled some of my favorite projects that use Indie Untangled exclusives.

Pictured above is Cecilia’s Sunset Highway with La Bien Aimée Merino Singles in Automne à Rhinebeck, Asylum Fibers Solitary in Rhinebeck’s All The Craze, Dark Harbour Yarn Port in Davy Jones Locker and La Bien Aimée Merino Singles in Yellow Brick Road

Aimee’s Rainshadow in La Bien Aimée Merino Singles Kingston and Hudson

Janet’s Local Yarn Shawl with The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers Foxy Lady in Kiowa

Kelly’s Glaciers and Wildflowers Pullover with Duck Duck Wool DK Limited in Glaciers and Wildflowers

Tawana’s The Doodler with La Bien Aimée Merino Singles in Automne à Rhinebeck and Asylum Fibers Solitary in Rhinebeck’s All The Craze and Sleepless

Deborah’s Do It Up with Gauge Dye Works SHAWL: MCN Fingering in Hudson Valley

Jerrill’s Birds and Ships with Little Fox Yarn Vixen in Birds and Ships

Amy’s Close To You with Asylum Fibers Solitary in Acadia Lights

Abigail’s Concentra Cowl with Backyard Fiberworks Terrain in North Cascades Night and Merino 2/6

Maggie’s Lemon Pie with La Bien Aimée Merino DK in Automne à Rhinebeck

See many more FO’s using yarn from Indie Untangled dyers here.

Indie turns 5 at Rhinebeck

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Organizing each year’s Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show is like completing a new knitting project. With nearly every one, I learn something new that makes me a better knitter. I get a little help — sometimes a lot of help — from my fellow stitchers. And I have late, often sleepless nights coming up with solutions to tricky problems.

And, as much as I knit, my stash continues to grow…

There were a lot of changes this year. The show moved to a new venue in Saugerties, which provided much more space, and natural light, for shopping than our previous home at the Best Western. We expanded the hours. It was also, for the first time, a fully ticketed show, and we utilized shuttle buses to ensure the venue’s parking lot wouldn’t be overtaxed. After the unprecedented crowds, long lines and parking issues of last year, these were things that had to be done, though I regret this meant that not everyone who wanted to come was able to.

While many shoppers were anxious about this new system, it was, overall, a relaxed and celebratory atmosphere — with a little bit of that festival frenzy thrown in.

My fellow helpers and I — including Petrina Hicks, a knitting friend who I discovered, via Instagram, lives across the street from me and is an event planner! — learned a lot from this year’s show. I know it will help ensure that future Indie Untangled events, whether it’s a kickoff to Rhinebeck or special event in Brooklyn, become my, and your, favorite FO yet.

And speaking of knitting friends, here are some photos of Indie Untangled 2018 taken by my talented friend Carolina of Triple C Photography.

Working the Night Shift at the Spincycle Booth.

Designers Catherine Clark and Caitlin Hunter pose for one of many pics.

A shopper spotted with multiple Indie Untangled bags.

A wall of color at the Hue Loco booth.

More beauties at Junkyarn.

Checking out the colors from IU newcomer Hu Made.

Taking a (short) break from shopping in the MDK Lounge.

Colorful project bags from That Clever Clementine and wooden goodies from Katrinkles.

Showing off my All Points South while taking in my other indie FO.

What to stash this week: good friends

After the success of last year’s La Bien Aimée colorway for Indie Untangled, Automne á Rhinebeck, I knew I had to find a way to top it. So, earlier this year, I asked Paris-based Aimée to dye up a speckle and a complementary semisolid. I also asked her if there was a designer she wanted to collaborate with on a shawl that would incorporate both colors. When she chose Melanie Berg, I knew that they would come up with something special.

The result is Rainshadow, a garter and lace shawl that uses Aimée’s teal/green/gold speckle on a cloudy gray background, called Kingston, and a coordinating olive green that she named Hudson, after towns in the Hudson Valley, near Rhinebeck.

The Indie Untangled shop is now stocked with Rainshadow shawl kits in these exclusive-to-Indie Untangled colorways, along with a limited amount of single skeins. The shop is also stocked with a ton of goodies, including a very limited number of Indie Untangled tote bags, Stash Rabbit enamel pins and T-shirts and an exclusive colorway from UK-based Black Elephant.

Kate of McMullin Fiber Co. is marking her favorite month with her annual Socktoberfest Celebration. This means a big sale — everything in the shop is 25% off till October 31st — and some fantastic giveaways, including a Lykke needle set and a plum Fringe Field Bag.

Today is your last day to preorder this stunning interpretation of sunrise over Bullion Gulch in southern Idaho’s Croy Creek Trail System, dyed on Bijou’s Tibetan Dream sock yarn. 

If you have a bit of a yarn hangover, Jen of Porterness Studio has gorgeous new Stockinette Stitch Swatch and In Case Of A Stitch Marker Emergency necklaces. There’s also a new bronze shawl pin design and new additions to her Space Age line of 3D-printed steel shawl pins and rings.

Today at 9 a.m. Pacific time, Slipped Stitch Studios will debut 30+ yarn sock designs that will be ready to ship while supplies last!

Didn’t get to Rhinebeck this year? There is still plenty of fall yarn fun to go around! Sheila of Big Foot Fibers has dyed up these fall-themed mini sets, called Something Wicked This Way Comes, on Superwash Merino DK, inspired by their family reading of MacBeth this month.

West Green Loft Yarns has new bases and colors for fall.

What to stash this week, whether at Rhinebeck or not

If you’re not on your way to the Hudson Valley (or if you just can’t get enough indie-dyed yarn — I have friends who order from online updates on the way to MDWS), Kim of Western Sky Knits is having a fall-inspired shop update. It includes some lovely mohair/silk 1-ply lace weight skeins, perfect for stranding in your winter sweaters. She also has a new single-ply DK-weight yarn, made of 100% Superwash Merino, which takes the dye beautifully.

Jennifer of Spirit Trail Fiberworks is on her way to Rhinebeck and, of course, is bringing a ton of yarn, everything from laceweight to super bulky. She will also have a bunch of specials throughout the weekend, culminating with 25% off all yarn in the booth from 1 p.m. until closing on Sunday. 

Bijou Basin Ranch had Jonathan Berner of Seattle-based MJ Yarns work his magic to capture the subtlety and brilliance of sunrise at Bullion Gulch in southern Idaho’s Croy Creek Trail System on yak yarn for the Knitting Our National Parks Project. Resplendence will be dyed on Bijou’s Tibetan Dream sock yarn, a luxurious blend of 85% yak and 15% nylon.

The yarn will be available to preorder on Indie Untangled through Friday, October 26. If you’ll be at Rhinebeck, you can see and pet the yarn in person at the Bijou Basin Ranch in booths 13 and 14 in Building C. It will also be on display at the Indie Untangled Trunk Show on Friday. As always, 10% of sales will be donated to the National Park Foundation.

Preorders for the Slipped Stitch Studios October Bag of the Month started a little early. Woodland creatures include gnomes, hedgehogs, owls and the illusive silver fox. Orders will only be available until Monday, October 22.

New for October from Wolle’s Yarn Creations are horoscope yarns, made of skin-soft, fingering-weight cotton in generous 480-yard skeins.

Inner Yarn Zen is launching an Outlander Unclub. What is an “unclub,” you ask? It’s a series of kits delivered over three months that can be purchased each month without a commitment to all of them. Marietta will dye yarn inspired by scenes, characters or locations from Outlander, and there will also be special gifts, including project bags, stitch markers and a secret surprise.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: The Perfect Blend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why did you decide to focus on yarn and tea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are some of your favorite designers?

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

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

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

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

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

When and how did you learn to knit?

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

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

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

What to stash this week: trail yarn

For the latest installment of Knitting Our National Parks, Bijou Basin Ranch takes us to the Croy Creek Trail System in southern Idaho, originally constructed for motorcycle riders and mountain bikers. Here, you can take in a gorgeous winter sunrise like this one from Bullion Gulch, captured by Ace Hess from the Bureau of Land Management, which operates the trail system.

BBR called on Jonathan Berner of Seattle-based MJ Yarns to capture the subtlety and brilliance of the image with the colorway they’ve named Resplendence. It will be dyed on Tibetan Dream sock yarn, a luxurious blend of 85% yak and 15% nylon that is warmer than wool and softer than Cashmere, perfect for your next hike (or just a nice, cold winter).

The yarn will be available to preorder on Indie Untangled through Friday, October 26. If you’ll be at Rhinebeck, you can see and pet the yarn in person at the Bijou Basin Ranch in booths 13 and 14 in Building C. It will also be on display at the Indie Untangled Trunk Show on Friday.

Kate of McMullin Fiber Co. is celebrating the start of fall (finally!) with her new Sweater Weather Collection. The collection includes Merino/Cashmere/nylon DK weight yarns and 80/20 Merino/nylon sock mini skeins in a few new colorways, including Hunting Tartan, La Vie En Rose and Vintage.

Shauna of Farm Girl Fibers just started dyeing yarn from her husband’s family farm in Alpine, Tennessee. Many of her colorways are inspired by nature and her life on a farm.

Indie Untangled newcomer October House Fiber Arts decided to post in an appropriate month, during its fifth birthday. Dyer Robin also designs knitting-themed cross stitch.

Jean of Midmitten Designs has teamed up with Splash of Color Yarns on a holiday kit that includes a project bag, with a vinyl window for a peek at what’s inside, and five Merino/nylon mini skeins.

Softyard Designs’ Saxony Hat is perfect for a cable lover! This unisex design comes with instructions for working flat or in the round and knits up super fast in aran-weight yarn.

Indie Untangled newcomer 7th Floor Yarn is marking “tweed season” with this Aran Tweed Superwash 85% Merino/15% Nep.

Wild Hair Studio has a limited number of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans 12 Days of Christmas Advent Calendars.