Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Anne Vally of Little Skein In the Big Wool

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

For most people, crafting evokes the same feelings as getting into a good book. Anne Vally decided to bundle that feeling up into curated kits for knitters through her business, Little Skein In the Big Wool. While Anne has expanded beyond her hand-sewn project bags to include her own hand-dyed yarn, she has continued to remain true to the values that she started out with.

A woman sits at a desk looking down.

Tell me about how you started a project bag business?

I started Little Skein with the idea of making project bags and kits that would bring to life my love of books. Knitting is something that’s central to who I am — and so are books. I make the things I want to use: project bags that tell a story, kits that not only make me eager to knit them, but that also fill me with the happiness and rich emotion of a favorite story.

I started out on Etsy with my first kit (Velveteen with Susan B. Anderson) but pretty quickly moved to littleskein.com. Details are important to me, and I wanted to create an experience where shopping for a kit or project bag of mine felt like being welcomed home. Something special, full of good feelings, just for you.

What did you do before you launched Little Skein In the Big Wool and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

I live in San Francisco and before starting Little Skein, I was a program officer at a large California foundation for more than a decade. Foundation work is not easily explained, but the big picture is that I made grants to nonprofits around California that were (and are still) working to create positive social change.

My foundation work absolutely informs how I run Little Skein. My degree is in economics, so I’m particularly attuned to how I run my business. I talk a lot on social media about fair pay for makers, the importance of art, and making room at the table for everyone.

I believe the way a business operates adds something intangible and important to the final product.

An African American person holds a bouquet of colorful yarn

When did you decide to incorporate yarn?

I’ve always worked with other yarn dyers for my kits, but I started dyeing yarn myself about three years ago. I realized I was becoming increasingly involved in designing the colors, and I also had a vision of the final fabric I wanted. It became a passion for me to figure out how to make that vision come to life.

Like many knitters, I often fall in love with yarn that’s showy in the skein but doesn’t always create a fabric I enjoy. So, my journey in learning how to dye yarn was to create a yarn that makes a subtle and complex color of fabric—one that might look semi-solid from a distance, but up close would have little hints and gradations of color with itsy bitsy, random pops of intensity.

For the first year, I studied, experimented, and dyed only for myself. But now I have an outdoor dye kitchen (an essential in foggy San Francisco) and I do periodic Live streams on Instagram where I show what I’m dyeing. I still work with other dyers, but about 90% of the yarn I offer is now dyed by me.

Tell me about how your yarn is sourced and dyed.

I source my yarn from three mills: two in the U.S. and one in Canada. I’m especially interested in what each yarn will be used for: a sweater? socks? a shawl? I’ve chosen bases that are ideal for a particular purpose. I think my start as a sewist and project bag maker is a big influence. I’m interested in the fabric.

For example, my sock yarn, House Sock, is 90% American Targhee wool and 10% nylon. It’s different from the multi-purpose sock yarn that most dyers offer. Mine is especially perfect for socks. The Targhee wool is soft and sproingy when you knit with it, and it makes a plush, hard-wearing sock.

A woman knits with green yarn

When and how did you learn to knit?

It feels like I always knew how to knit. My Nonnie and grandmother knit, but their knitting was for utility. I remember knitting as a young adult, but it was when my son was about 2 that I felt this deep urge to make things for him. I picked up my needles to knit fruit for his play kitchen (I started with this strawberry!). Oddly enough, I didn’t feel daunted by the tiny stitches or knitting in the round. I just kept at it, and my boy’s delight at getting a new piece of “fruit” every few days was rocket fuel to me.

Then, I discovered Ravelry and, boom, down the rabbit hole I went!

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

If it involves making something by hand, I have probably tried it. I am a sewist, I draw, embroider, cross-stitch, play with polymer clay, and have recently begun block printing on fabric. (I’ll be debuting something special with my new block prints at the Rhinebeck trunk show!)

A project bag with a city skyline holds two skeins of gray and aqua speckled yarn

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

That it’s possible to do good and do well at the same time.

I believe that knitting, reading, and making things by hand is art, and art matters. Using your imagination ripples out into the world in powerful ways. Art changes you, and in turn you change the world for the better. (Not an original idea, though! This is from Neil Gaiman.)

I try to lead by example. I make sure that everyone who works with me is compensated and valued. I believe diversity makes our community better, and I believe in sliding over to make space at the table for everyone. This shows up in the causes I support, in the inspiration for some of my kits, and in discussions I lead on Instagram.

What to stash this week: Woolstock

Purple and gold variegated yarn.

Sam of Lavender Lune Yarn named her special Rhinebeck colorway Woolstock, “because basically that weekend is our version of Woodstock.” If you have tickets to Indie Untangled, you can preorder this year’s colorway for pickup from the Lavender Lune Yarn Co. booth until this Sunday, September 15. Preorders for those not attending will start on Monday, September 16 at 8 a.m. Central and those orders will ship after Rhinebeck weekend.

A silver Rhinebeck necklace

If you want to show off your love of the festival more overtly, Jen of Porterness Studio’s Double-Sided “Rhinebeck” Mini & Stockinette Stitch Motif Necklace will complete your Rhinebeck sweater (or shawl, or cowl). You can preorder the necklace to pick up at the show, OR to ship before the show, until October 6.

Purple, gray, pink, green and gold yarn.

Just in time for Sweater Weather, Rebecca has debuted her Fall 2019 collection. It’s full of earthy tonals designed with colorwork in mind, and comes in her non-Superwash Merino Studio Collection.

Green and pink yarn

Sue has created some new fall colorways for you, including Diwali Lights, Jack-o-Lantern Confetti Stripes, Fall Stripes and Carpe Fishem, to get you in a festive mood.

A woman models a pink shawl.

Wine-d down summer with the Rosé & Rambouillet kit, which features squishy Rambouillet yarn from Sarah of The Dye Project, the Dusky Rose shawl pattern from Tamy Gore (now available on Ravelry) and a rose gold glitter sheep pin from Thao of Nerd Bird Makery. A few kits are in the shop and ready to ship!

Patronus Mystery Kit graphic

Expecto Patronum in yarn form with this super awesome kit from Nichole of One Sock Wonder Bags!

Preorders of Lambstrings Yarn’s special Indie Untangled colorway, Spook Rock Rd., to pick up at the trunk show close tomorrow, and if you’re not attending, you can preorder your skeins starting on Sunday, September 15.

The Knot House gets ready for Indie Untangled and Rhinebeck

A woman with light brown hair, pearls and a pink sweater takes a selfie with a woman with gray hair and a black shirt.

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

You can always depend on Heather and Cathy, the owners of The Knot House yarn shop in Frederick, Maryland, to stay on top of trends in the fiber world. Their shop always features the hottest indie dyers and they themselves are prolific sweater knitters.

I asked them to walk us through their preparations for Rhinebeck and Indie Untangled, and give a look at what’s new for their in-house yarn line.

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

I don’t think there is anyone specific we look forward to seeing. The biggest treat is meeting the customers that don’t live locally that support us! We get to put faces with names and hopefully get to see some of their FOs. I love it when Mom and I are separated and people say, “Oh, hi, Heather, where’s your Mom?” Everyone loves Mom. We also love to see other LYS owners, indie dyers, podcasters and designers.

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

This past summer we added Hu Made, Lichen and Lace and Life In the Long Grass. Of course we have some new things we will be adding this fall such as a Western Sky Knits worsted, Skein and a few others we are working on.

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

Yes! As for indie dyers, I think knitters should pay attention to Swamp Bunny and Murky Depths Dyeworks. There are so many talented dyers…

Designers: Tara-Lynn Morrison (I love her recent Frid Sweater). I like Tamy Gore‘s recent patterns. We also think Lily Turner of Wishbone Yarn creates magnificent yarns and designs. We are also watching others such as Denise Bayron, Handmade Closet, Christina Danaee and Camilla Vad.

Multicolored yarn in a large pyramid.

What’s new with your in-house yarn line?

Thanks for asking about our Knot House Yarns line! I have added La Di Da Worsted base for the 2019/2020 season. It is a 4-ply (plied twice) 100% Superwash Merino (same as the La Di Da DK). Mom and I are currently looking at new bases to add in the spring.

I should also add that Mom and I will be vending at the Black Mountain Indie Extravaganza the weekend following Rhinebeck! It will be our first event out of The Knot House and we are both excited and nervous. Dates for the event are October 25th and 26th it will be held during SAFF at Black Mountain Yarn Shop.

What are your favorite projects that customers have made with your hand-dyed yarn?

Oh my. There are a couple of favorites. I don’t know how many people have made the Ranunculus, but it has been a favorite this summer, along with the Soldotna Crop. It is so fun to see the color combos.

A link and taupe sweater in front of shelves stocked with a rainbow of yarn.

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

Mom will be wearing her Black Thorn and Tweedside, both Lily Turner designs.

I will be wearing Andrea Mowry’s The Daydreamer, Thea Coleman’s Violet Aster and Caitlin Hunter’s Ghost Horse.

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Mom is working on Stonecrop and a couple of other test knits. I am working on the Feeling Groovy Cowl by JumperCables and Campside Drop by Alicia Plummer.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Asylum Fibers

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers in a pink sweater

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

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

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

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

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

Purple variegated yarn

Forbidden

Which of your colorways are your favorites?

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

Have your favorite colors changed since you became a dyer?

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

An aqua to dark blue fade of yarn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled?

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

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Dragonfly Fibers

Kate and Nancye of Dragonfly Fibers

Kate Chiocchio and Nancye Bonomo of Dragonfly Fibers.

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

Dragonfly Fibers is one of the first indie dye companies I discovered, though it had launched in 2006, before I had even started knitting. Kate Chiocchio and Nancye Bonomo, based in suburban Washington, DC, were part of the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia) scene that has produced a lot of indie talents. They and their yarn are familiar to anyone who has attended Maryland Sheep & Wool, Vogue Knitting Live NYC and Rhinebeck in recent years, with vivid colors like the fiery Airport Hot Sauce or explosive Firecracker.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

Dragonfly Fibers began with our love of color and texture. Kate learned to quilt and sew, and then became fascinated with fiber. Learning to felt, spin, and knit evolved into a need to dye it. We learned so much from other dyers and spinners, both local and in the blogosphere. We got our start at the same time as Karida of Neighborhood Fibers and Gryphon and Sarah of the Sanguine Gryphon, and later Cephalopod Yarns. We all supported each other and shared resources and processes. We still believe strongly that this collaboration is what our community is all about.

Black, blue, yellow, pink and green yarn

How did you decide on the name Dragonfly Fibers?

Kate is fond of skulls and dragonflies. While she really wanted her branding to feature skulls, her Stitch and Bitch buddies forcefully advocated that dragonflies would be friendlier and maybe sell yarn more effectively. Kate is still not sure about this.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?
Nancye is partial to the purples, such as Royal, Arya, and Heroine. Kate has loved Riptide and Rocky Top since they first came on the scene. They both love Dragonberry.

When and how did you learn to knit?

Kate learned from her mom at age 8. She knit one lumpy red scarf, and put the needles down until after age 40. She bought some wooden needles and How to Knit booklet and hasn’t looked back. Nancye learned during a January term in college and then picked it back up in earnest after the birth of her first child.

Pink purple yarn

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Definitely! We love spinning, felting, and weaving. Lately, we have been sewing like mad fiends and dipping our toes into eco-dyeing and visible mending.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that is challenging to create?
Great question! We are completely visual, and love to create from images. Oxidizing copper and the beach, sand included, are both great challenges. Also,the perfect red to purple gradient has yet to be achieved.

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

For Kate, it is an Empire Ave Cardi knit in Dance Rustic Silk many years ago. Nancye loves her Fair Isle Skirt in Traveller; knitted skirts are just so fun.

Light blue lacy cowl

You were one of the earliest indie dye brands I discovered. How have you navigated the changes in the industry over the years?

While we work hard to bring the new yarns, projects, and colorways that our customers crave, we have remained true to the original spirit of Dragonfly. We bring a unique style of dyeing to the industry that is not truly replicated anywhere else. Our colors are bold, and often combined in unexpected ways. There are many beautiful yarns out there but only one company that makes the Colors of Happiness.

What are you bringing to Rhinebeck?

So many things! An exclusive 2019 Rhinebeck colorway inspired by the great state of New York. Two new kits: three combos for Andrea Mowry’s Stonecrop sweater and rainbow sets to make the Love is Love hoodie by our own Susan Powell. “Starter packs” for Caitlin Hunter’s Soldotna Crop in 2 and 4 oz Traveller. All of our yarn bases, including mohair and silk laceweight Faerie, our newest yarn. Huge quantities of our most popular colorways. And, last but definitely not least, Dragonfly Farewell Tour tote bags.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Danielle Romanetti of fibre space

Danielle Romanetti of fibre space

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

I remember my first visit to fibre space. It was at the tail end of a fall 2012 road trip I took with my husband that started in Maryland at the Verdant Gryphon open house and included Charleston, Savannah and Colonial Williamsburg. I had already bought plenty of yarn at the beginning of the trip, but when I realized that our drive home would be taking us right past Alexandria, Virginia, and it would be the perfect midpoint for lunch, I knew I had to go to the shop. I ended up getting my first skeins of Neighborhood Fiber Co. and a recommendation of where to get some delicious cupcakes that fueled our drive back to NYC through the pouring rain.

Danielle Romanetti’s shop has moved locations a couple of times since that visit, but it still retains what I consider yarn store perfection: a welcoming atmosphere with plenty of comfy seating, great lighting and design, and a commitment to indie brands, with a focus on local businesses.

Tell me the story of how fibre space came to be. Had you always wanted to own a yarn shop?

My shop is really an extension of my original business – Knit-a-Gogo, Inc., which I opened in October of 2006 to offer knitting classes in the DC metro area. Initially, I taught beginner and intermediate classes at coffee shops, bakeries and even public libraries in and around Washington, DC. Utilizing these spaces required a solid relationship with the businesses that hosted us and has led to the collaborative philosophy that fibre space now maintains. As my customers grew in number, so did the community of knitters and crocheters, as well as the number of classes being offered and my staff of instructors.

Eventually, the Knit-a-Gogo community really needed a permanent home – a place where stitchers could meet outside of classes, buy quality supplies and and share with other stitchers. In 2009, this dream became a reality when Knit-a-Gogo became fibre space and opened its doors in historic Alexandria, VA. I am so excited to have finally put down permanent roots at our new building, 1319 Prince Street.

A blue building with the fibre space logo and green Adirondack chairs out front

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

I was a professional fundraiser and event planner for international nonprofit organizations. I have a background in international development, with a specialization in Latin America. The event planning and marketing background is certainly a huge asset to my business. Working for a rather large international organization helped me to learn a ton about marketing campaigns and how to effectively implement them. I use that experience in planning all of our seasonal marketing, events, etc.

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

I have a commitment to supporting small and indie brands as much as possible. I often make decisions on a brand because of their origin story or even their owner. I like to support businesses whose owners are amazing, engaging and forward-thinking women. In general, you will find many brands at our shop that aren’t in many other places. I like to keep things unique, as we have so many yarn shops in our area. It helps us to be a destination.

A wall of Neighborhood Fiber Co. hand-dyed yarn

You were carrying indie dyers since the beginning. How would you say the explosion of indie dyers has changed your business?

It’s interesting. We went through a few years of carrying a ton of indie hand dye from many, many different dyers, including international. I made a shift a few years back to focusing on fewer of the dyers but having a wider range of yarns from the ones that we do stock. This seems to be working right now. Our customers know that we are a destination for Neighborhood Fiber Co. [editor’s note: Neighborhood Fiber Co. is also an Indie Untangled sponsor], Miss Babs, Hazel Knits, Freia, the Periwinkle Sheep and Knerd String and more as we get orders from them almost monthly to restock. We also have a good inventory of our locals (Neighborhood Fiber Co. again), Havirland, Fully Spun [an Indie Untangled vendor] and the Fiberists.

Despite the hand dye explosion, we are still a huge stockist of traditional beautiful wool yarns. Our customers buy a lot of De Rerum Natura, Brooklyn Tweed, Kelbourne Woolens and Stonehedge Fiber Mill.

Interior of a yarn shop

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

I am really excited about the new yarn project that Karida Collins and Ann Weaver are working on. We will be launching Plied Yarn at our shop on November 9th. The wool is hand dyed by the Plied team and then plied to create a marled yarn in fingering weight [Plied is also an Indie Untangled sponsor].

We are also hosting Miss Babs for our annual Mega Miss Babs Trunk Show on September 14-15. It is a wonderful event, where Miss Babs brings up a huge quantity of yarn and takes over our store space with yarn, kits and samples made from her yarn.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was very young. I made a scarf for my Cabbage Patch doll. I relearned from her when I was in graduate school and visiting. Their dial-up internet access wasn’t sufficient and I was bored! It quickly became a huge part of my life and my therapy for anxiety.

Artwork on an orange wall

Artwork lines the walls at fibre space.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I do also crochet, although certainly not as much as knitting. I also sew and run, although its been a few years since I ran a marathon!

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

Well before I opened the shop, I used to attend the trade show with Karida of Neighborhood Fiber Co. to help her sell to yarn shops. Olga Buraya-Kefelian was working on a design in two of her yarns, and I volunteered to do the knitting. It was the Murasaki Pullover. It was amazing to see Olga’s creation process first hand and to be part of it. I was still knitting it on the early morning flight to the show with Olga but we got it done, and I was able to wear it at the show.

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.

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.

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.