What to stash this week, while it’s still fall

You still have time to snag Mudpunch’s Tavern Fall, an autumnal palette featuring broad stripes of orange, gold, turquoise and burgundy. It’s available (until sold out) on 385 yards of 80/20 Superwash Merino/nylon 4-ply sock yarn. Also in Chantel’s shop is Black Razzleberry, featuring city blues and purple which gives a preview of the winter to come.

Debbie of Murky Depths Dyeworks is preparing for winter on the horizon with bold, saturated hues. Colorways like Turmeric, Sirocco and Lucia are inspired by her prized collection of silk saris and family photos.

Michelle of Crafty Flutterby Creations will be hosting her first ever Facebook Live sale tonight at 9 p.m. EST! This fun event will include shawl pin styling tips, stories from Michelle’s fall events and the chance to snag Rare Breed shawl pins that have only been available at her shows.

Brooke of Fully Spun has new seasonal colorways of her millspun that looks like handspun, along with new bulky and aran weight bases. Kits for Francoise Danoy’s Icescape and Phlegethon shawls are also back in the shop.

Laura is back from Stitches SoCal and has plenty of goodies for sale. The shop will be stocked with new, never-before-sold items today at 9 a.m. PST.

Attention dyers: Carrie is gearing up for another production run of SkeinMinders and SkeinTwisters and both are discounted through Sunday, November 11 with the coupon code SMDISC.

Robin of October House Fibers has opened preorders for her Christmas Sweets Sock Sets, and there are several color combinations available. Orders close on November 25 and will ship out the first week of December, giving you plenty of time for holiday knitting.

Shauna of Farm Girl Fibers just updated her shop with a variety of fall- and winter-inspired colors, including red, green, blue, brown and plum tonals. There are plenty of sweater quantities available on fingering Merino/nylon and worsted Merino.

In celebration of her two new pattern releases, A Foxy Frolic and Snowflake Man, Mona of bunnymuff is having an exclusive Indie Untangled promotion! Use the code SnowyFrolic in her Ravelry shop and receive an automatic $2 off each pattern through November 19.

Getting ready for Rhinebeck with Mason-Dixon Knitting

This is the 12th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting have been corresponding about knitting since 2003, so they know a thing or two about Rhinebeck. This year, they will be the hostesses with the mostest in what is being dubbed the MDK Lounge at the fifth annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show.

I recently asked Ann and Kaye about their plans for the big weekend:

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

An event like Indie Untangled gives us the opportunity to see our invisible internet friends in actual 3D human form — it’s incredibly good fun. We’ll be in the Indie Untangled Lounge all day — beginning at 1 p.m. rope drop! — so we hope to say Hi to as many folks as we can. Really looking forward to talking yarns and designs with everybody. Pub nights are kind of a branded thing with us. We love a good sit ’n’ knit.

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

The MDK Shop, our online yarn emporium, features a bunch of dyers that we admire and respect so much — a number of them are Indie Untangled vendors, and we’re proud to be working with them. Recently, that group includes Julie Asselin of Julie Asselin Yarns, Amy Lee Serradell of Canon Hand Dyes and Alice O’Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks. We met them all at Indie Untangled, so it’s a bit of a reunion to get to see them again. And we have an MDK exclusive, beautiful yarn coming soon from Karin Maag-Tanchak and Jill Draper.

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

We often say we’re living in a golden age of yarn — it’s hard for us to keep up with the dyers who are emerging on the scene, but what a wonderful problem to have. Naturally-dyed yarns are really making us happy these days. Brooke Sinnes of Sincere Sheep is brilliant at pairing beautiful fibers with her color sense. Marcia McDonald of Lana Plantae gets these incredibly vibrant colors from plant dyes. And Meg Anderson of Nutmeg Yarns is working in the gentlest, softest palette imaginable.

Ann’s Birkin by Caitlin Hunter.

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

We hope for a daily high of 57 degrees, because that is the perfect temperature for SWEATA WEATHA. Ann has about a half dozen potential sweaters, ranging from Carbeth by Kate Davies (in case there is a blizzard—that thing is HOT) to Birkin by Caitlin Hunter (fingering weight). Kay is madly knitting away on a vintage Kaffe Fassett kit from 1986 that is going to ROCK THE FESTIVAL one of these days (three years since cast-on! This could be the year!). If the Kaffe is not quite ready for showtime, and even if it is, Kay’s brand-new Savage Heart Cardigan by Amy Christoffers is going to make its maiden voyage this year.

What do you think is going to be the most-seen sweater at Rhinebeck this year?

Our prediction: many, many, many yoke sweaters. When have we ever had such a bumper crop of yoke designs? My guess: Humulus (Isabell Kraemer). More Birkins (Caitlin Hunter) Fades being found all over the place. And Carbeth, our Bang Out a Sweater sweater of 2018, will surely be everywhere if the temps are cool enough. (You could cast one on right now and get it done in time. We aren’t kidding when we say BANG OUT.)

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Ann: Making a giant Parallelogram Scarf by Cecelia Campochiaro from MDK Field Guide No. 5: Sequences. And Thea Colman’s Appleseed Mitts from MDK Field Guide No. 8: Merry Making. And every other pattern from that Field Guide because we’re in the midst of a giant Bunchalong on MDK, where knitters are making holiday gifts in multiples. I’ve got ten weeks and a mighty momentum getting warmed up.

Kay: Currently blocking: three (three!) Stranded Diamonds Hats from MDK Field Guide No. 8. Next up: untold numbers of Slip-Stitch Caps and Appleseed Mitts and Chalice Cowls from Field Guide No. 8. I’m going to win the Bunchalong. (Wait — I’m not eligible to win the Bunchalong. But: bragging rights!)

Stranded Diamonds Hats from MDK Field Guide No. 8.

What are each of your favorite FOs from the last year?

Ann: I love my Birkin yoke sweater by Caitlin Hunter so, so much. I used Backyard Fiberworks Sock in the shades of Jamberry and Patio, aka the loudest colorway I’ve ever made. It makes me feel pretty and witty and bright.

Kay: My most recent FO is always my fave. I love love lurve my Savage Heart Cardigan, and may cast on a second one in Spud & Chloe Sweater, because it’s such a perfect match for the pattern. I also have to give a big thumbs-up to the Parallelogram Scarf from Field Guide No. 5. I’ve made 2, which are really 3, since the second one was a double-wide version. Once you start some soothing sequence knitting with Freia Fibers’ slow-changing Shawl Balls, you can’t really find a good stopping point. Just… keep… knitting…

What to stash this week: catch this

You are guaranteed to geek out over all the cool and inclusive knitting goodies from Portland, Oregon-based Nerd Bird Makery, including enamel pins, apparel, totes and paper goods, including art prints, greeting cards and gift tags.

Alisa of KnitSpinQuilt and Debbie of Murky Depths Dyeworks have created a limited-edition, aquatic-themed kit with a lovely Koi Pond color scheme. The kits include a skein of Murky Depths Deep Sock, dyed in multiple tonal layers of teal with little pops of goldfish orange, and medium-sized drawstring project bag sewn by Alicia. Kits will be available for preorder from October 5-25 and you can customize it to include a large project bag or add an additional skein of the yarn.

Best of all: 10% of the purchase price of each kit will be donated to RAICES to help in the ongoing effort to reunite migrant children with their parents. If all the kits sell out, they will donate an additional 5%.

Michelle of Crafty Flutterby Creations is celebrating the one-year anniversary of her rebrand and new website with a discount and a free gift! Use code CELEBRATE for 10% off and a little extra treat through tomorrow.

Slipped Stitch Studios Halloween Spooked Bags are limited and ready to ship! They go on sale today at 9 a.m. Pacific time.

Heather’s Yarn Barn is hosting a fun online “Spooktacular,” including scavenger hunts with a special Halloween discount on your purchase and trick or treating with free gifts. Also check out Heather’s Michael Myers-themed yarn, The Shape.

Bunnymuff has a new colorwork cardigan named for one of the many Scottish terms for snow.

What to stash this week: Fall pairings

Kate and her crew at Dragonfly Fibers are gearing up for a busy fall, with New York Sheep and Wool, SAFF, STITCHES SoCal (they’ll be featured there on the Yarnover Truck there) and local trunk shows. They’ve also prepared some amazing kits for Andrea Mowry’s The Throwback and Catherine Clark’s Ixchel Pullover. And, they’re giving back: above is a new colorway, called Carolina, and 25% of their sales through December will go to the organization Global Giving, which is helping with Hurricane Florence relief, among many other projects.

Marian of Marianated Yarns has collaborated with Carolyn Bloom of of Bloom Handmade Studio on Marilyn’s Cowl and Hat, which are both knit holding multiple strands of different yarns: two strands of Marianated Yarns Ava Lace together with one strand of Aerie (mohair/silk lace) and one strand from an MCN gradient set. Marian has made kits available in several different colors and a KAL will be held in Carolyn’s Ravelry group starting October 8.

Marian has also collaborated with Katy Carroll of Katinka Designs in celebration of Knitmas. There are two Knitmas kits, one for a shawl and one for a poncho, available for preorder.

Designer Barbara Benson collaborated with The Fiber Seed on Every Witch Way, an innovative lace shawl that uses a single skein of yarn. A two-panel, top-down triangle version uses yarn with one of The Fiber Seed’s dye techniques, while the three-panel, 3/4 square version uses another.

Kate of McMullin Fiber Co. has opened signups for the Jane Eyre installment of the McMullin Fiber Co. Literature Society. Single dose packages will contain one skein of yarn and some extra goodies inspired by the novel, while double dose packages come with two skeins.

Woodsy and Wild’s new Sapling bag and Maple tote are perfect for winter accessory knitting and sweater knitting/fiber festival season! Both will be in Shannon’s shop this Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Michelle of Crafty Flutterby Creations has updated her shop with a collection of shawl pins perfect for keeping your latest hand knit in place on crisp fall evenings.

Winter is coming… so get your Sheep Squeezers. Nicole of One Sock Wonder Bags has limited quantities of Sheep Squeezers, which hold your yarn cakes in place, with a Game of Thrones-inspired design by Bulgarian artist Karamfila Siderova.

Heather Anderson’s Knitting in the City KAL kicks off October 1 and includes seven city-themed patterns: four shawls, two cowls and a pair of mittens. The latest pattern, Amsterdam Canals Cowl, is 25% off through Sunday.

My Mama Knits has a new set of Halloween colorways, including the newest addition to her Scottish Myths and Legends series, The Gorbals Vampire. Her Advent calendars have also started shipping out.

Canon Hand Dyes is now taking preorders for Outlander minis sets.

Samantha Guerin has released Eastern Glow, a crescent shawl that uses two skeins of fingering weight yarn.

Introducing Indie Untangled newcomer Humble Pie Design.

Viola’s ‘Knits About Winter’

This is the 10th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Ever since I discovered indie-dyed yarn, Viola has been one of the dyers whose yarns I have lusted after. Emily’s colors are lightly speckled, but not the eye-poppingly bright speckles that have become popular in recent years. They’re more like gelato, with subtle swirls that look good enough to eat.

While following Emily’s business over the years, through her work experience with UK-based mill John Arbon Textiles — which created a line of colors inspired by her — to her move to a studio in Mooresburg, Ontario, and development of bases, like her Mooresburg DK, it was my dream to have her vend at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show. So I was thrilled when, earlier this year, Amy of Pom Pom Quarterly asked if Emily could have a booth to sell her yarns, which would be featured in Knits About Winter, a book of Emily’s designs that Pom Pom Press was publishing in the fall.

In advance of the premier of Knits About Winter at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival (you can preorder your copy from the Merritt Bookstore to pick up in their booth at the festival), I spoke to Emily about the book and her work as a dyer.

What inspires the designs in Knits About Winter?

Knits About Winter is entirely inspired by the winter landscape surrounding my home in Mooresburg, Ontario. I moved here at the beginning of a very cold and snowy winter a few years ago and was almost instantly captivated by the quiet magic of winters here. Winter can be cold and harsh but also mysterious and magical. My goal with each of the designs in Knits About Winter was to create patterns that would be warm and comfortable in the cold of winter, all the while remembering the colours, shapes and light of winter.

Did you come up with new colorways for the collection?

Yes! There are four new Viola colourways that are launching at the same time as the book. Each colourway is also inspired by Mooresburg winters past and present. I knew roughly what I wanted each colour to be, but did a lot of visual research and experimenting before I landed on the finished colourways. Visual research is one of the most fun jobs that I have, especially in winter, because it involved frequent snowshoeing adventures with my camera! Each colourway is inspired by a variety of different sights in my winter landscape. I decided to combine elements of texture, light, shape and, of course, colour that stood out to me and suited the palette I wanted to achieve.

Do you have a favorite pattern from the collection and, if so, why is it your favorite?

My answer to this question changes every day, so I suppose they’re all my favourites. My focus was to create designs that would be versatile and serviceable, yet beautiful. I also wanted to create pieces that would be easy to layer and wear together, so I think of these patterns as a knitted outfit rather than individual pieces. I can honestly say that I can’t wait to wear all of them, and am so pleased with their minimalistic beauty and wearability.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

After working in a small knitting store in Toronto, I discovered the wonders of hand-dyed yarns. It didn’t take long before I was experimenting with dyes for myself, and just a little while longer before customers at the shop claimed skeins for themselves. The business grew quickly from there, along with my dyeing and business skills. I learned everything as I went along, through lots of trial and error and lots of making mistakes.

How did you decide on the name Viola?

That was an easy decision actually. Viola is the name of both of my grandmothers! Both women were seriously talented knitters and made my sister and I countless amazing outfits. One grandma is even known to have been able to knit whilst reading a book and snacking (I think apple slices were her favourite).

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

That’s even trickier than choosing a favourite design from the book! I find that my colour preferences change reliably with the seasons, even more than they change through the years. Since I started dyeing yarn I have developed a more focused way of observing colours around me. Right now (and I think always) I know that I am drawn to complex, layered and hazy colours. I’ll always pause to inspect a colour under frost or water or behind mist. Reflections in puddles or the sky hidden by clouds. A bright colour might catch my eye, but it is usually the murky tones, textures and light around that colour that interest me. I also like to explore the balance between warm and cool in colours, and often prefer shades that land right in the middle.

That said, I do have some favourite starting points, they become more faded and subdued in the winter and a little more colourful towards the summer. All types of pink, copper, peach, beige, gold and olive are my go to shades, and I use these colours more often than you might think in all Viola colourways.

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

This happens to me quite often, actually. The more layers of dye in a colourway, the easier it is to tip too far in one direction or another and become too hazy or simply transform into another colour altogether. Often I discover great new ideas when overdyeing colours that I’m not happy with, and that’s just what happened with a colour called Peat that I’ve been struggling with for months. I’ll get there, because it is a beautiful and moody colour (and I want to knit a sweater with it!) but often the first run of a colour is almost impossible to recreate for me.

Tell me about the decision to work for John Arbon. What were some of the best things you learned while there and how did it inform your dyeing?

About three years after I “accidentally” started Viola I was feeling overwhelmed by how quickly the business had grown. It was a fluke that John and Juliet had a job opening up exactly when I contacted them, and even more of a fluke that they took a chance on a Canadian girl they’d never spoken to before! I think it only took about a month or two from contacting them, to boarding the plane to England.

I loved working for John and Juliet as well as living in beautiful North Devon. I learned more that I could have ever hoped to about fibre, yarn construction and operating loud and dangerous fibre processing machinery. I think the most useful thing that I took away from my time at John Arbon Textiles was John and Juliet’s attitude, creativity and work ethic. I never slacked off at Viola, but would often struggle when a problem arose. Running a small business, this happens at least once a day. Watching John and Juliet navigate similar issues rationally and calmly taught me that there is no ready made solution and I have to figure it all out for myself. I still struggle with complicated problems and decisions, of course, but take comfort in the fact that I am in control of the journey as well as the outcome.

How has having a new studio space changed your business?

I have been working in the new studio space for just over two years. When we renovated the space I was optimistic that it would make my dyeing process more efficient and as of about three months ago, it finally did. My answer to this question two years ago would have been that the new space will allow me to dye more yarn and be more productive. While that would have been fantastic, I think my business gained something even more valuable – resiliency. Countless things have broken, gone wrong, fallen apart, frozen, blown up and been eaten by ants. Just at the moment that one problem was fixed, the next one materialized. Amidst it all, I simply had to keep going and deal with the issues as they arose. The new studio space as taught me that good things take time, and lots of patience. It’s working really well at the moment, but I am still braced for the next potential catastrophe.

Kitterly gets ready for Rhinebeck

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From left to right: Kitterly co-founders Elizabeth Rowen and and Mari Bower.

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

Can you believe it’s exactly one month until Indie Untangled — and Rhinebeck?! Before this popular knitting weekend extravaganza, I asked Elizabeth Rowen and Mari Bower, the founders of Kitterly, which sells knitting and crochet kits, to talk about their plans for Rhinebeck and their predictions for this year’s most popular Indie Untangled and Rhinebeck sweaters.

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

We’re really excited to see the variety of products, new products that inspire us and catch up with our vendors and meet new ones!

What are each of your Top 5 favorite Kitterly kits from the last year?

Mari: From a site popularity standpoint, the Sushi Scarf by Stephanie Shiman and Wonderland Yarns is a perennial favorite with our customers.

We’ve been so fortunate to work with so many amazing designers like Andrea Mowry, Isabell Kraemer and Melanie Berg, to name a few. It’s been fun to meet and feature designers from all over the world.

Liz: I love them all! Our designers as so talented and it’s always so inspiring to work with them.

Sushi Scarf by Stephanie Shiman.

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

Mara of Aya Fibers
Steffi of Uschitita
Renee of Spun Right Round
Aimee of La Bien Aimée

There are so many more we could list but we’re running out of space!

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

Mari: Depending on weather I’m going to wear my newly knit Humulus pullover by Isabel Kraemer knit in The Fibre Company Cumbria and Spincycle Dream State. I hope to be able to finish my Rose cardigan, knit in Olann Sock Sport, in time.

Liz: I’m going bring my Sheltered poncho by Andrea Mowry, my Sipila pullover knit in Olann Singles as well as my Impressionists shawl by Helen Stewart. Hoping to have my Comfort Fade cardi in Olann complete too!

The Throwback © Andrea Mowry

What do you think is going to be the most-seen sweater at Rhinebeck this year?

Mari: I’ll think we’ll see a bunch of The Throwback cardis by Andrea Mowry, Sipila by Caitlin Hunter, Rose cardigan by Andrea Mowry, Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies and Weekender by Andrea Mowry.

Liz: I imagine we’ll see many Fading Points by Joji, Comfort Fade Cardi by Andrea Mowry and The Doodler by Stephen West.

Tell me the things that are currently on your needles.

Mari: Rose cardigan by Andrea Mowry and Separate Ways by Joji.

Liz: Comfort Fade Cardi by Andrea Mowry, Neridah by Ambah O’Brien and a test knit for Lesley Robinson of Knit Graffiti.

A WIP of Mix and Mingle by Andrea Mowry.

What are each of your favorite FOs from the last year?

Mari: Weekender by Andrea, Mix and Mingle, a Kitterly Special project for Kitterly by Andrea Mowry, and Kobuk by Caitlin Hunter.

Liz: Too many to name!

What to stash this week: Knitting for fall

Kate of McMullin Fiber Co. has stocked her shop with plenty of hues that bring to mind fall leaves and apple cider donuts. Take 15% off your order with the code INDIE15.

Debbie of Murky Depths Dyeworks is also in a fall state of mind, and has recently released a bunch of autumn-inspired colors, including Picante, Gigli and Porcino, which pretty much look like the colors of Rhinebeck.

Heather’s Yarn Barn is now offering her yarns wholesale, so if you’re interested in seeing them in person, ask the owner of your LYS to look into stocking them.

Third Vault Yarns’ yarns of the month are inspired by the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology and available to preorder only until the 20th.

Mona of bunnymuff has just released two new patterns, the Blue Citrus pullover and Blue Citrus tammy. Knit both and be super coordinated!

Eden Cottage Yarns had a shop update yesterday filled with sock yarn, for the perfect warm weather knitting. Yarns include Brimham 4ply (85% Superwash Merino, 15% nylon) and Tempo 4ply (75% Superwash wool, 25% nylon).

Wendee of Hazel Knits’ stunning Sol Duc Valley colorway for the Knitting Our National Parks project, inspired by the mossy green in the Sol Duc rainforest at Olympic National Park, is available to preorder only through next Friday!

Check out the project bags with windows from MidMitten Designs.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Jennifer Tepper Heverly of Spirit Trail Fiberworks

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

Since I started attending the New York Sheep & Wool Festival in 2011, I’ve known of Spirit Trail Fiberworks, one of the very first indie dyers to come on the scene. I gravitated toward Jennifer’s striking blues and her silky soft bases. Five years later, I purchased my first sweater quantity of Sprit Trail Birte, a luscious blend of Merino, Cashmere and silk that I used for Mary Annarella’s You Wear It Well, which is one of my all time favorite sweaters.

Shortly after I showed off my sweater at Maryland Sheep & Wool, where Jennifer also vends, she started posting on Indie Untangled, and I got to see what a variety of colors she creates on her luxurious bases. Jennifer’s Subscriber Inspiration Colors, in which she dyes colors based on a photo taken by one of her newsletter subscribers, are particularly unique, and I’m so looking forward to what she comes up with for installment for the Knitting Our National Parks series later this year.

If you’re going to Rhinebeck, Spirit Trail should definitely be on your shopping list.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I left my career in commercial real estate in Washington, DC, in 1998, after my son was born in late 1997. My daughter followed in 2000, and it was around mid-2001 when I started thinking about what I would do next for work. I had left real estate because I wanted to stay at home with my kids, so I was looking for something I could do from home.

I had started knitting again when I was pregnant with my son, so was really focused on trying to figure out how to turn knitting and textiles into a business. In early 2002, I took a dye workshop from Barbara Gentry at Stony Mountain Fibers in Charlottesville, Virginia, and then a few more dyeing classes at the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild. It was during the workshop with Barbara that a lightbulb went off in my head and I thought, “I could totally do this from home!” It seemed like it would be much more feasible than trying to knit for pay, so that’s what I did!

I spent the rest of 2002 investigating dyes and yarn suppliers, festivals and shows, website design… all the fun stuff. Then I started playing and experimenting with dyes and different yarn bases and fibers. I officially opened Spirit Trail Fiberworks in January 2003 with a small online shop, applied to all the shows I could and started doing shows that fall with the Knitter’s Review Retreat and the Fall Fiber Festival of Virginia. MDSW and NYSW followed the next year, along with a few other East Coast shows I did for a few years.

I was definitely on the very early side of the indie dyer explosion. I can remember customers at NY and MD looking at my yarns and saying they didn’t know what to do with them; indie dyeing just wasn’t much a thing yet. The industry has certainly evolved since then, and it’s been fun to watch and participate in this evolution.

How did you decide on the name Spirit Trail Fiberworks?

I sort of fell into my real estate career (my dad was a local DC architect and I worked in his office after college), and really, the entire 15 years I worked in real estate I pretty much longed to be doing something more creative. I have a degree in English literature with concentrations in fine art and philosophy, so the business world was not where I thought I’d ever be.

When I was trying to come up with a name, I came across a concept in Navaho weaving called the Weaver’s Pathway, or Spirit Trail. I wrote up a description of what it means and where it comes from on my website.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Gosh, everything. An image, an idea, a song, an impression. I get a lot of inspiration from the beautiful area where I live, in the shadow of Shenandoah National Park. But I get inspiration from all sorts of places. Usually, the colorway name comes from whatever inspired the color, but when I’m dyeing based on a feeling or impression it’s more difficult to put a name to the color. Sometimes there’s a lot of back and forth between myself, my friend Brooke who works for me, and my mom who also works for me — each of us throwing out words or phrases, and building from there until we get to the final name.

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

My favorite colors definitely change. I used to be drawn to earth tones like deep greens, browns and more muddy colors. Then it was grays and neutrals. These days, my favorites tend to be aqua blues and oranges. I’m sure they’ll change again. My ideas about color have definitely changed since I became I dyer. I used to have certain colors I hated – bubblegum pink and pastel colors, for instance. For years, I just didn’t dye pink at all. That’s definitely evolved – there are no colors I don’t like or won’t dye. I wouldn’t even say there are colors I wouldn’t wear anymore; I’m game for just about anything.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My mom taught me to knit when I was 14. Being the over achiever that I was/am, my first project was a long, cabled tunic in some nasty acrylic yarn (because that was mostly what was available back then). I pretty much cried through the entire process and my mom was not sympathetic at all, since I’d insisted on starting with something so big and complicated. I got through it, wore that tunic until it was frayed and pilled and nasty, and continued knitting through high school and college. I stopped knitting during my real estate years, started up again when I got pregnant with my son, and haven’t stopped since. He’ll be 21 later this year.

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

One color I’ve been trying to create but have never done to my satisfaction is a “shimmery” silver on a wool yarn. It’s easy to get silk or Stellina to be a shimmery silver, since they’re already shimmery or sparkly. But to get a silver-gray with the characteristics of metallic silver on a matte base is tough. I’m still working on that.

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

This is a hard question! I absolutely love seeing what my customers make with my yarn. It’s hard to pick a favorite. Of my own projects, I love my Traveler Tunic by Joji Locatelli that I turned into a dress and my Gola sweater that I test knit for Laura Nelkin with the addition of some fun vertical stripes (editor’s note: Jennifer is wearing it in the photo at the beginning of this post).

Other favorites include North Shore, (I wear this one all.the.time; pictured above), the “Caragh Sweater” I made for my daughter, Caragh, Obsidian (so super-sexy), Beck (crazy-gorgeous!), Starting Point (love how this kit turned out) and Lotus Mittens (I’m a sucker for anything colorwork).

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

I’ve learned so much. The one huge benefit of my past career, which I now appreciate very much, is that I am really good at budgets, spreadsheets, financial forecasting – all the business aspects of running a business. But, beyond appreciating my experience much more now than I ever did before, I’ve learned quite a few valuable lessons over the last 16 years.

First, customer service is key. It’s essential for a small business. My focus is creating the best quality work so I have happy customers; I really work to have the best customer service I can in every aspect of my business.

Second, it’s a business, not a hobby. My prices have to reflect realistic margins (while still staying as competitive as possible) that will allow me to continue to run my business.

Third, work can’t take over every aspect of life. This last one is the most difficult for me – the work/life balance – because I’m so Type A and can get pretty obsessive. It’s so easy to let work consume every waking minute (and more), but in order to have a full life and not get burned out, there need to be boundaries. About six or seven years ago, I really put the brakes on my business because I felt it was growing beyond what I could manage, with two small children still at home, and keep it to my philosophy, which was that it remain a small business, and that I am the one dyeing all the yarn (the latter has been my driving focus since day one, and it certainly limits growth potential). Hindsight being 20/20, part of me regrets that decision now, but it was the right one for me to make at the time. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint, so I have to make decisions to the best of my ability, and then continue to move forward.

Last, if you have your own small business, it’s essential to love what you do, at least if you’re going to do it well. But no matter how much you love your job, some days it’s going to be WORK and not so much fun. My gauge that I’m doing well is when I can successfully dye and have it turn out great, even when I’m not in the mood to do it, and that 29 days out of 30 I love what I do. A good friend of mine is a potter and he told me once, “You can only create something once. After that, it’s just production.” This is so very true, so to keep my creativity alive and well, I started dyeing non-repeatable colors (my “Lucky Pots”) in addition to repeating colorways. His answer was to build himself a salt-fire kiln, since the salt firing process is more unpredictable. So that’s how he creates one-of-a-kind work, versus his major production work. It’s essential to keep things fresh, and feed your soul with your work.

IU on the road: Hot in Cleveland at TNNA

TNNA, or The National Needlearts Assocation’s summer trade show, hadn’t originally been on my calendar. Though I did have some FOMO with last year’s show (at its usual location in Columbus, Ohio, home of the knitter-approved Jeni’s ice cream) I heard that a lot of people were skipping the 2018 summer show in Cleveland because of an increase in membership dues. But Bronwyn, AKA the designer Casapinka, convinced me to attend and be her roommate, and my husband had really enjoyed Cleveland when he visited a couple years ago, so I booked my flight and packed some business cards.

Casapinka’s soon-to-be-released Acoma sweater in the Dream In Color booth.

Whereas at the show in Washington, DC, I only went on the show floor, this time I got the full TNNA experience, attending the opening night fashion show, where companies showed off the newest designs in their yarns — Acoma, Casapinka’s soon-to-be-released sweater, knit with Dream In Color Smooshy With Cashmere, was a highlight and is getting on my needles as soon as it’s published — and Sample IT!, an Indie-Untangled-at-Rhinebeck-like shopping frenzy where shop owners buy kits to make samples of the products they plan to carry.

Shelli Martinez, who’s behind the brilliant enamel pins and T-shirts of ShelliCan.

The major buzz around the show was the sharp decrease in attendance, as many shop owners, designers and others in the industry had decided not to pay the higher dues. On the flip side, over the last few years there has been an increase in the number of indie dyers attending the show to build the wholesale side of their businesses, and there were even a few dyers who only sell wholesale. It created an interesting dynamic and a lot of the shop owners I spoke with were excited to find unique products that they could introduce to their customers.

One of my favorite discoveries was Emma’s Yarn, which has a great background story: it’s run by 16-year-old dyer Emma Galati and her older sister, Aspen, who just graduated college (their parents own the Four Purls Yarn Shop in Winter Haven, Florida) and the business is part of Emma’s home schooling curriculum. Emma and Aspen currently only sell wholesale to yarn shops, or do trunk shows and events, so if you like what you see you might want to ask your LYS to look into hosting them.

I was also excited to see Cashmere People, a company I’d first discovered at a Brooklyn General trunk show during the Brooklyn yarn crawl. The company, which has a U.S. rep in Portland, Maine, works with a collective of women in Tajikistan and Afghanistan who hand spin and hand dye Cashgora and Cashmere yarns. Mainer Bristol Ivy recently designed her Shape of a Bay shawl with their Cashgora Fingering and there were also kits at Sample IT! for Carrie Bostick Hoge’s Flora Cowl.

mYak, which also has a similar fair trade ethos, sourcing yak fiber and Cashmere from a Tibetan cooperative of nomadic herders, was also at the show and a lot of yarn shops were excited about their designs from Justyna Lorkowska and Michele Wang.

Among the other indies, Twisted Owl Fiber Studio was showing off new Batman colorways. I also was excited to discover Round Mountain Fibers. The Vermont-based company’s nature-inspired colors are pretty much available only at yarn shops, but they do have an online store that offers seconds at 50% off the retail price (you may also see a Knitting Our National Parks colorway from them in the near future…).

Of course, what would a knitting event be without some sort of offshoot indie event? Jeanne of Destination Yarn came through with an open house at her gorgeous Cleveland studio.

There were TNNA attendees and non-industry knitters browsing the shelves of colorways inspired by travel, with clever base names like Postcard, Letter and Souvenir.

Overall, it was a productive trip, and you should see the ideas that were generated from it in the coming months…

Untangling SweaterFreak Knits

While I tend to discover most designers and patterns on Ravelry, I actually learned about Jenny of SweaterFreak Knits via Instagram. I was drawn to her modern, clean aesthetic and the use of subtle speckles in many of her shawls.

Despite her name, I approached her about pairing up with Nicole of Hue Loco to design a one-skein accessory pattern for the Indie Untangled Where We Knit yarn club. The result was Nicole’s Chelsea Park Cowl, a lovely shawl/cowl hybrid that looks so easy to throw on with a spring outfit. It is now available to purchase by non-club members.

Read on to learn more about Jenny’s career as a designer and about how the cowl got its name.

How did you decide to become a designer?

It happened organically. I have always preferred to knit things out of my head and after plenty of encouragement from Ravelry community, I started writing up the instructions to my ideas which became patterns.

Is there anything from your software developer side that transfers over to design?

Actually, it’s a great question and the answer is yes! Software development is all about planning and details which is very similar to knitwear design. The math behind grading requires quite a bit of focus and attention to detail. Similarly, writing the pattern is akin to writing code – both essentially are a list of instructions. You will find that many designers were involved in tech before they started designing because it really does employ the same part of the brain.

How did you come up with SweaterFreak Knits and why do you use it as your designer name?

My very first project after a long hiatus was a sweater. Wanting specific sweaters really was the reason that I picked up the needles again. This was back in 2006 and in 2007 Ravelry made its debut. I chose SweaterFreak as my nick and of course I had no idea I will end designing knitwear! In 2011 when I released my first pattern, I considered changing the moniker but since so many people knew me already I decided to keep it.

Jenny’s latest pattern, White Light.


When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned how to knit in 1985 when I was 7 years old. My maternal grandmother, Rivkah, taught me and I liked it right away. She was an avid crafter and actually preferred to crochet but she taught me both. We also share total love for yarn! She had a sizable stash and I grew up with lots of fabric and yarn around me. Most of my family two generations back were dress makers so I feel that making clothes with my hands is really something I am meant to be doing.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

It’s a bit of everything – sometimes I get a particular idea in my head, maybe from seeing it somewhere or just something I have wanted for awhile. I love browsing fashion magazines and see the clothing evolve. My personal favorite decade is the ‘60s which has lots of different elements – classic tailored pieces as well as boho-hippie style ones. I love both equally. Often times, the yarn itself starts everything in motion. For example, when you touch hearty unprocessed wool, you think fair isle.

The Vegas top.

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

The first step is to sketch it. This usually gives me a good idea of what garment or accessory is going to look like, what kind of shaping it will involve. Sometimes, I use colored pencils to sketch, if the design is colorful.

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

My absolutely favorite color is blue – all shades of it, except periwinkle. It hasn’t really changed. I also love various shades of grey, green and natural. Lately, I have really gotten into yellow and mustard colors – they just look so smashing with grey!

Jenny’s most popular pattern is her Everyday Shawl.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

Definitely outside, either in the park (closest to me is Chelsea Park!) or on the beach, or even my backyard! Somehow the combination of fresh air, warm wind and wool in my lap equals heaven. I could do this forever!