Your indie shopping guide to the 2018 Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival

I’ve always thought of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival as the more low-key fiber festival. Aside from the fact that I’m not organizing a massive Friday trunk show (I leave that to Cathy and Heather, the owners of The Knot House), there’s no “Maryland sweater” to knit because it’s usually not sweater weather, last year being the exception.

However, as I’ve been putting together the shopping guide for the weekend, I’ve realized that the stashing temptation is anything but low key.

Here’s a roundup of the Indie Untangled vendors at both the pop-up at The Knot House and the Howard County Fairgrounds, and a peek at just some of the goodies they’ll be bringing.

I plan to be at the festival on Saturday, sporting a new shawl by Deb Gerhard that she designed with Into the Whirled’s Bryce Canyon-inspired Knitting Our National Parks colorway, which you can see below. I’ll be at the ITW booth at 12:30 p.m. for an Indie Untangled meetup, and you can see the yarn and the design in person. Hope to see you there!

THE KNOT HOUSE INDIE POP-UP

This is the fourth-annual indie pop-up that Cathy and Heather are throwing. In the spirit of the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, it brings together a collection of dyers and makers from around North America. Unlike the IU Rhinebeck show, it runs all weekend, with a preview party on Friday night from 5 to 9 p.m.

Duck Duck Wool

Sandra, who is based in nearby Virginia, will have some of the Indie Untangled Knitting Our National Parks colorway, Glaciers and Wildflowers (pictured above), on hand, along with her famous speckled skeins.

Julie Asselin

Julie hails from Montreal, with a beautiful palette of dreamy semisolids and subtle speckles.

Pictured clockwise from the top left are Good Morning Fredrick, an event exclusive, a Nuances set (five 28-gram mini skeins of Leizu Superwash Merino/silk fingering) in Pivoines, and a selection of colorways.

The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers

Candice will be coming to the show all the way from Montana, bringing her soft, Western-inspired colorways.

Pictured clockwise from the top left are Half Breed, Heartbreak Hotel and Paul Newman in Foxy Lady (70% Merino/30% silk), Monarch in Mighty Mo (70% kid mohair/30% Mulberry silk), and Gary Cooper and Are You Sure Hank Done It That Way on Foxy Lady.

Little Fox Yarn

Aimee is another Virgina-based dyer, known for her beautiful semisolids.

Pictured clockwise from the top left are Old Favorite, Loganberry on Vixen (Superwash Merino and silk fingering), various colors of Vixen, and her Blue Boy, Silver Birch and Deep Water colorways.

That Clever Clementine

Vicki sews her adorable and functional project bags in Maryland. She will bring a variety of zipper bags, including some made with a sparkly linen fabric that is perfect for showing off your fiber flare.

There will also be yarn from South Carolina’s Autumn and Indigo, Connecticut’s Nice and Knit, Periwinkle Sheep from Albany, N.Y., and Swift Yarns from New York City.

THE FESTIVAL

See the festival map here.

Backyard Fiberworks

Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C4

Alice, who is based in Silver Spring Maryland, will be bringing her popular semisolid and speckled colorways and mini-skein kits.

In the first image, pictured clockwise from the top left are Backyard Fiberworks Sock in Urchin, Stormcloud, the Spiced Cider mini skein set, and Mallow.

Bare Naked Wools/Knitspot

Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C28

Famed designer Anne Hanson will be bringing stunning samples made with her line of custom-milled yarns that show off the natural creams, browns, and greys.

Pictured above is the Deep Dive sweater knit in Better Breakfast Fingering (55% Merino, 35% dehaired alpaca and 10% nylon), the Polypore shawl knit in Chebris lace (60% Merino/40% mohair), and a selection of Better Breakfast Worsted (65% Merino, 35% dehaired alpaca).

Bijou Basin Ranch

Outside North, Booth N1

Based in Colorado, this mom and pop operation specializes in yak blends and in the last few years they have begun collaborating with indies on hand-dyed colorways.

Pictured clockwise from the top left are the Gobi base (baby camel and silk) in the Valkyrie-inspired hand-dyed colors, Shangri-La Lace (50/50 yak and Mulberry silk) in the Explorer collection, new stickers that they will be handing out, and variegated Shangri-La Lace.

Dragonfly Fibers

Outside Lower Corral, Booth LC9

Also from Maryland, Kate and her crew are MDSW veterans, bringing a huge selection of colorful yarns.

Pictured above is the Maryland Mini color pack and Andrea Medici’s Calverts and Crossings Cowl, along with Dragonfly’s show exclusive colorway Boardwalk Lights, named after Ocean City, Maryland, at night.

Fluffy U Fiber Farm

Barn 5, Booth 14

Shepardess Katrina Updike has been raising British and rare breed sheep, including Blue-Faced Leicester, Gotland, Leicester Longwool and Teeswater, for the past 18 years on a farm in Pennsylvania.

Pictured clockwise from the top left are a selection of her BFL fingering, a sample of Katrina’s Spring Lilac colorway, Merino Bulky in Tropical Breeze, Pebble Beach and Lilly Pad, and beads strung for spinning.

Into the Whirled

Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B16

New York-based dyer Cris is known for her semisolid and variegated colorways, and she has recently moved into speckles, including her colorway for the Indie Untangled Knitting Our National Parks series.

Pictured clockwise from the top left are the new speckled colorways, batts in various colors, Shokan Singles single fingering in the Bryce Canyon-inspired Hoodoos colorway (which you can see in person in her booth and preorder here), and braids of fiber.

Knittyandcolor

Outside North, Booth N12

Sarah, who is based in Georgia, is known for her eye-poppingly bright colorways. Aside from yarn and fiber she’ll also be bringing Turkish spindles made by her husband under the name Subterranean Woodworks.

Pictured clockwise from the top left are new colorways Smoky Quartz and Neon Lotus, along with the spindles and fiber braids.

Middle Brook Fiberworks

Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B26

Anne offers yarn blends made with the fiber from the sheep on her New Jersey farm as well as stunning handspun. At the festival, she’ll be debuting her Vintage No. 4, organic Polwarth coordinating sets, and lip balm.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks

Main Exhibition Hall, Booth A30

Jennifer, another Virginia-ite, is a master of dyeing a variety of colors on both rustically sheepy and luxurious silk bases.

Pictured clockwise from the top left is a set of Aurora (single-ply fingering Superwash Merino), Selene (DK-weight, non-shrink organic wool), stitch markers from Katrinkles, and Jennifer’s new enamel mugs.

You can see more goodies in Jennifer’s sneak peek post.

Other vendors

Here are some other vendors I’m looking forward to visiting:

The Buffalo Wool Co.
Outside Upper Corral, Booth UC1

Jamie Harmon
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B9

Jill Draper Makes Stuff
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C31

Julia Hilbrandt
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth B29

Madder Root
Outside North, Booth N2

Neighborhood Fiber Co.
Outside East, Booth E7

North Light Fibers
Main Exhibition Hall, Booth C9

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Suzanne Nelson of Groovy Hues Fibers

This is the ninth post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3.

Suzanne of Groovy Hues Fibers is a dyer based in my old stomping grounds of Long Island and she is a great example of what I love about my hometown (well, home land mass): friendly, funny and talented. Her colorways are random in the best possible way, inspired by things like movies and snarky phrases, but they are always colorful and Fun.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I think that my story is probably a little boring, because it is a version of the same story you hear from indie dyers over and over again! I taught myself to knit at the ripe old age of 25. It was during a brief time when I lived in southwest Florida, and there wasn’t much of a choice for yarn in general, let alone colors I preferred. This was before the popularity of Facebook crafting groups, but a Google search led me to discover that one could dye bare wool with food-safe coloring. I was hooked.

Then, life got in the way as it is prone to do, and I didn’t dye or knit for a long time. I met my now-husband in 2010, and he is an archaeologist specializing in textiles. He gave me a bunch of his natural dyes, and he taught me to spin. I picked up knitting again, and my first trip to Rhinebeck inspired me to try some acid dyes.

One day in our knitting circle, a woman grabbed a skein from my hands and demanded to know where I’d gotten the yarn. I told her I had dyed it, and she thrust some money in my face and begged me for it. How could I turn that down? I was working five jobs and could barely make ends meet. Several months later, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I were at a beer, bacon, and bourbon festival held on the same fairgrounds as Rhinebeck, and the food-and-alcohol-induced idea came from Thaddeus that I should try to sell some yarn. I thought he was insane. I still do, but now for different reasons!

Up to that point, I had fully planned on trying to pursue a PhD in Biological Anthropology. He was already almost done with his PhD in Archaeology, and I had only done a little bit of fieldwork with monkeys in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It was fun, but I did genuinely long for a “normal life.” (Little did I know that being a dyer is anything but normal!) I bought some extra dye and extra yarn, and there it sat. For months. I was petrified that it would fail. Several months later, I mustered the courage to post some extremely terrible photos of my yarn (I hadn’t learned to photograph it yet!) in a few Facebook groups, and people wanted it. Not quite six months after that, I was able to quit the other four jobs and work on Groovy Hues Fibers full-time! I haven’t looked back!

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

I’m weird. There is absolutely no question of this. When you see my colorway names, most of them are pretty fun. I have puns, I have movie quotes, song titles, television show themes, snarky phrases, and much more. Sometimes I have an idea in my head and take the dye to the yarn, but most of the time I dye the yarn and then try to figure out what it says to me. I love food-inspired yarn, because I live to eat. My husband and I plan fiber show vending based upon how good the breweries and restaurants are where we will be selling! I can’t lie — I do have several mundane, boring colorway names. If you see a boring name slapped on my yarn, you know that the yarn was named sometime around 2:30 in the morning the day of a fiber show, as I panicked and tried to get it all done in time!

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

My business name is Groovy Hues Fibers – we embrace the rainbow, and every color under it. I try to give equal attention to the insane, psychedelic brights as I do the earthy, tree-hugging tones. That said, I personally love orange. It’s a happy color. I tend to dye a lot of it, and I’ve been told that I do it in an inoffensive way, whatever that means! Ha! I am not a fan of hunter green — I have my reasons. But I force myself to dye it for those of you who do love it. As I’ve grown as a dyer, I personally have gravitated to making things for myself that are less bright, and more earthy. I noticed this at a few of my latest shows, so now I have to revisit the idea of putting brights out there for everyone else again. Not everything can be selfish dyeing. Or can it???

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

I think a lot of things are challenging to create. The perfect gold and the perfect green. Many people have ideas of what these colors should be — I know that I have my own set attitude about them. It’s often hard to translate something from my head onto the yarn, because you never know exactly how the fiber and the mixed dyes will marry. Mostly, I do what I want. I work very hard at it, and I put everything into creating a skein that I’d be proud to use. If the colors are giving me trouble, I overdye them and pretend that I fully intended for them to look exactly the way that they did! Sometimes what I thought were my worst dye days turned out to be the biggest sellers I’ve ever created.

How often do you update your online shop?

That’s a really good question! My only answer is, “whenever I can.” Some people can say they’ll update every Saturday night at 8 p.m. I have no such delusions of that kind of organizational skill. I do a lot of fiber and trunk shows, so during the spring and during the fall, I update the shop sporadically as I usually hoard inventory for these events. During the summer and winter, my online customers see a lot more updating from me. There are days I’m so excited by what I’ve dyed, that I update the shop as soon as the yarn is dry and I can take the pictures. I try to never keep the shop entirely bare, because that looks sad to me! The days of less travel are upcoming, so I plan to have far more yarn available for my online Groovies.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

As far as making money goes, dyeing is my only business. But, last year, my dog died suddenly and unexpectedly. To get out of my own head, I took up running. For some crazy reason, I kept on doing it. Most of the time, I feel like that is a job! I’ve been training for several big races. In March 2018, my husband and I will be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 Marathon in Washington DC under the Groovy Hues name as St. Jude Heroes — we’ve raised almost $3,000 from customers and friends for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital! This coming weekend, I’ll be completing at 10K in Central Park for the Save The Elephants foundation. On Thanksgiving, we have chosen a Turkey Trot 5K to benefit the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation. I suppose I have settled for a second job in charity! If I were to name a third job, it would be dyeing yarn for my husband. He is the designer for his growing brand, Archaeology Knits Designs. When you see gorgeous designs in my booth, chances are that he is the one who designed it. I’ve designed exactly one thing, and I hated doing it. I’m done now. As long as I keep him knee-deep in yarn, he’s a happy dude.


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

Honestly? To do mostly what makes ME happy. If I try to chase after every yarn trend to fill whatever the Ravelry pattern du jour is, it will be inconsistent and people will not know what to expect from me. If I do what I love, then chances are, someone else will love it, too. I do speckle yarn. I do make yarn for fades, and doodlers, and whatever everyone else wants to make — but I do it my way.

I’ve also learned to never scoff at any application of the fiber arts. I don’t believe in yarn snobbery. If someone comes into my booth and he/she has only ever worked with acrylic and needs help, I help them. Even if they don’t buy from me. I am all about keeping the fiber arts alive — that’s what’s most important to me.

I’ve also learned that we can never know what people want. I can dye a colorway that I hate, and it will sell out at a show. I can dye something that, on paper, should sell in seconds, and it goes untouched for several shows! Not knowing what to expect keeps it fresh.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned about owning a business is that I absolutely have to make time for myself, or I will begin to resent that which I’ve worked so hard to build. Taking more than a week off to get married and go on a honeymoon was really, really hard for me this year — but I’m so glad I did it. I came back with a refreshed love for what I do.

Lastly, I’ve learned that I can sell all of the yarn in the world online, but it doesn’t make me as happy as when I am vending at even the smallest of shows. Meeting with people and watching them touch my products is the most satisfying feeling in the universe. I love watching people buy things that sing to them. It reinforces that I made the right decision in life! Playing with dye and chatting with fiber crafters is so much better than examining monkey poop in the jungle!

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Charisse Dicarlo of Color Craze Fiber

This is the sixth post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3.

As I’m primarily a knitter, Charisse Dicarlo’s work for Color Craze Yarn and Fiber wasn’t on my radar, but when Rachel introduced me to her Etsy shop a few months ago, I immediately added it to my favorites. Charisse not only dyes roving that tempts me to take up spinning, but also creates stunning variegated-speckle mashups using lots of pinks, purples and blues… and plenty of other colors. She lives north of New York City in Valhalla.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I started dying shortly after I started spinning back in 2008. First it was roving for spinning and I realized How will I ever spin all of this roving? and quickly started an Etsy shop. As of early this year I took my dying experience over to the other side known as yarn and kinda fell into an interview with Kristy Glass. Kristy gave me a few roads to go down, and inspired me to start a podcast that I’m so new at. I think I have 10 episodes so far. I had my first trunk show this year in May, posted on the Indie Untangled site, then got an email from you inquiring about the Woolyn trunk show. And here I am today — so exciting!

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

My colorway names? I’ve recently noticed that I name them (for) what they remind me of when it’s out of the pot and dried. Like, my colorway Bronx Life came to life as it reminded me of the park we always went to as a child. It consists of greys and a little bit of red, which resemble the swings and the slides. So, in essence, it’s whatever comes to me as soon as I look at it. It’s a weird process, but it works. Sometimes I let my little one name them — I like to see what a 10-year-old’s mind comes up with. I first started naming them (for) songs that I knew in the electronic age we live in, but it wasn’t making sense to me so I started looking deeply into it and feeling the color.

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

My god, yes. I seem to work with a lot of purple I love the way it wicks out and blends so well within each other. But it goes back and forth from time to time. Lately I love the neutrals and the fall colors. My recent project is Leventry by Sarah Jordan [https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/leventry] using my Beach Sand and NYC Snow Day colorways and I love the way the neutrals are working together. They are my new found favorites. They will be at the trunk show.

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

I’ve tackled speckles, I dipped into kettle/tonal. My favorite technique that I do is saturated color all throughout in different colors that complement each other with speckle on top. The only thing I hate that happens when I come up with new colorway is the muddiness that sometimes happens, so I’ll just overdye it and it comes out beautiful most of the time.

How often do you update your online shop?

I try and update every week, but I feel like it’s a little challenging because there are so many dyers out there and if you don’t update you may lose your opportunity. Sometimes I find it’s hard to get noticed being that there are so many of us out there. It takes that one customer that knows someone and then it’s a trickle effect as it did when I did my first trunk show this year. It is a labor of love for sure. You have to nurture the Etsy shop, and social media is key. So updates on Instagram are so important. I still have loyal customers that always come back because they know what they’re getting. I get compliments all the time. I always say to myself as the skeins dry, “I hope this is good enough.” Then you get the person that goes wild over it; at that point I’m like, “Phew!!!”


Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

It seems like it’s become my main baby. I’m just very grateful that I’m able to be here full time for my daughter, and having an absolute supportive man by my side makes it all worth it. I stopped for a little while about six years ago — life happened, if you know what I mean — then met a truly great man that threw me back into it and I found a new love of fiber and a new love of my life, my best friend all over again. Together, from here, he makes the possibilities endless.

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

1. CUSTOMER SERVICE. I have 100 percent positive feedback and I always add little trinkets to the order. I always loved getting little extras when I supported fellow Etsy-ens. I’m very good with returns, although I haven’t gotten not one yet. I mail packages out right away, mostly the same day, unless I’m away or it’s after 5 p.m.

2. The fiber/yarn community is so very supportive, warm, and helpful. It’s like a secret society. Especially when you participate in these events, you are so overwhelmed at how many knitters and spinners there are in one place altogether at the same time. My better half looked at me like, “Are you serious?”

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Lauren Bardelline of Old Rusted Chair

This is the fifth post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3. Tickets for the Friday sneak peek party are on sale now!

When Rachel, the owner of Woolyn, and I were coming up with ideas for this year’s Indie Untangled trunk show, we decided to stay local and feature dyers from the Northeast. Lauren Bardelline of Old Rusted Chair is the exception to this, but we figured Nashville was close enough to the Eastern Seaboard to work for our “shop local” theme. Plus, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on Lauren’s bright, fun colorways.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I had been working in an office job and wasn’t in love with that work. For almost a decade I had been knitting, and eventually got into test knitting and learning how to tech edit. I wanted to get deeper into the fiber arts community — I even worked part-time at a local yarn store in Oakland — and decided to try dyeing yarn to see if I was any good at it. It turns out, I was! I had struggled with every other form of art I tried, like painting, drawing, or pottery, but mixing dye and applying it on my favorite fiber just made sense to me.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Naming colorways can feel stressful sometimes. When I first started dyeing, I was inspired by the music I would listen to while working. Now I have a running list of words and phrases that I enjoy and think would work well as names. Sometimes there’s some banter back and forth between me and my husband until I land on the perfect name.

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

Purple has been my favorite color for many years, and that hasn’t changed! Because of dyeing, I am now obsessed with mixing purple and orange together.

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

I have a vision of an orange that I’ve been trying to create, and now I have a bag full of orange samples I’ve made throughout my testing. Something on the reddish side, but I haven’t been able to make my vision a reality yet. I’ll know it when I see it!

How often do you update your online shop?

Every two to three weeks.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

Main business. When I first opened up my shop, I was still working full-time in San Francisco. I moved to Nashville in April 2017 and started working on my business, Old Rusted Chair, full time.

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

I learned I can’t do it all, and that’s OK! I’m not the best at understanding social media marketing or building a website. Fortunately, there are lots of people in this community who are experts at the things I’m not great at, and they are more than willing to let me pay them for their help!

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Carolyn McKenna of Swift Yarns

This is the fourth post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3. Tickets for the Friday sneak peek party are on sale now!

Carolyn McKenna lives north of me in Queens, NY, but I first met her down in Maryland, where she was doing the 2017 Maryland Sheep & Wool indie pop-up at The Knot House. I have been trying to get her and her yarns on Indie Untangled after learning about Swift Yarns through The Knot House newsletter, but she’s been busy wholesaling to a variety of shops. Well, I am very excited to get to spend a few days with Carolyn and surrounded by her lovely colorways at Woolyn in a couple of weeks!

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I started dyeing yarn because there is almost no hand-dyed yarn in the entire borough of Queens. I had three small kids when I started to really get into my fiber and it was very hard for me to get to any yarn stores. I started to buy some online but I was disappointed in the websites. Many, in my opinion, didn’t portray the yarns very nicely. Necessity is the mother of invention and I needed yarn! So I figured if I can’t get the yarn I want, I will make some.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

New York City is a real inspiration. It’s a colorful city but I can get inspiration from almost anything I see. One of my colorways, Ikat, is inspired from a pillow cover I own. And sometimes I just let the dyes be what they want. I usually start with an idea and then let go. Sometimes when you try to control too much you just end up disappointed. It’s important to have fun.

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

I have rediscovered my love of color through dyeing! I was an architect before I started this adventure and we use a lot of natural colors, wood, concrete, stone, etc. A lot of greys and browns. I’m so happy to be using every color now.

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

Purple is the color I go to the least. I personally do not wear purple and I don’t think I look good in purple which is probably why I don’t make it. But I’m starting to get over this.

How often do you update your online shop?

I barely update online. It is a lot of work to update the online shop and I’m so busy between trunk shows and shop orders. When I do stock the shop, I let my email subscribers know about it.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

I still work part-time with my husband’s construction management business. My architecture background is very useful but we are working towards me becoming a full time dyer.

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

I’ve learned you can and should do what you love. I have moments of real peace and fulfillment when I dye. I love making people happy. It becomes a full circle. When I make others happy they in turn make me happy. It’s been one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time.

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Rebecca Picoult of Fuse Fiber Studio

This is the third post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3. Tickets for the Friday sneak peek party are on sale now!

Most indie dyers start out in their kitchens. After taking a dyeing class with SweetGeorgia’s Felicia Lo at Vogue Knitting Live NYC last year (along with me!), Rebecca Picoult moved into her own studio at the Farmington Valley Arts Center in Connecticut. She named her brand new business Fuse Fiber Studio for the factory where the arts center is housed, which used to manufacture safety fuses for mining.

Rebecca has a range of semisolids and variegated colorways with the requisite speckles and fun names like Honey Butter, Free Dive and All the Speckles. Learn more about Rebecca and her business before meeting her and seeing her yarns next month:

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

It was all kind of a whirlwind really. Although I’ve been a knitter (and yarn hoarder) forever, I never actually planned to become a yarn dyer. In January this year I forced my sister to come with me to Vogue Knitting Live in NYC. Since she doesn’t knit, but is an artist herself, we took all the dyeing classes offered by Felicia Lo. We came home so inspired, that on a whim we went to see if there were any studios available at a nearby community arts center that I have always loved. My sister marched right up and asked for an application for me before I could chicken out. The rest as they say is history… I got the keys to my studio on February 1st, I published my first knitting pattern Exordium on March 19th, and my online shop opened on April 1st. So, I guess you could say that once I put my mind to something — look out!

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

My colorways and names are all based on the things I love most in the world: places I’ve traveled, my favorite books and movies, my favorite things in nature and funny family stories. For me, every color tells a story. My goal as a dyer is for people to find something in my colors that resonates with them and sparks their own happy memories and feelings.

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

When I first started dyeing I was so careful and deliberate when mixing colors for fear of turning everything brown. Ironically, as I’ve developed my skills and become more confident I find that my brown dyes are actually my favorite — they make the best speckles. Speckled neutrals are definitely my favorite colors to create right now.

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

The only two times that I have had to throw yarn in the garbage were when I have tried to create a yellow colorway. For some reason, I can’t make the soft buttery yellow I envision into a reality.

How often do you update your online shop?

I try to have a shop update once or twice a month, but wholesale orders, events and trunk shows sometimes get in the way of that. I always announce my shop updates on Instagram and Facebook to let people know they are coming.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

Dyeing is my only business, but I still have a full-time mom job. I think lots of my fellow dyers and designers can relate to that. 🙂

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

Hands down the best thing I’ve learned is that I can start and run a business!Discovering that I have something to offer the world, and the creative community in particular, is extremely satisfying and nourishing for my soul.

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Shanna Felice of Lambstrings Yarn

This is the second post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3.

It’s always exciting to find a new indie dyer whose colors you love, but it’s even more exciting to learn of one based not too far from you. Shanna Felice runs Lambstrings Yarn from her home on Long Island. She’s been a fixture at the Long Island Fleece and Fiber Fair held every May and I recently got to see her yarns in person at the sixth annual Kings County Fiber Festival in October and was blown away by her soft semisolids and lightly speckled colorways. I’m sure you’ll also fall for them when you see Shanna’s yarn at Woolyn.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I went to school for Fine Arts and earned my MFA with a concentration in painting. During that time, I was knitting for leisure between paintings and schoolwork. It was a great way to clear my head while continuing to create. Some time after graduating the masters program, I just felt I needed a break from the formal art world and my paintings. I picked up the needles and began to experiment with new yarns, colors, and more advanced patterns. I loved how knitting, like fine arts, was about “problem solving,” taking all the parts (yarns/paints/skills) and making them work together to create something whole. I enjoyed the challenge, it was the reason I got into art in the first place.

I quickly realized that I was interested in a specific spectrum of colors, and of course I was at the mercy of whatever colors I could purchase from other dyers. I thought “Hey, I could dye my own yarns, colors that I like and would want to use… after all, I have experience with color theory and mixing.” So I got myself some dyes and tools and started experimenting, I thought it was going to be a cinch, “yellow and blue make green.” Well no, not when you’re using acid dyes and mordants! This was not oil painting, this was a whole different animal of color mixing and behaved as such. I was going to have to learn color theory all over again, and call me crazy, but I was excited. I went all in, keeping a detailed notebook of color recipes and inspiration, and acquiring more and more dyes. Over the next year I dyed A LOT of yarn with much success and some failure, ending up with more than I could ever use myself. Naturally the next step is to share what I’ve created with others. This is how I was going to get my art out into the world! I started my Etsy shop and had such a positive response from customers that I kept going.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

Inspiration comes from so many places. Nature, literature, nostalgia, and emotions are what most inspires my colors and names. Sometimes I get inspire by a mistake along the way, and a color that was meant to be one thing becomes something totally different.

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

I love dark colors, the darker the better for my personal style, So I tend to dye darker than most. But yes, since I started dying yarn I’ve become more open to bright colors like pinks and pops of neon, and they’ve made their way into some of my colorways.

My style tends to be dark and neutral with hints of color.

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

Not one specific colorway, but greens — most greens — they just don’t like me. It is my most challenging color family to work with. I have several successful and beautiful green based colorways, but the roads traveled to reach them were LONG and WINDY.

How often do you update your online shop?

Usually the shop is updated every two weeks. During busy seasons and holidays I will update weekly for customer convenience.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

I worked full time for many years at a craft store as supervisor of the yarn department. I now work there a few days a week and dyeing has become my main business.

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

A few things.

1. I knew the fiber community was strong, but I never knew just how wonderful it really was until I started Lambstrings Yarn. These are some of the most kind, generous, and supportive people I’ve ever met. And the enthusiasm, the fiber community LOVE what they do! I don’t think you find the same level of passion and enthusiasm anywhere else in the craft world.

2. In the creative world, if you don’t believe in what you do, it’s just not going to work.

3. I’ve learned how to be more confident. This is more of a personal growth, but it’s worth mentioning I think. The level of self discipline and confidence it requires to be one’s own boss and really taking ownership of business decisions and yes, even setbacks, has spilled over into other aspects of my life. I went from being uncertain about this fiber venture in the beginning, to feeling like it’s the best thing I ever did.

Pre-Woolyn Untangling: Julia Wardell of Pandia’s Jewels

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This is the first post in a series introducing the dyers who will be featured at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, taking place December 1-3.

Pandia’s Jewels first came to my attention through dyer Julia’s fun collaborations with project bag company Slipped Stitch Studios, including designing original artwork for their Labyrinth Bag of the Month. She has since wowed me with her lovely variegated colorways and subtle speckles, such as those in the Regency Collection, a series of colors inspired by the world of Jane Austen.

Julia lives in Salt Point, N.Y., which is not far from Rhinebeck… or Brooklyn. I can’t wait to see her yarns at the second annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show at Woolyn Brooklyn, which takes place the first weekend in December and kicks off with an opening night preview party (early shopping!), with tickets available this Friday.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

I had taken a break from crocheting and knitting about eight or nine years ago, and when I decided to pick up the hook and needles again I found myself designing. But there were times when I was unable to find the yarn base and colors that I wanted. It’s hard when you have a vision in your mind to bring it to life the way you want when you can’t find the right materials. So I figured why not, if I am already designing, then how hard would be to take the next step and dye my own yarn? And that’s how I ended up being an indie dyer.

What inspires your colorways and your colorway names?

My inspiration comes from a bunch of different places. There are times when I am inspired by a single color. And then I spend months experimenting with different shades of that color through various dye techniques. Sometimes the colors and names can come from television, movies, books, and even paintings. Right now I am really into watercolor floral paintings and it’s been an interesting process translating one artistic medium into another.

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

I love the color purple and I personally tend to hang out in the darker end of the color spectrum. There was a phase a few years back where I went through some neon colors, but that didn’t last long. I have noted that this past year my color palette has been muted with ecru, tan, pink, burgundy, and of course purple. But I will say that as a dyer I have to remind myself that it’s not always about what I like and sometimes I find myself strangely gravitating towards colors outside of my comfort zone.

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

I would love to dye rusty reds and dark blues but for some reason they elude me. But I keep trying and I am determined to figure it out. Don’t be surprised if one day you see my shop filled with these colors because I finally mastered how to dye them.

How often do you update your online shop?

I try to update my shop on a regular basis, usually at the end of the week. But there are times when that update is sprinkled about the week. Let’s be honest, It’s all over the place. I would say the best way to stay updated on what is happening in my shop is to follow me on social media.

Is dyeing your main business, or do you have another job?

I used to be a substitute teacher, but dyeing has become my full-time job and I love it.

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

It was a lot of trial and error at first. But I think that’s about standard when you are trying to build something from the ground up. One of the things I love the most is the fiber community. It’s one of the most creative, supportive, and loving communities to be a part of. And its given me the opportunity to collaborate and work with some truly inspiring women.

Untangling: Woolyn

Woolyn storefront

I’ve wanted to do a Q&A with Rachel Maurer, the owner of the new Brooklyn yarn shop Woolyn since I found out about the store last winter. It always fascinates me when someone opens an LYS, as I know it would be a dream come true to be surrounded by yarn and knitters all day.

For now, I’ll just live vicariously through Rachel, and spend tons of time in the shop — which I’ll definitely be doing during the Indie Untangled/Woolyn trunk show extravaganza, taking place the weekends of November 19th and 20th and December 3rd and 4th. We recently added the lovely Michelle of Berry Colorful Yarnings to the lineup, which will include her exclusive Indie colorway in self-striping sock yarn.

Tickets for the Saturday night party, which will include a meet and greet with a few of the dyers and makers, along with snacks and drinks, went on sale today here.

rachel

I know you have an extensive background in the yarn and knitting world, but tell me about what you did before opening Woolyn.

I came to the yarn and fiber world through Fashion Design. After getting my degree in Fashion Design, I worked for years as both a Designer and Technical Designer (which is similar to a tech editor in knit and crochet patterns in that there is a lot of checking over numbers and grading things in different sizes). I worked for a whole range of companies, which gave me a broad spectrum of experience with different facets of the industry. After leaving the industry, I ended up working in the yarn + fiber industry almost accidentally. I started out substitute teaching at a LYS, which turned into teaching on a regular basis and eventually becoming staff. At that point I was already working as a designer, both on self published designs and for other companies. As well as doing pattern editing and writing on the side. Phew! I was busy! After some years at the store, I left to focus on designing and editing full time.

Tell me about the decision to open Woolyn. Had you always wanted to own a yarn shop?

I think it is just about every serious knitter’s (and crocheter’s) dream to open a store, and I was no different. But it was always just a dream. It wasn’t until I learned that the space might be available that I decided to seriously consider the possibility. I sat down and made a whole bunch of lists and wrote a business plan (or three) outlining the type of store I wanted to have. Everything from the yarns I wanted to carry to the way the space would look to what we would do for classes. And I made many, many spreadsheets with my best guess as to what everything would cost and how it would work. Once I had some rough ideas and even rougher numbers, I began contacting vendors and other people in the industry to sound them out and to get a better idea of whether it was doable. At some point during the process, it turned from a completely crazy idea to maybe actually possible to full steam ahead Go!

How did you choose Woolyn’s location? I understand you grew up a few blocks from the store?

I did grow up a few blocks away. It is amazing how much the neighborhood has changed since then. It is really exciting to be part of the renewed vibrancy that is in the area. Especially with Brooklyn Bridge Park, this area is becoming a real destination – for tourists and locals alike. I’ve already had people from all over the world stop by the store!

Woolyn yarn

How did you decide on the dyers that you carry?

I knew from the first days of planning that I wanted indies and smaller companies to be a huge part of the store. And as local as we could get for as much as we could get. Not just with yarn, but with fiber, and project bags and other accessories as well. It is really important to me not only to support these makers, but I think by doing so we are helping to create a community of crafters that everyone who comes in the door of the shop is a part of.

Who are some of your favorite designers?

There are too many to name! Right now I have the Wild Lilies shawl from Simone Kereit of Owl Cat Designs on the needle as my “at home in the morning with the cat on my lap” project, and the Greta Hat from Tanis Grey from Lux Adorna as my “snatch a few minutes of knitting at the store” project. As well as a couple of my own designs in the works. For better or for worse, all my yarn crafting time and energy for the last year or so has gone into making samples for the store – and I imagine it will be that way for quite some time.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned from my mother and grandmother as a child. Interestingly, my mother and I are both lefties, but because my grandmother was a righty, both my mom and I do all our yarn crafting right handed.

Woolyn fiber
Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I crochet and spin. But over the years, I’ve tried just about everything that can be done with string. Weaving, tatting, macramé, needlepoint and embroidery to name a few. And of course, with my degree, I’ve done years and years of pattern making and sewing.

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

Probably my most ambitious project was making a city block [window] for the store I previously worked at. Through a combination of knitting, crochet and needle felting I faithfully recreated all the buildings and put it in a holiday cityscape, complete with dozens of sparkly crocheted snowflakes. I knew I might have gone a little far when I was making the lampposts. It took me over five months of doing very little yarn crafting except for the project, but in retrospect it was a lot of fun! Here’s a link to the project.

Indie Untangled + Woolyn = one awesomely indie trunk show

iu_woolyn

Last winter, I stumbled on the Instagram page for a new Brooklyn yarn shop focused on indie brands. Creatively named Woolyn after its home borough, it sounded like exactly the kind of place I could see myself spending quite a lot of time (and money). I sent a message to Rachel, the owner, mentioned that I would be interested in doing some cross promotion and waited patiently while she worked to bring her vision to life.

Fast forward a few months later, and Rachel and I began hatching a plan for a great post-Rhinebeck, pre-holidays event: a massive trunk show with several Indie Untangled dyers and artisans over the course of two weekends. Now that Woolyn is officially open and I’ve recovered from Rhinebeck, we can share all the details!

The Woolyn/Indie Untangled Trunk Show Extravaganza will take place on November 19th and 20th and December 3rd and 4th. The shop, at 105 Atlantic Ave., will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, and there will be an opening night party on Saturday the 19th with wine, beer and snacks and an opportunity to chat with some of the indies who will be able to come to town for the show.

The fabulous dyers and makers at the event include Backyard Fiberworks, Balwen Woodworks, Dirty Water DyeWorks, Hampton Artistic Yarns, Kim Dyes Yarn, Lakes Yarn and Fiber, Slipped Stitch Studios, Snail Yarn, Spencer Hill, Toil and Trouble and Western Sky Knits. They will be shipping, or bringing in person, a variety of hand-dyed yarns and handmade products that will be perfect for holiday gift knitting, gifts for fellow knitters and crafters — and, of course, projects for yourself.

A limited number of tickets for the opening night party will go on sale at Woolyn.com on November 1.

We hope to see you there!