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!

Getting Plucky in Brooklyn

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Plucky 1

In my 12+ years in NYC, I’ve generally tried to avoid waiting in line for things. This mostly applies to food, since I’m not myself when I’m hangry. I don’t go to Shopsin’s on a Saturday and, for a while, anything with food trucks was a no-go. I knew the Plucky Knitter trunk show at the now-former, tiny Greenpoint location of Gauge + Tension (which is moving to its new location at the Brooklyn Craft Company on Feb. 7!) was going to take a while but, as most fiber-related things are, it was worth the wait, and of course the line was full of beautiful handknits to admire.

Plucky 2

I got there around 10:20 a.m., and probably waited an hour or so to get in, but had a lot of fun meeting and chatting with the knitters I met in line. Sarah and Hayley, along with designer Amy Miller, were the perfect hostesses, supplying us knitters waiting out in a cold, misty rain with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and Baked By Melissa cupcakes. Michele, the mastermind behind G+T and the Plucky trunk show, knit the gorgeous cabled hat above, her new design called Treccia, with the ultra-luxurious pure Cashmere.

Plucky 3

Since the only Plucky yarns I’ve used are Primo Sport and Worsted, as well as Cozy, I enjoyed the opportunity to see the bases I wasn’t as familiar with, including Bello and Scholar, in one place, and how the brilliantly-named colorways, like Dive Bar and Tiny Bubbles, end up looking slightly different on each one.

Plucky 4

The shopping was a bit frenzied which, given how fast Plucky updates sell out, I was expecting. But there was plenty of yarn to go around, including a ton of the special colorways (olive Greenpoint, golden Williamsburg, and Brownstone, a rusty orange that was my fave) and everyone was happy to direct people to the different areas and answer questions. Knitters are awesome like that.

Plucky 5

There were some really fantastic samples, especially of colorwork in the bold and unexpected combinations that Sarah is known for.

Plucky 6

People left with their bags full of color. (Those are the special colorways above.)

Plucky 7

My haul: Bello in French Laundry and Brownstone, which I think I’ll turn into Amy Miller’s Bees to Honey; Scholar in Strawberry wine, which may become boot toppers, but I’m also eyeing some hats; and Primo Sport in Round Table, which is designated for a wurm for my husband. While I’ll probably still be scouring destashes for my red whale — Hayley’s Bleedin’ Armadillo Groom’s Cake, a Plucky Classics club color that I want for both the color and the name — I’m in love with everything I got.