Indie Untangled Everywhere Untangling: Scratch Supply Co.

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The owners of a local yarn shop.

Travis, Jessica and Karen of Scratch Supply Co.

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.

Four years ago this month, Jessica Giordani and Karen Zook launched Scratch Supply Co., a craft store and inclusive home for makers in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Since then, they along with their partner Travis, have transformed the shop into a showcase for indie, women, POC/BIPOC, queer and otherwise underrepresented dyers and makers.

Scratch’s monthly Cast-On Club — I’ll be curating the October box! — celebrates the diversity of the fiber community with an exclusive colorway, and the shop features many indie brands that are familiar to Indie Untangled readers — Cat Sandwich Fibers, Fuzz Family, Julie Asselin — and some that may not be.

Since Petrina, Indie Untangled’s event producer, introduced me to the Scratch folks at Vogue Knitting Live NYC in January, I’ve enjoyed getting to know them and share in their enthusiasm for our amazing indie community (they’ll also be sponsoring the Bingo night that Petrina is hosting the Friday of Indie Untangled Everywhere, which means some great indie prizes!).

Tell me about the decision to open Scratch Supply Co. Did you ever think you’d own a yarn shop?

Not really! We didn’t even decide to open a yarn shop at first — we started as a multipurpose craft store with a handwork makerspace in the basement.

When we first opened the doors, we barely had any yarn at all. We had like two shelves with 40 skeins of yarn total and some hopeful shade card boxes — and we were SO proud of those two shelves. The best thing you could say about us was that we were scrappy. If you wanted to knit a sweater you could make something with stripes or wait for us to order a sweater’s quantity of one color. We were trying! Fortunately for us, our enthusiasm resonated with the knitting community, and they stuck with us through this awkward period while we found our footing, fine-tuned our offerings, and started stocking a full range of colorways in quantities large enough to make something bigger than a hat.

Over the last four years we’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to create a welcoming and inspiring space, and grow — with our amazing community of makers — into the LYS we were meant to be.

A bathtub full of yarn.

What you each of you do before you became yarn shop owners and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

The three of us met after Travis and Jessica moved to Connecticut after Travis left the Marine Corps. Jessica opened a small bakery and Travis and Karen met while they were enrolled in a PhD program in Comparative Literature.

We all have experience with research and working independently, and we’ve all been teachers in some capacity at some point. Jessica has previous experiencing running a retail shop, Karen has a background as a freelance writer, and Travis has government training in getting shit done.

We bring a lot of flexibility and a can-do, make-it-work spirit to Scratch. Since we all live together this is truly a family business. We’ve put our hearts into creating a space and a community that reflects who we are, and we like to make the members of our community part of that in any way we can. Our path from idea to execution is lightning-fast — our real area of expertise is in Doing The Thing. (Sometimes the thing is fixing your knitting, sometimes the thing is installing light fixtures, sometimes the thing is finding a way to keep our community connected during a pandemic.)

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

First and foremost, we fill our shop with the yarns that we want to knit with! We have a carefully-curated selection that is constantly evolving. We are committed to supporting small makers and small mills, and providing our community access to with quality materials that they won’t find in just any LYS. We are enthusiastic about working with talented people in our industry whether they are established or just starting out. The fiber industry is diverse, and we believe that the dyers and makers that we work with should reflect that.

For us, there’s no value in filling our shop with yarn that you can get everywhere else. Our favorite thing is when people walk into the shop and announce “You have all the yarns that I follow on Instagram!”

The interior of a yarn shop.

Who are some of your favorite designers?

We love designers who are doing interesting things! It’s cold in New Hampshire so we’re sweater knitters at heart. We love Jessie Mae, Fatimah Hinds, Shay Johnson, Lavanya Patricella, Isabelle Kraemer, Maxim Cyr and Jacqueline Cieslak.

Crochet designers we’re following are Toni Lipsey, Vincent Williams, Twinkie Chan and Stephanie Erin.

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

In September we just celebrated our fourth birthday, which is our biggest event of the year and kicks off a wildly-busy fall season!

We’ve been expanding our yarn selection since March to get ready for the long winter. We’ve recently brought in three bases by Julie Asselin, DK and bulky weight yarn from The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers, fresh Spincycle, lace mohair, worsted and fingering-weight yarn from SweetGeorgia Yarns, the Nightshades from Harrisville Designs and two new fingering-weight bases from Junkyarn.

One of the best things about Cast-on Club (our monthly subscription box) is that we always have something amazing on its way to us — every month a different dyer sends us something new and exclusive! Indie Untangled is curating our October box, and in November our featured dyer is Doug Lopez of Knittinbro.

A family in knitwear, with a dog, sits on a sofa.

The Scratch family, including Violet and Scarlet.

When and how did you learn to knit?

Karen learned as a child from her mom, and knit/unknit/reknit a rectangle from the same skein of red Red Heart until she left for college. She couldn’t tell the difference between the right side and the wrong side of her fabric, so she had a strip of masking tape wrapped around the bottom of one of the horrendous plastic straight needles to help her keep it straight. After college she started a post-bacc program with an endless workload. She was living in Philadelphia and there was an amazing LYS right around the corner, so she started obsessively knitting just to hold a finished object in her hands once in a while. (Fortunately by then YouTube had been invented, which gave her the opportunity to increase her skills!)

Jessica learned to knit when she moved to Minnesota for grad school. There was a woman in her program who would knit through seminars, and since she didn’t know anyone and it was very cold, this seemed like a great hobby to take up. She didn’t know that LYSs existed, so she picked up a Susan Bates pamphlet and some bouclé yarn and taught herself how to knit while watching Pulp Fiction on repeat. She had been knitting for three years before she could read a pattern and learned a lot of problem-fixing techniques through trial and error.

Travis doesn’t knit (we’re wearing him down!), but has a lot of opinions about color, fiber content and design.

A letter sign that reads ALLAREWELCOME and @SCRATCHSUPPLYCO in pink and white.

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

The first sweater Karen ever knit for herself was bottom-up with seamed sleeves. She was very excited about knitting it and bought crazy-expensive alpaca yarn that wasn’t really suited to the pattern… it turned into such a fiasco that it’s currently stuffing a dog bed.

In 2011, Jessica promised her mom a sweater. She knit all but one sleeve, and that sweater lived in project bags until it was finally consigned to the bin in 2020. It just wasn’t meant to be… but don’t worry, mom will finally get her sweater this year.

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Jessica is knitting the Ghost Ranch hat using Dyed in the Wool in Payback and Street Light in Nightshades. It’s the squishy, Halloween-y hat of her dreams!

Karen is working on a gift knit that she’s going to try to keep a surprise so won’t spill the beans on that just yet. She just cast on a Pressed Flowers shawl by designer Amy Christoffers in Juicy DK from The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers.

Introducing: Indie Untangled Everywhere!

An illustration showing various animals in brown, orange and teal knitting, crocheting, spinning and enjoying yarn while connecting through various devices.

Illustration by Eloise Narrigan

By now, many of us expected to be casting on projects to finish in time for the fall fiber festival season, when we could look forward to showing them off while doling out hugs and those appreciative pets that only our fellow yarn people understand.

2020 had other plans for us… A couple of months ago, after we realized that an in-person Indie Untangled trunk show was not in the cards, IU event producer Petrina and I kickstarted our idea for a virtual alternative that would provide the connections we’ve all been craving.

We’re excited to announce that Indie Untangled Everywhere will be taking place on October 15, 16 and 17 and you’re invited to join us from wherever you are!

Previously, we were limited in what we could do by space, time and cost. But now, no matter where you’re located or what your schedule is like, you can gather with us, our indie vendors and some special guests for three whole days of fiber fun.

I’m sure you’re asking: How will this work?​ Well, since you already follow Indie Untangled, it will feel a little familiar, but there are also many new, interactive things we’re excited to include.

General Admission tickets will go on sale next Friday, August 7. Your $5 ticket will take you to a special section of the Indie Untangled website. From there, you’ll be able to browse virtual vendor booths that will feature video introductions and tours, photo galleries, and access to special products and discounts. You’ll also be able to meet dyers and makers during interactive shopping sessions and pop into a virtual lounge where you can connect with fiber friends old and new.

Once you purchase your ticket, you’ll be able to preorder mini boxes that will let you feel and squish our vendors’ Superwash and rustic yarns before you buy full skeins online, purchase Indie Untangled tote bags and swag, and register to attend events, including interactive chats with guest designers.

Additionally, because we know this year in particular has been economically challenging for many people, we are also partnering with one of our generous sponsors, New Hampshire yarn shop Scratch Supply Co., to provide financial assistance to six members of our community.

So, mark your calendar and browse our list of nearly 50 vendors. You’ll see some familiar faces, along with many new ones.

We look forward to seeing you at Indie in October!

The Perfect Blend Yarn & Tea Shop welcomes you to Saugerties!

Perfect Blend Yarn shop interior

This is the 11th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

The Perfect Blend Yarn & Tea Shop has all sorts of extra treats in anticipation of your visit to Saugerties!

The shop will have extended weekend hours during the festival:

Friday, October 18, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday, October 19, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday, October 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Emma's yarn booth

On Friday from noon-3 p.m., there will be special appearances by Becky and Melissa from Nomadic Knits, along with designer Laura Dobratz and a trunk show from Emma’s Yarn, which is run by Laura’s daughters, Emma and Aspen.

The shop will also have a special souvenir edition of its Perfect Blend Inspirations Yarn Box, featuring a beautiful collaboration with Nomadic knits and Whole Knit n’ Caboodle.

Four golden skeins of yarn

Autumn Hearth from Pandia’s Jewels.

From 4-9 p.m. on Friday, the shop will welcome Julia of Pandia’s Jewels with a special pop-up.

A sock in rainbow yarn.

Self-striping yarn from Whole Knit n’ Caboodle.

On Saturday, Terri of Whole Knit n’ Caboodle will be at the shop with a trunk show from 1 p.m.-8 p.m.

The shop will also be showcasing Cocoknits and Kelbourne Woolens trunk shows throughout the weekend.

The Saugerties merchants will join Mary in welcoming everyone to the village! Be on the lookout for yarn embellishments throughout, make dinner reservations and be sure check out Destination Saugerties for additional adventuring while you’re there.

The Knot House gets ready for Indie Untangled and Rhinebeck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multicolored yarn in a large pyramid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

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

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Danielle Romanetti of fibre space

Danielle Romanetti of fibre space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A wall of Neighborhood Fiber Co. hand-dyed yarn

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

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

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

Interior of a yarn shop

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

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

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

When and how did you learn to knit?

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

Artwork on an orange wall

Artwork lines the walls at fibre space.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

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

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

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

The top 10 things that make a yarn shop awesome: my reflections from the road

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It should come as no surprise that I’ve been to a lot of yarn shops. Aside from being spoiled for choice in New York City, I try to make it to an LYS whenever I’m traveling. Even though many of us have enough yarn in our stashes to open up our own storefronts, there’s nothing like going into a shop even when halfway around the world and feeling like you’re “home.”

Recently, Thao of Nerd Bird Makery asked me to rank my top five shops (how very High Fidelity/Rob Gordon!). It was pretty much impossible to narrow it down, but the question got me thinking about exactly what would put a yarn shop on my list if I could actually manage to make one.

So, instead, here’s a list of the top 10 things that make a yarn shop awesome, and how my LYSs, and the ones I’ve visited while on the road, fit in.

Felicia Eve, the owner of String Thing Studio in Brooklyn, NY.

Welcoming atmosphere

This is perhaps the most important thing on the list. A shop can have the most beautiful yarn on the planet, but no knitter/crocheter/spinner/weaver/pick-your-fiber-crafter should feel unwelcome or out of place.

When I think of a warm atmosphere, two of my locals come to mind: String Thing Studio and Knitty City. While String Thing is relatively new — it will be two years old in June — owner Felicia Eve has created what feels like a second home, just with a much bigger stash. Whether I’m coming for an indie trunk show, for the jam-packed Friday knit night or just to sit and knit in the back garden on an early spring day, it’s clear that this is a community space. Pearl Chin’s Knitty City is a longer trip, but it has the same Cheers-like feeling and commitment to inclusivity. I remember when I first started promoting the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show in 2014, I went up to Knitty City to ask if I could put a flier for it on their bulletin board and they were happy to let me. Thinking back, it was a bit presumptuous of me to ask a yarn shop to support my nascent enterprise, but it just shows their commitment to small fiber businesses and how the shop epitomizes the supportiveness that this community is known for.

Similarly, Mary Ebel of The Perfect Blend in Saugerties, New York, was tremendously supportive with last year’s Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, helping me find local resources for parking and rallying the local merchants together, allowing space for people to sit and knit during that frenzied day.

The latest location of Fibre Space in Alexandria, VA, makes good use of a fan-shaped space.

Good lighting and organization

When it comes to brick and mortar businesses, a good location with plenty of natural light is hard to find, and supplemental lighting is its own special art form. Yarn shops with the perfect combination of both are the holy grail. There should also be some rhyme or reason to how the yarn is organized.

I’ve been fortunate to visit all three incarnations of Fibre Space in Alexandria, Virginia, and was always impressed with how well lit they’ve been and how they manage to create a nice flow when perusing their inventory. Similarly, Knotty Lamb in Forest Grove, Oregon, seen in the main photo above, arranges its massive space by yarn weight, so it’s easy to know where to go when you’re thinking about knitting a sportweight sweater, or know you need to stay away from the fingering.

Local selection

Since I’m all about the indie dyers, and a yarn purchase while I’m on vacation is the best souvenir, I appreciate when yarn shops highlight their locally-made or dyed products. Retrosaria Rosa Pomar in Lisbon, Portugal, was the perfect example of that, with an impressive array of yarn sourced from Portuguese sheep that made me want to create a woolly colorwork sweater right then and there.

Shop exclusives

Most of us are suckers for exclusive colorways or products, so shops that have these — such as Loop London‘s special pattern books or project bags, or the exclusive Spincycle colorway at Starlight Knitting Society in Portland, Oregon — can just take all my money.

Starlight Knitting Society in Portland, OR, which has since expanded into the adjacent space to the right in this photo.

Room to sit and knit

Whether it’s a long table with room for just one more chair or a cozy leather sofa, a shop needs to invite you to sit and knit for a while, even if it’s just for 10 minutes while your non-knitting partner is at the comic book store. It’s ideal if the seating is communal and spaced out enough so you can look at people while you’re stitching. String Thing’s garden is the perfect warm-weather knitting spot, and I love the big sofas at Fibre Space, Starlight and Knotty Lamb.

Caitlin Hunter’s Time Trades shawl at Knotty Lamb.

On-trend samples

Who hasn’t fallen for a sample, especially when you’re browsing without a plan in mind? I’ll have to call out Knotty Lamb again, as being Caitlin Hunter’s LYS means that there were so many drool-worthy samples.

Just one of the non-yarn goodies at The Observatory Shop. This candle smells amazing.

Non-yarn extras

I know it sounds crazy… but sometimes you’re just… not in the market for yarn. Or, at least you don’t want to get more than a couple of skeins. I appreciate shops that have a well curated selection of non-yarn items, like bags, T-shirts, enamel pins and things you may never have thought of. At Retrosaria Rosa Pomar, I bought a beautiful woven throw pillow, and The Observatory in Hastings On Hudson, New York, has home items, regular bags, jewelry and even clothing.

Clara Parkes reading from A Stash of One’s Own at Knitty City in fall 2017.

Classes and events

Trunk shows, workshops, maker presentations and author talks are a big part of what makes a LYS a community space. The HereNowSpace run by Paola Vanzo of mYak has many of these special events, as does Knitty City.

Weaving represented in the window at Woolyn in Brooklyn.

Enticing window displays

Since fiber folks are so creative, most shops I’ve been to take special care with their window displays. Woolyn in Brooklyn has had some of my favorites.

Pull up a chair and knit at Brooklyn General.

Something “Grammable”

Especially when you’re visiting a shop as a “yarn tourist,” you want a cool way to document your visit. Aside from having an enviable selection, Brooklyn General provides that with its charming, homespun atmosphere that seems made for social media.

Tell us about your favorite yarn shop, and how it fits the criteria of this Top 10 list, in the comments!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: The Perfect Blend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why did you decide to focus on yarn and tea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are some of your favorite designers?

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

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

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

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

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

When and how did you learn to knit?

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

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

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

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…

The Knot House gets ready for Rhinebeck

This is the 11th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

The Knot House in Frederick, Maryland, is an LYS that really supports indie dyers. It’s where trunk show vendor Dami of Magpie Fibers learned to knit and launched her company and always showcases the latest and greatest at their indie pop-up during the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

I asked owners Heather and Cathy to give us a look at their plans for Rhinebeck and also learned about a new dyer who has come on the scene…

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

Hu Made. We haven’t met Amanda, so we are looking forward to meeting her and seeing her yarns in person.

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

We have two that we have added recently:

1) Nice & Knit – We love their Sock and DK. They have great colors and are just a pleasure to work with.

2) Chasing Rabbits – Love the Sock and her colors.

Cathy and Heather

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

I have to give myself a plug here. We have our own hand-dyed yarns now. We launched our La Di Da DK and Mo Debonair Mohair earlier this fall. With the focus on sweaters, we have focused on tonal solids.

How did you decide to dye your own yarn?

I don’t really know. I had thought about it before but never really thought of myself as an artist. But Mom and I thought I should try to supplement the shop. So Mom ordered yarn and I ordered dye and got started.

Where do you dye?

I currently dye in my home kitchen but we are working on building out a small studio in the basement.

What inspires your colors?

I have always loved textiles and have been known to spend way to much on decor fabrics. I love a room done well with pops of color. So I get a lot of inspiration from home decor pictures and fabrics. I also love timeless fashion. Matter of fact, I took a picture of Uma Thurman in the streets of NYC in 1987 and used it to come up with a small collection. In my option, yarn colors have to be truly wearable. I will be doing a sock weight in variegated fun stuff soon!

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

Not exactly sure yet, but I’m sure Mom and I will both be wearing something from Boyland Knitworks and/or Andrea Mowry.

An FO of Caitlin Hunter’s Tecumseh.


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

Tecumseh and The Throw Back!

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Mom is working on Caitlin’s Ramblin Woman Cardigan [a pattern that is debuting at Indie Untangled] using Knot House La Di Da DK. I am working on Millie by Nice & Knit and the Aim True Hat by Caitlin Hunter.

Cathy’s Sipila sweater.

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

I think mine is still Sunset Highway and Mom’s is her Sipila sweater.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Espace Tricot

Espace Tricot owners Lisa and Melissa.

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

While I haven’t visited Espace Tricot yet (emphasis on yet, as I am hoping to go sometime soon after a trip scheduled for last February was cancelled by the flu), I feel like I have because of owners Lisa Di Fruscia and Melissa Clulow’s approachable podcast.

When I do get to visit, I will be all over their selection, which includes yarn from local dyers Julie Asselin and Tanis Fiber Arts and goodies from Twill & Print, and excited to see their beautiful patterns in person.

Tell me the story of how Espace Tricot came to be. Had both of you always wanted to own a yarn shop?

Melissa first picked up a set of knitting needles back in 2008, and something just clicked. Meanwhile, across town, Lisa had turned to knitting while her newborn son napped afternoons away in the car (his preferred location). As two newly minted yarn lovers, hooked on the creative and stress-relieving properties of the craft, we soon met at a local knit night and became fast friends. Over the next year we daydreamed about creating the ideal knit shop – in an aspirational but totally idle sort of way. One day, when a local yarn shop owner who was moving out of town asked Melissa if she knew of anyone who might be interested in subletting her space, it took one phone call to Lisa and about five seconds for us to decide we would be the ones to take over the lease and open a store. Three months later, Espace Tricot was born!

What did each of you do before you became yarn shop owners and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

Lisa was a physical education teacher by profession and had worked most recently in the area of personal/spiritual development while Melissa’s varied background combined clinical psychology, non-profit management and website design and development. Neither of us had specific experience running a retail business, but we optimistically believed we had the personal and professional qualities, work ethic, and initiative necessary to make a go of it.

Fundamentally, creating and growing a successful store requires both practical and organizational skills, as well as interpersonal abilities. These aspects are especially important in the knitting world insofar as we are serving a community of people who love to share, learn, create, and connect through our craft. Having backgrounds in education and psychology enhance our capacity to understand our clients and to guide them in their projects, choices and learning in a supportive and instructional way.

Furthermore, Melissa’s experience in management and web development and Lisa’s work as a physical education teacher contribute to our ability to keep the various aspects of our business running smoothly. That said, we also recognize the limitations of our skill-sets and do not hesitate to engage outside professional assistance when necessary (e.g. accounting, product photography)!

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

As we’ve grown in our business, we’ve gained a better understanding of knitters and the market as a whole. We would say that the selection of dyers, and brands in general, is more art than science and there are many factors that enter into our decision-making process.

First, we consider our current inventory and determine whether there are particular weights or textures missing and prioritize filling those gaps. We constantly evaluate our shelves to decide if yarns need to be retired and replaced in order to breathe new life into our staples. We meet with yarn reps on a regular basis to see whether their product lines suit our needs and often ask for samples to knit up test swatches before finalizing our decisions.

This all sounds very methodical, but we are also not above making impulsive decisions when we fall for a yarn, even when any rationale for adding it to our shelves is entirely lacking. We are knitters, after all! When selecting hand-dyed yarns and smaller brands we rely heavily on our instincts, we tune in to what is capturing the attention of knitters, and keep a keen eye on sparks flying out in the ether.

Sometimes the clues are ephemeral and sometimes they are more concrete, taking the form of repeated customer requests! We might see something at a festival, twig on to something through social media, receive an e-mail from a new hand dyer, or develop a personal relationship with a producer. We also look to Ravelry for guidance. We check up on popular yarns and those gaining momentum and take note of what our favourite and/or popular designers are knitting their patterns with.

What made you decide to start a podcast?

Lisa had begun to delve into the fountain pen world and wanted to learn more about these curious instruments so turned to YouTube to find out more. She stumbled upon a podcast by a young entrepreneur with an online pen shop and mentioned it to Melissa. Melissa quickly set about exploring this intriguing world of podcasts within the knitting community and was immediately hooked on the plethora of wonderful channels already available. We didn’t dare dream of starting a podcast ourselves (what?! no way would we ever!), but on the urging of Lisa’s husband we decided to film an episode just to see if we could do it. Needless to say, we took great comfort in knowing our initial effort wouldn’t see the light of day if we felt it was just too terrible. And now here we are, 20 episodes later and counting.

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

We are always on the hunt for new and exciting products and often bring them in irrespective of the season. This fall, however, we are turning our focus towards stranded colourwork projects and are working to bring our customers on a journey with us as we learn more about the incredible properties of minimally processed 100% wool. We are so excited by all of the beautiful rustic and breed-specific sheep yarns we’ve ordered and look forward to encouraging knitters to move beyond their immediate reactions to these yarns as scratchy or rough towards an appreciation of their warm, comforting, versatile and aesthetically stunning properties!

We’ve developed new relationships with the distributors of Rauma, BC Garn, and Garthenor, and are restocking our current offerings from Brooklyn Tweed, Tukuwool and Quince & Co. We’re also adding new lines from Kelbourne Woolens, Julie Asselin, Rowan and Lopi. Of course, all of these will find a home among our wide selection of hand-dyed yarns from producers such as Madelinetosh, Hedgehog Fibres, Artfil, Julie Asselin and Koigu as well as lines from Shibui Knits, Woolfolk, Lang, mYak, Berroco, Cascade and many others!

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Interestingly, both Lisa and Melissa learned to knit around the same time in March 2008. At that time Lisa was at home with her 18-month old son and was looking for an outlet to express her creativity and to reconnect with herself. She found a little shop that was offering Learn to Knit classes and the rest is history.

Melissa had just moved to Montreal and asked her mother to teach her how to knit as part of a strategy to find community in her new city. Shortly after, we met at a local knit night and it was love at first sight! We’ve been great friends, business partners, and obsessive knitters ever since. Having each other has been wonderful for our knitting progress — we encourage and motivate one other, take great pride in each other’s successes, and support one another through the inevitable failures –- usually with wine!

Do either of you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Lisa loves to dabble in art for self-expression, including painting, drawing, journaling, or collage, while Melissa enjoys a bit of weaving and sewing. Of course, all of these take a back seat to knitting…

Espace Tricot’s Wrapped in Lino shawl.

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Every project that has pushed our skills to the next level has led to a great sense of accomplishment (e.g. first pair of socks, first sweater, first colourwork project, etc). For Lisa, however, the most memorable ones are the projects she has knit which required kilometres of knitting and sheer perseverance, such as her Wrapped in Lino and European Road Trip shawls. She is also especially proud of her latest design, Étoile Maritime, which required her to figure out how to increase while maintaining a star mesh rib design!

Melissa’s favourite projects are usually those to which she’s added a strand of silk and mohair for that halo quality she can’t get enough of! Her most memorable ones, however, have been designs such as her Chevron Baby Blanket and Getting Warmer cowl which have resonated with so many knitters on Ravelry and which made her think that perhaps she had something to offer in the area of simple, straightforward knitwear design.