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.

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