An Interview with an Indie Dyer!
When I first laid my hands on a skein of Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Sock I knew instantly that this was one indie dyer I had to stock! I was blown away when Asti agreed to dye yarn for me.
I understand that you come from a long line of craftswomen? Did you learn to knit at an early age?
Yes, I do. My great grandmother was a seamstress for some famous names of the time and my grandmother (Mama) followed in her footsteps making clothes for us all, right down to my children. I can remember her teaching me to knit with absolute patience when I was quite young, maybe 6 or 7, a very special memory.
Mama and my Mum got into spinning and I had plenty of exposure to wool craft as a child. Fleece selection and washing, experiments in natural dyeing, carding, spinning and eventual knitting up into warm jumpers, it was all totally fascinating, even though I can remember being rubbish at the wheel!
Mama gave me her Ashford Traditional years ago and at 89, is still very excited when I show her new yarns as well as being very proud that she planted the knitting and spinning seeds!
I could go on with tales of free form crochet, basket work and embroidery but it's sufficient to say that they are two talented ladies that put me to shame really.
What’s on your needles at the moment? Do you have a preferred project to knit?
At the moment I'm knitting up Favorite Scarf Forever by Lisa Bruce as a sample scarf to showcase one of my yarns. Its really simple but effective, just something I can pick up and do a few rows here and there.
I am quite a slow knitter and don't have as much time as I'd like, so accessories like hats, shawls and scarves fit the bill for now. I'm a process knitter really, once it's off the needles, I tend to put it away and move on.
I love complicated lace but it doesn't come naturally and I need absolute silence, so that can wait until the children leave home!
When did you decide to start dye your own yarn and why? Be good to know when Juno Fibre Arts started and was the inspiration behind it?
I started dyeing when my youngest was a baby and I was knitting items for her. I have always needed a creative outlet and was drawn to all the wonderful yarns being put out by indie dyers. I knew that dyeing was a process I would enjoy. So, like many dyers, I started in my kitchen with ebay blank yarn, food dyes and vinegar.
I found dyeing to be quite addictive as the results could be unpredictable and amazing. When I had more dyed yarn and fibre than I could possibly use, opened my etsy store. That was at the beginning of 2009. About three years ago I gave up my job as a nurse to dye full time.
Your colours are quite distinctive to you, what inspires the colours you use?
Over the years I have developed a certain style I suppose. I use a variety of methods to achieve very blended and usually quite muted colours. Most of my colourways are made up of many fine layers of dye, giving them a depth and life. I have great difficulty going bright, although the odd fuchsia or bright red skein pops up now and then!
Inspiration comes from all around me, my garden, architecture, old fabrics. My comfort zone is definitely muted natural tones though.
Your an indie dyer full-time, so what does a typical day look like for you?
Well that all depends on whether its a dry day or a dye day! I try to take Monday as an admin day and catch up on the usual things, emails mainly but also planning the week, product photography, stock checking, website stuff, yarn and studio prep for whatever orders I have on.
I'm lucky that my studio is at the top of the garden, so after the morning school run I fire up the vats whilst making a coffee, then get lost in wholesale and custom work whilst listening to podcasts or music.
My husband works from home too so we may stop for a brief lunch and a catch up, before I head up the garden path again till school pick up time. I try to work hard when the children are at school and be a bit more available after I bring them home. The afternoons will often find me hanging up the wet yarn on airers whilst overseeing homework and deciding what's for tea.
It's a juggling act for sure.
If I am busy with orders then I may twist skeins or label in the evening and rope in my daughter for a bit of help.
Since starting your own business what would you say are the best bits and what’s not so good?
I absolutely love running my own business. Having worked shifts in the past, I really appreciate the flexibility of being able to plan my week around the family as I'm very much a home body. I like that I have only myself to answer to, but unfortunately I'm a hard task master and find it hard to switch off, especially as my studio is at home. I tend to think I'm superwoman and my daily 'to do' list is way more than I can achieve in the given time. I think its probably the same for anyone running their own business. It's all about getting the work life balance right.
Do you have a favourite knitwear designer?
I have to be honest (and very boring!) and say that I really don't have a favourite. I love seeing what the big names are up to but I'm just as happy discovering little gems all over the internet, first patterns put up on blogs etc. I have a big queue on Ravelry containing the most random stuff but very little time to actually knit unfortunately.
What you be the yarn you couldn't live without if you were stuck on a desert island?
It has to be some bulky angora/silk handspun that I made for one of the children's hats. It is the most devine, softest, fluffiest stuff ever and even if I had no needles on my island I could stroke it like a pet!
We're very lucky to stock exclusive colourways of Buffy Sock at Tangled Yarn and our latest stock of Buffy has arrived today! Asti dyed this batch on a very wet and windy day down in Devon. Remember these are exclusive one-off colours, so if you like a particular colour grab it whilst you can!