I often wile away the wee small hours browsing Instagram; this is how I discovered Pixie Yarn. There was an instant attraction to the rich jewel tones of her yarn!
Sophie has an excellent eye for colour; she can take an undyed skein of yarn and transform it into something quite spectacular. Her colours have genuine depth and a richness that shows a true understanding of hand-dying. It didn't take me very long to ask Sophie to dye up some yarn for us here at Tangled Yarn, and I was so happy when she said yes!
I managed to catch up with Sophie last week to find out a bit more about Pixie Yarn...
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I'm Sophie, the owner/dyer at Pixie Yarn. I live in rural Somerset in the UK with my husband, 2 teenage boys, a couple of kooky cats, Houdini the chicken and yarn. There is always lots of yarn!
Where does the name Pixie Yarn come from?
My Mum's side of the family is from Cornwall, and I love the lucky Cornish Pixie she's always carried with her keys.Grandma was either knitting or darning socks for their large family. One of Mum's brothers knit beautiful Fair Isle jumpers. So it seemed a fitting nod to my Cornish, woolly roots.
How did you start dyeing yarn, and when did it become a business?
I was so inspired by the beautiful hand-dyed yarns other knitters were using, but I could not buy any at the time. I studied textiles at uni many moons ago and figured dyeing yarn might be something I could turn my hand to for my own knitting projects.
I dyed my first skein of yarn in 2016 and fell in love with the process instantly! From then onwards, I wanted to spend as much time dyeing yarn as I could. After a year of learning and experimenting, I opened my Etsy shop. I filled the shop with project bags to begin with, just in case my yarn didn't sell. I needn't have worried! For 2 years, I put everything back into the business, and we lived on toast whilst I saved for a studio. I moved out of our tiny kitchen and into my own dedicated dye space in January 2020. Little did I know how perfect that timing would be as we entered lockdown shortly afterwards.
Can you remember the first colourway you ever created?
Oh yes! My Christmas colour 'There's Soot In My Sack' closely followed by 'Kitty Ate The Tinsel'. I still dye both of them in the winter months. They are like old friends, so many memories are entwined with them.
What fibres do you like to work with?
My favourite yarn to dye is merino single-ply. It takes the dye so beautifully, like nothing else. It's my go-to yarn for shawls, as the drape is perfect. My most popular yarn base for the shop is fingering weight sock yarn merino/nylon. My favourite spinning fibre to dye and spin is BFL/Seacell, such fun to dye and has a lovely sheen. I try to keep a variety of bases and weights of yarn and fibre in rotation, depending on the season.
What dyeing processes do you use?
As many as I can! I've experimented with lots of different techniques over the years and still use a good mix of them now, sometimes even several on one skein. I dye in catering pans and large stock pots on gas burners. I love speckling, it's so much fun to watch the dyes break and set. But even wearing a respirator and with good ventilation, I am mindful of the airborne dye particles, a good reason to switch around techniques. Resist techniques are fun and build up lots of layers of colour. Low immersion dyeing is excellent for variegated yarns.
What's your favourite colourway from your current range?
Probably Picotee... or maybe Mirkwood. I enjoy dyeing all kinds of colours, but I'm really a fan of rich jewel tones for my own knitting projects.
What are the highlights and challenges of running an indie dyeing business?
I love my days in the studio dyeing yarn, introverting. It's a beautiful space that is all mine, and I still can't believe I spend my days playing with colour! Creating custom dyes for people, you learn so much and visit corners of the colour wheel you maybe wouldn't instinctively visit. I often find myself falling in love with colours I didn't think I was that fond of. Fades are another highlight; creating the jump from one to another is a challenge but satisfying when you see it all come together at the end. Flinging dye around is hugely satisfying. I'm definitely more on the creative end of the scale rather than the scientific one! The very long hours are challenging. If I'm awake, I'm usually working; it always occupies your mind. Yarn dyeing is extremely physically demanding. I live with some chronic illnesses that can be a bit of a juggling act. Naps are essential! But I am so very thankful for the business that my circumstances have allowed me to build.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere all of the time! There is so much inspiration around, from the landscape to packaging, vinyl covers, films, graffiti, dreams; the list is endless. Sometimes it is just a case of 'I wonder what would happen if...'
What has been your proudest achievement?
This will sound cheesy, but my proudest achievement is usually the last, which just happens to be working with you. Honestly, I still can't quite believe I will be alongside my all-time favourite dyers. Unless you count childbirth? That tops everything, hands down!
Pixie Yarn Sock is available now to order through our online shop; we have 20 beautiful colours in stock.
If you love Sophie's work you can find her on Instagram as @pixieyarn, also through her website www.pixieyarn.co.uk