How are your entries for our photo series contest coming along?? You have nearly 3 weeks left before the deadline—plenty of time to snap a series of fun photos with your mochis!
Today I’m excited to share with you an interview with Julie Lindsey, the yarn artist behind Happy Go Lucky, the sponsor for our photo contest.
I’m especially thrilled to have her as a sponsor because not only are her hand-dyed yarns lovely, but she’s also local to our new Chicago home! So I’ve had the opportunity to meet her in person and talk fiber on multiple occasions. It’s so cool to know the person behind the yarn. Get to know Julie yourself (and pick up some tips on working with hand-dyed yarn) after the jump!
Anna: Your mini skeinbows are so colorful and contain just the right amount of yarn for several quick, small projects. (Or even more teeny-tiny projects!) Could you take us through your process for making one of these collections?
Julie: Thank you! First, I figure out what colors I want; it was pretty easy with the first collection of bright yarn – dye the rainbow! I love working with super-saturated colors, so it seemed pretty natural.
I dye the yarn in standard 100g skeins first, then use a tiny niddy-noddy (a tool for skeining and measuring yarn, primarily used by spinners) to split one skein into 10 mini-skeins. I’ll do this with all six colors, which makes ten sets of skeinbows. It takes a lot of labor, so I listen to a lot of podcasts in the process!
Anna: Ooh, I listen to quite a lot of podcasts myself! What are your favorites?
Julie: I love Welcome to Night Vale. I just got caught up with it and now I can hardly wait for each new episode.
I like NPR shows—Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, Sound Opinions, The Moth, and Fresh Air; I also listen to Chicago Public Radio so much that I have the schedule memorized. I sneak in a lot of knitting podcasts, too, but that list would require a whole post of its own! There are so many I can’t keep up with any of them.
Anna: How did you first get into dyeing?
Julie: I started on a whim a few years ago, because it sounded like a lot of fun. I come from an art and design background, so anything that involves playing with color is right up my alley. A friend and I got some Kool-Aid, some food coloring, and some undyed yarn and went to town. I still wear the socks I made from those yarns!
Anna: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve made with yarn that you dyed yourself?
Julie: I’m a lot like you in that I usually love the most recent thing I’ve made the best. In that vein, I really love the Walk on the Moon shawl I knit in three colors of HGL sock – Queen Elsa, Dr. Bashir, and Jenna.
Anna: Do you have a “dye disaster” story to share?
Julie: Well, there’s the time I dropped a jar or dye powder and turned most of my basement floor —and my feet—dark red. This would be why I usually dye yarn barefoot or in Crocs that I can hose off…
One of my dye disasters turned into a huge win, though. I dyed up three skeins in colors I thought would look great together, only to have them turn out terribly. I was mad for a while, but since I had nothing to lose, I overdyed the lot of them in a deep turquoise. The resulting yarn—Class M Planet—is one of my best sellers. The only problem is that whenever I dye it, I need to make a whole bunch of ugly duckling skeins before I can make them into yarny swans!
Anna: Where do you get your inspiration for color combinations?
Julie: Everywhere. Seriously! I keep images from magazines, landscapes, video games, you name it—I’ll even sneak photos of people with cool outfits while trying not to be really creepy.
Anna: And how do you name your colors? Does the name come first, or after you come up with the color?
Julie: 90% of the time the color comes first. I’ll get a custom color request, or just experiment, and then stare at the yarn until a name comes to mind. Sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes my friends and family help. (My equally nerdy husband named Romulan Ale!)
Anna: Do you ever find yourself torn between knitting and dyeing? Which wins, if you can only do one?
Julie: Not often, actually. Dyeing is a much more athletic activity, because it’s a lot of standing and toting water around, and knitting is much more relaxing. I think I’d pick knitting over dyeing, though, because it would be hard to be around all that yarn and not be able to knit any!
Anna: Aside from your Etsy shop, do you sell your yarn anywhere else?
Julie: I like to sell at the knitting retreats I go to, and in the summer at the fiber fests around Chicago. My next in-person stop will be at the Into the Wool retreat in Tennesee in May.
Anna: If someone is shopping for hand-dyed yarn, are there things they should look for to know that it’s going to result in a good-looking project?
• Be sure to buy enough for your project. Hand-dyed yarn is often dyed in small batches, so your best bet to get consistent color is to order it all at once. Lots of indie dyers are happy to take these requests.
• If you have trouble with unwanted pooling or mismatched dye lots, try striping two balls together to break up pooling or blend color differences.
• Yarn that looks great in a ball may not look awesome in the pattern you’re using. Don’t be afraid to rip it out and try again! There are lots of patterns designed for hand-painted yarns and your yarn is bound to work well with one.
• Be sure to wash projects by themselves, at least the first few times. Hand-dyed yarn can bleed, sometimes quite a bit depending on the color and dyer. If you’re worried about colors running in a multi-color project, make a small swatch and test it first.
Anna: Great tips! And if someone is interested in trying out dyeing for the first time, how would you recommend they get started?
• Working with Kool-Aid is a great way to get started, or you can use food coloring and vinegar (just like dyeing eggs!). The materials are all inexpensive and food-safe, so you can use whatever’s in your kitchen, and you probably have everything you need already. Knitty has a great article on Kool-Aid dyeing.
• Don’t be afraid to experiment; some of the greatest colors happen by accident! Even if something doesn’t turn out to your liking, you can overdye it or maybe give it to a friend with different tastes.
• Be sure to write down how you made each color, so you can make more if you like the results. Most dyers I know (including me!) keep a notebook.
• Have fun!
Thank you so much for the fascinating chat, Julie!
Be sure to check out Julie’s website and Etsy shop to see more of her unique, hand-dyed yarns. And don’t forget to enter our photo series contest—each of the top 3 winners will receive mini skeinbows straight out of Julie’s workshop!