It’s probably no surprise that one of my favourite things as a designer is all the delicious yarns there are to play with! As I’ve been working on big design project this year, it’s meant an opportunity to explore even more wonderful yarns – and share my findings with all of you.
One of the new indie dyers that I’ve fallen for is Linda from Kettle Yarn Co. Linda only launched Kettle Yarn Co. in 2013 but already her yarns have generated a buzz and loyal following in the UK knitting scene. Linda was kind enough to answer some questions about what it’s like spending her days surrounded by colour and yarn.
How did you come to the world of yarn dyeing? What’s the story behind Kettle Yarn Co.?
I moved to the UK in 2006 for an MA in painting at Chelsea College of Art and Design. I have always been interested in textiles and my mother taught me various ‘craft’ skills at an early age – knitting/sewing. Like most teens I was fascinated with fashion and designed and made garments (very badly) for years. I was always modifying something to make it unique.
I stopped knitting after my first scarf at the tender age of nine as I didn’t have the patience for it at that age, but picked it back up after a period of illness a few years ago. I was spending a lot of time in doctors’ waiting rooms and didn’t have the energy to paint (preparing the board, etc, before actually starting to paint is rather labour intensive) so started knitting again so I could keep creating and making things.
Once I’d picked up the needles I couldn’t stop! At one point I decided to try my hand at dyeing my own yarn as I had the colour theory skills and could create the hues I wanted. The step to dyeing for others was an easy one and I discovered that painting yarn was even more satisfying for me than painting canvases! There is something hugely rewarding about creating a product that is not only beautiful but also hugely USEFUL!
Do you have a particular process for dyeing your yarn that you can speak to?
I tend to use different processes to get the effects desired at the time, but generally stick to semi-solid colour. Personally, this is my favourite type of colour to knit with as I find that the semi-solid hues enhance every stitch pattern.
How do you choose the bases that you decide will be part of your regular line up? Have you found yourself specialising in a particular yarn or fibre combination?
I have carefully sourced British yarns, as the environmental impact of my business is always forefront on my mind. My partner is an Environmental Project Manager, so sustainability is very much a regular topic in our household!
All of my bases have been selected to ensure animal welfare and the lowest carbon footprint possible for the quality of yarn I am after. I also wear test all of the blends I use regularly to determine that it passes my stringent standards as an heirloom yarn, meant to last for decades. It is vital to me that my blends are not only extrmely hard wearing and low pilling, but also butter soft on the skin. Not an easy task!
I’ve even developed a wear chart to help others understand what to expect from the blends I use and to choose the best yarn for the task at hand.
As a result, I tend to use a lot of British Bluefaced Leicester blends as this breed is a champion on both fronts – it’s long staple fibres make it robust while it’s ‘superfine’ micron count (comparable to the softness of Merino) is perfect for the most sensitive skins. This makes it suitable for the most luxurious scarves, but strong enough for hard wear like socks. It is truly a miracle fibre!
Where does your inspiration come from as a dyer? How do you decide which colours will be next for Kettle Yarn Co.?
I have always been very sensitive to colour and remember having to find just the EXACT hue of peach paint for my room when I was 12! My hues can be inspired by anything – fashion, nature, even what I happen to be watching on TV that week, like the charcoal in my Waltham Aran ‘Peaky Blinder’!
You’ve also been known to design your own patterns. How does your creative process differ from designing to dyeing?
I don’t think it does! I think I just tend to jump in with both feet and see what happens. A lot of my design inspiration is texture led, and again, derived from the world around me and what I am seeing or experiencing in day to day life.
If you weren’t dyeing, what would you be doing?
Teaching fine art. I gained a teaching certification shortly before starting the business and intended to teach at the college/university level, but the business took off and I haven’t looked back.
What do you enjoy most about running Kettle Yarn Co.?
The business allows me to combine skills I previously thought a waste – my colour experience/obsession, aesthetic eye, organisational skills, love of numbers, graphics and web experience, project planning, even my attention to detail from my jewellery making skills are put into effect!
It is like all my past experiences are being brought into play for this venture and I love that.
Kettle Yarn Co. really made a splash when your Islington ‘Pom’ was used in Meghan Fernandes’ beautiful Waterlily design – the cover project in Pom Pom Quarterly Issue 8. How hard it is to promote yourself as an indie dyer? What are some of the things you do?
It can be quite difficult because a lot of the time I feel I am working in a vacuum, at home by myself. Twitter and Instagram help me feel more connected to the rest of the world, and I regularly post quite silly things through the day!
Lately I’ve been focusing on collaborations with talented designers (like yourself!) and maintaining a regular blog, which keeps everyone up to date on my weekly adventures. I’ve also created a Ravelry group and people can get previews for shop updates and get in on the latest promotions and giveaways by signing up to my mailing list.
Your stall at Unravel was beautiful and your photos on your website are always gorgeous too. Where can people find you this year if they want to squish your yarns in person?
Aw, thanks Louise! The next show I will be at is the I Knit Fandango in London – May 16th and 17th. Then I’ll be at Fibre East again the 25th-26th July. I am just waiting to hear back on a few more UK shows and will most them on the blog when I do!
Any other upcoming news you’d like to share? What’s next for Kettle Yarn Co.?
I’ve released my new colourways for 2015 in Islington – British BFL/silk – in the shop and will be carrying it in DK weight for the summer shows.
I’ve also just released all the new Beyul – yak/silk/merino – colours for the year.
I’ve got many exciting things planned in the next while – like a new exclusive Kettle Yarn Co. blend – but I can’t really divulge much at the moment. Sign up to the mailing list for first dibs on all the news!
Can’t wait to hear more details! Many thanks to Linda for taking the time to share with with us a little peek at the magic happening behind the Kettle Yarn Co. curtain!