Today’s blog post features an interview with a London-based indie dyer who I’ve long admired: Travelknitter. Like many of the indie hand-dyed yarns I love, Larissa’s colours are bold and rich, but also have a luxurious elegance to them. She doesn’t have the widest range of colours but instead sticks to a refined palette that sings!
Read on for my interview with Larissa to learn more about the Travelknitter and her yarns.
One of the first questions we ask every indie dyer who appears on the blog is how they got started. Tell us about Travelknitter and how you came to indie yarn dyeing.
It all began with red yarn! Red has always been my favourite colour, and so when I started knitting, I sought out red yarn. I bought loads of it. I soon ended up with mountains of red yarn, but it was never quite right. I was looking for a red that had depth and texture. It needed to be rich and vibrant without being too bright, and with a warmth of colour. Being a very particular sort of person, I decided that my best option was to learn to create what I wanted. I did a course in hand dyeing and it went from there. It turns out that I actually enjoyed creating a whole range of different colours, although red is still my favourite. My go-to red is Double Happiness, a name that has many connotations: the layering of colour, the sheer joy of finding that elusive perfect red, and a link to the Chinese community back home.
The name Travelknitter seems to say it all, really. You’ve no doubt found tons of influence for your yarns in your travels. How do you decide on which colours to use?
As a business of one, I need to remind myself that I can’t just dye all the colours! Choosing is always difficult, and it’s not always a conscious decision. Sometimes I’ll find myself being drawn towards particular colours or themes. Seasons have a huge influence on me, and I’m always more inclined towards darker colours in autumn and winter. Brambleberry for instance came about after an afternoon picking blackberries along the canal paths in Scotland. How could I not try to capture that? Each colourway however needs to fit within my whole collection of colours. They need to play well so they can be worked up together in projects and to somehow feel cohesive. If there’s a colour that I really need to create but doesn’t quite fit with the others, it might become a one-off or limited edition. That’s a wonderful chance to do something a bit different and satisfy my creativity.
Follow up question: What is the process you go through from inspiration to finished colour on the skein?
The process varies so much depending on each colourway. If the source of inspiration is a particular place, I might reflect on the emotions that a place evokes, rather than a specific image or location. I then use yarn and dye to translate that feeling in to a colourway. Warm or cool? Solid or variegated? Bright or deep? For example I have a trio of urban greys: London Skies (the name says it all!), Puddled Iron (inspired by the wrought iron of the Eiffel Tower), and Laneway City (for Melbourne where everyone wears black). Sometimes however it’s a much more literal process. For my Freycinet colourway for instance I drew inspiration from photos of my last trip to Wineglass Bay in Tasmania, a place I first visited as a teenager. I developed a dye recipe to recreate the bright blue shades of one of the most beautiful bays in the world.
As much as I love wild and lairy yarns, the depth and sophistication of your colours glows on your chosen yarn bases (especially the uber luxe Tanami!). Tell me about your palette and preference for semi-solid colours.
Essentially I dye for myself! I only use quality yarn bases that I love, and I create colourways that somehow resonate with me and just feel right. The Travelknitter palette varies from almost-solid to layered, tonally variegated colourways. The colours always end up strong and saturated, and even traditionally cool colours somehow end up with a warmth to them. I work so that each colourway involves the application of a number of layers of colour, whether the end result is blended or with different amounts of variegation and shading. The layers give a richness and depth of colour that I love. It’s very labour-intensive, but worth it. The Tanami 4ply baby camel and silk is my absolute true love. The camel-coloured base gives an added dimension to the colour, and the silk gives the highlights. It’s just a perfect pairing for the jewel-tones that I love to dye.
What is your favourite place that you’ve traveled to, or what do you enjoy most about traveling (and knitting!). Which of your travels have been the most inspiring?
I could never choose! I’m massively in love with Scotland, and I feel very fortunate that being a yarn dyer allows me so many opportunities to travel there. I love creating a special Scotland-inspired colourway each year for Edinburgh Yarn Fest, and I’m working on this year’s colourway now. I travel by train wherever possible, and that in itself is part of the fun of the journey. I’m very conscious of the environmental impact of travel, and trains are definitely the way to go. Settle in, grab a cuppa, get out the knitting, and watch the world go by.
In terms of further flung journeys, I go back to Australia every two or three years. The intervals are far enough apart that each visit has a huge emotional impact on me, and I find the Australian light and landscape incredibly inspiring. I could easily do an entire collection of Australian-inspired colourways (it’s in the planning stages).
What kinds of things do you like to knit? Are you drawn more to smaller, portable, travel-friendly projects?
In the first years of my knitting career I really enjoyed learning as much as possible about the craft and developing new skills. These days I like my knitting to be as simple and relaxing as possible. My knitting time is very heavily rationed to the point of being almost non-existent, so smaller projects have a better chance of being completed. Portability is also key: I carry my knitting bag with me every day, in the hope that I’ll squeeze in a few precious minutes (never again begrudge a queue on the M25!) You never know when a knitting opportunity will come up.
Any expert knitting and travel tips for my readers?
Always do your research! Whenever I plan a trip I like to research any local yarn shops or other creative places to visit, and for me it’s become and important part of travel, and a way of building the excitement. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place where I didn’t manage to find some woolly goodness. This year I’ll be sharing some of my travel knitting recommendations over on my blog, and I can’t wait for the show and tell.
A general piece of advice: book travel tickets in advance, and get a seat reservation. I always travel economy, and getting a good seat makes such a difference, especially for long distance or international trips. Seat61 is a great resource for finding out more about options for different plane and train journeys. Oh, and always take your knitting with you.
Huge thanks to Larissa for taking the time out of her busy prep for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival to chat with me. Can’t wait to see this year’s Scotland-inspired colourway Larissa!