Happy Wednesday! This week's edition of The Road to Rhinebeck is an interview with Christine of Skeinny Dipping. Love the name! Check out to how it was created below.
How long have you been a knitter and how did you learn?
My grandmom taught me how to knit when I was seven years old, but I never took it up seriously until I was in the Peace Corps. Your first three months are spent in preservice training. Our trainers encouraged us to get a hobby other than reading because we would have the time for it. Lucky for me there was a woman in my training group who knew how to knit.
When did you start dyeing yarn? Why? How did you begin – methods, etc?
The first time I ever dyed anything was while my husband and I were living in Germany. I bought some undyed yarn and lots of Kool-Aid packets and white vinegar from the commissary and away I went. It was fun! I never knit anything with that yarnI’m not a kool aid colors kind of gal. I wanted more intense, deep colors that I couldn’t find in the local yarn shops.
How was your company founded and what was the impetus behind it?
My dream of a yarn shop began as a joke between my friend, Siga, and I. I met her in Germany through the local Ravelry group and we became really good friends. I taught her how to stash yarn and soon every trip to a new yarn shop was really a “research trip” on evaluating yarn shop setups to figure out what we do when we opened our own yarn shop one day.
Simultaneously I was also going through a really rough spot healthwise that kept me from working a normal full-time job. While I was working in East Africa many years ago I developed an inflammatory arthritis that developed from repeated GI (gastrointestinal) infections. I lived in the bush with no water, electricity or running water and got just about everything you can get. Unfortunately I got sick so many times that it kicked my immune system into overdrive. I was able to have a normal life for a long time but autoimmune diseases have a life of their own. I always thought I would get better, but I didn’t. I was in denial for a long time because I’ve always been a super busy person and now I couldn’t be.
As I was in the process of accepting all of this my husband started to push me into turning that joke between Siga and I into a little shop as something I could do when I was feeling up to it. That’s how Skeinny Dipping was born.
What is the meaning behind the name Skeinny Dipping?
Crafters have the best puns in the retail world. I knew I wanted something tongue-in-cheek and
rememberable. We had all of our friends brainstorming. But of course when you want a good idea to come it will never happen. One year coming back from Rhinebeck I was dozing off in the passenger seat while my husband was driving us home and it came to me. Now that time has passed I find that it also has special meaning to me: it signifies jumping in and trying something new, to just go for it cannonball style. That’s where I am in life.
Can you tell the listeners what types of yarns/fiber do you offer? What is the meaning behind the
names of the yarn bases?
I offer a lot of the standard go-to yarns that indie dyers offer, but I also like to include American-raised yarns. This past year I sourced two of my lines from Mountain Meadow Wools. They work directly with American ranchers so you can trace your skein back to a specific ranch and see how the animals were raised. Local yarn is better for the environment and for preserving genetic diversity, but it also directly supports what are almost always family farms. It’s my hope to have half of my yarn lines come from these kinds of sources.
Choosing names for yarns and colorways are the hardest part of having this kind of business. Sometimes I’ll have a contest and let the customers pick names (this is how I got my bulky weight yarn called Phatastic) and other times some yarns will have a specific meaning.
My Penelope Sock is named after Penelope,Odysseus’s wife in Odyssey. She waited twenty years for him to come back from the Trojan war. She had suitors left and right wanting to marry her and she held them off by saying she wanted to finish what she was weaving first. So she wove and wove, and ripped it out each time until Odysseus came back. My Penelope Sock is like her weavingso sturdy that you can rip it out over and over, hence the name.
From where do you draw inspiration when deciding colors for your yarn/fiber?
Lots of places!! I love the paint chip section at Home Depot a little too much, but I really love travel
photography. For me, seeing color outside of your usual cultural context is really helpful. For instance, I’m not a pink person. But seeing it woven in several silk saris makes me appreciate that color and how it can be used. Or the way the Maasai tribe in Kenya and Tanzania wear red and use different color beads for their jewelry. Often one color will really burn a hole in my headI’m in the red/orange phase of that (again!).
What are some of your favorite colors from your collection? How do you decide to name them?
One of my favorite colors is Caro’s Muse. I never liked yellow until I met my friend, Caro. She loves yellow and has just about every version of it. I wanted to create a colorway in her honor because she had done all of the graphic design for Skeinny Dipping.
Another favorite is Bandana. That colorway came to be by accident. I was dyeing one morning before the coffee had fully entered my veins and I added the wrong color to the dyepot. I was trying to make Vervet, a bright blue named after the scrotal sack of Vervet monkeys in East Africa (seriously). Oops. Lucky for me the accident was pretty!
What have been some of your favorite dyeing techniques? Hardest? Why?
I love layers of colors some people call it glazing. Dye powders can be so complex and I like to bring that out. There are a couple of colorways that use several layers of dyes and those are the hardest to replicate. The pH has to be just right and if I stir too much the whole thing goes wrong. I love the variation I can get from this but it makes it very difficult to repeat.
I also love to use powder directly on a fiber or yarn, rather than making a solution first. You get wacky results that way, but it does mean hanging out over a dye pot with a respirator on. In the summer that can get really uncomfortable and your neighbors will likely think you have a meth lab.
What has been some of the most rewarding things you have experienced by being an indie dyer?
I have found the indie designer and dyer community to be really supportive and encouraging. I’ve loved the collaborations I’ve done so far. It’s been great to meet customers as well! I have some regular customers that I’ve done custom colorways for in the past and that has been really fun.
What was one of the most important things you have learned about dyeing yarn and fiber?
I’ve had to learn to let go of expecting an idea to come out exactly as I imagined it. That was hardI tend to be very methodical. This is a good lesson for life in general.
Any other yarn companies and designers that you love?
Wow, yes! I have really fallen for Anne Hanson’s Bare Naked Wools line. I’m about to start a vest for my brother-in-law in the Kent DK yarn. I learned how to knit lace from her very well written designs.
There are lots of indie dyers I admire that I haven’t bought from yet (my husband would be shocked to hear that!) such as Countess Ablaze, Kettle Yarn Company, Jill Draper, and Port Fiber. I plan on rectifying that this year.
My absolute favorite designers are Anne Hanson (I feel like my knitting really took off when I found her designs), Bristol Ivy, Amy Christoffers, and Kirsten Johnstone, just to name a few. I learn something every time I knit one of their designs.
What other fiber and textile crafts do you enjoy in addition to knitting?
I’m huge into spinning. I started out on a spindle but bought my Minstrel several years ago. I also have a Roadbug and an antique one I bought in Germany but she doesn’t work. She’s just eye candy for the house. I also sew (not well) but I can get it done.
What are your plans for the future of Skeinny Dipping?
I have some fun collaborations that will reveal themselves over the next year or so but I’ll keep them a secret for now. Spinning fiber is going to be a growing part of Skeinny Dipping, and I hope to include more American-raised yarns. I have some club ideas in mind, too.