Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dyers In Their Studios: Rachel and Kate of Spincycle

This month, I am excited to introduce Rachel and Kate of Spincycle Yarns. They are another local indie dyer, out of the Seattle Washington area. I have had the honor of meeting them at several local fiber events, including Urban Craft Uprising, just last month. And am having fun working up TWO different patterns in their yarns (between the holidays and crocheting party favors for my daughter's 5th birthday, it's been a slow month!).

Spincycle yarns really stand out because rather than dying after the fiber has been spun, the "Spinsters" (as they call themselves) create yarn that is "dyed in the wool". Dying the wool first makes it possible to create yarns with nice long color changes as well as a barber-pole effect that gives it a very distinctive look. I will let Rachel explain more about how they dye their yarns and fibers, and where they get their inspiration...
How long have you been dying yarn?
We started working together as Spincycle Yarns ten years ago this coming Easter! Before that, we were both doing a bit of dyeing on opposite coasts.
How did you get started dying?
I (oh hi! ...this is Rachel!) started dyeing with plants and lichens when I was living off the grid in North Carolina, circa 2002. I was just starting to learn about fibers. I actually got into dyeing and drop spindling a couple of years before I ever learned to knit. Kate is the offspring of ex-hippie homesteaders and grew up with a spinning wheel in the corner of her living room.  After hearing romantic stories of buying a fleece straight from a farm, spinning in the grease as your hands gets sticky and birds lift your hair out of your eyes and magical squirrels hand you fresh bobbins, she bought roving and acid dye and went to town.  Mixed results of course, but she learned a lot.
What is your background?
Both of us are completely self-taught dyers and spinners. We developed our respective styles before we met, and since then have strongly influenced each other. It might have been nice at some point to have gotten a bit of proper fiber education, but then again, we credit our DIY approach as being the reason our yarns are unique.
Do you have any special experience with art or science that influences your dying?
I (Rachel here, still… in the name of full disclosure, I do most of the “words” and Kate mostly does the “numbers.” When I have to deal with the financial things, I usually goof something. Kate is a notorious misspeller. We are perfect together. So anyway...) have a degree in geology. I don’t use it now, but I think that in some indirect way, the tremendous amount of time I spent outdoors in different places gave me an appreciation for the colors of nature. Even though we use nontoxic synthetic dyes rather than natural dyes, we have a subtle hand for blending and combining and are constantly influenced by nature. As for Kate, she is greatly influenced by Wu Tang.

Your Yarn
What makes your yarn special or unique?
We started out as a handspinnery. For most of the years we’ve existed as Spincycle Yarns, we were making every skein by hand on our wheels. When we decided to expand and work with a mill, we insisted that the yarns maintain the look of handspun. That is, we retained the rustic thick-and-thin look to our aran singles, the slow color changes of our 2-ply sport, and so on. We still make the Feral line by handspinning and the Knit Fast, Die Young line is all hand-plied. If we feel like the yarn would be compromised by being millspun, we go back to our trusty old spinning wheels!
Can you explain how ‘dyed in the wool’ is different from most other hand dyed yarns?
Dyed In The Wool is just that; the fiber is dyed before it’s spun. (The other method is to work with an already spun yarn by dip-dyeing or hand-painting, resulting in a very different look from a yarn dyed in the wool.) Our color shifts are loooooooong and gradual. And unpredictable. Every skein is different, even from the same dyelot. All the hues of the colorway will be there, but the order in which they repeat, the lengths of the repeats, even the in-between colors that happen in the blending are all one-of-a-kind. And especially with a 2-ply yarn like DyedIn The Wool or Knit Fast, Die Young, the possibilities of combinations are endless. And, by the way, all of our yarns are dyed in the wool, not just the eponymous line!
What is something interesting about your dyeing process that non-dyers might not know?
Our process is not the easiest way to dye yarns! But we stick to it because the yarn we produce is so unlike everything else out there. We just built a new dye kitchen this year, and it’s been awesome. We now have two huge propane stoves and two 15+ gallon dyepots, which is about all one spinster can handle at a time. We are very meticulous about our colorways (and we have our own colorways that we’ve perfected… we never get into each other’s recipes!) but it all happens very fast because we are working at the high end of the temperature range. Again, it’s our DIY techniques at work again, but we have a specific look we’re going for and we like the control that high temperature gives us, even if it isn’t a very forgiving method. It’s kind of exciting, though!
How do you choose your colors and name your yarns?
Oh, this question… Hah! Well, we listen to a lot of music while we dye, so many names are from songs. In fact, every yarn from the line of Knit Fast, Die Young has the name of a hip-hop or rap song. We’re also suckers for a good turn of phrase, double entendre, or just a little naughty implication. A few of our favorites are Burning Sensation, Venus in Furs and The Saddest Place.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. We are constantly on the lookout for color combinations. We take a lot of pictures. Tear pages out of our magazines where there’s a nice combination. It’s everywhere.

Just The Facts
How many colorways do you have?
Without stopping to count the pages in our handy colorway Rolodex (yep, that’s right, keeping in real, 1980’s style), I’d guess upwards of sixty.
Do you create seasonal or special order colors?
Absolutely! We’ve done lots of custom colorways for shops and individuals. The yarn stores of Portland in particular seem to be quite keen on custom colorways, probably because it’s such a lush and inspiring environment down there.
How many and what types of bases do you use?
We currently use Bluefaced Leicester as well as an American wool blend that includes the absolutely luxe breed Rambouillet.
Where do your yarn bases come from?
The BFL is from the UK; all the rest is domestic, from the USA! We are slowly shifting to 100% domestic, though.
Where can we find your yarn? LYSs and online?
We have a lovely website, at spincycleyarns.com . And there are lots of LYSs that carry us, the names and locations of which you can find on our website. And we are always at StitchesWest, as well as some of the Vogue Knitting Live events.

What are your favorite colors? All.
Favorite fibers?
Our American wool blend is amazing. Soft, bouncy, light, yum. We also have a source for maybe the best kid mohair grown in the US, which we use in our Feral line.
Do you crochet, knit, or spin? What came first?
We are hanging our heads as we admit that we are both terrible crocheters. We can knit just about anything, and, of course, we can spin in our sleep thanks to years and years of handspinning.

Link Up
Website? www.spincycleyarns.com
Ravelry Group? Rav profile: spincycleyarns      Rav group: knit with spincycle yarns
Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/pages/Spincycle-Yarns/80381822279
Twitter? spincycleyarns
Instagram? spincycleyarns

All Photos © Spincycle Yarns


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