Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dyers In Their Studios: Scarlet of Huckleberry Knits

Our first dyer of the New Year is Scarlet Tang of Huckleberry Knits. Long before I got totally hooked on hand dyed yarns, I started noticing Scarlet's gorgeous dark colorways in her booth at OFFF (Oregon Flock and Fiber). Every year I was drawn to her booth by the deep hues she creates that really make her yarn stand out. 

We are excited to feature her Huckleberry Knits DK weight yarn in our Ficstitches Yarns Kit Club for Spring 2017. Her American Dream is 100% merino yarn grown and milled in the USA, which is a perfect tie in with the stories of the early US included in each kit club. Learn more about Scarlet and her yarns....

Salish Sea or Butter for current Kit Club
·       How long have you been dyeing yarn?
I got my first dyes in 2006, just to try out for fun. I started selling my yarn later that year, and quit my day job in 2011 to dye full-time.

·       How did you get started dyeing?
After I had my baby, I wanted to knit him something, so I went into a yarn shop. I fell in love in with the handpainted yarn that I saw there and thought it might be kind of fun to try making some myself. I was right, it was!

·       What is your background?
I used to be a public involvement specialist, working to engage the community in transportation planning and protecting water resources.

·      Do you have any special experience with art or science that influences your dyeing?
I’m a musician but otherwise I don’t have any artistic background. My drawing ability is limited to stick figures and chemistry was easily my worst subject in school. My poor patient art teachers through the years would never have expected me to be doing work like this!

·       What makes your yarn special or unique?
I really like my colors to have lots of depth and richness. Even my semi-solid colorways are usually multiple shades, not just the same dyestock at varying dilutions.

·       What is something interesting about your dyeing process that non-dyers might not know?
Many of my tonal colorways are dyed with multiple colors and sometimes in more than one dyebath, meaning they take twice as long to heat-set as a more traditional handpainted skein.

·       How do you choose your colors and name your yarns? Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources. Sometimes I see a gorgeous combination of colors in a photograph; my husband will see me tearing something out of a magazine and ask, “Is that another colorway?” Other times it comes from what I’m reading or watching. One huge source of inspiration this year was the musical Hamilton. And I’ve come up with several great colorways from the mess that I make while I’m dyeing—a splatter of something will land next to another series of colors and I’ll realize that I’ve never thought of combining them before.

·       How many colorways do you have?
I have about a hundred in my wholesale gallery, and many more that never make it into my online store. Some don’t photograph well, others are experimental or accidental combinations that sell unexpectedly well at shows.

·       Do you create seasonal or special order colors?
My palette is very seasonally based. Living in the Pacific Northwest, the amount of natural light varies drastically with the time of year, and what I’m in the mood to dye varies accordingly. When it’s grey and cold outside, I go for the saturated jewel tones, spring and summer gets me into the brighter shades, and in the fall I am all about the fall foliage colors.

If I have time, I’m happy to do custom colorways for wholesale and retail customers. These requests help push me out of my comfort zone and that’s always good for me.

·       Where do your yarn bases come from?
Sticking to a relatively small collection of base yarns is always a challenge for me. There are so many beautiful bases out there but I know I can’t carry them all. I have six fingering bases, which is a bit too many if I’m going to carry a range of colors in all of them, but they’re all different and all so lovely that I can’t cut them any further. I also have one sport, two DK, and two worsted bases.

I’ve been trying to support American wool businesses as much as possible. I grew up near Lowell, MA, the heart of the Industrial Revolution, so preserving the domestic textile industry is in my blood. My American Dream yarn line is sourced entirely from the US—the wool is grown here, if it’s superwash it’s treated right here in the US, it’s washed and combed and spun and dyed here. I’m really happy that the DK version will be the club yarn.

·       Where can we find your yarn? LYSs and online?
The best variety is at shows. Right now I’m gearing up for my February shows, Madrona Fiber Arts, where you can find my yarn and spinning fiber in the Northwest Yarns booth, and fingering yarn, and Stitches West. I’ll also be doing a couple of trunk shows during the Rose City Yarn Crawl in the Portland, OR metro area.

Online, you can find me at My web site has a list of my retailers—there are shops in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Kansas that currently carry my yarn.

·       What are your favorite colors?
Purples and blues are my favorites. Sorry, oranges and yellows. I like a few of you but you will never come first with me.

·       Favorite fibers?
I am a sucker for wool/silk blends. Right now I’m sampling a new singles yarn that is 75% merino, 15% cashmere, and 10% silk. I really don’t need another fingering base—but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to resist this one.

·       Do you crochet, knit, or spin? What came first?
I learned to crochet and knit as a kid, and crochet was my preferred craft. There was one year when I went through my mom’s book of crochet stitches and tried every single one. Now I have bad wrists, and the crochet motion aggravates my tendinitis. So I’m a knitter these days.

I started spinning after hearing a lecture by Judith MacKenzie. That’s my relaxing hobby—I spin for the pure pleasure of it, without too much stress about how my yarn turns out. My knitting projects have to be as perfect as I can make them, but spinning is all about the process.

·       Anything else you would like to share?
As a reader and a crafter, I’ve loved the idea of these kits since you first told me about them. I’m so excited to be part of this project!

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