As part of the craft section of the Notebook, I get to chat with dyers and designers that make up this amazing community of independents making their mark on the Irish craft scene. Recently I got a chance to catch up with Rachel of The Fibre Kitchen. Rachel has a strong eye for colour and an attention to detail that makes it easy to fall in love with her skeins. I first met Rachel at The Constant Knitter during the Christmas Craft Market and yes I went home with an alpaca base in beautiful subtle colours aptly named ‘Berry Yogurt’. I am very excited to share this artist with all of you. Take a look at what inspires Rachel and what being an Indie Dyer means to her.
1. Rachel, Can you tell us how The Fibre Kitchen got started?
Yes! I have been knitting for about 14 years, and I am bit colour obsessed. I was looking to find a way to turn something I loved into a small business. Since I couldn’t find yarns in the exact tones I wanted, in the bases/weights I wanted, I started dyeing, with the intention of offering people like me more options, and hoped other people might appreciate the colours as I do.
2. Can you tell us why you wanted to create hand-dyed yarns?
Hand-dyed yarns are unique, no two are alike, everything you make with them is technically one of a kind. It’s brilliant. I love that dyeing yarn is an artistic process that results in something of use to people. I love when an idea goes from my head, to my pot, to my hands. It’s amazing that it is actually out in the world, I can be holding it and using it, and so can others.
3. What are the best bits and the worst bits of your job?
Best bits, the creativity, and all the wool! They say don’t steal from your own stash, but what do they know? I keep whatever I want! 🙂
Worst bits are honestly how messy it is. I am not graceful, it looks like someone is having a water fight in my kitchen when I am working. My clothes look splatter painted! My hand towels are all multicouloured messes. It’s also quite physical, and I’ve been having a lot of issues with my rotator cuffs (shoulder injuries), so sometimes the process is painful. No pain no gain I guess!
4. Can you describe what a typical working day looks like for you?
I work a full time weekday job, so I dye on weekends. Sometimes evenings, and I’ve even got up at 4 am to dye before work. Typically on a weekend, I’ll wake up and start dyeing, then take breaks while the yarn cools and do whatever (dog walks!), and then when the yarn has cooled, start up another batch.
5. What are your favourite bases to work with?
To dye, merino bases for sure. I love the way merino takes colour. Generally I like the way wools take colour. I’ve found that other animal fibres (alpaca, mohair, silk) take colour differently than wool, so I choose to use different colours for those, based on how I think they will develop. As for my favourite to knit with, well my dirty little secret is I am a DK knitter, I rarely use fingering weight (4 ply), that is all for other people! The merino-bamboo DK is a dream to knit with.
6. Where does your inspiration come from?
I know it’s weird, but almost everything I look at, I picture as a yarn. I get a lot of ideas from art, and especially cartoons and animation! And of course, because of my business name, food.
7. How has social media helped you build your business?
Instagram has been the best! What an amazing community of yarn people – I had followed loads of yarn and knitting people and businesses, before I started TFK. On instagram, I’ve been welcomed by they yarn community and have “met” some amazing people. The support is fantastic. I love seeing what other people are doing as well.
8. How do you deal with working by yourself while dyeing? How do you stay motivated and enthusiastic?
It’s not hard to stay motivated, as it’s something ultimately I do for me, as personal fulfilment and an artistic outlet. I have a family which includes professional artists. I have always drawn, done pottery, mosaics, cake designing, etc. art has been a part of my life. I really consider dyeing my latest artistic outlet. I know some dyers measure,and document, and follow a process. I don’t do that. I see what mood I am in, what colours I am feeling that day and just start going. I usually have an idea of what I want to dye, and some inspiration photos or items, etc. But sometimes I start out with a colourway in mind and end up with something completely different, simply because a different song comes on, or who knows what. I posted a photo on instagram of a rainbow-ish yarn I dyed one day – it was literally because I put on Kylie Minogue and was dancing around and I ended up with rainbow yarn. I did not plan that! So when you buy my yarn, you get something really genuine.
9. How do you control the business/creative balance between having to produce yarn for the business but yet want to give into your creative side?
Even though it’s a creative endeavour, I take the business piece very seriously. I feel pressure when I have an order or an event, and I know people are waiting on me or expecting it. It does effect me, so the business end can be stressful. I work hard to be on time and deliver as expected, with a proper invoice and stock listing. I need to get better about having more stock on hand, so I am not under too much pressure when orders come in. My goal is to do mostly wholesale to shops, for further distribution. There is also a lot of maintenance with the website, photography, yarn data, tracking stock, making labels, shipping, etc. I do that all the time as needed, 7 days a week.
10. What does being an independent yarn dyer mean to you?
It means being part of a community. It started out as something to do for me and became a way to meet and engage with a fabulous community of people all over the world! The dyer, the pattern designer, the knitter, the crocheter, we all share in this creation of something. Knitting and crocheting is really special. It is tangible, shareable, practical art with a purpose, and a community.
11.What’s in the future for The Fibre Kitchen?
I definitely want to focus on wholesale to shops.There are so many cool shops that sell indie dyed yarn. I know from my web sales and shop sales that my yarn is in The US, UK, Ireland, Denmark, Prague, Brazil, France, and more. I like dyeing batches just for a shop’s order, so what they have is exclusive to them. It makes it more of a personal experience between me and the shop too. Yarn shops have always been such a place of happiness for me, with so many possibilities and loads of inspiration to create! If my yarns are in shops, hopefully they will make more people happy like that too.