To celebrate the release of my f/f contemporary novella Knit One Girl Two, whose main character Clara is a small-batch independent yarn dyer, I interviewed Caitlin Cieslewska. At String Theory ColorWorks, otherwise known as her garage, she dyes yarn that stripes on its own without you having to do any extra work besides simply knit (or crochet) and watch the colors appear. Caitlin has hundreds of color combinations available and they all have nerdy science names. She’s also a terrific person and an inspiration–in this case, rather literally!
Featured in front: Caitlin’s color ‘Trifolium‘
What made you first decide to start dyeing your own yarn instead of sticking with stuff from the store or dyed by other people?
When I very first started dyeing, self striping yarn was not as popular as it is now. The only things you could really find in the LYS were German brands that didn’t come in bright, happy colors and had tons of “faux isle” and weren’t very soft. I had just started knitting socks and fell in love with the portability of it, and had taken a dyeing class at my local yarn store. I told my husband “I’d love to have neon yarn that stripes, but I can’t find it anywhere. Help me figure out how to dye my own?” And he took it and ran like a boy being chased by sharkey sharkey. Everything kind of snowballed after that.
Shira’s yummy dragon socks made of color Black Body Radiation
What would you go back and tell yourself at the beginning of your dyeing career, or other indie dyers just starting up?
Be patient with yourself. Dyeing has a really steep learning curve–it’s either right, or a disaster. Go slowly, read everything you can find, and experiment! A failed dye experiment is not the end of the world, it’s just how you need to learn. Also, never read the comments 😀
What’s your favorite colorway (folks, that’s our yarn world word for a specific color combination) that you dye?
That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child! My favorite really depends on what I’ve been knitting with lately. I love to knit up the Isomer colors, even if they are 3 times as much work to dye.
Shira’s note: Isomer colorways, like Ytterbium here, use the same colors but different striping patterns for each sock. Most of her other colorways come in one giant hank so your socks will both have the same striping pattern.
Though I think my new favorite is going to be the colorway I just dyed, Zygoptera. It’s neon, it’s unexpected, and it’s got a spiffy name.
What are some of the more creative or unexpected things people have made with your yarn besides socks? (It makes great socks, of course!)
All sorts of things can be made with self striping yarn. My favorites are shawls with non-traditional construction, like Typhoon by Josh Ryks or Lokken by megi burcl. I also love hat patterns that take the self striping yarn to the next level, the best being the Linen Stitch Slouch by Michelle Lynne and the Swirl Hat by Mandie Harrington.
Who are some other indie dyers whose yarn you really enjoy working with and would recommend to someone who wants some new squishy eye candy?
That’s a hard one. I love Haldecraft yarns–her colors are totally different from what I dye (more earth tones to my eye bleeding neons), and I know her personally, and she’s awesome, so that helps. I also love BeEweFibers (she has an etsy store)–she does FABULOUS speckles, and that’s a trend I’m totally in love with and haven’t been able to do yet.
What are some good reasons to buy small-batch indie dyed yarn?
For a few reasons. First, when you buy indie, you’re supporting an individual, or a small group of people, who are putting their heart and soul into their yarn. You don’t dye yarn for sale unless you love every second of it. You’re buying art that’s painted with dyes and wool, instead of canvas and oils, and then you get the added bonus of taking that art and turning into something that is uniquely your own. Hand dyed yarns have a life, a depth to them that commercial yarn just can’t compete with.
Caitlin’s yarn is for sale at shop.selfstriping.com and new goodies are added every few weeks. She also takes custom orders. String Theory ColorWorks yarn comes in several different bases ranging from pleasant workhorse sock yarns with just merino and nylon content to luxury fiber blends that include cashmere and/or stellina (sparkles!)
Use the code girltwo for 10% off your order as a mutual thank-you from both of us!