We were super pleased to work with Travel Knitter for the wool in our April box. We wanted to do a commemorative box for Prince and a Raspberry Beret seemed all too obvious. It was serendipity that Travel Knitter had previously dyed a colourway by the same name and offered to whip up a batch for our Prince box.
She also kindly agreed to answer our questions about her gorgeous wool and the stunning colours she creates.
How long have you been knitting and how long have you been dyeing wool?
I started knitting during the big resurgence around 2004. I’d clearly been intrigued by the idea, because a housemate mentioned that a friend was going to teach her how to knit, and I invited myself along. I’m one of those rare people who had never picked up the needles before, not even once as a child. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but clearly there was something that drew me in, as I’ve been immersed in the knitting world ever since.
It was only a few years later that I started dyeing yarn. It came about as a result of a never-ending quest to find the perfect red: it had to be rich, saturated, not too bright, not too pink. I searched high and low, but couldn't quite find what I was imagining in my mind. I took a course in yarn dyeing so that I could create the colour that I wanted. Once I had mastered my dream reds, the other colours all lured me in too.
What was the moment you thought, 'this is what I need to do' when it comes to dyeing wool?
I haven’t had one single moment, as it’s been more of a gradual process. I hadn’t ever set out to run a yarn-dyeing business, but a number of years later, I still find myself doing it. There’s something magical about combining wool and colour. I love the textural qualities of wool, and I’m very happy being surrounded by it. Being able to blend different colours together is a great creative process, and I love the challenge of finding ways to create what I’ve envisioned.
Helen at The Wool Kitchen described you as 'the person to go to for the perfect reds' and they have a stunning depth of colour. What process do you go through to create that depth and make those decisions to get your dye pallette?
I use a whole range of techniques to get the colours I want, and reds tend to take some extra work. I like to use different layers of colour to get depth and variation in terms of saturation and hue. I work so that each colourway involves the application of a number of layers of colour, whether the end result is blended or with different amounts of variegation and shading. The layers give a richness and depth of colour that I love. It’s very labour-intensive, but definitely worth it. Ultimately all the colours I dye are ones that I personally love, so it’s also a very personal process.
What inspired the colour for Raspberry Beret? And how long has it been part of your shop?
I currently have three red colourways that I regularly dye, as well as other limited editions that I release from time to time. Raspberry Beret joined the lineup in May 2016 after Prince died. I had an idea for a rich raspberry red colourway, but had decided against the Prince theme. My brain must have still been working on it, as I actually dreamt about it twice, so clearly I needed to make it happen.
I initially released the colourway on my two sock yarn bases. I then recently re-created the recipe to work on the Merino DK especially for Sonic Knits, as I found that the colourway came out very differently on the different bases.
Which place in the world gives you the most inspiration?
As wonderful as it is to head off to new and exotic destinations, it’s so important to find inspiration wherever you are. The two places that I call home are the UK and Australia, and so I derive a huge amount of inspiration from these two countries. There is such a contrast in the light, the land, and the climate between the two; I wish I could keep a home in both.
How important are the wool shows to your business? And what is the best thing about them?
I love doing wool shows, and I try to get to three or four per year. The knitting community really is special, and something wonderful happens when knitters get together. There really is a tangible sense of community and shared appreciation at knitting shows and events. How many places can you go up to a complete stranger and suddenly start stroking their clothing? Yarn shows are a great opportunity for me to meet my customers, to get feedback, and to see all the projects they’ve made with Travelknitter yarn.
You have a small network of dyers in East London, how does being so close together work for you?
I’ve found that this is absolutely critical for me. I don’t know how I’d keep going otherwise! Working alone can be very isolating. Helen of The Wool Kitchen also lives in Walthamstow, and it has been wonderful to meet her and to share experiences. We both love strong, bold colours, but have very different approaches and techniques in our dyeing. If I have a customer who is looking for a bold, variegated yarn, I know just where to send them! Helen and I work together really well and our different styles complement each other well; you can often see us sharing a stall at yarn shows. The exchange of ideas is very inspiring and I love celebrating her success. Oh, and it’s very handy if one of us needs to borrow the dyers’ equivalent of a cup of sugar!
We are always super grateful and massively in awe to have a dyer like Travel Knitter in one of our boxes.
We have a few basic kits left (sorry deluxe sold out!) with the beret pattern and a beautiful skein of Travel Knitter's yarn which you can get here.