I'm pretty excited to introduce my first blog interview in what I hope will become a regular feature on The Knitographer!
I'm chatting to Annette Russell, the indy-dyer behind Soft Like Kittens, about her yummy yarns with the cutest label bands I've ever seen. Who can resist a yarn brand with kittens in the name? Annette also hosts the knitting and crochet podcast, Gentle Ribbing.
I started dyeing just for fun but rapidly found I had so many ideas and was producing so much yarn it was going to become a bit of a problem if I didn't start selling some of it! I left my job (for unrelated reasons) just as my passion for dyeing started to build up steam so it all worked out quite well.
Do you fit it in around other work or family commitments?
I don't do any other work, beyond the odd bit of freelance design, but I have a toddler at home who keeps me very busy. My days are quite naturally divided at the moment, as I do my own knitting and crochet during the day while I'm with her, and save the messier dyeing work for the evenings after she's gone to bed. I do find that I don't get as much personal crafting time as I used to, but dyeing is a craft in and of itself and just as enjoyable.
I dye in my kitchen, but have an area in the garage set up for storing my equipment and supplies and doing my skeining and re-skeining so I don't take over too much of the house. I'd love to have a proper studio space one day, but this works fine for now.
Do you have favourite tools to work with?
My main tools are my pots (I use crock pots and also large stainless steel stock pots) and my measuring tools. I have a scale that weighs in 0.1g increments that I use for turning the dye powders into stock solutions, and for measuring the solutions I like syringes in various sizes, from 1ml up to 50ml. You can get those at most pharmacies or in larger quantities from medical supply shops. I aim for my repeatable colours to be as consistent as possible, so I'm big on measuring!
When it comes to skeining and re-skeining I have a couple of "contraptions" I built out of random bits of hardware - the spinning part from a kitchen lazy susan, a piece of wood from an old shelf, nails and a hook - though I'd love to upgrade to an electric skein winder one day.
Do you have a favourite yarn you like to work with?
My favourite yarn base from the current range is my Noodle Sock, which is a very smooth and round merino/nylon blend. It's a workhorse yarn but it takes colour like a dream, is lovely to knit, and wears very well. I've been testing some beautiful merino/silk blends and other fibers lately too, and I'm looking forward to adding some of those to Soft Like Kittens soon.
Where do you get the inspiration for your dyes and colours?
I get most of my inspiration from the natural environment, either directly from the plants and animals and landscapes around me or from photographs. One of my favourite things to do when I have a little spare time is to browse photo sites like Flickr or Pinterest. I particularly look at flowers, food and travel pictures - if you squint a bit you can see the colours without being distracted by what the photo is actually of!