I stumbled across Andie McDonald's colourful yarns recently, and I had to find out more. Midnight Yarns is quite a new offering to New Zealand's indie dye scene, but Andie has big plans for her bright skeins. I chatted to her to find out more.
Tell me a little bit about your fibre journey - when did you learn to knit and how did you take the step from knitter to indie dyer?
I haven’t actually been knitting for all that long. I learnt to knit as a kid. Knitting skipped a generation in my family so my gran taught me one holidays when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was determined to make a scarf, but after one very sad looking attempt with numerous holes and dropped stitches, I gave it up very quickly.
Like most mums, my family comes first and life is busy. My dyeing is done outside of their needs and when I can get a bit of time to myself which often means I need to wait until my husband has a day off or until after they are in bed at night. If I have an idea that I can’t get out of my head I sit down with my eldest and will jot down notes on paper and get him to help me choose colours, which can end up with some interesting choices from him. Every now and again I can sneak in dying a singular skein when the kids are playing nicely and I’m just playing with some techniques or colours and not worrying too much about the final result.
I do dye for myself, but I also quite enjoy knitting with yarn from other indie dyers.
I was inspired to give knitting a go when my second was about 6 months old. There were a couple of friends of mine who I admired as knitters and it was around this time I was becoming a lot more aware of the yarn community and noticing all the patterns I couldn’t (yet) make. Once again I sat in front of youtube during nap time and learnt how to knit, though this time I had some wonderful online support.
Knitting has quickly taken a preference over crochet for me, I love both for different reasons but find knitting sings a bit closer to my heart.
With my dying journey, I had seen someone do some dying in a crockpot in a facebook group which is what inspired me to give it a go. I was aware of indie dyers but hadn’t looked into it too much. I sat on my hands for a bit thinking ‘I don’t need another hobby’, but curiosity got the better of me and I skeined a ball of white yarn and put it in a pot with some food colouring. I was hooked at it quickly grew from there. I spent a lot of time reading and experimenting and learning about yarn dying. I moved onto using acid dyes, got some tools specifically dying and started making some bolder choices in what I could see.
Tell us a bit about Yarns! What makes Yarns different from the other indie yarn dyers in New Zealand?
Yarns was started because I had too many colour ideas in my head to dye and knit for myself. I was talking to one of my very clever knitting friends one day and told her my dilemma of not being able to decide what colours to dye because there were too many to choose from and she encouraged me to dye to sell.
I think the wonderful thing about indie dyers is the way we each see colours differently. You could give the same picture to each indie dyer and would get many different results, each being a bit of themselves in the final product. Which is what I am bringing through Yarns. A different set of eyes on colours and a bit of myself in every skein I dye.
You have three standard bases and five different dye styles for your yarns - tell us a bit about the yarns you've chosen and the way you create your yarn colours.
My three standard bases (Sock, Wool and Merino) are locally sourced within New Zealand and are fantastic bases to use for a wide range of projects. I have my eye on some specialty bases as well which I hope to be able to offer in the near future, which include a mixture of superwash and non-superwash yarns.
I create the yarn colours a couple of different ways. Sometimes I use the dye colour from the powder. If I don’t have a dye powder in the colour I want, I will mix 2 or more together before it is applied to the yarn to get a different colour or shade. I may also overdye parts or the whole skein to get the look I’m after.
Which colours have been the most popular so far?
I’m finding rainbows are very popular. There is something fun and happy about them, and both kids and adults alike enjoy wearing items made out of rainbow yarn.
How do you go from an idea for a colour to a finished product - is there a lot of experimenting?
Sometimes the thought just appears in my head and I can see the colours clearly and within a couple of minutes I know exactly how I’m going to dye a skein and what colours are going to be used. Other times I will use photoshop to help clarify my ideas with the colour palette then it may still take me a while to decide quite how I’m going to dye it up. And yes, sometimes it’s just experimenting and having fun.
Where does the magic happen and how do you fit in your creating around your young family?
The magic happens in between my garage and my kitchen. We are in the process of organising our laundry to be redone which will become my new dyeing spot once it’s completed, which I’m very excited about because I won’t be competing with dishes!
What has been the biggest learning curve from being a hobby crafter to becoming a craft business owner?
I think it’s definitely been streamlining my process from the start to finish. When you are a hobbyist dyer, you can flit a bit between what you are doing and in what order you are doing it. If your skein gets tangled it’s annoying but not really a big deal because you can spend time untangling it. However what I’ve found is with dying to sell, if your process of dying is unorganized or you end up with multiple tangled skeins that are going to take you a good few days to untangle, it’s not really worth the time.
When a hobby becomes a new form of income, it can be hard to keep doing the hobby in your spare time for fun. Do you still knit and dye yarn for yourself or have personal craft projects on the go?
Ooh yes! I have too many projects in my head to just be able to stop knitting. It’s also a good hobby to have with kids around because I can pick up and knit a bit at a time, put down to go help someone with something, pick up again etc. I’ve also taken to doing more knitting in public over this summer while we’ve had lots of time to just go out to parks and playgrounds and the kids want to run around and be crazy.
Where do you see Yarns heading in the next year?
I would love to move into doing both pre orders and attending some yarn markets. I’m also hoping to work with other indie dyers and indie designers on some collaborative projects. And most of all I’m really just looking forward to dying some funky colours and seeing how people use them in their projects.