Earlier this year I was very privileged to speak with some lovely indie dyers from home and abroad for Extra Curricular Magazine's winter 2015 issue. The magazine contained small profiles of each dyer, and below you can read the full conversation with the lovely Nikki Jones of Dark Harbour Yarn. I've been coveting this lady's yarn for a while, knitting my now lost Storm Shawl with it. It was also great to meet Nikki at Knit August Nights and see more of her amazing colourways in person.
Can you describe your workspace? If I'm ever dyeing yarn (not very often and only with food colouring) I tend to be making a giant mess in my kitchen!
I have a very, very small space in our laundry which I use for testing, and dying single skeins. It’s not ideal, as loads of white laundry and dozens of jars of dye stock and powders are a terrible combination! When I’m dying in batches, I clear the benches in our rather brown 1960s kitchen and work there. Dyes and food/utensils are also a terrible combination, so I am very careful about cleaning down surfaces and mixing dye stock away from the kitchen - my poor children saw a crock-pot being used to cook food at someone else’s house recently and were very confused!
What dyes / yarn / materials do you predominantly use?
I'm a fairly fussy knitter, and that translates to my dying too. The construction of the yarns I use is important to me - both the fibre content and the way the yarn is spun. I like natural fibres, and yarn with some silk content as it takes colour so beautifully. Yarns with a high twist suit the way I like to knit, so I prefer to dye them too! I'm also really interested in woollen-spun yarn, which is much more rustic looking, but it can be hard to source.
What is your process from initial concept to a final product? Is there lots of testing/experimenting/refining?
My process is usually full of calculations, percentages, pages of scribbled notes, and testing – it’s pretty controlled. I often think of a finished object first (whether I actually plan to make it, or not) then test and test until I have the colours and finish right. And then sometimes, when the controlled approach gets too much, I toss the notebooks aside and throw dye randomly at the yarn until it looks finished.
What do you think sets your yarn apart from other Kiwi indie dyers?
I think we’re incredibly fortunate to part of such a collegial group of dyers, and we’re also fortunate to have very different styles! I tend to produce yarn has a predominant colour, with subtle tonal variations, or layers of similar tones. I like to knit lots of cables or complex lace, and the subtle tonal yarns work well with this style of knitting.
How did you begin dyeing yarn? Was it an extension of a fibre hobby?
I’ve been knitting for 13 years, and spinning for around 6, and it just doesn’t get old – there are always techniques, old and new, to discover, and different fibres to experiment with. I’ve been dying yarn for my own use for years, especially before there was access to such an amazing international market of hand-dyed yarns. In mid-2014 I took the leap into dying to sell to others, I’m really enjoying it and wish I had a bit more time so I could keep up with demand!