Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Knitographer Interviews... Miss Click Clack


Here is the second interview from the series I did earlier this year for Extra Curricular Magazine's winter 2016 issue - this time with Melbourne indie-dyer, Miss Click Clack. Renowned for her amazing sock yarns, Kelly Oday gets creative with lots of blues and greys, punctuated by bright jewel colours. Check out her lovely Etsy shop here.

What dyes / yarn / materials do you predominantly use?

I love wool. I use predominantly merino wool but it hasn’t been a conscious decision to exclude other breeds. I like all wool. I like it because I’m a practical knitter and if I’m going to invest a big slab of my life into knitting a garment then I want something that is not only durable, but a pleasure to create. To my mind there is no other fibre with both those qualities. I love the sproing-sproing feel of knitting springy woollen yarn. A good springy yarn in the hand is a fine thing indeed! My hands feel like little machines! Like something out of a Wallace and Gromit animation. So wool ticks many boxes for me. I dye my yarn with acid based dyes sourced from two Australian manufacturers - Landscape Dyes, which are produced by Kraftkolour here in Melbourne where I am, and Gaywool Dyes which operates out of Tasmania. It’s possible to get a little swoon-y when visiting Kraftkolour.

What is your process from initial concept to a final product? Is there lots of testing/experimenting/refining?

There is no plan! Dyeing yarn is a form of ‘play’, and I am an adult with a huge propensity for ‘play’. There were some early trials where I sampled a number of yarns from a variety of suppliers before whittling it down to the two core yarns I work with today, but in a perfect world my dyed yarns would be a succession of one-of-a-kind skeins. I just like to get up and see where my dye-pots take me! But I’ve learnt that my customers like to buy garment-quantities of yarn, or want one-of-what-she’s-got, so I now have a small, but expanding, catalogue of reproducible colourways. Having that little bit of extra rigour and discipline is probably not a bad thing (although if the truth be known, it’s not as much fun!).

What do you think sets your yarn apart from other indie dyers?

It’s difficult to answer the question as to why a customer chooses my yarn over that of another indie dyer. I’m not even sure that that is always the case! A lot of yarn lovers are yarn hoarders, with promiscuous buying habits. I know this because I am one myself! I, like my customers, buy yarn from myriad indie dyers. We’re all after fresh meat! I do, however, think I was lucky enough to get sufficient traction shortly after I opened my shop to nab a share of that great yarn-market-pie. But I’m sure that none of my customers is truly monogamous! Having said that, my yarns are lovely - my Merri Creek Sock and Bridge Inn Road lines are 22.5 microns so are suitable for wearing next to the skin. I also keep my prices competitive. I don’t have sales, or offer discount codes, or other deals. Just the one competitive weight-based price all the time. And I guess people like my colours, too.

Tell us a bit about the mini skein sets for socks - where did you get the idea and what's the reception been like?

Well those sock sets have become a bit of a legend in their own lunchtime! I’ve been stoked by their popularity! The back story is that as much as I love dyeing and knitting variegated or tonal yarn (it’s like a technicolour aurora australis sliding onto the needles) I’m less enamoured with wearing variegated garments. Eeep! It’s a conundrum for a dyer! Especially when my own personal style is dark and monochromatic. So I make a lot of socks because I don’t mind a bit of variegated KAPOW between cuff and shoe. But sometimes I also want geometry - socks with stripes, or blocks of solid colour. I recently made a pair of ‘Ayame-Inspired Block Socks’, after the Japanese sock brand, and this is where my customers' interest in the ‘Block Sock’ sets began. They wanted their own Block Socks. So I put together some sets. Each set is comprised of three mini-skeins with two colours - one of which may be neon, or a super-saturated shade - anchored by a neutral grey or charcoal. I wanted them to be fun and a little wild, but not too ‘unsafe’. They sold out immediately. Then I made more - same deal. Then more again. Then the customers wanted to do a KAL for their own Block Socks - so I set up a Ravelry group and started a KAL! It’s all been wonderful and very affirming!

How did you begin dyeing yarn? Was it an extension of a fibre hobby?

YES! - I began dyeing yarn as an extension of a long-standing fibre hobby! I have been knitting since I was 4, and crocheting since I was 7 or 8 (I had to wait until my mum learnt so that she could teach me!), always using the same few brands of omnipresent commercial yarn in a country that grew a lot of sheep, but didn’t have a lot of yarn choices. Then I discovered Ravelry, and with it indie yarn dyers. The first time I held a skein of Kristen Finlay’s Skein Yarn in my hands I had an epiphany. I had to do this. So with no experience or training in this area other than being a knitter/crocheter (I am, or was, a cytogeneticist) I set myself the long-term challenge of making yarn as beautiful as Kristen’s. I had to work out not only how to source yarn, but how to dye it, and dye it in a way that achieved the aesthetic I was after. I spent a lot of time googling. The fact that I now have a solid customer base indicates that I might be close to my goal! It’s a good feeling.

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