Interview with an indie yarn hand-dyer
Updated: May 22
Last year we met Hannah Sutton of https://www.foxandsquirrelcreations.co.uk . We fell in love with her vibrant hand-dyed yarns and started using her Bright Rainbow yarn in our popular www.tabbyandtweed.co.uk bookmark weaving kit. Recently I have also used some of her yarn to weave on my floor loom creating a pink and purple scarf which you can read about in a blog article here: Pretty in Pink - Designing and weaving a commissioned scarf . I asked Hannah 10 questions about her work with her answers detailed below. They give a lovely summary highlighting the start of her exciting journey in launching her indie hand-dyeing yarn business.
How long have you been dyeing yarn?
I started dyeing yarn three years ago, in January 2020, just before the pandemic hit. It started off as a hobby and by August 2020 I was turning it into a business.
How/Why did you decide to start a bespoke yarn dyeing business?
I realised how fun it was to dye yarn in different colours and shades and I wanted to share these colourways with yarn enthusiasts. I spoke with my mum, who is into all things yarn, and asked her whether she thought it was a viable business. I hadn’t really discovered the world of indie dyers and hand-dyed yarn yet. Mum was so supportive and said 'go for it, what is there to lose', so in August 2020 I launched our website. Soon after, I launched our Etsy shop, and we went from there. I still remember the first Cha-ching of Etsy whilst I was at work and our first sale. I was beaming from ear to ear and happy dancing around the woods (I was a Forest School Leader at the time).
I was interested in how you dye yarns in different ways depending on the effect you are looking for. How long has it taken you to perfect your dyeing skills?
I have learnt many different techniques for dyeing yarn, and it has taken a lot of trial and error. My preferred method is low immersion, where I put the yarn in the pan and add dye solution on top. Once I’m happy with the colourway I add water to cover the yarn then heat up the pan until the water runs clear and all the dye has fixed itself to the yarn. I like hand painting yarn, but it is more labour intensive, but you get strong colours that don’t merge with each other, perfect for our Bright Rainbow colourway. I’m always learning when it comes to dyeing techniques and I love the process of creating a new colourway.
Many of your yarns are dyed in the most beautifully vibrant colours – how do you decide on the colours that you use?
Thank you, I tend to go for bright and bold colours like turquoise, bright yellow and neon colours. I will apply the lightest colour first and then build up the colours and see how they merge and mix. If I want pops of colour, I will add dry dye powder as speckles which gives intense, pockets of colour throughout the skein. Again, it is a lot of experimentation and happy accidents. Sometimes I will have one idea and it will evolve into something completely different, like cooking a recipe.
Where do you get your inspiration from for your different colourways?
I take inspiration from all around me, nature, countryside, and the coastline all influence our colourways. I also like taking colours from fabrics and prints. I like to create mood boards on Pinterest, whether I stick to them is another matter. I also like picking up paint charts and fabric samples as I’m a very visual person and like to be surrounded by colour inspiration.
What is your favourite colour to dye with?
My personal favourite colour is purple so that does feature heavily in our colourways, and I have several different shades of purple dyes, from lilac to ultraviolet. I love different shades of blues from soft baby blue up to deep teal and navy. Anything bright and bold gets my vote. I tend to stay away from too much brown and black dyes but apart from that anything goes. I’m always eyeing up new dye colours to try.
What is the loveliest feedback you have received from a customer?
We recently had a lady buy from our market stall in Totnes and her eyes lit up when she saw our yarn and made a beeline for us. She was so taken a back by the bright colours and couldn’t believe that I dyed them myself. We had the sunshine illuminating our yarn so this made them even more colourful. She loved Bright Rainbow and our new Golden Hour mini skein set and there was no stopping her buying them despite her husband moaning about where it would go in the house. She was happy that we were local and returned to the market the following month as well as taking our card to look us up online.
Do you knit, crochet, weave with your yarns?
I love both crochet and knitting but I am more experienced in crochet. I have used our yarns in some of my recent projects such as the Goldfish Memory Shawl by Casapinka. This was a knitted shawl and I used our Springtime colourway in sock weight and paired it will two semi-solid colourways. Currently, I’m crocheting the Be Bold Shawl by Tracey Mustard and using our seaweed colourway in sock weight paired with a teal semi-solid colourway. It took me a long time to use some of our yarn for my own personal projects, but it is a good way to show off our yarn and we can have samples displayed on our stall.
What is your favourite jumper/accessory that has been created using your yarn?
I’m always impressed with customers who used our yarn to knit socks, personally I have only ever knitted one sock and that was enough. I am going to try again in 2023. I love seeing how the colour works up as the socks grow and they are such a useful accessory to have and very warm.
Do you have different collections of handdyed yarn?
Currently, we have two, permanent yarn collections. We have our Bright Collection, which is a range of semi-solid colourways from Sunshine Yellow to Neon Pink. The aim of this collection is for customers who want a plain, solid colour, rather than variegated or if you want to add stripes to a project or contrasting heels and toes in socks. They are designed to pair with our variegated colourways.
Our second collection is our African Fabrics Yarn Collection. This collection was inspired by my travels around Africa, specifically Uganda. Whilst I was travelling, I collected different wax fabrics in bright and bold prints. This was my inspiration for this collection, this collection has four variegated colourways and four semi solid colourways which all work well together.
I’m planning for two more collections in 2023.
Do visit Hannah's website Fox & Squirrel Creations | Colourful, Hand-dyed Yarn (foxandsquirrelcreations.co.uk) if you are interested in looking at her full range.
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