Thursday, October 15, 2009

Instant Heirloom: Hand-Dyed Yarn by Kitchen Sink Dyeworks

With the surprise knitted hat earlier this week and my renewed interest in knitting (thank you cold weather!), I'm delighted to share a fantastic resource for hand dyed yarns. I love the variations in Mercedes work and am pretty sure I'm going to have to treat myself to a skein or two in the very near future

Merecedes Tarasovich-Clark, Kitchen Sink Dyeworks
Find me:,
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Location: Birmingham, AL

Tell me a little bit about what you make.
I start with blank skeins of wool and wool-blend yarn, spinning fibers or sometimes, coned yarns that I skein up. After a preliminary soak, the yarns are carefully painted with colorfast dyes for protein based fibers, heat-set, cooled, then washed in biodegradable detergent, rinsed and dried. We then re-skein them, which gives knitters and crocheters a better view of how the colors will look together, and they’re ready to go to happy new homes! I’m super-fussy about how I lay colors down on the yarn; it really is painting, which results in a very balanced palette of colors in the finished skein, no big blobs of one color taking over the finished product.

How and when did you learned to work with dyes?
I majored in fibers and textiles with a focus on dyeing, specifically silk fabrics, in art school. Once I graduated, I began to focus on knitting, crochet, and handspinning as a hobby; dyeing fibers for handspinners and teaching dyeing workshops in the Birmingham area. I soon came to work in the knitting industry as a retail yarn shop owner and freelance knitwear designer. I dyed yarn and fiber here and there for myself and friends, but the business of running the shop kept me pretty busy. I love working with hand dyed yarns, though, so eventually I found my way back to the dye kitchen, and started wondering, with the advent of all these new indie dyers popping up on the scene if there could be a market for my yarns and fibers, too.

Would you call your process traditional- as in is this how fibers have been traditionally dyed or are you doing something innovative in terms of process?
I think it's a little looser and less scientific than some dyers, but more structured than others.

Where do you source your fibers from?
A variety of yarn mills and distributors around the country, I try to pick and choose yarns and fibers that are less commonly seen from other indie dyers, and ones that I'd love to work with, too.

Where do you do your work?
True to the name of the business, I really am working out of a kitchen in an outbuilding on my property.

How long does a batch take and what volume are you dying at one time?
Depending on the complexity of the colorways, I can dye up to 120 skeins in a day, usually in batches of 3 or 4 skeins each.

Do you knit as well?
Yes, I'm an experienced knitter and knitwear designer. My pattern, Girl Friday, is in the current issue of Knitty, shown in two of my worsted weight yarns. I also love to crochet, check out my free Spokes cuff bracelet pattern on our blog,

Where do you find your inspiration?
There are so many unexpected sources of inspiration and creative ideas. A cool sweater on the woman in the supermarket line in front of me, a beautiful flower arrangement, a bright palette on a billboard; I never know where I might find a great idea. I always keep my camera and sketchbook handy. And I have a little flickr addiction problem, I'm always exploring other's photo pools for striking colors.

What are some of your current favorite products/colorways that you're selling?
I'm head over heels in love with our Luxe yarn base, a super-soft cashmere and merino blend that takes the dye in a slightly subtler way than some of the other bases. I'm also really enjoying crocheting with the Blue Faced Lace fingering weight, its tight twist really shows off crocheted lace. My current colorway favorites (this week anyway!) are Trafford, a rich autumnal gold, and Edgar, a deep inky blue-black that reminds me of fountain pen ink.

Is this your fulltime work?
Yes, I run KSD and work on my freelance knitwear design fulltime (and often overtime!)

What do you hope customers experience when they buy your yarn?
I hope they experience a connection with the color, and enjoy the subtle changes that really show off their work. I really enjoy when people see the yarns in person and have that "ooh!" moment where they gravitate straight towards a color that really connects with them.

What's the best part of your day?
There’s nothing as satisfying as pulling skeins out of the steamer and seeing all of that glorious color. I know I’ve hit the mark with a new color when I don’t want to let it leave my hands!

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