TL/DR: To celebrate Fifteen Years, everything currently available on the BRS page can be purchased at $15.00 per skein now through Friday, October 1. Not fifteen percent off, but Fifteen Dollars each skein! Click over to the Blog Reader Specials page to make your selections and email me your requests. 🙂
Can you believe it? I’ve been at this adventure for Fifteen Years! I officially started Knitivity on October 1, 2006. I’d moved to Houston from New Orleans a month prior with the idea I could make money dyeing yarn for other knitters. (I know I’ve previously shared the events with Hurricane Katrina that spurred my interest in leaving New Orleans and starting over.) I’m not particularly clever creating knitted designs and patterns, but I really enjoy playing with color on fiber, especially wool yarn.
The undyed yarn comes to me like a blank canvas. Not many painters will paint the same scene repeatedly, but will create a new image each time. I tried for a few years to create a consistent line-up of colorways that could be repeated on demand, but it was grueling work and often disappointing because I don’t have a consistent work environment. The local water source sometime has different chemicals to make it safe for drinking; humidity and air temperature sometimes affect how dyes turn out; I don’t have computerized color matching for consistently repeating what I’ve done. It was heart-breaking taking orders for colorways that simply refused to turn out now what I’d done just a few weeks prior.
Because of my disappointments in not producing consistent colorways, I ended up selling a lot of mistakes on my blog, along with some experiments and extras. Over time, I simply stopped pushing for custom dyed yarn on demand, and now nearly all of my yarn is Blog Reader Specials. I still do offer custom dye jobs on a case-by-case basis, but I don’t have a regular line-up of colorways for people to request. I just need a clear picture of what is wanted, but don’t send me a forest picture and ask for yarn like the little flower at the base of the third tree from the left. Get a close up of the flower. 🙂
When I started, not many people believed I could make money doing this, at least not in the long term. Having left a fairly ‘safe’ income working for the State of Louisiana, I had put myself in a position where I had nothing else to fall back on if this didn’t work out. And for a time it looked like I would have to quit and find something else to fill my time and pocketbook.
But, after 15 years I am still here. I’ve seen dyers come and go. It’s a hard way to make a living, for sure, and I am by no means living high on the hog. Even now I struggle to make ends meet.
My main consolation is that there is nobody else depending on me for food and housing. It’s just me. But that also means there’s nobody here for me to commiserate with at the end of a hard day. I don’t have a regularly employed spouse to help cover the bills. I don’t have someone to help bind up the yarns or help with any of the other processes required for me to do what I do.
At one point early on I did hire a couple teenagers to help with pulling individual hanks from cones. That was before I was given an electric 3-skein skein-winder, so it was all manual work winding off hanks individually. But I discovered my helpers weren’t accurate and consistent in counting off the required yardage, nor could they form the knots I required for various steps. No matter how many times I showed them, they just didn’t do it the way I needed. In fairness, one of the boys did try, but the other was simply too disinterested to pay attention and always complained about my methods and my knots were too hard to remember.
When I started dyeing, I watched a few YouTube videos. This was back in 2005 and there weren’t so many. I also read the tutorials at Dharma Trading and a couple other places. But nearly everything I have learned was from trial-and-error, discovering what worked and what didn’t. Nobody showed me how to reskein a hank and then twist it correctly for presentation. Everyone has their own work space; I have a small kitchen.
I had to learn or invent my own methods based on what equipment and space I had available at hand, because I started on a shoestring and could not just go buy everything to create the ideal space. This is not to say I didn’t benefit from other dyers sharing their experience; I did. But I didn’t sign up for classes. In various dyers groups I would catch a tip here, note a hint there.
Would I do it again? I don’t know. I suppose there is a reason we can’t see too far into the future. If I had stayed on at my job in Louisiana I would be nearing retirement and would have somewhat more monthly income than I have now, that’s for sure. But because of the aftermath of Katrina and my work situation, I would have been stuck in a terribly discouraging job (aka,“Journey Of Boredom”) and been incredibly unhappy for the last 15 years.
But, for better or worse, I’ve been here for FIFTEEN YEARS, and I have earned the right to thumb my nose at the early naysayers who doubted and scoffed and didn’t think I could do it. Whether by talent, luck, or sheer stubbornness, I’m still here. And definitely with the help of some incredible friends and supporters through the years. I’ve had (and still have) financial challenges as well as some significant health challenges and other bumps along the way. I have no idea how long I will be able to continue, but I have no other way to earn money and I don’t think I have exhausted all the different ways to take a blank canvas of yarn and apply color to it.
I could be mistaken, but I do believe my work has improved over the years. I will, of course, leave that for others to decide. Meanwhile, I will just keep on playing with color on yarn and see what works and what doesn’t.