Welcome to Fiber Conversations, a series of blog interviews with creative fiber folks. Today's conversation is with Christine Link, owner of Skeinny Dipping. Christine dyed the yarn I used for my On the Other Hand fingerless mitts.
Bonnie: Hi Christine! Thanks for taking the time to chat. Let's begin by talking about dyeing yarn. How did you get started?
Christine: It was a gradual process. Like a lot of people, I started first with Kool-Aid for my own use, but I wasn't getting the colors I wanted. I eventually took a dyeing class at Rhinebeck with Gail Callahan and it taught me the basics I needed to get going.
Bonnie: What do you like most about dyeing? What do you like the least?
Christine: I love the process of dyeing. I love taking dyes apart to see what individual pigments have been combined to make the dyes that I order from my suppliers (this is something I learned from Gail). This is the part that keeps me up at night—I'll have a color on the brain and then I just start mentally going through all of my dyes to think of combinations to try. I have a lot of notes on my phone, and in my Moleskine that I keep with me. Who knows if I'll ever get through those lists, but they're there. I do want to experiment with more pastel colorways. I'm not a pastel person—I'm just too pale to carry it off. But I'd like to see if I can do something in that area that I could wear. What I like least is definitely the reskeining!
Bonnie: In your Ravelry bio, you say your grandmother taught you to knit when you were seven with pink acrylic from Woolworth’s. Would you like to talk about your grandmother and her influence in your life?
Christine: I would LOVE to talk about my Grandmom. First of all, my Grandmom is not my grandmom by blood—she was my mom's first boss once she finished school to become a psychiatric nurse. But to her, I was her first grandchild. In the summers when I wasn't in school or in camp, I would go to work with my mom. During the morning meetings with the nurses, my Grandmom would always be knitting or doing needlepoint. I eventually asked her to teach me, and like most kids I got the hang of it and then put it away for about 20 years because it took too long to make progress. Then in the Peace Corps in Kenya, I picked it up again and have been doing it ever since. Every time we would visit, we'd knit together or go yarn shopping.
I recently visited my Grandmom, now 91, after a bad bout of health that put her in the hospital. As you can imagine, her memory is beginning to go a bit and she is in the early stages of dementia now. During our visit with her, I was knitting on a pair of socks. I noticed her recognition of who I was while in the room with her was strongest when I had my knitting going. So I kept it going. I also brought a shawl that I had made for her, and some mitts that I had dyed and knit for her as well. I made sure to tell her that none of this would have been possible had she not taught me to knit all those years ago. I'm sure she knew that already, but I wanted to reiterate it; I had a feeling that that was probably going to be my last visit with her with her memory that strong. She has been much more to me than a knitting teacher. As she admitted during my last visit with her, "I used to meddle a bit regarding you." I honestly don't know what kind of person I would be had it not been for her "meddling." My father had died when I was nine and my mom was so overwhelmed with grief from that that I was more or less left to my own devices. But she was always there.
Bonnie: About that pink acrylic … I imagine acrylic is not one of your favorite fibers these days. Or maybe it is? :-) Anyway, which fibers do you especially like to knit with? What about to dye?
Christine: Haha, no, acrylic is not my favorite fiber. But at one time it was all I could afford, and it was all I could find in Kenya when I picked knitting up again in my stint with the Peace Corps. Since becoming a spinner, I've found that my fiber preferences have changed. I had no idea that different wools had different properties, nevermind that those different characteristics lended themselves to being better used for certain projects. For example, I love bluefaced leicester (BFL) for socks. I wish more people would use BFL for socks instead of merino. Merino is great, but BFL is so strong and lustrous and is perfect for something that will get a lot of wear. I have a pair made in the same base that I carry and they are several years old and you can't tell.
As for dyeing, superwash of course takes color beautifully. But frankly, I don't personally like superwash and I don't like the chemical process of how superwash wools are made. Of course it does come in handy for baby gifts that might get thrown up on or for gifts to non-knitting friends who are mortified at the thought of handwashing. Fiber is a wonderfully natural thing if you let it be and know how to care for it. I'm hoping to add a non-superwash BFL yarn to the shop at some point, but it can be hard to get people on board.
Bonnie: I love your “dye splash” logo as well as the name “Skeinny Dipping.” How did you come up with them?
Christine: In 2010, when I finally decided I would start my own business, we started brainstorming with all of our friends for something catchy. Nothing really struck me as something I would be OK with for a long period of time. On the way back to Boston from Rhinebeck, "Skeinny Dipping" came to me as I was dozing off in the car. Luckily, I told my husband before I fell asleep, otherwise who knows if I would have remembered it later on. Once I had the name, I contacted my friend and fellow knitter, Caro Beine, aka strickonaut on Ravelry. She is an amazing graphic designer (as well as an awesome knitter, weaver, spinner, and baker), and I let her get as creative as she wanted. She created the custom dye splash you see on all my labels and business cards. She created my new band labels as well, including adding the ruler on the back side of the label. I don't know what I would do without her!
Bonnie: She does great work—your logo and the name "Skeinny Dipping" are just perfect! Christine, it's been so nice talking with you. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts—I've learned a lot!
Christine: Thanks for having me. It was fun!