I have rediscovered how much fun knitting podcasts can be. I found my mp3 player and I started to browse iTunes in search of some new knitting podcasts. I immeaditely fell in love with a podcast called The Manic Purl.
Chrissy Graham has a low-key, chatty podcast that she’s structured into certain categories: knitting news, what’s on her sticks, what’s off her sticks, and book and yarn reviews. She’s podcasting from Vancouver, BC, Canada, and I have to say this: as a totally obnoxious and nasally American, I looove her accent.
I also browsed her website and after I saw her hand-dyed yarns…omigosh…they’re really amazing. Among the many independent yarn dyers out there, she really stands out, which is hard to do.
So, brazenly, I shot off a note to Chrissy, asking her if she would like to do an interview about her podcast and her 100% natural yarn dyeing. Chrissy very graciously accepted and I had loads of fun doing this interview. If you’re reading this, Chrissy, you’re an interviewer’s dream! And here’s the interview, and I will link both the podcast and her yarn website, Yarn Sprout, at the end of the post!
Genuine: What prompted you to start podcasting?
Chrissy: I’ve been listening to knitting podcasts since Knitcast was the only knitting podcast out there. Honestly, I’d dreamed of podcasting ever since I heard the first episode of Knitcast. Finally, after years of dreaming about it, I decided to jump in and make it a reality.
Genuine: I love the name Manic Purl, but I was a little curious about how you came up with it and what it meant to you. Could you explain a little bit about that?
Chrissy: I live and breath knitting, and those who know me know I’m knitting obsessed. When I was looking for a name, I wanted something to reflect the obsession. From “obsessed” I jumped to “mania” and from there I arrived at “manic”. If you look at the definition of mania you’ll find that it doesn’t only pertain to a serious mental illness, but is also defined as “excessive excitement or enthusiasm” (Dictionary.com). It was definitely the latter that spurred me to use the word manic in the podcast title.
Genuine: How has feedback from your listeners affected the podcast? Has it helped to expand your ideas for future shows?
Chrissy: The feedback from my listeners has been really positive, and more than anything, it has reaffirmed my idea of having a fair amount of structure in the podcast. For the most part, I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying that they like the podcast, but not a lot on how to make it better, or for future shows. I’m hoping to hear more feedback from my listeners in the future.
I have definitely gotten the impression from my listeners that they like interactive things, like knit alongs.
We also have a Manic Purlers group on Ravelry!
Genuine: I know that you tend to keep advertising to a minimum in your podcast, which I appreciate, but I was really interested in your website that sells your yarn, Yarnsprout. How long has Yarn Sprout ‘been in the works’?
Chrissy: Hmmm…that’s a difficult question. In a way, Yarn Sprout has been in the works for many years. It has been my dream for as long as I can remember to have my own yarn dyeing business. I’ve watched so many new yarn dyers open up shops in the last few years, and I didn’t want to be just another dyer doing the same thing as everyone else.
I’ve always been passionate about natural dyes, but hesitated to offer them for sale due to the lengthy process required to dye with them, as well as the greater expense involved.
After a few years of mulling it over in the back of my mind, I decided to just jump in! Yarn Sprout has been really well received so far, and I’m looking forward to many more years of providing high quality naturally dyed yarns (and fibers) to knitters.
I really struggled with whether I’d mention Yarn Sprout on the podcast, but I decided that since the podcast is also about what I’m up to, I couldn’t really leave it out.
Genuine: One particular phrase caught my attention, it said that your yarn is 100% naturally dyed. I only know a little about dyeing, so maybe you could explain a little bit about natural dyeing and how it differs from perhaps the more ‘traditional’ dyeing methods
Chrissy: Most people are familiar with acid dyes, and other synthetic dyes. Most of the dyeing that goes on in the world today uses synthetic dyes. Synthetic dyes are more readily available, generally easier to use, and less time consuming to dye with. Natural dyes are what were used before synthetic dyes were available.
Before dyeing the fiber, it must be mordanted. Mordanting prepares the fiber in a way that will allow it to accept the natural dye. I use a mineral salt called Alum to mordant all my wools. Alum is the least environmentally unfriendly mordant, and I’m comfortable using it in my kitchen. Other mordants include tin, copper, chrome and iron. Chrome is extremely toxic, and I do not use it under any circumstances.
The mordant used does influence the way the natural dye will turn out on the fiber.
Natural dyes come from many different plants, roots, barks, and even some bugs. Most of these dyes are particularly sensitive to pH, and will yield very different shades based on the pH of the dye bath.
Natural dyes must be extracted before they can be used. Some roots, barks and flowers must be simmered in water to be extracted, others can be added right to the dye bath containing the mordanted fiber.
Genuine: This brings me to my next question; I see that you and your husband, Stuart, are both involved in the business—do both of you dye?
Chrissy: Stu and I are both involved in Yarn Sprout, but he doesn’t do any of the dyeing. He’s more of the business side – he gets to do all the fun stuff like dealing with the government, and taxes, and fun stuff like that.
He’s actually quite helpful with running to the post office, and making things to make my life easier. He built me a proper skein winder last month, so I didn’t have to niddy noddy every skein of yarn.
For the most part though, Stu is the business side of Yarn Sprout. He’s a great consultant, and I couldn’t do it without him.
Genuine: I’ve really enjoyed your podcasts about lace, so I had to ask: are you considering adding a laceweight yarn to your yarn line in future?
Chrissy: Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m really looking forward to adding a laceweight yarn to the Yarn Sprout family. I think that the vivid semi-solid natural colors will be stunning on a laceweight merino silk. I’m also considering some laceweight alpaca.
Genuine: Are there any future exciting plans, whether about the podcast or Yarn Sprout, that you would be able to share?
Chrissy: We always have lots of fun stuff in the works here! You’ll have to stay tuned to the podcast for the latest. As for Yarn Sprout – we’re looking forward to adding new yarns and colors – I’m working on the fall line right now. We’re also looking to add fiber and a bunch of cool accessories in the near future.
I’m so excited to be able to podcast and run Yarn Sprout, and I am certainly living my dream.
Genuine: And thanks again, Chrissy, for taking the time for this interview!
If you’re interested in the podcast, you can find the show notes and links to download the episodes at the Manic Purl blog!
If you want to buy her yarn, check out the Yarn Sprout website! She has beautiful, naturally dyed sock yarns and I am serious: this is not just another yarn dyer. Her color sense is definite and subtle, with more solids and semi-solids than you sometimes see, on some delicious base yarns. Also, the plus is that the shipping is a flate rate of $6.50, and that’s from Canada to the US!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this interview as much as I did! Happy listening everyone!