I am so excited about to talk to you all about Local Color Fiber Studio! I was recently introduced to them and their amazingly beautiful, naturally dyed yarns. Run by Emily and Tatyana, Local Color Fiber Studio is a real gem in the fiber industry! I have been just blown away by their rich color palette and love how conscious they are in running their company. Much to my delight, I get to share some of their story in their own words:
For anyone not familiar with your company, can you tell us a bit about Local Color Fiber Studio?
"Local Color Fiber Studio is a collaboration between the two of us, Emily and Tatyana. We are equal parts farm and dye studio. On leased acreage on Bainbridge Island, WA, we grow a wide range of dye plants, sheep, and angora rabbits. We focus on dyeing domestically grown wool and small farm yarns and showcasing what colors are possible in our home in the Pacific Northwest."
I would love to come see your farm some day! I love that your dye materials are homegrown, as well as some of the fiber you dye!
Emily, you went from architect to farmer! I think there are quite a few of us who found fiber and craft and it drove us from our original paths, back to one where we use our hands and get back in touch with the land, animals and craft. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
"I actually rediscovered fiber arts and farming at the same time. I was between jobs in architecture about five years ago and started working at a food bank farm in South Seattle. From there, I found farm apprenticeships and applied for one on Vashon Island, WA. I started taking the ferry back and forth with another woman who happened to be a knitter and have been knitting and farming ever since! I love farm work and living seasonally. Every day is different and there is always something to look forward to, from lambing in the spring, to bringing in hay in the summer, fall's abundant harvests, and winter's rest. Local Color Fiber Studio is the perfect intersection of all of my interests, as we grow as much dye material as possible."
I love the imagery you bring up, connecting with the seasons. Being a Michigan girl, we get all four seasons in full force, and I can't imagine life without them. Each one brings new inspirations and motivations, and have a huge impact on my creativity!
Tatyana, what brought you to fiber and natural dyeing?
"I’ve always loved creating things. I became interested in fiber because of my innate desire to understand how everyday items are made. I’m a bit more of a goal oriented knitter, though process is important too. When I was a kid, my grandmother would send us a box of slipper socks from Russia each New Year. I recognized the time and care that went into them and wanted to reciprocate. I mostly learned to knit from a book, made her a beret and scarf and have been hooked ever since. Being a thrifty knitter, I took to frogging thrift store sweaters, which led me to dyeing.
In my other life, I work as a landscape designer. My academic background is in landscape architecture and environmental studies. My job and passion is in park, trail, and street design. Running a fiber dye company has allowed me to use plenty of skills from my landscape architecture background: graphic design, horticultural knowledge, appreciation for craft and detail… And my experience developing and marketing colors has also affected the way I approach planting design, graphics, and other creative work.
My love of natural dyes, their subtleties and temperamental nature is constantly growing as our operation matures. Working with unrefined dye material can be very frustrating at times- consistency is illusive. But it’s rewarding in other ways: knowing that our process generates very little waste, the majority is readily compostable soggy flowers or leaves. And approaching each dye job with curiosity for what it will bring."
Thank you for sharing the story about your grandmother! I was lucky enough to learn from my grandma, and almost 18 years after she taught me, I was finally able to reciprocate with a sweater I made for her (which she wears whenever I see her in the winter.) I cherish that I am able to continue a craft that my grandma has been doing for decades!
I also love that you touched on the frustration that natural dyeing can bring, along with its rewards. I am so intrigued by it, and am blown away by the depth of color you and Emily have been able to achieve in your yarns!
I love some of they mystery that comes with natural dyeing, the same plant at different times of year or prepared differently, yielding different results. What do you love most about natural dyeing? Do you have a favorite plant to dye with?
"I love that naturally dyed textiles are alive and responsive: to pH, sunlight, temperature. I like that they transform over time and yet can be renewed if the continuity of ritual re-dips is appealing to you. I like that the technology and techniques that people used thousands of years ago, are still in use today and cannot be replicated, nor replaced by more modern dye techniques. I also love learning about natural dyes in different cultures around the world.
Growing and processing hundreds of pounds of Japanese indigo has been a challenge, but also my favorite to dye with. Love those blues!"
Can you tell us about the different bases Local Color Fiber Studio has to offer? Do you have a favorite??
"We are selective in what bases we carry. All of our base yarns are breed specific, US grown and milled yarns. Our primary bases are Rambouillet from Mountain Meadow Mill, Columbia from Imperial Stock Ranch, plus a few yarns from local mills in Washington. We also have our own yarn from our flock of Finnsheep that is blended with angora from our rabbits. The Finn yarn is great because it has the perfect amount of fluff, but we love dyeing on the natural grays from Mountain Meadow."
Where can we find your yarn?
"Our website and at a few local yarn stores, Churchmouse Yarn & Tea, Tolt Yarn and Wool, Bazaar Girls. We do a few fiber festivals each spring and fall as well!"
Tell us about your animals!
"We keep a small flock (about 18 ewes and their lambs) of Finnsheep. These sheep are in the same family as Shetland or Icelandic sheep, but have a single coat. My flock is overall exceptionally friendly and often people buy my lambs as fiber pets. They come in a multitude of colors which is why our Whole Flock yarn is a natural tweedy gray. The sheep contribute a lot to the farm; they turn pasture grass and weeds into fiber, meat, and hides, mow steep hillsides, and provide much of the fertility we need for the dye fields.
Our rabbitry is home to our German Angora rabbits. These fluffy bunnies get shorn every three months and can produce up to half their body weight in fiber each year. My original doe and buck are almost house rabbits now and often come in and sit on my lap while I knit after dinner."
I love that your animals seem to have really become a part of your family!
What advice would you give to people out there wanting to follow their creative dreams?
"Prepare to be creatively frugal and really evaluate what your priorities are. We have bootstrapped this whole venture from the beginning and have put in a lot of time even when we both work full time at our "day jobs." Even when the yarn company was pretty small (two rows of dye plants and a swift), we both treated it like a real job."
What is your spirit animal?
"A hummingbird (Tatyana); a miniature donkey (Emily)."
What is your favorite noise?
"The “thwomp” of cork being pulled out of a jar (Tatyana); When any small engine starts after being in storage (Emily)."
As awareness has been growing around breed specific yarns, sustainable farming & business (dyeing) practices, and purchasing local goods, I know that there are a lot of us out there who really appreciate being able to find yarns that hit on all of these points. Thank you for what you do! And thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedules to let us get a peek inside your lives, business and creative practices!
Would you like to get your hands on a beautiful skein of naturally dyed yarn from Local Color Fiber studio?? I am giving away one skein to a lucky winner this week! Just leave a comment below, telling us about what you find important when looking at which yarn to purchase (and don't forget your email address!)