Friday, February 24, 2012

Dyer Moments: Sarah Rohn

When I design knit patterns, my inspiration usually begins with a color. I like to design textures and patterns that represent, in some way, the color I’m working with. If a particular dye lot reminds me of fire, or a stormy sea, or a leafy vine, I’ll try to reflect that in the stitch pattern or overall shape. But where do those beautifully colored yarns originate? I'm particularly fond of the work of indie-dyers, and so I've created this interview process - Dyer Moments - to expose the people that make the colorways that inspire new design.

Join me today in getting to know Sarah Rohn!


Describe the first time you dyed.
~I had just moved to a new city and didn’t know anyone. I ended up meeting a girl through Ravelry who was into everything crafty. She introduced me to spinning and I bought her old fiberglass spinning wheel off of her. After I got better spinning store-bought fibers, I decided to branch out into dying my own. We spent half the day in her kitchen experimenting with colors. We mixed them up in those plastic ketchup bottles and squirted them out in stripes onto the fiber. It smelled like steamy vinegar and wet wool and our hands were colorful for days. I was definitely hooked.

How did you begin your business?
~I loved dying fiber but I was a novice spinner and I couldn’t spin fast enough to keep up. I couldn’t justify spending all the money to buy fiber only to have it sit in beautiful piles around my house. My crafty friend who taught me to spin and dye also introduced me to Etsy. She had her own shop and made it seem super easy for me to have one, too.


What inspired the name of your company?
~The name took a million years to think up. I wanted something clever that would easily lend itself to a cute logo. I’m visual by nature so I started drawing pictures of fiber related things and thinking up names around that. I got stuck on the idea of a sheep and roving. I started to think about the different meanings of the word roving and suddenly loved the idea of a sheep “roving” about the land looking for yarn.

What inspires your colorways and how do you name them?
~I love color! I keep notes on color combinations that I see and fall in love with. Right now I’m a big fan of mustard and turquoise. When it comes time to dye I’ll sometimes think of that list, but mostly I become a mad scientist, mixing up whatever colors strike my fancy. I name them when they’re done and dry. The color will usually remind me of something- an object or a time or a feeling. I just name them around that. One of them – Autumn in New York- is full of oranges and yellows. It reminded me of a Fall month I spent at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen taking care of chickens rescued from Hurricane Katrina.
It was the best month of my life.

Do you also knit? Crochet?
~I started knitting in high school. It was a scarf that started out being about eight inches wide and ended up being more like twenty inches. Thank you inadvertent yarn overs! Needless to say, that scarf never got finished. I took up knitting again on my birthday after I graduated college. I like to learn something new on my birthday every year as a gift to myself. The next year I taught myself to crochet. My mom had showed me how to make a chain when I was a little girl, probably about six or seven years old. But I just made chains that went on for miles and nothing else. I love them both for different reasons. Knit socks and crocheted granny squares will always have a place in my heart.

What is your favorite color and do you have a favorite pattern for showing off your yarn?
~I love every color and my favorites change all the time. Right now it’s mustard, which seems weird since yellows were always on the backburner in my mind. But now I can’t get enough of it. I want everything I knit to be mustard. My favorite patterns are ones with intricate cables or colorwork. I mostly like solid or semi-solid yarns so the stitchery can really shine.

What is your favorite fiber/yarn to dye?
~I haven’t dyed too many. I mostly use superwash merino but BFL takes color in such an amazing way. I just wish it was a little softer. I’m so biased towards soft yarn. I’d like to branch out into more plant fibers. I’m a (sort of) vegan and tried to avoid wool for a while but couldn’t do it. It’s just the best to knit with. Most of the fiber I buy I get some a little shop in Marengo, Illinois called The Fold.
It’s the most amazing place and there are often the animal’s names hanging next to their fiber. So I like the idea that they are coming from small family farms around the area.

Describe your background / education. Does it have any influence on your company?
~I have an art degree with an emphasis on painting. I think it has helped with mixing colors and deciding what colors look good together.
It’s especially useful when I have a particular color in mind. I can usually get something pretty close to what I imagined. Also, I’m learning more about computer art and photography so I’m hoping to revamp the shop in the near future.

What advise would you give others looking to dye?
~Don’t be afraid! It’s sometimes intimidating to see blank white fiber staring at you, but there is plenty more where that came from. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes. Sometimes when I don’t know what colors I want, I just jump right in and see where it takes me.

Most importantly, what’s the best way to purchase your yarns? Are you in retail stores or do you have a shop online? Do you offer a yarn club?
~I have an online shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheRovingEwe. Right now it’s only spinning fiber but I have a bunch of sock weight yarn waiting for dye as we speak. I’m hoping to have that up sometime in the next few months.

To get a better idea of the people behind the product…I ask our dying interviewees these insightful questions developed by Bernard Pivot.

What is your favorite word?
~Yay!!!

What is your least favorite word?
~Cumberland. Just something about it. Cummerbund is perfectly fine though. Go figure.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
~Nature and other peoples’ creativity. Whenever I’m feeling stagnant creatively I’ll go for a hike or to a museum. Nothing recharges your batteries like seeing beautiful things.

What turns you off?
~Gloomy weather

What is your favorite curse word?
~Poops!

What sound or noise do you love?
~The clicking of high heels on marble, the crunching of boots in the woods and the cooing of a chicken in your lap.

What sound or noise do you hate?
~Motorcycles, music with too much bass, the sound of my cat scratching the couch

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
~Right now I have a pretty good Government job in downtown Chicago.
It’s not creative but it pays the bills and lets me create without worrying about making a living from it. If I could be a full time artist, I would but I tried that and it was just too stressful. I like the balance that I have now. Although when I retire I want to move to the country, raise sheep and alpacas and open a little fiber/yarn shop out of my house.

Be sure to visit Sarah's online shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheRovingEwe.
Her part life/part crafting blog can be found at http://fellow-earthling.blogspot.com.
Sarah's Etsy shop also has a blog at http://therovingewe.blogspot.com
Enjoy them ALL!