Today I would like to share with you not just a yarn photostory, but more a life story where yarn and knitting play such an important role. I’ve “met” Andrea quite some time ago when I stumbled on her blog This Knitted Life and completely fell in love with her writing. She has such a great sense of humor and it feels like you are chatting with a friend who GETS you. I’ve been following Andrea’s knitting journey since then and could not be happier for her when I saw the IG post about starting her own hand dyed yarn label – Tributary Yarns. What I loved about it is that Andrea took us along on the journey since the very beginning, sharing all ups and downs, successes and disasters along the way, showing that it is not always easy to follow your dream, but perseveranc , faith and love for what you do will help to get through!
I hope you will enjoy our talk about yarn, life and how it is OK not to get it all done.
I always wonder how a dream is born, how out of many paths out there we choose the one that resonates with us. Would you share your experience with it? From your posts, I have a feeling that you have finally found something that makes perfect sense to you, like you were always supposed to be doing this. Was it always your goal to create your own yarn label or this dream has grown along your knitting journey?
If you would have asked me a year ago if I ever planned to dye yarn and launch Tributary Yarns, I would have laughed and said hek no! I loved following indie dyers online and supporting them through my work on This Knitted Life, but I never thought I would become one myself.
At the time, I had casually pursued milling and dying the fleeces from my former neighbor’s small alpaca herd. (I am a passionate believer in locally sourced, sustainable products.) Nothing clicked and the idea fizzled. I remained focused on my knitting design work and writing for This Knitted Life. I love writing about knitting almost as much as I love knitting.
Then I divorced and moved out on my own, sharing my five-year-old son between households with his father. It was a hard transition. Not just emotionally, but economically. I have a good day job, but it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t thriving. Divorcing was a clear step in the right direction, but I needed more.
Yes, Tributary Yarns was born from my knitting journey and love for the craft. It is also a product of necessity and a raw yearning to simply survive and create a place for myself and my son, on my own terms. Tributary Yarns does make perfect sense to me. I can apply my grit and determination to my craft and promote sustainably-sourced fiber. With a young child, the ability to work from home at odd hours is also vital.
I love when people are sharing their daily rituals and routines, as I believe the simple mundane things we do every day actually shape our life and the bigger picture. Do you mind sharing the typical for you day? How do you balance work, yarn dyeing, knitting, motherhood and life in general?
I really struggle to fit it all in. I have a vision for how everything should be, but then I run out of time 20% into my list. The remaining 80% simply must wait.
I’m typically an early riser. I was up this morning around 6:00 and patrolled the garden while my water boiled for tea. I like to inspect for snails and other pests that might threaten the fruits of my horticultural endeavors. It was foggy this morning (I live near the Pacific), and the power lines were crackling in the coastal mist.
Morning tea is a sacred time for me. I settle into my spot on the sofa, flip through social media, take in a bit of news, and sometimes knit a couple rows if I can. After that, it’s go time, and I don’t sit down again until 8:00 or 9:00 at night. This morning, I took a quick shower before photographing and labeling some new colorways I wound into skeins late last night.
I boxed up the yarn and went to wake Reed up, which was no easy feat. He’s been sleeping a ton lately. I think he’s going through a growth spurt. I had already opened the curtains to no avail. Eventually, I turned to unreasonably loud music and an announcement of breakfast. Still no luck. When I finally threatened breakfast would soon be over and we needed to get in the car, he emerged from under the covers, giant teddy bear in tow, and sat down drowsily to eat some toast and berries before I tossed him in the shower.
We were running late (always!) and scurried out the door around 8:30, pausing on the way to drop off the box of newly labeled yarn on Sunni’s doorstep. Sunni lives nearby and owns the LYS in town (Yarn in Eureka, California). She’s taken on the challenge of hosting my yarn for online sales on her website, bless her heart.
After that, it was a full day of school for Reed and work for me. Reed spends tonight with his father, so I worked an extra long day at my day job to get in some additional hours. I was home around 7:00, did some dishes and laundry, and then tied in some ends for a sample cowl I just finished knitting to promote my Drainage DK. After that, I worked on these questions and tried to make some progress linking the products on my site to the LYS website. I could really do without all the techy aspects of running a website, but I’ve come to accept it’s a necessary evil.
I probably won’t dye more yarn until the weekend. I’ll often do a small batch or two once or twice a week, after Reed’s asleep. Typically I do my big dye sessions every other weekend when Reed’s not home. I take over the kitchen with pans and tubs, subsist off take-out and the mercy of others, and have at it. Dying yarn also helps to keep me busy and get through the days when Reed is not home. A year later, I’m still very much grieving the loss of so much time with my son.
How do you come up with the colors for Tributary? Is it more of a careful planning or more of improvisation?
At first, I had this vision for very natural, gentle colors. There’s a reason my yarn label is called Tributary Yarns. I work professionally as a hydrologist and focus on river and ecosystem restoration. I love water, stone, and waves. Nature. Earth. All of it. I started off dying a lot of muted, blended colors that reminded me of places that I loved. My colorways tend to be named after streams and other places where I live. I also dyed some pinks and bright colors, because I love those shades as well. Honestly, the pinks and vivid colorways tend to be more popular and sell better, as do speckly colorways.
I tend to do bolder, wilder color combinations with my Stream Sock base and stick with my original eco-spectrum on my River Silk and Merino fingering. I just dyed a big batch of my sustainable Watershed Worsted in these very dark, moody blues, purples, and greens. I call them The Tides. I think I was having an emotional day and it came through. I have some colorways that I really like and have been repeating, but at least half of my dying is always a new color combination. I feel like I’m still having fun exploring new approaches to dying and assessing what works. Dying yarn is limitless, so I don’t want to shackle my potential by dying the same shades over and over.
Has anything changed in your approach to knitting after you have started your yarn brand?
Knitting remains core to who I am as a person. Mostly I find I have a little less time to knit because I’m so busy processing yarn. I do feel quite proud of myself when I knit with yarn I dyed myself. It’s satisfying. I have still been designing, but honestly can’t find the time to write up the designs and knit samples. Someday I hope to be successful enough to hire a support team and realize the full potential of my comprehensive vision. In the meantime, I just plug away, one stitch at a time. I have to remind myself that I’m just one woman, not an army.
What would your advice be to those who have a dream, but are afraid to go for it? What is the first step, in your opinion?
I tell Reed to dream big every day. Do what you love. Stay the course. This Knitted Life and Tributary Yarns have not been an overnight success for me. It’s not like I started my endeavors back in 2013 and gained 5,000 followers overnight, all eager to buy my latest pattern. Hek, I still don’t have 5,000 followers and couching my unwavering pursuit of Knitopia as a fiscal success is probably a stretch too. That publishing offer has yet to land in my inbox, nor have I had time to put together an actual book proposal. But I’m a big girl. I know our dreams don’t boil down to followers or money. Or even writing a book about knitting. I do value my time, and I don’t want to waste it pursuing a non-viable dream. I’m trying to earn a living here. So I can take a knitting vacation.
I think there’s a difference between a hobby and a business, and I recognize that line is blurry for a lot of people starting out with fiber-related businesses. You must be passionate about your dream. Being successful takes a lot of grit and hard work. For every success, there are ten failures. At least. If you aren’t passionate, weathering the bad days can become impossible.
Love yourself. Believe in yourself. Surround yourself only with people who believe in you. Work hard. Work harder. Wake up and do it all over again.
River Silk and Merino is a fingering weight yarn that would be perfect for your shawl projects! As for me, a garment knitter, this green beauty inspired me to come back to my knitting machine after more than a year break! I just see it in my head – a loose reverse stockinette stitch drop shoulder pullover with a beautiful drape and silky sheen. I will share my experiment here, of course!
I wish you a wonderful Sunday!