All you really need to know about Baby Cat Yarns, and the super rad dyer behind the scenes, is there is a serious lust for colour going on here. Not only will Brit whip up whatever colour strikes your fancy, (that is, if the 60 colours already in her roaster don’t do it for you), but she’ll name it something amazing and you’ll fall madly in love.
With fun names like Socks on Concrete (from the Gentle palette), Rugrats VHS (from the Bright palette) and Alligator Pie (from the Lush palette), the quirkiness and charm really won me over, not to mention the cheekier side of things (like the colourway called Snoops Blunt #2)!
While Baby Cat Yarns is a new endeavor, you are no stranger to yarn dying. What drove you to create Baby Cat?
Baby Cat has been born out of a perfect storm of circumstances, really. I double majored in college in Painting and Fiber Arts. While I was just a junior or senior in university, I was hired by the magnificent Nicole Clarke of Hue Loco in Loveland, CO. I was her second employee, and we grew from a garage, to a studio, to a shop, to a larger store location in my time there. It was a radically invigorating journey to grow with that team of women and really refine the entirety of the dyeing process to produce unrivalled consistency as well as huge quantities of yarn for knitters! It was amazing to dye for a living, I never knew I could make money for just my favourite sliver of the fiber craft process.
When I left my position as Studio Manager and Lead Dyer after a handful of years, I genuinely thought I had dyed enough yarn for the rest of my life. I had always had a deep fascination with wool and sheep, so when I left HL I jetted off to a wool mill, to get all the way back to the animals and round out my yarn production education.
Then, my grandmother fell ill in December 2020, I simply threw in the towel entirely on my wooly career path and moved home to be with her and help care for her. It was this sacred past year with her (She has made a miraculous recovery) when that itch returned to get back in the studio and dye and dye and dye. Maybe it was her constant “ooohs” and “ahhhhs” I got every single time a new weaving made it upstairs from my apartment, or a new skein appeared out of my stash that she hadn’t seen before.
It was being home with my people for a year of rest, when I began to dream of dyeing full time again. One night over a beer, I asked my stepBrad if he would ever be open to building me a she-shed to dye in and potentially help me start an online shop…. He didn’t skip a single beat. He told me he had been waiting for me to come to this decision for years. The next day, he was in his bobcat, excavating half of his autogarage/our barn to transform into a completely bespoke dye studio for me. He had blueprints ready to go, and was buying lumber immediately, digging trenches and laying water lines. It was my families radical sense of support and belief in my craft that empowered me to tackle the logistic side of starting a business. They helped me overcome every hiccup and roadblock to support my vision and get the ball rolling!
I might be a one-woman-show, when it comes to my shop, but I am one woman whose creativity has been revered and validated by my family since I was itty bitty, and I am super in debt to them for that. They made it impossible for me to not start Baby Cat Yarns, honestly.
You also operated a cottage industry sized wool mill? That’s so neat, can you tell me a bit about that experience?
Genuinely, this is a little wild, and it came from the dream of a little girl. Since I was about 2-years-old, I have had this craving to work in a factory setting. Really, I grew up fully obsessed with Mister Rogers, and I’m pretty sure that somewhere along the lines, the satisfaction of “Process” that I learned from watching the videos Fred showed on “Picture Picture” invaded my psyche. Factories seemed like a party to me.
As I grew through my 20s, and finished my university studies I became romanced by the idea of getting all the way back to the sheep with my craft. From getting the wool in the grease, skirting, washing, drying, picking, carding, pindrafting all the way to spinning, plying and skeining. I can do it. That was really the whole point of that detour. Work in the factory… for sheep. It was my two fascinations in one place.
I learned so much about the varieties of sheep, fibers, and what is and isn’t millable. I learned that the best wool comes from the healthiest and happiest sheep! I learned that wool acts alive the entire process… it came from a living animal, and I believe that life hangs out in the fiber, even as we cast-on.
For me, as a follower of Jesus, I think it was just really important for me to go hide away for a little bit and wash a lot of shit, ticks, and grease out of a lot of fleeces… when He says we are washed white as wool… that is a complete stripping away of the filth. Bottom line.. I personally needed to see a lot of fleeces washed clean at that time. Something about that felt like the most prophetic and important part of this bit of my journey.
With 60 colours and 10 bases, and the option to customize, you have an incredibly wide range of colour! Is everything dyed to order?
Absolutely, and 100%, yes. My passion is dyeing daily, as well as making creative visions an immediately-gratifying experience for any fiber artist that stumbles across my shop.
We all get cast-on-itis from time-to-time. I aim to mitigate the hiccup that can happen there at the beginning of the creative process. The way I think of myself is the paint on the palette. I hope people can find Baby Cat Yarns, dream big about their ultimate/ideal project, mix and match hues with the fiber weight of their choice, and be casting on (or even warping) within a week or two!
After years of working as Lead Dyer and Studio Manager at Hue Loco, I’ve proved to myself that I can dye unthinkable quantities of yarn, consistently and with much satisfaction. And honestly, a filled LYS really satisfied me for years! I love production, I love huge pushes of yarn through the studio environment, and the consistency of a well-dyed pile of yarn, but here and now? I want to slow down, curate invigorating palettes that excite me and my customers, and get custom-dyed fiber into individual hands, so their work and creative confidence can grow without any hindrance.
My shop consists exclusively of colors that would get me excited to cast on, dye, or even simply look at while I wash out vats. Think of those first 60 colorways as the ones that made the team. There’s more where that came from!
Your colourway names are glorious. My hands down favourite is a beautiful blue called King Jeremy the Wicked. I have to know, how are you coming up with these names and if it’s even possible, which name is your favourite?
Let me just say how STOKED this makes me! I personally have always loved a bit of comedy with my craft. I think that fiber artists carry a wit and humor that is so unique to us. Really, when I get in my studio, I get goofy and I like to laugh! King Jeremy the Wicked is named after a Pearl Jam song (yes, my fav band) that just makes me feel like that blue, I guess. All these names come from either inside jokes I have with myself, or people in my little world. Some are named after ex boyfriends (yes, Forrest #1, Forrest #2, Wilton). Some are named after stupid shit I say to myself (MMMM-yellow!). Some are just free associations (Sirloin haha). Some are sweet, dear memories to me (Cobblestone or Currywurst). Honestly, I have no limits… I’ve learned that this is about COLOR, so who gives a shit what I name them? As long as I’m laughing, I’m content. Will anyone ever buy Sirloin, given that terrible name? I have absolutely no idea, but I like to believe that my lightheartedness and humor pops through and offers a chuckle or two to my customers, and they know they can still knit a stunning moody-red sweater, even if it’s named after a hunk of meat, ya know?
The indie dyeing community is full of delicate, sophisticated, refined, elegant and wonderful brands. That’s lovely and so genuinely sweet, but just not me. I’m a hoodrat hippie, that used to get in trouble for cracking stupid jokes in class… that’s what your gonna get from me every single day at Baby Cat Yarns.
As for my favorite colorway name? Easy… Snoops Blunt #2…. It was just my second shot at dyeing the color of Snoop Dogg’s Blunt haha.
How did you get into knitting, do you remember your first project?
My wonderful Auntie Sonna showed me how to cast-on with a hank of acrylic yarn on some chopsticks when I was 7-years-old, on the couch I’m sitting on while I write this. I garter-stitched so tight, and so loose on those chopsticks for weeks, never even learning how to purl. I loved the productive feeling I had row after row. I was hooked immediately. It wasn’t a project, per say, and I’m sure I frogged it, but I will never forget knitting that maroon RedHeart on those splintery, dry chopsticks, back and forth, back and forth, one more row. I think that feeling is where so many of us started!
What are some new patterns you have added to your queue?
Halla Socks by Enikö Balogh (I love colorwork)
The Stare Hat by Katie Pomper…I mean, it’s a cat hahaha
Stonehaven Sweater by Jane Howorth; my local brewery bartender has commissioned me to make him his dream sweater. It’s genuinely an honor and this is the first sweater I am making for someone other than myself, so I’m procrastinating by sneaking in other projects first.
Playing Favorites Socks by Mara at Orange Knit Designs– I can’t recommend Mara enough. Her eye for color is unrivaled, her patterns are clear, and her designs are contemporary and unique. I love to cast on anything she designs!
What’s your most recent finished object?
Just finished a pair of Bob Socks by Rachel Coopey in my colorways “Purple Party” and “Ripple Effect” from the bright palette. They are a quick-knit DK weight sock… rolling into summer in Colorado, I obviously need something fun to wear in my Birkenstocks.
Which base do you find yourself knitting the most often (not asking you to pick a favourite base)?
So I knit, weave, stitch, mend, and spin. If it’s string, yarn, thread– I am all over it. I have found that both in my weaving and knitting, DK has absolutely won me over. That’s why DK is the base that I photograph all my colorways on, even though they are available on all 10 bases in the shop! My DK is a 4 ply, and reads incredibly clean and plush when worked up. I love the way it takes dye and it’s a hearty 100% superwash merino.
What is something new you’ve learned recently (does not have to be fiber related)?
Recently, I’ve been expanding my skill set when it comes to knit mending techniques. I have learned to rebuild holes in knit fabric, as well as the duplicate stitch technique for threadbare knits. Lately, it seems that I always have an old sock stretched over a lightbulb in my purse, with a needle and a piece of thread, in case I get bored in line at my favorite coffee house. (I just can’t get used to darning mushrooms, and the dead lightbulb from my bathroom was free). Anyways, I can’t get enough of the duplicate stitch technique, it was frustrating at first, but it has taught me so much about the knit structure, and I find it highly meditative to do. Now I get a little excited when I see my favorite heels wearing thin.