Friday, August 8, 2008

Fiber Friday - Interview with SeeJayneKnits

Fabulous! Spun by me from SeeJayneKnit's Fabulosity roving

Today's Fiber Friday interview is with Jayne of SeeJayneKnit. She is a full-time dyer, spinner and stich-marker maker! I got to know Jayne through the Fiber Friday threads on Etsy, where she shared her experiences with learning to spin. She knocked my socks off when she started selling her handspun yarn just a few weeks later and it was perfectly beautiful! A quick learner, with a great eye for color, you can keep with Jayne on her blog or by checking out her shop.I was so smitten with her color-sense that I purchased some fiber from her shop. It spun evenly and quickly into 2 gorgeously soft skeins of yarn (one of the skeins is my biggest EVER at 300 yards!)

(just to clear up some questions I had last week, everything in italics, is me, Tara, and everything NOT in italics is Jayne's answers)

How did you get started dyeing?
It started with blogging. One day I was fooling around with yarn and dye just to, you know, have some fun. I loved how the yarn turned out, so I blogged about it. By the end of the week people were asking to buy it. How was I supposed to know where that was going to lead? I
sold yarn from my blog for a month or two and then moved to etsy where it would be easier to manage.

If you want to see the early blog posts about dyeing with some basic instructions, go back to March of 2007.

What came first: dyeing or stitch markers?
Dyeing. Definitely. I like to make earrings and jewelry as an earlier hobby, so I would put a free stitch marker on every skein of yarn I sold. People started asking for those too...

How did it become a full-fledged business?
People started asking to buy the yarn, so I set up a paypal acct, and started listing it on my blog. I started with about seven skeins of yarn I posted one evening that sold out during the night. When I could see that I enjoyed it, and that it wasn't going to go away, I moved to etsy to make it easier o
n myself. Since I didn't intend to become a business, I had to figure out how to do a lot of things very quickly, but overall it has been tons of fun, and I'm keen to continue.

Did you quit a dayjob to work with fiber?
Nope I didn't quit a day job. I used to be a high-school teacher, and then a grad student in theology and New Testament. I was heading towards a masters/PhD and eventually teaching at a seminary in graduate studies. Then I had a major emotional/physical breakdown. I have a disability as a result of that, so for the last five years or so, I have considered myself to be unemployable. I'm just not that consistently well or reliable health-wise. About four years ago, I taught myself to knit to get through long painful days. That led to blogging, and oh yeah, the blog led to dyeing...

I honestly can't think of a job I'd rather do than work with fiber. I couldn't have imagined this job for myself, so I consider myself very blessed that things worked out as they did.

What's a normal working day like?
ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! There is no such thing as a normal working day.

I work any and all days of the week, at just about any time of day or night. I don't know how many hours a week I work, but it varies from half to full-time, depending on my energy, commitments, mood, and the type of week it is.

Typically, I do my emails/write up sales etc/do mail in the morning. If I'm going to dye yarn, I'll work for three to four hours in the morning/and early afternoon. I spin at any time of day, but especially enjoy doing that in the evening if the TV is on.

I pop into etsy at several points in the day to list, relist, or tweak listings, or photos.

I find the business side of things to be a lot easier and quicker now that I am so much more experienced at it. I've learned to streamline a lot of things.

Is it easier or harder to be creative with your business?
Some things are more production mode (making a bunch of stitch markers or dyeing up a known colorway). That part is definitely easier as I have refined my methods.

If I find I can't think of anything new or have trouble naming things, it's time to scale back for a few days or weeks and let things ride until I feel refreshed. On occasion I close up my shop to let myself go free for a bit. Otherwise, my policies generally protect me from burning out. I don't do wholesale. I don't do spinning or roving by request. I'm protective about which custom orders I agree to do. I feel a lot more creative when I make things on my schedule than on someone else's. And I do live such an unstructured life of flexible schedule etc, that I usually don't feel smothered by my work.

Can you explain the creating process?
Yes, I can explain the white fiber to dyed process, but that's boring. And I don't always start with white fiber. I often start with an already colored yarn (commercially spun). I have a whole repertoire of colorways that I can do on yarn that is already blue or golden yellow, or brown, or pink, or....

I get ideas from looking at things, or when I'm spinning and my mind goes loose to wander. I walk outside a lot. Stuff pops into my head. Sometimes a name begets a colorway, and sometimes the other way around. I get a lot of good ideas when I'm not doing anything related to my work. And I'm completely fearless about experimenting. Accidents and experiments have led to some of my best work -- and best sellers.

I get bored doing the same thing over and over, so I'm always playing around. I don't write anything down.

What do you wish you had planned for before you started?
Hmmm...I wish I had not bought so much inventory of undyed yarn so quickly. It's all good stuff and it sells, but I didn't know what I liked to dye the most until about six months went by. By that time, I had it figured out, but I still have this huge inventory that I have to work down. On the other hand, that keeps me doing fresh things all the time, as each yarn type reacts differently to my assorted dyeing methods. And I do re-stock my favorites, so it's a good balance.

What surprises and delights you about being a full-time fiber artist?
Pretty much everything. Except doing the mail. I'm amazed at how many variations on a colour I can get. I still like the smell of wet wool. I still ooh and ahh when something new comes out of the pot. I love the feel of fiber. I love to spin (that has been a recent surprise and delight). I love how friendly and encouraging knitters are. I love how gentle and accommodating a job it is to work with fiber. This is a very positive line of work for me as it is all about something soft and pretty that you can make into something else. The fact that my work brings surprise and delight to others is a huge delight to me.

Anything else?'s always a bit tricky explaining to non-fiber people what I do for a living. They usually don't get it until they see my yarn room, and then suddenly they realize that this is a THING.

And...I'm starting to have lustful thoughts about drum carders...