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Using auteur theory on indie dyed yarn

If you watched the shop's podcast a couple weeks ago on YouTube, you know that I spoke about the process I go through when choosing which indie dyers to stock at the store and how indie dyers go about making their work known and available. In today's blog, I thought I would expand on that topic a bit more.

As unglamorous as it sounds, the primary factor LYS consider when selecting which indie dyers to stock is marketability. If the yarn won't sell or isn't a fit for an LYS clientele, then it doesn't make much sense to stock that yarn. For me, this is why I select indies who are rather distinct from one another and who have perfected their own specific dyeing style. This way customers have a variety of indie dyed yarn to choose from.

What do I mean by that? When you have worked with yarn long enough, you start to notice that experienced dyers have a particular quality to their work that marks it as theirs, that makes it distinct from other indie dyed yarn.

For example, shop favorite Sweet Sparrow Yarns possess a subtle palette inspired by the natural world that uses a fairly complex mixture of light speckling and color changes. The more you examine Julie's use of color, you'll notice that her use of color and technique is much richer and more nuanced than you may have initially thought. She is a true master of tone and hue in this way.

Hedgehog Fibres, by contrast, often employs more bold color use by mixing colors that you wouldn't have considered blending on your own until you see the ways that the contrasts within their colorways augment and enhance one another. Take their colorway Bubble, for instance. While your eye is initially drawn to the bright teal and florescent yellow-green, the more you look at the skein, you'll see that the hot pink, bright organge and hints of rust make the teal and the florescent yellow-green brighter and more eye-catching.

HauteKnitYarn, on the other hand, has an almost paintbrush quality to her dyeing where there's a gorgeous transition between colors even when the color change is somewhat abrupt, like in her Haunted House and Witches Brew colorways. Emma's Yarn makes particular use of subtle speckling in their variegateds and tonals to offer a richer, deeper sense of colorplay. I find her use of speckles of the same color but a darker hue or tone to be particularly fascinating.

Zen Yarn Garden's colorways offer beautiful complimentary mixtures where even colorways that initially appear as tonals, like Wrought Iron, consist of a mixture of complimentary greys, browns, blacks, and creams. Wonderland Yarns uses subtle tonal variations, speckles, and swirls of complimentary colors to create a dreamy quality to their yarns, whereas Three Irish Girls often employs bolder color changes to evoke the theme of the colorway's name. DizzyWigFibers trends towards a softer color palette that often hinges on cooler greens, blues, and purples.

In this way, I would argue that some indie dyers fall into a type of auteur category--when their work is recognizable and identifiable as theirs in the way that a director has a particular style seen in their body of cinematic work. That is, generally speaking, if I pick up a skein of Dream in Color, without even looking at the band to know that it's Dream in Color, I can tell because of the consistency and evenness of the color distribution and the use of shorter runs of color variation that appear as brush strokes rather than speckles. Furthermore, the type of yarn base and twist are also factors because each source mill and sheep breed or yarn blend is different. Sweet Sparrow's Nuthatch base and HauteKnitYarn's Jimmy Sock have a very similar feel to them. The mix of merino and nylon plus the twist gives both yarns a smooth feel. Wonderland's MaryAnn is super squishy with a lot of yardage. Both Hedgehog and Zen Yarn Garden feature high twist. Hedgehog's Twist sock has a sturdy feel. Zen Yarn Garden's twist is springy with a bit of a stretch.

So, the next time you pick up yarn by your favorite indie, see if you can spot the distinctive "maker's mark" that differentiates them from other indies. It's a fascinating world of artistry.

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