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California Revival Knits: Interview with Kate Chiocchio of Dragonfly Fibers

I met Kate of Dragonfly Fibers at Stitches Midwest last summer.  She was familiar with my designs and said she’d be happy to do yarn support — little did she know I’d be contacting her in a panic for a sweater’s worth of yarn not too long after!

Kate supplied the gorgeous red BFL for the Wrought Cardi.

She also, quite cannily, snuck a Trindle into my hands.  “Just try it,” she said, despite me swearing I hated spindles, only wanted to learn how to spin on my wheel, and so on.

I fell in love with the my Trindle.  I don’t know enough about spindles to say just why this one clicked with me, when I’d felt clumsy and awkward with others, but it did.

Stephannie:  How did you get started in this business?  How long have you been producing &/or dyeing yarn?

Kate: My road to hand dyeing yarn started with learning to sew and quilt.  I was so fascinated with all of the colors and textures one can achieve.  Eight years ago, I felt compelled to make the actual fabric and returned to knitting for the first time since age 8.  Within six months I was using a spindle and immersing myself in sheep breeds, and that year I bought a Lendrum spinning wheel at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Fest.  After spinning daily to learn, yarn began appearing all over the house and I began playing with dyes.  In an effort to rid the house of yarn, my husband suggested I start a yarn business.

How do you choose your yarn bases?  Are your having any made specifically for you?  What are your favourite fibers to work with?

I choose yarns based on what I like to knit.  Soft, and squishy fibers with a life of their own.  I love to knit with my Blue Face Worsted for heavier pieces and with Dance rustic silk in the summer.

What inspires your colorways?

My colorways are inspired by all kinds of crazy things.  Sometimes, elements of nature such as Eastern Bluebird or Riptide and sometimes music.  Often, the colors tell me what they want to doJ  I also really enjoy naming my colorways.

What festivals or conferences do you go to as a vendor?

This year, I had a booth at Homespun yarn party in Maryland, Stitches south in Atlanta, Sock Summit in Portland, Stitches Midwest in Chicago, Shenandoah Valley Fiber Fest, and SAFF in Asheville.  I plan to add a few more in 2012, including Maryland (I can dream, can’t I?), Michigan, and Fall Fiber Festival in Montpelier, VA.

The general thought amongst internet craft gurus is that potential customers want to know about the dyer as a person through things such as personal blogs, Twitter, etc.  If a potential customer feels they ‘know’ the person dyeing the yarn, it builds trust in the mind of the customer, and they’re more apt to make that first purchase.  What are your thoughts on this?

I believe this is a true statement.  Our customers enjoy connecting with us, and I like knowing my customers too!  I also believe that the quality of the product is the ultimate reason that compels a customer to return for more.

How do you utilize the internet and social media as an indie dyer?

I use twitter, facebook, and ravelry to connect with current and potential customers.  I like all of these sites for communicating plans and for learning what folks really want.  I believe customer input is a valuable part of my decision making process.

What’s a typical day for you?

I dye yarn while my children are in school, or settled, and after walking the dogs.  Right now, I am dyeing yarn on the back deck while putting the finishing touches on the stove set up in my new studio.  I have four amazing friends who work for me; we touch base daily.  A lot of times, I finish rinsing and spinning the yarn after dinner.

What’s your favorite thing about dyeing yarn?  Least favorite?  I’m including all things ancillary to actual dyeing as well – so feel free to address marketing, website design, etc, etc.

I LOVE to play with color!  I also love having this business.  It brings an incredible variety to my day, brings me into contact with all sorts of incredible people, and forces me to learn about things I’ve never considered before.  It’s also really fun to thwack the laceweight.  Stuff I don’t like?  Can’t think of anything.

Any dyeing or yarn plans for the next year you care to discuss?

I’d like to bring in a sport weight yarn or two, have more yarns spun just for me, and get into Maryland Sheep and Wool.

Thank you Kate!

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