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Knitterview: Krista of Pigeonroof Studios

Thursday, 9 August, 2012

I’m not a spinner. Never have been, and although I briefly flirted with the idea a couple years ago, I doubt I ever will be. But I do love looking at gorgeous fiber, and really love buying the occasional skein of handspun.

Pigeonroof Studios is one of my favorite places to go for a good drool. Today I’m talking to Krista, who runs PRS out of her studio in the Bay Area. I’ve made several projects out of her yarn and handspun, and have fallen so hard for her fiber that in the past I’ve bought a couple braids and had someone spin them up for me. I’m in love with her sense of color. She’s able to create stunning, bright color combinations, then turn around and perfectly dye warm, earthy shades that bring me back to hiking through the woods in the Northwest.

Mustard Greens: 40/40/20 Superwash Merino/Merino/Tussah Silk roving*
 

There’s no way she remembers this, but I actually met Krista several years ago at the first Sock Summit. As soon as I got in the marketplace I made a beeline for her booth, and several skeins made their way home with me. Krista was incredibly nice, even though I was hopped up on yarn fumes and probably made a fool of myself gushing about how much I love her yarn.

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What is your knitting story?

I learned to knit when I was about ten; one of my schoolmate’s mothers was a knitter, and I remember begging her to teach me at a sleepover at that schoolmate’s house. She showed me how to knit on long metal needles and rainbow coloured acrylic yarn. I didn’t knit again after that until I was in college, reteaching myself from one of those pamphlet books they sold at drugstores. Unfortunately, I was pretty broke, and nice yarn seemed wayyy out of my budget, so I knit with a lot of acrylic. I also didn’t really knit anything very substantial, just a lot of endless scarves during lecture classes. In retrospect, I wish I had known more about nice yarns and good patterns, I could have gotten a lot done! I stopped for a bit after that, then somehow got the urge to knit again when I was about 23 after discovering knitting blogs. This time I bought nice yarn, and realized what a difference it made. I still have the scarf I knit: a seed stitch scarf knit on straight bamboo needles with Karabella Aurora 8 in brown. It’s held up amazingly well. I’ve been a pretty serious knitter since then…I guess about seven years or so now.

Moldova: Superwash Merino/Cashmere/Nylon Siren Two Sock

On a typical day how much time to do you spend knitting?

Sometimes I knit for an hour a day, sometimes two hours…sometimes less or not even at all. It really depends on what I have to do that day, or if I’m on a big spinning kick, which tends to take the place of my knitting time.

How big is your stash?

Oh, god, my stash is way too large. Part of the problem is that, well, I dye yarn, so obviously I have a lot of the yarn I’ve dyed, plus I feel like I should be knitting with it to show it off, so it means that the rest of my stash gets neglected. I also tend to buy yarn in sweater quantities, and I have a hard time resisting a good sale. All of  my stash is yarn I really love and want to knit with, though; I’ve given away a TON of yarn over the last couple of years, plus I don’t buy yarn nearly as much now as I did a few years ago. I recently moved, and that was a big of a shocker, just seeing how much yarn I had.

Handspun Toasts

What other hobbies do you have besides knitting?

Other than knitting as a hobby, I like to rock climb, and I spin. I also read a lot about World War Two, and textile history. I’m trying to find time to make art again.

Bayou: 80/20 Merino/Tussah Silk roving*

When did you start dyeing?

I started dyeing about five and a half years ago.

Gloworm: fingering weight Superwash Merino handspun yarn

What made you decide to start dyeing your own yarn?

I started dyeing because I was seeing people dyeing with Kool-aid on blogs, and I thought, hey, I can do that. I’d taken a couple of classes in the textile department in college, and had dyed some yarn then, so it wasn’t that big a leap for me. Dyeing with Kool-aid was fun, but then I started with acid dyes, and things just kind of took off. I realized that I really loved doing it.

How long after you began dyeing did you start your shop?

I started my own shop almost immediately after I started dyeing. I’ve always made things and sold them to make money, so starting an Etsy shop just seemed natural. I lucked out timing wise—Etsy was pretty new, so I was able to get a lot of exposure, plus there just weren’t that many hand dyers out there at the time. As things started selling more and more, I realized that I needed to get a business license to be able to get supplies wholesale in order to make any kind of a profit. I didn’t really plan anything out, I just went along with what felt right to do.

Melee: Superwash Merino/Cashmere/Silk Cassiopeia Lace singles*

Where do you find your inspiration?

It’s hard to really pinpoint where I get my inspiration from. I’ve always had an excellent colour sense, and so often I just go with what my intuition tells me will work. I know some dyers can look at a photograph and translate it wonderfully in to a colourway, and although I can be inspired originally by an image, once I start dyeing, all bets are off. A lot of my best colourways really have come from just playing with the dyes, seeing how colours interact and trusting my instincts. The Luminosity Project dyeing has really helped in this way; since I layer colour after colour, it’s a great way to test out new colours and see how the colours interact. Those one of a kind colourways will often spur repeatable colourways.

Goodale

Do you ever knit with yarn you didn’t dye?

I do knit with yarn that I don’t dye, although not as much as I should to reduce my stash! When I do knit with yarn that I haven’t dyed or purchase yarn, it’s usually commercial yarn, like Berroco, Rowan, Sublime, Cascade 220…those types.

Lotus Flower: Superwash Merino roving

How did you come up with the name Pigeonroof Studios?

The name Pigeonroof Studios has its origin way back to my first semester of art school. I was taking a book arts and papermaking class, and in book arts, you have to come up with a name for your “press”. At the time, I was living in a third floor walkup apartment in Berkeley that had an attic that was infested with pigeons; they drove my cat crazy! Hence the name Pigeonroof. I didn’t want to limit myself though, since I’ve always done a variety of crafts, so Pigeonroof Studios seemed a good all encompassing name.

Floe: 80/20 Merino/Tussah Silk sport weight handspun yarn

For a lot of knitters, including myself, dyeing yarn is sort of a mystery. Can you take us through the dye process?

Although the methods of applying dye can vary, basically acid dyeing on protein fibres consists of applying dye to wet fibre or yarn, and adding an acid (citric acid or vinegar) to it, and heating everything up. I tend to keep pretty mum about my exact technique, but have started teaching my various techniques in workshops.

Bonhomie: Superwash Merino High Twist Sock

Your colors vary from gorgeous earthy tones to bright and multi-colored. Which reflects more of your personal style?

My personal style definitely leans towards the more earthy colours; I like to wear and knit with dark blues, charcoals, moody colours like that. For some reason though, when I dye, bright colours will just come out of me! It’s funny because that never happened when I was a painter or printmaker; maybe I just feel more free in the dyepots? I just really like colour, so this is a way I can indulge myself.

Jacques: 80/20 Superwash Merino/Silk Silken Sock*

Would you tell us a little about your dye studio?

For the last five years, my dye studio was in the very tiny kitchen of my studio apartment, which rapidly evolved (or devolved, however you look at it) from a fairly functional living space into pretty much a dedicated work space. There wasn’t any cooking of food going on there. Recently, however, I moved in with my boyfriend, so my dye studio is now located in the garage. We don’t’ park in there and the landlord kindly put a industrial two tub laundry sink in the adjacent laundry room for me. Instead of a gas stove, I use propane burners, and I have my skein winder and photo light box set up in there. It’s not fancy or picturesque, but it’s working out extraordinarily well. Winter will be interesting, though!

Burnt: 40/40/20 Superwash Merino/Merino/Tussah Silk roving

How many of your colors were thought out beforehand and how many of them are happy accidents?

I’m not sure I would call any of my colourways happy accidents…happy experiments might be more accurate. Sometimes I’ll have an idea of a colourway in my head, but 99% of the time when I go to execute it, it’ll develop and change.

Do you have a regular update schedule and do you do custom orders?

I do custom orders for any of my repeatable colourways. All the colourway names that are preceded by a TLS are non repeatable, so I can’t do custom orders for those. All anyone needs to do to special order something is to contact me and ask! I tend to update my shop on an almost daily basis; I find it easier than doing big scheduled updates every couple of weeks. Often I’ll list things in the evening.

Kami

What is the next step for PRS?

The next step for Pigeonroof Studios is actually. . .scaling back. This has been my full time job for the last few years, and while I love most aspects of it, last year I found myself feeling a bit burnt out. Additionally, the cost of living is exceptionally high where I live, and I was finding myself working non-stop but still unable to make ends meet. I realized that in order to be happy, not stressed all the time, and to stay inspired, I needed to change things, and I found that expanding PRS was not what I wanted to do; production dyeing is not really enjoyable for me. So I’m not taking any new wholesale accounts, I now work once a week as a letterpress printer again (I was a printer before I started dyeing), and in September I start a teacher training program to become a Pilates instructor. I don’t intend to stop dyeing, I just want to reduce the financial stress around it, and keep it fun and enjoyable for me, which I find translates into more inspired product!

Stained Glass: 80/20 Merino/Tussah Silk fingering weight handspun yarn

What is on your needles at the moment?

I’ve got several things on my needles….a sock, a sweater, a cardigan, a shawl, a fair isle hat…I’ve tried to be a monogamous knitter, I really have, but somehow it just doesn’t stick. I try not to let the WIPs get out of hand, though.

Watercolour: Polwarth Wool roving

What is the best piece of knitting advice you’ve ever gotten?

It wasn’t given out as knitting advice, but I think it applies well—a painting teacher of mine in college told us, “Know your materials. When you’re stuck, knowing your materials will always pull you through.”

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A big, big thank you to Krista for allowing me to interview her. If any of these lovely yarns and fibers have caught your eye please check out her etsy shop! You can find Krista on Ravelry here, and if you’re interested there is a Pigeonroof Studios group on Ravelry as well.

* All yarns and fibers marked with an asterisk are non-repeatable colorways
5 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    Thursday, 9 August, 2012 9:30 am

    The colors are stunning! Hard to pick a favorite…maybe Jacques…Interesting interview with detailed questions to get a feel for this artist. Great job!

  2. Thursday, 9 August, 2012 9:54 am

    Ooo I love Pigeonroof. Thanks for the awesome interview! 🙂

  3. Thursday, 9 August, 2012 2:43 pm

    ksdjfkasdfjlkasdfjkdsjf HOLY SHIT I LOVE THESE COLORS. I think I may have found a new “splurge” yarn…

  4. Thursday, 9 August, 2012 3:30 pm

    What a fun and interesting read! I’ve loved PRS since I was a beginning spinner, and I love it still. Krista’s colors are amazing, and I love how easy it is to snag what you want (either through regular updates or custom orders). They spin up so beautifully. She’s a true artist.

  5. Thursday, 9 August, 2012 4:18 pm

    Though I’m not a spinner, I love Pigeonroof Studios – I have a dream of dyeing some charmeuse or crepe-back satin yardage inspired by one of her colorways and making it into a slinky bias-cut dress. Sigh.
    Fascinating interview – I love hearing how yarn dyers got started and learning about their process!

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