This interview was originally published in the January 2016 issue of Happily Hooked Magazine.
I discovered Spun Sugar Yarns on Etsy only a short while ago, after a friend told me I had to go check the shop out.
I see a lot of yarn go by in a day – whether on the internet or out and about – but this brand definitely caught my eye. The colours look so sweet and tasty. They really do look good enough to eat! I just had to contact Nicholette Reynolds, the artist behind Spun Sugar Yarns, to find out more about her and, of course, about her yarns.
Hi Nicholette! Why don’t you start by telling me more about who you are?
Hi! I grew up in a small town in Utah called American Fork. My parents actually still live in the house I grew up in. I am the oldest out of three children (I have two brothers). We all still live within 30 miles of each other, so we regularly gather for family birthdays and holidays. I am married and we have two boys, two girls, and two cats. I love it here in Utah. With the Wasatch Mountains in the north and the red rock in the south, there’s always something fun you can find to do. And it’s so beautiful!
Do you crochet?
Yes! I have been crocheting since I was about 21 years old, but at the time, I only crocheted around the edges of baby blankets.
A few years later, in college, I became involved in photography which led to my love for photo props. I received a crocheted hat in the mail one day, and realized that I could make that myself. From that point on, a whole new world of crochet opened up that I fell in love with. Before I knew it, I had opened up a prop shop and sold many items to photographers.
Crochet, for me, is two-fold: I get to relax and focus on a project that can be enjoyable, but also I know I’m being productive by creating an actual item for use.
How did you discover hand-spun yarn?
My love of hand-spun yarn came about in 2009, when I found some on Etsy. It was brand new to me and I wasn’t quite sure what it was from the photo. Hand-spun yarn for props was not really a thing at that time. I remember telling my mom, “I think I found some awesome yarn, but I’m not really sure.” I decided to take a chance on something I couldn’t keep out of my mind. After it came in the mail, I spent all of my prop-making money on hand-spun yarn. It wasn’t until my divorce that I decided I needed to spin yarn myself. Knowing I could no longer keep up the luxury of buying hand spun-yarn, I took a leap of faith that I’d actually learn how to spin yarn for myself and spent $400 on an Ashford Kiwi.
Do you do anything else yarn-related?
My next yarn related goal is to learn how to weave. Nothing super fancy, but an adorable wall hanging with my hand-dyed and hand-spun yarn would be an awesome way to display my craft.
What led you to turn your relationship to yarn into a business?
When I started spinning, I never thought I’d actually sell my yarn. I was spinning for myself to make props. I figured that would be a good way to keep overhead costs down. It wasn’t until I posted my yarns on a few crochet and prop pages that people started saying I should sell them. Over time my yarn started getting more business than my props, and at that point, I made the decision that my attention should be on my fiber.
What is your yarn dyeing process?
I’ll prep my fiber first by soaking it in vinegar water and then hand paint in an aluminum pan. Mixing the colors up and prepping takes about 10 or 15 minutes to do.
Once I’m done “painting” I will then heat the fiber to set the colors. Once the fiber has had sufficient time to set the colors (around an hour) I pull it out of the oven and let it cool down. I think this is the most exciting part of the process!
I have a vision in my mind when I’m creating the colors, and even while painting the fiber, but it can turn out different once it’s done. Colors can end up being darker, lighter, or even break into other colors while heating, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not so good! This can result in what I typically call a OOAK (one of a kind) or a non-repeatable colorway.
Normally you want to let your fiber cool until it’s completely cold, and finally soak it in a bath of clean water to rinse out any excess dyes and vinegar. I then spin the excess water out of the fiber in my washing machines spin cycle and lay it out to dry overnight. Once it’s dry, I braid it up for photos to sell or start drafting it to spin!
What inspires your colourways?
Everything! I am always keeping my eye out for colors that I think would be beautiful as a yarn. It’s amazing what colors can work together that you never thought would before. A lot of the time I’ll decide if I want to do bright colors, pastels, deep dark colors, or even a theme. Once I’ve decided, I start paying more attention to those types of colors in my daily life. Flowers, paintings, a pillow from the store… it’s all great when you’re looking with an eye for color design.
One specific theme I really want to do soon is an Adventure Time collection. I want to include, obviously, Finn and Jake, but also Princess Bubblegum, BMO, Lady Rainicorn, Ice King, LSP, Marceline, and possibly a few others. My family and I are Adventure Time geeks.
What are the bases you use & how do you choose them?
My favorite fiber base has been superwash merino. But lately I have fallen in love with targhee. It creates such a bouncy and squishy yarn that’s perfect for those photography prop blankets. Polwarth is also a contender for big fluff and bounce in yarn. If I’m going for something more “fancy” in the fiber realm, anything with silk, alpaca, or cashmere is wonderful. Another fun base is merino and stellina. It’s sparkle that’s been added to the top and is just a fun fiber to spin for extra special projects. For those with wool allergies, I enjoy spinning faux cashmere. It doesn’t work so well for those thick and thin yarns, but it’s like spinning a cloud.
If I’m not picking for myself, then I usually buy the fiber to dye for what my customers want. Merino is the most popular choice due to its incredible softness. I have been trying to convince my customers to expand and trust me on the targhee, but I think it’s hard to branch out when you know something works for you.
Where do you hope your company goes next?
I would love to be able to do this as my full time job. If I could wake up every morning knowing my day consisted of fiber I would be in heaven. Realistically though, my ambitions are small, as I would love to bring in enough income to help support my family, but the growth moderate enough as to not become a burden and have my family life suffer.
Although, once my kids are grown and out of the house, I certainly would not mind eating, sleeping, and breathing fiber as my business!
Thank you, Nicholette!
You can find out more about Nicholette and Spun Sugar Yarns at the following links:
FB group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/spunsugaryarnies/
Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/spunsugaryarns