How I Started a Hand Dyed Yarn Business

Now that vlogmas is over, I’m back to my business series about how I started up my yarn business and where I currently am with it. I have a few more posts that I will be adding to this series over the next few weeks and then I plan to revisit it over the years. The idea is to see how I grow and change with my business over time. I also think it will be fun to look back at the things that are at the forefront of my mind today and see where it stands in the future.

Previously in this series, I talked about why I started a yarn business. Today, I’ll be talking more about how I started it. Keep in mind, this is a reflection on my experiences and is in no way meant to be a “how to start a business.” I just enjoy sharing my experiences so far.

For a while, I was intrigued by how dyeing worked. Like many people now ask me, I wondered how the colors were speckled or stay separated from each other. I’m the type of learner that has to do something to learn it, either write it down, work out the problem or get my hands dirty, which was the case here. I decided to try it out and see for myself.

I bought bare from Knit Picks along with some basic dyes. I also ordered some little cake pans, tea spoons and citric acid from Amazon (for links to these, check out my FAQs page).

I wound up the skeins of yarn into little minis and just went for it. I tried solids and then mixed some colors that I thought would look nice together. I tried mixing, speckling and just doing whatever to the yarns to see what happened. I used the little pans and minis on my stovetop and once I started, I couldn’t stop.

I really didn’t know I what I was doing, first of all and I didn’t have too many dyes. I really just kept using them in new combinations to see what would happen. A lot of those early skeins ended up in my Northeasterly blanket, which I’m still working on today.

Can you find some of the skeins from the left knitted up?

After researching owning a business, Etsy and suppliers, I took the plunge and went for it! In the early days, I tried to keep the costs of my business at a minimum and it showed. I used the same materials that I still use today, I didn’t wimp out there. However, I would dye up my colorways on minis and photograph those… on my driveway. Some of the originals in the photo on the left (my original shop), were taken on my in-laws deck, as I opened up the shop while I was there. The ones with the white background were on my driveway with a piece of computer paper behind it. So high tech… so lame. The photo on the right was one of my first kits, also photographed on my driveway.

I actually don’t mind the driveway look in all honesty. It’s a plain background and you don’t see shadows. The issue for me was the light needed to be perfect. My house faces east and as soon as the sun came up, it would wash out the colors. I needed the sun to not quite be up over the house across the street. This meant that given the time of year, I needed to take photos on the weekends. I was out of the house during the week before the sun was up. If it was a rainy weekend, forget it. It didn’t happen. Still, it worked and was a decent way to start.

I knew it was deceptive though and people would think I only sold minis. I knew that if I wanted to sell skeins, I needed to photograph them on 100g skeins. This is a double edged sword. I actually think I’m hurt now by showing 100g skeins where people can actually buy minis too. However, more people look for the 100g skeins so I’m better off showing them that way.

The first 100g skeins I dyed for the shop!

I was slow to dye up my colorways on 100g skeins because that takes stock and early on, I had no clue how to predict who would like which colors. Early on, it’s hard to trust yourself and know that if you love something, someone out there will too. It’s also difficult when you don’t have a following who actively look up what you are dyeing.

Eventually, I did and I think it helped the shop. That’ll be for another post…

Stay tuned for more in this series!

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