We have been finding loads of fun new yarn companies to work with recently, and we are excited to share their stories with you. As you know, Knit with attitude is all about finding out what’s behind the yarn company, from production to inspiration.
One yarn that definitely inspired us is The Fibre Co. Recently transplanted to the UK, The Fibre Co. is a company that embodies many of the things that we hold dear here at the shop. Daphne developed all her yarns herself, from trial and error, to create jaw-dropping blends of fibres that you didn’t even know were possible. Her yarns are now produced and dyed in Peru, where she works directly with artisans there to create her signature two-tone shades. We are absolutely in love with our debut yarn with them, Meadow.
We recently sat down with Daphne to talk about her yarns, inspiration and of course, knitting!
How do you think that The Fibre Co. fits in with the KWA ethos (environmentally and ethically friendly)?
It has always been about the triple bottom line for The Fibre Co.—profits, people and planet. We’re always asking ourselves how we can improve our sustainability. Our main supplier has just become OEKO-TEX® certified for their spinning process. We have used organic fibres in some of our blends and will not use merino from regions that practice mulesing. We know that sustainability is an essential ingredient for our long-term success. We understand that sustainability is a process and see ourselves as a greening business constantly looking for ways to improve our impact on the environment.
Your yarns all contain a combination of fibres in them. What is the most important thing to you when you are choosing which fibres will go into the yarn? What sort of process do you go through?
I began creating yarns for The Fibre Co. by standing at a carding machine and mixing different fibres together to see what would come out at the other end. Then I would go to the spinning frame and try different weights, twists and plys. Finally, it was time to play with colour in the dye pots and that was the most fun. It was all experimental. Through that process I learned a lot about how the fibre and spin would affect the dyeing result. I also learned about the qualities of fibre and the way the different ones wanted to be spun. This experience continues to inform my product development process. I always begin with the fibre in my hands. In the early days of creating The Fibre Co. yarns, I put the greatest emphasis on achieving softness. But today, I’m more interested in understanding what each fibre wants to be and how it can best be used to create a yarn for a specific purpose.
You have moved the production of The Fibre Co. yarns to South America. What was that experience like, both the process and working with the textile industry there?
Outsourcing production was a gradual process. When I first started the mill, I sourced fibre from local farms until I could no longer purchase sufficient quantities in the right quality. So I began by buying the alpaca fibre we used in our blends from Peru and in so doing I established an excellent relationship with one of the two large vertically integrated alpaca businesses in the country. When I needed to produce more of one of our yarns than I could spin to meet demand, it was natural to turn to the mill where the fibre was sourced. Later, when I realized that my dyeing process was the bottleneck, I again turned to Peru and its tradition of artisan dyers. I had a delightful time traveling to Peru to work with the dyers and ensure that they could reproduce our colours and achieve the desired effect. My Peruvian colleagues are lovely to work with and I look forward to visiting again soon.
Can you tell us a bit more about the techniques that are used to dye your yarns?
The technique used to achieve the subtle duotones in our yarns is one that I developed by trial and error. The actual steps involved are proprietary, but I can tell you that it involves using kettles, small batches and relies on the unique characteristics of the various fibres and the way that each blend is spun.
Your family has been producing textiles for generations, have they had advice for you while building The Fibre Co. business?
My father was a textile engineer graduating from the Lowell Textile Institute at a time when the textile industry was going through much change. I grew up with bookshelves full of chemistry textbooks and tomes on subjects from industrial dyeing processes to textile physics to yarn manufacturing. When I set up my small spinning mill, my father was ill and sadly passed away without ever seeing the operation. However, one of his classmates from Lowell found out about the mill and came to visit several times with many words of wisdom and stories about the old days.
Are you a process or a product knitter?
I’m a bit of both really and it depends on the piece that I’m knitting and why I’m knitting. Most work related pieces are product projects out of necessity. When knitting for pleasure though, I fall into the process category.
What’s your current knitting project?
I’ve had a striped cardigan in 12 shades of Road to China Light on the needles for some time now. (All those ends to weave in!) I’m just about to go on a journey that will put me on 8 flights over 2 weeks so I’ll need something to see me through all of that flying time. I’ll most likely take along a project using our soon to launch new yarn called Cumbria. Stay tuned for more info on that!