April 7, 2008
Today we have an interview with Adam, aka The Yarn Nerd. I know he has a lot of Loopy fans, and we thought you might want to know a little more about him. Being a guy in the yarn-dyeing community is a little unique, and we’re sure glad that he picked it up. (And if you’re wondering how to get some of his yarn – he just shipped a new order off to us – as much as he can do at a time – so we’ll have it in stock within the next couple of weeks again!).
Loopy: Hi Adam! Thanks for being in the Limelight today. First of all, how long have you been a knitter, and who taught you?
Adam: I’ve been knitting for about 2 1/2 years now. My mom had picked up knitting a bit before that, and one day we were in the car waiting together. She was knitting along on a scarf, and I was pretty bored, so I said, “you should teach me that.” So she got out some acrylic yarn (this was before we discovered the yarn store) and some big needles, and showed me how to make a scarf. It took me a month or two to finish that scarf, but once it was done, I was hooked. I haven’t been able to put down the sticks since.
Loopy: I’ll bet she’s really proud of all that you have done in the yarn industry now! Do you have a favorite thing that you like to knit?
Adam: I’ve knit a variety of things, including socks, scarves, mittens, hats, sweaters and even dog blankets, but I would have to say socks are my favorite. For me, the process of making a sock is very intriguing, from the heel turn, to the gusset, to the toe, or even the other way around. The simple construction that allows you to have a fitted sock is very fascinating to me, and I love the math involved, in calculating the gauge and insuring the perfect fit every time. Also, I’m on the go a lot, with work and grad school, so I almost always have a sock with me. It takes me a while to actually finish a pair, but slow and steady wins the race, right Loopy?
Loopy: Definitely right! And we’re partial to socks around here, so I’m glad to hear that it’s one of your favorite things to knit. What’s the most difficult project you’ve attempted?
Adam: So far, my Mount Everest of knitting would have to be the Garden Shawl from Fiddlesticks. About 1 1/2 years ago, I thought I’d make my mom a nice lace shawl for Christmas. Knowing that she’s a big gardener, I thought this shawl would be a very touching gift. Unfortunately, I was a bit optimistic on how quickly I could knit a gargantuan lace shawl, and was only about 1/2 done when Christmas rolled around. So I wrapped it up on the needles and gave it to my mom, promising to finish it as soon as possible. Well, it’s been over a year now, and I’m still going. At this point, it’s actually a running joke on my blog, with my mom often chiming in to chastise me for starting other projects and neglecting her shawl. I’m definitely going to finish it one of these days, but it’s hard to get any progress when I’m at the point where one round takes 45 minutes to complete. So again, I really hope that slow and steady will win the race with this behemoth.
Loopy: I notice that pattern says it’s for “experienced knitters” and you started it after you had been knitting for a year? You must be fearless. I hope your mom gets it soon! What made you look into dyeing your own yarn, and how did you learn how to do that?
Adam: I actually started dyeing yarn for a dyeing swap that the infamous Scout, of Scout’s Swag, arranged 2 years back. I’m lucky enough to live in the same city as Scout, and we’ve become pretty good friends since the first time she accosted me in our local yarn shop. (She’s quite an outgoing person!) So I participated in the swap, and began to dye yarn here and there, and look at me 2 years later! As an engineer with an artistic side, dyeing yarn gives me a real opportunity to unite my love of math and color into one passion. I use my right brain to control the dyeing process, with precise weighings, pH measurements and record keeping. My left brain comes in when I pick the colors to dye. Whether I’m going for a tonal variation in a semi-solid colorway, or a variegated yarn that really pops, the process of color selection and application allows me to let my inner artist out. I love the totality of yarn dyeing, because I can be both precise and artistic.
Loopy: Yay for Scout’s encouragement! (We like Scout.) And it’s good to know that you’re using your whole brain in the process. Some of us are more one-sided than that. Now – on to another concern. There are not enough men-knitters in the world. Have you converted any of your friends into knitters yet?
Adam: Unfortunately, at this point, I haven’t been able to convince any of my friends that knitting is worth trying yet. But I view the fact that my friends are very tolerant and understanding of my knitting as a major victory. As a guy knitter, you experience a number of reactions from people, from very warm to a bit unpleasant. So to me, the fact that I can sit down at a friend’s house and pull out the needles, without my friend thinking I’m crazy is a big step. I’m hoping to further break down some people with repeated handknit gifts, so not all hope is lost yet.
Loopy: Well you’re right – getting them to accept you knitting is the first half of the battle. Keep after them, though. We need more guy knitters. How do you come up with your colorways? And do you have a personal favorite?
Adam: I actually dye all of my colors with mixtures of primary colors, so I have a big book of samples that I’ve accumulated through trial and error. Usually when I want to come up with a new colorway, I lay all my samples out on the floor and arrange them until something strikes me. Some of my favorite colors have come about through putting colors together that I wouldn’t have thought would go. My personal favorite these days is a brand new colorway called String Theory. It has mustard yellow, silver, orange and aqua, and I really love the way the colors play off each other, to create a bright colorway with an unexpected pallete.
Loopy: We’re getting that colorway in our next batch, right? It will be fun to see it. There are a lot of dyers out there these days, how do you stay fresh and unique in what you do?
Adam: One thing I really like to do is work on the basics. I spend a lot of time evaluating new base yarns, by making gauge swatches, and performing different dye tests to see how each fiber behaves. My philosophy is, if I wouldn’t want to knit with it, then I won’t dye it. I also spend a lot of time getting to know my dyeing methods, and what results they’re going to produce. I perform tests to see how much my yarn will bleed when washed, and if I’m producing yarn that seems to bleed a lot, then I’ll tweak my process to make sure that my colors are as wash-fast as possible. Another thing I do that I’m especially proud of is a process called Create Your Skein. I stock undyed yarn on my website, which you can have custom dyed in the colorway of your choosing. You pick up to 4 solid colors, and in a week or two, I dye up your dream skein. You can also order my existing colorways, so if your favorite base isn’t stocked in your favorite color, just order it with Create Your Skein. By putting the whole process on my website, it makes it easier for people to custom order yarn, not to mention less work for me to coordinate multiple e-mails, so it’s win-win for both parties.
Loopy: Ok – enough about the yarn. We know that you don’t dye yarn full-time. Can you tell us about your other job?
Adam: Loopy, if I told you about that job, I’d have to kill you. Ha, just kidding! Actually, I work part time at a National Science Laboratory, as an Electrical Engineer, doing work in the field of Communications. This is actually a bit different than what you might normally think of as Communications, in that I do things like design specialized wireless networking equipment, and figure out bit error rates for spread spectrum systems. Don’t worry if this sounds foreign to you, because half the time it sounds foreign to me too. Just remember to thank a Communications Engineer one day, because the amount of math and theory that makes your cell phone work is quite staggering. In addition to working 30 hours a week, I’m also attending school to get my Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering, which hopefully I should be receiving this Fall. Between work, school, yarn dyeing, knitting, and other hobbies, I’m quite the busy bee.
Loopy: So tell us about some of those other hobbies and interets!
Adam: Loopy, I have so many hobbies, it’s hard for me to keep track of them all! In addition to yarn dyeing and knitting, I love to play the violin, cook, clean (yes, clean!) and ride my bike. I recently began riding my bike to work, and am trying to use my car as little as possible, which is quite the challenge sometimes. My true athletic passion is skiing, although a nasty fall this season has left me with a tender knee, so I’ve had to hobble around a lot lately. I also spend a lot of time playing with my two Schnauzers, Dallas and Emma, who are always there to lick me and get into trouble. They’re also quite good at modeling my knits for the blog. There’s many other things that I’ve dabbled in, including photography, gardening and web design. There’s a reason my friends refer to me as The Renaissance Man.
Loopy: Do your dogs like sheep? Just askin’. They look nice, but you can never quite tell about dogs. Anything else you’d like to add?
Adam: I think that about covered it Loopy! Be sure to tell Sheri thanks for offering Yarn Nerd yarns at The Loopy Ewe, it’s been quite an honor to be featured among so many giants in the yarn dyeing industry! Oh, and don’t forget to mention that I’m single!
I hope you enjoyed learning more about Adam, The Yarn Nerd! (Single gals – how nice would it be to have a guy in your life who dyes yarn??)