April 14, 2008
Today we wanted to introduce you to Allen, the creative force behind Numma Numma! (Psst – we have more of her beautiful yarn going up sometime this week, along with more of Adam’s yarn from last week’s Limelight – yay!) I hope you enjoy reading more about Allen and her business.
Loopy: Hi Allen! It’s nice to have you with us today. We’ll start with the basics – How long have you been a knitter and who taught you?
Allen: Hi Loopy! I’ve been a knitter for almost 30 years now. My great-grandmother taught me when I was nine. I was totally bored one summer, and she was making this giant afghan on a circular needle. (In my child mind it was giant, anyway – probably, in reality it was just a throw.) She told me something about idle hands (in German – don’t remember what it was) and taught me how to cast on. I knit a belt out of this awful rust-colored acrylic (it was the 70s, so it was fashionable) and wore it all the time.
Loopy: It’s nice that you were able to make something that you actually wanted to wear when you were done. Do you have a favorite thing that you like to knit?
Allen: Probably socks and kid’s stuff for my girls. I love larger projects too, but I suffer from project start-itis and need to finish things in a reasonable amount of time or they are toast – into the UFO pile for who knows how long. In fact for the DC KAL, I chose a vest – because I know me and, well, I want to finish…
Loopy: We know nothing about Start-itis around here. (Umm – have you seen the display of single socks that the Loopy Lady has here? Jeesh.) What’s the most difficult project that you have attempted so far?
Allen: Knitting-wise probably lace in general. Only because it takes so much concentration and focused attention – which I never have with 3 girls who are 7 and under. In fact, right now the 2-year-old, Ruby, is hanging on my leg saying “Hi, Mommy” while she unpacks my desk – so I hope my answers are actually coherent.
Loopy: Well so far I understand everything you’re saying, so you must be good at multi-tasking! What made you look into dyeing your own yarn, and how did you learn how to do that?
Allen: I started dyeing my own yarn to develop colorways that would be favorites for me and my girls. The first colorways that became toasty flavors were fig preserves (my favorite), georgia peach (my Claudia’s favorite – the 7 year old), grape jam (for my Stella, who’s 4), and strawberry jam (for my Ruby who’s 2). All of those colors still have sentimental significance for me. I learned by trial and error and from friends. There are actually several excellent local dyers in the area who are generous enough to share their knowledge, and there are great opportunities for dye classes – here in Atlanta we have the only LYS with a dye studio. Makes for some fun learning times. I am pretty analytical – so the science of it is interesting to me – it really took practice and patience and lots of notes. I have notebooks full of dye samples, and I am constantly trying to improve my work.
Loopy: Can you tell us what else you do, in addition to your yarn dyeing business? Do you have another job as well?
Allen: I am a mom. And wow is that a second job! Who knew that vocation was so demanding and rewarding all at once… When I became pregnant with my first Claudia, I was actually in New York City working on my PhD in management at NYU’s Stern School of Business. Studying organizational behavior. Considering the strategy of games in decision making. Analyzing entrepreneurship and trying to figure out what sparks it. Recently I caught up with my major professor from Stern. We laughed about the fact that I could be the subject of entrepreneurial study now, and I told him that motherhood required more strategic thinking than anything I was required to do at Stern. All that said, I am totally happy with my choices. I am here for my girls as they grow, and they will have a childhood filled with memories of handcrafts and fiber art – what could be better. My studio (which has just undergone renovation and is finally complete – yay!) is in my basement, and my girls have their own play area. It just works, and I am so thankful for this life.
Loopy: The new studio looks fun! How do you come up with your colorways? Do you have a personal favorite?
Allen: Well, I steal the colors. Really, I do. Right out of nature. All of the toasty flavors are toasty toppings – so I think about the colors of the finished product as well as the fruits and vegetables, etc that go into those products. Then I pull out my “color books” – books full of small, dyed samples and go to work. All of the babyBOO colors are baby food flavors, and I follow the same creative process. Saucy is sauces and saucy things. Spicy (my laceweight which is currently in development) is all spicy foods and spicy things. Texas toasty (my dk merino – currently in development) is all tex-mex flavors. This is the most fun part of my job, and the creative process always makes me so grateful to live in a world created in these brilliant colors. Personal favorite, this is tough because I really like them all for different reasons – but if forced to choose, I would probably say that my personal favorite is Elvis. Just because it is so puzzling to people. Elvis is named for Elvis’ favorite sandwich – peanut butter and banana on white bread with a bit of honey, fried or grilled. So the flavor is manifest in brown, black, soft yellow, white, gold and deep ochre.
Loopy: Mmm – now I might need an Elvis Sandwich for my dinner. There are a lot of dyers out there these days – how do you stay fresh and unique in what you do?
Allen: Wow, good question, Loopy. I am particular about my base yarns, and I am always asking my mills to spin new stuff. I am always auditioning new yarns. Always experimenting with technique and color. Always listening to opinions from test knitters as well as the knitting community and constantly tweaking and improving my craft.
Loopy: Ok, besides knitting and dyeing, do you have other hobbies or interests?
Allen: I love to spin – that’s a new love. My dear husband got me a wheel from Christmas this year. I love to read. I love paper crafts. I love to play with my kids. I love to talk and eat – are those hobbies? Maybe just interests.
Loopy: And do you have a favorite book/movie recommendation?
Allen: I am such a goober when it comes to movies. I watch tons of documentaries – the latest one that I really liked is Protagonist. As far as movies I can watch over and over – Gone With the Wind, My Fair Lady, Baby Boom (because my Ruby looks just like the baby in the movie), and (my husband would say) anything with Matthew McConaughey – but that’s not really true most of his movies are, well, silly. I am a MUCH bigger fan of Alan Rickman. I am a total book worm and will read anything you put in my hands. I really enjoyed reading the entire Harry Potter series (twice – I warned you I was a goober). I also love Waiting by Ha Jin (a writer who lives here in Atlanta and is an Emory professor) – actually I have loved all of his novels and stories, but this one was my favorite. It makes you think about wishing and waiting and time and what you really want in life. And I am a southern girl, through and through, so I have to give a shout out to my favorite southern trio – the late great Ms. Eudora Welty (I have my own Stella-Rondo – named for my grandmother and nick-named thanks to “Why I Live at the P.O.”), Clyde Egerton, and Michael Malone. In the reading cue right now are Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson) and The Ten-Year Nap (Meg Wolitzer). At least one of those will probably come to the fling with me.
Loopy: Lots of good recommendations! Anything else you’d like to add?
Allen: Maybe you shouldn’t ask me that, Loopy. As you can see, I am a bit of a talker. Perhaps I should just close by saying that I have really enjoyed our chat, Loopy. I am honored to be in the Limelight, and I can’t wait to meet you and that fantastic Loopy Lady in person in just a little over a week at the Spring Fling.
Loopy: We can’t wait to have you here!