October 13, 2008
I’ll admit it. I’m totally smitten with the yarns and roving that come by the case-full from The Sanguine Gryphon. The subtle (rich, classy) blend of colors are simply amazing, and I have a hard time keeping my hands off of them. Today, you get to meet the Gryphon behind The Sanguine Gryphon!
Loopy: Hi Gryphon! We’re so glad to have you in the Limelight today. I think you might be our first belly-dancing indie dyer. Or at least the first one who has sent us a photo! How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?
Gryphon: My mother taught me to knit when I was a teenager and I had a burst of enthusiasm, but then put it aside and forgot all about it. Five or so years ago I saw a woman knitting on a train and asked her to show me. She tried to teach me to throw the yarn and I was all muddled and awkward, until I tuned her out and let my hands take over. In an instant I was zipping along, continental, as my mother had shown me. I haven’t put the needles down since.
Loopy: I guess our brains and fingers really do remember things from long ago! So what is your favorite item to knit?
Gryphon: Anything involving a technique I don’t yet know.
Loopy: So what will you do when you run out of new things to learn?? Well, thankfully, people keep coming up with new things to challenge all of us. Before being a dyer, what other jobs have you had in life?
Gryphon: Oh dear. You sure you want to ask this, Loopy? Let’s see? I’ve done a lot of teaching and private tutoring, recently knitting and spinning classes, but before that Latin, German, chemistry, composition, math, and probably other things I’ve forgotten. I did the usual waitressing and bartending that follows the acquisition of a BA. I was – ahem – a ‘dancer’ and occasionally a bouncer in some seedy joints in Baltimore for waaay too long (am I making Loopy blush?), followed by a stint as a molecular biologist at the National Institutes of Health (the fabulous thing about having a degree in philosophy is that you can talk your way into ANYTHING), and then some office work for an environmental science company. Oh, and I had a historical costuming business in college.
Loopy: Wow. Yes, I’m really glad I asked! What a history of experience. We’re glad that you ended up here with us. How did you go from knitting to dyeing?
Gryphon: When I decided to launch my business I thought I’d just sell spinning wheels, fiber, and handspun yarn. And then my dear friend and fabulous dyer Kate of Dragonfly Fibers (who also dyes some of The Sanguine Gryphon colourways for The Loopy Ewe) taught me to dye and it completely rocked my world. Really, I owe Kate much of my present existence, aside from the fact that she puts up with a lot of craziness from me.
Loopy: How do you come up with your colorways, and do you have a favorite?
Gryphon: Many of my colourways are based on paintings or photographs, especially nature images. Others are just mixes that seem like a good idea, and a few are the creations of some of my elves or my friends’ children. My favourites tend to be the murky greens, like Gorgias or Glaucon. In fact, sometimes I look up at the drying lines after a day of what should have been varied dyeing to see golden green beside brown-green beside moss green beside olive green?
Loopy: That Gorgias is the first skein of Sanguine Gryphon that we started knitting here, too. We love it. Of course it’s sold out again – you need to make more for us. Another thing that’s fun about your line is that you have some interesting colorway names. Is there a story behind that?
Gryphon: Almost all of them have stories! Some are named for the painting or image that inspired them, some for lines from poems, some for various dances, etc. The Eidos names come from Plato, either characters in his dialogues, or concepts from them, which is why they tend to be unpronounceable Greek names. ‘Eidos’ means the type or essence of something, its ‘form’, an important concept in Plato. At some point I may branch out to Aristotle. Just putting that philosophy degree to good use!
Loopy: It’s important to use those degrees. We also love your Kypria line with the stories to go along with them. How did that come about?
Gryphon: I learned about the existence of the Kypria (or rather, its non-existence) some years ago and became obsessed with it for awhile. The idea that there was a lost prequel to the Iliad and the Odyssey was really exciting to me. I did a massive amount of research on it with the intention of reconstructing the book, but when it came to actually sitting down to write, I froze up. How do you write a Homeric epic? So I put the whole thing aside. Only recently I hit on the idea of combining it with the yarn. When I think only in terms of writing a little paragraph at a time it’s not daunting, I never have to think of the whole thing, just that tiny fragment. I’m telling myself that it’s a clever marketing idea, but really I’m using it to indulge the part of me that wanted to grow up to be a classical scholar.
Loopy: We like that each different colorways gives a new piece of the story. What is your favorite part of your job? And your not-so-favorite part?
Gryphon: I love touching the yarn. I have elf helpers now, but I still prefer to be the one to bring the yarn in off the lines and wind the hanks, so I can touch it and look at it more. What I don’t enjoy is the amount of time I spend in front of the computer. I can’t even figure out what I do there, but it eats whole days and the to-do list never seems to diminish.
Loopy: It seems like your time is better spent dyeing! Would you like to tell us about your family?
Gryphon: I have the best husband one could possibly ask for. He does all the shopping, cooking, and dishwashing, never complains about the way 90% of the house is taken up by yarn, and never asks how much I’ve spent on yarn or why I need a 14th spinning wheel. Our daughter is similarly marvelous: she never complains that in a 4-bedroom house she doesn’t have her own room because there’s too much yarn. Of course that could be because she’s not quite two and doesn’t know yet that it’s a problem. She is, however, terribly jealous and one of her earliest phrases was, “All done yarn, Mommy.” I have to be careful not to knit something for her when she’s around, because she’ll resent the item and refuse to wear it.
Loopy: “All done yarn, Mommy.” – that’s funny! Hopefully she’ll grow up to be a knitter and spinner and will totally understand the yarn all over the place. I see you have started her early on spinning. Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Gryphon: Well, I’ve already incorporated the classics research into the business, so that doesn’t count as ‘other’ anymore. Belly dancing. I really love that. I dance much of the time while I’m working.
Loopy: And what would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Gryphon: A day off from the yarn? Hmm, I sure would love to get some knitting and spinning in, and maybe process some of my fleeces.
Loopy: A day off, and you still want to be involved with yarn and fiber? We totally understand that. Anything else you’d like to add?
Gryphon: I’d dearly love to spend all my time wearing medieval and renaissance clothes, and maybe live in a castle. But I think those re-enactor people are really weird.
The Sneak Up just Snuck Up! This week, we added in: HiyaHiya Bamboo DPN’s, Lantern Moon Rosewood Sox Stix (in the new 6″ length), Celtic Swan Forge Sterling Silver DPN’s, Atenti Bags, All Things Heather Merino/Bamboo, All Things Heather Merino/Tencel, Numma Numma Saucy, Perfect Day Yarns, Lorna’s Laces Silk/Bamboo Amy-Friendly yarn, Noro Silk Garden Worsted, Neighborhood Fiber Lace, Zen String British Wool Roving, Fleece Artist Trail Socks, and The YoYo CashSport. Over the weekend, we also re-stocked: Cascade 220, Opal Harry Potter, HiyaHiya Steel needles, GoKnit Bags, Wendy Knits Patterns, Lane Borgosesia Cashwool, and The Dyeing Arts Roving. Check it out!