Dyeing to meet you!
We meet local yarn dyer Suzanne
of Greenlambkin Yarn
Words: Paul Chapman
Artist: Suzanne Kirkland-Wells
Images: Helen Rowan Photography
This month’s cover image comes courtesy of Suzanne Kirkland-Wells from Greenlambkin Yarn. Suzanne is a life-long knitter and fibre artist and for the last few years has been establishing an online business selling hand-dyed yarns for knitting and crochet.
“My Grandma and mum taught me to knit when I was really young,” explains Suzanne. “I’ve crocheted since my early twenties and it was around this time that I discovered independent yarn dyers.”
Suzanne studied fashion and textiles at Chesterfield College and had always wanted to have a go at dyeing her own yarns. “I sourced some yarn and locally produced dyes (Colourcraft in Sheffield) and fell in love with dyeing. 2017 saw me produce my first dyed skein for sale through my Etsy shop (Greenlambkinyarn)”.
“My hand-dyed yarn is sold in skeins rather than balls - it’s more traditional and is better for the yarn as it is placed under less tension,” explains Suzanne.
Her first sale felt amazing, but she was nervous at the same time, with a little bit of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ kicking in – would her customers really like what she was creating? She didn’t need to be worried though, the feedback on Etsy and Instagram, as well as responses to her YouTube channel, were really positive. “There is such a strong community around knitting, I make good use of video blogs and have customers and supporters across the world, my overseas customer base is amazing, buyers in the USA love what I do.”
From humble beginnings, Suzanne has worked hard to create a business that now ships products around the world in impressive volumes. To help develop her business, Suzanne looks for innovative ways to engage with her customers, sock clubs for instance, where customers buy specially dyed 100g and 20g mini skeins to knit socks based on different themes, often from nature, folklore and traditional festivals. The resulting colourways are evocative of these themes, calling to mind forests, bonfires and the magic of nature.
“I also do an Advent Club,” adds Suzanne, “selling packs of mini skeins each month to give customers 24 skeins in time for the beginning of advent. People find this an enjoyable way to knit at Christmas and the cost is spread over the year so there is no large outlay at such a financially demanding time. I get some great feedback; people make lovely knitting vlogs as they open their packages live on YouTube.”
As well as her online business activity, Greenlambkin Yarns can often be found at local markets and events, recently at The Wool Monty show at Sheffield Arena and pop-up shops in the area. These events allow Suzanne to get direct feedback on her products which she finds really useful. Her confidence is clearly growing.
In addition to yarns, Suzanne also offers Greenlambkin knitting and crochet patterns, progress keepers and other products for the enthusiastic knitter or crocheter.
Suzanne walked me around her yarn dyeing workshop, which is currently situated in her utility room but can often spill out to the dining room table during busy periods. As her order book grows and the business develops, she plans to move her operation to a purpose-built garage workshop later this year, to cope with the extra demand. I had no idea how manual the process is, dyeing by hand in batches, hand painting the yarn with dyes, fixing them in a microwave, some bubbling in big vats on the hob and each giving a specific finished effect.
Suzanne specialises in dying sparkly and micro-striped yarns which sets her apart from many other indy-dyers. Amazingly, from such a small space in her home, she has produced thousands of skeins to date and judging from the progress she has made, will be producing thousands more. Add to this a home life which includes looking after two children, a cat and six hens with her husband, Suzanne seems to have set up quite the perfect busy home life!
If you fancy some lovely unique, hand-dyed yarns be sure to check out Suzanne’s Etsy shop which contains a wide selection of yarns or find her at a local show or event soon. Failing that, you can always catch up with Suzanne via Instagram, YouTube and Facebook!