All posts by jsberner

A review

DTSK-CoverMechanical.indd

If you haven’t met me yet, I’m the dyer at MJ Yarns. I’ve been knitting since 2008 and have been lucky enough to make my living at this since 2013. Check out my yarns at your local yarn shop or see our limited online offerings here.

I got back from TNNA a couple weeks ago. It’s always fun to see friends in the industry, meet new customers and discover the latest yarnie goodness being offered. A friend pointed out a new book by Felicia Lo of Sweet Georgia Yarns.

Of course, I had to get a copy of Dyeing to Spin and Knit. They’re available here. As a dyer myself, I don’t often find yarns that impress me but I knew Felicia’s yarns were gorgeous. I’ll even confess I have some of her fiber in my stash.

Felicia has a reputation for being meticulous in her dye process. Her attention to detail caries over in her writing. This book is, start to finish, a joyful yet analytic exploration of the dye studio.

The book begins with an insightful and easy to understand discussion of color theory. Concepts are depicted in stunning graphics and pictures of yarn that turn color theory in to visual reality.

Next, the author takes us on a tour of the actual dye studio and its inner workings. Felicia offers a level of detailed instruction that is virtually unprecedented. I’ve been doing this professionally for years and I discovered new tips and tricks that MJ Yarns will be giving a try.

In chapter 3, Felicia tackles actually using hand dyed fibers. Not only do the various methods of spinning and plying get discussed. Staple length, breed and even proximity to other colors all get addressed. Any spinner could benefit from Felicia’s discussion, not just those who dye.

Finally, we come to a section of exceptionally well done patterns. In keeping with the book, these patterns illustrate how hand dyed yarns can be used to greatest effect. The patterns use a wide variety of yarns from fingering to worsted, both mill and hand spun. The patterns in this book are perfect for anyone who loves hand dyed yarn.

As someone who dyes yarn for a living, I can offer you this book with full confidence. It has everything you need to understand dyeing yarn. Weather you are a casual home dyer or a seasoned professional, Dyeing to Spin and Knit is indispensable.

If you’d like to try some of my hand dyed yarns, check out your local yarn shop or buy online here.

 

Advertisements

New Colors!

We’re excited to announce new colors at MJ Yarns. Our web designer is working hard to get them posted at mjyarns.com. Until then, check out these pictures and descriptions.

Lake Side is a gentle blend of earthy greens and blues that evokes the peaceful place where a forest meets the water’s edge. Using this color with Cerulean Twilight or Green Dragon will create a gentle blend in keeping with its spirit.

image2

Peacock speaks for itself. This color sings with pops of yellow, blue, teal, red and purple. Combine it with Connie for something eye popping or Cerulean Twilight for an enjoyable blend.

image3

Mother’s Love is a dusty rose with layers of  red and plum. It offers an unmatched sophistication and subtlety. It will blend brilliantly with Lake Side.

image1

Leaf Litter captures all the magic of a forest floor in Autumn. Try blending with Phoenix for a fiery interplay.

IMG_0009

Mystery is replete with interesting color combinations. Layers of Blues and Green provide a complex backdrop for the final layer of black. Highlights of light pop through it all. Combine with Midnight Orchid for an interplay between the two blacks or use Katelyn to accent the blues.

image4

Horn is exactly what we picture a dragon’s horns would look like. It is a deep and earthy olive drab with a shocking amount of subtle variation.

Horn

Narthex is inspired by the light shining through dusty cathedral stained glass. Try pairing with Cerulean Twilight for a subtle effect or Connie for an exciting sun and sky look.

Narthex

Sky Dust is a gorgeous and complex blend with a purple that can become blue in the right light. It has a gentle and sophisticated look. It will pair well with Purple Dragon or provide a subtle backdrop for Phoenix.

Sky Dust

Wisdom is named for the profound mental peace this color brings to the mind. It is a gentle spring green with enough depth to prevent it from belonging only to the nursery. It would be a great companion to Cerulean Twilight or Peasant.

Wisdom

Madonna is an homage to the Renaissance painters who spent so much effort capturing the beauty of the Christian Mother. This gentle and earthy peach color is, by far, the most complex color we have ever made. It will pair well with Joseph or PTX.

Madonna

Princess is a rich dusty rose. It lives in the sophisticated place between pink and red. It would make an interesting pairing with Fire Dragon or Green Dragon.

Princess

A Color Is Born

One of the most common questions I’m asked is how I make my colors. Dyers are a secretive bunch and we don’t often give up our secrets, but I’m going to tell you a little about how I dye my yarn.
Before I started dying yarn, I knit with a hand dyed yarn that was incredible. The richness and complexity of the colors made for a true knitting experience. Not only was the fiber luxurious and squishy, every inch of the yarn was a fascinating discovery of color. I wanted to make a yarn that gave my end users the same excitement I had felt. I searched long and hard for a method of dying that would make this possible.
What I discovered was laborious and time consuming. The dye process takes anywhere between five and ten hours, but the results are well worth it. Here, I’ll present the process that I use for Green Dragon, my favorite color. To begin, I start with a single layer of color and allow the dye to set.

Green Dragon begins
Green Dragon Begins

In the case of Green Dragon, this first layer is a relatively bright green. An interesting color, though, never has just one layer. After this first layer sets, I add three more greens, each time layering the new green on top of sections of white and the previous colors before it. The result is that there are sections of the original green along with each additional layer and entirely new greens where the initial colors have blended together.

A Second Layer
A Second Layer
A Third Layer Increases Complexity- Note that there is still a substantial amount of white.
A Third Layer Increases Complexity- Note that there is still a substantial amount of white.
A Fourth Layer- Nearly all the white is gone. Sections of all four original greens are visible with an entire new and rich pallete emerging.
A Fourth Layer- Nearly all the white is gone. Sections of all four original greens are visible with an entirely new and rich palette emerging.

If you look closely at the photos, you’ll also notice that the colors are applied in extremely short sections. This means that the resulting fabric has an overall appearance of a general color without pooling but gives more and more interest the closer the viewer gets- much like the paintings of the masters.

The Green Dragon finishes with a layer of purple to bring it to completion. Rarely will I make a color that doesn’t have something to add a bit of excitement and pop. For me, this is what brings everything together and makes it a really exciting yarn.

A Fifth Layer- The dark purple adds a radical contrast to the lighter greens and draws the viewers eyes in.
A Fifth Layer- The dark purple adds a radical contrast to the lighter greens and draws the viewers eyes in.

While the amount of work each skein receives is tremendous, the results are clearly worth it. Be sure to check out all our colorways here.

An Interview

My Sister Knits recently asked me to answer a few questions. Here are my answers for your perusal.

– How did you find the yarn bases that you work with?
As a knitter, I’ve learned a lot about the many types of yarns available. Each one really has a very specific use and it was important to me to have a variety of yarns to fill each of those uses.
Silken Lace is a gorgeous two ply yarn with an 80/20 blend of merino wool and silk. In lace, a two ply yarn is ideal. It has wonderful drape but enough strength to deal with the abuse of being pulled through several stitches at a time. Silk was a necessity in this yarn for the luxury factor. If a knitter is going to put the hours required in to a gorgeous lace piece, it better call to their fingers to be touched. The lace also adds a magical shimmer that draws the eye and adds a bit of strength to make sure all of their hard work will last for a lifetime. Wool was important in this yarn because, as experience has taught, it makes blocking so much easier. Other fibers don’t have the same flexibility and memory of wool making it hard to get just the right size and shape to the finished piece. The breed was also critical. Merino is such a luscious fiber that one can’t help but love knitting and wearing it.
Simple Sock is a basic workhorse yarn with a surprising drape and hand. The superwash Corriedale (a stronger breed of sheep) means the wool will hold up over time and the nylon adds the strength needed for hard wearing socks or gloves. Despite all that, this yarn is surprisingly soft and lovely to handle.
Rustic Fingering is best for fingering weight lace projects. A two ply yarn will drape better than a three or four ply so 2 ply was chosen. This yarn is also loosely spun, adding to the hand made look that gives gifts (for others and one’s self) something truly special. The yarn is composed completely of Blue Faced Leicester ( BFL), one of my favorite breeds of sheep. BFL has a long fiber making loose spun yarns possible. It’s soft and friendly nature just beg the knitter to dive their fingers in to it. Finally, BFL has a natural luster that makes the yarn look almost like it was blended with silk.
Opulent Fingering exists because we all deserve a little pampering. Merino blended with cashmere make this yarn a pure delight to work with. It has an incredible drape. Projects made from this yarn will wrap themselves around the lucky wearer like heavens arms. To make sure this pampering goes on as long as possible, just a touch of nylon was added for strength.

-What were you doing before you started MJ Yarns? ~and~ What was the inspiration for starting MJ Yarns?
My “grown up job” was as an Ops Manager for a major shipping company. While the pay and benefits were unmatched, I was miserable. It was an environment where nothing was good enough. The work we did was important but I had no passion for it. I could find no joy in processing tens of thousands of packages every night.
I’ve learned that, if a situation isn’t working, change it. I had been knitting for years by this time and found every bit of joy in it that I could hope for. I began to wonder how I could turn this passion in to a career. I talked to several people in the industry, most notably Maggie Casey. She was clear- dye yarn. Life has also taught me to listen to the people who have experience. I listened and MJ Yarns was born.

-What makes your yarn unique?
A while back, I had an experience knitting with a hand dyed yarn that was incredible. Every inch of the yarn was a moment of discovery. The way the colors blended created a rich and inviting yarn. I wanted to recreate that for people. My yarns are made in a labor and time intensive process that layers between 3 and 7 colors to make each bit of yarn complex and interesting. In addition, the short color runs create an overall color feel that becomes ever more complex as the viewer steps closer to investigate.
In addition to color, my yarns are usable and accessible to all knitters. There’s no need to fight my yarns to force them to work for the final product. They’re designed to be practical and oh so heavenly to touch.

-What is your favorite part of your craft?
For me, this is not a job. MJ Yarns is about creating something beautiful that makes me and others happy. Each morning I walk in to my studio to find the ever changing landscape of my drying racks. I’m always struck by the glory of the field of colors stretched out in front of me. As I dye my yarns, I can’t help but enjoy the constantly increasing complexity that appears as each color is added. My life now is surrounded in beauty and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

-How do you name your yarns?
Each colorway has a story. Some names came from suggestions from others. Cerulean Twilight got its name from a friend on Facebook. Other colors start with a name before they are ever made. Fire Dragon was made to fit in with its siblings Green and Purple Dragons. Other colors were named because they brought to mind very specific things. Peasant is one- when this yarn went on the drying rack for the first time, I couldn’t help but see it on the back of a medieval serf. Yarns with proper names (like Katelyn or Mazlyn) were named for specific people who either suggested the color or the yarn brought to mind. Then there are my favorites- the yarns that demand that they receive a specific name. Mice and Men simply wouldn’t let me call it anything else. From the moment I put the first coat of Grey on this yarn, the name Mice and Men was in my head. I spent the entire day that I created that color trying to come up with another name that seemed more fitting or at least made some sense, and most of the next as well. My mind was blank and Mice and Men was born.

-What is on your needles?
I am something of an anomaly in the knitting world. I absolutely refuse to have more that two projects on the needles at any given time. I heard about “startitis” early on in my knitting life and decided that it would never happen to me. That being said, I finished one project last week and another one today. At the moment, I have nothing on the needles! This is, of course, a crisis and tomorrow’s first priority will be some time on Ravelry searching for a perfect pattern. I know where I’ll get the yarn though.

On The Road

From Jonathan-

Just a short few weeks ago, I began dying yarn full time under the trade name MJ Yarns. It has been a wonderful journey so far. The reception my yarns have received has been incredible. The people in this magical world of yarn have been warm and welcoming and I can barely begin to express the excitement and gratitude that I have for the people that have made this possible.

First, I have to thank my family- my Mom and Dad Connie and Steve and my sisters Karen and Loraine. Their encouragement and labor have helped develop the skills I need to make the most gorgeous yarns available.

Second, I have to thank those in the yarn world who directed me to become a yarn professional- Maggie Casey, Allie Neas and Barb Day were all instrumental in setting my feet on this path. There are many more who have given me the opportunity to make my yarns available. Find the retailers who carry MJ Yarns here.

Finally, I have to thank the friends that have provided me with advice and support, both in time and labor as I started this journey. Martha, Matthew, Tailor, Allen, Jim and many more- thank you all so much.

I feel like I have finally found my life’s purpose and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share it with you. Thank you and happy yarning!