Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dyer Moments: Laura Coleman

When I design knit patterns, my inspiration usually begins with a color.  I like to design textures and patterns that represent, in some way, the color I’m working with.  If a particular dye lot reminds me of fire, or a stormy sea, or a leafy vine, I’ll try to reflect that in the stitch pattern or overall shape.  But where do those beautifully colored yarns originate?  I'm particularly fond of the work of indie-dyers, and so I've created this interview process - Dyer Moments - to expose the people that make the colorways that inspire new design.  

Join me today in getting to know Laura Coleman!

Describe the first time you dyed. 
~i dyed with kool aide for a long time.  just playing around.  i got great colors, and i loved the smell.  plus, it was great summer fun for my neighborhood kids.

How did you begin your business?
~a friend and i started magic & moonshine to sell jewelry.  then i got into dyeing yarn, and she moved in other directions with her creative muse.  color and the interplay of color--i love using color in a way that suggests waves or movement, like long stripes in tonal colors--on the skein is much more exciting to me then beading, so i moved to dyeing.

What inspired the name of your company?
~the “moonshine” is  a nod to my southern upbringing, and the “magic” just came to me. just like that.  cause the world is magical.

What inspires your colorways and how do you name them?
~i am inspired by everything.  the jumble of dirty laundry on the floor, flower gardens, the ocean, mountains of fabric, you name it. even books and music inspire colorways.  we spent 10 days in india this fall, and i am planning a line of colors based on the trip.  i also have a line of colorways in mind from one of my favorite books.  i can’t open my eyes wide enough.

how do i name the colorways?  it’s so completely random.  poetry, memories, the inspiration for the color...a lot of the time i just type the colors into google and look at the images til i find something that catches my eye.  my long-striping yarn, “handkerchief trick” is named after magicians.  naming them is the hardest part for me.  i tend to think in pictures and not words.

Do you also knit? Crochet?
~i do knit.  some.  i have about 6 ufos in a basket by my bed right now, and i have 3 more things i need to start (and finish) this month.  if i am not dyeing, reskeining, or winding yarn, then i am reading or painting these days.  i don’t crochet YET.  anyone want to teach me?

Laura Coleman - Magic & Moonshine
What is your favorite color and do you have a favorite pattern for showing off your yarn?
~i don’t have a favorite color.  when i was little, i said my favorite color was rainbow.  i still feel that way.  sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that i am not dyeing just for myself.  i tend to dye bright variegated yarns because that’s what i love; it’s really hard to do semi solid jewel tones even though i know that folks love them.  but as winter sinks in, my colors are getting deeper and richer.

please don’t tell anyone this.  i have only knit with my yarn once--i made a citron with a long striper.  i have seen stuff that other people have made though.  there’s a pair of striped socks knitted by a rav friend  in a custom colorway i did for her that i really like.  there’s also a lovely pair of pooling socks done with a’s night out--a colorway custom dyed from a picture of a club at night.  i loved the colorway so much that i repeated it.

What is your favorite fiber/yarn to dye?
~i mainly dye merino blends, but i would love to start trying out new fibers.  bamboo for instance, takes dye so differently and has a natural sheen.  a friend gave me a skein of bamboo to dye--it’s so gorgeous i have it hanging on my wall.   bfl and silk also have a natural sheen.  i have played with both fibers, but not seriously.  bfl will come soon though--it makes lovely hand painted skeins.  

Is there anything especially cool about your yarns we should know?
~hmmm...people tell me my yarn smells like limes.  i rock at looking at pictures and interpreting that picture into yarn.  it’s one of my favorite things to do.

Describe your background / education. Does it have any influence on your company? 
~my education is a big old bag of scraps.  it took me 6 years to get my bachelor’s because i kept changing my major.  my degree is in literature.  i have been a baker, a server, a youth worker, a massage therapist, an art researcher...the list goes on and on.  

my background: i was born and raised in mississippi--a hotbed of creativity and inspiration.  i was too busy partying like a rock star to be particularly artistic there.  but i have always loved the world:  walks in the woods, sitting by the ocean, climbing some rocks, gardening, smelling the flowers.  growing up in mississippi on a farm--i spent a lot of time outside.  since we lived a ways from my friends, i spent a lot of time alone.  reading and pretending.  imagination=the beginning of creativity.

What advise would you give others looking to dye?
~wear gloves and jump right in;  don’t worry too much and have fun.

Tell us about your biggest dye “fail”.
~i have three--i once forgot a skein on the stove, and it boiled--a great big roiling boil.  beautiful felt.  i was heating a skein in the microwave and all the water evaporated.  it was literally burned to a crisp.  third--heating a skein wrapped in plastic in a roaster.  melted the plastic into the skein.  just keep moving.  (and i’m not even mentioning the tangled skeins.)

Most importantly, what’s the best way to purchase your yarns? Are you in retail stores or do you have a shop online? Do you offer a yarn club?  no retail--just don’t want to commit myself to something i might not be able to keep up with.  purplegoddessdesigns and i are offering a yarn club right now--cookies and cake.  she is a pastry chef; i am dyeing yarn inspired by her yummy treats.  i also have another club coming up in the spring inspired by my trip to india.

To get a better idea of the people behind the product…I ask our dying interviewees these insightful questions developed by Bernard Pivot.

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?
~i can’t tell you--i won’t even say it, but it isn’t profanity.  i don’t mind profanity.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
~the great wonderful wide wide world:   dance. people.  trees. music. trains.  passion.  politics.  books.  travel.  gardens.  learning.  being alive.

What turns you off?
~mean selfish people.

What is your favorite curse word?
~fuckity fuck fuck fuck.  i have a sailor mouth.  i inherited it from my great grandmother.  

What sound or noise do you love?
~hmm....trains or wind.  trains remind me that i am never stuck.  wind reminds me of change.

What sound or noise do you hate?
~sometimes just loud cacophonic noise drives me up the wall.  like being in a bar after the lights go on and everyone is still yelling.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
~i would love to be a teacher or a monkey mother (behavioral biologist) or a party planner.

What profession would you not like to do? 
~i don’t think i would be a good stock broker.  

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
~thanks for enjoying my creation.

Please visit Laura's Shop at
Laura can also by found on Facebook at
And she has a Blog at

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