Interview: Inside the studio with Kettle Yarn Co
“I quickly discovered painting yarn was more satisfying than painting canvases”
Our Editorial Assistant Liam is chatting with Linda Lencovic, the colour mixing master and owner of The Kettle Yarn Co.
When did you first start experimenting with yarn dyeing?
I completed my MA in painting at Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2006 and spent much of my 30s navigating London’s crazy art world. I’d started knitting again and decided to try my hand at dyeing my own yarn as I had the colour-mixing skills and could create the exact hues I wanted for projects and garments. This is something I’ve wanted since I was a child – clothes the colours I want, when I want them, not when they are in ‘fashion’. I’ve always been oddly sensitive and particular about colour!
You work to support British farmers, animal welfare and the environment – can you tell us about what you do and why you feel it’s so important?
It is vital that my company supports the ethics and values I believe in – I do my best to ensure the yarn I dye is ethically produced. As I became more educated in yarn production I realised that a lot of mass-produced fibre can make a journey around the world twice over as it is created. The carbon footprint and environmental cost of the process is huge, so even though you are buying yarn from an indie dyer who dyes in their kitchen, their fibre can have already travelled the globe before they’ve received it! This led to developing relationships with local British mills who work to support British farmers and safeguard animals and the environment. Keeping production local cuts down on my carbon footprint and supports small businesses who are also trying to make the wool industry sustainable. I can be assured the small farms where the sheep are raised have treated them with dignity and compassion and they abide by The British Animal Welfare Act. Starting with Baskerville, my exclusive blends aim to contain unique breeds, like the new Exmoor Blueface. My goal is to veer away from mass-produced and ethically questionable fibre and introduce people to other stunning fibre that is not as readily available and has its own unique properties.
You studied for an MA in Painting – do these skills translate into your dyeing work?
The step to dyeing my own yarn was fairly easy as I already had all the colour theory skills from painting. Unexpectedly, I quickly discovered painting yarn was more satisfying than painting canvases. There is something hugely rewarding about creating a product that is not only beautiful but also useful! There is also something magical about the collaborations that occur when someone else makes something with my yarn.
What is the process behind selecting your yarn bases?
I am passionate about creating heirloom yarn in sensuous hues that are as pleasurable to knit with as they are to look at – yarn that stands the test of time. All of my blends are extensively researched and I wear-test all my bases before dyeing. I select only the most scrumptiously soft, but ruggedly tough, long-wearing blends. Over the years I’ve stopped using fibre like cashmere in favour of more sustainable alternatives. An example is Beyul, my baby yak/silk/ethical Merino blend that has a similar luxurious handle to cashmere but none of the environmental costs. Hand-combed or plucked, yak down sits between fine cashmere and soft baby camel in micron thickness and has a comparable butter-soft handle and gentle halo. Yaks have a minimal impact on sparse grassland and every single facet of the animal is used for survival by the people farming them, making the animal and their fleece extremely environmental.
Can you tell us about the Kettle Yarn Club and the idea behind it?
The Kettle Club is a new exclusive yarn subscription service I started in July where subscribers get skeins sent to their door three times a year. I’ve supplied four inspiration images that I’ll be using to dye the club yarn, which allows for a bit more creativity than a regular dye day as I can play and have fun with what I’m making! Many of the colourways will be dyed exclusively and the yarn will be a range of speckled, solid and semi-solid styles. Two or three skein club options have the exclusive colourway paired with complementary skeins in solid or semi-solid yarn meant to be used together for amazing, one-of-a-kind projects. I’ll be opening exclusive spaces on a new six-month club in December that subscribers can purchase for gifting!
What else can our readers expect to find in your store?
Along with a full range of yarn I carry a number of environmentally friendly and ethically manufactured project bags, shawl pins and have just designed a new enamel pin for the shop. There are also a number of books that provide pattern support for my yarn.
Do you have any exciting upcoming news you can share with us?
I’ve just released a new pattern by Justyna Lorkowska in my Beyul DK. She’s even named it Beyul in honour of the yarn! It is a beautiful boxy knit that really lets the yarn shine and makes the most of the bouncy Peruvian Merino and soft baby yak halo. This is the kind of jumper that you’ll wear to death as it goes with everything and feels absolutely luxurious on.
Find out more…