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hand holding skein of yarn
A skein of nude yarn hand-dyed by BzyPeach’s Laverne Benton. 
As today’s chaos increases, many of us turn to our crafts and the communities we’ve built around them for support and the solace that creative labor provides. Our struggles and triumphs can be shared here. Today, we’d like to celebrate six talented Black women dyers, designers and yarn shop owners working hard to realize their dreams and build a much more beautiful world in the process.
woman in hand knit purple sweater
Michele Morris from Woolly Jumper Yarns.

Woolly Jumper Yarns

Floyd, Virginia

Ten years ago, in rural Floyd County, Virginia, knitters couldn’t simply run out for nice yarn to start a new project. Michele Morris opened Woolly Jumper Yarns to change that. For locals, that means having high-quality national brands like Brown Sheep and Blue Sky Fibers at their fingertips. For tourists, it means unique and lovely local offerings. Woolly Jumper carries regionally hand-dyed yarns from places like Unplanned Peacock Studio, with their flock of Icelandic sheep, and Fluff du Jour’s hand-spun and dyed, bulky-weight yarn, which Morris describes as “gorgeous”. 

While she recently launched an online store, it doesn’t list her local offerings. “They’re the kind of things you need to see in person to really appreciate,” says Morris. Don’t hesitate to call, email, or DM to get a photo tour. Wooly Jumper has a strong inclusivity ethos and seeks to inspire young people to pick up the craft. As Morris puts it, “we want to be welcoming for everyone.” 

Website – woollyjumperyarns.com

Instagram – @woollyjumperyarns

Mother of Purl

Viroqua, Wisconsin

Lauren McElroy wakes up every day to her dream life, taking fibers form “farm to yarn” to create wearable art. She supports herself from scratch — hand skirting the fleece, washing and carding it, combing and dyeing it, and then spinning. With names like Mermaid Dreams and Cortinarius Semisanguineus (a type of mushroom), each charming skein is an absolute original. She releases a new one on the first of the month. 

McElroy also knits and designs. She thinks of selling her inventive patterns as selling an experience, encouraging you to push yourself to make each creation your own and tailor it to fit your shape and preferences. Aside from making, she also teaches and offers support for those beautiful, and complex, pattern projects.

Website – www.motherofpurl.net

Instagram – @motherofpurll1

woman in red cape with hood
Lauren McElroy of Mother of Purl.
Woman in square rimmed glasses
Diane Ivey of Lady Dye Yarns.

Lady Dye Yarns

Boston, Massachusetts

After a fistful of degrees and 16 years of non-profit work, Diane Ivey founded Lady Dye Yarns, a crafting company committed to including and encouraging Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Ten years later, she’s built a thriving business known for its saturated and sophisticated hand-dyed yarn, inclusive and galvanizing activism, and crafting kits and yarn club collaborations.

The clubs and kits combine yarn from Lady Dye with patterns and accessories from participating BIPOC designers and crafters. This year, Lady Dye launched the popular emPower People campaign, which sells bandana kits encouraging folks to engage in the political process. They also have a Schitts Creek Club. Who says raising each other up can’t be fun?

In August, Ivey will launch Rebel with a Cause. “It’s an online platform that is a news source as well as a social media source,” says Ivey. It will pull news stories from trusted sources, while also providing forums for discussion. An accompanying podcast will cover topics like inclusion and healthcare, all centered on crafting. Ivey will tour yarn shops to lead similar conversations in person next year. With this momentum and trajectory, she has nowhere to go but up. “I’m very happy to not only be an indie dyer but also to be contributing to the overall systematic changes that need to happen in the industry.”

Website – ladydyeyarns.com

Instagram – @ladydyeyarns

Dye Hard Yarns

Oak Park, Illinois

Dye Hard Yarns is a self-described small shop building an outsized community of creators in Chicago. Owner Chastity Dunlap seeks to center it around joy and building one another other up. “It’s really about people helping people,” she says. To support local crafters, Dye Hard raised over $30,000 to build a community dye studio. Classes there are on hold due to COVID, but the shop is still bringing people together online.

Dye Hard has two weekly online events, Fiber Fun Night every Wednesday evening and Queer Stitch on Sunday afternoons, both via Zoom. Dunlap also helped organize this year’s socially distanced Chicago Yarn Crawl and offers project support via zoom or Facebook messenger. The shop is currently encouraging online or video concierge shopping where you’ll see a wide selection of indie hand-dyed yarns on bases ranging from wool, cotton and cashmere to linen, silk and bamboo.

Website – dyehardyarns.com

Instagram – @dyehardyarns_op

woman in black with purple hair
Chastity Dunlap of Dye Hard Yarns.
woman in black hat with green scarf
Laverne Benton from BzyPeach.

BzyPeach

Atlanta, Georgia

BzyPeach’s owner Laverne Benton loves to create and it shows. Her hand-dyed, 100% Pima cotton yarn spans a rainbow of vibrant colors named after fruits. And you learn something new with every description. Who knew that there is a Black Diamond apple from the Tibet Autonomous Region, that a Jamun plum is delicious in mocktails, or that the yarns they are named after could be so uniquely winsome?

Bzy also sells project and fiber art journals and is part of the emPower People campaign. Her website is already cheering for this fall’s #CreativeSprint, a month of prompts to help you “reboot and prime the creative pump.” She shares thirty-one Pinterest-worthy slides take you through daily creativity challenges. Benton enjoys the activities and the comradery, saying, “I do love the fact that we can build family and community around our love of fiber.”

Website – bzypeach.com

Instagram – @bzypeach

Chicken Coop Dyeworks

Carolyn Jones adores color and is determined to offer innovative and compelling combinations on lux yarn bases like silk, merino, polwarth, and blue face Leicester. Her background in chemistry and art lend themselves to the work. “For me, dyeing is another expression of my watercolor,” she says. “I just like to experiment and get my hands dirty.”

Her online shop carries various blends, each with a fun coop-themed title like chicken feet (75% superwash merino, 25% nylon) or beaks (50% merino, 50% silk). By next year, she’ll be adding fibers from her very own flock of Rambouillet sheep.

The Coop also has a thing for kits that give back. There’s the elegant shawl pattern benefiting breast cancer charity Knitted Knockers, emPower People’s purple bandana kit and a #BLM kit, benefiting ActBlue and the Luke 4:18 Bail Fund with a beautiful red, black and green speckled skein.

Website – coopdye.com

Instagram – @chickencoopdyeworks

Woman in yarn show booth with four young children
Carolyn Jones of Chicken Coop Dye Works with her grandchildren.
Clark Tate

Clark Tate

contributor

Clark Tate is a freelance writer and lifelong knitter. After graduating from never-ending scarves to more complex projects, Clark also graduated with a Master’s in Environmental Science. She then worked as a restoration ecologist for six years, before moving on to an obsession with braided hats and writing articles about people and the environments they live in. She’s written for Hakai Magazine, Summit Daily News, Salt Lake City Weekly, and GearLab.com. You can find further examples of her work at lclarktate.com

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