With the launch of Fyberspates on our website, we got the chance to speak with Jeni Hewlett, the owner and creator of this fantastic brand, and ask her all about her journey.

      

Jeni from Fyberspates

How did you get into dyeing in the first place?

I was doing a post doctorate in Psychology in 2003, and I absolutely hated it. I had this feeling that I had to do something that made me happy, and I had always loved textiles, so not exactly knowing what it was I could do, I went on a weaving course at the Hand Weavers Studio in London. While I was there, Nancy, the owner, was dyeing yarn, and it really caught my imagination; I had to go home and try it.

I bought some cream yarn from the charity shop and used some silk paints, and the yarns came out so pretty - I was hooked! It was very hard to buy undyed yarn at that time, and I used to unravel white sock yarn from balls into skeins. To cut a long story short, I became obsessed, dyed a lot of yarn and started selling it on eBay, and that was it… my business began!

 

What was it like going from indie dyer to manufacturing?

This was, and still is, a tricky one… You go from being able to completely control everything when you are an indie, to trusting the process of other people making your products for you on the other side of the world. I still find this hard even now and I’ve been doing it for years. Being a hand dyer suited me because I was able to experiment and adapt super quickly to trends, or change bases if they weren’t working. I was handling each skein, so I could see really quickly if there was something wrong.

Jeni's mum helping dye yarn

     

My mum sometimes helps out with dyeing yarn!

 

When you are manufacturing, you are committing long term to ranges and colours, you have to plan, make sure things aren’t too faddy etc. If you get problems (which is inevitable, nothing is perfect), you have to try and figure out what’s gone wrong, sometimes without having something in front of you to look at.

However, after dyeing for a good few years, I was ready for a change - it’s physically hard to dye enough yarn to keep up with demand, and go to shows. It’s a wonderful experience, but I was ready for something different! It allowed me the space to take a step back, and to drive the business forward in a different direction and grow it. I am a very ambitious person, and I don’t like to stay in one place for two long; I always have two-year, five-year and ten-year goals, and this was probably the reason I took the plunge.

 

Tell us about the process of sourcing, choosing/creating the colours and dyes, and the processes you go through, as it’s such a mystical thing for many of us.

I think most people generally assume I plan things, colourways, etc, but that’s absolutely not how it happens. The best ideas and colours come from messing about, or, most of the time, getting something wrong. I do try and create colour palettes now with yarns, but that is a constantly evolving process, and is a constant work-in-progress.

     

  Test skeins of Sean Green Vivacious in Peru  

 

Test skeins of Sea Green Vivacious in Peru

When we decided to outsource the dyeing, I had to fly to Peru and teach them my recipes. I had two days to complete 12 colours and, I won’t lie, I didn’t plan the colours. I knew that when I got there I would have to deal with things working in a different way, and I was right; the dyes worked differently, the colours didn’t mix together the same, and the size of the vats meant the colours took differently. In addition, the girls dyeing the yarn didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish... so we had to work with hand gestures and filming the colour recipes on a mobile phone!

I took a deep breath and decided to go through the rainbow in order to create a palette, and I was super pleased with how it worked out. The best colour I made was Tweed Imps - this came out of one of the colours being a mistake, and I plunged it into another colour because I didn’t like it. It came out absolutely beautiful, we all gasped, and I was mightily relieved! It’s a hard balancing act to come from complete flexibility to manufacturing with so many constraints. I have lots of ideas which are absolutely not possible to do when you are manufacturing and not making at home, but sometimes that’s the fun of trying, figuring out ways to create things that have never been done before on a larger scale. This is probably where I get most pleasure; trying to figure out how we can do it.



Your collaboration with Rachel Coopey and Socks Yeah! How did that come about?

I love a collaboration - it’s a great way to bring two different pools of skills, aesthetics, and customers together - but I only collaborate with people who understand the way I work, or it can end up a disaster! I’ve worked with Rach for quite a few years now, and she will often be finishing a sock on the day of a photoshoot (a girl after my own heart). She is super flexible and doesn’t stress when things change or don’t work out, so when Andy (my business partner) suggested we do a sock yarn with Rach, I knew it would be great fun to do.

Jeni and Andy from Fyberspates

     
Jeni with her business partner, Andy  

Our first run of Socks Yeah! sold out in six weeks, so we had to respin almost immediately, which was so exciting. We have lots of projects up our sleeves for the next few years, and she is my chosen travel partner, as we can spend two weeks together, share hotel rooms and not drive each other nuts! We both love a good dinner, especially quite random things… She even loves my homemade kimchi, which no one else in my house will eat!!!


Any future projects?

Yes! Loads! We are bringing out a solid version of Vivacious in rainbow sets of 25 colours; mini skeins and 50g skeins. We are also doing a range of yarn with Carol Feller in the spring.

 

Take a look at our range of Fyberspates yarn!