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  • Dyer Interview: Alice O’Reilly
  • Post author
    Josh Hutchison

Dyer Interview: Alice O’Reilly

Today we're excited to feature an interview with owner and head dyer at Backyard Fiberworks! Alice has been dyeing all of our custom colors for the SilverSpun Summer Sock Club and you can read more about how she dyes SilverSpun in this blog post.

Can you give us a little background intel on yourself? Where were you born? Do you still live there?

I was born in Orange County, CA and lived on the West Coast for most of my life. I made the move to Washington DC about 10 years ago. I still miss the Mexican food, sunsets over the ocean, and a general comfort with the word "dude" but DC has been great to me!

Do you knit? How long have you been knitting? Who taught you to knit?

I do knit!! It's pretty much my favorite thing. I always say I don't remember learning to read and I don't remember learning to knit, I could just always do both. Clearly that can't be true, so I'll assume it was my mother who is herself an amazing knitter and reader who taught me.

Who taught you to dye? How long have you been dyeing yarn?

I have been dyeing for a couple of years now, and I will admit to being fully self-taught in this area. I work for the Library of Congress and one day I checked out a huge pile of books on the subject. I read about how it is supposed to work, gave it a try, and found out I was TERRIBLE at it!! But I was motivated. Nothing like potential to keep you motivated. I think like a lot of things dyeing responds to tenacity. If you keep at it and pay attention you'll find what works for you. And sometimes the accidents are the happiest colors! They are meant to be.

Where do your color inspirations come from? Nature, architecture, fine art?

I decided to call it Backyard Fiberworks because my color inspiration is pulled out of the backyard. I find inspiration everywhere really but there is nothing like going with instinct. Color theory is great, I did Art History in undergrad and fully appreciate it, but for me it's much more about Color Practice. What do I want to knit with? How do colors play together? I still get excited about the color recipes I have been making for years. That to me is Color Practice - living with it and I find it continually inspiring.

What is it about dyeing yarn that gets you to jump out of bed every morning? 

It's that magical moment when the yarn hits the dye and WOW! that's going to be something great! I love yarn, I really do. I love the character that the sheep breeds bring to the twist and the loft and the ply, the way that yarn has character and intent. The way that dye and yarn work together is so alchemic. And because I hand-dye everything in super-small batches I get the pleasure of seeing the dye and yarn connect every single time. That's why this is so special because I witness this remarkable moment, each time different and each time amazing.

What do you have on your needles right now?

Oh that's quite a list. I am a total impulse cast-on knitter! Especially since I have yarn EVERYWHERE! But right now I have a sweater for my 5 year old on some of my needles. He has been asking for a sweater for a while and when he finally said "are you ever going to make that sweater you promised me?" I knew I had to get moving before he became the cobbler's child!

  • Post author
    Josh Hutchison