textiles · exploration · misadventure

In the Wild

Krista McCurdy
The Plan: Free shuttle up to San Pablo Flea Market and Urban Ore, and then walk up to Ohmega Salvage.
The Mission: Seek pots and scrap metals for mordanting* natural dyes: copper, tin, and brass in particular.

I’m walking along, a little dreamweaver with her own little world inside her head, and the bright pretty things ahead keep catching my eye. I think, wow, I wish that was a giant pile of yarn… HEY! That’s A GIANT PILE OF YARN… and dye pots! And a DYER. Hangin’ out, in her garage, in Oakland, California.

It was like the time Matt and I saw a tiny Mountain Bluebird up at Twin Peaks. A dyer in the wild is just not seen. I’m guessing more than 99% of the people who walk down that street aren’t part of this world, and might not feel the richness and excitement of a dye studio and an experienced dyer in their midst.

I considered just walking by for about… never. I’d SO rather make an ass of myself than miss an opportunity to (attempt to) appreciate another textile junkie.

This photo is of Krista McCurdy, owner of Pigeon Roof Studios, who dyes some really, really gorgeous yarns and spinning fluffs. The Bracken and Wheaten mini-skeins here make me feel all protective and loving, like I want to take them home, pet them, and let them sleep on the bed. Don’t even talk to me about the Mimsy fluff, which makes me drool a little bit and just makes me mad all over again about my stupid weaving elbow, which is STILL out of commission.

Yarn and fiber dyeing is a growing field, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy field to get ahead in. It’s also not easy to become proficient at dyeing, let alone to establish a brand and set yourself out from the herd.

Anybody can throw dye in a dyepot, but it takes knowledge, skill, and practice to come up with a replicable aesthetic that not only looks good on display, but also works well in the field, on the yarn, in the garment. I haven’t spun Krista’s fluff (yet), but from looking at her Etsy store, she definitely has a richness to offer.

Pigeon Roof isn’t a large operation, but I KNOW I’ve heard of it, and seen Krista’s work other places. I asked her if she went to Stitches. Of all the juicy textile gatherings I go to, I came up with that.

Madrona was the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been to Lambtown, Chico Fiber Fusion, Black Sheep Gathering, Knitter’s Review Retreat, Interweave Lab (now the Interweave Yarn Fest), Estes Park Wool Market, Bazaar Bizarre, Stitches, and likely a few that I’ve forgotten. Some of these I attend regularly, because they’re in my back yard.

For an Indy dyer, Stitches isn’t ideal. It pulls in a gazillion people, but it’s pricey for our smaller vendors. It frustrates me that I can’t remember at which event I fondled (and probably sniffed—if you think that’s weird you don’t know many textile junkies) these textiles in person. Clearly something stuck in my head, because there are a lot of small dyers out there, and I don’t remember every one. God forbid I have Mimsy in my stash and have been ignoring her all this time.

Krista, if you ever read this, I wanted to ask you ten thousand more questions, and sniff and touch everything, and read the labels on all your dye stuff in your garage, and get dye and fluff all over me, but I was totally aware I was crashing your party, and wanted to allow you to be in your zone. Thank you for being so generous to this complete stranger on the street.

Time at the flea market, Urban Ore, and Ohmega was productive and fun. Treasures were found, and I had hours of entertainment for less than five bucks. More on that soon!

*Mordanting: Pre-treatment of dye goods prior to dyeing with a substance known as a “mordant”. Mordants can change the final color of the dye job, and also assist in light- and wash-permanence.