New Yarn Line: JOMA Yarn
In celebration of the painterly JOMA Yarn from Vancouver Island that we are now carrying, we sat down with MJ from JOMA to chat about inspiration, process and a love of all things colour and fibre. Come with us on a journey to find out what it takes to build such saturated, non-pooling gorgeous variegated yarns that create pleasantly hypnotic knits.
Can you tell us a little about the process a skein goes through from when it arrives with you to when it leaves your hands?
Our base yarns come to us from a Canadian mill, wound into hanks and arrive in big boxes of sheepy goodness. I secure them with ties to prevent tangles and prepare them for the dye process with a hot bath and pre-soak.
Colours are then applied in 5 to 25 layers using different dye application techniques to get really short and precise colour repeats. I approach it like watercolour paint; applying layers and layers of colour that complement and amplify each other. I only use 5 colours of dye for all of my colour ways, similar to a CMYK printer, every colour being combinations of very clean, basic primary colours. A colourway comes in batches of 4 or 8 and usually takes around one hour to dye and is very much a labour of love.
My aim is to create a yarn that won’t pool and will look unique and beautiful no matter how you knit it up. I am a simple knitter who loves colour but doesn’t like to count or think about the process because I take my knitting EVERYWHERE and get distracted easily. So for me, colourwork that does the thinking for me is really helpful.
How do you come up with the colour names?
Very few of them are planned, most are spontaneous and deeply rooted in things I care about or that are sentimental to me, or “the moment” itself.
I was putting together a rich brown with flecks of black and golden highlights and when dry, it looked a lot like Chewbacca. I named the colourway after a scene in one of my favorite movies where the characters discuss Star Wars and a great song kicks in. Anyone who knows the movie gets it, “What a Wookie.” and that can be a neat connection to make with a
Originality can be hard to come by in the art yarn industry in the sense that you have thousands of creative and passionate folks pumping out ideas and similarities are bound to exist eventually, completely
unintentionally. Embracing my weirdness has allowed me to keep the fun and whimsy in my yarns and shares a bit more personal identity and uniqueness which I love.
How does Vancouver Island influence your yarns?
I’m a very fluid and emotional dyer. I rarely walk in to a dye session with a vision or plan, and prefer to play with the colours and the mood I am in and see what happens. My design process is very fluid and often the end result strikes a chord, reminds me of something or feels a certain way. You can sometimes tell what was on my play list based on the colours and names I whip up in a dye session.
For some colourways my design process will have a specific vision and focus. In the case of Graffito, it was my love for street art, nostalgia for my youth and tribute to an amazing local street artist who passed tragically (Hans Fear / Ghost).
It feels like a very important colour way to me because Victoria now has lost so much freedom of expression and soul, so many unique talents have been obscured and discouraged through the constant eradication of unsanctioned public art. The community feels so much more homogenized, as though the only voices to be heard must be permitted by government authorities or be some form of advertising, and that feels very stifling to me. Whatever people make with it will be out there, somewhere in the community, being bright, happy and enriching the surroundings. This yarn won’t be painted over, there is no threat that a paint roller will ever slop bland grey housepaint over it to silence its loud and vibrant defiance. To me, it embodies that same rebellious and free spirit of street art, only in yarn form.
Another colourway, Discovery, was inspired by the chocolate cold brew I have every Saturday at Discover Coffee when I meet with the super fabulous Victoria Fiber Enthusiast knitting group. That place has become quite special to me and is now embodied in yarn.
As well, for me, a lot of it is about experimentation, so while I have polished my process to allow consistent duplication of colour paths, I adore doing the occasional one of a kind or custom dye to a mood board. It keeps things interesting and varied. Every aspect of my surroundings has some modicum of influence on who I am and what I create. I think everything can inspire a colour path, and colours can remind me of so many things, so there is a never ending supply of ideas and context that others can relate to and craft their own story.
What are some of your favourite patterns or projects you have seen using your yarn?
I have a fond appreciation for Lizann Petsch’s sprial staircase shawl which looks amazing in Mashmellow-Rino as well as anything from Stephen West or all things made for tiny humans. The ladies in my knitting group are incredibly supportive and create so many amazing and beautiful things.
A recent favorite has been Tin Can Knit’s flax sweater for my friend’s new grandson. I’m sort of like a crow when it comes to finished objects in my yarn “OooOooOo Shiny!!!”, it always fascinates me how it was knit up, how the stitches display the colours and what the knitter or crocheter chose to make, it’s mesmerizing and such a wonderful process to be part of.
What is the story behind the name?
As JOMA. Is a mother-daughter venture, and in line with the “keeping it in the family” tradition, the name was my husband’s idea. He combined the first two letters of Mum’s and my names to create “JOMA.” It was short and punchy and not already taken which again, with so many dyers out there, can sometimes be a challenge. My husband is hugely involved in the background work, I would never have been able to step this far outside of my comfort zones and put my work and myself out there without his encouragement.
How has JOMA grown?
What has really recently changed for me is that I have really committed and become more disciplined. I stepped away from winging my recipes and working primarily in one of a kind. I use formulas now and have better repeatability, a streamlined and more energy efficient and timely process and have invested in a good deal of equipment to facilitate that evolution. All of this feeds in to being able to do more, reach more people and spend more time doing what I love to do. Growth is difficult, especially when working full time as well, but it is so worth it! The response has been very positive and supportive and I am feeling hopeful about my future in the industry.
What are your plans for the future?
About a year ago I asked myself what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my late 30s seemed as good a time as any to noodle that one. I am by occupation an office administrator, but honestly, that is my career, not my passion. What I wanted to be when I grew up was entirely linked to
fibre and the fibre community, and no level of success in any other field would equate. I firmly believe that when you find “your thing” it doesn’t matter how hard it is, how much work or risk, if you want to go for it, you must. And that is what I am doing, trying to go big or go home, meet some lovely people, do some cool stuff and spend more time doing what I love to do.
When I first started dyeing I didn’t realize that it could be viable. I was mainly selling yarn to recoup expenses for buying yarn to dye, and getting the yarn I couldn’t knit up myself out of my house so my stash remained below hoarder grade. It wasn’t until I got serious in 2015 that it was apparent that I could reach far more people and potentially grow to a level that supported our family. We are simple folks, my husband stays at home and homeschools our daughter and a single income can be very challenging. This has been a wonderful way to supplement our income and potentially build something that could continue to grow. I love being a
part of the local fibre community and would love the opportunity to be able to do this full time. Working toward that goal has been amazing, a little scary, super gratifying and generally awesome. I am excited to see where this journey takes me!
As you start thinking about your Autumn knitting be sure to come introduce yourself to this beautiful local yarn. Thank you to MJ for sharing a glimpse into the hours and love that is poured into Indy hand-dyes. You can also meet MJ, mum and more of the JOMA lines at her debut booth at Knit City. We are thrilled to welcome JOMA to the Baaad Anna’s family!
Interview by guest staff blogger Jess Knowles.