Maybe six months ago, I was chatting with my friend Lisa via Skype when she mentioned she and Amy were going to start a yarn dyeing company. Months of planning and research and buildup followed, and I was so excited when Roman Hills was born a few weeks ago. You may remember the name Roman Hills from my Felicity Hat—I used one of their first offerings, Gruber, a worsted weight, to knit that hat (and have worn it frequently since, thanks to the warmth of the hat and the coldness of the weather).
As much as I’ve heard about the research and thoughts behind the company over the last few months, I wanted to take some time to introduce you to the people behind the company. Lisa and Amy are both intelligent, creative, and sassy women, funneling their love of the craft into this new venture.
How did the two of you meet? Was there a mutual love of yarn from the outset?
A: We met at work, but didn’t really start hanging out until after we’d both left that godforsaken place (kidding) (kinda). Lisa waited several years before springing this whole yarn thing on me but at that point we were already in ladylove so I had to accept it.
L: You know, I don’t know, we hung out before we left it, but we worked so well together in that particular place that we continued working on smaller projects. We also hung out most waking hours and watched an obscene amount of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette and numerous other mini obsessions. Okay. Some not so mini. In any case, I had crocheted since I was teeny tiny, and was determined to teach Amy how to crochet and knit.
What made you decide to go into the yarn dyeing business?
L: Well, I started knitting for my eldest son several years ago. I had then used the skill to ease stress, to quit some bad habits, and as a creative outlet in general. Honestly, I felt better bringing my knitting into a bar and working on it while socializing and getting my drink on than just going in and “wasting” an evening. I felt like the ultimate multitasker and superwoman (this latter may have been the booze, though), being able to unwind in the way that I was accustomed and to walk out with a significant dent in my project. I am a firm believer that a person should really enjoy the work that they are doing, and fantasized about doing something yarny for a living. Amy, being my sounding board in all things, had to endure hours and hours and hours of whinging.
A: We were looking for a sustainable occupation we could do together, with relatively little start-up and maintenance costs, in an area we were both interested in. We almost started making soap, but I attribute that to non-stop viewings of Fight Club.
Where do you find inspiration for your colorways?
L: We have a lot of the same interests- things like cooking, and music, and telly and films, and books….Between the two of us I am fairly certain we have an obscene amount of literature and film knowledge—not in anything conventionally significant, but certainly in the areas where people would go “OH!!! I REMEMBER THAT!!!”
A: We are geeks, so to be able to expand our mutual obsessions outside of their native worlds is to be living the dream. Every colourway is the ultimate fan project.
So far your yarns have been all wool or wool-blends. What other fibers might you be excited to dye?
A: (my cat is giving me the stinkeye on this question so I think we should pass)
(Panda note: If you’ve ever met my cat, you would understand that Amy is wise to forego answering this if it displeases the cat.)
Roman Hills is a brand new baby company. How has starting this business met your expectations so far?
L: The fiber community is phenomenal. It’s explosive in its creativity and energy, and we hope to give as much to it as we have taken and continue to take from them. It’s inspiring. If we ask for feedback, we get it, nearly instantaneously. Just as I love conceptualizing what it is I’m knitting, it is just amazing to see our ideas come to life on the swift.
Amy and I work well together. We have always had a really good back and forth, and to date in our business relationship and friendship, have seen eye to eye on just about everything. It’s fun working with friends, but far more fun and rewarding when you realise how well you really do work together.
A: We both have a pretty good eye so I always knew we’d have fun coming up with the colours themselves. However, Lisa is much more involved in actually knitting on a daily basis than I am, and I was amazed to find how exciting it was to see pictures of FOs made with our yarn. I get locked into production and can sometimes lose sight of the fact that the yarn itself isn’t the end of the process. Our colours go into people’s homes and onto their needles, and into boxes with tissue and ribbons, and onto infants’ heads and around boyfriends’ necks. That is extraordinarily gratifying, to consider we spitballed this idea back in February.
Right now you’ve got a worsted, a fingering, and a sport weight yarn on deck. What other (non spoilery) plans for expansion do you have?
L: We have a lot of initiatives we want to push forward. We’d love to do things like sock clubs and collaborations. We hope to get into some fiber festivals in the coming year or two and really are looking forward to be able to do…just more. The process is exciting, and it’s a thrill to see that people enjoy something that you enjoy doing.
A: I’d like to get my hands on every base weight there is, just for my own experience of working with and dyeing it. After that, the various blends are fascinating. Today has been “let’s dye lace” day, and the silk in the blend we are using takes the color so much differently than the baby alpaca does, and both are so much different from the superwash merino that has been part of every release we’ve done. I’d like to work my way around the animal kingdom.
Amy and Lisa just released their laceweight base today, available in two colors, Lantern (shown above) and GAWTH.
Photo © Roman Hills
If you were going to dye a Threapdanda-inspired colorway, what might it look like? Why yes, I am fishing. 😉
L: Ok, I’m going with purple. And black and white in there, but definitely with purple. Lots of purple. Like if a panda were wearing a purple jumper. Is that weird? More pandas should wear purple jumpers, I think.