This week we have Cheryl Potter, owner of Cherry Tree Hill Yarn, in the Limelight. Cherry Tree was one of the first companies I ordered from when I was setting up The Loopy Ewe. My first skein of their sock yarn was in the Green Mountain Madness colorway and I was hooked as soon as I saw it. We started with just a few of their colors (I don’t remember how many) but now of course we have all of them for you. (As well as a lot of exclusive colorways from them in the past year.) Cheryl is a delight to work with and a great business woman. I know you’ll have fun getting to know her a bit today!
Loopy: Hi Cheryl! First of all, how long have you been a knitter, and who taught you?
Cheryl: I began knitting at the age of 8 with some Dazzle yarn my mother bought me at Woolworths. It was sparkle yellow and lime green and I knit myself a t shirt top. Remember this was the 70’s so I was really hip. It was my first FO with my mother’s help of course!
Loopy: Sparkle yellow and lime green? Actually, The Loopy Lady’s first sweater was in a yellow and lime green, back during that time, too. That’s funny! Do you have a favorite thing that you like to knit?
Cheryl: Large multi–directional garments are my favorite. I hate to finish a project so I make sure it’s something big like a rug or an afghan or a large shawl or jacket knit with fingering weight yarn.
Loopy: You hate to finish a project? That’s interesting! What’s the most difficult project you’ve attempted?
Cheryl: I’m knitting a large tapestry shawl out of Supersock right now and I must say it is daunting. It took me 2 weeks just to graph the motifs with Stitch and Motif maker and there are no repeats. But the color combinations are just amazing and you can use so many in a tapestry.
Loopy: You’ll have to put a photo on your blog when it’s done. We’d all like to see that. When do you find time to knit?
Cheryl: I like to knit nights and weekends. On trips to yarn shows I make my husband drive so I can knit in the truck. When the weather is really bad in winter it gives me a great excuse to knit while watching a movie during snowstorms. Of course we have a generator so that I do not have to knit by flashlight when the electricity goes out.
Loopy: What made you take the next step and look into dyeing your own yarn, and how did you learn how to do that?
Cheryl: Back in the dark ages when I was in college, handpainted yarn was in its infancy and Kaffe Fassett was new to the knitting world. I took one look at his book Glorious Knits and knew I did not have the patience for all those bobbins but I did want all those colors. So in true Indie Dyer style, I space dyed my own yarn and called it faux fairisle. I must have knit every garment in that book twice. I did not know then that there even was something called handpainted yarn. In graduate school I took it a step further by visiting the Navajo Indian reservation while pursuing my fine arts degree. At that time Navajos were hand dyeing Brown Sheep yarn for their rugs and wall hangings. I established an account with Brown Sheep and began dyeing and selling my own yarn. It was my very first handpainted effort and with this yarn I was “discovered” by Interweave Knits magazine.
Loopy: No doubt you were one of the first true “indie dyers”. How do you come up with your colorways? And do you have a personal favorite?
Cheryl: We live in the wilderness of Vermont and most of the colorways are inspired by nature. This rural pastoral area is pretty much untouched by technology–no cell towers, for example–and the lush and vivid colors of the Green Mountains are breathtaking. Whenever we visit some exotic place we come up with a color: Misty Moor from visiting Scotland two years ago, Caribou Creek from camping in Alaska last year. My favorite is still Wild Cherry because it was such a joyful discovery. While walking property to buy land up here in the Northeast Kingdom, we came upon a forgotten orchard in a clearing in the woods. The berries and cherries and apples were delicious shades of burgundy and mulberry, russet and scarlet. It was like walking into a fantasy land that time forgot. That clinched it for me–I had to move up here into what the locals call God’s Country and the less reverent just call The Kingdom.
Loopy: I am particularly fond of Wild Cherry, too, as that is what my socks are knit from. (And that’s the colorway that we send out in “Loopy’s Red Sock Kit”. You know we order more bags of that colorway than any of them!) There are a lot of dyers out there these days, how do you stay fresh and unique in what you do?
Cheryl: I like dying custom colors, like the ones I do for you. It takes you away from production work and into a more ethereal place. I started small and sometimes it is just so much fun to dye small non repeatable batches. This is why we do Potlucks and Lottery, just to keep on experimenting and pushing the color envelope.
Loopy: Tell us about the Maple Syrup your family does! We’d also love to hear about your family. (Love the photo of the Sugar Shack!)
Cheryl: My family is totally involved in the business. My husband makes his very cherry Maple Syrup only for yarn stores. It is the fanciest grade available and he does it all with horses and bucket the old fashioned way. His sugar house was built in the 1700’s and some of his maple trees are 150 years old. My older daughter just graduated from college and among other things is an Indie Dyer. She has a blog and a website and loves to talk about dying on Ravelry. I have seen her dye sheets and overdye sweaters she did not like the color of, and recently we did a project together involving a horse blanket. Her big thing now is helping other small dyers find ways to buy small amounts of yarn and dyes inexpensively. I wonder where she found her contacts? My younger daughter is only in 8th grade but she works for CTH all summer. Last year she earned enough yarn money to purchase her own Quarter Horse. He is the horse pictured wearing the handpainted saddle blanket my other daughter designed on our CTH homepage at www.cherryyarn.com
Loopy: How fun that your daughter has turned dyeing into a business, too! You have a new book coming out soon – can you give us a bit of information on that?
Cheryl: It is called Skein for Skein and it is all about substituting one yarn for another and making it work. I’ve teamed up with 3 friends who work for other yarn companies and we’ve all picked 4 designs to show you what works and what doesn’t work. This is the first time I’ve been allowed to publish designs that don’t work. I hope knitters will enjoy our bloopers.
Loopy: We always like to know about bloopers. Anything else you’d like to add?
Cheryl: Thanks Sheri, for being so adventurous with your sock yarn. I think your customers must love it that you are not afraid to get unique colorways from us and they must love the fact that you name them yourself. I enjoy visiting your website because it is so interactive. Some day we should do a dye class together!