Interview: Anna Shores of Moon Tower Dye Works

Speckled and variegated rainbow-colored yarn skeins stacked together.

I was gifted a few skeins of Moon Tower Dye Works worsted weight in the colorway “Regency”. Its depth of color, a mix of burgundies in varying hues with little touches of gold, oozed royalty. It was, of course, immediately on the needles and morphed into this amazingly comfortable cowl that I can’t stop wearing. I just HAD to meet the woman behind the color. Anna, a delightful and witty creative, is new to the world of indie dye artists. Here’s our interview with her! ~A

Anna Shores in a dust mask.

What inspires your beautiful colorways?
I am inspired by so many things: nature, music, and the people I care about! Life is a sea of inspiration if we open our hearts and minds to it.

For me, inspiration can also be found in the process itself. There is a surprising amount of science and art to dyeing yarn. This is especially true if one wishes to produce colorways that are reliably reproducible. My process is on the artistic end of the spectrum. I dye reproducible colorways, but they are not static - they are almost living, growing things. One of my colorways, Topography, is a good example of that. It has changed in interesting ways. The colors used are the same, as is the process each time, but if I were to compare early skeins of Topography to recent skeins, they are more like sisters rather than identical twins. I like that and find inspiration in those subtle differences.

Inspiration is also present in my mistakes. Mis-measuring and accidental spills are sometimes happy moments of serendipity.

How does dyeing add happiness to your daily life?
Dyeing brings me so much joy in so many ways. It is exciting to see someone working with my yarn. Seeing a finished object is a thrill. This is especially true when it comes to seeing shawls made from my yarn. How many artists enjoy seeing their work hug someone?

I blame my quirky brain.

How did you choose the name "Moon Tower Dye Works?”
Austin, Texas is my home. I was born here, and I feel a deep affection for the city. I wanted a name that was a hat-tip to my origins, as well as meaningful in other ways. Moonlight towers are the street lights of the late 1800s. Austin is the home of the last moonlight towers. They were purchased in 1894 from the city of Detroit. Think of how impressive those towers must have been when first installed! They were installed closely following the building of the hydroelectric dam on the Colorado river. Most homes did not have electricity.

In addition to the neat history of the towers, I have always found the name of the towers romantic. Imagine if we called street lights "street moons". The moon has always fascinated me, and I would guess it fascinates most people. It is always in motion, ever-changing from our perspective.

Dyeing is a pleasure to me, so I chose "Dye Works" instead of yarn or fiber. This is because the day may come when dyed silks, cotton fabric, or heck even feathers come out of the dye works.

How do you select the creative names for your colorways?
This happens in the moment, and I blame my quirky brain.

I was dyeing a rich, tonal brown that would be nice for colorworks. I had just read a National Geographic article about wombats. The subject of the article was wombat poo. Why would an entire article be dedicated to said poo? Because it is cube shaped! How neat is that? Scientists are working to learn how the cubes are formed because understanding that may have applications in manufacturing. So, the tonal brown is named Wombat Cubes.

Music inspires me too. I was listening to Guy Clark one rainy afternoon while speckling my heart out. The song “Desperados Waiting for a Train” was playing, and I imagined a grandfather and his grandchild, mouths and noses covered with bandanas, tagging a train. I named the colorway "Desperados Tagging a Train".

Hands holding pink yarn skeins from Moon Tower Dye Works.
Many multi-colored skeins in a basket.

Are you a knitter, crocheter, or bistitchual?
I'm bistitchual - it's all pulling loops through loops. Stitching saved my life. I took up crochet during a time when I was ill. I couldn't work, and so much of my self worth had been wrapped up in having a job. I had worked since I was old enough to do useful things, and it was as if I had lost a part of myself. Depression and anxiety set in. It was an incredibly dark time in my life. I bought a laminated sheet with crochet instructions, a ball of yarn, and a hook. I lost count of how many times I tried to create a chain. It was so frustrating! Finally, I got it. My hook started to fly! Creating things - toys and blankets mostly - made me feel a sense of accomplishment that I needed so badly. Before long, I was interested in knitting. By this time, YouTube existed and learning was a breeze compared to crochet.

I truly found my "kindred spirits" through fiber arts.

In addition to being a genuine life saver, stitching introduced me to a community that never ceases to delight and surprise me. The fiber arts community is amazing. I was so surprised to have other indie dyers reach out to me and offer support when I began dyeing. I truly found my "kindred spirits" through fiber arts.

Many skeins arranged on shelves in a shop.
A skein of red and white variegated yarn sitting on more yarn of the same color.

What do you most enjoy about stitching?
Right now, I love texture! I am knitting a shawl that has a section of twisted rib. I enjoy seeing the rows grow and running my fingers across the corrugated surface.

Could you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to create your own yarn business?
I never set out to create a business. I began dyeing to create a color that I couldn't find and to satisfy my curiosity. Before long, it was either build an addition to the house to store my skeins or share them with the world.

When you partner with a yarn shop to do a trunk show, what qualities do you look for?
Each shop that I have shown at has been friendly, supportive of other indie dyers, and fun.

If you were to suggest a yarn base for a beginning stitcher, who has fallen in love with your yarn like we have, which base would you recommend? Why?
My Enceladus DK is a nice place to start. Each skein has 250 yards, so there is plenty for a hat or a pair of fingerless mitts.

What advice would you give to people out there wanting to follow their creative dreams?
Do what brings you joy, first and foremost.

Burnout is so common among those who turn creative hobbies into businesses. I believe this is because the joy can leave when items are being produced instead of created. That absence of joy can be felt in the finished item. While that item will still be useful, it may not have a soul to speak to the people who pick it up. Keep your heart in your art.