Interview: Brandy Velten of Long Dog Yarn

Five speckled skeins from Long Dog Yarn.
Four speckled skeins from Long Dog Yarn.
Three speckled and two tonal skeins from Long Dog Yarn.

How/why did you choose the name "Long Dog Yarn?"
My family has had dachshunds as family pets for my entire life, so I grew up surrounded by "long dogs." When I was able to get a dog of my own, I (of course) got a dachshund! There's something about us dachshund people where we go a little nuts for all things with doxies on it. So when I decided to try my hand at dyeing, I immediately had the idea of a logo with a dachshund whose long body wrapped around the ball band - and thus the name "Long Dog Yarn" was born.

What inspires your beautiful colorways?
Often my colorway inspirations come from photographs. I use websites like Pinterest to find and collect colors that catch my eye. Every once in awhile, I'll go through and pin photos and color combinations to go back to when I'm looking to create new colorways for the shop. I also have created several collections of colorways that are inspired by some of my favorite pieces of pop culture: movies, tv shows, etc., that have special places in my heart. This year, I've also started an opportunity for my social media followers to send me photos or images they find inspiring to be used as potential sources of inspiration for my monthly colorways.

How do you select the names for your colorways?
Usually my colorway names come from whatever word or phrase pops into my head first when I look at a colorway. It usually has to do with whatever inspired the colorway to begin with, but other times it's just pretty random. Honestly, naming colorways is one of the hardest parts of being a dyer.

In learning how to dye yarn, what did you find the most interesting? Any surprises?
Coming from a laboratory research position into dyeing was actually a pretty natural transition for me. There were lots of aspects of lab work that carried over into dyeing yarn when I started out: reading up on techniques, testing out new methodologies, careful measurements, keeping notes of your work, understanding basic reactions/chemistry to successfully produce a final product. So learning to dye allowed me to combine the precision of lab work with my creative side, which I absolutely love.

How does dyeing add happiness to your daily life?
It is an incredible creative outlet, and I feel like there is always something new to learn or experiment with. Sometimes things can get a little monotonous dyeing the same colorway over and over, or I can feel buried under a pile of work on the business side of things, but then I just remind myself to take a step back, give myself time to play, and try something new to refresh my creative spirit.

Do you ever experience creative blocks? If yes, how do you overcome this?
Yes! Very often I can feel like everything I'm producing looks like something I've already done or just isn't turning out the way I imagined. I find that if I sit and brainstorm ideas for color combinations or new/different dyeing techniques (just giving myself the freedom to "play" with the yarn) I can break through my creative slumps.

What inspired you to start a vlog? What do you most enjoy about it?
I originally started vlogging because I work from home, alone, and was looking for a way to connect with my peers in the fiber community. I enjoy how vlogging allows me to share my inspirations and creativity with others in a new way and interact with others who share my passions.

Many skeins of yarn hanging in the Long Dog Yarn booth.
Multiple skeins of blue speckled yarn in a basket.
Shelves holding yarn and other supplies.

When you partner with a yarn shop to do a trunk show, what qualities do you look for?
To me, it's important for shops to be supportive of me as a one-woman, independently-run business. I've found that the shops that make a real effort to support small-batch dyers tend to lead to the most successful shows. They've cultivated a customer base that appreciates the skill, work, and time that goes into being an indie dyer. So far I've been pretty lucky with shops that I've worked with and have forged relationships that have really enabled my business to grow in ways I never expected.

What do you most love about hosting trunk shows?
I love getting to interact with people who are also passionate about yarn and the fiber arts! Like vlogging, it's a great way for me to connect with people in the community after long weeks of working alone. Some of my favorite moments are when customers bring in projects made with my yarn to share with me. I also really enjoy seeing what colors customers pick out at shows because they are often things I wouldn't be drawn to myself.

Are you a knitter, crocheter, or bistitchual?
I both knit and crochet, but currently I spend most of my time knitting. Knitting has always been a great way for me to de-stress and, like dyeing, I love to use it as a creative outlet to express myself.

What do you most enjoy stitching? What do you love about your favorite projects?
I go through phases on what I feel like knitting, but it's usually always socks, sweaters, or shawls. I tend to get the most joy out of projects that teach me new skills and push me to grow as a knitter.

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?
I would suggest my sock yarn base. It is so incredibly versatile and can be used in almost anything you would want to knit. It's my favorite of my yarn bases and I love working with it in both socks and sweaters.

Variegated and tonal skeins next to a Minnie Mouse headband.
Many skeins of yarn displayed in vintage suitcases.
Six skeins of speckled and tonal yarn.

Do you have any collections in the works that we should keep a look out for?
I do not have any new collections planned at the moment, as I just released my latest collection of colorways in the shop. But hopefully this fall I will have something new to share!

Could you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to create your own yarn business?
I originally started dyeing yarn because I was finishing up my PhD and had a lot of downtime and nervous energy as I waited on all the bureaucratic hoops I had to jump through to graduate. I picked up a dyeing kit at a local fiber festival and was immediately hooked on it. I began listing a few skeins for sale online so that I could afford to buy more supplies and the business grew from there. After several months I made the decision to dedicate my full time to dyeing (and learn the ropes of running a business), as it seemed like dyeing could actually grow into my occupation. I honestly did not set out to run a business dyeing yarn when I started; I just jumped in headfirst and was able to grow a business out of something that brought me a lot of happiness during a very stressful period of my life.

What advice would you give to others wanting to follow their creative dreams?
You never know what can happen until you give it a go. Hard work, skill, and a bit of luck can take you a long way if it is something you are passionate about. But I think it's important to realize, at least when it comes to running a small business in the fiber arts industry, that it is a lot of work and there can be a pretty steep learning curve. I'd recommend reaching out to others in the industry for support because having someone who understands what you are going through (and can often act as a sounding board) can really help you get through long, hard days.