Frabjous Fibers: The Fluff Life
The very first sets of mini-skeins I ever came across were from Frabjous Fibers. When I was shopping at a local yarn store, the display was enough to stop me in my tracks. I was so entranced with all the wonderful colors that it was impossible to choose just one set to buy. So I bought two.
Stephanie Shiman, the owner of Frabjous Fibers, has designed a gorgeous drop-stitch scarf for this issue, so I thought it was the perfect time to get to know more about her and the amazing company she’s built up.
Corrina: Tell me about how you got started. Stephanie: Once I learned to knit, I was so enamored with yarns and fibers and colors and textures that I jumped in head first, hunting down every fiber festival and yarn shop. At Maryland Sheep and Wool, I found this funky, colorful, wildly textured yarn; it was handspun from silk threads, remnants from sari weaving mills. I picked up a few skeins and designed a bag with it. The yarn alone was so eye-catching that even a simple design made a greatlooking bag. I submitted the pattern to Knitty magazine and they published it (Fall 2004, Unbiased). As soon as the pattern was released, I started getting dozens of emails looking for this funky yarn, so I found a source and put together a little online shop. So, with boxes of yarn stuffed under my dining room table, Frabjous Fibers began.
The more I got into knitting, the more I needed to do all the things! I started spinning and dyeing, and offering my dyed yarns and handspun in my online shop—mostly to pay for my new fiber habit! It wasn’t until after moving to the woods in Vermont that I realized I could earn a living this way and stay home with my then-4-year-old. So, 14 years later, there are 11 of us dyeing yarns and fibers—enough to reach to the moon and back every month. It’s my passion, my joy, and I’m so glad for the little twists of fate that have brought me here. Corrina: Tell me about the fair-trade aspect of your business. Stephanie: Our Sari Ribbon and Recycled Silk Yarns were our first yarns and are handmade for us by cottage industries in India and Nepal. From the start, it’s been important to me to responsibly source these items, taking care to see that the makers are well paid and have good working conditions. There’s so much I love about these yarns, but the best is the idea that something that’s normally a waste product can be made into a fabulous yarn, supporting women in Nepal and India, supporting women here, and giving knitters a unique yarn like nothing else they’ve ever used. It’s great all around.
In addition to selling the recycled yarns, we work with a group of felt makers in
Kathmandu who make little notions bags and needle cases for us from my designs. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job! I draw out the design and schematics and choose the colors, and the artisans in Nepal make it come to life. I’ve designed everything from doughnut notions bags to voodoodoll pincushions to more classic floral themes. The folks in Nepal are great to work with, pay their felt makers well and give back to their local community. I love the connections with fiber artists across the world. Corrina: What was the first yarn/ colorway you dyed? Stephanie: Oof! Embarrassing question! I wanted to dye a mohair/ wool blend to knit a hat. Forest green— simple enough! Especially considering I bought a little packet of dye and all I needed to do was simmer the yarn with the dye powder (which even had the mordant included) until the water was clear. So, why, why did I add soda ash? Most likely because I was chasing around a toddler and only half paying attention to the dyeing. So, my first dye session ended up with noxious fumes pouring out of a pot on my stove and me on the phone with poison control— you know, to see if this chemical reaction was going to cause me to grow a third eye. Harmless fumes they told me—we survived unscathed—and I even ventured to dye again. The yarn, however, was sort of fried, stiff and scratchy from its chemical bath and not good for knitting. It’s still in my stash, however—sentimental value. Ha! Corrina: Why Alice in Wonderland? Stephanie: We are a family of word geeks. So when I asked my dad for a word that sounded good with “fibers,” he suggested “frabjous.” The word, coined by Lewis Carroll, appears in his poem “Jabberwocky” and means joyful, fabulous. That fit exactly how I felt dyeing the fibers! Wonderland Yarns came five or six years later when I added hand-dyed yarns to my line of hand-dyed fibers. The Alice in Wonderland books are filled with colorful imagery and the creative storytelling that fit our fun and funky approach to dyeing. Corrina: What’s your favorite Frabjous Fibers product? Stephanie: Ask anyone on Team Frabjous and they’ll tell you—I love sport-weight yarn and I love teals and purple-blues. So much that one year when we brought out multiple shades of teal (because why not have tons of shades of teal!?), one color was named “Ditto, Ditto” as an inside joke. “Summer’s Glory,” one of our mini-skein packs, encompasses all my favorites— teals and purple-blues. Corrina: What’s your favorite thing to knit? Stephanie: Easy answer! Triangle shawls on the bias with multiple stitch patterns and colors in “Mad Hatter,” our sport-weight yarn. Nearly everything I design is with our sport-weight base— it’s just so yummy! Corrina: What’s it like at the Frabjous Fibers headquarters? Describe a day in the life. Stephanie: Team Frabjous is a tight-knit group (pun intended!). I love working with these guys. The studio is usually a bustle of energy, laughter, inspiration and fun. We get really excited when someone brings show-and-tell and plan way more knitting projects than even the most industrious knitter can possibly finish. We really love our jobs. We spend most days dyeing and drying and labeling and packing, but you never know when odd things will happen. Like the night a skunk wandered into the space and spent a couple of hours slinking around before trotting back out, or the day we opened a fiber shipment to find skull-embossed men’s dress shoes instead. The fluff life! I wouldn’t have it any other way.