Welcome to the third installment of my guest post series, ‘Fellow Fibre Friends’. This week we meet Melanie Cheripka of ‘Go Knit Yourself’. She dyes beautiful yarn, which you can find on her website.
Hello! My name is Melanie and I’m married with 6 kids. (Yes, they’re all mine and I gave birth to them all.) We live in Virginia, about 45 minutes south of our nation’s capital. I’m a work at home mom and run Go Knit Yourself, selling hand dyed sustainable yarns.
I first started knitting about 10 years ago when my then baby was in cloth diapers. I was crunchy before it was cool! The plastic covers gave her a horrible rash so I asked my fellow cloth diapering friends what to do and they suggested wool covers. I looked into them and almost died at the price. Now I understand why hand knit wool diaper covers are so expensive, but back then I didn’t. Being a DIYer at heart, I went to my local craft store, got some cheap yarn and taught myself how to knit diaper covers. Granny squares?! Pfft. Let’s go straight to ribbing and short rows! Apparently I like a challenge.
Of course I immediately fell in love with knitting and all the gorgeous yarns. But again—I couldn’t afford them. So I once again went to my local craft store, picked up some fisherman’s wool and started dyeing with Kool Aid. I realized how much I loved dyeing yarn because it gave me a voice.
You see, I was in an extremely abusive marriage to a drug addict. I wasn’t allowed to do anything and if I dared voice my opinion I regretted it. Dyeing was a way to express myself. He didn’t care—it was my ‘granny hobby’. I bought a few professional dyes and better quality yarn and opened a little online business. I was so excited to finally have an outlet and loved every minute of it. I felt empowered running my own business and loved having the freedom to express myself!
Then life happened.
The abuse got to be unbearable. Up until that point I had been able to excuse the behavior. He was tired. It was the drugs. He didn’t mean it. He saw his dad treat his mom this way, it’s all he knows. His mom abandoned him when he was a kid, he can’t help it. He loves me deep down inside, I just know it.
But then it changed. He went from abusing me to abusing the kids. That was inexcusable. Do what you want to me—I made the choice to marry you. But you will not hurt my innocent children. I will conquer this violence and save them from reliving your past.
So I went to the authorities, got a restraining order from him, and filed for divorce. It was scary and tough because I didn’t work outside of the home so I had no income. My budding business certainly wasn’t enough to pay the bills so I had to put it on hold. I had the love and support of family and friends and they helped financially when they could. But it wasn’t enough. I had to get food stamps and other financial help from Social Services. Here I was, a smart and capable woman, asking for help. Totally embarrassing. I had to change my thinking on that—it was a hand up not a hand out. I got an awesome job and moved on with my life.
Fast forward several years. I am now remarried to an amazing man who has adopted my children and they are free from the fear they once lived. I told him about my one time business and how I wished I could still do that. He’s supported me 100% and given me the confidence to pursue this dream of mine.
I’ve always had a passion for the environment. I want to leave the world a better place than it was when I got here. So I knew I wanted to ensure my business wasn’t a strain on the environment or animals. I’ve sourced my yarns from ethical farmers who use sustainable farming practices and responsible animal husbandry. None of the farmers practice the mulesing system when harvesting wool. The sheep are handled with care and raised the way nature intended: on lush pastures, with plenty of clear, clean water. Their dedication to the land and the lambs they produce guarantees that their fiber is among the purest in the world. The mill then uses vegetable oil to spin the yarns.
When it came to dyes, I instinctively started to use natural dyes. However, just because the dyes are natural doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good for the environment. In order for natural dyes to work, there is an added step called scouring the wool. Aluminum Sulfate is an extremely toxic chemical yet necessary for the dyes to work. The whole process involves a lot of water and time on the stove (electricity). Plus, the dyes weren’t completely exhausting which meant I was pouring dye down the drain. It seemed like my footprint was a lot bigger than it was when I used acid dyes. The only chemical acid dyes use is citric acid, which is found in a lot of common things such as iced tea. It doesn’t take as much time on the stove and all of the dye is exhausted, leaving just acid water to pour down the drain. The company I use only has 2 dye colors that have heavy metals and I don’t use those dyes. Additionally, yarns dyed with natural dyes aren’t color or light fast. I want to create yarns that you will use to create awesome knits that you will treasure for years to come, not worry about fading or bleeding. So I decided that using low impact dyes on sustainable yarns was the way to go.
Each Go Knit Yourself skein is hand dyed by me and waiting to become the beautiful knits that only your two hands can create. My bold colorways will be an awesome addition to your stash. Join the revolution by purchasing environmentally responsible yarns from a small business instead of synthetic yarns from a big box store!
You can find me at the following places: