Sunflower Knit an Interview by Jyanne

Ash Alberg is the amazingly talented face behind Sunflower Knit, an online shop that sells patterns, herbal remedies, and naturally dyed canadian-sourced milled yarns! Their products are cool, vibrant and all natural, with all of them hand made by Ash themself!

Ash started their business as a fluke back in 2014, toying around making their own patterns with knitting back when they lived in the UK. They ended up moving back to Canada after some time, and when they did, they were introduced to the Manitoba Fiber Festival. At this time, the festival was having a contest in who could design the best shawl. Ash decided that they would enter the contest, creating their own shawl design, and to their surprise, they ended up winning.

After the contest had ended, Ash put the pattern online in case anyone was interested in it. Their design went viral, which in short jump started their career as a designer.

Their business has been a rollercoaster over the years, starting out as a side hustle for them while working their job at the time, to growing so much they decided to quit their job and work on Sunflower Knit full time back in 2018! As of now, Ash is still up and running with plans on doing a website over hall for their 5 year anniversary of Sunflower knit, traveling for markets, finishing up their new book of patterns, and even Making a K-12 Natural dyeing course! Over all, you should stay tuned for what’s coming up next from Ash!

All of Ash’s products are made all naturally and as local as it can get, this is so more people can realize there are other, more natural and sustainable, ways of getting materials and clothing, that doesn't involve the use of harsh chemicals to dye colors. It was less about the dyeing process for them, and more about how they can make the process more natural and sustainable. Back when Ash first started out, they still had kept with the natural dyes, after playing around with it a bit before being taught the ropes from a natural dyer in the city. From then on, Ash made a goal to only dye all local yarns using local and natural dyes. Unfortunately, at the time of this promise, there were no wool mills in the province, so they had to settle getting their yarn imported. This didn’t hinder Ash though, continuing to instead focus on the first half of their goal, dyeing them with all natural dyes.

Over time, Ash was able to acquire new and more local materials, with them now selling yarns with wool coming from South Manitoban farms that are hand dyed with plants Ash grow’s themself!

As Sunflower Knit grew and changed, they’re dying process has also been modified, though not as drastically.

When it comes to how Ash dyes their yarn, they described it as making a soup. The “soup” is made by cooking and extracting the dye from whatever plant it’s coming from, be it flowers, roots, or even bark. The dye has to be at a specific temperature to prevent it from becoming shocked and felting in on itself, but once the dye chemicals have been extracted, it’s the time to add whatever it is you want to dye into the soup, cooking it until it’s completely saturated. Once it’s done cooking, It’s then dumped out to be rinsed, the dumping having to be done carefully to prevent the yarn from getting tangled or shrink. The whole process itself takes from 5 hours to a lot longer, though this is done in batches.
This process is the same for whatever colour dye you need, though when it comes to making dyes for blues, the process is slightly altered. All in all though, when Ash is finished, they come out with vibrant and soft yarns ready for use!

When it comes to advice, Ash’s words of wisdom could be simplified to making more sustainable and eco friendly choices and being able to put a limit for yourself. All throughout our interview, Ash talked about how it isn’t that hard to make more eco-friendly choices and how something as simple as fixing up an old shirt can go a long way. You don't have to completely solve the climate change issue to help our environment, being aware of the impact you have on our planet and doing something to lessen it can be more than enough!
Ash's second piece of advice comes from first hand experience. Ash has a background in activism, attending rallies and protests quite frequently back in the day. Though at some point, their exhaustion caught up to them and they ended up burning themselves out. It’s totally fine and encouraged to do what you're passionate about, but if it’s starting to have negative effects on your physical or mental well being, then consider taking a few steps back.

I want to just say a big thank you to Ash for having this wonderful interview with me! Ash is an amazingly talented individual and their knowledge and opinions on sustainability and natural dyeing was very interesting and intriguing! If you find Ash’s products intriguing, you can find them on instagram @sunflowerknit or purchase their products on their website “Ash Alberg”.

Ash is truly an amazing individual that I hope you all found just as wonderful!

- Jyanne - MET School Student Intern

June 30, 2023 — Made Here

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