Interview with Mary Jeanne Packer of Oysters and Purls
Nestledown from PPQ34
Oysters and Purls are sponsoring November of our year-long KAL and we've been lucky enough to use their yarn on a few occasions throughout our publishing history. Their Alpaca / Corriedale blend features in Nestledown from Issue 34 (pictured above) and in Cyren from Ready Set Raglan (pictured at the foot of this interview)!
We had the chance to chat to Oysters and Purls' owner, Mary Jeanne Packer, and ask her twenty quick fire questions about her and her business. Do please enjoy!
Mary Jeanne Packer
Describe Oysters and Purls in Three Words
Sustainable. Traceable. Responsible.
What are your earliest memories of knitting?
It was 1962, the summer that I turned six years old. I found a 1950’s era black and white Bernat knitting pattern for a little cabled head scarf. I just sat down and made it.
Who taught you to knit?
Self taught from that little Bernat booklet. It had good photos and explanations. And when you are a kid, you don’t know that you shouldn’t try cables in your first project!
What’s your favourite thing about making yarn?
Transforming the fleece into the yarn. I love knowing how different breeds will make yarns with different qualities and seeing that all take shape in my hands. Some have more drape, some have squish, some bloom, some stay firm, and so on.
What crafting tools are you never without?
Wraps per inch tool, needle gauge, set of interchangeable knitting needles, sharp pointy scissors.
Best piece of crafting advice?
A different bin or bag for every project that keeps all of the tools and supplies you need for that project in one place. So then when you need to set it down for a while, everything will still be in one place when you are ready to pick it back up.
Ever lost a piece of handknitting?
No but I recently, accidentally put a nice handknit wool alpaca sweater in our yarn and designed by Sloane Rosenthal and knit together with Gail from Cornwall Yarn shop in the washer and dryer. Ugh. Maybe it will fit my grand daughter? She’s five…
What are you most excited about right now?Our partnership with Green Matters Natural Dye Co. that has enabled us to work with botanical extracts at a reproducible, commercial scale.
What’s on your needles/hook at the moment?
Embossed leaves socks by Mona Schmidt that I’m doing as a knit together with my daughter in Oregon. We're using yarn we bought together by a local indie dyer in Eugene this fall.
Birds of a Feather shawl by Andrea Mowry that I’m doing with my other daughter in Colorado, her friend Allison, and my friend Carole in our own mini KAL. Knitting is such a good connector for our two generations of friends!
Adventure Shawl by Ambah O’Brien in two Fiber Optics gradients that I bought at Rhinebeck (the only time I left my booth).
A punch needle dining chair pad prototype of my own design. Once I settle on design and colours, I’m going to do an eight-piece series!
What project are you looking to cast on next?
Getting ready to start on my Miele sweater (top down, stranded colourwork) by Knitting for Breakfast for my Christmas week cast-on. I am using Marie Wallin’s British Breeds yarn. Our friends at The Wooly Thistle helped me pick out the perfect colours of yarn.
What TV series/ book/ film are you spending your time with?
I’m all caught up on re-reading the Outlander books; and waiting for the next one to arrive on Nov. 23. I just finished the Shetland series of mystery/detective novels as books on tape which I enjoy while knitting.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A math teacher or a fashion designer. I guess being a mill owner is actually a little of both!
What was the last thing to make you laugh?
My darling little two year old grand daughter, Liza, singing Wheels on the Bus.
What’s on the speakers while you’re working/ what music are you listening to?
Lo Fi Girl is usually playing in the background on my computer while I’m writing, doing book work, etc. I also just finished listening – for what must surely be the 1000th time – to Grateful Dead at Barton Hall, Cornell 5/8/77, considered to be one of their best shows ever, or at least of that era. And I happened to be at the show!
It’s break time! What is your go-to snack?
Anything with peanuts or peanut butter.
Favourite issue of Pom Pom?
Number 35, because it had the Foxthoughts Cardigan by Hiroko Payne on the cover and I instantly fell in love. Someday, I will have the time to make that. I have the perfect yarn to use, purchased on a Knitters' Tour to the Gould dye studio in rural Denmark in 2019.
How would you describe your colour palette?
Grey, black, taupe, and cool/jewel tones accents.
What’s your beverage of choice?
Woodford Reserve bourbon or Earl Grey tea.
Desert island yarn (can’t be your own!)?
I think I would bring a sturdy two ply Romney that I could use for knitting garments, weaving shelters and mats, stitching things together, making nets, etc.
Which other craft would you love to try?
Traditional rug hooking with dyed and cut wool fabric strips. I took a class on rug hooking in 2009, the same year I started the mill, but I’ve been too busy to pick it back up. But when I do, I will be all set since my supplies are still all in one place in my bin for rug hooking! In the meantime, punch needle gives me some of the same paint by numbers pleasure; and it enables me to use bits of yarn I’ve got available.
We've loved learning all about Oysters and Purls and the powerhouse behind the brand! One of November's KAL winners will receive two skeins of Oysters and Purls yarn, so be sure to enter before the end of the month to be in with a chance of winning!
Cyren from Ready Set Raglan