Montana Maker Spotlight: Aimee Alexander
One of the things we love to do the most at Stix is fill our shelves with local yarn, fiber, and other handmade things. Supporting our industry on a local level is not only fun and inspiring, but critical to sustaining and growing it. There are so many amazing artists in our area, and we would like to introduce some of them to you.
Let's start with Aimee Alexander, owner of the Polka Dot Sheep (formerly Knit 'n Needle Yarn Shoppe) in Whitefish, MT, and the creative spirit behind the Polka Dot Sheep hand-dyed yarn label. We wanted to get to know her and her process and background a bit better, and she was kind enough to share with us.
Aimee moved to Montana in 1995 after graduating from the University of Oregon with a BA in English Literature. For a few years she lived seasonally in Whitefish, skiing and working at Whitefish Resort in the winter months and spending her summers as a climbing guide in the High Sierra of California. She moved permanently to Whitefish in 2001 and opened the Knit 'n Needle in 2003, working in the shop as well as designing knitwear patterns.
One of the employees in the shop began dyeing yarn, and Aimee was intrigued by the process. She began to spend time in the dye studio, which held two propane fish cookers and a few exceptionally large stainless-steel pots. Eventually, the employee moved on but Aimee was hooked on dyeing; she purchased the dye equipment from her employee and continued to learn and develop her dyeing skills.
Aimee really enjoys the dye process. She finds the way the different yarn bases accept color interesting, as well as the "sheepy" scent the yarns exude during the initial wet-down step. She says different fibers react differently to dye, and that even the twist of the yarn can change how the dye strikes. The problem-solving and technical process of the work keeps things from getting dull, and oh, the colors! Many of the color-ways are inspired by places and things to do in Montana. You will see Montana flora, fauna, and locations reflected in the shades she chooses.
Tally Lake Colorway
Tally Lake, MT
Sometimes memories of time spent in the High Sierra, particularly Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon, are reflected in her pattern designs. For instance, the Sea of Dreams baby blanket pattern was named for a climbing route on El Capitan. The natural world around us is apparent in most of Aimee's work.
Sea of Dreams Blanket
The hand-dyed yarn and pattern line grew, and Aimee named both Polka Dot Sheep; a nod to the colorful sheep in the Knit 'n Needle logo. In 2020, Aimee moved into a beautiful new space which houses both the dye studio and retail storefront, changing the shop name from Knit 'n Needle to Polka Dot Sheep to avoid any confusion with branding. The dye studio holds two fish cookers with plumbed-in natural gas, seven steam tables, two commercial cabinet dryers, and a commercial water filter which removes all chlorine and other chemicals from the city water. On an average day, Aimee and her crew put up 150 skeins from wet-in-the-bucket to labeled and ready to ship. The retail shop is filled with her own lovely yarn as well as a great selection of yarn and supplies from commercial producers.
Polka Dot Sheep storefront
Stix is pleased to have a selection of Polka Dot Sheep yarn in our store, with more to come in the future. Come in or check them out online, you'll be happy you did!