Meet the Creator of Assigned Pooling: Dawn Barker

As we've been celebrating our big 20th birthday in 2022, our team has been taking a jog down memory lane to our 500-square-foot shop in downtown Truckee, CA where Jimmy Beans started. To help us commemorate our roots, our friend, Dawn Barker of Barker Wool, dyed us extra-special hanks to help us reminisce on Jimmy's time in Truckee!

When and why did you start Barker Wool? 

I started Barker Wool in early 2017 to marry my passion for color and design with my love for the art of knitting and crochet. I can't really remember a time in my life when yarn and color haven't been involved, although my grandmother claims to have taught me to knit when I was seven.

How do you incorporate your fine art training into dyeing and designing?

I have always had an intuitive understanding of color dynamics, but my time as a professional fine artist helped me develop a comprehensive color collection. It's important to me that my collections work together when seen as a whole. That definitely comes from my gallery days. My dyeing and designs are two sides of the same coin for me as an artist. I consider myself quite fortunate to be part of the greater creative chain by dyeing and designing art supplies for others to use in their own creative expression. For me, there is no better job than creating things that are expressive, creative, practical, meditative, and useful all at the same time. 

Can you tell us a little bit more about when and where you met Laura (a.k.a. Jimmy) and how this partnership came to be? 

Suzanne Middlebrooks from Hill Country Weavers in Austin has been telling me for years that I needed to meet Laura, but we didn't get a chance to meet in person until quite recently at the H+H Americas show in Chicago this past June. Laura asked me if I would be willing to create a special birthday colorway for Jimmy Beans Wool and I still feel so honored that she asked!

Our team would love to know a little bit more about the process of how you figured out how to utilize/create Assigned Poolin in Such a successful way.

I learned so much about how and why pooling occurs as part of my months and months of trial and error in developing my curriculum for ways to disguise pooling. That experience gave me the building blocks that I needed to turn pooling into a feature instead of something to be managed. I had a sudden Eureka! moment one day, ran out to my dye shop, threw a few skeins of BFL into a dye pot, and dyed the three skeins of Assigned Pooling yarn that eventually became the first Float shawl. The skeins were nowhere near dry before I wound them and cast on. I had dyed skeins in this style before, but never really loved the results when knitting with it. I remember showing the new baby, Float, to my family and knitting friends to see if they thought it looked good. I thought it was cool, but didn't know if anyone else would like it. It was just my quirky idea and so unlike anything else that I had seen before. I never expected it to take off like it has!

How have you worked on the different techniques to show off the pooling? How many are there?

Again, hours and hours of trial and error! I'm constantly researching texture stitches that follow my self-imposed rules for what makes a successful pooling stitch. The good ones stick, and no one ever sees the ones that don't. I currently have seven or eight different texture stitches that I use in eleven published patterns and counting.

What's your creative process for creating Starry Night in Truckee for JBW? 

My love for the original Starry Night began in elementary school when a poster of it hung in my art classroom. I enjoy the process of making custom colorways for clients, and Laura gave me such a clear direction for this one that it was easy to pull the colors from the original painting and combine them with my technique for making Assigned Pooling skeins.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the Glide Shawl - what inspired it, the design elements, etc.? 

Glide is Float's little sister. Customers have asked since Float was first released for a smaller version. I redesigned the shape a bit to maintain its wrapability (that's a word, right?) but keep it under two skeins, and used it to launch my new line of Banded Assigned Pooling colorways, of which Starry Night In Truckee is definitely one. My original AP colorways are mostly high contrast pairs with simple backgrounds that really show off the texture stitches. With my new Banded collections, I'm trying to provide more depth and movement to the background stitches while still letting the texture stitches be the star of the show. 

What are some ways you unwind (pun intended!) after a long day? 

What is this "unwind" thing you speak of ?! Haha... I have a very hard time turning off my creativity. Seriously though, knitting, of course! When I'm not knitting I'm usually spending time with my family, baking, reading, or dreaming of new designs (and sometimes sleeping!)

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