Sarah Kurth is the dyer and owner of Bumblebirch, one of our favorite independent local dyers! We’re proud to offer so many colors of her artisanal yarns in our store, and love the story behind Sarah’s work almost as much as the yarn itself.
Like many knitters, Sarah picked up sticks and string at a young age, but her passion for knitting waned as she got older, only to be renewed during college. After she and her husband completed architecture degrees at Cal Poly, they moved to Portland, where Sarah began attending knit nights at Knit Purl.
“The atmosphere of the shop encourages knitting as an art form, rather than just a craft — you’re encouraged to use good yarn. The other knitters were knowledgeable and I was always able to learn new techniques since they helped me with any challenges.”
It wasn’t just at Knit Purl that Sarah found a knitting community. Ravelry was beginning to blossom into the best resource for knitters online, and Sarah found friends who shared her interests in books, television, and movies. She began participating in swaps, eventually joining a ‘naked yarn swap’, where each recipient dyes the yarn for their partner.
“I dyed it with Kool-Aid. After those skeins went out, everyone wanted some. So I set up an Etsy store, and I made stitch markers too. I started doing more research, and switched to low-impact acid dyes, setting them with vinegar,” she explains, “I named the company Bumblebirch because it was related to my Harry Potter swap handle — Olive Bumblebirch. It’s kind of funny how swapping yarns turned me into an indie dyer.”
While the brand might have been rooted in the imaginary, Sarah’s thoughts are very much in the here and now. She celebrates the small-town feel that her area of Portland, St. Johns, has. Her neighbor, who raises chickens, trades eggs for Bumblebirch yarn every summer. Sarah and her husband also participate in their community garden, which has plots for local residents who don’t have green spaces, and a middle space that provides for a community food bank.
“It’s kind of a slow-culture, slow-craft movement here,” she says, “I try to express that through my yarns, too — each one is a work of art, the whole process surrounding where it comes from and what it becomes is so artistic. One of my favorite architects, Glenn Murcutt, said ‘touch the earth lightly,’ and that’s what I’m trying to do, in my own way.”
With a riot of seafoam greens, autumnal yellows, and blues radiating from every space in her studio, it’s easy to feel Sarah’s passion for her community and the world around her in every yarn she makes.
Some of Sarah’s favorite local businesses in Portland: