I’m really excited to interview Machelle Salmeen from the Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen today. I have actually been planning this interview since late June, but due to some bizarre email happenings, her responses just arrived this week.
I was first exposed to Machelle through Sew Mama Sew‘s May Giveaway Day. You may remember that I was chaperoning a trip and was left for numerous hours in a room with internet access, so I actually visited every blog on the list. I was immediately attracted to Machelle’s lovely yarns, and won a skein of Shetland Aran Weight Yarn. More on that later…
Machelle worked for many years as an astrophysicist with Nobel Prize winner Russell Alan Hulse. A chance meeting with actress Mercedes Ruehl in 2009 changed her life and she started the Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen. Ok, none of that is true – but Machelle’s “About Me” page has not been updated and she said I should “make something up!” when writing her bio.
You can find Machelle and the Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen on the web on Ravelry (as choppedtomatoes and in the Chopped Tomatoes group), Twitter, Etsy, her website, and her blog. Her patterns are available as Ravelry downloads or through her website here and here.
Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen is located in Cardiff. The photos of Machelle and her products are used with her permission.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting, crocheting, spinning, and dyeing yarn?
Machelle: Sometime, a very long time ago, my mother handed me a crochet hook and some pretty pink yarn. I didn’t think much of it as a 7-year old, except that when I crocheted my first project (pencil case), it seemed as though time stood still. From that point on, I was hooked (excuse the pun), and I haven’t been without a WIP since.
Knitting came a little later on when I was around 9, and I taught myself the basic stitches from photographs in an old German needlecraft book someone had given my mother. I didn’t progress any further than a moss stitch scarf until I was in my early twenties, when I discovered Ravelry and the mass of internet resources.
The internet is also responsible for my spinning ‘roots.’ I received a drop spindle kit around 2008 in a swap on Ravelry and a few months later I bought my first wheel. I don’t spin as much as I crochet and knit, mostly because I haven’t got the time these days, but it’s a nice craft to turn to when I want to relax. (UC comment: It always amazes me how profound the impact of internet swaps can be. I’ve learned new techniques and explored new materials through the generosity of internet swappers!)
As for dyeing, I think I have always dyed fibres. As a youngster I used to tie-dye my shirts, and sometimes dad would allow me to dye his PJs. The dyeing learning curve really corresponded with my knitting one; I practised and experimented for a few years with different dyes and techniques (learnt more about knitting and wrote a few free patterns), gave hand-dyed wool away to friends and family for feedback (knitted gifts and accessories using my own designs to test them out), and finally, felt I reached the point where I was completely comfortable with my products, and began offering them to the public.
UC: You describe yourself as a “serial designer, food-lover, and green crusader.” Tell me more about your green crusade.
Machelle: I’m what you might call a ‘closet crusader.’ I don’t blog about it much because I really don’t know where to start. To be honest with you, just reading that question caused an enormous gush of words to battle in my head! I have always tried to recycle, but the most important thing is re-USE and re-DUCE. I don’t want to turn this into a green lecture, but here are a few organisations that mean a lot to me: Pesticide Action Network-UK, Artists Project Earth, and more locally Friends of the Earth Cymru.
UC: How did you decide to start your business?
Machelle: I love colours and dyeing yarn, and I couldn’t knit with all of it. So really, at the beginning, it was a way for me to fund my hobby. Since I launched, the range the responses I got were so positive that everything seemed to take on a life of its own and things just evolved into a beautiful business.
UC: Where do you find your creative inspiration?
Machelle: Everywhere. I know lots of people may give this answer when it comes to inspiration, but it’s because everything around you can be beautiful. I enjoy photography and I tend to extract colour palettes from photos that I have taken.
Dyeing and design are what I love and do with my life, so honestly, I find inspiration everywhere. I’m a very visual person; I love clean lines, well-decorated homes, and colourful clothes on children. I just grab my camera, shoot away, and then sit down and find something beautiful.
UC: Do you have any favorite crafting blogs or websites to share?
Machelle: Apart from the obvious - Ravelry and Crochet Me - I would have to say I like How Can I Recycle This? I have a large reader list which I try and scan a few times a week, but I generally haven’t got the time to browse the internet unfortunately!
Thanks so much Machelle for taking the time to stop by for an interview. Check out the Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen website for more yummy yarn pictures, and order some stuff if you are looking for awesome yarn!
And now for my review of my Chopped Tomatoes Design Kitchen yarn! It took the yarn a few weeks to make its way across the pond, through customs, and into my hands after May Giveaway Day. I was pleasantly surprised by the softness of the fiber. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has seen beautiful yarn on the internet and then has discovered that “in person” it is scratchy or splitty or otherwise unpleasant to work with. In contrast, this Shetland hank easily worked its way onto my swift and ball winder until it became this cute little yarn cake.
I also love the yarn’s texture. It is one of those thick and thin type yarns which always work up in mysterious and beautiful ways. The lovely colorway is sure to be a knock out. I have a hat planned for this yarn, but as usual, I’m quite behind on my projects . I will definitely make something great to fully share the yarn’s beauty with the world.
Thanks again Machelle for hosting your giveaway back in May, stopping by for the interview, and for bringing such gorgeous yarns into the world!