Yarn dyer Melody Martinez displays her new Palette line colorways during a recent trunk show at Lovelyarns in Baltimore. (Photo by Joan M. Kasura)

If you went to Ocean City’s Delmarva Wool & Fiber Expo last February, then you probably noticed independent yarn and fiber dyer Melody Martinez and her colorful Haute Bohème Fibers booth.
The expo marked the debut of Martinez’s new logo, a graphic rendition of her daughter’s profile with long flowing tresses that also graphically portray the large assortment of “fiber art for fiber artists” that Martinez dyes and sells.
This year’s expo also marked the debut of Martinez’s new Palettes colorways — “specially mixed colors that all coordinate with one another.”
Martinez created the Palettes line specifically in response to a common customer concern over coordinating multi-color yarns with one another, a question she often received back when she began selling her hand-dyed yarns at the Annapolis Farmers’ Market.
At the time, Martinez, a longtime crocheter, was writing her own patterns and selling finished versions of those patterns at a market booth.
When she couldn’t find the yarn and colors she wanted to execute her designs, Martinez began dyeing her own.
Eventually, thanks to the early support of enthusiastic customers from her three years at the Annapolis Farmers’ Market and other well-known independent dyers such as Kim Russo of Kim Dyes Yarn in Virginia, Martinez began expanding her presence at local yarn shops — or, rather, “LYSs” in yarn enthusiasts’ lexicon.
Martinez credits Russo with pushing her into the trunk show limelight when she attended one of Russo’s trunk shows held in late 2017 at Lovelyarns in the Hampden area of Baltimore.
“I hadn’t been promoting to the LYSs because I didn’t really believe I had something to offer until Kim put me out there and Melissa [Salzman, Lovelyarns’ owner,] jumped on with her shop’s support.”
Martinez’s success is but one sign of an ongoing renaissance in artisan yarn and fiber arts.
Since 2015, the Fiber Arts Center of the Eastern Shore or FACES has been a destination for the area’s many quilt and fiber art enthusiasts.
The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, held in Howard County every May continues to grow its fiber and clothing offerings.
Her success at Lovelyarns has led Martinez to begin seeking out other shops and in April of this year, she held trunk shows of her yarns and spinning fibers at Knits and Pieces in Annapolis and The Yarn Maven in Smyrna, Del.
According to Martinez, not only does The Yarn Maven draw yarn enthusiasts from much of the northern areas of the Eastern Shore, but the welcoming community created by shop owner Sue Shomomura, added to Martinez’s gratification when Shomomura added the fingering weight of Haute Bohème’s Mimi line of superwash merino to her shop’s regular inventory.
Along with her expanding success at the LYSs, Martinez has had similar success at the fiber festivals throughout the region.
Initially, “I didn’t know what to expect,” said Martinez; but she quickly discovered that fiber show vendors “are the kindest, most supportive group of strangers I’ve ever met. They help each other with displays, purchase from each other, and create a welcoming environment around this relationship built of fiber and yarn.”
Martinez also loves the fact that the many fiber festivals such as the Delmarva Wool & Fiber Expo give her “a direct line to the customer. Smaller vendors like me are able to feel out the customer and find out what they want.
“And, thanks to those direct conversations, we can respond more quickly to changes in the trends and marketplace.”
It was those conversations which led to the introduction of Martinez’s Palettes line as a way to help her customers design the colors for the patterns they were doing.
“I was always hearing someone say, ‘I always do this color, but I wish I could do something different,’” she said. “The Palettes’ coordinating colorways helps them do exactly that — venture outside their comfort level and pick something new.”
Currently, Martinez has eight active Palettes colorways, and just recently debuted a ninth, which is part of her “Herstory” Palette line, at a trunk show recently.
The bright colorway included a purple that Linda Rosenthal, a fiber artist and who teaches circular weaving at Lovelyarns, immediately gravitated towards.
“Melody knows purple,” said Rosenthal, and Salzman, the shop’s owner, agreed.
All three — Rosenthal, Salzman and Martinez — also agreed that Martinez’s Haute Bohème Fibers were yet another exciting part of an ongoing renaissance, where people of all ages are using yarns and fiber to express their artistic, creative side.