Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Embroidering Opinions

Last week was a busy one. Between shearing days, I hosted some of the office staff from Classic Elite Yarns - the distributor of my Color By Kristin Yarn. I used to be the Creative Director at CEY from the mid 80's to the early 2000's. The staff and company has completely changed -- and in a good way. Only two of my fellow employees are still there - Jim Doyle and Pattie Morris. When I was in the CEY booth at TNNA, I suggested to Betsy Perry, the Owner of CEY, that I might like to teach some of the staff how I work with color. We chose a day and five of the office staff journeyed to the farm for the day. 

We had a great day together and it was nice to get to know Meg who does most of the graphics and desktop publishing, Claudine (she is in charge of social media), Tonia (one of the in-house designers), and Andi and Cheryl (both customer service on the phone). These women work so hard and I was happy to have them sneak away from the office for a "color retreat." 
Now I am going to get a little opinionated here - my soapbox after all. Over the past few years, I have watched the rumblings go round and round the knitting world about indie dyers vs. yarn stores vs. yarn companies..... indie publishers vs. large and small publishers. I know there are knitters who will only purchase indie yarn and who look down their noses at yarn company yarn. 
I feel here is room for everyone. Although I self-publish knitting and embroidery patterns, I also work within the framework of the "industry" with my design work in large magazines, yarn company design collections and my own knitting and stitching books. You can't do what I do to piece together a living without working in all areas of the industry. 

It really breaks my heart that some folks can be so close-minded as to not even look at what yarn companies are doing. Without the yarn companies bringing in yarns, local yarn stores will have nothing to sell and will be soon gone from your corner. The internet is great and I purchase many things via it but I love to go to a fabric store or a yarnstore and actually feel and touch the fibers. There is nothing like it. It is hard to smell the wool and lanolin, feel the scrunch of silk, the cloudlike softness of cotton or the hard shine of mercerized cotton through a computer screen.

A yarn company's job is to supply the local yarn store. It is not an easy way to make money. I know because I did it for 16 years and worried like crazy over the bottom line constantly - whether we would make sales figures, whether we could pay for the yarn I had ordered for fall shipping, whether the trade show booth would make it to the trade show site, whether the ads would print right, and also worry that the patterns would be late again. 

Which reminds me - today is Julia's birthday. It was 15 years ago that she was born. I was at work at CEY in Lowell that day, finishing up the last of my desktop publishing for the fall 1998 pattern program. I remember saying to myself that I couldn't leave the office until I had finished the last pattern and it could be sent off to the printer. I did it and then later that evening my water broke and we sped off to Boston for our high-risk delivery and adventure of The Farmer and my lifetime. You can read more about that here.

But I digress - I believe in the LYS concept and the yarn company concept. (All of my self-published patterns are available to retailers to sell via the "local yarnstore model" through Ravelry. I hope some stores take advantage of that - although I think many have not quite figured it out yet. They are busy and there is a learning curve.)

The work the yarn companies do to support and sell to local yarnstores is huge. Take it from me - someone who was in the trenches - all the people at yarn companies, magazines and publishers work their tails and fingers off. I think that many knitters who are "indie-buyers only" need to know that behind every yarn company, there is a group of knitters on staff that are working as a team - putting out a product with the same exact passion that an indie designer/dyer has. It's not an easy job working for a yarn company - as I was reminded of the other day. But I'm glad that I had that experience and that I am now again connected with both Classic Elite Yarns with my Color By Kristin and Regia/SMC Select with my multi-colored sock yarn called Garden Effects

Back to the day at the farm. None of the CEY girls had ever embroidered. They brought some sample swatches from the office and we all went a little crazy adding all kinds of different stitches onto the swatches. They were very quick to learn and I could see their wheels in their brain turning - thinking about where and how they could use embroidery in their own knitting. Somehow I forgot to take a group photo of everyone. Darn. But here are the swatches.

The day after the color retreat - I discovered the work of the Australian artist Louise Saxton via The Design Files (one of my new favorite design blogs from Australia), Her work is quite remarkable. You can read an interview with her here. This bird to me looks like he is wearing a paisley tail. But if you look closely, the tail is made of little bits of re-cycled handmade embroidery. In fact the entire bird is made from re-cycled embroidery. 

Here is a close-up of a parrot completely composed of small scraps of thrifted embroidery. Isn't he something? If you have a minute - check out the interview with Louise.

Would love to hear your thoughts on my ramblings. Must go and layer together an ice cream cake for the big day. Happy Birthday Julia!


mary kate said...

I agree completely with your comments. I enjoy reading and viewing things online, but nothing takes the place of touching the yarn in the LYS. Both of our closed over the last 4 years. So now I take "knitting road trips" to stores in other communities. I have met lots of amazing knitters and met great yarns as well.
Mary Kate

Anonymous said...

I primarily support my LYS. Whenever I go on a vacation I visit a yarn shop in the area and get a few skiens :) now my yarn stash Is bursting out of my craft closet!!

A very Happy Birthday to Julia :) enjoy the cake!

mn_bird said...

Happy birthday to Julia!

I really enjoyed this post. It was interesting to get an industry-insider's view.

It's great that you were able to share your love of embroidery as a way to embellish knitting with the CEY folks. I bet they had a great day!

Karen said...

Happy Birthday, Julia! Interesting post - I couldn't agree with you more! Like book stores, yarn shops may not be around if we don't patronize them -what a shame that would be. There's room for everybody - and no reason for being a "yarn snob"!

Auntie Shan said...


You know... Your "JULIA" yarn was the *only* yarn that I've ever bought "online"!! - I too, am a touchy-feely buyer. And, 100%-natual-fiber-snob! ;-] However, that said, it seems that my local MICHAEL'S store has greatly expanded its Yarn Section with some rather tempting "Synthetics"... I'm trying to resist from being lured over to the "Dark Side"! -- Actually, MICHAEL'S is the only "game-in-town" these days around here. Indie shops are few and FAR away. The one great place with a super selection and prices that had been around, moved OUT of Town! Yet, despite the poorer pickings, I still manage to spend more money than I should on my "SUPER-STASH"!! [I probably have enough now to open up my own shop!] -- My MICHAEL'S Manager [and Yarny-BFF] teases me as being his Yarn-Satellite-Site! But hey, it did get me a 4-minute "yarn-talk" with the Canadian MICHAEL'S *PRESIDENT* a few months back! - I like to imagine that my meager "input" may have helped to encourage Their yarn Expansion..?

Meanwhile, speaking of yarny matters, I must return to Mine!

Anyway... HOPE You Guys have GOOD WEATHER for Today's "CELEBRATIONS"!

Kathy at Knitting Off The Grid said...

Happy Happy Birthday Julia! Your birthday cake sounds very yummy!

I so agree with you, Kristen. I, too, once owned a yarn shop and relied totally on the yarn companies - especially their wonderful sales reps. It is a very difficult business and I wish that knitters could see more of how hard these companies work. Today I work from home and have a small sock business and love how many of these major yarn companies allow me to buy wholesale. They'll always have my support!

Suzanne said...

Happy Birthday to Julia! I tend to shop both online and at my favorite LYS. I have a bag hanging at the shop with some future purchases and some days I stop in just to dip my arm in and pull out a skein to come home with me.

Frances said...

I think that your "ramblings" make a lot of sense. It's now a time when lots of retail businesses are trying to find ways to stay current, to be on top of changes in the wishes and buying habits of potential customers.

The internet really has changed everything.

Living in NYC, I have easy access to some fabulous yarn shops, yet I also hear the siren call of faraway places I can regularly only visit via the web. One such place is located not too, too far from your farm.

Perhaps it's something to celebrate that so many folks continue to love knitting and crocheting.


Mariah said...

Happy, Happy Birthday Julia and many returns of the day to you!

Cathy said...

Thank you for the reminder that there is a place for all of these providers of knitting goods. We need the affordability that the yarn companies provide. I have been helping run a twice monthly group for our church called Stitchin' Sisters. My friend and I can assist with knitting, crocheting, embroidery, needlepoint, cross stitch (printed & counted), and sewing. We have taught beginners or helped revive long-lost skills for teens/tweens and adult women. Without yarn companies and chain stores most of these people could not afford to pursue these hobbies.

Auntie Shan said...

BTW, if You haven't "checked" yet, I left a BLOOG-"CARD" for JULIA via Your TWITTER "DM"!

Wanda said...

My first love has always been sewing, and I am glad to hear that you like to go and touch the fabrics too. Many times when I have felt down and depressed, I've gone to the fabric store just to smell and touch the fabrics. It makes me feel better, every time. There are lots of fiber things here in the house - but there is still something about the stores. Maybe because it's all new.

I agree, there is room for everybody. LOTS of people live a long way even from a Walmart, I have found. If they want something unique, they have to take a chance on an online product that they can't see or feel before buying. Without mass production, we could not re-create the lovely things we see in magazines.

You are a hard-working lady! I enjoy this blog, which I know is another chore for you. Thanks so much.

hawknitr13 said...

happy birthday julia!! so many have commented that there should be room for everyone in the yarn 'world'... i agree. we just had a lys close its doors this month and it's 'sister' store also in a close town. so sad. although since i primarily knit prayer shawls for my church i haven't purchased the more expensive yarns for a while. when i knit lace shawls, socks, etc i splurged! so i appreciate the affordability of the store yarns for my endeavors now. but i appreciate it all!! i love your blog, kristin and always look forward to the next post!!
^)^ linda

Jan said...

Hear, Hear and Amen! Flourishing yarn markets of all types are good for everyone. Local businesses of any kind is good for local economies, but don't forget, that larger (corporate) enterprises do employ local people who, also,contributes to local economies. Having worked at Patternworks for the years that I did, I know first hand what you speak about. And every knitter wins when the sources for yarn are abundant.

shabby girl said...

We live, work, and travel in our motorhome. My first question for my computer when we are getting ready to move is...yarn store, wherever, usa! I love it!

shabby girl said...

Oh my gosh, the parrot is especially gorgeous!!!