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!