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The 10 Hours or Less Story with George Shaheen

April 6, 2014

George Shaheen got an early start on his current career.  Very early.  He sold his first original knitting pattern to a young company when he was just 13!  In fact, he was able to earn some spending money for himself throughout high school by freelance designing.  The road from there to starting the House of Shaheen, Inc. publishing company was a winding one, but it seems he has ended up in the place he needed to be.

Gorgeous crochet pattern George designed using Darn Good Yarn

George got his start when he found an old “How to Crochet” booklet in a closet of his home when he was just 12 years old.  He was truly “hooked” from then on!  He loves both knitting and crochet, but didn’t look immediately to make a career out of them.  He got a BA in Business Psychology and went on to get a Master’s degree as well.  While he was working in a more corporate setting, he began doing freelance design work once again.  While doing freelance work for others, he started really wanting more creative control over the designs.  He also was tired of feeling like a “cog in the machine” of the corporate world.  He made the bold decision of quitting his job, moving to another state, and starting up House of Shaheen, Inc. publishing company to produce his “10 Hours or Less” patterns.  If you want to learn more about the business side of 10 Hours of Less, make sure to check out the blog I wrote about that here.

Like a majority of crafters, George played around with many different crafts.  He has tried his hand at tatting, cross-stitching, and needlepoint.  He also trained in Fashion Design, where he learned pattern design, drafting, and construction.  However, knitting and crocheting remain his favorite mediums.  His detail-rich, intricate and elegant patterns are available on his website, 10hoursorless.com.  During our interview, I asked the question which may have occurred to you by now – “How do you know the patterns are going to take 10 hours or less?”  I thought perhaps he would have some pattern testers, or some sort of magical 6th sense about patterns not known to us mere mortals. :)   I was surprised to learn it’s all about math!  He determines the number of stitch movements per pattern, and divides that by the number of stitches the average person can do per minute.  These numbers change based on yarn weight and needle size as well, so it’s no easy process!  While not every single knitter or crocheter will finish every pattern in the predicted 10 hours, the vast majority of them will!  This self-imposed time restriction forces him to be extra creative with the designs.  He describes it like this, “Imagine someone tells you have 1,000 lines that you can use to draw a picture – you could draw almost anything.  It’s very different if you only have 10 lines.”

10 Hours or Less knitting pattern using Darn Good Yarn

I also asked George if he had ever gotten any really strange pattern requests.  Apparently, he had.  He has lent his design skills to creating a miniature dress for a Martha Washington doll.  “When I was a freelance designer, I never turned down work,” he recalls.  “Everything you try can have a benefit, and you can learn something from every project.”  Very true!  One of the most important lessons he has learned is to, “Play with the yarn, let it speak to you, then design.”

10 Hours or Less will be featuring one more pattern using Darn Good Yarn which will premier this Tuesday, April 8th.  You can also use the coupon code DGY20 until then to get 20% off of George’s lovely patterns!  You can support George’s innovative designs by following 10 Hours or Less on Ravelry and Facebook as well.

Enjoy the fabulous patterns and Happy Crafting!

Marissa :)

Darn Good Yarn’s Friend in the Recycled Sari Business – Lallitara

April 4, 2014

A small woman-owned company that sustainably sources gorgeous sari fabrics from India and pays their workers a living wage so they can improve their own lives and their communities.  Sound familiar?  But I’m not talking about us here at Darn Good Yarn, I’m talking about the fantastic ladies over at Lallitara!

Bijal Shah started Lallitara in April of 2013.  I recently got to speak with her about her journey into the reclaimed sari business, how it began, and where she plans to go.

In India there is a very informal community of sari recyclers.  These people go around to the more affluent parts of town and collect saris that are no longer worn.  They would usually then go to re-sell these saris, but the market for these recycled saris in India has been dwindling. However, they would soon find a better market for their wares when Bijal Shah took a year off from her job and went to live in India for a year, working closely with a non-profit group there.

At first, Bijal had trouble really becoming integrated within the community that she lived in while in India.  Then she got the idea of taking a sewing class with some of the local women, aimed at teaching people how to make their own saris.  “I actually knew the basics of how to sew already,” she told me, “But I pretended I didn’t so I could learn as much as possible from the women there.”  As she learned more about sewing and how to use the machines available, she wondered where they obtained the gorgeous fabrics they were using.  “That is when I first found out about sari recycling,” she recalls.  Bijal went to meet with some of the people in the recycling community, and felt bad they got such little compensation for their hard work.  “I bought 30 or 40 saris just to take home with me,” she admits.  At the time, she didn’t yet have a firm idea of what to do with those saris.  Meanwhile,  the ladies in the class knew Bijal would probably not be wearing traditional saris back home in California, so they taught her how to make western-style dresses.  Those dresses got taken home in her suitcase along with all the sari fabric.

Once she returned home, she started wearing the dresses she had made.  The comments suddenly came flooding in.  “Where did you get that?”  “Can I buy one?”  Enough people were asking that she really started to think there could be a market for sari-fabric western clothing.

Bijal soon found that working with the sari-recycling community could be a challenge, but can also be tremendously rewarding.  Timing can be the trickiest part of the equation.  She is working with an informal community that has no desire to be organized, so getting all the saris she needs can be a problem.  It’s also a community where family always comes first, before work considerations.  However, providing families who had fewer and fewer places to sell their fabrics a ready market and repeat business is very fulfilling.  A lot of the women they were first working with couldn’t really believe that people wanted to buy products made from the sari fabrics.  Bijal remembers, “It was really rewarding to go back to them and say, ‘We sold everything!’”  While there haven’t been major changes in the community yet, their confidence is growing now that they have a steady market to sell their goods.  Lallitara also works with non-profits that provide life-coaching for the families involved.

The sari recyclers in India aren’t the only people employed by Lallitara, as all the production of their products happens right here in the US!  All of the piecing and sewing of the garments and accessories is done at Opportunity Threads, a worker-owned company in North Carolina.  It’s a great place!  Read all about them here.  They were very  excited to work with new fabrics and expand their business.

Fabulous 'Rickshaw Tanks' sewn at Opportunity Thread

For two such similar companies, it is somewhat odd that Darn Good Yarn and Lallitara didn’t meet sooner.  Bijal hadn’t heard of Darn Good Yarn until she was doing some social media research on Twitter.  “I looked up “#sari” on Twitter, and Darn Good Yarn came up!  I sent an email and asked if we could talk, as the “#sari” audience was growing,” she says.

Bijal is always torn about which of the saris she receives to keep and make into products, and which ones aren’t quite right for the company.  “I am always the most critical of the saris!” she admits.  She did not yet have a destination for the saris which she had decided not to use.  Nicole took one look at them and said, “Darn Good Yarners will love those!” and a happy partnership was born.  Lallitara is now a no-waste business, and we here at Darn Good Yarn get to offer gorgeous sari fabric with fantastic color and pattern to inspire even more craftiness!  I asked Bijal about the emergence of more businesses with a “mission” like Lallitara and Darn Good Yarn.  She thought it had to be the right combination of having a mission people want to support, but most importantly having a great product.  She mused that, “A customer might buy once because of a ‘mission’, but they don’t become repeat customers unless they really like the product -- it has use and utility for them.”  Lallitara tends to focus more on the product -- but they do include a little note with each shipment informing their customers who they have supported by making their purchase.

Lallitara continues to expand in many ways.  They are trying to expand their social media reach (you can go ahead and check out their Facebook here!) and mailing list of customers.  They are also producing their products in larger quantities, though only releasing a limited number of them at once.  That way, they can refresh the designs and patterns often, and everything on the site can stay new.  Make sure to visit their website here.   They have a select number of boutiques that carry both their accessories and clothing, and find that people are hooked as soon as they feel how soft and sumptuous the fabric is in their products.

Lallitara's wristlets

They have some brand new Rickshaw Tanks on the site now, so be sure to check them out!

Bijal is very happy about the growth they have seen thus far, “For me it is really exciting. Nicole and Maggie have been really awesome about business coaching and encouragement. Nicole is even on a small board of advisers for the company.”  We are so happy to help support such a great business!

I personally am really coveting one of the tote bags they have in a “beta testing” period right now.  Make sure to support Lallitara however you can, as great businesses with a great mission and practices are not always easy to find!

Many thanks to Bijal for telling me all about the sari business, and Happy Crafting!

Marissa :)

Tips to Keep in Mind When Starting a Business

April 2, 2014

Just starting up your business or considering starting one?  This week’s tips are for you.  Even if your business is more established, these points are worthy of review!

I asked Nicole, Darn Good Yarn’s founder and president, some questions on the behalf of an author writing a book about successful internet businesses.  The following tips are from her responses.

Let’s start at….

What are some vital areas you should concentrate on when starting up your business?

1)  Make sure you have a strong support system of friends and family.

Even if you aren’t being supported financially by friends or family, these are still some of the most important people to your business.  The time and emotional support they provide make them essential shareholders in your endeavor.  Nicole knows the pitfalls of becoming so involved in business you lose sight of the important things.  “People who own businesses tend to isolate, and my family helps me keep my priorities in check.  They help remind me that it’s not only all about making money,” she says.

2)  Figure out how much time you can really devote to your business.

“I do 16 hour days pretty regularly!” Nicole shares with me.  If you are not ready to put in the time you may need, maybe this isn’t the best time for you to start a potentially very time-consuming business.

3)  Have a higher purpose, try to make the business about something outside yourself.

Are other people relying on you for a paycheck?  Can you support those in need through your work?  Bringing in a wider and more beautiful or inspiring idea of what your business is and what it can do can inspire your work and help you avoid burning out.  If you make it about something more than just buying and selling, you can make it personal, and make it a community.

And finally, an important one to keep in mind as your business grows…

4) Learn every process you can involved in running your business – from packing, to taking pictures, to customer service – then delegate some of those processes.  Make sure to give the majority of your energy to the things that only you can do for your business.

I hope that helps those of you just starting out, or helps those of you in a business rut to re-imagine what you can do!  Looking for more inspiration?  Nicole also shared some of her favorite business resources.

The Accidental Creative podcasts – available here.

Inc Magazine – be inspired by their website here.

The book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh.  Check out the “delivering happiness” movement here.

Best wishes in all your business endeavors, and Happy Crafting!

Marissa :)

Nicole and Darn Good Yarn Attending the Fiber Marketplace

March 30, 2014

Want to meet Nicole and check out all of your favorite yarns and other products from Darn Good Yarn in person?  Will you be in York, Maine this coming Saturday April 5th?  Lucky you!  You’ll have a chance to attend The Fiber Marketplace where Nicole will be one of the many great vendors attending!

This fantastic fiber show will be from 10 -3 on Saturday, April 5th at the York Harbor Inn.  (Get directions here.)  Entry fee will be $5, and many great vendors will be there.  If you live anywhere nearby, make sure to check it out!  Local yarn store “The Yarn Sellar” is hosting the event.  Read all about her here.

We hope to see you there!

Marissa :)

Darn Good Press

March 27, 2014

Darn Good Yarn has had some great mentions in the press recently!  Bangor Metro, a magazine that covers the area where Nicole is currently living, published a lovely Darn Good Yarn article.  Check out the Metro’s website here.

The article covers Nicole’s success and great business growth over the few years that she has been running Darn Good Yarn.  Thanks to the folks over at the Metro!

Another article a few months ago in the Chattanooga Times Free Press features Darn Good Yarn as well!  Olga Klein, a great friend of Darn Good Yarn and fabulous yarn-bomber was featured in the Free Press as she has many of her works in a gallery in Chattanooga.

Olga helped Nicole immensely on site at the FedEx commercial shoot in LA (read all about that here!) and talked all about how they have helped each other out in the article.  It reads:

“She purchases the majority of her yarn from the DarnGoodYarn website, she says. “The owner of the business, Nicole Snow, has helped me in all my yarn-bomb endeavors, and always came through when I had to place a frantic call for more and/or different colors of yarn, texture, etc.,” she says.”

You can read the entire article here.  Many thanks to Olga and the Chattanooga Times Free Press for mentioning us!

Happy Crafting,

Marissa :)

Your Business and Your Passion – 10 Hours or Less George Shaheen

March 26, 2014

Before interviewing George Shaheen, owner of House of Shaheen, Inc. publishing which produces “10 Hours or Less” patterns, I came up with a list of questions based on the type of small-business operation I assumed he was running.  “Maybe he enables a small group of pattern designers to publish through his brand,” I thought.  “I’ll ask how many people he employs and what it is like running a small craft business.”  Shortly after he answered the phone of the personal contact number he gave me with, “House of Shaheen Publishing” I realized I was quite, quite wrong.

In an earlier interview with Nicole, one of the questions was, “What are areas you should concentrate on when starting a business?”  I’ll detail more of her answer in future blogs, but one of the things she said that really stuck with me was to: “Bring in a bigger and more beautiful picture of what the business is, not just buying and selling on the internet.”  George Shaheen really has that passion, that driving more beautiful vision behind his work.  This man loves creating, loves playing with yarn, loves the creative process.  During our chat, he said, “If I were independently wealthy I’d give the patterns away for free!”  Unfortunately for him (and for so many of us) he is not independently wealthy.  And he is selling patterns in a market where many large companies can, in fact, afford to give them away for free.  And he is doing it all on his own.

 

When I asked if he had any advice for people who might want to sell their own patterns, his first response was: “Don’t quit your day job!”  He has learned over time just how hard running a one-man business can be.  He told me: “…if I knew how hard it was going to be in advance, I would have been discouraged!”  Not only does he design each and every pattern, but he painstakingly tests them, he makes his own diagrams, he lays out how each pattern will look when published, he takes his own photos, does his own printing, his own shipping, his own billing, and of course, answers his own phones.  He listed his titles for me: ““I’m the Design Department, the Procurement Department, the Production Department, the Photography Department, the Publishing Department, the Sales Department, the Marketing Department, the Accounting Department, the Customer Service Department, the Shipping Department…and the CEO.”  I will expand more on George’s story in a blog next week, but for today’s business-related blog I wanted to share some of his methods he has used in making his business in a crowded market a successful one.

You have to be prepared to do several jobs at once in a one-person business.

First and foremost, again, is the passion behind what you do.  George said he has always been, “Fascinated with the process of turning string into fabric,” and has tried cross-stitching, needle-point, tatting, and has attended design school where he learned pattern-design, drafting and construction – but nothing truly spoke to him like knitting and crocheting.  In fact, he sold his first crochet pattern when he was just 13!  He went on to do free-lance designing and eventually decided to go into business for himself.  “I think it is uplifting for the spirit to be able to create,” he says.

His first piece of advice?  “”You have to know your strengths, know what unique benefit your designs bring to the market.”

“What I’m contributing to the market has to have value so people will put down the money to buy it – you have to define a brand and a ‘design identity’ so people know what to expect from your work.”   The ‘design identity’ of 10 Hours or Less patterns is very important to how the patterns will sell.  George describes what he looks for: “I need it to be practical, I need a large number of people to have it fit in their wardrobe, and it needs to be as multi-purpose as possible.”  He also needs patterns to last for years on the market – he tries not to be too trend-reliant or gimmicky.  Due to these pressures, his patterns have tended more toward the conservative – but that is what sells.  Even within these constraints he still finds the joy of creation.  “Even when the yarn turns out differently than I thought it would I still love trying to make it work!  The pattern can turn out even better than I originally planned,” he reflects.

10 Hours or Less patterns are distributed by Leisure Arts and can be found in big retail stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby.  However, recently George has found a better market for his patterns through social media – especially Ravelry!  (You can check out his Ravelry page here.)  In working with the large retail stores, he found he was always talking to people who weren’t knitters or crocheters.  They didn’t know the merit of the patterns he was offering, they just cared if they sold or not.  However, on Ravelry he was talking to people who were passionate about their hobbies.  10 Hours or Less began to grow through word-of-mouth, through crafters who were really passionate about the brand.  He designs were mentioned in crafting podcasts, featured in give-aways, and have been donated to great causes.  Ravelry really allowed him to be supported by others – and then support them in turn.  He is very active on the site – answering questions quickly with knowledgeable, detailed responses.  Even when he is feeling bogged down by all of the different roles he has taken on in his business, he is excited by the kind of response he gets through the Ravelry community.  “The energy of great comments from across the country re-invigorate me in my work!” he enthused.

His last piece of advice? “Know what other small companies you can work with in order to help each other grow.”  That’s just what he has done with us here at Darn Good Yarn!  Check out the first of 3 gorgeous patterns George designed at his website here.  Here’s a sneak preview of the first of the patterns.

You can even get 20% off George’s great patterns with the discount code DGY20.  So go visit 10hoursorless.com, support a great one-man business and get crafting!

Marissa :)

Vintage Crafting Vibes at Vintage Gypsy

March 23, 2014

So you are dreaming up your next crafting project, and you think, “I have the perfect idea!  I just need a vintage string of pearls, some sari ribbon yarn, and 5 alphabet refrigerator magnets!”  Want to visit a unique and funky shop that has all that and lots more?  Head over to Atchison, Kansas and check out Vintage Gypsy.

Christina Jackson opened Vintage Gypsy in November of 2012 after years of dreaming about her own little arty shop.  Described as “A Fabulous mix of Art, Vintage & Whimsy,” Vintage Gypsy carries a little bit of everything.  Supplies for your own quirky and unique mixed media project including great finds like vintage lace, ribbons, buttons, fabrics, ephemera, and even game pieces?  They’ve got that.  Gorgeous handmade pieces by local artists featuring things like found-object jewelry, handmade journals, Mixed Media art and home decor?  They’ve got that.  Their newest addition?  A great selection of Darn Good Yarn!

We are so excited to be included among the found-object funky and the wild whimsy. :)

Christina herself, like so many of us, is a bit of a craft-aholic.  When asked about her favorite craft, she said, “I dabble in just about everything!  Love mixed-media, painting, upcycling whatever I can get my hands on…”  She has stocked her store with tons of great items to up-cycle, re-use, and re-invent.  Need tiny plastic soldiers, an Olive Oyl hand-puppet, or hat pins?

It’s all available at the Vintage Gypsy Etsy shop here.

Despite the shop name, Christina, unfortunately, does not have any mystical Gypsy powers.  Her customers sometimes think otherwise, though.  She told me that one time a customer asked: “If I could please put a “Gypsy spell” on a toddler so that she may keep her shoes on while she’s in the car seat!”  Even though she was unable to solve this most pressing concern, Christina and her eclectic and unique wares will certainly solve all of your mixed media art needs.  Learn more about her shop and all that she offers on the Vintage Gypsy website here.

It’s great to see Darn Good Yarn find so many interesting homes!  Make sure to support Vintage Gypsy and their crafty adventuring by liking them on Facebook.  Click here for their page.

Happy Crafting!

Marissa :)

 

Darn Good Advice for Your Business

March 20, 2014

Here at Darn Good Yarn, we are all about supporting others out there starting and running their own small businesses.  Whether it’s by offering artists awesome pricing through our Wholesale site, (check out more about that here) sharing your work on Facebook or telling folks all about your work on this blog, we want to get behind you and cheer you on.  Toward that end, we are starting a new blog series, “Darn Good Business Advice” with pearls of wisdom from Nicole, Darn Good Founder and Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, along with other successful business types we collaborate with!

Hopefully, we’ll be just what you need.  :)

To start off, I wanted to feature some great tips from Nicole gleaned from a recent interview she did for an upcoming book on internet businesses.

She was asked, “If you had to share exactly 3-5 keys to building a successful online business, what would they be in order of priority?”

1.  Define your customer segment.

Knowing who your customer is and starting a dialogue, even a personal relationship with them is the most important thing you can do.  Knowing your customer helps you know where to best advertise to reach them, what products they will like and what pricing you can offer.  Having a great relationship with your customers is at the root of everything.

2.  Figuring out what channel you are going to use to reach your customer.

Do you have a brick and mortar store?  Then maybe advertisements in local papers or radio is your best bet.  Attending lots of Art & Craft fairs in the area? Maybe taking email addresses and starting a newsletter, or advertising on popular local blogs for the area would work for you.  For almost any business, Social Media marketing is going to be a great way to reach out.  Make sure whichever way you choose is the absolute best way to reach your particular customers.

3.  Perfecting those marketing channels – in my case, making darngoodyarn.com the best website I can.

If you’ve got an ad in the paper, make sure it is eye-catching and informative.  If you connect to your customer through social media, make sure you put up interesting and informative posts your readers will want to share.  Take crisp, clear, well-lit pictures of your work.  Make sure to respond quickly to questions and comments.  Make sure websites are easy to navigate and customers have an easy way to contact you.  As a whole, make sure your marketing channel reflects well on your business and communicates exactly what you need to get across.

4.  Create a strategic marketing plan to target your customer segment.

Figuring out how much money you can spend on marketing can be tricky.  Make sure your dollars are being spent as effectively as possible.  A great way to help visualize what you have and what you need is a “Business Model Canvas”.  Read all about those here.  There are many great online resources to help you fill out your Canvas as well.

5.  Continuing to revise all of those steps as you learn more – it’s all about the customer.

Don’t get stuck in a rut and only rely on your first evaluation!  Keep learning more about your customer.  You may discover a segment you didn’t think you would appeal to loves your work!  As you update your definition of who your customer is, update each of the next steps as well.  You will evolve along with your fans!

 

I hope that information helps!  Feel free to comment with tips and strategies that have worked for you in your business.  And it doesn’t end here!  Stay tuned for more blog posts all about succeeding in your business.

Happy Crafting (and business building!),

Marissa

 

 

2nd FedEx Small Business Grant Competition Nearing a Close!

March 13, 2014

Remember the FedEx Small Business Grant that Nicole went to Nashville earlier this year to promote?  (If not, check out my blog here!)  She was there because through the support of all of you Darn Good Yarners, we won the Grand Prize last year!  Now this year’s contest is almost over, and the top hundred finalists have been chosen.

Want to check out the top 100?  Click here.

In a fun article about one of the top 100 finalists – the entrepreneurs at Spin Chill (learn more about them here) – FedEx writer Daniela Mencos wrote some lovely things about Darn Good Yarn.  She writes:

“Nicole Snow, founder of Darn Good Yarn, a company dedicated to producing recycled-silk yarn products, won the grant contest in 2013.

Snow said the money enabled her to expand. Before the grant, she was able to provide 250 colors of yarn, and now she has 1,700.

“It’s conscientious capitalism at its finest,” Snow said.

Darn Good Yarn, which is based in Maine, helps women in Nepal and India become financially independent by employing them as yarn spinners. The company created jobs for more than 300 families, she said.

Snow said she had people reach out to her during the contest process who said her company inspired them to start their own business. She said she attributes this to the exposure companies receive through their Facebook pages during the contest voting process.

“People want to see you succeed,” Snow said. “People root for small businesses.” ”

Read the entire article here.

And guess who else is a top 100 finalist?  Our friends over at Fiber Arts Now!  If you have been following us on Facebook, you may remember a contest give-away we did with them a while ago.  It’s a great magazine with lots of fiber inspiration.

Check out all of the awesome inspiration and read about their goals if they win the FedEx grant here.

Thanks to FedEx for saying such nice things!  And thanks, as always, to all of the Darn Good Yarners who support us!  We couldn’t be where we are without you!

Happy Crafting!

Marissa

 

 

 

A Story in Every Skein – Portrait of a Yarn Store

March 6, 2014

Here at Darn Good Yarn we get the opportunity to sell yarn to many great individuals, but we also get the opportunity to wholesale our wares to some truly great and unique yarn stores across the country.  (Interested in setting up a wholesale account?  Click here.)

One such great yarn store?  Purl’s Yarn Emporium in Asheville, North Carolina.

Elizabeth and Rik and their young son moved to Asheville in 2008 without a definite plan in mind.  Elizabeth’s mom owned a yarn store when she was growing up, so she grew up among crafty folks.  She was always an avid sewer, but hadn’t had the time to learn to knit yet.  Being in a new city without a job to immediately go to gave her the time she needed, and she and her son started learning together.

Meanwhile, Rik was a middle school teacher, but wasn’t finding that to be a great fit.  He got bit by the knitting bug as well, and they both found themselves well on their way to that healthy level of knitting obsession that so many of us experience.

They both visited Purl’s and spoke often with the previous owner.  When she wanted to sell in 2010, they decided to go ahead and buy it.

“We can even walk in to work!” Rik enthused.

Elizabeth & Rik with their sock monkey alter-egos

When they took over Purl’s, Liz and Rik both wanted to stock really special yarns.

“We want to have yarn with a story,” Rik explained.  Telling a customer the story of the people behind the yarns, where it came from, who’s hands produced it – it makes it so much more special.  The story and energy gets imbued into the project the yarn is used for, and  makes it much more exciting to work with as well.

“We are very critical about where our yarn comes from.” They told me.  “The term ‘fair-trade’ is not yet well-defined for the textile industry.  We would rather carry ‘family-trade’ or ‘direct-trade’ – we want a personal relationship or a ‘chain of trust’ that connects us with the yarn.”

As a member of the board of 10,000 Villages, Elizabeth learned to think globally – asking important questions about where products come from and who produces them.  She and Rik are both big proponents of “conscious consumerism”.

As they already held all of these beliefs, carrying Darn Good Yarn products was a natural choice.

“The previous owner had carried some recycled silk – and we really liked the transparency of how Darn Good Yarn obtains its materials.”

Darn Good Yarn is in some excellent company among the yarns at Purl’s.

They feature several companies that support micro-enterprises worldwide, just like Darn Good Yarn does.  The other yarns they feature are all American-made, and they are looking to expand their local yarn selection as well.  They eagerly described their continuing talks with local farms about obtaining fleeces for a wool/alpaca/mohair blend they want to produce at their own mill.  They do their own dyeing in-house as well.   Among the locals, however, they are most famous for their fabulous store-window displays.

“The sock-monkeys became iconic.” Liz tells me.  Liz was part of a fun group that sent sock-monkeys across the country to each other, each person adding a fun detail – a little sweater, a knitted hat – to the sock-monkey before they send it along.  She put some of the monkeys in a window display as “Dr. Knit and Professor Purl” and they took off immediately.  Since then, they have had all kinds of sock-monkey fun.

Their most current display?  Dowton – sorry, “Yarnton” Abbey sock-monkeys!

I love these guys!

Overall, they say their “nerdy” windows are the most popular.  Personally, the Doctor Who display they did was my favorite!

When I asked the silly question in my interview, “Knitters and crocheters – enthusiastic hobbyists or insane yarn hoarders?”  They gave it due consideration.  Liz theorized that there are whole ranges of insanity, and that folks’ hidden yarn passions (or insanities) tend to emerge through conversations while yarn-shopping.  If anything, she said that she wanted to get people more engaged.

Purl’s certainly has many ways to do just that.  Along with several different “Sit & Knit” type meetings throughout the week to which all are invited, they also have “Purl Scouts”.  As a “Purl Scout” you pay a basic joining fee, and then you get access to all of their beginner classes for free, and all of the advanced classes at half price!  The most fun of all, you get to collect badges for every new technique you learn!  I love this idea!  I would oh-so-proudly display a sash full of knitting or crocheting badges if I had one.  I may have to start one soon myself.

Elizabeth and Rik are proud that Purl’s is a very welcoming and inclusive store.  They have rainbow flags alongside Doctor Who stickers, they sat with around 150 knitters at a local baseball game, and they encourage everyone of every age and skill set to build up their crafting arsenal little by little.

If you are ever in the Asheville area, come stop by Purl’s.  Marvel at the sock-monkeys.  Stock up on some Darn Good Yarn and other yarns with great causes around the world.  Want to check up on the fun without leaving home?  See pictures of all the great sock-monkey window displays?  Check out their Facebook page here, and make sure to “Like” them for all the great stuff they do!

Many thanks to Elizabeth and Rik for taking the time to sit and talk with me.  I may have to come in and join the Thursday night Sit & Knit!

Happy Crafting,

Marissa :)