April 11, 2014
Lucy Chapman, owner of Rosy Toes Designs, has always been a knitter. It is possible that when I called her up to chat about her expanding business, as she is a long-time friend of Darn Good Yarn, that I interrupted a knitting project. I don’t think she minded, though. I was happy to hear all about her love of working with felted wool, her experiments with new fibers, and the way she carefully sources all of her materials.
Lucy has a wide variety of gorgeous and functional fiber art on her website, rosytoesdesigns.com, and a large amount of those pieces are made of felted wool. In case you don’t know, “felted” wool, sometimes called “boiled” wool, is when you knit or crochet a piece much larger that you want the end result to be, and basically shrink it on purpose using boiling or hot water, in a pot or in the washing machine. Have you ever accidentally shrunk your favorite wool sweater? You actually felted it. This process only works with a fiber that is at least 80-85% wool. Felting wool (llama and alpaca wool works too!) creates a dense and very strong fabric, and you can’t even see the knitted or crocheted stitches used to make the piece! When Lucy first started, the only fiber she worked with was wool. She had an Etsy shop called “Seasons of Wool” filled with felted items. When she started “Rosy Toes Designs” she started really branching out into different fibers, but she still loves the felting process. “I like how the fiber changes when you felt it, the tactile nature of the piece, that no matter how much you plan it’s different every time,” she tells me. Lately she’s been working on combining Silk Cloud with the wool in felted pieces. Silk doesn’t shrink the way wool does, but it gives an interesting look and texture to the finished product you can’t get with wool alone.
Lucy is very particular about the materials she uses in her work. She brings both her compassionate and artistic sides to the process. She first found Darn Good Yarn just doing a simple internet search for recycled sari silk yarn, she really liked the product and the service, and it only grew from there. We even started carrying some of her gorgeous work – and we still have a few of her knitted lace infinity shawls made of Cloud Silk on the site! You can get one here.
“I like the message, I like what Nicole does,” she reflects. “Purchasing yarn through Darn Good Yarn makes me feel good!” Darn Good Yarn isn’t the only company that has a feel-good message along with great products that Lucy frequents. She gets her Alpaca wool locally through a farm near her home. She get a lot of her wool from a company called O-Wool, which concentrates on providing cruelty-free organic wool, along with spinning and making the yarn into skeins right here in the US. The fabric she uses to line her bags and purses comes from many different sources. She raids Goodwill for fun fabrics, uses upholstery remnants, vintage fabrics, and is always on the lookout for small-run, limited edition fabrics and patterns. She really shows how a “reduce, re-use, recycle” mentality can work to make beautiful and quality fiber art!
Lucy’s most recent new craft is needle-felting – the use of special needles with tiny barbs to create designs with wool roving onto wool fabric. “I really liked how it was almost like painting with the fiber,” she remarked. “I’m a self-taught artist from beginning to end, and I always like learning new things!” Needle felting is especially useful because if you don’t like a design, you can just pull your work out and start over! Lucy told me that she “…tried both sewing and embroidery worked onto the wool, but I couldn’t achieve the detail that I wanted.” Needle-felting has added a whole new artistic dimension to her work.
Right now, we can all reap the benefit of Lucy’s constant creativity – her current “In Stock” items on her website are on sale so she can make room for new work! Make sure to visit her page here and get 35% off her delightful merchandise.
Thanks so much to Lucy for chatting with me, and best of luck on all your new work!
April 9, 2014
I know sometimes it can be tricky to find great uses for some of the more funky and unique Darn Good Yarn products. But don’t let yourself be intimidated! It’s a great chance to unleash your inner Fiber Artist! Let’s take a look at some of the fabulous pieces that our fiber artist friends have made with Darn Good Yarn.
Friend of Darn Good Yarn and fabulous fiber artist Tracy Radcliffe achieved gorgeous effects on this shawl using our Reclaimed Sari Ribbon mixed with other fibers. Tracy’s fiber art career has expanded from her own label, Punk Rock Knits, to becoming a designer of exclusive shawls offered by the clothing company Free People! She often uses Darn Good Yarn ribbon and other yarns in her work. Mixing ribbons and other yarns together is a great way to show off a funky and unique yarn without it overwhelming the whole piece.
That doesn’t mean you always have to mix and match! Fiber artists Kelly from the Vegan Yarn Store, George from 10 Hours or Less, and Lucy from Rosy Toes Designs all create fun and functional fiber art using only Darn Good Yarn!
You can find Kelly’s pattern to make your own back scrubber here.
Want the pattern for this amazing cowl using Silk Cloud yarn? You can buy it here.
While there are endless ways to be unique and creative with your inner fiber artist knitting and crocheting, make sure not to limit yourself! Darn Good Yarn is so versatile that it works in many great crafts!
For example, have you ever tried your hand at Rug Hooking? Jane, proprietress of the River House Rug Hooking studio and fiber artist extraordinaire, uses Reclaimed Sari Ribbon in her rug hooking projects!
You can also include that fiber artist mojo into jewelry! Genea, who makes amazing lampwork glass beads, creates breath-taking mixed media jewelry using Reclaimed Sari Ribbon along with many other components.
Finally, you can be a fiber artist and your own interior decorator! Darn Good Yarn works for many fun projects in the home. Check out Darn Good Yarner and mixed-media fiber artist Pan and her great wall hanging.
In this wall hanging she used Darn Good Yarn’s Reclaimed Sari Ribbon, newspaper yarn, and burlap, along with wire and sea-glass beads. What a great expression of her inner fiber artist!
You can also be a fiber artist using our great sari ribbon yarns and a glue gun! Darn Good Yarner Lauren K. wrapped vessels with “Blender” Live Wire sari ribbon yarn (you could also use Soft Spun Reclaimed Sari Ribbon yarn) and created some really stand-out pieces.
I hope these ideas have you bursting with creativity and ready to unleash your own inner fiber artist! Check out our collection of items especially designed for the fiber artist in you here. Thanks to everyone who shares their fantastic and inspiring work with us!
April 7, 2014
I know all obsessed…I mean…dedicated, all dedicated crafters are always looking for fun new crafts to fall in love with doing. We here at Darn Good Yarn want to support all of your crafty experiments, and that’s why we carry fun products like silk roving and llama roving!
In case you don’t know, “roving” is what any fiber is called after it has been cleaned and combed, before it is made into yarn. There are many fun crafts you can do with silk roving. For instance, you can knit or crochet with silk roving directly, no spinning into yarn required! This is made especially easy with our “pencil” silk roving (about the width of a pencil!) because it is just the right size.
Your knit or crocheted piece will be especially soft and fluffy! You can even make your own ‘pencil’ silk roving from fiber batts or wider silk roving. Check out instructions for making your own silk roving to knit or crochet with here.
Knitting or crocheting directly with roving isn’t enough of a departure for you from your regular crafts? Don’t worry, there’s so much more! For example, you could try your hand at Nuno felting. Nuno felting combines wool and silk to achieve gorgeous effects. You can use our llama roving – find it here – and our lovely reclaimed silk saris here to create scarves or shawls of any size! Check out some great step-by-step instructions for Nuno felting here.
But we can’t ignore the classics! The most common use for gorgeous silk roving? Spinning your own yarn!
You could add sari silk roving in with other fibers to give a pop of softness and color to the yarn you are spinning. You could spin your silk roving into whatever weight of yarn you choose. Need some hints on spinning silk roving? Check out this free e-book here.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.