Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Knitting and Alzheimers

I think the main reason I'm enjoying working on Robin Hunter Designs so much is the ability to pursue my creative expression. I have so many ideas that I will never be able to produce them all. I dream designs, ideas pop into my head when I'm on the treadmill or walking outside doing errands. I keep pads of paper everywhere so I can make notes for myself as the ideas bubble up. I know that this focus is very good for me.

I discovered that research is proving me right and that the benefits of creative work even improves the lives of Alzheimer patients. These benefits include; positive emotional responses, reduced agitation, greater social interaction, improved cognitive processes, functional improvements, greater physical strength and balance, improved mood and attention span, reduced stress (caregivers and receivers alike) and improved quality of life. You can read more about the research here on the Alzheimer's blog.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Productivity Goals

I've been struggling with the balance between creativity and productivity this past month. I have way more ideas than I can possible produce. It makes me feel vaguely frustrated at times and I think less productive overall. I did what I always do when I identify a problem area. I started reading up on the topic to search for strategies for improvement.  I found this great video which explains why searching for strategies is not quite the right thing to do. I need to work on execution skills instead. The video is focused on business but go ahead and watch it if you have any personal goals you would like to work on. It's a plan that would assist you  in any area of your life that you would like to see improvement in. You can find it here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

An Interview with...Barb Barone of River City Yarns

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 

You can find Barb here.

Tell me how you got into the business of running a yarn store?  
The yarn store started as a result of people wanting to learn how to knit - I was selling handmade teddy bears and felted bags in a small artist's market.  Many of the people who came there wanted to learn how to knit and didn't have anyone to teach them - so I started up classes and bringing in supplies. Once people started learning how to knit the word spread and so did my business.....I started looking for a larger space where I could hold classes evening and weekends, and the business evolved out of that small group of customers.  Today we are the largest yarn retailer in our city and perhaps our province.

How long have you been in business?
All my life!  but nine years as River City Yarns.  I started the company in 2002 and my sister Cynthia (Hyslop) joined me as a partner in 2006.  We opened our second retail location in Edmonton in July of 2009.  My background is sales, marketing and training - I spent 27 years working in these areas for a large telecommunications company - as well as a number of other home based businesses I was involved in over the years.   When I left the corporate world I knew I wanted to start up a retail business of some kind.   It took a couple of years to figure out just what kind of store it would be.... 

Do you run the store by yourself or do you have employees, if you do how many people work at your shop?
Cynthia and I have a store manager, Susan,  at our new location and a team of about 14 part time retail staff and instructors that work at our two store locations.  

How did you choose the yarns that you carry in your shop?  
It is one of the most difficult decisions.  There is so much to choose from.  Budget certainly plays a big role, and so does the marketing behind each yarn, the pattern support, and the type and weight of each yarn – we try and have a great selection without a lot of overlap.   

What have done to create a sense of community in your store?  
We do a lot of activities - from our annual knitting retreat in the rockies, to monthly events in our stores – and our newsletter works very well to communicate and engage our customers.

What is the biggest lesson running a yarn shop has taught you?  
It is a retail business, not a need to continually be watching the bottom line.  It is easy to over spend in this business.

What is your favorite part of what you do running the shop?  
Merchandising - I love to tidy up a shelf, move yarns around, create a new display.......

We've seen many cycles in the yarn industry of the market increasing and then falling again. What are your  thoughts on where things might be headed now? 
I think the business is strong - and it will get even better - People love to knit and crochet - they enjoy creating things and love to touch yarn....they also crave the social aspects a yarn store brings to the community... but retailers need to engage effectively with their customers - and that can be very challenging.  

Did you do a formal business plan?  

Do you have a mentor? 
My dad was my mentor......while he is no longer with us - I think of him all the time when I make decisions and choices for River City Yarns.  He gave me lots of "hands on" business experience and children we worked with him in his many businesses.  My sister and I are using that experience and knowledge in our business model for River City Yarns.....

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you opened? 
No, I had lots of previous sales, marketing and retail experience. 

What impact has the Internet had on your business?  Huge impact - I think the biggest impact the internet has had is that it has educated all of us - both as customers, and retailers - we are able to find information immediately - and that has made us all more knowledgeable

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Having a business partner really helps – someone who has the same vested interest in the business.  When I am away from the business I can totally relax  because I know that everything is being taken care of.   

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?   
A long time - I didn’t take a paycheck for the first three years – I put everything back into inventory for the business. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in running a yarn store?  
Work in a store first, and get a good feel for retail sales before you take the plunge.  

Barb also told me that she and Cynthia "strongly believe in self development and; education for ourselves, our staff and our customers and know that it is a key component to the success of our stores.   We offer our staff the opportunity to sit in on our store workshops so they can expand their knowledge and be more informed to be able to help customers. And each year we bring in a talented teacher or author to be our instructor on our annual train trip and knitting retreat to Jasper – it’s called Wool Wine and Wheels!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Now This is Cool!

A game made especially for us Knitters! 

It's being developed and sold by Remi Haygood and Sandy Harris.

The inventors said "When we came up with Last Knitter Standing, we knew we had something special because we could not stop laughing. Each time we thought up a question or challenge, we just had the best time."

You can read more about it here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

More News on Cotton Shortages

I found an interesting article on the cotton shortages here in the Financial Express.

It relates more to industrial markets but I suspect we hand knitters are still impacted as a secondary market. It was originally published June 18th 2011,so the information is current.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Knitting Businesses - Marilyn Thomas

I'm always interested when I stumble across knitting businesses as there are so few of them. I found this one recently here . As usual the prices are fairly high but for this kind of special work it's not really surprising is it? The colour work is fabulous isn't it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Interviewer gets Interviewed!

I was one of the first designers to be recruited for Patternfish. I wanted to self publish but I really didn't know anything about setting up my own website so the Patternfish model seemed to be ideal for me. They have just started a monthly newsletter and I am the designer of the month. You can read my interview here at

Friday, June 10, 2011

An Interview with...Jodie Lucas

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.  

You can find Jodie here

Where do you find inspiration?
I never know what will lead to an innovative idea. Sometimes it’s an unusual stitch that I want to apply (Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Pattern series is a phenomenal resource!!). Sometimes it’s a pattern in nature or architecture.  Sometimes I’ll see something in a movie that I want to re-tell. Sometimes it’s taking something I’ve learned in another designer’s pattern and applying it in a new way.

I will say this, though.  I can’t go looking for inspiration.  It finds me.  When it does, I drop what I’m doing and go it.  Sometimes it’s wonderful, sometimes it’s garbage.  For me, inspiration does not wait for a convenient moment. I can’t sit down and say “today I’m going to design something”.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
My favorite technique is whatever has currently captured my curiosity.  I love to learn and am mostly self-taught.  I’ll try pretty much everything and work at it until I’ve mastered it.  I can look back through my work and see the felting stage, the fair isle stage, the lace stage…and so forth. And, the things that interest me ultimately find their way into my designing tool box.

How did you determine your size range?
When making a garment I refer to the size guidelines provided by  For socks I like to provide a pattern that will work for pretty much any size foot there is. Basically, I want to create a pattern that will work for anyone I would want to knit for---and that ranges from children to men whose feet are scary big.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Yes, I look at other designers’ work.  Not because I’m attempting to duplicate their work but because I admire their creations and want to make them for myself. When I see an elegant technique I appreciate it so much more now that I know how difficult it is to not only to develop a truly innovative technique but to then communicate it effectively.  I have sent more than one congratulatory note for a job well done.

Beyond admiring the work of others, I love learning from other designers.  I think I would stagnate if I didn’t take vacations from my designs and knit something where I can just turn off my brain and follow a pattern!

That being said I’m obsessive about crediting sources of inspiration and extremely careful only to publish work which is truly original.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I’m unaware of the controversy.  However, I doubt anyone would find my work dumbed down.  I love a challenge and many of my designs reflect that.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Recently, I’m pretty much it.  I usually make my designs at least twice before I publish a pattern, though.  The first pass is to design it.  The second pass is to double check everything.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I wouldn’t have a business without the Internet.  My patterns are only available from my website, through Ravelry and at

Do you use a Tech Editor?
When my work is self-published, no.  However when my patterns have been published at I have worked with Kate Atherley.  She is a fabulous editor and has significantly improved every design we’ve worked on together.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I am disabled by POTS—a circulatory disorder which requires me to rest most of every day. Knitting, and later designing, allowed me to cope with the huge blocks of time that were force upon me when I got sick.  At the end of the day I was able to point to my work and say “My day wasn’t a waste—look what I accomplished”.  The more complicated things I was able to create/design the more I felt like the old me.

As for my life—I left my career 17 years ago to raise and then later home school my 2 sons.  They are older now—and teaching them requires me to be available intermittently throughout the day.  Working on designs while they work on their lessons is fairly easy to balance.  When I’m working on a particularly tricky design they get more independent study but in the long run things balance nicely.

How do you deal with criticism?
Privately.  There is no question that it’s frustrating to see your work criticized—particularly when you’ve provided the designs for free.  But, I don’t do this for the praise or for money—I do it because I love it.  I do it because I can’t NOT do it.  I listen to constructive criticism, try to learn from it and just do my best to provide accurate designs.

But, there are always going to be people who don’t like my work—who are never going to be happy—who will make critical remarks without realizing I will read them.  It’s a fact.  If I ever come to the point where I can longer live with that fact I will stop putting my work out there.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Bwaaaahahahahahahahha.  I have yet to have honorarium or download fees pay for all the yarn used in creating a design.  Support myself?  I’ll be thrilled if one day I break even on expenses.   Again—I’m doing this because I love it.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Buy lottery tickets instead?

However, I would advise someone who designed as a hobby to enjoy themselves and make what they like.  That love of the craft shines through.  If it ultimately translates to a nice income—good for you!  But, don’t expect to live off of it. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Knitted Jewellery of Carla Reiter

Absolutely amazing! 

You can see more at her website here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cool Yarn Bombing

The knitting for this bombing took about four weeks of almost continuous work.  It's 80 feet long, and was knitted in 10 sections.  The Knitter's plan was to bomb the 10 loops of the Berkeley Public Library bike rack. There was a group of 5 people to help with the sewing up of the knitting.  Two documentary makers also turned out to watch the installation.

This yarn bomber chooses to be anonymous, however you can read all about the project on the blog  here

In response to the question: Why are you doing this? Streetcolor says "I really like the idea of people running into art on the street while they are just in their regular life, of art being ordinary but provocative and beautiful.It does surprise the folks who notice the poles and they usually seem very pleased by them. To make art and be able to immediately interact with another person about it is unusual and satisfying. I’ve made so much art and sold it and never known how anyone felt about it. And finally, it is so much fun to do this much knitting."

Friday, June 3, 2011

An Interview with...Laurie Goldiuk Of The Black Lamb

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting Knitting Professionals about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that everyone makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 

You can find Laurie here and here on Ravelry

Tell me how you got into the business of running a yarn store?                                                                                
I’ve been knitting for 35 years and up until I learned to spin and dye 11 years ago, I was content with what ever commercial yarns I could find.  I discovered that I could create wonderful yarns from just about anything and make them what ever colours I wanted at a fraction of the cost and they were my own.  There were very few “fibre resources” at the time and so I decided to dedicate a section of my then antique shop to fibre supplies for myself and fellow spinners.  Within a year I was 100% spinning, weaving and knitting supplies. 

How long have you been in business?
I opened the shop in 2001.

Do you run the store by yourself or do you have employees, if you do how many people work at your shop?                 
I run the shop by myself but have a wonderful group of friends that knit, dye and spin and I carry their creations on consignment.
How did you choose the yarns that you carry in your shop?
I started with the standard commercial yarns but soon discovered that “custom spun and hand dyed” yarns were the way to go.  I found a commercial yarn mill that was willing to spin yarns for hand knitting to my specifications and I began hand dyeing them in different colours and combinations that I could repeat.   Today I have several different custom yarn blends, merino, merino/nylon, merino/sea-cell, merino/silk, bamboo, soy silk, sea-cell/silk, merino/cashmere, cashmere/silk, merino/angora rabbit, and silk/linen in a variety of gauges from 2/20 for weaving and lace to a light worsted weight.  As well I carry hand spun yarns and custom spun yarns from several smaller cottage mills.  

What have you done to create a sense of community in your store?
I have an afternoon knit group free to anyone that wants to learn or needs a refresher.  I will coach beginners through a project from start to finish.  I offer “free on the spot” tutorials and advice in felting, knitting, weaving, and drop spindling as well as private paid workshops.

What is the biggest lesson running a yarn shop has taught you?
The biggest lesson is CUSTOMER SERVICE and sharing information.

What is your favorite part of what you do running the shop?
I love the teaching, the enthusiasm of beginner fibre artists and the joy they express when they have accomplished a craft.  

We've seen many cycles in the yarn industry of the market increasing and then falling again. What are your thoughts on where things might be headed now?
I am amazed at how quickly the fibre arts have grown over the last 10 years, how many new fibres have been created for knitting and spinning and the demographics of participants.  I think the trend will continue upwards for at least the next 10 years.  More and more people are concerned with environmental issues and well construction, affordable hand knit clothing seems to be a big part of that.  Knitting is the “new hobby” and as we know yarn is addictive.  
Did you do a formal business plan?
I have never done a formal business plan.  

Do you have a mentor?
I can’t say that I have a mentor, but there are several fibre artists that I greatly admire, the ones that come to mind immediately and have had a big influence on me are Jane McColl and Ted Carson and then there are all the knitting designers, hand dyers and art yarn spinners that I am totally in awe of.   

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really but after 35 years of being in retail businesses I think my business motto is best described as “Be good to your customers and they will be good to you”

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you opened?
No but I did take business courses in high school and at community college many years ago.    

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet has been a great way to showcase some of my business; I just wish I was more computer literate to develop it to the next level.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It is sometimes hard to have a social life because owning your own business can be very much like a spoiled child wanting all your attention.  My husband Steven, my biggest supporter, has been involved in the business from the beginning so we spend a lot of time together and all of our friends are either into antiques or fibre so they are always around, even our new grandson Max stocks and un-stocks the shelves.   

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I was very fortunate and exceeded all my expectations within three years of opening the yarn store.     
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in running a yarn store?                                         
The best advice I could give someone starting a yarn store would be - sell a top quality product; research your product and buy from the source if you can - buy bulk – the price is usually better; charge less, you’ll sell more; not all information needs to have a price tag.             

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Adrienne Sloane Art Knitter

I'm often inspired by the many artists who choose knitting as their medium. In this case I had a really hard time deciding on the images to post as they are all so beautiful. You can find Adrienne's site here. She has regular teaching events posted on her site and a link to her blog.

Adrienne says on her website; "Knitting shapes have long been defined by the human form. By moving the context of knitting from clothing geometry to sculpture, knitting becomes a medium with a link to a rich and complex fiber tradition that has the power of history behind it. To be able to turn a single strand of yarn into fiber building blocks with form and function, texture and color is also energizingly low tech. Working in what has long been considered a traditional woman's medium, I aim to an artistic aesthetic informed by traditional craft, art and politics. My work aspires to dissolve the boundaries between craft and art, mindful of the historical context of the medium. I knit to rejoin the frayed and unraveled places around me."