Skein Expectations

I met some new vendors at TNNA (the summer trade-show was in Columbus, Ohio for The National Needlework Association – a very big deal). One booth I ran into after seeing their yarn in the “What’s New” area was Abundant Yarns. They had a wonderful little booth at TNNA with some really nice yarn.  And their presence was positive and enthusiastic. I loved their energy and how they interacted wtih people, and with me as a designer. They were all young…and sometimes in this business, when people have been around a long time and they have been taken advantage of or they have become “big”, “really busy”, or what have you, sometimes in that process something suffers for it. They don’t have all of their yarns and things on their web site yet, but they do have a regular shop with other products. Their store brand hand dye is very promising as well as Eco friendly.

I talked with them a couple times over the weekend and am excited because I found a yarn in the perfect colors for a design inspired by the Dingo. The design features traditional Aran and Guernsey stitch patterns, but because of the arrangement of the stitches you get a very aboriginal feel. I love the stitch pattern, and had found only one other yarn in the right colors. I never swatched it in the other yarn as the dyer had told me she was probably going to drop that particular yarn. They were very friendly and interested in the design and took my contact information and I look forward to doing some business with them…and most importantly, swatching with their yarn for this design. When I swatch the design, if it speaks to me, I will most definetely use the yarn. I am pretty certain that it will, but sometimes in the swatching process there are surprises. If it doesn’t work for this one, you can be sure that I will swatch until there is one that sings to me. I want to use their yarn, not only did I love the colors but they were just fun and equally nice.

Lorna’s Laces is equally nice. They are approachable and kind. Year after year that has to be a bit hard to maintain.

I know there are designers out there that get yarn and they are enthusiastic about it and then the vendor never hears about it or sees anything. I don’t like that as a designer as it looks bad for us designers. For the yarn vendor, particularly the small dyer, they obviously cannot afford to just hand out yarn to every designer. That is no small investment on their part. For my part when I do take yarn, I will lovingly swatch with it and let the yarn talk to me. I make a big effort to facilitate the design process where that spark happens and something that I love can be born. I won’t do a design that I would not love to wear just to push something out the door. I don’t feel that is my best effort and doesn’t do the yarn justice either. I have a relationship with that yarn, and it has to work, it has to communicate something to me or it won’t work on paper.

At TNNA I ran the gamut of old friends asking me when I am going to use their yarn, to new/fairly new contacts being a bit brisk (net result I felt somehow dirty for inquiring about their yarn as a designer, for surely I was out to take advantage and never produce). And yet when I talk to a yarn company, I never assume anything or communicate that I assume anything. My first question is can I order from you if I am having trouble getting a color in a particular yarn that I want, or how do you work with independent designers? (This is after telling them what publications I have been in and who I have worked with). I will admit, the ones who have made me feel somehow dirty in the process are few and far between. But I hate the process of talking to new companies, simply because I don’t know whether I am going to be viewed as a leech or a partner.

Yarn companies and distributors I love in alphabetical order: Abundant Yarns, Arnhild’s Knitting Studio, Black Water Abbey Yarns (not at TNNA but I did not want to leave them out), Brown Sheep, Green Mountain Spinnery, Hand Jive Knits, Interlacements, Lorna’s Laces, Louet North America, Plymouth Yarn, Rowan distributors Westminster Fibers, Shi Bui Knits, Skacel, Trendsetter, Universal Yarns.

Out of these companies I have not used all of their yarn. But they are very nice people. There are others too of course who are, and I may have forgotten a few. But these are the ones who have stuck out in my mind because their contact people (or when the company is small, the owner) treats me with kindness and leaves my dignity intact…this is not related to whether they can provide yarn support. Not every company can afford to do that, nor should they be expected to. That is a personal decision based on their best business decision and what practices they feel are best for their business.

What is important to me as a designer is how someone interacts with me. Kindness is an important commodity. Likewise, in my dealings with publishers and yarn companies, I do not have the attitude that they are all going to rip me off, or talk sternly to them about the fairness of their contracts before one is even seen. If I did that I would develop a reputation as being difficult to work with…and would probably be passed over for work. I prefer to have someone talk sternly to me when I have done something to merit it! Perhaps it is my own insecurities that lead me to read more into admonitions that are there from those few, but in a business setting when someone is asking how do you like to work, you should just clearly state how you like to work and what your expectations are and leave it at that.

For example, if you really don’t care whether designers produce something with that ball or not, as you feel eventually they will use your yarn then say we are happy to give you the ball of yarn. Please don’t feel any pressure, enjoy the yarn and if something comes out of it let us know. If not please keep us in mind for future projects. If you are happy to provide yarn for swatching, within reason, define what that is. If you provide yarn for sample garments but not swatching, simply say so. This is what we do: state it with the facts. I as a designer want to know how you like to work, and it isn’t that I am asking for a handout…it is very costly for me to produce a design and if I am using your yarn and I am a successful designer you benefit from that, so anything to make the design less costly is appreciated. Wholesale cost for yarn for sample garments is great. Some companies will provide yarn for the sample garments as long as the specifics for the yarn are listed in the pattern (fair enough, I wouldn’t use it if it were not right for the design anyway). I think it is when people come to the table with assumptions and do not communicate that problems arise, because each party works differently and therefore has different needs and priorites…so their expcetations can differ as well as their assumptions.

Some have more credentials that you need to produce than others if you want yarn support, but they are not unkind about it.  That is just business, and it pertains to their business and in a world where anyone can hang out a shingle and claim to be a designer, you really cannot blame them.

I suppose that may be where some of the problem lies. Creative people are not always ahem good business people. But this is a business, and in the thrill of doing something creative you have to be pragmatic as well. As thrilling as it is to get free yarn (they love me, they really, really love me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) you had better make sure it is something you are likely to do something with, as the first thing, and then after that, make every effort to do so.  That yarn is their bread and butter and as such deserves your respect, and utmost care and regard. If you take that ball or skein you have made a committment to them and if you do not look at it that way you should not take the yarn. That is why I usually prefer to buy yarn I will swatch with, so that if it doesn’t work out I don’t feel as though I have to force a design out of it. I know there are yarn companies that just want to get their yarn into your hands and they will tell you that. There os still that hope and desire that their investment will be met iwth a design. That is why they want to get it in your hands, otherwise they would not give it to you.

All in all it was a very good show. The market was a little smaller, and there were not as many people from the coasts, but it was a good show. Contact wise it was a good show for me as well. I connected with companies I am working with now, as well as made some new connections. I also promised Arnhild I will be getting something done in her yarn. I have said that for a few years now, and things have always come up. The combination has to be right…the right yarn, the right elements for the design, the right design to add to my line at the time. This year I just plum ran out of time. I am working on a fair isle mitten though, so be on the look out for that. It will be in Rauma Finnulgarn, a yarn Arnhild distributes. She, by the way, I have known for years and just love. I have known her as long as Marilyn King and Beth Brown Reinsel. They knew me before I was a designer, or right at the very beginning anyway.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace

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