June 30, 2008
Today we have Beth Casey, owner of Lorna’s Laces, in the limelight. We have carried Lorna’s Laces since the very beginning and I remember this being the first line that we began getting in GREAT quantities – pounds and pounds of their yarn coming through the door at once! (Do you remember the blog post where I told you about the delivery guy leaving a 125 lb. box of it on my front porch and then helpfully yelling at me from his truck to “watch out – that one’s really heavy”? I had to call him back from his truck to use the dolly and at least put it inside the door, FPS.) I know you love their beautiful colors and will enjoy learning more about the woman behind the company.
Loopy: Hi Beth! Thanks for joining us in the Limelight today. How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?
Beth: I learned to knit in the late eighties. I had just moved to Kansas City from St. Louis. I didn’t know a soul there and I had a sales rep job where I worked from home. Because of that work environment, it was really hard to make friends. There was none of the built-in socializing that goes with a traditional office job. “Wanna go to lunch?” or “Let’s go to happy hour.” I had two colleagues that lived in the area and they were both knitters. I’d never done much in the way of crafts but it seemed like a good idea. So, I signed up for a beginning knitting class at The Yarn Barn of Kansas and never looked back. Not only did I find a life long love of knitting, but I also found a community and friendship.
Loopy: That’s fun that you lived in our hometown! You’re right – not a lot of inner-office socializing when you’re the only one in the office! We’re glad that you found the knitting community. So what is your favorite thing to knit?
Beth: I probably like knitting sweaters the most. I find it so gratifying to hear “I love that sweater” and be able to tell them I knit it myself. I have to admit that lately I’ve been doing more small projects, like socks. I need the gratification of a finished product and I don’t have as much time as I used to.
Loopy: Well socks are good too, you know. We’re kind of partial to them around here. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit so far?
Beth: The most challenging? That’s a toughie. I can tell you what the most challenging project I STARTED was. Right after I moved to Chicago, I bought the yarn for a Kaffe Fasset Tumbling Blocks blanket. There were over 45 colors in it! I got the first few rows knit and then put it aside. It sat in a basket and made fun of me for years. One day I saw an article in Vogue Knitting that gave the address where you could send unused yarn that would ultimately end up overseas to underprivileged women. That article allowed me to let go. I packed up that yarn the next day. It felt so good to have it behind me. You’d have thought I’d lost twenty pounds. That experience taught me a lesson. Knitting for me is about relaxation and enjoyment. I have enough challenges in my life. Knitting shouldn’t be one of them. I like simple patterns and texture. I’ll do a bit of fairisle, but I’m not a fan of intarsia or lacework. And that’s OK. We should all knit what makes us happy.
Loopy: Absolutely! What did you do before you were with Lorna’s Laces? And then how did you end up there?
Beth: I worked in college textbook publishing for eleven years. It was a great job for a long time, but after awhile I got bored. In order to move up meant I would either have to travel about 25 weeks a year or move to NJ. Neither was an option. My unhappiness got so bad that one morning as I was starting my daily ritual of whining and complaining, my husband stopped me and said “I’ve had enough. One of us is going to call your boss today to tell him you are resigning. Do you want to do it or shall I?” So I put on my big-girl pants and made the call. I spent the next couple of years bouncing around, trying to figure out what to do next. I studied bread baking at the French Culinary Institute in NY. I walked dogs, I watched way too much daytime TV. One evening I was thumbing through a knitting magazine trying to decide on my next project and I noticed a small ad in the back. You know those little half inch want ads? It said something about a hand-dyed yarn company being for sale. And it mentioned that it could be relocated. So, I emailed for more information. That was in August 2002. I flew out to meet Lorna Miser and see the operation in October. We negotiated the terms of the sale over the next several weeks and I was introduced as the new owner of Lorna’s Laces at TNNA in January 2003.
Loopy: Wow – what a story! It’s a good thing you had someone who could encourage you (tell you?) to leave the job that was no longer right for you. In your role at Lorna’s Laces, what is your favorite part of the job, and what are the parts that you like a bit less?
Beth: This is probably going to sound corny, but the thing I like most about what we do here is the idea that we create something beautiful with our hands that in turn is transformed by hand into another beautiful thing. I believe that we knit for people we love (even if it is ourselves) and that the positive energy that comes from all the hands that touch the work along the way it what makes it special. The thing I dislike the most is the everyday grind of running a company. There are bills to pay, email to answer, phone calls to return. I’m much happier playing in the dyepots.
Loopy: I like that idea of the chain of hands working together down the line. How do you come up with the names for your colorways, and do you have a favorite?
Beth: The colorways come from so many different places. Much of it comes from keeping my eyes open and paying attention to the world around me. For example, Glenwood was inspired on an autumn walk. One of my neighbors had a big terra cotta pot of yellow and orange mums on her front porch. So, Glenwood has orange, yellow, green and a brick-ish color. Another example of pulling things from every day events is Irving Park. I was in a store to pick up some new bath towels. Instead of walking in and just picking out the color I needed, I really looked around at the way the different colors played against each other. Some of them spoke to me and the next day I went in and fiddled around until I found something I liked. One last example just to show you that sometimes things just happen. We had a batch of a color that turned out badly. Some yellows and purples got mixed up and looked just awful. They were so bad that I didn’t even want to throw them in the millends box. I had some leftover dye from another color I was working on. I just poured them all together and tossed in the ugly yarn. Lo and behold, Lakeview was born. I had to do a little reverse engineering to figure out how to recreate it, but it was worth it. Lakeview is always one of our top 10 best selling colors.
Loopy: So you really do get ideas from all over! Does anyone else in your family knit?
Beth: I have an older sister who knits pretty regularly. She is very talented with needles. She knits, does needlepoint, sews. She even made her own wedding gown!
Loopy: Yes, I’d say that qualifies her as very talented with needles! Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Beth: Does running count? I get up most mornings a little after 5 am to run. If these old bones hold up, I’ll be running the Chicago marathon this fall. I also really enjoy cooking.
Loopy: ….. wait a minute ….. I’m still trying to get past the 5 am thing….. (yawn). Well good luck on the marathon! If you had the day off, what would be your favorite way to spend it?
Beth: On a perfect day off, I’d take a long walk on the lake with my husband and dog, find time for an afternoon nap and have friends over for cocktails and dinner.
Loopy: That sounds like a nice day – we hope you get one of those soon!