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!
…. because you never know what you’re gonna get. (That’s a nice way of saying that today’s post contains much miscellaneous information.) And because I wanted to show you a picture of the way-too-fun felted chocolates from my friend Claudia. Notice Zoe’s paw in the corner of the photo – she wanted to try them. They are so realistic looking!
We had fun reading your answers to Wednesday’s “we wonder” questions! You know, the “Why doesn’t anyone knit socks for us” was totally a joke. Well, they did actually say that, but they weren’t seriously wondering. That’s kind of like asking, “Why doesn’t anyone give me a million dollars?” The fact that several of you were up for knitting Elf Socks was so sweet! I’ll see if any of them would seriously like to take you up on that. Many of you wondered how we can pack orders all day and not want to take all of this yarn home to knit. Well, half of the Elves aren’t knitters, so it’s less of a temptation for them. Although it IS making them feel like they want to learn. We’re going to set up a Knit Night this summer, to teach them. (And I can say that I have a very difficult time passing up any of the yarn, as my stash will bear witness to. It’s just more knitting time that I need!) I liked what “Northmoon” had to say: “I never have knit emergencies. That’s the beauty of knitting – if it doesn’t work, frog and start over. If I don’t finish a gift in time for a birthday, buy something else and aim for Christmas.” and as Gretchen pointed out, “I avoid cutting close to deadlines by not setting myself any. Sure it may take three years to knit up those socks for Christmas, but Christmas comes EVERY YEAR.” That got me to thinking – the phrases “knitting emergency” and “knitting deadline” go completely against why I knit, which is to relax, enjoy, and have fun. I’m deleting “knitting deadlines” from my phraseology.
We have new Loopy Groupies to welcome in, and as promised in the last Loopy Welcome, I didn’t wait nearly as long this time to post about them, so the list is manageable. (Like about a month, instead of several months this time!) We love our Loopy Groupies and are so happy to have each one of you join in with us here. So hugs and congratulations to the latest batch: Laura from DC, Kara from NE, Kaye from OK, Lisa from PA, Maria from GA, Gerry from TN, Jenny from IN, Kelly from CA, Denise from OH, CG from KY, Chelsea from CA, Jane from MA, Jan from OH, Debbie from WI, Joan from WA, Amy from ID, Sheryl from RI, Shannon from APO, Carolyn from AK, Marsha from NY, Kelly from KY, Linn from Norway, Susan from WI, Gladys from FL, Ceylan from TX, Jane from MD, Athena from CA, Mary Anne from ID, Maria from MN, Diane from PA, Kathleen from VA, Nancy from OH, Malia from VA, Sheila from GA, Mary from MO, Miranda from MO, Marianne from The Netherlands, Whitney from NY, Melissa from CA, Rebecca from MI, Kristi from IL, Sheryl from OR, Sally from NY, Mette from Norway, Vicki from PA, Andrea from Canada, Toni from AZ, Sandy from NE, Heather from NY, Sue from IL, Lee Ann from TX, Diana from MT, Loretta from VA, Wanda from NY, Corey from NC, Wendy from VA, Marita from VA, Cindy from PA, Jean from OR, Jennifer from PA, Gail from TN, Cynthia from NC, Patricia from IA, Crystal from MA, Marianne from PA, Alyssa from NY, Ashley from IN, Bonney from NH, Diana from MO, Erin from CA, Marisol from CA, Clair from Canada, Alice from NC, Andrea from VA, Maria from MN, Ebony from MD, Nancy from MN, Llynn from TX, Misty from CA, Cindy from OR, Nancy from MN, Kimberly from CA, Lisa from PA, Kelley from AZ, Kim from OR, Lisa from IL, Susan from NY, Sharmista from WI, Vicki from MA, Zoe from CA, Thao from CA, Janet from PA, Carol from VA, Sandra from IL, Heather from IL, Rhoda from CA, Deborah from MA, Amber from IN, Rebecca from IL, Shari from FL, Kathy from NY, Pamela from NY, Emily from IL, Donna from GA, Jan from MD, Jacqueline from WA, Sharon from Australia, Michelle from IL, Betty from Canada, Shawneed from CO, Melana from CA, Nancy from IL, Andrea from ND, Martha from ID, Susan from OH, Maarit from Finland, Sarah from IL, Gloria from PA, Sarah from NJ, Marie from CA, Heather from AZ, Juana from FL, Gina from WA, Judith from Canada, and Rebecca from VA. Yay!! (How do you get to be a Loopy Groupie? By ordering from us! When you get your sixth package from us, we include a Loopy Groupie Welcome Bag and promote you to official Loopy Groupie-dom. It’s that easy. It’s our way of letting you know how much we appreciate your continued business.)
There are winners from our blog contest last week, and I don’t know about you, but I got downright hungry reading all of those responses. Since there were over 500 entries, we drew for 2 winners instead of just one. So congratulations to Kristy from Ohio and Kimberly from Canada. Both have been notified by email about their $30 Loopy Ewe Gift Certificate. (Just in case you’re also a Kristy from OH or a Kimberly from Canada and are hoping that it might be you….) We have fun contests coming up for July and August as well, so watch the blog for that!
July Sock Club packages are being assembled and are almost ready to go out. Watch for your invoice in the next few days, and we’ll start shipping them out next week. (Note: The Loopy Ewe Sock Club runs for a whole year at a time and we’re completely sold out for 2008. We’ll have 2009 sign-ups in mid-January.)
We’re heading off on vacation, and you know what that means? Some great knitting time in my near future! We are driving down to Florida to see Web Guy. (I know. Florida in July? Craziness. What we don’t do for our kids. Or rather, for ourselves, when it comes to seeing our kids.) The Elves will be here packing up and shipping out, so you won’t see any disruption to your ordering. They’ll even write on your order notes while I’m gone! And yes, we think we will have a Sneak Up for you next week. We’re still trying to get more photos done, so I can’t even tell you for sure what will be up. I can tell you what is here that we’re working on photo-ing: the new Mountain Colors roving (doesn’t it look pretty?), Neighborhood Fibers Sock, Sugar Bunny Blvd, The Dyeing Arts Roving, Spirit Trail Fiberworks, Sakina Needles Roving, and Farmhouse Fannie’s Fingering. Wonderful stuff! Our next Wollmeise order has started to arrive and we’ll work on getting that photo-ed, too. We’re waiting for the rest to come in, so don’t be watching for that until after the Fourth of July sometime. But at least you know it’s coming soon. (Claudia did a new colorway named in honor of Knitting Daughter called “Barista”. We love it!)
I’ll be off of emails and the blog until I get back in on July 9th. (Although I have two Limelights done that we’ll put up this Monday and next Monday, so check back!) If you need something while I’m gone, feel free to call in, or you can also email Susan (susan AT theloopyewe DOT com). I’ll look forward to re-connecting when we return!
Ever wonder what we talk about as we pack your orders here at Loopy Central? Well, pretty much everything from A to Z, actually. (We have fun!) But today I kept a list of the things we wonder about all of you. (I thought this was a good “wonder” pose from Gracie.) So here are the things we’ve been wondering and discussing lately. Feel free to leave us some answers if you’re so inclined. (Also, feel free to let us know what you wonder about us!)
1. How many people hide stash from husbands or significant others? (Elf Marianne says the trunk is a great place to hide stash. Not that we’re encouraging that.)
2. What is the sneakiest place you’ve ever stashed yarn?
3. How do you find the time to F5 for Wollmeise Sneak Ups? (Many of us would rather be F5-ing than cleaning house, for instance.)
4. Do you knit at stop signs?
5. Who blogged about a Jitterbug project lately that has everyone buying the same colors this week?
6. How close do you cut it when knitting on a deadline? (We get emergency calls. We know.)
7. Speaking of emergencies, has anyone had a true knitting emergency? Other than a deadline or a birthday gift that you needed yesterday?
8. How many projects have you started and not yet completed? (Some of you may take the Fifth on this.)
9. What is your favorite colorway name? (We liked Blended Frog, in a weird sort of way.)
11. Have you ever had your order shipped to someone else’s house (or your work) to keep it a secret?
12. And the most important question the Elves want to know – “How come no one ever knits socks for us?” (I told them they all have to learn to knit their own socks. Some are socks knitters, and others …. are not. But we’re working on that.)
Today, it’s all about more bags. (I did warn you that I have a wee bag problem. As in, I like them too much.) Many of you have enjoyed collecting the different fabrics and sizes of BigBags, BabyBags and NeedleBooks from Lawre’s Laine, and I thought you’d have fun learning a bit more about this indie artisan that you have supported. Her work is top notch and it’s always fun to unpack a case of her bags when new orders come in.
Loopy: Hi Lawre! We like having your wonderful bags here. How long have you been sewing and do you remember the first thing you made?
Loopy: My mother taught me and my 2 sisters to sew when we were 7 or 8 years old. I do not remember what it was I first sewed, I just remember ripping seams, again and again, until they were RIGHT!! I hated it then, but am very thankful now! I sewed funky clothes during the 60′s (that never fit) and clothes for my daughter in the 70′s (which did) I don’t like fitting clothing – I’d much rather sew home furnishings and decorative things. I really liked sewing teddy bears from an old mink coat!
Loopy: All of that attention to detail when you were young really paid off. Your workmanship on your bags is beautiful. What made you get into making bags as a business?
Lawre: First I took an early retirement from the telephone company and needed a little more income and something to keep me busy. I am a hand-spinner, so decided to sell hand-spun sweater kits with hand-made buttons and stitch markers. Way too time consuming and not enough knitters ready to dive into knitting with anything hand-spun, much less a whole sweater! But the yarn is the reason for the business name- “Laine” is French for “wool”. While spinning all the yarn for the kits, I found that I did not have a bag big enough to carry 1 1/2 pounds of “fluff” and the bobbins and all – so I made myself a BigBag. Other people liked them and before I knew it I had a few orders for bags. With the help of my sister Jane and my group of spinning friends, I developed the final design: the pockets, beads, length of handles, firm bottom, you name it.
Loopy: That’s funny, because the first bag I bought from you became my spinning bag (spindles, oil, scissors, etc.) and then of course I needed another one for my knitting projects right away. What is a typical day like for you. Do you sew all day long?
Lawre: I have a part-time job with Strauch Fiber Equipment Company making drum carders, ball winders and swifts, so I only work on Lawre’s Laine Thursday through Sunday. I usually get up around 6, make a BIG pot of coffee, feed the family (I can wait, but the dog will not!!!), take care of the e-mail stuff, and then get down to the real stuff around 7:30 or 8. I will sew until I have all the sewing done on the order I am working on and then do the finishing on all of the items – put in the grommets, cut the leather for the handles, etc. My husband is great – he does most of the house work and cooking. How lucky am I?! I will work till 5 or 6 and then usually braid the leather handles while watching TV at night.
Loopy: Your husband does the housework and cooking? Yes, that sounds pretty darned lucky on your end! Do you have a workshop where you create? What things are “must haves” for your sewing room?
Lawre: Our largest bedroom has been converted into my sewing room and most of the basement has been fitted out with the tools for processing the leather and finishing everything. I would love to have a bigger space because I am always juggling the areas and moving stuff around. Have I mentioned I am a dreamer? The “Must Haves” are:
A: my industrial leather sewing machine – I needed a machine with a “high-rise” pressure foot to sew the many layers of tapestry. It turned out to be a walking-foot leather machine, so I can sew the leather as well.
B: my 4′ x 8′ measuring and cutting surface. I actually could use a larger cutting space so I could lay out a whole hide for cutting, but this one works fine. I would love another 4′ x 8′ table for ironing- plus a professional steam iron, but no space for that!
C: I found this cool leather slicer, so I can cut a 1.5″ length of leather and then just pull it through the slicer to achieve the four pieces needed for braiding. I was cutting each little strip separately – what a pain. Leather stretches and isn’t really flat to start off with, given that cows are round and a bit lumpy! A good rotary cutter is also needed.
D: All the other tools – grommet and rivet setters.
E: Last, but maybe the most important are my Ott Lights. Good color matching is impossible without good light.
And, oh yea, F: the computer – I do almost all my shopping on-line, and I love it!
Loopy: I’ll bet there are some seamstresses out there who think your work area and equipment sounds wonderful. Are you a knitter? If so, how long have you been knitting and what do you like to make the most?
Lawre: Yes, I am a fluff-a-holic!! I love the look, the feel, and the smell of fiber….Wool, silk, alpaca, cotton. even the fluff from my dog, Vanny. My mother started this, too. She taught my Brownie Troop to knit and I spent more time by the frog pond than I really want to think about, but that was my mom – do it over and over until it is RIGHT! I started knitting sweaters and they are my favorite. Cable work is so much more fun for me than color-work, but right now I am working on the best sweater. I got a kit at Maryland Sheep and Wool that has seven colors. It is fabulous and is done with slip-stitches, so all one color is used on any row. I also love socks – great carry-with-you and pick-up any where projects.
Loopy: We’re glad that you knit, and really glad to hear that you like to knit socks, in addition to sweaters. For any other artisans out there, do you have any advice in starting up a business and marketing yourself?
Lawre: Do what you know and love and don’t be afraid to experiment. Use the internet as much as you can. It is a wonderful resource, especially for those of us who live in rural areas. I buy almost all my equipment and supplies from on-line stores and almost all of my fabric comes from online sources as well. I can shop at 3am in my PJ’s, from all over the world. And the shipping costs are less than the time spent driving all-over. As for marketing, I am not sure I can help much there. I was very lucky – a sales rep saw my Bags at Holly Spring Home Spun in Powhatan, Virginia, and contacted me. I also did a few craft shows, and soon discovered that it can be a good advertisement, but it is good to be selective and choose venues that attract the people who will ultimately be your customers. So I guess figuring out who your customers are and where they will be found is a good thing.
Loopy: Good advice, Now, any mistakes that you made along the way that you want to share?
Lawre: Boy, oh boy – that is a loaded question! I have done things that I might now do differently, but this whole thing has been such a learning journey for me. I sometimes am not as aggressive as I should be and have let others steer me in a direction I would not have chosen and regretted it. My husband says that I don’t push my business enough. I think I tell him too much!! There is one thing that is a continuing challenge – the web site. I have a very hard time getting around to updating it. I first tried to blog frequently – yikes. And, I am not gifted in the record keeping area, so come tax time, I have major stuff to do. Every year I vow to be better. One year I just might get there.
Loopy: Well I think most creative people have way more fun doing the creative end of things than the business end of things. You sound very normal! Tell us about your family.
Lawre: My husband Michael, and I live in Blacksburg, Virginia with our fiber producing dog, Vanny (yes I do spin her fur into the most wonderfully soft yarn!). We moved here about 12 years ago and feel we came to heaven. A small college town in a rural setting in the mountains – who could ask for more? Gardening is my 2nd love, but finding the time is a challenge. Right now I am enjoying the strawberries that have just started ripening and it looks as if the apples, raspberries, blueberries, and grapes are also going to have bumper crops. The rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks share the bounty too. I have become the garlic queen – there is nothing better than fresh garlic from your own garden. If you haven’t discovered the joy of home-grown garlic, give it a try. Plant in the fall and harvest in mid-summer, Yum!
Loopy: Home-grown garlic? That sounds like a fun plant for the garden! Anything else you’d like to add?
Lawre: I would love to thank everyone who has supported and encouraged me in the past 3 or 4 years. It is hard to believe that Lawre’s Laine is so young and has grown so. This could not have happened without all of you! AND Life is an adventure – try to enjoy the RIDE!