Indie dyer love

Playful

I was already a fan of the A Playful Day podcast and blog when Kate launched the Love Our Indies campaign last month. The first post from Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns — responding to a collaboration between a UK women’s group and an arts and crafts superstore chain that produced a special line of mostly acrylic yarns in the land of BFL, Hebridean and dozens of other sheep breeds — was so thoughtful and well-written. I knew I had to reach out to Kate so that we could collaborate in some way and boost the Indie Dyer Love.

Last week, my post on the importance of independent artisans sharing their stories ran on the A Playful Day blog. I asked Kate to write about her work promoting indie dyers and why she felt it was so important to launch the series. I think it’s a valuable read for all of us who are fans of these special products:

When I started blogging some years ago, I was mostly concerned with finding a way to write about what I enjoyed in life and the things that kept me feeling fresh and playful. Like many, I was burnt out in my work life and I needed the creative outlet to help me counteract my energy-sapping day job. As time went on I realised the potential for a creating a community around my blog as I discovered other writers, found stories behind yarn businesses I loved and interacted with people on Ravelry to talk about my knitting. These stories and the community they sprang from became the focus of my podcast, A Playful Day, and pretty soon I was interacting with creators of yarns, fibres, designs and notions from all over the world and sharing them with my audiences.

It was while at a fibre event I heard a sentence that changed my life forever. “Urgh, how much for one skein of yarn? What is it, gold?” I was horrified. The dyer in question politely explained that she hand dyed each yarn, mixing the colours herself and twisting up each and every skein. She talked about the exact makeup of the base, the quality of the fibre she looked for and even how she had worked with a graphic designer to get the labels just how she wanted. She was telling her story and I stood entranced by the description of a product made with so much love. If anything, I felt sure she could rightly ask for more — did she not deserve to be paid well for her efforts? An independent, or Indie as they’re lovingly called, is not associated with a commercial brand that employs multiple staff and pays for sick days. In my experience, most are growing their businesses in their kitchen or back garden and to say it’s a labour of love is an understatement.

Two months later, I too joined the ranks of self-employed Creatives pursuing their passion. My new quest? Telling independent producers’ stories and working with them to develop a community around their products. It seemed like the perfect evolution from the podcast and I have been very careful to separate features for the blog and potential work set-ups. My editorial calendar is a work of art because I’d hate for people to think I only share stories of people who pay me on the blog — there are far too many good Indies for that!

A few months ago, I came across a piece about a standard for pricing patterns and it lit a fire under me. This came on the same week a Ravelry post went up on a main board asking for a price cap on patterns as the poster felt prices were becoming too high and she felt this unreasonable. This spoke to me on so many levels and fed right into my choices around changing my career and working in the way I do. I started the Love Our Indies series that very day and the response has been overwhelming.

The idea was to give voice to some of the many challenges that Indies face and offer insight into what it takes to make a business successful. Posts have ranged from the value of handmade to how to shop local and why it is so important in an open market to have both local and global shopping. I’ve asked dyers, designers, LYS owners and various people working in the fibre industry to provide posts and offer different perspectives that have opened up debates on Twitter and Ravelry in equal measure. I had a feeling this would be a popular series after I blurred professional boundaries once before when I talked openly about branding on the blog. What I learned that day from the enormous response on Twitter is that there are many Indies who feel torn between maintaining their integrity as a creative and an artist, but also the need to succeed as a business. Success isn’t always a monetary reward: it’s about being fulfilled as a person, too.

When I write about loving our Indies, I mean it. They are creating something unique and personal to them. They blur lines between art and business. They inspire. They unite similarly-minded crafters. Without so many creative people, working together and telling us their stories, this would be a very dry industry indeed. The rich variety that both independent and commercial production leads to is one that I really enjoy as both a crafter and as a professional. It keeps my interest and makes me delve into where my beloved skeins came from. I read blogs, listen to and watch podcasts, chat on Ravelry and knit, knit, knit. All the while, I’m coming across inspiration and thinking, “Now that’s a clever idea, I wonder how many other people noticed that?” You can bet I’m emailing them within the next week and inviting them to share it on the show or blog!

It’s why I was so pleased to be asked to guest post for Indie Untangled — this website encourages a closer look at independent producers from both sides. I love the idea of sharing it together because good things happen when we open up and share ideas. Blogging and podcasting has taught me that and it’s a lesson I take with me every day to work.

Love Our Indies — they make the fibre world a better place.

Kate was kind enough to do an interview with me, which will run on her blog today, and she’s also doing a giveaway of one of the yarn ball Snapdragon notions pouches. I hope you are inspired to continue following her wonderful series. And, if you haven’t listened to her bi-weekly podcast before, I highly recommend that you do.

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