Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Yarncentrick

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled, taking place on October 14, 2022 and online. Tickets are now available!

We all know that yarn festivals are made even better with our friends, delicious food and… more yarn! Earlier this year, Mary of 29 Bridges Studio, a vendor at this year’s Indie Untangled, and Valerie the Knitting Fairy Godmother, began organizing Yarncentrick, a new indie pop-up/pre-game event for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. It featured more than 20 indie dyers, bag makers and creatives. Here’s a little behind the scenes look at the event.

What inspired you to organize Yarncentrick?

Maryland is a destination for the first weekend in May. We wanted to create an event that celebrates our diverse community of indie fiber dyers, artisans, and small creative businesses. Yarncentrick is a small and indie-focused with about 30 creative vendors.

How did you come up with the name?

Yarncentrick was in the making for quite a while. We talked and dreamed every time we got together. We both have the same memory of how we decided on the name. We were on a road trip coming home from a yarn festival and tossing out ideas for this new event we wanted to create, as we frequently did. Mary said, “I want it to be yarn-centric.” And Valerie, said, “Did you just name our event?!” From there, we did name and domain research and Yarncentrick evolved. Ending with -ck is meaningful – the “C” represents crochet, the “K” represents knitting.

Mary, you’ve done a lot of shows as an indie dyer. What did you learn from being on the organizer’s side?

Seeing an indie fiber event from both sides has been really interesting. I appreciate how important these events are for small businesses. In addition to being a financial necessity, it gives the opportunity to grow your business through advertising, networking and collaboration. I think being an organizer will help me be a better vendor. It’s a lot of work — year round, not just on the day of the event!

Do you have anything new planned for the next event?

We’re moving! Spring weather in Maryland is notoriously unpredictable. We’re moving to a more comfortable facility (with indoor plumbing!). It’s still very accessible with plenty of parking but our customers and vendors will be protected from the elements. Also, new this year, we’ll be accepting donated knit or crochet items that will help keep people warm this winter.

Mustard project bag, skeins of gold and coral yarn, pink speckled yarn.

When and how did each of you learn to knit?

Valerie: Many knitters I talk to have a similar experience. I have knit and crocheted on and off for my whole life. As an adult, I came back to knitting during a time of loss and sorrow. I needed something to keep my hands busy and pass the time.

Mary: Learning to knit and sew was inevitable for me. My grandmother was an amazing seamstress and quilter, learning to upcycle and mend during World War II. My mother added knitting to their repertoire of shared skills. When I was 5, I figured out that if you were sick, you stayed home from school. I wanted some mom time, so I pretended that I was sick so that I could stay home her. That day she taught me to knit with some mustard gold 1970s yarn. Mustard is still my favorite color.

Do either of you do any crafts in addition to knitting?

Valerie: I have tried and dabbled in almost every single craft hobby. For me, nothing else stuck like knitting and crochet.

Mary: I love to try new things! Sewing, visible mending, weaving, and spinning are among my favorites. But like Valerie, knitting is my go-to. I love to make sweaters and knitting is portable.

What are each of your most memorable FOs?

Valerie: My most memorable FO is the Brambles Beret by Amanda Muscha. We were traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast on a non-stop flight. I started casting on as we took off. Joking, my partner “bet” me that I couldn’t finish the hat by the time we landed in the West. It was a non-stop flight and I triumphantly bound off before we touched down.

Mary: It would have to be my honeymoon sweater. My husband and I got married in my favorite city — Florence, Italy. I don’t know what the process is like now, but when we got married we had to check in the consulate first, and then there was a waiting period — I think it was five days — so we drove all over Tuscany. One day we ended up in Siena. After we had a picnic in the Piazza del Campo, we found a little yarn store where they kept all the yarn behind glass — no squishing. I bought a sweater quantity, made a sweater, and have a wonderful memory.

What’s currently on your needles?

Valerie: I’m working on a franken-sweater mashup. The finished sweater will have a solid bodice and bright striped sleeves.

Mary: I’m making the Trelawny Top by Tamy Gore. I’m a sucker for leaves!

Untangling: Creativebug

The Creativebug team. Left to right: Chelsea Sena, Devlin Mannle, Fernando Santacruz, Jeanne Lewis, Kelly Wilkinson, Matt Novak, Erik Wilson, Ken Bousquet, Ursula Morgan, Stephanie Blake, Courtney Cerruti, Brian Emerick, Julie Roehm, Su Li, Liana Allday.

The Creativebug team. Left to right: Chelsea Sena, Devlin Mannle, Fernando Santacruz, Jeanne Lewis, Kelly Wilkinson, Matt Novak, Erik Wilson, Ken Bousquet, Ursula Morgan, Stephanie Blake, Courtney Cerruti, Brian Emerick, Julie Roehm, Su Li, Liana Allday.

This is the third in a series of blog posts with the generous sponsors of the 2016 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

These days, there is certainly no shortage of resources for receiving knitting instruction online, whether you do a Google search for a certain technique or need to re-learn the basics. But, sometimes you just want to really sink your teeth into a new technique or project, but don’t have the time, or the budget, to take a class with a well-known teacher.

There are a few sites that offer a way to take classes online, but I particularly like Creativebug. Run by CEO Ursula Morgan, Creativebug offers knitting classes from the likes of Marly Bird, Gundrun Johnston, Norah Gaughan and Jill Draper, as well as video instruction on sewing, quilting, jewelry making and paper crafts. The model is particularly unique, as it gives you the opportunity to pay a small monthly fee for access to as many classes as you’d like — which is especially nice if you want to explore crafts that go beyond knitting and crochet.

As I am a Creativebug affiliate (clicking the link above will allow me to receive credit if you decide to become a member), they were one of the first companies I considered as a new sponsor of this year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show. I recently chatted with Ursula about the business:

Tell me about how Creativebug got started.

In short, Creativebug was started with an idea and two cousins. Jeanne Lewis was chatting with an artist friend in New Orleans about an online art class that she had spent $160 to take and it was only available for three weeks. This triggered some thoughts for Jeanne. She thought about how she wouldn’t have three weeks straight to work on a class, so what if she could access a class that was affordable and available to fit within her schedule (even at 3 a.m.) as well as be available for as long as she needed. There were a lot of twists and turns with the initial idea. She eventually brought in her cousin Julie Roehm to help develop the business model, and after many, many long nights and days, www.creativebug.com was born.

How do you feel Creativebug sets itself apart from similar websites?

Creativebug is different for many reasons: we are subscription based versus a pay by class platform. For $4.95 a month you have unlimited access to over 700 classes, and each month you get to add a class of your choice to your Library to keep forever. Our videos are crafted in a documentary style, which we believe creates a more personable way of teaching/learning. We have also created an environment where we are able to offer classes on a plethora of crafts taught by instructors that support each other, and who like promoting and supporting each other’s craft. We are really proud of how unique our site is.

How do you choose your instructors?

We select our instructors very carefully. We think that it’s important to have instructors that are able to articulate the different ways one might approach the craft. While not exclusive, we usually have instructors who have established a name for themselves as an expert in their craft or have had a book published, which is also helpful in determining their teaching style.

Left: Jeanne and the dev team discuss changes to the site. Right: During the meeting, Urusula and Julie check in through a window that opens into Jeanne and Ursula’s office.

Left: Jeanne and the dev team discuss changes to the site. Right: During the meeting, Urusula and Julie check in through a window that opens into Jeanne and Ursula’s office.

What’s the average day like at the Creativebug HQ?

As you can imagine, there isn’t really an “average” day here in Creativebug HQ! Some days you’ll find us shooting in the studio, meeting with our great partners or having a crafternoon. We have Live Shoots every Tuesday and Thursday and we have our Numbers meeting every Monday with our entire team where we all contribute ideas on how to keep our business sustainable. One thing that we have every day is excitement, all while shop dogs Pup Charlie and Ollie run around playing with each other!

What are some of the biggest challenges for a site such as yours?

One of the biggest challenges for our site is consumer recognition. When people come across Creativebug, we want them to know who we are and feel confident subscribing to us. We are a new frontier, being “Netflix” for crafters and DIYers. There’s not really another service out there on a subscription basis that lets you swim in all lanes. So it’s important to us to explain to customers that they have access to hundreds of classes, getting that value proposition across. The other challenges are turning this digital business into a sustainable business, keeping people loyal and growing our subscription numbers.

creativebug-knitting

Have there been employees who have learned a new craft from a Creativebug class?

Tons!! I think that every single one of us has learned a new craft from Creativebug! I have learned how to make a beaded leather tassel necklace with Elke Bergeron that I am obsessed with,
Julie is painting now thanks to Yao Cheng’s watercolor class, Zenaida has picked up drawing, starting with Lisa Congdon’s Basic Line Drawing class, Li learned how to bake a pie with a delicious crust, Devlin learned how to knit twisted rib socks with Edie Eckman.

Is there a particularly unusual craft project that someone at Creativebug has done?

There are a few, but perhaps the most peculiar would be Faith’s Facebook “Bubble Print” live shoot. Who would have imagined that food coloring and dish soap could create such beautiful images to create cards and gift tags!