Interview with Lindsey and Susan Rice of Bartlettyarns

Way back in January, I had the chance to meet Lindsey Rice from Bartlettyarns at Vogue Knitting Live.  The Bartlettyarns booth was stocked with some great wool that was produced in the U.S.A., and I soon learned that they are the oldest operating woolen spun mill in the country.

I also got to talking to Lindsey about crochet and he mentioned that “[C]rocheters are rediscovering us and that this art form seems to be making a great return.”  I knew then that I had to interview Lindsey and his wife, Susan, about this awesome bit of American yarn history.  You can find Bartlettyarns on their website, Facebook page, and Ravelry yarnie page.

Lindsey Rice of Bartlettyarns at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.
Lindsey Rice of Bartlettyarns at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you get started in the yarn industry?

Bartlettyarns (BY): Lindsey was enrolled as a 4-H member in New Hampshire and he had a sheep project. Eventually, we met as teenagers in 4-H (long story). Lindsey began a sheep shearing business throughout New England and we got married. Sometimes we got paid for shearing and other times we were given the wool. With several hundred pounds of wool, we ventured to Bartlettyarns to have it processed. We picked out eight colors and started our business attending sheep and wool festivals and farmers markets.

During one trip to Maine, the pulley system that runs the Mule was broken. The owner of the business was explaining the situation to us and Lindsey (a Marine) stated he knew how to splice it back together. Within fifteen or twenty minutes, it was back in operation.

Fast forward many years, many trips to Maine, and a good friendship later, we got a panic call that the Mule was broken again.  The owner was in California on vacation and it was broken for two weeks so they were unable to produce yarn. We arrived to the rescue the next day and fixed it once again.

We always had joked with the owner that someday he would retire and what would he do with the business. We received a phone call two weeks after this and we were offered the business. How could we say no??

The Bartlettyarns Mule in action.

UC: Tell us more about the history of Bartlettyarns and the Barlett Mule.

BY: Bartlettyarns was established by Ozias Bartlett in 1821. His great grandson, Harry, took over the business at age 16 and it remained in the Bartlett family until 1947, when it was sold to owners outside the family. It was originally a water-powered mill, as it sits along the Higgins stream in Harmony. It was converted to electricity in the ‘40s. Today, it runs much like it did then.

The Bartlettyarns booth at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.
The Bartlettyarns booth at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your displays of the mill.  Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?

BY: An excellent piece on the mill was done by WCSH in Portland. They have a show called 207 and they produced an eight minute segment about us.  It originally was supposed to be just two or three minutes long, but turned into a whole show for them.

Our Mule spun yarns are not skein dyed, but rather we stock dye the fiber and then it is blended to make our colors. As for the hand dyed yarns, those are skein dyed and Susan does those. She has an eye for color and she is like a witch with her brew. She tends to dye with colors of the season, prefers to dye on crisp, sunny days for clear, bright colors and on overcast days tend to bring more muted colors.

 

From the Bartlettyarns booth at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.
From the Bartlettyarns booth at Vogue Knitting Live NYC.

UC: To what extent is Bartlettyarns a local product?

BY: We are vey proud that we work with local producers to source our wool, and that the scouring and dyeing is also done here in the US. We are definitely a “made in the USA” company and one that has been continuously run for over 190 years.

Handknit sheet hats for sale on the Bartlettyarns website.
Handknit sheet hat for sale on the Bartlettyarns website.

UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events.  Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.

BY: Well we do Maryland, New York, TNNA, and a few local fairs. Our children are involved in their spare time and try to come to the larger shows to help us. One child is definitely the salesperson, so he handles the booth, and the other enjoys talking with wool producers about their custom processing options.  We enjoy the educational process with people and how our mill is different, being spun on the woolen vs, worsted system. People enjoy the history and the videos we show at the booth – the noise of the machinery captures their attention.

Probably the most amusing, is when the wife is dragging the uninterested husband around looking at yarns and has the totally bored look on his face. Oops, he hears machinery clinking and clanking, where is that sound coming from???  He sees machinery and mechanical parts moving, he is hooked. The wife gets time to look around, she purchases yarn and is ready to move on and then she has to wait until he is done watching and asking questions and all of a sudden the role is reversed.

Bartlettyarns now offers gift cards through their website.
Bartlettyarns now offers gift cards through their website.

UC: Where can people buy your yarns?

BY: We have three different segments of our business.  We have wholesale accounts, which are primarily yarn shops who carry our yarn.  Next, we have custom processing which allows fiber producers to turn their raw fibers into roving or yarn. We have options that allow them to get their very own fiber back.  Lastly is our retail component where you can come to the mill and purchase directly and get a free mill tour, order from our web site or visit us at one of the shows we attend.  Our website lists the shows and dates.

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Lindsey and Susan!

Interview with Karia from Kouture Crochet

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Karia (also known as KoutureCrochet on Ravelry).  As a Brooklyn native, I’m always excited to meet crocheters in my home borough online – somehow, it often seems easier than meeting them in real life!  Karia is organizing an interesting Kickstarter project and also co-owns an Etsy shop.  You can also find Kouture Crochet online on Facebook.


Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Kouture Crochet (KC): I started crocheting as a teen. My sister was in high school taking an art class where she was learning to crochet. As any self respecting younger sister, I wanted to do what my big sister was doing.  So with the help of my mother, my sister taught me how to crochet. I crocheted all through high school, college and beyond. I learned to knit years later after graduating college. These two art forms quickly become a big part of who I am and how i relax, how I watch tv and why I love audio books.

A unisex black alpaca scarf by Kouture Crochet. (Click photo to link to Etsy shop.)

UC: What inspired you to start selling your creations on Etsy?
KC: I started selling on Etsy because I was going broke making scarves and gifts for friends and family! Selling on Etsy was a way to continue to craft without losing money. I quickly realized I wanted to make this into a career. I’ve been selling on Etsy since March 2011, and I hope to be selling my crafts for a long time to come.

Knit skinny tie made with handdyed yarn by Kouture Crochet.

UC: Tell us about your Handspun Single Sheep Breeds Yarn Kickstarter project and your inspiration for developing it.

KC: For my shop on Etsy and for my personal projects, I used only natural fibers. One thing I found is that the selection of high quality 100% natural yarns is limited and often extremely expensive. I was able to find easy accessible camel and alpaca yarns through some luck and research. Wool yarns was more difficult. It felt like I had one option: merino. I love working with merino but I wanted to try something different.

When I started trying to find wool from other sheep breeds I was completely overwhelmed. There are hundreds of breeds and countless varieties. Purchasing finished yarns from more than one or two breeds was just not in my budget. In the end, I taught myself to spin yarn on a drop spindle in order to be able to try different breeds and varieties. I was lucky enough to be able to make my own yarns and learn to spin on a drop spindle, but most people don’t have the time or patience to learn to make their own yarns. There is a such a need for single breed yarns and it seemed to me like the market was not filling that need.

The best way to know “what is what” is to feel the yarn and work with it. However, there are hundreds of breeds and thousands of varieties. One skein of single breed yarn can be anywhere from $15 – $70. I had been a backer of many Kickstarter projects, and Kickstarter was a perfect format for this kind of idea. The project took months to research and price even though the goal was simple: affordable, an easy to understand way to try different single breed yarns. I have narrowed down the list to just 26 breeds. They vary wildly in softness, crimp, coarseness, strength and even the natural colors the fibers come in. I don’t cut corners in quality, but by offering samples of one ounce mini skeins its possible to offer many breeds for an affordable price.

Few, if any, local yarn shops will have more than 5 breeds of yarn to try, let alone 26! As a lover of natural fibers, it is great to be able to feel and sample a yarn in your hand. My hope is there are just a few people like me who wanted to try these fibers and yarns. Crafters who love natural yarns will be able to do so at a very reasonable price. I also hope that people who think wool is that “itchy, expensive stuff” will also give it a try.  (UC comment: This is really a great project!  If you’d like to contribute, check out Kouture Crochet’s Kickstarter page here.)

Handdyed merino yarn by Kouture Crochet.

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community that you would like to share?

KC: I’m new to Ravelry, but I love having such a large and active community of crafters.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Karia!

Year of Projects, Year 2: Spinning, Take 1

This post contains affiliate links.

I had a bit of a cliffhanger in my last Year of Projects update (you might have missed it since it was hidden between pictures of yarn): would I be able to take the Basic Dropspindling class at the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival? It turns out that there was room for me.  But, um…  well, you can be the judge.

Is that what you call handspun?

Clearly, I have a long way to go before I can actually spin some yarn that anyone (myself included) would ever use.  While I did resist the urge to buy a stunningly beautiful hand made drop spindle from Hearthwise, I couldn’t stop myself from getting some super cool roving.  You know, for that day when I’m an accomplished spinner and stuff.

Yum.

So from here on out, I’ll be relying on these spinning teachers: Abby Franquemont (via Respect the Spindle) and Maggie Casey (via Start Spinning).

If these don’t help, there’s always Drucilla Pettibone‘s Craftsy class.  I think spinning is something I’ll need to set aside a fair amount of time for (since a 90 minute class was definitely not enough!).  That probably means that my next self-guided spinning lesson will take place over Thanksgiving weekend or the break from work between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This seems as good a time as any to share an update on my general YOP progress so far.

1) Crochet 52 granny squares for charity. I’m furthest along here.  I have 25 blocks finished (I made 26 but one was frogged).

2) Knit my first complete pair of socks.  It appears I’m not a sock person.  My socks have stalled since the end of the Ravellenic Games.

3) Make my mom a special bedspread for her milestone birthday.  I might need a little help here.  I already started working on these squares … and then I realized there’s a Tree of Life crochet pattern.  I started thinking maybe I should switch to a Tree of Life project?  What do you think?  (If it helps you decide, the yarn is a little more cream and less yellow than it appears in the picture.)

4) Learn to spin.  See above for update.

5) Design my own Bruges lace pattern. Done!  I released Visit to the Kantcentrum this week.  If you’ve never done Bruges lace crochet before, there is a photo tutorial inside.  As a thank you to all my YOP friends for your support, you can download it for free on Ravelry with coupon code BrugesYOP (or by following this link) through October 31.

Visit to the Kantcentrum, a Bruges lace crochet pattern with a photo tutorial for newbies.

6) Learn overlay crochet. No progress yet.

7) Create my own hairpin lace pattern.  No progress yet.

8 ) Try double knitting. No progress yet.

9) Try domino (modular) knitting. I’ve looked over the book, and even had a false start.  Perhaps I should make a charity domino square?

10) Make a small project inspired by Pop Knitting: Bold Motifs Using Color & Stitch.  No progress yet.

11) Learn knit entrelac. No progress yet.

12) Design a crochet lace shawl pattern or recipe for my DC 37 crochet class students.  As I’ve mentioned before, this is actually finished.  The design has even been tested and edited.  You’ll just have to wait until it is ready for release…

For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.

Year of Projects, Year 2: The List

This post contains affiliate links.

I’m so excited to be embarking on a second Year of Projects along with the folks in the Come Blog-A-Long group on Ravelry.  Last year, I aimed to work my way through Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today’s Top Crocheters – you can read more about why here – and in some form or fashion, I blogged my way through 13 out of 18 chapters.  I learned a lot and met some great people, but at times, I felt restricted by using one book.  For this year I decided to try something different.  My 2nd Year of Projects list includes a mix of projects and techniques.

The Projects

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I like to donate charity projects each year made from stash yarns.  My first project goal is to crochet 52 granny squares for charity. (I crocheted 40 this year, so I’m hoping this is manageable.)  To keep things interesting, I plan to use 52 different patterns – there will be no two squares alike!

Granny square books from my collection for inspiration.

I also plan to participate in the (newly renamed) Ravellenic Games for the first time this year.  I will attempt to complete my very first pair of knit socks.

Sock knitting books from my collection.

I’ve already started my Holiday Stashdown Challenge, and I have quite a few small holiday projects that I’m planning to make in 2012.  But I’d also like to make my mom a very special bedspread in time for her birthday in February.  So far, I have a few ideas, but I haven’t settled on anything.  This will need to be a really great one, since she is celebrating a milestone birthday next year.

The Techniques

This year, I’d like to learn a few new skills, and improve others that I picked up in the past year.

Learn to spin.
Continue to develop my Bruges lace skills and create my own Bruges lace pattern.
Learn overlay crochet, a technique frequently demonstrated by Melody MacDuffee.
Create my own hairpin lace pattern.
Try double-knitting.
Try out domino (modular) knitting.

 

Make something cool inspired by Pop Knitting.
Add knit entrelac to my entrelac repertoire (along with single crochet entrelac and Tunisian crochet entrelac).

I’d also like to create a crochet lace shawl pattern or recipe to use in my spring crochet classes at DC37.  I’m familiar with broomstick lace, hairpin lace, pineapples, and Tunisian lace, but I can always learn more about crochet lace!

The final list

I learned last year that I need about a month to work on each technique, so my final YOP list for 2012-2013 has only 12 items on it.  I seem to work best with books as my inspiration, so I’ve included links to the books I’m likely to use for each goal.

  1. Crochet 52 granny squares for charity. Likely inspiration: 50 Fabulous Crochet Squares, 99 Granny Squares to Crochet, 101 Granny Squares, 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans, 201 Crochet Motifs, Blocks, Projects and Ideas, Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs, Contest Favorites Afghan Squares, Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook, The Granny Square Book, and When Granny Meets Filet.
  2. Knit my first complete pair of socks.  Likely inspiration: The Knitter’s Book of Socks, Socks a La Carte, The Sock Knitter’s Handbook, and Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks.
  3. Make my mom a special bedspread for her milestone birthday.  (Suggestions for stunning crocheted blanket patterns are welcome!  I might even consider knit patterns, but since I’m a slow knitter, that might be too daring.)
  4. Learn to spin.  Likely inspiration: Respect the Spindle and Start Spinning.
  5. Design my own Bruges lace pattern.
  6. Learn overlay crochet. Likely teachers: The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet and Crochet Master Class.
  7. Create my own hairpin lace pattern.
  8. Try double knitting. Likely teacher: Extreme Double Knitting.
  9. Try domino (modular) knitting. Likely teacher: Domino Knitting.
  10. Make a small project inspired by Pop Knitting: Bold Motifs Using Color & Stitch.
  11. Learn knit entrelac. Likely teachers: The Complete Photo Guide to Knitting and Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting.
  12. Design a crochet lace shawl pattern or recipe for my DC 37 crochet class students.
What’s on your list?

 

Vacation yarn haul and LYS review: Philadelphia, PA


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Last week, I took my dream vacation and spent a few days at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, PA.  The main purpose of the vacation was to relax, enjoy the silence, (wait, what is this?  some kind of retro pop music playlist??), spend some time outdoors, and live an unscheduled life, and what’s more relaxing than a trip to the yarn shop?

I’ve been on a pretty severe yarn diet since December, so I planned to splurge during my trip.  On Tuesday, I decided to spend the day in Philadelphia visiting yarn shops.  I gave myself a budget of $25 per shop.  Since I wanted to spend time outside, I actually walked from shop to shop and back to the train station (about 5 miles, according to Google Maps, plus the mile to and from the train station in Wallingford).  It was one of those days when it alternates between pouring rain and sweltering heat, so I thank all of the shops I visited for allowing my presumably stinky self inside!

How did I develop my list?  First, I stopped by the Crochet Liberation Front Headquarters group on Ravelry and looked at their list of Crochet-Friendly LYSs.  Though I now knit also, I want to spend my money where crocheters are respected and appreciated!  Then I got directions from Google Maps and wrote them down on a piece of paper.  (Then, I got lost and ended up using the Hop Stop app on my phone, which actually seemed to provide more concise routes.)

Stop 1: Rosie’s Yarn Cellar

 

Rosie’s Yarn Cellar is a small, quiet shop that’s down a short flight of steps.  The staff are very friendly and helpful, but in a quiet way.  There is a store dog (a pug, if memory serves), who makes some very cute little sounds while trying to kill his toy duck.

The store has a great selection for a shop of its size and a broad range of prices.  I saw yarns for $5 as well as yarns for $30.  The prices seemed the least expensive of all the shops I visited, and were certainly lower than NYC prices.

It took me a while to figure out how this store got its crochet-friendly reputation, but it does have an entire shelf of crochet books, and crochet hooks behind the counter.  I was super amazed that knitting needles are out on display for you to browse and right next to the door.  (You can tell you’re not in New York City!)

My favorite feature of this shop is the little signs by each yarn that tell you the details you would find on the label (e.g., fiber content, suggested gauge and needle size, brand name) as well as the price.  This made for much easier browsing.  For people who like to buy patterns in the shop, there had tons of binders listed by project type.

It was great to see yarns that I haven’t found locally like Araucania, Bijou Basin Ranch, Mountain Meadow Wool Mill, and O-Wool.  In the end, I decided on a skein of Ella Rae Lace Merino that was on sale.

The colorway is 126.

I still haven’t decided if I think it is more black or more blue.  I hope it will one day work itself into a project for me – perhaps a pair of socks?  (Sock people, tell me now if this is a good choice or if I should move on to another project idea!)  I’m still dreaming about that Mountain Meadow Wool Mill yarn, but I didn’t want to go over budget by getting two skeins.

I was somewhat bewildered by this sign in the window.

Where do they fit the classes???

Stop 2: Sophie’s Yarns

I decided that my next stop should be furthest from the station and that I would work my way back.  I guess I should have done more research, because after a very long walk, I discovered this shop was closed.  I was surprised because usually Yelp seems to be updated when a shop shuts down, but it was still listed.

Stop 3: Nangellini Gallery

After briefly mumbling to myself, I continued on my journey and went to Nangellini Gallery.

This shop  is in an artsy looking area and has a very funky vibe to it.  When you enter, the first room is more of a gallery space with freeform, funky, artsy wearable projects on display.  I’m embarrassed to say that I had a great picture of this room, but I accidentally saved over it.  (D’oh!)  You can find hooks and needles on a display rack on this floor as well as some notions like shawl pins and stitch markers.

On the upstairs level, you can find yarn as well as some spinning supplies like drop spindles and batts.  The yarn selection completely fits the vibe of the store, and there is a lot of novelty and highly textured yarn, as well as chunky, multicolor yarn.  There is a very small collection of crochet books, but it includes some freeform books that really fit into the store’s theme.  There’s also a section of crochet cotton.

I don’t use novelty yarn or very bulky yarns too often, so for a while I was debating whether I should buy anything.  And then I saw this.

Of course!

I ended up with a skein of Nancy’s Hair by No Two Snowflakes.  I confess I picked it because it was superwash merino and had the most yardage of anything in the local section.

They asked me if I wanted it wound, and I said why not! (I then realized that the folks at Rosie’s Yarn Cellar didn’t ask, but I couldn’t imagine where they would fit a winder anyway.)

I think this will probably end up as a gift for my best friend from high school, CG.  She is an artist and wears a lot of bold colors.  Also, she would actually find the story of how I got the yarn entertaining.  (And, she’s already on my Holiday Stashdown Challenge list.)

The staff at this shop are very friendly in a more conversational way.  While I was in the shop, an older customer came in with a wedding dress her mom had made her in acrylic yarn (insert large number of years) in the past.  Everyone oohed and aahed and I could tell you can get as much attention as you want in this shop.  There are also some comfy chairs in the gallery area.

Stop 4: Loop

Almost there!

By the time I arrived at Loop, I was tired and a bit nervous about catching the train back in time for dinner, so I didn’t browse for as long.

Loop reminded me the most of a New York City yarn shop.  It has a large table in the center (presumably for classes and hanging out) and I was familiar with more brands of yarn being sold in the shop, like Berroco, Brooklyn Tweed, Malabrigo, and Spud & Chloe.  It was a bit pricier than the other shops as well.

When I saw the display of Addi Swing hooks near the counter, I immediately understood why this shop was labelled crochet-friendly.  And, I gave myself permission to go $13 over budget since I only visited three (instead of four) shops.

It’s always hard to pick a hook size when you are buying just one new hook.  In the end, I decided to go with an I, which is probably what I use most often.

As for the yarn, since a lot of the brands are available at my LYS, Knitty City, I decided to get two skeins of Sheep 2 from the Sheep Shop Yarn Company (now defunct) which were on sale.

The colorway is Brown.

This should match my winter coat, so I see some winter accessories in my future!

Loop also has a rewards program and $5.95 flat rate shipping for web orders.

Do you have a favorite Philadelphia yarn shop?