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The Lack of Diversity in the Yarn Industry

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Yarn Industry Should take notes from Viola Davis’s Speech

By Diane Ivey

This past Sunday, I was spending a relaxing evening knitting and drinking wine while preparing for my week. I haven’t watched television in a long time so I could focus on MY BUSINESS. Because of that, I missed the Emmy Awards but when I looked on social media all I could see were tweets and Facebook posts about the phenomenal actress Viola Davis and her acceptance speech for taking home the Outstanding Lead Actress in a drama series…and for being the first African-American woman to be acknowledged! We love you Viola Davis!

Davis began with a quote from Harriet Tubman. “In my mind, I see a line. And over that line I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line but I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.” Davis then said, “The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity…You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there,” Davis said. (Watch Viola Davis’s full speech HERE.)

I was profoundly moved. Now, many people will agree and others will say that all women have had struggles in any industry and are still trying to fight their way through the glass ceiling. That may be true but put race on top of gender, and there is a whole other story to tell.

Look at the yarn industry. YES, I said it! The yarn industry has hundreds and thousands of yarn companies that make gorgeous yarn. I know this because 1).I am a yarn business owner, and 2) I have amazing yarn from other companies in my yarn stash. The yarn industry also has amazing knitwear designers, really cool magazines, and wonderful social networking websites. We love you Ravelry!

  • Now, I want you to tell me OR just name three minority owned businesses out of the hundreds of thousands of yarn companies (commercial and indie dyers) that have a national audience.
  • Name three minority knitwear designers that have been asked to teach, speak, or show at The National NeedleArts Association Trade Show, any of the Stitches Conferences, your local conferences or knitting Guild meetings. Anyone?
  • Show me five knitting magazines or books from this past year that have a diverse representation of minorities or men on their covers and inside their magazines.
  • Show me the number of articles that have been written in the last five years about minorities in the knitting community?

Do you get it? For most of you who knit and understand the knitting community, you wouldn’t be able to complete this list because there is an EXTREME lack of diversity in the yarn industry.  And here is the usual response I get after bringing up that point: Well minorities do not knit….

As a knitter and African-American woman business owner in the yarn industry, I know many minorities that knit and I know some minority knitwear designers who I have met at shows – and I know there are more.  Yet I have yet to find a yarn company or indie dyer in addition to myself who has attended a local or national show. In fact, between my attendance at the The National NeedleArts Association trade show in 2014 and the recent Stitches Conference, I was the only African-American business owner at these two shows. Why is this? I am sure there are other minority business owners out there. And I am not just talking about African-Americans. Yes, I am black but I know Latinos, Asians, and Africans who knit or crochet. Why are we not represented well in the knitting community?

As whole, I believe the yarn industry needs to do a better job at addressing the lack of diversity in our community especially among knitwear designers, speakers, and images in magazines, and by reaching out to minority-owned yarn stores and dyers. We live in a diverse society and social media has changed the way that we communicate and connect. Since knitting magazines started out way back in the early 20th century, white men and women of grace those pages of magazines during a time where race and racism was extremely prevalent. Yes, it has changed slightly over the years but the racial disparity of the past continues to reflect what we see in the present. There are systematic racial issues that the yarn industry needs to address.

I can go on Ravelry, Instagram or Facebook and see diverse groups of people who have similar interests and I follow them online. I should also be able to see a representation of people from all backgrounds at conferences as speakers, teachers, owners, and designers. They are out there but individuals at the top of the yarn industry need to make the effort to want to make these changes. Attitude does reflect leadership.

And just because you see people in the knitting community who look like you and who have the same interests, it does not mean that there isn’t room for improvement. I feel that the lack of diversity in the industry is also because those who see themselves represented turn a blind eye.

I said on a recent Facebook post that I see Ms. Tubman’s quote that Davis eloquently repeated. I see the line in the yarn industry as there are many white women represented in every aspect of the industry while minorities and men are left out.  I ask myself “what am I trying to do in becoming a national brand?” Yes, it is a huge undertaking and I believe in my product. I believe it is unique and different. I am speaking to urban knitters and crafters. I am here to stay and crossing the race line will be hard and arduous but I am in it for the long haul. WHEN I CROSS THAT LINE, I WILL BRING WITH ME OTHER PEOPLE WHO REPRESENT THE COLORS OF THE RAINBOW!

How can the yarn industry address the lack of diversity in our industry? Please join the discussion on Lady Dye Yarns Ravelry PAGE or Facebook PAGE

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Cover of Vogue magazines in the last year.

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Here are magazine covers from a several knitting magazines in the past year

Lady Dye Yarns: Reaching Higher Ground!

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It’s been a while since I have had the opportunity to send a newsletter to you about Lady Dye Yarns. We just got back from our second national show since Lady Dye Yarns started and we had great success! Now we are embarking on a new chapter in Lady Dye Yarns and we need your help again to raise funds to expand the company.

Back in 2010, I took an amazing yarn dyeing workshop in Cambridge, MA and fell in love with hand-painted yarns! Back then, I was solely dyeing yarn for myself and I still remember the day I sat down with my local knitting group at Doyle’s Cafe in Jamaica Plain, MA, and started knitting with my own hand-dyed yarn. Then someone suggested I should start selling my hand-painted yarns.

It never crossed my mind before to sell hand-dyed yarn as I was working a full-time job in the non-profit sector. I took that advice and I thought it would be great to make a “little money on the side.” I became a member in a local artisan group and I participated in my first craft-show, SOWA, in the South End. I received great admiration of my yarn and from there, I decided to start my own fiber arts company. I left my full-time job in April of 2011 to focus my attention on finding part-time work in the arts community while spending the other time growing my business.

In 2013, I was one of the finalist selected in the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Accelerator program (now known as Entrepreneurship for All). I received a business mentor, I laid out a business model that would work for my company, and I received many resources and opportunities through EforAll. At the time, we were only in two stores and we were selling our yarn on consignment. I knew this was not good enough for Lady Dye Yarns to just be in two stores and I wanted more for my company. I did my first crowdfunding campaign with Indiegogo to attend our first trade show, The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA), and we raised enough money to go! We had huge success at TNNA! We went from being in two stores in 2014 to our present number of 30 stores nationally and we continue to grow thanks to all of you!

We are entering a new chapter in the company where we are ready to move into space, employ a Business Manager, increase raw material, expand our marketing and branding, and build our working capital. We need your help again to make this happen. We are raising $40,200 to expand the company.

We need your help again to make this happen. We are raising $40,200 to expand the company. Please take the time to go to our Indiegogo Campaign page and make a contribution and please pass this information along. Every penny counts.

Photos from Stitches Midwest

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Long time no see!

This week we’ve been out in Schaumburg Illinois (near Chicago), at Stitches Midwest! There’re over a hundred vendors here, and we’ve been having a great time making connections with vendors and buyers alike. Stephen West visited our booth today, which was very exciting! We really like how our booth is set up, and it’s been such a thrill to be in such an energetic environment with all these people who are just as excited about yarn as we are! Here are some photos for those of you watching from home

Before we got to setting up the booth, we drove over to Ikea (both Diane and Anthony’s first time inside of one!) and got some additional items we needed for set up

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After that, it was off to the convention center to set up our booth! It was a lot of work, but it was worth it (despite what Amy and Anthony’s faces might imply). Here’s our booth at about half-way set up

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We had some last-minute labeling to do, but we had a fun time at it!

 

 

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Here’s another shot of our booth- this was on the first day that the floor opened up for sales

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Look at all the people waiting to get in! The MC for the hall was a hoot, and everyone was really excited to get in

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And here we are making sales at our booth

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We’ve been having a great time so far at Stitches Midwest, and hope that the rest of the weekend goes just as well!

A big thank you to everyone who’ve helped us get to where we are today, and we look forward to the adventures that Lady Dye Yarns will go on in the future!

Cyber Monday Sale and Graffiti Fiber Club!

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Happy Holidays Everyone!

This year has gone by so fast! I am sure you are all knitting amazing knitwear swag to give to family and friends this holiday season. We understand how you feel. I am currently working on a wonderful tunic dress which you can find here and I am working on a pair of toe-up socks.

We are working really hard at Lady Dye Yarns and we wanted to share with you two great opportunities from LDY this holiday season. More information is below.

We wanted to take this time to wish you all a wonderful holiday season and we have more news and updates to share with you this month! Until next time, keep knitting and stay warm!

 

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Tech Knits

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We all love knitting cute sweaters and hats for ourselves to wear. But have you ever taken your knitting beyond the garment? For instance, accessories for our gadgets are on-trend right now- and super necessary! Smartphones and computers have become part of our every day lives- so why not knit something cool for them?

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We love this awesome Iphone cozy by blogger KnittyButton. The stripes and bright colors would look great in a Lady Dye colorway, don’t you think? Check out the pattern here: http://knittybutton.com/2010/09/17/another-ipod-cozy/

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If you want to try out a crochet project for your gadget, give this pretty striped Ipad cover by Lisa Pocklington a try. We love the vintage chevron look, so cool! Head over to the designer’s blog to see the pattern: http://lisapocklington.blogspot.fr/2012/09/designer-free-crochet-ipad-cover.html?m=1

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We LOVE this fun, hilarious knit laptop cover by Brittany Coughlin. Although “cover” is the wrong word, this is a laptop SWEATER, literally! It has a turtleneck and everything! This is so great we need one!! http://www.allfreeknitting.com/Knit-Accessories/Knit-Laptop-Sweater-Pattern/ml/1/?utm_source=ppl-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=allfreeknitting20140303

 

Have you knit any cool cases for your gadgets?

 

 

Last Season

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Have you seen this cool fiber art project?

 

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Two Amsterdam-based artists, Lenert Engleberts & Sander Plug use designer sweaters as their medium in this piece that is part sculpture, part performance. Taking sweaters from last season from designers such as Prada and Celine, the duo carefully unravels each garment.

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Once completely unraveled, the remaining yarn is wound into a ball, and the garment label attached in plain view.

 

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What does this piece say to you? Does it make you think of upcycling? Of the relationship between process and material? And what do you think it says about these designers?

 

Source:

http://designtaxi.com/news/365787/Artists-Reduces-Last-Season-Luxury-Knitwear-Into-Balls-Of-Yarn/

Yarn Tasting!

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Our yarn tasting was a HUGE success! Thanks to all who came out to knit with us! And very special thanks to JP Knit & Stitch for hosting, and Streetcar Wines for providing us with fabulous drinks! Here are some highlights:

 

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Tons of fun! Thanks again everyone!

You are cordially invited…to the Lady Dye yarn tasting!

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Hi everyone! Want to check out Lady Dye yarn up close and personal, and have a drink with us while you’re at it?

We will be hosting a yarn tasting this Thursday, 9/18 at JP Knit and Stitch. We’ll have lots of cool product for you to check out, as well as some yummy drinks courtesy of Streetcar Wines. It’s gonna be a blast, come hang out!

Hope to see you there!

Yarn Bomb @ The Eliot School & Interview With Chronicle!

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This past week we had an amazing opportunity at Lady Dye! Not only did we install a yarn bomb at The Eliot School in Jamaica Plain, we got filmed and interviewed by Chronicle while doing it!

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Check it out!

We installed our fun little yarn bomb on the front welcome sign- the perfect addition to an art school, don’t you think?

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Lady Dye talked about contemporary knitting, including yarn bombing! Our biggest question- is it legal?

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The answer- no it is not! Gotta watch out for cops!

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We got away with it this time!

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Thanks Chronicle and The Eliot School, we had a great time! make sure to tune in to see Lady Dye on TV!

P.S. Jamaica Plain News stopped by to check out our yarnbomb as well! Read the article here!

Busy Busy!

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We have been SO busy lately! Between starting production on our orders, moving our studio space, and thinking about next year’s collection, we’ve barely had a minute to breathe! But it’s definitely a good kind of busy-we’re so excited for what we have in store for the rest of this year!

What we’re most psyched about is the release of our collection in more stores! Right now, Lady Dye is available around the Boston area and in our webshop, but at the end of the summer yarn stores around the country will carry us! We can’t wait!

Is Lady Dye coming to a shop near you? Keep in touch with us on social media and keep reading our blog to find out!

-The Lady Dye Team

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