Ten year anniversary June 12 2017
Skein Queen is 10! It is almost inconceivable that a little notion I had one night lying in bed has turned into a full-time job for both me and Eliza.
But first things first - we're having three little celebrations to mark the occasion. As the graphic says, Name the Colourway - Win the Yarn. That's FOUR skeins of Crush sock yarn. Just leave your suggestion in a comment on the blog and I'll announce the winner next Monday 19th June. The competition will also be running on Instagram and Facebook. One entry per person. I will post worldwide so don't be shy - can't wait to hear your suggestions.
The second celebration is an Open Studio in a couple of weeks when we fling open the doors to the new dyeworks and welcome you in to see where the dyeing takes place, eat cake, drink tea and knit, and of course there will be an opportunity to squidge the yarn in person and purchase if anything takes your fancy.
And thirdly, we are finally launching our new, updated logo designed by the talented graphic designer, Patricia Lewis. You'll see new yarn labels, stickers, thank you cards and a change on the website as the new logo takes hold. I hope you love it as much as we do.
So a little of the history of Skein Queen.
At the end of 2006, the Internet was opening up all sorts of discoveries in the knitting world and it no longer seemed like such a solitary activity. I started talking to other knitters via the social media networks of the time such as Plurk and a knitters' forum, the name of which escapes me. And then... there was a big buzz about a new network for knitters called Ravelry. So I signed up for the beta testing, waited in the queue and was so excited when I got in!
In the meantime, I bought a copy of Knit Now and there was an article by Debbie Tomkies about dyeing yarn with Kool Aid. I don't know why this captured my imagination as I can't remember ever trying anything else from a magazine, but it did so I gave it a go in the kitchen.This was one of my first attempts!
In fact, if you hop on over to DT Crafts's gallery, you can see my first attempts are still there!
I thought it would be a good idea to consolidate the dyeing skills I was learning by attending a dyeing course run by Debbie Tomkies at Eyam Hall in Derbyshire.
There were just the two of us on the course - here's Becky and myself presenting our dyeing attempts. It was good to know that everything I was doing was as it should be. If you ever get a chance to do one of these workshops, I'd highly recommend them.
Over the next three months, I became completely obsessed with tracking down some cashmere/silk. White yarn was much harder to find on the Internet then than it is now, but I finally traced it to a Chinese mill and got in touch with them to buy some. I still use that mill today for some yarns and have a developed a great working relationship with Han over the years. I finally got to meet him at H+H in Cologne a couple of years ago.
By that time, I'd moved onto using fibre reactive dyes and opened an Etsy shop. This was the first skein of yarn I ever sold within 24 hours to a lady in the States - it was called Kew Gardens and the yarn base was called Lavish - 55% silk 45% cashmere.
One of the pivotal moments was when a lady in Reading bought some yarn and realised it had been posted from the post office next to where she worked. Somehow we got chatting online and she ran a knitting group in Reading called the Outcasts. That lady turned out to be Suzanne Stallard, who has been hugely supportive over the years - and is a very special friend who some of you may have met at shows.
I was still working as an Editor, but for two years combined both jobs, dyeing yarn in the kitchen, labelling it with labels from Hobbycraft with matching ribbons in the bedroom. Reinvesting all income back into the business.
By 2009, the shop was regularly selling out, custom orders were plentiful and there seemed to be a demand, so I decided to take the plunge and go full-time with Skein Queen waving goodbye to the world of academic publishing.
We converted the garage into a workshop, so I could have a dedicated work space as working in the kitchen with a busy family and stopping and starting for meals was totally impractical.
And the spare room became my office.
I'd worked from home since 2002 (using the old Tele2 satellite dish!) so discipline came easily.
In 2014, there was wool everywhere in the house and industrial winders on the landing, so it was time to look at expanding.
Eventually I found an attic space not far from my home which turned out to be perfect.
At the time, a friend - Kira Moffat - had been working with me for a couple of months, but she had found herself an engineering job, so I was sad to see her go.
It was time to recruit and I was fortunate to find Eliza - a keen knitter and fibre enthusiast.
Eliza was working three days a week up at the studio, while I was still dyeing from the garage workshop. Then we'd work together after a shop update, taking two days to pack up and send out all the orders. I think we both loved working at the studio - it was a beautiful environment and we had friendly neighbours downstairs running the craft shop.
Finally at the end of last year, the working on split sites was proving too unwieldy, from deliveries to communicating with each other, so after much searching, I found our current premises - 1,500 sq ft of workshop, mezzanine for storage with three offices.
Eliza is now working full-time and together, we are able to produce more yarn for your delectation.
I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing people over the years including Ysolda Teague, Kate Davies, Ella Austin and Tincanknits.
One of the highlights was working with Wallace Sewell on a book cover conceived by Peter Saville for Danish design company, Kvadrat.
And another was being asked to take part in an international art exhibition called Elemental Birds by Inga and Andy Hamilton.
Another incredibly special moment was when I was presented with the most amazing blanket made by lots of customers and friends from around the world and assembled by the Outcasts when my mum died of lung cancer at the age of 71 in 2010. It truly was a touching moment.
I really am so lucky to have such a wonderful, warm community of friends, knitters and customers who make this job so very special.
And I couldn't have done any of it without the help and support of my family, Calvin, Sam and Lily who deserve medals for putting up with damp yarn hanging around the house and too much business talk for so many years.
Here's to the next ten years...