Sookie St James
The truth is, dyeing yarn is my passion, designing patterns is my joy, but selling yarn is my business and our income. With Gerry out of commission from his myeloma for 12 years, my teaching, design work, writing, and yarn sales are our complete income outside of disability, which is small.
Putting the kids through college has been a tough but necessary thing, and now that Andy is out that’s a huge relief. Down-sizing last year so we could consolidate everything could NOT have come at a better time, especially in hindsight. Somehow we had the presence of mind to set ourselves up for THIS cancer adventure.
The Other Half Of MKY
Aside from me, though, there’s Kathleen to consider. At a point when Kathleen was between jobs, I mentioned that I’d always wanted to start a business dyeing yarns that were as easy to care for as they were beautiful. I feel strongly that most folks make knitted items as gifts (for themselves, for others) and giving a gift with instructions can be a hard thing in our modern busy age. “Here’s a lovely baby cardigan I made for you, now here’s how you have to hand-wash it so you can enjoy it more than once!”
Kathleen jumped in and said she was “in!” We each put up $1,000 and the use of Kathleen’s personal vehicle and garage for yarn storage and my own gorgeous 3 car garage as our dye studio. We’ve made it work, and slowly we’ve built our assets and our customer base and have made a very good team.
Working out the kinks of our friendship along with the kinks of a young business partnership has been refreshing and 99% wonderful, like a lovely type of marriage. I don’t want to leave Kathleen in the lurch by my absence, and selfishly I don’t WANT to be absent from the entire business.
There is something SO special about women working together toward a financial, business goal, and Kathleen’s been remarkable every step of the way.
Kathleen is a HUGE part of MKY’s success; her knowledge and ability to help customers with virtually EVERY aspect of the yarn buying process is astounding. She single handedly arranges out travel schedule and builds our kits, creates mini skein sets and handles the taxes and insurance angles of the business. If we have a well-run business, it is definitely due to Kathleen. I dye the yarn and design the patterns, she does the rest!]
Obviously I won’t be able to attend any of the yarn shows this Fall, and leaving this mess on Kathleen’s head is one of the things I feel the worst about.
So Let’s Keep Growing!
ModeKnit Yarn has been doing well these past 5 years, growing steadily and providing a better-than-part-time income for Kathleen and myself, paying bills, hiring a few outside folks and reveling in the community of knitters and fiber artists that we inhabit.
It is by no means a HUGE income, but we make it work, and it’s also been a blast! I will miss the travel and camaraderie more than anything, and I’m so impressed by Kathleen’s ability to jump in and line up a bright array of friends and former employees to dive into the biz and be our new “booth assistants”. I’m actually a bit jealous of all of them.
Because I’ve been so low energy for so long in the booth, realistically my presence isn’t such a bonus these days. In fact, when I was relying on pain relievers to get through a shift I’m afraid I was absolutely terrifying in my stream-of-consciousness riffs that would alternately delight and dismay our customer base.
A New “Mode” Of Selling
We’re going to try to revamp the business for the foreseeable future so that it’s less about ‘dyeing on demand’ and instead will be ‘dyeing what we feel like!’ (or, rather ‘deying what we’re able!’) and then offering those yarns for sale in small batches on our website, more of an etsy type system.
I’m just not certain of my strength of body or mind to be able to match colors from our palette and satisfy customers.
Disappointing more folks is the LAST thing I want to do this year. I feel responsible to try to keep things as profitable as possible while I’m out of commission with radiation and chemo.
“It is MODEKnit Yarn, Darling!”
The plan at this point is for my dye assistant, Layla, to pick up some of the slack I am dropping during my recovery, and perhaps to do some specialty orders. We won’t be up to our old dye schedule for quite a while, but perhaps we can devise a new normal to allow us to continue to develop color ways, products and projects, while at the same time allowing Layla and Kathleen to have more creative input into the biz.
That part is HARD for me. I wouldn’t call myself a ‘control freak’, but my NAME is on the company (well, 4 letters of my name…) and I feel an ownership of the creative side that I might not feel if we had just named our company, “Minnesota Nice Yarns” or something like that.
Instead we chose as our tagline, “Make Something NICE!” because – Minnesota!
So far we’ve photographed about 1/4 of our yarns, I’m in the process of creating individual inventory items for everything we’ll be selling. Hopefully this will have the happy outcome of allowing us to align our WooCommerce and our Square inventories (I have a plug-in!)
Now the question is, can I create a bit of clarity of mind to actually CREATE this thing. Radiation brain, friends, the struggle is REAL!