One of the highlights of my trip to Sydney Australia with Joy, was meeting with Debbie McDonald and Janine Smith to talk about Skein Sisters.
We met at the Sideways Cafe for breakfast just around the corner from their fabulous Yarn Shop. Skein Sisters is a short walk up the street from the Light Rail at Dulwich Grove Stop.
The Skein Sisters are not related. They actually met while working at the Royal Botanical Gardens together. They learned that they both loved knitting and would show each other the projects they were working on and the yarn they found. The dream of owning a yarn shop gradually came out of this time together.
Debbie and Janine shared stories with us about how they learned to knit and why they started their yarn business. They work together in their partnership and have a very good piece of advice for our readers that are thinking about or just getting started with their own creative business.
I learned how to crochet from a neighbor that migrated to the United States from Germany. Can you tell us who introduced each of you to knitting and yarn?
My Mom taught me how to knit. It was handed down from my Grandmother to my Mother. They were in London during World War 2 and there was an absolute need to make your own clothes and grow your own veges. A basic absolute need! I grew up with my mom knitting, sewing, embroidery, crocheting, macrame, absolutely everything creative!
My Mother grew up in Brisbane North of us in Queensland with an older Sister and my Grandmother. They taught my Mom to sew. My mom became a dressmaker by trade. It extended to Quilting, Knitting, Basketry, Millinary, Beading. My mother was also a very crafty lady !
Carolyn & Joy:
We see lots of yarn for sale in the United States that is made in China. We've read that Australia and New Zealand are one of the top producers of high quality wool and yarn in the world. As owners of a yarn shop do you find this to be true?
Debbie & Janine:
It used to be; but Australia had a huge problem with a lack of water for scouring the wool and how to handle the resulting waste products. Our country began outsourcing the process of scouring, dying, and spinning to China. The quality started to go down. Recently there has been a big movement to bring the entire process of making yarn back to Australia and New Zealand.
Smaller mills are opening or revamping to bring back production of high quality yarn. I know of one mill in Australia that has two engineers looking closely into efficient ways to treat the waste water that comes from scouring the wool.
Carolyn & Joy:
You carry yarn in your shop made in Australia, New Zealand, United States, and Ireland. Do you find your customers in Australia are educated about yarn and looking for locally made yarn?
Debbie & Janine:
The country of origin is not as important for our customers as having a variety of beautiful high quality yarn they can see and feel.
We market our yarn by Brand. Our customers range from the novice to expert. We also have customers that are fashion students in the local university. We offer to give new customers to the store a tour of our shop and explain the characteristics and qualities of the different brands.
We also list yarn by the brand in our online store as well and explain the process used by the maker of each brand. We find that having a physical store is promoting our online shop as well. We ship our yarn anywhere in the world.
It's a unique experience for our customers to be able to find such a variety of gorgeous yarn in one place.
We also want to give great customer service in our shop and provide an unmet need for high quality yarn for creative people.
Are you a fiber artist? Debbie explains how Sisters Spotlight works in the video above. Be sure to let us know at GlassEyesOnLine if your chosen to be featured in a future Sisters Spotlight!
Carolyn & Joy:
We learned from your website, that you recently started offering knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving, and dying classes in your shop. Where do your teachers come from?
Deb & Janine:
Most of the instructors come from the New South Wales Knitters Guild. We are offering a variety of classes for the beginner to the experienced knitter and crocheter.
We will be having some holiday workshops.
We have two social nights a month on Tuesdays and it attracts people of all ages including local university students. More information about classes offered is available at our website.
Skein Sisters Classes and Workshops Schedule.
Carolyn & Joy
We read about your very complimentary talents, Debbie with retail fashion & textiles and Janine with advertising and marketing as well as writing. As business partners in Skein Sisters, do you have a method for assigning the tasks and responsibilities with running your business?
Deb & Janine:
When we decided we wanted to open a Yarn Store we made a long list. It included everything we thought should be part of a dream yarn store.
We knew we wanted a sophisticated point of sale system that would track inventory between the brick and mortar store and the online store.
We also wanted an easy to navigate, beautiful and clear website for ordering online. We ended up dividing our responsibilities down the middle.
The store we found was an old tool store covered in sheet metal with bars on the windows. We needed to rip out everything.
Our husbands got involved in helping us create the coolest yarn shop in the world! We were lucky to have their expertise as well.
My husband is an architect and he designed the store in such a way to make yarn the focus.
My husband has an interest in photography and took photography classes in the past. He has a great eye for photographing the wool to show color and texture as accurately as possible in a picture.
Check out the example below and see more photographs at Skein Sisters.
Debbie & Janine:
Now we divide our responsibilities as we go. We talk about everything and get input from our employees about social marketing and business. It's very collaborative.
We work well together which is great because there are very long days!
Our biggest issue is finding time to do everything we want to do...
We've learned that "It doesn't all need to be done now"
Great advice from Skein Sisters for creative businesses just getting started.
If you want to hear more details about how Debbie and Janine turned their Dream Yarn Shop into Skein Sisters; Listen in to this Podcast.
Libby at Truly Myrtle chats with Janine and Deb from Skein Sisters
I recently visited Sydney Australia with Joy Woodruff our Virtual Assistant. We mixed pleasure with business during this trip. I'm sharing photos and videos of some of the highlights of Fiber Fest 2017 at the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Singleton New South Wales.
It's about a two hour ride outside of Sydney. The setting was surreal. As we walked in, we could hear live music playing. I recognized the songs from the movies The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
We watched Fiber Spinning, Loom demonstrations, and yarn dying in a spiritual setting with spacious gardens, covered walkways, and meditative spaces.
I could feel that calm and peaceful energy emanating from the grounds as I walked around stopping occasionally to talk with the various guild members and vendors.
I was surrounded by beautiful garden flowers and gorgeous yarn in every size, shape, texture and color you could envision.
Musicians were staged in various garden areas to play music for the festival.
Just imagine the music playing and women chattering softly in their Australian accent as they knit or crochet projects in small groups.
The sights and sounds were a treat for my senses. I did not want to leave. I was totally immersed in nature and creativity.
We met representatives of
We also met indie dyers and local yarn manufacturers along with retail businesses selling fiber, yarn, and hand crafted goods.
Another highlight was meeting briefly with our Instagram friend H.C Lee of OmamaCraft.
She gave us permission to record a short video of her award winning display of handcrafted needle felted animals.
Central Coast Regional Show Best Commercial Trade Exhibit 2017
We loved how she made a whimsical world in which to display her creations.
You'll find her needle felted animals available in her OmamaCraft Etsy Shop
We are looking forward to talking with her in the future about her creative journey.
We also met Debbie McDonald and Janine Smith at Fiber Fest and got together the following week to learn more about their new yarn shop, Skein Sisters, in Sydney Australia.
Next week I'll share videos of their fabulous shop, along with what we learned about who taught them knitting, the making of their dream yarn shop, and how they work together in their creative business.
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