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
Jeri Lynn talks about being Hooked on Spinning and demonstrates Thread Plying on her Treadle Spinning WheelRead Now
I first learned about Jeri Lynn Farms on Etsy. Jeri Lynn was raised on a farm in a small town in Missouri. "I've always had animals." She was introduced to spinning when she visited the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) in North Carolina. She purchased a spindle; but did not pick it up for 3 years until she finished homeschooling her children. That's when she got hooked on spinning.
We recently visited Jeri Lynn and her husband Jeff at Jeri Lynn's Farm in Kinards, South Carolina. Our cameraman David and his wife came along with us. We had a wonderful time and learned so much about sheep farming and how she spins her wool fiber into yarn during our visit.
What is a day in the life of a sheep farmer like?
No day is ever the same. The sheep keep me entertained and I'm always learning something new.
My day begins at 5:30 and the work continues until the sheep say I can stop. Coffee is my friend.
Farming is often perceived as romantic or genteel. It is the hardest job you will ever do. I literally work from Sheep to Shawl! I take care of the lambs, shear them, then process, spin, and create wearables.
Fiber Art is what I do to support my "sheep habit". I love the smell and feel of the wool on the sheep, in the bath, running through my fingers when I spin, and finally coming off my needles or loom.
There is always something new to learn from new spinning and dyeing techniques, new discoveries in keeping my sheep healthy, a different grass or forage, fencing challenges, and more. It's long hours and lots of problem solving!
Can you tell us what you know about types of sheep wool and where we might find it in products?
There are so many different breeds of sheep. About three quarters of the sheep are pure or derived from Merino the fiber from each having it's own characteristics. There are some basic divisions each having it's own use. For example, I'm familiar with Primitive, Medium, Fine, and Longwool sheep.
My first sheep were Shetlands. This is a primitive diminutive, and fiesty little breed. This breed is used for the famous Wedding Ring Shawls
I then raised Corriedales. They are a very large, fine wool breed. My Ram weighed 350 pounds. We sold our flock when we moved from Gaffney to Kinards.
I recently had the opportunity to re-purchase my Corriedale Ewes and a lamb born at the farm we sold in Gaffney.
Corriedale is sometimes called a "beginner fiber" because it literally spins itself. It is soft and springy.
Now I have Teeswater Cross Sheep too. They are a longwool breed. Very lustrous with long sweet curls. Their fleece is perfect for lockspinning and extreme tailspinning. It's also awesome for felting arts and doll hair.
One little known fact that I like to share with people is that Lanolin is derived from sheep wool. It's a wonderful skin moisturizer and you'll find it in lotions and cosmetics.
Do you plan to be a vendor at any shows or have any recommendations for our readers?
One of my favorites is a small local show Octoberfest in Newberry, South Carolina.
I'm planning to be a vendor at Soda City Farmers Market in Columbia, South Carolina
I was accepted at Carolina Fiber Fest. It is a 3 day show in March each year in Raleigh, North Carolina
I'm hoping to attend the Indie Craft Parade in Greenville, SouthCarolina
There is Travelers Rest at Art on the Trail again this year as well.
And of course, SAFF is the highlight of the Fiber year !
Any Information You Would Like to Share with our readers about being in business or selling on Etsy?
I do find that my art yarns and wearables do much better "in person" where one can touch and feel the items rather than in an online shop like Etsy. My creations sell well at shows and in shops.
I sell my Prepared Fibers almost exclusively in my Etsy Shop. They are ready to be used in spinning and other crafts. I'm still learning what works in online shops, computer technology, and how best to sell on line.
My creations are currently available for sale at "A Walk in the Woods" shop on Main Street in Hendersonville, NC and in My Etsy Shop.
You'll also find me on Facebook and Instagram where I have actually sold some items also!
My Etsy Shop Bio sums it up for me:
I feel honored to be blessed with such abundance and delight in sharing it with others!
“Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19
During our visit at the farm Jeri Lynn demonstrated thread plying using her Treadle Spinning Wheel.
There just are not enough hours in the day to learn all the steps Jeri Lynn takes to get from Sheep to Shawl. We had such a wonderful trip though and so enjoyed their hospitality and great coffee!
We are definitely planning another trip in the future to learn more about shearing sheep and dyeing the wool to prepare for spinning.
Sign up for our Free Monthly Newsletter to find out what we learn at our next visit to Jeri Lynn's Farm when she shows us wool dyeing and preparation for spinning!