You’re a Fool When You Start Something New: That’s Me in a Yarn Store
I left Shillong, Meghalaya with a goal of selling Eri silk yarn to yarn stores. My first destination was Lafayette, my hometown. Immediately upon arrival, I met my family at Louisiana Crawfish Time.
My 82-year-old mother (a full blood Cajun) and I enjoyed eating boiled crawfish. The last of the season.
My first stop was food. My second destination a yarn store!
The following day I visited a lovely yarn store: The Yarn Nook. I encountered a world of knitters in the cozy sitting area inside a beautifully decorated yarn shop. I was determined to learn as much as I could without being an imposter. My only option was to be a fool.
Why a fool? Because my knowledge of knitting yarn was zero out of ten. I only knew about two yarns: Muezart’s 60/2 and spindle hand-spun Eri silk yarn. Both yarns are popular with the local weavers of Meghalaya.
"I think it's my job to risk looking foolish. One of the things I've learned from the actors I've worked with is you don't get something for nothing. If you don't risk looking foolish, you'll never do anything special."
~ Ethan Hawke, actor and writer
Four months earlier I sat and worked side by side with the weavers who naturally dyed this very fine lace weight yarn. I had watched the village women work in pairs measuring the yarn for the warp and dressing their rustic wooden looms. I had seen them wash it, ring it, stretch it. I knew the strength of this Muezart yarn I carried in my satchel.
“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”
~ Bruce Lee
As I visited with the ladies at The Yarn Nook, I was at a loss for where to start the conversation due to my lack of exposure to the art of knitting. My face may have gone red, as I asked odd one-off questions. My willingness to be a fool lead me to discover through the eyes of knitters what I didn’t know.
5 Things I Discovered About Our 60/2 Eri Silk Yarn
- Knitters won’t knit with this weight yarn.
- It is beautiful.
- It is so finely spun.
- It is soft.
- I have not seen silk yarn like this.
I was on a mission on behalf of our team, our company, and a handful of villages. My objective: to sell yarn was not going to be easy. Within an hour I discovered we had the wrong weight yarn for knitters!!!
I was determined to keep learning all I could from the friendly women at The Yarn Nook. I had the guts to continue being a fool. Yes, I am sure I sounded foolish with my nonexistent knitter’s vocabulary. But really, why care? I decided right then not to worry about what others thought of me. I had nothing to gain by playing it safe. I needed to learn from the three women knitting in their comfy chairs.
3 Things I Learned about Silk Yarn
I had traveled all the way from India to sell yarn. Within hours of my first stop reality hit: I had a lace weight fine yarn to sell that knitters weren’t interested in. So, I asked, “Can you show me knitting yarns that are made with silk?” To my surprise, I learned that knitters do love silk. They shared some of the barriers that keep the silk from being a yarn of choice:
- 100% silk yarns are not as popular with knitters. Why? It is considered a luxury yarn and it is expensive.
- Silk is typically blended with wool, a less expensive fiber. The silk adds a sheen to the blended yarn and it gives the wool yarn a beautiful drape.
- Silk yarn may tend to pill.
These were three important points for Muezart to know. In fact, Muezart wants to make the little known Eri silk famous. I was quick to show the women who were knitting what else I had in my satchel. I had 3 beautiful handwoven scarves made with the 60/2 skein of yarn.
They looked closely at the shawls and scarves. I held them out to show that the yarn fine and there was no pilling. The fiber was soft and draped beautifully. Their reaction was WOW. They observed the weaving and felt the soft wooly silk. The natural plant dye colors amazed them. I told the story about how Eri silk is different from Bombyx, Mulberry, Muga, and Tussah silks. The women were not aware that there was silk that did not kill the pupa/worm that spins and lay inside the cocoon. My story was fascinating news for them. Suddenly the fool had something to share.
When I reached home I did my own research on the third point I learned about silk. I read websites about pilling yarns and found an article on Interweave. I did my own home test. The result: Muezart’s fine-spun Eri silk yarn doesn’t pill.
Do This Test to Find Out If Your Soft Yarn Will Pill
"Pilling (or abrasion) is a problem most commonly associated with softly spun yarns, particularly those spun from short fibers. To test for pilling or abrasion, hold your hand as if to snap your fingers. Place two strands of yarn between the snapping fingers and quickly roll them back and forth several times. If the yarn begins to separate or peel apart, it will likely pill under normal body abrasion in a garment, such as where the arms rub against the body."
Interweave has a "Pill Test" by Shirley Paden, author of Knitwear Design Workshop
The Next Morning I was In for a Surprise!
When I woke up the next morning, I connected with my team back in Shillong. They were beyond ecstatic. They said, “Joanna did you see we sold a handwoven Eri silk shawl.” I celebrated with them over our video call. As I scrolled through my email, I saw the purchase order. The surprise came when I read the address on the receipt was from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. One of the sweet ladies I sat and talked with the day before at The Yarn Nook had purchased a Muezart shawl.
I had spent more than three hours in The Yarn Nook that day. I learned a lot about myself in the process. I learned how little I knew. I became more passionate about our story and product. That same day I fell in love with the art of knitting. I didn’t want to leave the ambiance, the colors, the fibers, and samples pouring through every aisle and off each table of this lovely shop.
I left a fool, but a fool filled with enthusiasm to continue my quest. Yes, Muezart needed to pivot with our yarn development. We needed to work toward creating different weight yarns if we were to connect with the artisan knitter audience.
These words capture my mood as I walked out of the store that day:
"You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm."
~ Sidonie Garielle Colette, a French novelist
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