One of the big drives for me in starting the 'Love Our Indies' feature has been that indies work hard to make their businesses a success and that often the level of commitment that this can take is not always fully appreciated at first glance. Success can look very different to different people; it can be monetary, recognition, a healthy work/ life balance or collaborating on projects that make you feel good. In my day to day work I am constantly amazed by the way indies have to be so multifaceted in order to be successful. Social media, good photography, branding, reflecting on how things are going and interacting are all the many moving parts that help build the story around their quality product.
This isn't easy and websites such as Indie Untangled offer indies the opportunity to be visible and the marketplace feature feels like a space waiting to inspire me as a crafter. It's packed full of interesting vendors, with their stories told on the blog and developed further still on Ravelry and Facebook. It's very appealing and exactly the kind of thing that makes you really understand the value in what an Indie is doing so I asked Lisa, the creator of Indie Untangled to share a post about why she was driven to create Indie Untangled.
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My first apartment in New York City was down the block from The Market NYC, otherwise known as the Young Designer's Market, a collection of crafty entrepreneurs selling handmade clothing, jewellery and other accessories out of a church gymnasium. This was in 2003, so pre-Etsy, before handmade goods became trendy and ubiquitous. Pretty much all of my earrings and necklaces came from the YDM. I loved that everything I bought there was unique and always got compliments, and that I could forge a small connection with the person who made what I was buying — I even ended up documenting the process of an artisan who made decoupage jewellery out of coins and paper for a photography class.
Fast forward four years later to when I started knitting. My first garter stitch and ribbed scarves were made with Lamb’s Pride Worsted and Cascade 220, but it didn't take me long to fall down the rabbit hole of Madelinetosh, and then to discover the incredible world of indie dyers. I was drawn to the depth of color that these fiber artists created, the fact that no two grays ever looked the same. I loved how a dyer could be inspired by a landscape, or even a movie, and dye yarn that I could actually turn into something to wear.
Indie dyers are not too difficult to find, but it does take some extra work to get noticed these days. While Etsy is certainly a great resource for building up a crafty business, and comes with somewhat of a built-in customer base, it’s not so easy for dyers to stand out (that’s not even considering their recent relaxing of the rules governing what’s considered handmade, which is a whole other issue). When I’m signed in, I get a list of the new products for sale from my favorite shops, or I see the items that my friends have clicked the little heart for, but I don’t necessarily know the stories behind these products — or whether there are going to be any skeins of that non-repeatable colorway left tomorrow. Ravelry also provides a way to find out about and connect with indies, but keeping track of all the Update News threads can be overwhelming.
Part of what makes the indie fiber community so exciting is learning about a new series of colourways, or finding out what inspired a self-striping skein of sock yarn. Sometimes you can make that connection at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, or at an event like the upcoming Unwind Brighton, but unfortunately most knitters can’t afford to travel to every fiber-related event (sigh).
I don’t really have the budget, or the storage space, to stash with abandon like some people I know, but I also hesitate much less in purchasing a single skein or investing in a sweater quantity, and paying for shipping from the UK, when I know a little bit more about the dyer or spinner and her story. That’s really what I'm trying to build with the Indie Untangled marketplace and blog: a way to get to know the person who creates art in a dye pot, and to more easily find out when she’s created something you just have to get your hands on.
Sometimes yarn is just yarn, but when I'm struggling to get the fit of a cardigan just right, or frogging several rows of the shawl I'm knitting for my friend’s wedding, I like that I can look down and know that someone put just as much thought and work into the material that will be transformed into a garment I can be proud of.
A big thank you to Lisa for talking through the value in getting to know our indies, something I feel really passionate about too. If you liked this insight into Indie Untangled, pop back soon as there's more to come and it includes a giveaway!