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Filtering by Category: Interviews

Yarn Review: Stacatto Organic by Sweet Paprika

Andrea Sanchez

Today we have guest blogger Elizabeth from Sweet Paprika Designs here to share more info on her glorious yarn Stacatto Organic. This amazing organic yarn was used in her Fall/Winter 2016 collection design, Autumn Hike Hoodie. Elizabeth has graciously offered 15% off your Stacatto Organic orders through February 5th. Use code KNITTINLITTLE15 at checkout to get your discount. 

When I first had the inspiration for the Autumn Hike Hoodie design, I knew right away that I wanted to knit it in our Staccato Organic yarn

Staccato is a non-superwash merino worsted and has been one of our standard yarns for many years, but I hadn’t used it for any new designs in a long time. The reason was that our original base yarn was discontinued by the supplier a couple of years ago. As soon as we found out, we bought up as much of the base yarn as we could to keep us going while we searched for a replacement. What we did not expect was for the search to take us a year!

We tried many, many yarns looking for an alternate yarn that would be similar enough to replace our much-loved Staccato. Some of the problems we ran into were yarns that were closer to a DK rather than the heavier worsted we wanted, yarns that were over twisted, and yarns that didn’t take the dye in the same way. We even tried a couple of BFL yarns that were nice but just didn’t have the same feel as the merino that we were looking for. 

When we finally got samples of our current base yarn, it checked all the boxes and we were thrilled that it’s also a GOTS certified organic yarn. This is very much in line with our personal values and as a business we’re moving towards using more local yarns, sustainable yarns, and organic yarns as much as possible. 

I’m so thankful we held out for the perfect replacement and I’m looking forward to using Staccato Organic for many more future designs!

 

Thank you again Elizabeth for sharing this amazing yarn with us! Be sure to check out this month's Made by Mama post to read all about her journey and to enter to win a copy of her Zippity Raglan pullover. Remember, use code KNITTINLITTLE15 for 15% off Stacatto Organic through February 5th! Happy knitting! 

Made by Mama: Elizabeth from Sweet Paprika

Andrea Sanchez

I'm so happy to have Elizabeth with us this month for our Made by Mama feature. She's half of the team behind Sweet Paprika, yarn dyers and knitwear design. She also designed and provided the yarn for the Autumn Hike Hoodie from the Knittin' Little Fall/Winter 2016 collection. 

Through February 5th, Elizabeth is offering 15% off Sweet Paprika Designs Stacatto Organic yarn. This is the same yarn used in her Autumn Hike Hoodie design from our Fall/Winter collection. Use code KNITTINLITTLE15 at checkout!

sweet paprika 1

So tell us how it all began. How and when did you start knitting?

I tried to learn to knit on my own from a book when I was 8 or 9, buy my tension was way too tight and I was using horrible plastic kid's needles and I just couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Luckily my grandmother came for a visit and taught me to knit when I was 11 and I haven't stopped since! I was always a crafty kid and learned crochet, sewing, and basic weaving and embroidery before knitting. Knitting and crochet have stuck with me the most over the years, but I've been getting back into the sewing and weaving lately.

So, I've been knitting and crocheting since I was a kid, but it was while I was unemployed for a couple of months while living in England that I first thought about starting my own knitting business. I began by doing some sample knitting for another designer, which led to a freelance tech editing career and once I got back to Canada in 2007, my sister Debbie and I launched Sweet Paprika Designs. 

Could you explain what Sweet Paprika Designs is?

Sweet Paprika is a hand-dyed yarn business and we also design knitting and crochet patterns and kits. When we started out Debbie and I both did a bit of everything, but as Sweet Paprika has grown we realized we needed to each take responsibility for an aspect of the business. With her background in costume design and fine arts, it seemed natural for Debbie to take charge of the yarn and dyeing, and my tech editing experience has been invaluable in heading up the pattern side of things. 

What makes Sweet Paprika unique?

Because we started out both dyeing yarn and designing with our own hand-dyed, from the beginning it’s been very important to us that our yarn looks good in any project. For this reason we specialize in semi-solids and subtle variations that give a depth to your projects without competing with the design. 

We’re very picky about our base yarns and will often try many, many options before adding a new yarn to our line. We want to offer high-quality unique yarns that we know our customers will love as much as we do. 

We’ve also been experimenting over the past few years with working with local producers to create custom yarns that are 100% Canadian. It’s truly inspiring to visit the farms where the sheep or alpaca are raised, and to be involved in the entire process from washing the fleeces to dying the finished yarn. It’s very important to us to support local industry when we can, so this is an area of the business we hope to gradually expand over the coming years.

When designing our knitting and crochet patterns, our goal is to create patterns that are both fun to make and easy to wear. We have a variety of patterns for all skill levels from basic to adventurous and we try to include a large range of sizes when appropriate. We enjoy experimenting with interesting techniques and finding the perfect finishing details to make a project look just right.

I love the rich and saturated colors in your palette. Where do you come up with the inspiration for these?

Often from nature, sometimes from customer requests, sometimes just from playing with dyes, experimenting and seeing what happens! When working with a new yarn we’ll usually dye a whole bunch of very small skeins in different colours to try out possibilities and then pick which ones to develop further. That way can we make sure each yarn line is cohesive, I like designing patterns with more than one colour, so enjoy having a palette of colours that work well together.

I love hearing about how people juggle their business and their family - I guess it makes me feel normal! haha! What does a typical day look like for you?

On a typical weekday I’m home with my 3-year old son during the day so I’ll try to get an hour or two of work time in during his nap and then another couple of hours in the evening when my husband is home from work. I often work a longer stretch on Saturdays but try to reserve Sundays for family time. My sister Debbie and I usually have a weekly check-in to make sure we each know our goals and priorities for the week and we talk almost daily on the phone to keep each other up to date.

Balancing parenting and a business is certainly a challenge at times, but I do appreciate that it gives me the flexibility to be at home full-time with my son – something that was always important to my husband and me. My husband is very supportive and although he’s not involved in the day-to-day running of the business, he’s great at offering suggestions and helping me brainstorm. He’s my go-to person when I get stuck on naming a pattern!

What have been the best and worst parts of running your own business?

The best part has been creating something, watching it grow, and learning a ton of skills I wouldn’t have otherwise (web design, bookkeeping, photography…). I also love connecting with the wider knitting community both online and in person.

The worst part is balancing the business with the rest of my life. It often feels like there’s so much to do and never enough time, so it can be hard to turn off and feel like your work is done for the day.

I really love how the Autumn Hike Hoodie turned out using your Stacatto yarn. Which yarn base do you think is the best for knitting for children and why?

This depends on who the parents are! I really love the Staccato Organic worsted merino for kids. It’s soft and knits up quickly, BUT, it will felt if not washed properly so I only use it if I know the parents are well-versed in washing hand-knits. If I’m not sure, my go-to kids’ yarn is Minuet which is a DK superwash merino and comes in lots of fun colours.

How do you share your love of yarn with your little one? Do you have any fiber related books you read with them? 

My son has been surrounded by yarn since he was born. So far he loves helping me use my ball winder and swift to wind yarn. He occasionally gets to visit Aunt Debbie at the yarn studio and has “helped” with fleece washing, labeling, and telling us his colour preferences. He seems to like buttons as much as I do, so he always gets to pick out a few of his own when I go button shopping. He’s started making requests for me to knit him things and it’s always gratifying when he picks out his clothes in the morning and chooses something I knit him. So far we haven’t read any fibre related books, but that’s a good idea!

Feeding the Sheep (this month's book club pick) was my favorite to share with my son the summer before he turned three and he might relate to the activities in it as well! At the end of the story, we find that the mother has been processing all this wool to knit a sweater for her daughter. What has been your favorite thing you’ve knit for your little one? Or any children’s pieces you’re looking to try?

It’s so hard to choose one! My current favourite is the Little Leif hat I just knit this fall because my son asked for me to knit him a hat, chose the colours himself and I get to see him wear it every day this winter.

I’d like to try making more kids socks. So far I’ve only made my son one pair (which he’s now grown out of), but I have Clare Devine’s Sock Anatomy ebook that I’ve been meaning to work my way through.

Where can knitters/crocheters find you (online, shows, websites, etc.). 

Online I spend most of my time on Ravelry, Instagram and the Sweet Paprika blog. You can also find some of my patterns on Craftsy and Patternfish

I’ll be at the Knitter’s Frolic in Toronto in April and the Prince Edward County Fibre Fest in May. We also host a monthly knitting tea and the occasional knitting picnic in Montreal if you’re ever in the area! You can check the events page of our website for up-to-date information. 

 

Thank you again Elizabeth for sharing your story! I am loving that Zippity Raglan pattern. I'm always on the lookout for cute and easy sweaters for the kids. Elizabeth will be giving away TWO copies of her pattern to two commenters. Just leave a comment below and the winner could be you! Winners will be announced next Monday and contacted via email or Ravelry message so be sure to leave some contact info! Happy knitting!

Made by Mama: Wax & Wool

Andrea Sanchez

This month's Made by Mama guest is Kjerste of Wax & Wool, Etc. Her luxurious hand poured candles can be found in her brand new Etsy shop. Head over there and use the code "KNITTINLITTLE20" to receive 20% off your order of $25 or more through August 21st.

Kjerste! I am so excited to share your story with our readers. Can you tell us a little about what you do?

I hand pour soy wax candles in small batches from my home in the Puyallup Valley. I also occasionally sell my hand knits and weaving projects, as well as wahtever else I feel like making. That's where the "etc" comes in. Every so often I get the itch to whip up a bunch of paper garlands or headbands, or what have you, so I just go for it. I like to keep things interesting! 

When did you begin knitting and are you involved in other crafts?

My Grandma Kvale first taught me to knit when I was a young girl. She was an avid knitter, usually working on baby booties from a pattern she developed herself over the years. She must have made hundreds of pairs. I've done a little crochet, but my true love is knitting, and it's incredibly rare that a day passes where I don't work at least a row or two. 

How did you get started with Wax & Wool? How do you stay motivated, especially being a mom?

I guess I've always loved working with my hands, but as our family began to grow, I really became more passionate about the home arts. If there's something I can make instead of buy, you better believe I've tried it! A lot of what I do here at home though gets undone and re-done! multiple times a day. I remember bemoaning this to my mom once when our first two were really little, and she reminded me that one of my Grandma's mottos was "Do one thing every day that can't be undone." I really took that to hear. Being creative is one of the things that keeps me sane, and over the last two or three years that has just gradually grown into a business. Every timeI get to create something, I'm grateful for the gifts God has given me, and for the opportunity to use them to bless my family and others. 

I love that motto! I hope you don't mind if I adopt it as well. I've found that one of the hardest things as a mother is to hang on to the inspiration when it strikes because we are so busy taking care of everyone else. Where does your inspiration come from?

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and makers - people who worked hard with their hands and people who loved both industry and beauty. I think all my great grandparents had farming backgrounds. One of my grandpas was a car mechanic. He owned his own shop and worked hard all day. His hands were crazy gnarly - both my grandpas' were - but he still managed to carve incredibly beautiful things in his free time. I still use wooden spoons he carved to this day, and we have bits of his art and furniture in our home. My other grandpa owned a dairy farm, amongst many other jobs, and there wasn't much he could fix. My Grandma was a  talented knitter, and so is my mm. My dad owns his own construction business and is an incredibly skilled finish carpenter, and so on and so on. I'm so inspired by all my family has been and all they accomplish. It's an honor to be following in their footsteps in my own small way. 

What an amazing legacy to carry on! Now that you have your own handmade business, are you running it full time? How are you juggling this with parenting?

I'm a full-time mom, and I'm here all week with the little crew. I fit in a little creative time during nap time if I have the energy, but honestly I still nap with my kids most days. Most of my knitting happens in the evenings because that's my favorite way to unwind, but I never leave the house without a project to work on. You never know when you'll need something to do, and it just kills me to sit with idle hands! Most candle pouring happens on Saturdays and the occasional weekday evening. 

What have been the best and worst parts of running your own business?

You know, I think the best and the worst parts have been one and the same. I think the hardest part for me is keeping all the compartments in my mind really separate. I am passionate about my business, and keeping that from overflowing into all the rest of my life is a challenge. I guess it's a bit like the Titanic - a little overlap between areas is ok, but when business starts to leak into all the compartments... family time, rest time, marriage, friendship, and my walk with God, the ship sinks. It's a constant dialogue between Derek and I - how is the balance, where do we need to reign things in and refocus. He really helps to keep me present when I need to be, and to step back when I let things get too intense. 

At the same time, this has been an amazing journey for our family. The kids are so proud of what I do, and I love how working together to grow Wax & Wool has really knit Derek and I together in new ways. We love working together, and it's so fun to get excited about new ideas and plans together. We have very separate strengths, but combining them and working asa  team is pretty much endlessly exciting to me. The past two or three months have been a lot of fun! 

I love how invested your children are in your business as well. How do you share your love of making with your little ones?

We have five littles, ranging in age from 2-8. I guess making is a big part of our family culture - my twins love to sit on my lap while I knit and my oldest has already been knitting for several years herself. Honestly, they just love to be involved in anything I'm doing, whether it's making the Friday night pizza, or sticking wicks in candle jars. The more I include them, the more their love for all of this grows. It's a cycle and it's a lifestyle. I love how we get to pass on bits of ourselves in this way to our kids. 

I love your outlook on this, and I completely agree!

I've had the great opportunity to use some of your products (I am in love with the grapefruit mangosteen candle and the peppermint lip balm!). Which product that you make is your favorite?

Oh man, that's a hard one. I think any of my candles in Amber Jars are my favorites right now, but I'm particularly partial to the lavender candle. It's a classic scent, and I just love the way the Amber Jar glows when the candle is lit. 

 Photography by  Effie's Photography

Photography by Effie's Photography

 

Thank you so much Kjerste for taking the time to share a bit of your life with us. I find it so inspiring to hear how other mama makers make time to feed their creativity. 

Be sure to head to her Etsy shop and use the code KNITTINLITTLE20 to receive 20% off purchases of $25 or more. This code expires August 21st. This is a great opportunity to try a few of the products or nab one of those darling newborn sweaters. Please stop by her shop and let me know what you choose in the comments below!

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