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Filtering by Tag: madebymama

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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Made by Mama - Sunshine Yarns

Andrea Sanchez

I am so excited to have on the blog today Dani, the owner and dyer behind Sunshine Yarns! This company is one of my favorite indie dyed companies, with amazing colors, luxurious bases, and they are just overall really sweet! And read to the end because I have something super special for you guys as well!

How did you get started in the yarn industry?

I honestly kind of fell into the yarn industry! I was working in Boston as an Environmental Scientist and started dyeing for fun. A few posts on my blog and folks started asking to buy it. I quickly started an etsy store and there began Sunshine Yarns! We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary last month! It still feels pretty unreal most days. 

When did you begin knitting? Are you involved in any other crafts?

I started knitting in the Fall of 2003 when I was just finishing up grad school. My grad department started a little crafting group and I jumped right in. At first I didn't knit, I just did beading and cross-stitch. But then a friend got me hooked and I started teaching myself online. As far as other crafts, I've dabbled over the years in beading, cross=stitch, embroidery, sewing and spinning.

Since Knittin' Little is all about sharing the fiber love with littles, how do you share your love of yarn with your little one?

I have a two and a half year old little girl named Clara. She was blessed right off the bat with tons of hand knits. I think she has naturally become really interested in it all since she sees us handling yarn, whether down in the office for a few minutes or me doing a little bit of knitting. She really loves to pick out her favorite colors from a big batch I just dyed (her favorite color is yellow), or tell me what I should make with it! I also help her knit, which she loves to do. Oh, and I have made her her Halloween costume the past 2 years and she really likes being involved and gives me input on colors and what she wants it to look like. It's pretty cute. 

That's really sweet! Can you tell us more about where you get your color inspiration from?

Wow... Well, it really comes from everywhere! I have wanderlust, so I get lots of inspiration from our travels. Earlier this year we went to Australia and later this month we are head to the Turks and Caicos. I always come back with a fresh mind and lots of ideas. We also live in the foothills in Boulder, Colorado. We live on a couple acres and have lots of open space around us. Walking outside everyday makes it very easy as well :) Other than that, I love doing seasonal color ways. Starting this Friday, I'll begin our 3rd annual Dark Days mini store updates. Basically, I dye darker, more wintery color ways that remind me of the shorter days ahead. 

You shared with me that you and your husband run Sunshine Yarns full time. What does a typical day in the life look like. How is parenting managed?

Well, everyday for us is pretty different based on what needs to be done. But, Clara goes to a small in-home daycare part-time. So that gives us about half the week free to work. My mom also watches her some, especially if we get a little behind on things. Usually I'm downstairs getting yarn batches going and checking in online around 9. Scott is getting yarn rinsed and getting things ready for sorting and/or winding. We do have 1 or 2 part-time people that help us with some of the sorting/winding, but Scott handles a lot of that. The rest of the day Im usually split between dyeing and emails, ordering supplies and working on entering orders and accounting. Scott is generally doing rinsing, sorting, skeining, shipping, and website work. Overall though, our workday goes from about 9am-midnight. We obviously have a few hours around dinner where we all reconnect (from 4:30 until about 8) and days one of us will have Clara in the afternoon. But overall that is our super messy idea of a day. It certainly isa  long day and we work really, really hard at what we do. 

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

I think the best part is the flexibility. Especially with being a parent! We report to ourselves so if Clara is sick or we are sick, we can just take some time off. The problem is, which is the worst part, is that we report to ourselves! There is no one else to do the work for us with most things, so it is easy to get behind. 

Which Sunshine Yarns base do you think is the best for knitting for children and why? 

Personally, I love our Classic Sock yarn. It's so versatile, soft and it just sings on a US3 (and I love knitting with thinner yarn too). But really any of our yarns are suitable for children's knits. I would say my top 3 favorite are Classic Sock, our Luxury Sport, and Merino Worsted.

You Merino Worsted is pretty fabulous! It made a beautiful hat for the Molloy pattern. What has been your favorite thing you've knit for your daughter. 

I would have to say her Rainbow Bear Blanket. It's a free pattern from Purl Soho. It's actually my first real crochet project too, but I love how it turned out and she loves it so much too :)


Thanks again Dani for coming on and giving us some insight into the yarn dyeing business! Another great Made by Mama interview! It is so wonderful getting a little peek into how makers manage their business and families. You can find Dani in her Ravelry group, or on the Sunshine Yarns blog.

For this Made by Mama feature we are giving away a skein of Sunshine Yarns Ultrualuxe Light in the color Toad, (the same yarn used in my Firefly July sweater). To be entered to win this amazing skein leave a comment below by Sunday at noon EST. You guys, this yarn is so amazing that I actually oooohed out loud the first time I wound it up! You don't want to miss this chance! 

Comments are now closed. The winner is comment #14 Kathy who said:

I just found Sunshine yarns this year and love it so much. Most of my yarn is the Classic Sock which makes wonderful shawls. I need to venture out and order something different - like the merino worsted.

Congrats Kathy! I'll be contacting you shortly for your mailing address!

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Made by Mama: Swankaroo

Andrea Sanchez

Made by Mama is a feature where we share awesome handmade products that are made by mothers. These products may not be fiber arts related but will definitely enrich your life.  

 I am so excited to be sharing with you our first Made by Mama feature! I first encountered the darling Swankaroo backpacks while cruising Instagram last summer. D was not yet 2 so most other children's backpacks were far too big. You can ask any friend that's ever come to the playground with me, I've always been a minimalist when it comes to carrying a diaper bag. So when I found Swankaroo I knew I had to give them a try.

I am so impressed with the detail and craftsmanship of these little packs. They are just the right size for kids ages 1 - 5 (they measures 11"h x 9"w x 6"d) and big enough to hold the essentials. 

Kendra is the mama behind this awesome product and was gracious enough to take the time to answer some of my burning questions. 

 

I love the name Swankaroo (that in itself may have been the initial draw)! What inspired you to start creating these backpacks and how did you come up with the name?

In 2012 when my daughter was two, my diaper bag was becoming weighed down with gear for her and her little brother. Recognizing my girl’s new found sense of independence, I thought it would be beneficial for both of us to get our own bags :)  After several unsuccessful attempts at searching the retail commercial market for a backpack that a) wasn’t too big for her small frame, b) covered in glitter and Disney characters, and c) fit her personality, I decided to venture into the world of creativity and innovation and make her a personalized backpack - one that was functional yet swanky :) And Swankaroo was born!

You began Swankaroo in 2013. How has your business evolved in the last two years?

Swankaroo started in my parent's garage with my refurbished Brother sewing machine I bought off Amazon for $80 and $100 worth of fabric. Swankaroo continues to be handmade, but a good portion of the work has been transferred to a local manufacturer to help keep up with demand, which I still can't keep up with! That's a good problem to have! It absolutely is! 

 

What were your goals when you started this business and how have they changed or remained the same?

I did not have big goals for Swankaroo. I thought I'd be lucky if I sold 2 backpacks a month!  Since then social media has aided the growth of Swankaroo and caused me to see great potential in turning this once "hobby" into a profitable side business to help supplement my family's income. I have been so humbled by the response (worldwide!) to these little packs of mine, that my goals are now geared toward making Swankaroo a well-known and trusted accessory company, with goals to expand to wholesale and expand my product line. The one goal that has never wavered is to keep Swankaroo my secondary priority, with my first being my family. My children and husband come first, no matter what.

Speaking of family, you are a mom to three littles. What does the average day (is there such a thing with children?) look like at your house? 

It is my biggest challenge to manage being a responsible and successful business owner and a successful mother. I try to keep production time just during afternoon nap time (I'm lucky if that amounts to 90 minutes, sometimes it's less!), but with social media and emails I check those more frequently throughout the day. I feel mom guilt ALL. DAY. EVERY. DAY. My husband and I work together on Swankaroo late in the evenings after the kids have gone down. I sew, and he packages orders and cuts materials. In that way, it's been a fun bonding experience for me and him. 

I am totally a nap worker too! I'm lucky that my son still sleeps a couple hours in the afternoon but it's definitely difficult to stay motivated when I'd like a nap mid-afternoon too! Are you able to involve your children in your business and, if so, how?

My kids are my models! I could not do this without their photogenic genes ;) They are also very involved in the process as I try new products out on them. I've let them pick some of the fabric patterns before for packs. 

 

What are your biggest challenges and rewards of running a small-business?

The biggest challenge for me is what I stated earlier - balancing family and business. It's hard to leave work at work when you work at home. But I do feel that it is a blessing also to be able to stay at home with my kids and bring in income rather than having to work outside the house. The rewards are many. I love seeing my hard work being showcased on customers social media accounts worldwide! It's such a thrill! I love reading positive reviews. I love bookkeeping Swankaroo's income and reinvesting in my small company that is growing faster and further than I ever could have imagined.

What are you working on now?

Right now I'm getting ready to release two new products - a mama pack (YES!) and a standard size backpack! I've been working tirelessly on them after numerous requests, so I hope the Swankaroo fan base is pleased :)

I'm sure they will be! 

Thank you again Kendra for taking the time to chat with me. If you're interested in Swankaroo, check out their site Swankaroo or find them on Instagram. In addition to backpacks they make reusable snack packs (totally next on my to get list). And I can't wait to see those mama packs! Kendra shared a peek a few weeks ago and they look fabulous.

Because we love our Swankaroo backpack so much we are giving away one backpack to a reader! Leave a comment here telling us which print you'd like and who you'd give it to. We will choose a winner at random on June 22nd. Please be sure to leave your email address or Ravelry ID so we can contact you. This giveaway is open to the US residents only. Good luck! 

All photos used with permission 

All photos used with permission