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Tuesday May 09, 2017

India part 2 ~ meet the makers!

Thank you all so much for your kind comments on last week's blog post. The trip was so amazing and truly shook me to my core. I can already feel it fading into the background of my hectic life all too quickly. I don't want to forget anything. I want to somehow keep that special place and the amazing people that make our yarns with me each day. The only thing I can think of is to print out the below pic and post it right above my desk each day as a daily reminder. A reminder of how grateful I am to these women for taking a chance on my hair brained yarn idea and sticking with me. A reminder of how how happy and proud they are of the yarn they make. A reminder that I'm not working alone but have a team of strong women that also depend on this to earn a living.  A reminder to keep going and to push my creativity to come up with new ideas - they (as well as myself) demand it and are up for trying anything. Good reminders, reminders that make me smile, reminders I need. Reminders that have me wondering how long before I get back there and bring the fam?! I am ready to go back right now! With that, I'd love to introduce you to these amazing women. 

Here we are! Just one missing, see my only snap of Monika below who runs the whole show and is a little camera shy. All of the ladies except for Dipika has been here since the beginning, 6 years ago. 

I'm lucky enough to stay with Monika while there and the food - OMG it's such amazing home cooked Indian food. All from scratch! Monika is my English speaking point person. Some of the other ladies speak a little English but not much. Monika helped me build everything and truly I could not have done it without her. She's a very old friend and we consider each other family after all these years.

Meet Sungita! She packs the yarn up. Twisting the yarn into a skein is an art form as any yarn shop owner knows. She's excellent at it - our yarns always look so yummy the way she twists them. Her favorite yarn is Spun Cloud in color Blue Flame and Rolling Stone in color Shooting Star. She also dives into other jobs like fiber prep when needed.

Meet Meera - she was the first lady I trained to spin on my own wheel. She is the quality control expert and checks each and ever skein. She also oversees the spinners. Her sari, right, so good! She likes Spun Cloud in Bodacious Pink and Wildflower yarn in Gardenia

Meet Ranjit! Ranjit makes the trims you see in our yarns. These include pom poms, tassels, crochet flowers, braided trims...the list goes on. She also makes our fabric yarns. If she had to pick one favorite it would be Wildflower Drifter in color Pale Lime.

This is Reeta, she also makes the trims and Wildflower cotton fabric yarns as Ranjit. Her favorite yarn is Wildflower Drifter in Ginseng.

This is Bindu. She preps and cards fiber. Carding fiber is the process we use to blend many different fiber colors together. She's holding some of the fiber we use in this pic. She didn't want to choose a favorite yarn - just the fiber, ha!

Say hi to Kavita. She also preps and cards fiber like Bindu and her favorite colors are pink and purple. 

Her toe rings, love!

This is Neelam, Kavita's mother. Neelam is a master spinner and can spin any of our yarns well including Gypsy Garden, Cast Away and Pixie Dust. She likes our Wanderlust yarns best and is holding our new fall 2017 color Peachy Keen in her arms. 

Meet Balgit, another spinner who's favorite yarn is Wanderlust. She's holding her favorite color - new for 2017 and called Spirit Animal. 

This is Rekha. She is amazing as spinning Cast Away and Pixie Dust yarns in particular. She's very fast too! Her favorite yarn is Pixie Dust in color Lemon Meringue

Bangle crush!

She always has spectacular toe rings. 

This is Ranjna, another spinner who can spin any of our yarns but who specifically specializes in Cast Away and Pixie Dust. She also likes Lemon Meringue :)

Meet Dipika, Kavita's daughter an Neelam's granddaughter (cool right?!) She's the only woman that has been with us 5 (not 6 years). So the newest addition. She's a spinner but also helps out with carding and fiber prep when need be.

Veena overseas the production flow and make sure the team is meeting delivery due dates. She makes sure we have all the raw materials in house to produce the yarns smoothly without any shortages. She's also one of the first ladies I taught to spin the yarns and now she's running the whole show!

 

One of the happiest things I saw was that the ladies all share 2 rickshaws home together. They all live near each other and are now quite good friends. Each night I said goodbye to them and watched them pile into the rickshaws, it was a riot! 

I loved seeing the camaraderie they have with each other.

 

Ok, now for the process. I think you may be interested to see a little bit into the process of how we make the yarns. Most of these pics come from short instagram story videos so excuse the quality. I hope to someday put together a little about us video for my website where I dive into the incredibly time consuming process of how these yarns are made in more detail. This is just a quick overview of how we go about spinning a yarn with no trims. The yarns with trims have a little bit more of a process to them!

Steps 1 & 2: Fiber prep & carding. We buy our fiber already processed and dyed from a mill. I'm also happy to show a little behind the scenes on this if you're interested. I actually visited this mill while in India as well. It was really cool! 

Step 3: Spinning with carded fiber

A bunch of our yarns, including Wanderlust and some colors of Gypsy Garden are actually spun twice.

Step 4: Make it into a skein!

Step 5: Steam or wash the yarn to set the fibers into place.

Step 6: Add the labels

Step 7 is where Meera comes in - she checks each yarn for quality - is the length correct, is the thickness Ok, are trims falling off...the list goes. So yeah, Meera is important! 

 

Alright, there you have it folks! I have so many more photos and amazing things I could share but this is already the longest post to date. If you're interested in seeing more behind the scenes, definitely leave a comment here. I think I must have 1000 pics of the spinners and India. It's been a blast sharing this part of the business with you all. Thank you so much for taking the time to read. XOXO ~ Amy

 

 

Tuesday May 02, 2017

Incredible India! India Part 1

posted by: Amy Small in india spinners, travel

I made it back from India last Friday and have been itching to write this blog post ever since I touched down. Before I dive in, a quick plug for my podcast that I'll be launching in a few weeks time. I hope to touch on India and the spinners throughout, so please stay tuned!

 

For those not super familiar with our yarns, India is where all the magic happens. About 7 years ago, I started this business and taught a small group of women there to spin my yarn designs. It was really hard but it’s funny how I forget all of that now. 7 years later, 12 out of the 13 ladies we work with are still there. That one lady joined later, 5 years ago, so she could work along side her mother and grandmother. The thing that astonishes me the most is that we invented and created our own cottage industry from thin air. Spinning yarn, in this way, did not exist there before. It feels amazing to think about that and fills me with a huge sense of accomplishment. It's wonderful but also scary because I feel an intense pressure to keep the orders coming so that these women have work.

 

I’d love to take this time to dive into my trip and give you a little behind the scenes info into how our yarns are made. I'm going to do this blog post in 2 parts- this week, I'll share photos of some of the markets I source trims and inspiration from as well as some pics of the what I saw there that just amazed me. Next week I'll introduce you to the women who spin for us and take you on a tour of the mill where we buy our fiber. There are a lot of photos and I don't want to overwhelm you with them all of them at once :) Comments, likes, shares etc all welcome. If you have travel spots in India I need to see - let me know!

 

My trip started off in Delhi where I like to go first to be inspired and source new materials. When you get off the plane in India, it’s almost like the hot, thick, smelly air hits you in the face. Since it had been so long since my last trip, I felt a little more culture shock than I have in previous visits. It’s incredibly different than the states. There is a persistent sound of honking horns everywhere, there are crumbling buildings next to 5 star hotels, babies on the back of motorcycles, slum villages for miles, so much color, stray dogs everywhere, monkeys...the list goes on. Everything struck me as beautiful or horrific and I couldn’t stop snapping photos.

 

More than anything, this trip reminded me how important travel is to me. Since having my boys I’ve barely gone anywhere. It’s so easy to get into a routine and then suddenly your world is so small. This trip which I put together so last minute, jolted me out of that and renewed my love of travel, of getting out of all my habits if only for a week at a time, to reflect back, try new things and see differently…not to mention how fun it is. Every day felt like an adventure! Plus, it's really not that hard to pull it together and do it cheaply. I resolved to travel with the boys and my husband as much as we are able, especially as they get older and can remember more. I hope this might inspire you to do the same, even if it's just trekking somewhere new in the place you live. I noticed a big shift in how I think about people who are different than me (especially given the current political state in the US), towards more understanding and love because there are so many things we share as universal commonalities between us. 

 

In Delhi, I met up with some old friends from back when I used to work at Free People. My old boss Merrie lives there part time and designs the label FP One as well as all the interiors and display for the Free People stores. Their Delhi workshop is truly amazing and I wanted everything. My first day, I went to Kinari Bazar to source trims and anything at all that might inspire a new yarn. It’s tricky to get to – you have to take a rickshaw because the roads are so darn narrow. A few pics below of this magical place. There is so much to see, I wish I could've gone a second time. I'm sure I would've found all new things! I scooped up a bunch of ribbons with pretty flower shapes that I'll use for inspiration in a new yarn. 

Street madness... :)

The next day I shopped around Delhi, mainly looking for fabric, color and embellishment inspiration. There was lots of that! I love Hauz Khas market especially for the tiny picturesque streets and amazing shops. Here are a few snaps from that day. I came a way with a bunch of pretty fabrics and embroidered items.

I DIE!

Too expensive for me to take home but I did snag a pretty pair.

Later that night I caught up with my Delhi friends for a visit to their workshop - I was ready to move in - and dinner at a stop called Olive that I'd never been to. It was stunning!

I owe these 2 so much. Kundan helped me get started and helps me navigate doing business in India. Merrie FOR REAL taught me everything I know. She is a creative genius that I am so honored to know. I can't imagine my life if she hadn't been in it....wondering if I can get her on the podcast I'm working on :)

Inspiration everywhere at their offices. I want ever single piece of furniture!

India gate at sunset - pretty wild!

Gorgeous dinner spot. Below are a few shots from my trip - things that I spotted and found pretty or interesting. 

I took a tour of the spa at the Imperial Hotel. Next trip couples massage please!

There are dyed colorful birds in there - I can't even begin to imagine what for, pets I suppose?

I never really got used to seeing a baby on a motorcycle!

Next week I'll take you into the really fun part of the trip - where all the yarn magic happens! XOXO ~ Amy

 

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