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10 Years of Sweet Paprika

by Debbie Sullivan April 20, 2017 5 Comments

10 Years of Sweet Paprika

It's a little bit hard to believe, but Sweet Paprika has been in business for exactly 10 years this month! We have a few things planned to celebrate our anniversary, but I thought it would be nice to start off with a little look at where we started, and where we've been, over the past decade. 

It all began way back in 2007, when Elizabeth and I, and our other sister Margaret, were all living in Ottawa. We knew we wanted to put our skills to work in some sort of business, but we weren't exactly sure what direction that would take us in yet. That didn't stop us from being interviewed for the "Mainstreeter" local newspaper though!

Mainstreeter interview photo

At around the same time, we started doing our first experiments in dyeing wool yarn, using an old enamel pot on our kitchen stove. 

Stove-top dyeing
We tried out a whole bunch of different dye techniques, and soon we had more hand-dyed yarn than we could possibly knit ourselves... the solution was, of course, to start selling it! 
One of our early experiments left us with three different blue yarns, plus a bunch of sample skeins in bright colours, all on a fingering-weight base. 
Fish kit yarn
Elizabeth was inspired to find a fun way to use it all together in a pattern, and created her  Fish in the Sea sock design. 
We decided to package the yarn and pattern together into kits, and they turned out to be a big hit. These fun and whimsical socks have been one of our best sellers over the past 10 years. 
Fish in the Sea detail
During that first summer we also started experimenting with selling downloadable patterns online, both on our own website and on Ravelry. Some of our very first patterns were the Rambler's Scarf and Catawampus Cap, both modeled by Elizabeth's husband, Paul.
Patterns modeled by Paul
In the fall of 2007 I moved to Montreal to attend the Design for the Theatre program at Concordia, and when Elizabeth and Paul followed in early 2008 we officially moved the business to Quebec - and moved our yarn stock into a bookcase in their new apartment. 
Yarn in bookcase
Over the next year or two we continued adding new yarns, colours and patterns.
Arietta yarn in sugarplum
We even dyed a special colourway for a sock knitting club - one of our very first wholesale orders. 
Custom colour
In 2011 I finished my degree at Concordia, where I had been incorporating knitting into my coursework whenever possible. My favourite example is the chain mail armour that I knit as part of my costume design for the theatre department's production of Red Noses. 
Red Noses knit armour
Finishing school meant that I had much more time available to focus on Sweet Paprika projects, and 2012 was a big year for us. Among other things, we published our very first collection of knitting patterns, the Cloudy Day Collection
Cloudy Day Collection
And we attended the inaugural Twist Fibre Festival, where I used my set design skills to build the display for our booth.
Twist Festival booth building
Twist Booth 2012
In 2013 Elizabeth's son Henry was born, an event that we of course celebrated with a new knitting pattern
First Winter pattern
And in 2014 we made the very big leap from dyeing in our kitchens to renting our first dedicated dye studio, located on rue St Denis in downtown Montreal. 
Dye Studio
It was in this studio that we had our first experience with washing wool straight from a farm in Ontario. We started with the raw fleeces, washed them, and sent them to Wellington Fibres to be spun into yarn. 
Fleece washing
We dyed it all up, and it became Norwood: our a brightly coloured, super-soft, Canadian-sourced DK weight wool. 
Norwood
One of our next challenges, in the fall of 2015, was moving the studio to it's current location in the Marché Centrale area. This is what it looked like the day we moved in:
Studio moving
It's come a long way since that day, and it's now a busy place full of yarn and equipment, where we do the day-to-day dye production as well as teach dyeing workshops
Dyeing workshop
In the past year we've been busier and more ambitious than ever, with projects like our Little Luxuries shawl club. 
Shawl club packages
To help us out with all of this, we had three lovely interns in the dye studio last summer. It was a great experience for us, and we're excited to have two more working with us again this spring.
Interns summer 2016
We continue to vend at fibre festivals, and since we've been selling yarn to more and more shops, we've started adding Trunk Shows to our event schedule. We especially loved getting to spend time with Clarisse and to meet the crowd of lovely knitters at Coeur de Mailles in Quebec City last fall. 
Coeur de Mailles
Now I think I've got us more-or-less up to date, but remember I mentioned that we have plans to celebrate our 10th anniversary? Well, we're currently working on some new patterns and kits using the Fish in the Sea motif for mittens and a cowl. We'll have patterns and kits available for both very soon!
Fish in the Sea sneak peek
 
It feels pretty good to see how far we've come over the past 10 years, and I can't wait to see where the next decade will take us!
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Debbie Sullivan
Debbie Sullivan

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5 Responses

Veronica
Veronica

April 23, 2017

Such a lovely summary! And so cool to read the chronology of your life events playing out alongside the development of Sweet Paprika!

Congratulations on 10 years, wishing you more successes and growth in the next 10!

Lucie
Lucie

April 21, 2017

Congratulations ! As I once said, you girls are truly inspiring ! Here is to another 10 years !

Barbara covington
Barbara covington

April 21, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your 10-year anniversary story. Congratulations and here’s to another 10 years!

Barbara covington
Barbara covington

April 21, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your 10-year anniversary story. Congratulations and here’s to another 10 years!

Peggy
Peggy

April 21, 2017

Congratulations!!! That was such a fun story to read, with lovely photos. Wishing you all the best in the next ten years….

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