Frolic Report 2016
It's hard to believe that it's more than six weeks now since Elizabeth and I packed up all the Sweet Paprika yarn and patterns and drove our little Communauto car down to Toronto for the Knitter's Frolic.
Toward the end of April I was working long hours in the studio in preparation for the Frolic, especially eager to get our new product, a series of gradient mini-skein sets made from Canadian-sourced wool, ready for sale. I always want to do more to prep for shows than I possibly can, because we want our booth to look vibrant, colourful, and full of good things.
When we finally arrived in Toronto after the long drive down the 401, we got right to setting up our booth and finding the best ways to showcase our yarns and patterns. I built our display units a couple of years ago and they're a bit finicky sometimes, so there's always a bit of last-minute alteration to do.
We finished getting our booth together just by the end of the set-up time, and headed over to our brother's place, where we were staying for the night. Noah very kindly both made us dinner, and helped us with some last-minute colour naming as we labeled and packaged the final products to go in our booth. After not-quite-enough sleep we returned to our booth for the big day.
For those of you who might not know what it is, and have read this far wondering what on earth I've been talking about, the Toronto Knitter's Frolic is a giant knitting festival, held every April, organized by the Toronto Knitter's Guild. There are a number of classes and workshops, and a marketplace full of vendors selling pretty much anything a knitter could want. We've had a booth in the market for four years now, and it's one of our favourite events to attend.
It's always a treat to spend the whole day talking yarn and knitting to fellow fibre enthusiasts and this year was no exception. It seemed like there were even more shoppers than usual and we spent the day in a flurry of discussions of dye lots, fibre types, and pattern details, helping our customers find exactly what they needed for their projects. We had a great day, and even sold all but one of the new gradient sets!
We also love connecting with the other vendors, many of whom have become friends, and who we may only see once or twice a year. This year our booth was so busy we barely had time for our annual catch-up! One of my favourite people to see at yarn shows is always Laura Sheppard, and I did manage to chat with her for a few minutes as part of yet another project: recording short interviews with some fellow vendors to give a little taste of the Frolic to those who live to far away to make it out.
Laura makes beautiful yarn bowls, buttons, and sheep mugs (one of which now lives in my dye studio). You can find out more about her and her work at www.laurasheppardpottery.com.
After chatting with Laura, I also took a few minutes to talk to Kylie from Agrestal Yarn, a new friend and Frolic booth neighbour who specializes in natural dyeing. I brought home a skein of her yarn dyed with madder, and am very much looking forward to casting it on sometime this summer.
And then, just at the last minute as everyone was starting to pack up I ran around and managed to sneak in short interviews with designer Natalie Servant, Sam from Trailhead Yarns and Fibre, and Donna Hancock of Wellington Fibres, the mill where our locally-sourced wool is processed.
I was very pleased to have had the chance to chat with these ladies, and am grateful to them all for giving me some of their time on such a crazily busy day.
The weekend was not yet over for me and Elizabeth though! I was ambitious enought to plan a few extra stops on the way back home too. The first one was just outside of Toronto at Soper Creek Yarns in Bowmanville. Tina, the owner, is one of our newest wholesale customers, and we had arranged to pass by and let her pick out a few extra things for her shop.
It was really lovely to meet her in person, and get a chance to poke around the shop while she picked out her yarn. I love visiting yarn shops (even though I really, really don't need any more yarn) and it's definitely one I'd go back to if I was in the area.
We got back on the road once more, and took our last detour up off the 401 to Norwood, where we stopped in at Pine Hollow Farm. This is the source of fleeces for our Norwood yarn as well as the new gradient sets, and I had spoken to Allison, the farmer, on the phone but never met her in person. We had planned to stop by to pick up our fleece from this year's shearing and she welcomed us in for a much-appreciated cup of tea. It turned into a bit of a longer stop than we had anticipated, as Allison has a wealth of knowledge and information about fleece and wool. We could have stayed for hours, but she was in the middle of lambing season and we needed to get ourselves home, so we packed up our fleece and headed for home.
It was a lot to pack into just a few short days, but pretty exhilarating at the same time. We will definitely be planning to return to the Frolic next year. Maybe we'll see you there!
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One of our big goals for Sweet Paprika this year was to source a new line of Canadian wool yarns. We started contacting farms and mills last January, researching options, connecting with farmers, and collecting samples.
Eventually we settled on working with wool from Circle R Livestock, a family farm in southern Ontario. Over the spring we worked out the details to have the wool milled in New Brunswick, and we then spent the summer doing dye tests and creating colour recipes for our new Winfield (worsted) and Sutton (bulky) yarn lines.
Lately a lot of my crafting inspiration has come from my son, who is growing and needs things, and from my goal to live more gently on this earth and think twice before buying and using things.
My values of living frugally and buying ethically-produced clothing that is not damaging to the environment sometimes feel completely at odds with each other. For me, this is where mending, crafting, and buying second-hand come in. Can I mend something to extend its useful life? Can I knit or sew more of our everyday wardrobe basics? Is it something I can trade or buy second-hand rather than purchasing new?