Fifteen Years of Sweet Paprika!
This year we're celebrating Sweet Paprika's 15th anniversary, and it's honestly been a bit hard to get my head around where the time has gone! We've been looking back through some of our old photos, and thought it would be fun to share a little retrospective here. Our little business has come a long way in the past 15 years!
Most of the images I'm including are not our polished product photos (although those have also come a long way since the early days), but more of a behind-the-scenes look at some of the memorable stepping stones along our journey.
I'd also like to start off by saying a huge thank you to our sister, Margaret, and Elizabeth's husband, Paul, who both played very significant roles in the early years of our business, and continue to be an invaluable support to us. We'd also like to thank my partner, Jon (who has helped get me through the stress of running a business in a pandemic without losing my mind), and all our kids (who occasionally let us get a row or two of knitting done).
- We started a business! We tried a bunch of different yarn-related things at first, but soon found ourselves experimenting with hand-dyeing, in the kitchen of our Ottawa apartment.
- We launched our first website, entirely coded by Elizabeth. Anyone remember our old paprika-pepper banner?
- My job (being considerably less of a tech wizard) was to design a logo. One of my early hand-painted versions is on the left, we quickly moved to the more streamlined graphic look on the right.
- We moved to Montreal (I'd started a degree in Design for the Theatre at Concordia), and we kept the business going in our (much brighter) new apartments, still dyeing everything in Elizabeth's kitchen.
- We dyed our first big wholesale order, a big batch of our Vivace self-striping yarn (now discontinued) for the Loopy Ewe
- I graduated from Concordia, after finding a way to sneak a major knitting project into the costume design for my final student production. Can you spot it?
- We dyed our first custom-spun, Canadian-sourced fibre: an alpaca/wool blend that we called "Cambiata"
- We packed up all our yarn to bring to the first-ever Twist Fibre Festival. I designed and built our custom display, and Margaret and our friend Gen (who took these photos) came along to help us out.
- We moved into our first-ever studio, on rue St Denis in downtown Montreal. It was pretty small, and only had a tiny sink, but the dye process was finally out of our kitchens!
- We found a new studio space on rue Meilleur, that was bigger, brighter, and (most importantly) had a great sink!
- This was also the year that I somehow ended up spending a lot of time hauling around giant boxes of yarn on my bike...
- We had our first batch of studio interns! Three Concordia students spent 6 weeks in our studio, learning to dye and earning credit for a Fine Arts internship course.
- We started hosting our knitting teas (which had been going strong for 10 years already) at La Société Textile, an amazing space that we still miss very much.
- Yet another studio move! This time to our current space in St Henri.
- We hosted our last pre-pandemic World-Wide Knit in Public Day picnic... we're eager to start this tradition up again as soon as COVID (and babies) allow.
- With the shift to doing everything online, we shared our yarns in our first ever Zoom booth at Vogue's Virtual Knitting Live.
- We hired our studio assistant, Ivy, who held down the fort for us during two maternity leaves! She's recently started taking on a bit more of the creative work at Sweet Paprika too: her very first hand-dyed skein is on the left, and two of her recent Gnome Sets are on the right.
2022 and Beyond!
I hope you've enjoyed this little trip down memory lane! We're very proud of how our little business has grown over the years, and we hope to continue for many more to come. It's hard to know what the future will hold for us, but we're eager to continue working with Canadian wool and farmers, and building a community of fibre enthusiasts both here in Montreal and around the world. We hope you will join us!
PS - Do you have a favourite Sweet Paprika memory? We'd love to hear it! Please feel free to share in the comments.
Thanks for letting us know that you enjoyed hearing about our story! We’re pretty proud of how far our little business has come.
I’m so glad that you’re joining in the Great Canadian Wool-along, and discovering some new Canadian fibre businesses. We have looked at the yarns that Custom Woolen Mills offers in the past, and I actually purchased some of their wool as samples. It’s beautiful stuff, but wasn’t exactly what we were looking for at the time. Hopefully we’ll be able to collaborate with them sometime in the future.
We have been having a lovely summer here, hot and sticky but that’s always part of summer in Montreal! We’re looking forward to seeing you on Zoom when our knitting teas start back up in the fall.
In the meantime, happy crafting!
Thanks for sharing that memory with us! We’re so happy that the “matchmaking” worked out, and feel lucky to have Kim as part of our family as well as a wonderful knitting friend. Hope to see all of you soon!
Thank you for your comment and kind words. I’m so glad you were able to discover our yarns at Knit City. We won’t be attending the Twist Festival this weekend, but La Bobineuse will have a selection of our yarns in their booth. I hope you have a wonderful time at the festival!
And we’d love to welcome you to our studio in St Henri some day. It’s really a dye workshop and not a retail space, so we don’t have regular “open” hours, but we’d be happy to make an appointment for you to stop by and say hello.
So cool to see how the 2 of you have progressed over the years!
Have been going through The Great Canadian Wool-a-Long info, & have signed up. I’ve never done anything like before, & some of the speakers/presenters sound really interesting. Also, did not realize the organizer was based in Nanaimo. We will likely make a run out to the Island in September to visit our son & his wife, who are in the military & posted to Comox, so . . . something else to explore out there. Thanks for passing on the information.
As a result, I also started checking out Canadian wool mills, & really looked into the history of Custom Woolen Mills at Carstairs, Alberta. All of their wool is home grown in western Canada, no imports, & they are very fussy with their manufacturing processes. Have you ever thought about trying to source some of your yarn from them? Just a thought. I have been eyeing their wool comforters. It might be worth a run up to Carstairs for a “hands on” look.
Anyway, hope you are having a decent summer in Quebec (much better out here this year, tornadoes not withstanding!!!), & I’m looking forward to your virtual teas again in the fall.
Dalyce from Medicine Hat
First of all, I am continually sooo proud of all you have accomplished Elizabeth, Debbie, (and Margaret!) I attended one of your first workshop/tea events when you still lived in Ottawa. Unbeknownst to all of us our future daughter-in-law was there as well. Thanks to some careful “matchmaking” by the cousins Kim and our son Joel are now a happy couple with two very special kids. Kim continues to knit beautiful creations worthy of your wool and patterns. For sharing your skills and talents, for creating beauty, for building community, and for bringing Kim and Joel together, thank you! ♥️ Anna
Hello, I am so happy to see and hear about your story. I recently found your yarn at Knit City Montreal and purchased gorgeous yarn from your kiosk and am knitting a sweater with it. I am so happy to know that a you are now situated in St. Henri and am making a point to come to your store. I am A member of Knit Stars which is a community with members from all over the world. Shelly Brander had started this community along with a store many years ago and has expanded with masterclasses, designers and dyers from all over the world. I am a STARGUIDE with them as a communicator and who encourages knitting with a positive attitude. I will be going to Fiber Twist in August.
Your story is such a positive and encouraging one for those who started with the kitchen sink and now look where you have gotten to in your adventure.
I applaud you for the great work and passion you have.
Hope to meet you in the near future.