Barenaked Knitspot Blog Tour

I have long been an admirer of Anne Hanson, both as a person and as a designer.  Her designs are elegant and timeless and in person shes fun, knowledgeable and very kind!  My favourite part about being on blog tours is that I get to pick the brains of other designers.  I can ask all the questions I’ve been curious about and perhaps you are too?  Anne has been running different clubs for several years now and I wanted to find out what the appeal of a club was and why the Barenaked club was very different to other clubs out there.  So read on to find out what Anne has to say.

(All photos used in this post came from last years Barenaked Club – patterns for the 2013 club are surprises!)

‘Bare Naked Knitspot Club’ seems quite a change from your ‘Fall in Full Color’ club!  What inspired you to start this club?

I fell in love with hand spinning about eight years ago because of the incredible variety of wools and other fibers I could have access to through that craft. The unique qualities and behavior of each fiber type, their history and dissemination across the globe, and the seemingly endless range of color in natural, undyed fiber products is fascinating. The experience made me understand so much more about the relationship between yarn and knitted object. and yet, so many knitters do not have access to this array of fibers in yarns available commercially, making it hard to learn about and appreciate all of wool’s terrific traits. I was dying to get more knitters to discover this magic along with me.

I’ve known for a long time that the knitspot blog readership has an insatiable appetite for new fiber knowledge, but through our fall color club, I realized how much they depend on and make use of our online community as a milieu to learn as well as have fun.

What better situation than the club to infect them with even more interesting and varied fiber experiences? We provide several membership levels to allow as much participation as possible: knitters can choose the full yarn option, a double yarn option, or the eBook (pattern-only) option and our rocking’ ravelry clubhouses welcomes each member with open arms, as long as they come prepared to have fun.
(more information here.)

It looks like you’ve been running quite a number of clubs over the last few years.  What do you like about clubs and what advantage do they have for knitters and fiber lovers?

Yes, we now have two 6-month clubs each year—a fall color club that focuses on hand-dyed luxury yarns in exclusive colorways and a spring club that focuses on undyed (barenaked) yarns from varied fiber sources, many of which are purchased from small, artisan producers or spun exclusively for knitspot. We are now preparing to begin the second year of our barenaked club (and we still have a few spots left!)

For me, the clubs provide an opportunity to choose a focused collection or progression of yarns with which to tell a story; the process of choosing the fiber blends, colors, and yarn types is reflected in a book chapter/photo essay that I write each month to go with the yarn package. Each chapter includes a design created especially for that yarn, which takes advantage of the fiber’s qualities as well as its color; we sprinkle in surprise goodies here and there to accent the pieces. This format gives me an opportunity to create a collection of designs that revolves around a specific group of yarns, but also forms a progression of its own. When the club ends, the subscriber has a complete book, chock full of information, beautiful photos, and patterns.
See more about last year’s barenaked designs here.
The clubs have also been an excellent way to grow our business, providing diversity to our product offerings, allowing my husband David (mister knitspot) to take on a bigger role in our business, and creating several jobs in our community, including that of our major domo, Erica Owens (kzooerica).

As for members, for years, readers have (cheerfully) complained that often, they see a yarn on my blog but then can’t get ahold of it because it sells out before they can click through. by subscribing to the club, each member is assured of getting the yarn I’ve chosen to knit each design. For the barenaked club, we are more and more investing in custom spun yarns that cannot be purchased elsewhere.
Members also report that with a package arriving each month and a focused plan for using their club yarns, impulse yarn buying has been reduced or made more thoughtful and meaningful and they are definitely learning a lot, so that when they shop for project yarn, they make more informed and more pleasing choices.
And finally, members will tell you that hands down, our ravelry clubhouse is a huge draw in making the experience come together; the discussion, KALs, and sharing of information is unparalleled.

It looks like you use a very wide variety of fiber types for your club, any personal favorites?

Oh wow, that’s a tough question and of course I can’t give away anything about the surprise yarns we’ll be shipping in the next months! But I think the wild muga silk and the color grown cotton that we shipped in last year’s barenaked club were the most interesting to research, write, and learn about, as well as knit with. and then, the handspun lace yarn we shipped last January was very special indeed.

When you’re designing a piece for the club does the yarn always inspire the idea or does it sometimes work the other way around where you are searching for the perfect yarn to fit an idea in your head?

For all my designs, it works both ways. We choose the club yarns about 9 to12 months in advance of the first shipment, so if I have my act together far enough ahead or have an idea that’s been brewing awhile, I can choose yarns with a specific design in mind. But more often with the club pieces, I choose the yarns with just a general idea of what I’ll knit and develop it in detail once I have the yarn in hand to inspire me.

When looking for the prefect yarns for your club you must be learning an awful lot about yarn production and milling atthe same time.   Did you discover anything that surprised you?

Hahaha, well, one thing that I learned is that I love yarn and spinning even more than I thought I did! so much so that as I mentioned earlier, we are having more yarns spun exclusively for us than we originally expected AND, we have decided to keep some of them as permanent product offerings for our knitspot community—starting in the new year, we are rolling out our own yarn label, barenaked wools!

We’ll offer several undyed, artisanal yarn blends in fingering and DK weights for knitting garments, accessories, and lace. we’ll begin in January with our “breakfast blend”, a merino/alpaca blend in five natural colors from oatmeal to espresso—look for it very soon in our online shop. as the spring progresses, we’ll introduce the new yarns through our barenaked club and then list them in the shop after our members have a chance to see them.
I can’t even tell you how excited we are to get started; I hope you’ll let us send you some to knit with, Carol!

Do you have a preference for country of origin of your yarn?  Is it all from the US or is it from across the globe?

Oh we absolutely comb the globe for yarns to include in the barenaked club. while a wide variety of fibers can be produced in the USA and we do wool very well, often the availability and quality of exotic fibers is quite low in relation to the resources required for production. many times, there are great reasons to look elsewhere—production in Peru, India, and inner Mongolia is often more “green” and closer to the farm than for the same fiber here, while providing a valued source of industry and income for communities of origin.

For our fall club, we have up to now, focused on yarns from American dyers to help control cost and our carbon footprint. knitters who would like to source yarns outside the USA can participate through our eBook membership.
but I have to say, there are many, many dyers I’d love to work with across our borders; it would be a dream come true to make our color club equally global. for now, I try to work those yarns into my regular, non-club design work so that knitters can purchase as they choose.

4 thoughts on “Barenaked Knitspot Blog Tour

  1. I’m always curious about the variety of yarn clubs I see. This post did a really nice job of dissecting some different elements of the concept. Thank you, and thanks to Anne, for sharing!

  2. I agree with Michelle, I definitely feel like I understand the value of clubs better now. I’ve never signed up to a club before but I would think about it in the future.

  3. thank you for the opportunity carol to talk about our upcoming club; i so appreciate the chance to “appear” on your blog.
    happy new year!

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