I love to use materials in my bracelet making that have meaning, or support a cause. When I find a material that was once considered a useless scrap by someone else and I can upcycle it into something beautiful – I get really excited!
I went searching for silk ribbon yarn a few months ago and found some great quality materials, at a really nice price and a cool story about the business I purchased it from.
The Sari silk fabric scraps in the bracelet above were once on the cutting room floor in a factory half way around the world. Instead of being thrown out, they are sewn together by women in Nepal and India, which provides those women with a way to make a sustainable living in otherwise poverty stricken conditions.
Enter: Nicole Snow – Darn Good Yarn. A gal with a passion for art and a drive to make a positive impact on the world, Nicole created a business that imports fair trade recycled and upcycled silk yarn that helps provide a means of support for women in Nepal and India, feeds her own family and her soul. A beautiful formula if you ask me!
I had the chance to catch up with Nicole a little, let her know how much I admire her work and ask her a few questions about her biz.
“Nicole, How did you decide to make up-cycled yarn your business?”
“It was by accident! Let me start from the beginning. After college, I was an officer in the Air Force. After a conflict of interests, I got out early. Those early 20’s can be fun, can’t they?! I got married to the love of my life, Mike–the official husband of Darn Good Yarn. He said to me, “Go and do something that makes you happy”. The world in general made me happy. Different cultures, different colors–those types of things made me happy. So, I started a clothing business that focused on selling items that had recycled components in them. It was successful, but like with any business, you need to pull some major hours, and you need to really be passionate about what you’re doing every day. Women’s fashion was close to what I wanted to do but it wasn’t on the money. So, one of my manufacturer’s in India found out I was learning to knit and she sent me a skein of recycled silk yarn. It was nice but I knew I could have it made better. That’s where it started. I’ve always been a crafty person but the yarn drew me in and then I realized that I could help women and other small businesses and I took my first business and meshed into what Darn Good Yarn is today!”
“Do you get to travel and interact directly with the people you are helping half way around the world?”
I barely have the opportunity to a take a week off these days because of the tremendous support from people like you! But with the internet and some amazing contacts I have from my first business who fly back and forth to India and Nepal my interaction with the co-ops and small businesses is pretty far-reaching! I think the best interactions come when I work with small family-based mills in these countries and we work on creating a new blend of yarn. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a long process. Sometimes they will go without internet/electricity for a week or so… for me, it shows me how blessed we are and it motivates me to continue to grow Darn Good Yarn to provide an awesome base for these yarns to be sold on thereby creating more jobs and more prosperity for these people!
Did you ever imagine your silk being used in jewelry designs?
“I didn’t! And I don’t know why because it seems so natural. The fuzziness and the cool textures– it’s a “duh” to me now. How could I not have imagined it?!”
What is the most unique creation that has been made from your yarn?
“Oh my, I’ve seen bowls made (crochet), bird nests, silk fusing, noro felting, quilting–yikes, it’s like you’re asking me to pick a favorite child here! The thing that I love about Darn Good Yarn is the free-flow of creativity and community that’s made in that. It’s really a beautiful cycle.”
You have great color combinations for the ribbon yarn. How do you come up with the combinations?
“Well, I love photography. What I will do is look through some of my friends portfolios and I will pull a few of my favorite photos. With good photographers, you’ll notice that certain photos will have a true color palate to them. Like, if you study art, you might have heard them going through a blue period or a green period. Well, in the photography it’s the same thing. I will pull pallets from photos that move me and then go from there. I think it creates really unique blends. For instance, I have this wool that is light blue, dusty light pink and a deep dark burgundy. You might go “eww”, but worked up, it has an unexpected elegance to it!”
What are your biggest challenges in running your own business?
“Not enough time. I work an easy 15 hours a day in my office and I do about 3-5 a day on the weekends. I’m either taking photos, doing research, reading filing, marketing, blogging etc. It takes a lot of work to run your own business. But this goes back to the start of this interview. When I said I had to tweak what I was doing and I moved from women’s fashion to yarn that’s important because you have to love what you do at the end of the day. But it’s incredibly rewarding. I busted my behind for two years working 2 other part-time jobs before pulling Darn Good Yarn into being full-time for me. The jump was scary and took a lot of pots of coffee but I did it. If you’re thinking about it, you can do it too! And just a side-note, it never goes as planned:) My biggest tip here is have a good cash reserve before taking the plunge to go full-time.”
What do you like best about serving the creative population?
Wow! The love and the community! Sometimes I feel like Darn Good Yarn is like a cult (in a good way). Sometimes I get a picture emailed to me showing me what someone has made, and I sit at my desk laughing because it’s so flippen’ creative. That just motivates me to keep on creating new kinds of items and color blends for Darn Good Yarn.
Purchase Today and help those devastated in Japan. Nicole is Donating 5% of her proceeds today to the Red Cross. Click Here.
Awesome Nicole – Thanks!