Here is my Q&A with Ray. He is a great guy with an excellent sense of humor and I was very happy to get a chance to ask him some questions.
I want to correct another point – originally on the post this morning I had a typo saying that you had to buy 12 skeins to get into the stashbuster stocking contest, when I meant 2. I just wanted to reiterate in case of any confusion.
With no further ado; the question:
1.)What is your favorite part about running Knitivity?
Dealing directly with customers/end-users of my product; the ability to customize each skein if a customer wants “a little more of this” or “a little less of that” from my regular line-up, as well as a completely custom job from photographs. I’ve done yarns to match several beloved pets for people, and recently worked from a photo of a customer when she was little, shown with her grandfather — she wanted his shirt color, her dress, his eyes, and the color of the ice cream they were sharing.
I also enjoy the flexibility of being a small operation, so I can adjust to my customers’ needs more readily than a large mill that has to make large production runs.
2.)Can you tell me about the charity work that you do?
I don’t have a specific charity focus, per se, but when I hear of a particular need, I’ll announce it (like the Bundle Up New Orleans project immediately after Katrina, or sending socks to Greensburg after their big tornado). And if any of my customers are doing charity knitting/crocheting, and let me know when they order any of the mill solids, they’ll get a bundle discount. And, if a group is doing a “love blanket” or something, they can all order their individual colors and get a discount, ensuring all the yarns in a project are of similar weight/gauge for a uniform group project.
3.)How can others get involved?
Let me know of specific needs. I try to avoid focused political and/or religious fund-raisers, of course, because everyone has their own views, but generic social service projects (“Aunt Millie’s house burned down and they need blankets and socks” for example), I can put the word out to others. When there are larger needs, like after a natural disaster affecting many people, I try to find out who the local contacts in an area of need and direct people to send their charity knits straight to that area. It’s always much easier to partner with local agencies or charity drives already in place, rather than re-invent the wheel. Many American-based charities prefer acrylic-knit goods, but I don’t sell acrylic yarns, so my products aren’t suited for most of the big on-going charities. And groups like Red Cross prefer simply to get money now. So I stick with encouraging smaller projects.
4.)I know you relocated after Hurricane Katrina, so… how do you like Houston?
It’s bigger than when I left in 1983. I came here specifically because all my children and grandchildren are here. Were it not for them I would have picked a smaller city where I could get around. Houston is fine, of course, but where I live keeps me out of easy access to other knitters and other activities — no easy bus service into town, etc. (I don’t drive).
5.)How do you create your colorways? Do you plan it out ahead of time, pull out the dye and see where that takes you, or is it an entirely different process?
Sometimes I’ll aim for a particular result (like my colorways derived from the Astronomy Picture of the Day photos, or the custom jobs from customers); other times I’ll throw dye at a yarn and see what happens.
6.)I love the names of your colors, do you plan them beforehand or do you look at the finished product and name it accordingly?
As with #5 above, sometimes it is deliberate (like when I wanted Candy Corn, or the Barista Collection), and other times a yarn names itself afterward, such as the Doberman — that was a total accident when a kettle of black was insufficient for all the yarn and it bled out to produce a tan edging, it reminded me of the coloring on a Doberman Pincer.
7.)You sell Dura-lace, certainly the only superwash lace yarn to my knowledge; do you knit a lot of lace?
I don’t personally knit much lace (clumsy fingers, poor eyes), but many of my customers do. I wanted to find a North American-made laceweight, instead of using imports, so I asked my mill that supplies all my other yarns to develop a laceweight. So they did, and the rest is history. Since I’ve had success with it, the mill will be taking it public in their line-up next year, but until June I have it exclusively.
Re: North American yarns: I’m not strongly “anti” import yarns, and many of them are lovely. But my personal goal, as an independent artist myself, is to support the North American / USA wool market, and I work with a mill that uses almost entirely North American raised wool, and they do their own spinning and dyeing here in the States. It helps the sheep farmers, it keeps Americans working in the mill, and they supply virtually ALL my undyed yarns now.
8.)What caused you to request superwash lace weight in the first place?
See #7 above. Originally it wasn’t a request specifically for superwash, but just something thinner than their fingering. It just happened that their machines were already calibrated to spin the strands for sock yarn, so it was an easy modification to adjust it for laceweight. But now having committed to the superwash, it is clear there is a market: it will encourage more people to try knitting lace knowing they can just toss it into the washer if they need to. Obviously care should be taken for any fine knits, but there’s not the worry about felting as might come with regular wool or other fibers. And, it holds a blocking quite well, according to reports from my test knitters.
9.)What’s your favorite colorway?
The next one! :-) There are some that make me happier than others (and a few that I hope I never have to dye again!) but as long as people order them I will continue doing it. And quite often a “mistake” along the way often leads to an entirely new colorway. Like when I needed to do an “Art School” (the primary colors a small child uses in art class), and used the wrong (deeper) dyes, so it became “Art School, Sr.”, in a bolder, more mature set of colors. And then I accidentally spilled some black on a batch of Art School, Sr., and that became “Graffiti” — it reminded me of the splash of colors one sees while driving past a graffiti-laden freeway overpass.