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California Revival Knits: Interview with Marilyn King of Black Water Abbey

One of the things I want to do in conjunction with the publication of California Revival Knits is offer you the chance to learn a bit more about  the yarn companies and dyers whose yarn I feature in the book.

First up is Marilyn of Black Water Abbey.  I’ve known Marilyn since when I first started designing.  I first saw her glorious heathery wooly yarns at Stitches West, and purchased enough yarn in Jacob to do Alice Starmore’s Canyonville.  Sorry to say, I never knit Canyonville, but I’ve loved the yarn ever since.

No, the yarn’s not soft, though it does soften considerably once washed (or when you’ve blocked your garment).  However, that sturdiness results in a finished object that will look beautiful for a long, long time.  And did I mention the gorgeous colors?  And how cable pop in this yarn?  With the new emphasis on attributes other than softness, and interest in more advanced techniques (with which this yarn really shines) I expect her yarn, which already has a devoted following (Ravelry group here), to grow even more in popularity.

I used Black Water Abbey 2 ply worsted for the Catalina Star Pillow.  I tried to make the back of the pillow as pretty as the front.  I hope you like it!

Stephannie: How did you get started in this business?

Marilyn: When on vacation in Ireland, I found one of the mills I work with.  I thought there might be a business opportunity as at the time we weren’t seeing yarn like this in the US.  I wrote a marketing plan, presented it to the mill owner, and became his North American distributor/retail outlet. I have been importing the yarn for 13 years.  [I choose] colors that seem appropriate for traditional, aran-style garments.

What festivals or conferences do you go to as a vendor?

Madrona FiberArts Winter event, Stitches, Madison Knitting Guild.

The general thought amongst internet craft gurus is that potential customers want to know about the yarnie as a person through things such as personal blogs, Twitter, etc. If a potential customer feels they ‘know’ the person associated with the yarn, it builds trust in the mind of the customer, and they’re more apt to make that first purchase. What are your thoughts on this?

I think that has become more important over the years.  My business is web-based, so I try to have a user-friendly website.  I communicate with my newsletter, I try to respond quickly to questions from customers and potential customers.  I am beginning to use Ravelry as well.

Thank you Marilyn!


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