Thursday, April 28, 2011

Discover Handmade (Start to Finish)

Glorious Grazers is a wonderful crafter from Issaquah, WA, who takes her fiber through all stages of the process herself - from raising the Alpacas and carding their fiber, to dying, spinning and finally knitting!

In a highly entertaining (and often hilarious) interview, Caryn from Glorious Grazers talks to us about her day job as a video game interface designer, her four feisty fiber boys, and World War II propaganda...

Describe yourself in 5 words.
Crafty, adventurous, bold, snarky, impatient.

What made you want to become a crafter?
I've loved making things ever since I was a kid; I don't even really know where the desire originally came from. But I've always been in love with the idea of self-sufficiency, the ability to make something completely from scratch using only the most basic raw materials. So once I learned to knit it was only a matter of time before I moved on to spinning, and then only a matter of time after THAT that I moved on to owning the animals that would provide those raw materials.

So you have Alpacas! Tell us about them!
I have four alpacas. They're all fiber boys, which means we don't breed them, but they provide me with fleece.

We have Silverton, a beautiful gray alpaca with a white face who is shy and sweet; Cinnamon, who's nearly all white except for some brown on his face and tail, and who's our bossiest and funniest alpaca; there's Benz, who looks like a Holstein cow with big black-rimmed eyes, and he's a super sweet and friendly boy; and finally we have Indie, our small rose-gray rescue alpaca who became the newest addition to the herd a couple of weeks ago when we took him in as a rescue from a farm that could no longer afford to feed their alpacas.

How did you pick your Etsy shop name?
The name Glorious Grazers came about because it sounded a little like the old squadron names of World War II. I've always loved propaganda art, World War II-era slogans, military jargon, and the like, and I thought that since the DiY movement always had that World War II-style "rah rah" feel to it, it would be a great name.

Tell us more about your business. How did it get started?
I've been a knitter for about 20 years and a spinner for about 10. I love spinning yarn but could never knit with everything that I spin, and I loved the idea of being able to create something really unique that someone would pay money for. When I got the chance to own alpacas I figured that having my own small herd as a fiber source was a good chance to try selling the yarn that I make from them.

What is your favorite item in your shop right now?
Right now it's the spinning batts I call Cinnamon's Fiery Jade. I've really had to resist the urge to de-list them and just spin them myself, but I'm dying to see what the finished product might look like in another spinner's hands.

Where do you get your inspiration?
The most common source is nature, of course. It's hard not to look at a beautiful Japanese maple and not want to bring those colors into some yarn. But I also get to work in my day job with a lot of talented artists, and sometimes seeing the work they do will give me ideas for color palettes I've not tried.

What are your favorite materials to work with?
I love to blend different fibers with my alpacas' fleece. Right now my favorite blending fibers are Tencel and bamboo. Both of these fibers when combined with alpaca make a yarn that has all the best properties of both: the warmth and softness of alpaca with gorgeous sheen and drape.

What’s your favorite crafting spot?
I have a room in the house that is my fiber studio and I do love working there, but really I love working out at our table by the pasture where I can see my alpaca boys. It doesn't get sunny that often here in the Pacific Northwest, so when it does and I love taking my spinning wheel or combs and cards out there to work.

The other place I love working is down at the coffee shop on alternate Saturdays with the Eastside Spinners group. It's an informal group of spinners who get together to spin for an afternoon at Starbucks, and I love not just the chance to hang out and talk with some fun spinners but also the opportunity to educate those who walk up and are fascinated by what we're doing and want to know more.

What handmade possession do you cherish most?
Probably my drumcarder. Last year my father-in-law took an interest in the equipment I use for spinning. He's a hobby machinist and loves to build things.

He saw my spinning equipment as an interesting challenge because he'd never seen it before, and I had a Louet Junior drumcarder he thought would be fun to re-create with some design modifications. So we sat down and I showed him what I use it for, how I use it, and what features I wish it had or what I wish it did better.

I ordered some carding cloth for him and a few months later he returned with a drumcarder that is one of the best pieces of spinning machinery I've ever seen. It not only looks great but is a dream to use.

How is your business going so far?
I've only had a couple of sales on Etsy, but I've had about fifteen or so sales to people I actually know, like coworkers and their wives or just friends. In fact, most of my sales have actually been to coworkers or colleagues in the video game industry, which is my day job.

Tell us more about your day job!
My day job is being a user interface designer at Uber Entertainment, a video game developer near Seattle. We just released a game called Monday Night Combat that we're especially proud of.

Any other hobbies?
I have way too many other hobbies. In addition to my day job and spinning, I'm a tribal-style bellydancer who performs and occasionally teaches with Skin Deep Dance in Seattle. I'm also a gamer, and my husband and I really like to hike when the weather gives us a chance.

5 shops from your favorites list that you recommend?
Oooh, I love the shops in my favorites list!

AHPeele: I ADORE their t-shirts. I've bought several of them. They fit great and they have unique designs!

Down to the Wire Designs: I love his jewelry. I asked him to make some commissioned earrings for my tribal bellydance costuming (and just to wear outside of that) and he was easy to work with and had some creative suggestions I love. The result was a design he now offers in his shop (the raindrop earrings).

Woolgatherings: this is a local indie dyer and I love her colorways. Her stuff is a dream to spin.

Mincingmockingbird: absolutely the cutest bird art.

EllieAdorn: this shop is owned by a friend of mine and I think she has a really unique product on her hands: jewelry that moms can wear that can withstand a baby's grabbing hands.

Where would you like to be in 10 years?
I'm not really sure yet, that's so far away! My life has always been very free form and planning too far ahead never seems feasible. I like the surprises that have made my life awesomely unpredictable. I DO know that in ten years I still want to have alpacas, and it would be great if I could have more.

Funniest Alpaca story?
When my husband and I first moved into our place, Google Maps had an older picture of our place that didn't include our alpacas. Recently a friend looked up our address and happened to look at the satellite view and said, "hey...are those your alpacas?!" Google had updated the image and sure enough you could see them.

But the funniest part was the way they were posed: the alpacas were sunning themselves in the grass, so they were laying on their sides with their legs out in front of them, which made it look like someone had made cute little alpaca cut-outs and then pasted them onto the image. Our alpacas are even adorable FROM SPACE!

Read more about GloriousGrazers and her Alpacas on her blog!
Like her on Facebook!
Follow her on Twitter!

Use this special coupon code (created JUST for our lovely blog readers!) "heartalpacas" for 15% off in her Etsy shop!

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  1. thanks for another great interview and introducing us to another great shop!! :-) Love the alpacas from space!

  2. I love that she named one of her alpaca Cinnamon, so adorable. Gorgeous fiber too, I'm swooning.

  3. Great interview. caryn rocks and as a customer, i can say her yarn is beautifully handmade with love. And her alpacas are funny guys too! :)

  4. Way to go Caryn - great interview!