At KnitCrate, we are always fervently searching for ways to share the love of the fiber arts with as many people as possible, from those who are already avid enthusiasts to those who are just curiously thinking about giving the fiber arts a try but don’t know where to begin. Part of this involves making the fiber arts more accessible to everyone by making it more affordable for everyone. It also involves being proactive about working with independent dyers and designers and compensating them for their hard work, so that we can bring a truly unique experience to our community. I strongly believe that introducing more people to hand-dyed natural yarns (and the fiber arts in general) helps everyone in the industry, from Local Yarn Shops to independent designers.
As KnitCrate continues to grow thanks to our amazing customers and community, I believe it has an obligation to be a greater source for good in the industry. In this letter, I hope to explain how KnitCrate plans to do this. In particular, I would like to talk about how we are working to introduce the fiber arts to a wider audience by making it more affordable for more people, how we support independent dyers through various initiatives we have launched, and how we work with designers to ensure they are compensated fairly for all the work they do.
More accessible to everyone by making it more affordable for everyone
One of the most frequent comments we see from customers and would-be customers wanting to try hand-dyed natural yarns for the first time is their shock at how expensive those yarns can be. For those new to knitting or those venturing away from the big box retailers for the first time, the price of a hand-dyed skein could be a little scary. And it is not that they do not see the value in all the hard work, effort, and creativity that goes into hand-dyeing the yarn… quite the opposite… they see it, they want it, but they cannot afford it…or they are not familiar enough with hand-dyed yarns to spend the money and give it a shot.
The situation I describe above occurs every day, and it is a disservice to everyone in the industry, especially the customer. This is someone who won’t physically touch, smell or see hand-dyed natural yarn (at least not as soon as they otherwise would have); they may never venture into a Local Yarn Shop; they may never go on Etsy to search through the shops of various dyers; they may never go to Ravelry and search through the patterns featuring one of their favorite hand-dyed yarns.
What we need is a way of introducing people to hand-dyed natural yarns at a price that is reasonable and not off-putting at first glance. Because once you get your hands on one of these skeins and start working a project with them… once you do that… there is no going back. You instantly see what all the excitement was about. You now realize that $24 per skein is not too expensive. The Local Yarn Shop you used to drive by on the way to the market is now a place you want to stop in at to see their selection. You can find a whole new universe of independent dyers on Etsy or on our shop that you want to explore. And you can find even more inspiration in the patterns you are now browsing through on Ravelry.
The new KnitCrate Membership
This is why we have made the decision to launch a new line of KnitCrate yarn available on our site and are also launching a new KnitCrate Monthly Membership on September 1st. Our intention is not to replace the independently dyed yarns we have traditionally featured, but to complement them. Having an affordably priced option for our customers will bring more knitters and crocheters into the community, who can then be introduced to the many independent artists we work with (either through our Artisan Crate monthly club or through our online shop).
The KnitCrate membership is a little different from our other monthly clubs, but it is great for those who need more affordable options or as a gateway for those venturing into natural hand-dyed yarns for the first time. Members pay $24.99 per month and receive a heap of benefits: you receive a monthly project kit (valued at $58) which includes 2 skeins of hand-dyed yarn, 1 knitting pattern, and 1 crochet pattern from that month’s exclusive KnitCrate yarn and pattern collection, free shipping on that month’s kit ($5 value), 25% off all products in a new members-only section of our website, 25 reward points for each month you are a member, and free video tutorials with tips & tricks paired with that month’s project.
This KnitCrate membership also gives us the opportunity to work with more designers every month. Each month, we will have a collection of patterns to go with the featured yarn. Members will receive two patterns out of the collection as part of their kit, but you can also choose to buy another pattern from the collection on the website, as well as purchase more yarn at a discount if the pattern chosen requires more yarn. With this membership, customers are able to support more designers more frequently than we can afford to do with any of our other monthly clubs.
How we collaborate with designers
This is as good a segue as any to talk about how we collaborate with designers. Designers are one of the biggest sources of inspiration for our community, and it is important to protect the integrity of their work and ensure they are compensated adequately. We want KnitCrate to be one of the leaders in this regard. This is why we have developed several programs that designers can choose from if they would like to work with KnitCrate. I believe transparency in the industry is important, so we have our compensation structure listed openly on the homepage of our website for all to see.
We have multiple programs for designers where KnitCrate pays designers directly, ranging from flat fee exclusive designs to shared royalty structures, but one of the programs we are most excited about is the Designer Marketplace. Designers can take advantage of our active knitting and crocheting community and sell right on the KnitCrate website via the Marketplace Portal. They can upload any pattern they have designed using any yarn and sell it to our community on the KnitCrate website! Proceeds from any pattern sales done through the Marketplace Portal go 100% to the designers; KnitCrate does not take a cut at all. Designers are able to monetize their hard work by placing their patterns in the KnitCrate community, the KnitCrate community benefits from having a rich library of patterns for inspiration, and we as a business benefit by selling customers the yarn and supplies needed to bring that inspiration to life.
We have a pretty wide variety of programs because we want designers to have options and pick and choose how they decide to participate with us.
Supporting independent dyers
If it weren’t for the interplay between designers and independent dyers there would be no KnitCrate today. Every month our team collaborates with both dyers and designers to present you with a finished project that until then had only existed as an idea in the minds of its creators. It was the very genesis of the first KnitCrate monthly crate ever shipped back in 2012. Since then we have worked with hundreds of independent dyers.
As we grew, indie dyers could gain exposure to an ever-increasing community. However, our larger sized orders also meant dyers had a larger bill to cover when buying undyed raw yarn, dyes, etc. in preparation for our order. That could prove untenable, especially for up-and-coming dyers. Hence, KnitCrate saw an opportunity to go to fight for the dyers. We worked out special partnerships with select mills to produce a range of high quality, cruelty-free (no mulesing) yarn bases that are ideal for dyeing with natural or acid dyes. We actually offer yarn to KnitCrate featured dyers free of charge! For dyers who opt to dye on one of our bases, KnitCrate ships the undyed yarn to them (we cover shipping to and from), they dye the yarn, ship it back, and we pay the dyers a commission of $4-$5 per skein on average. That amounts to $15,000 - $20,000 in costs that KnitCrate absorbs for the dyer. This really gives up-and-coming dyers an equal footing with their more established counterparts. More importantly, it introduces our community to new exciting dyers and dyeing techniques that they would otherwise be missing out on.
Access to these undyed yarns isn’t limited to indie dyers who collaborate with KnitCrate in one of our monthly crates. We built out a website dedicated to supplying dyers with reasonably priced, ethically sourced undyed yarns so any indie dyer could take advantage of the savings KnitCrate could bring them. In speaking with a lot of dyers we have worked with, it became apparent that their options for sourcing undyed yarns at true wholesale prices were quite limited. We wanted to do what we could to help fix that. Therefore, www.dyersupplier.com was born.
We have other programs dedicated to independent dyers, from carrying their yarn on our shop to featuring them in one of our monthly crates. A complete listing of our programs is available to everyone to see on our home page.
Sometimes at KnitCrate, we do things that seem counter intuitive. More than a few of our designers were surprised by our decision to let them make 100% of sales through the marketplace. Some find it a bit weird that we have a link on the top of our site to a Local Yarn Shop Directory when we are an online business (we have only put up a listing of US shops so far… international shops will be up in the near future). But here is why we do it the way we do. When designers and indie dyers are put in a position that their odds for success are higher, everyone in the industry wins. If we can get someone interested in hand-dyed yarn by providing an affordable line of KnitCrate yarns and membership club, we are bringing someone into the fold who may otherwise not have partaken in the dialogue. If we can help our customers find a local yarn shop that they may not have known of (or find one when they are traveling), we are helping the independent dyers whose yarn is sold in the shop. In doing so, we are also helping the Local Yarn Shop. If more people are aware of what a great resource their local yarn shops are, that means more people are having a dialogue about natural hand-dyed yarn. That’s more people that may one day be part of our KnitCrate community. The online world and the offline world can do more than co-exist. We can actually help each other, and the more one grows, the more the other grows.
In order to be true to our mission of sharing the love of the fiber arts with as many people as possible, it is critical that we help everyone in the industry succeed…. yes… even our competitors (more on that in my next post).