Making Conversation with Candice English
Today we talk with Candice English of The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers, a hand-dyed yarn company and storefront in downtown Great Falls, Montana. In 2019 she founded Sisters United, a nonprofit organization that grew from a deeply personal place for Candice. The mission of Sisters United is to share aid, opportunity, and tools for healing with the Indigenous woman and children in the rural Montana area, where she shares familial roots. Our conversation touches on the many paths of Candice’s journey, with creative drive and spirit leading the way. The various roles we play in life–whether maker, mother, entrepreneur, or all of the above–all start with an exploration of the imagination, and a vision for a better world and a better life.
To donate, support, or collaborate with Sisters United, visit sistersunitedmt.org and check out the Sisters United merchandise at thefarmersdaughterfibers.com, where 90% of proceeds go to the Sisters United Fund. You can connect with Candice on the Making app @thefarmersdaughterfibers and on Instagram at @thefarmersdaughterfibers and @sistersunitedmt.
/ listen /
You can also listen on our Spotify or on Apple Podcasts.
/ notes & resources /
- Candice English / thefarmersdaughterfibers.com
- Follow Candace on the Making app / @thefarmersdaughterfibers
- Follow Candace on Instagram / @thefarmersdaughterfibers and @sistersunitedmt
- Making No. 11 / DAWN / Luce Shawl
/ supporters /
Tangled Yarn is a family-run online yarn shop specializing in sustainable yarn from smaller independent suppliers. Making connections and building a community with other crafters is of great importance. They hosts regular knit nights and workshops in their studio in Romiley, Stockport in the UK. Visit their online shop at Tangled-Yarn.com.
Ashley Yousling [00:00:05] Welcome to Making Conversation, a podcast where we celebrate making in all its forms, from amazing stories of inspiring makers and people, to behind the scenes peeks of building a startup in the tech and craft industry. I'm your host Ashley Yousling. Today I'm talking with Candice English of the Farmer's Daughter Fibers, a hand-dyed yarn company and storefront in downtown Great Falls, Montana. In 2019 she founded Sisters United, a nonprofit organization that grew from a deeply personal place. The mission of Sisters United is to share aid, opportunity, and tools for healing with the Indigenous women and children in the rural Montana area. Our conversation touches on the many paths of Candice's journey with creative drive and spirit leading the way. The various roles we play in life as makers and entrepreneurs all start with an exploration of the imagination and a vision for a better world. To donate or collaborate with Sisters United, visit SistersUnitedMT.org, and check out the Sisters United merchandise at TheFarmersDaughterFibers.com, where 90% of proceeds go to the Sisters United Fund. You can connect with Candice on the Making app @TheFarmersDaughterFibers and on Instagram @TheFarmersDaughterFibers and @SistersUnitedMT. And with that, here's Candice.
Candice English [00:01:30] I grew up on a ranch in Cut Bank, Montana in between Cut Bank, Montana and Browning, Montana. So it's right on the highline, Rocky Mountain Front, like Glacier National Park is basically your backyard. And my mom is from the Blackfeet Reservation. And while this isn't making related, I think that it definitely goes into my creativity, ties in with my creativity. So she grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation. Very, very poverty stricken. She lived in probably like a, I don't know, maybe 1200 square foot house with 14 brothers and sisters. You know, while they were really poor, it made them very creative. And so I grew up on a ranch, and I think that my mom just had such a huge imagination from growing up like that, being so connected to nature that I think that you can, like let yourself be a little bit more free than other, you know, growing up in other circumstances. So I think that my first like creative expression was really just like imaginary play. My grandma, my dad's mom, she did every single fiber art craft. Anything that you can think of, she knit, she crocheted, she sewed prolifically. She did stained glass. She did stamping. I mean, just everything that you can possibly think of. So I grew up around that and I cross-stitched. She taught me how to cross-stitch. So that was kind of my first introduction to fiber arts. You know, we'd make like little fairy houses and stuff like that. We were always down at the river playing in the mud. Yeah, I just remember spending a lot of time outside and whether we were using our hands or our imagination, we were always doing something silly. And so then when I was in second grade, my parents got a divorce and my mom and sister and I moved to Whitefish, which is across the mountains, it's a little ski town. I think my mom was just really wanting to, like, start over. I think she, you know, grew up with a lot of trauma. Her parents were in both in boarding schools. And so that was, I know, affected her a lot, too. And she had a pretty traumatic relationship with my dad. And so it was really - I think she was ready to start fresh. So we moved over there and it was amazing. I mean, I really did have an amazing childhood. I always felt this huge, like creative energy within me. And both of my sisters and my mom are amazing artists. Both of my sisters can just, I mean, just draw the most amazing portraits, they can paint, they have so many skills. And I had all of these, like, bubbling, creative things in my head and could never, like, expel that. And like, I would try to draw something and it would just never be able to come out like how I wanted it to. So that was really frustrating growing up. You know, it's like trying to journal, and trying to draw, and trying to do this, and just never found my niche. My dad had died when I was in high school and my mom and I by that point, our relationship was not well. So I moved with my sister to Missoula and finished my last two years of high school there. My husband, who's from Whitefish, we knew each other when I went to school in Whitefish, but we had reconnected when I had moved to Missoula, we kind of moved all around. We'd moved to Great Falls, moved back to Whitefish. We had our son at that point. I had my son when I was 20, so I was a really young mom. And then when we were in Whitefish, I was pregnant with my - we had moved back to Whitefish - pregnant with my daughter. And I just remember going in Michael's and wanting to like, do something with my hands. I'm like, I got to find a new craft. You know, I tried all these things. I did decoupage, too, for like years, which is really fun. I love mixed media, but I really just wanted to get my hands on something. My son, you know, was wild and crazy. And we'd go to like, you know, the Children's Museum or we'd go to a play place or the park. And I would play with him for a while, but I just could not sit still, like I needed to do something with my hands. Or watching a movie, like it just killed me to watch a cartoon for 2 hours and not do anything. And then I had a friend that lived next door to us, and she was a big knitter and my husband was like, "You should have Brooke teach you how to knit." And I was like, "No, I don't want to ask her. That's way too much." Like, knitting is such an intimidating thing. And I think that as knitters we forget how intimidating it does, I mean, I remember walking into yarn shops and just being like, whoa, this is really overwhelming. Like, this feels like a lot. I don't know if I could do something like this. She came outside and he was like, "Hey, Brooke, will you teach Candice how to knit? And she was like, "Oh my god, I would love to." And that night she was at my house with a huge bag of Brown Sheep worsted weight wool - which, I still love that yarn - and taught me how to cast on a hat and knit. And it was my first hat. You know, everybody's first project, I shouldn't say everybody because some people that I teach how knit like come out with these beautiful things. I'm like, what you're supposed to go through this period of like not being able to do this very well. Yeah, my first project was awful, but I was like, hooked. I remember I stayed up so late that night, like the next day, that's all I did was knit this hat. And then I was at the yarn shop, in Whitefish they have a lovely little yarn shop there, and so I would go there. I became really good friends with one of the girls that worked there and the three of us just knit all the time. I also loved the whole ritual around it and like all of the little trinkets and tools and everything that came with it. I think I maybe even fell in love with that stuff before I fell in love with yarn, you know, I had these two young kids. I was going to college, I was working two jobs, and still didn't have enough money. So I was making a lot of things to sell. I was making little sweaters and I would felt the sweaters with little embellishments, little elephants and stuff like that. So all the sweaters and hats, and slippers and coin purses, and I just was so into it, and I think it was the first time that I could find something creatively that I could, like, really connect with what I was thinking, you know, I could make with the help, of course, of patterns. And then in the next ten years we had moved to Hawaii, back to Whitefish, and then finally settled in Great Falls. And I was in Early Childhood, I was a preschool teacher and was a preschool teacher at Montessori. And I love kids. I love their energy, again. I think it's like that whole dreamer, you know, you can really just get - it's easy for me to understand them and get on their playing fields. So my classroom was always full of like, you know, just baskets of yarn or pine cones, or anything like that, anything to provoke this creative energy from these kids, just to try to get them away from the screens and into, you know, being creative. Well, I love the program. I love the parents, especially, you know, they're college parents. I can very much relate to that because I had two young kids while going to college, and loved the community aspect of it, but we were just never going to be able to pay teachers enough to, you know, be able to not have so much turnover. And so it was really hard. I was also in this point of my life, you know, I'm in my early to mid-thirties, and just kind of woke up and was like, whoa. I'm like, I have this life I never really thought that I would, where I have, you know, two kids and a white picket fence and - not really - but, you know, a house and a 9 to 5 job and all that. Like I just did not ever imagine my my life to be fitting in that like, you know, 9 to 5 form. I always thought I would be traveling around, or living on a ranch, or just doing something a little bit more free flowing. I felt like I was just a prisoner to my life. And I also just felt this, I mean, I was so unhappy and I just felt this calling of like, there's got to be something else. This is not what I'm supposed to be doing. This is not where you're at. This is not. You were made for so much more than this. I wanted to do something knitting-related, but I knew from the past that like making things and selling them was never going to be enough. I had been doing a lot of plant dyes. My mom does a lot of traditional medicine, and so I really had taken the knowledge that she had given me and used it with, you know, dyeing yarn. I had experimented a lot. Blackfeet don't have, like there's not a lot of traditional dyeing like there is in the Navajo Nation. And so I was just kind of making it all up as I went. It was really fun. And so I thought, well, maybe I could maybe I could dye yarn. But plant dyeing was like, it was a spiritual thing for me because I had grown up gathering the plants in for, you know, a medicinal purpose. I felt that same power within yarn and knitting it. So I didn't really feel comfortable selling that. I also, you know, knew how long it was going to take me to gather all of those plants and stuff like that. And I don't even know if I realized that you can like buy natural dye, and maybe at that time it wasn't as accessible. So I thought, well, I just started experimenting a little bit, but mostly just watching a lot of YouTube videos, anything I could get my hands on, just all Internet-based. My brother is an amazing entrepreneur. He has a lot of tech companies, just completely self-starting a lot of different things. So he's very smart, and he was constantly telling me, life is too short. Don't be unhappy, you got to do whatever you want to do. Who cares if you fail, just go and do something. So I asked him for some money, and he gave me $5,000 and I bought everything that I needed. I mean, I really hadn't done much acid, like, dyeing at all. I bought all the dyes, I bought a couple of burners, and I set up a little dye studio in my basement where my laundry room is. And we live in an old house, like built in the 40s. And so it's one of those houses that have like the tool bench, you know, the pegboard behind it. So it was a perfect little setup, and set up a little table and all of my dyes and ordered wool. Really didn't know what I was doing. I had been knitting and had knowledge of yarn, but like as far as fibers and dyeing them, I didn't really know much. And I just started experimenting and was actually really good at it. And I also really felt this huge spiritual push of connecting. And it's hard for me to kind of explain because it's not really tangible, but there were just these images, and these stories, and these things that I had grown up with that I was just like thinking about, like flooding my mind as I was dyeing. And I was just like, okay, I'm just going to listen to this and see what happens. And I think that that creative energy really gave me the confidence to be like, okay, I'm good at this. I can do this. At the same time, when we were, I was like looking at like, okay, what do I name, you know, this yarn company? How do I brand it? How do I market it? I had done a lot of, you know, marketing and learned a lot from my previous job, but never was, again, formally trained. I think that a lot of us small business owners are just figuring it out as we go along, and have to figure everything out. So I knew that I wanted it to be, you know, obviously connected to Montana and myself and my culture and my heritage. I knew that a lot of people wanted to, like, almost get a piece of Montana, or just that Western feel of slowing down and I think we do live a unique lifestyle. I would go and visit friends from, you know, California and Portland, and they would introduce me to their friends like, oh yeah, hi, how's it going? And then they'd be like, oh yeah, Candice's from Montana. Like, Oh, Montana, what? Like it would just spark something in them. So I thought, well, I think that I can attract an audience and a customer base by just sharing a part of that. I also was going through a lot of identity crisis. You know, my mom is Indigenous, my dad is White. I never felt like I fit in either one. You know, my family is amazing. They've always accepted me. It was never anything like that. But we didn't grow up very traditional. We grew up more like a lot of rodeo, a lot of cowboy, you know, stuff like that. You know, I knew that I wanted to learn more about traditional ways, but I never quite felt like I was native enough to do that. And then there was my dad's side of the family who are just like, frankly, really racist. And that was, you know, it's hard to love somebody like your grandma so much, but then know that they have these ideas about you possibly, but also definitely your mom. So it was just really hard to like know where to fit in, and I always felt that way. You know, growing up in Whitefish, while it was an amazing childhood. It was really hard to be one of like maybe five Native kids, you know, and just never instinctually, like, feeling like I ever fit in. Also, knowing how problematic so many things are from a very young age, I knew how problematic, you know, our society is and it caused a lot of angst, and a lot of probably self-destruction, within myself for a very long time. And so it had kind of come to a head at the same time of just being like, what I'm doing is not working for me. I can't keep going this down this road of, you know, kind of self-destruction, having so much unhealed trauma. I really used Farmer's Daughter Fibers to get me through that. It was through a creative process to do that. And so it was kind of like coming to grips of being like, you know what, I am who I am, and that's okay. Like, I need to figure out creatively, like, how I can put myself in this and it be okay. It took years though. I mean, up until - I mean, even still, there are thoughts and feelings that I definitely work through, I think I probably always will. But I will say that generosity and the acceptance of the fiber community has made that a hundred times easier for me to be like, okay, I can be myself. You know, we're we're our worst critics. We're the hardest on ourselves.
Ashley Yousling [00:18:40] Immerse yourself in crafting culture. Making is a first of its kind social marketplace app for makers, crafters, and artists, where you can track projects, post to the feed, discover new makers, take classes, and so much more. The Marketplace will launch this Fall 2022 and is an opportunity for sellers to increase their discoverability and audience, generate revenue, and build a community. Making also just launched BRIGHT Collective - a crafty content experience delivered monthly to your inbox and the Making app. Think patterns, recipes, special discounts, monthly member events, and more. We have a special 10% discount on BRIGHT Collective yearly memberships for podcast listeners. Use discount code makingconvo10 during checkout. To download the app, join the community, and become a BRIGHT Collective member, visit MakingCo.com today.
Candice English [00:19:36] I was still working my job. I stayed there for about a year while I was dyeing yarn and I was just taking every single opportunity that I possibly could. I was doing farmer's markets here in Great Falls. I went to this, like, awful little craft show in another town, and it was just like, you have like ten other booths, and it was just, you know, looking back, it was like, oh my gosh. But I like raised enough money to buy my next wool order or buy more dye. I just put everything I could back into to keep going. And then I had signed up for a show that was in Missoula. It's called The MADE Fair. It's this beautiful art fair that they have twice a year, and went to that. The day before - I didn't have any money - the day before I went to the farmer's market, sold enough to get us gas and a hotel in Missoula so I could do this show, and then did the show and made like $2500, which was just, felt so good. It was like, okay, this is going to work. Like, I can do this. And I took that $2500 to do a show in Oregon at the Gorge and put that all towards there. And then just kept doing that. And then at that point I had signed up for Vogue Seattle, and I was like able to do that. And then I knew, okay, I think I can quit my job and I think that I can do this. And it was hard and to be honest, I didn't - you know, my husband supported me, you know, really financially that first year when I was getting started, still working, but spending a lot of time doing Farmer's Daughter Fibers, but I don't think anybody truly believed I could do it, or ever turn it into what it has been today. Which is probably - my personality is a good thing because if somebody tells me I can't do it, I'm like, oh, it's done. I'm doing that. You know, it was really like a field, my fire being everyone so skeptical, like, yeah, cute little side business, Candice. And I'm like, nope, I can do this. I got this. So quit my job, and at that point, too, was taking other opportunities to work with as many designers as I possibly can, sending yarn to anybody that I could, creating relationships and friendships with designers. And that was huge. That helped a lot. And this was also, I mean, such an interesting time, I thin in, you know, indie dyed yarn, it was right, I think, before it really blew up and became huge. And so I feel like I was able to like really get in at the right time. You know, about a year after I had quit my job, I really realized like, okay, I've taken every single opportunity that I possibly can. I have wholesale accounts, you know, I have, I'm getting a larger social media following. My marketing is working, all of these things, but I have to either ring it in or else I'm going to end up where I was, you know, two years ago. Never having enough time, not having enough time for my kids and deciding like, what am I going to do here? So this was about 2018 and I knew that if I was going to hire anybody or expand it all, that I really needed somebody who was going to care about the business as much as I'm going to care about it. You know, you can find amazing employees, but at the end of the day, if you're making this a lifestyle, there's only a few people who are really going to truly care as much as you do. And my husband was in the Air National Guard. He was pretty unhappy at his job. He saw me, like, really shift and starting to change and starting to grow and just be like, okay, there's more to life out there than 9 to 5. There's more to life out there than a career. Even though this is what we were doing, we were creating opportunities for ourselves and for our kids. And so I convinced him to leave his job. I also knew she would be better at dyeing yarn than I would. While I'm good, you know, at coming up with colors, and that's still something I always do, all of those creative bits. Like dyeing the same skein of yarn over and over and over and over again the same color, like that is just not for me. If you look at our consistency pre-Xander coming on and post-Xander coming on, it's a huge difference because he is just so, like, he's so good at being consistent. He's very precise. So I knew he would be good at it. We rented a space, and we're still in the same space. It's this old hospital, it was the original hospital in Great Falls, and it's this old brick building that's detached from the hospital. It was their old laundry facility. So when I was looking at places, like I went in there, and I mean, they hadn't had anybody in there since the hospital had closed like 30 or 40 years ago, and it's about 4000 square feet, so there's 2000 square feet for the dye studio, and then there was this other room, and we weren't really sure if we even needed that space. But I thought, well, let's just get the whole thing and we can see if we don't use it, you know, we can end up just kind of coming over here. But of course we filled it up, you know, within months and Xander started, and we worked together for a few months, and we quickly realized that wasn't going to work very well. It was too much. Our communication styles are very, they're the same, but we get like a very different way about getting to the same place, like a lot of marriages. We had hired an employee to help us like skein yarn and tag and do those things. And then we hired another employee to help us dye yarn and she's still with us, and she was a baker, so she had this like very, you know, methodical way about doing things, as you do in the kitchen. And she was just such a great addition of getting us organized in the dye studio. We just kind of continued to grow. I was still taking every opportunity. I was also taking a lot of traveling opportunities. So I was going, you know, all around the country to trunk shows, to fiber festivals, to, you know, Vogue and Stitches, and all of these different things. I mean, really, any opportunity I could take, I took it. I knew that if I could meet our customers in person, they could get to know me. You know, when you're talking about hand-dyed yarn, there's so much energy that goes into that. And I, you know, I really, truly believe that everything that we have created and everything that we really believe in here and just like that spiritual energy does go into our work. And so I knew if they could meet me that they would see that more, that they would feel that more. I was starting to burn out from traveling, you know, I knew that it would have to kind of slow down. But it's hard, especially when you are creating these relationships with customers. You know, I just have such an amazing group of women in my life who are all either yarn owners or designers. You know, we really became a little family. You're traveling, you're away from your family all the time and you you really connect. So it was hard not to go those places because I wanted to, you know, be with my friends. I wanted to create these opportunities financially. It's a great opportunity, too. But I was burning out, you know, my kids are getting older and I felt like they were starting - the older they were getting, the more that they needed me. And I was, you know, I was missing out on sporting events. And I just thought, you know, life is so short. This is going to go by so fast. Like, I don't want to miss this time with my kids at the age that they're at. And so then in 2020, I went to New York, and I went to Texas, and when I was in Austin is like when Covid stuff was starting to like, rumblings of it. By the time I got home, I think we shut down like a week or two later, which was such an interesting time for us. I mean, interesting for everybody. But people were at home knitting. You know, they were really like buckled down. A lot of people who had not been knitting or crocheting before were starting to pick it back up. So we got busy, like really busy, continued to be busy, and we just kept our little tight knit crew and worked through it. And then at a certain point, the not traveling was like, I just felt such a sense of relief. It felt so good to, you know, slow down this time. I think that so much of, like so many of us learned so much during, especially those first like 3 to 6 months of being like, okay, I really need to like look at my life, see how sustainable it is. I just started thinking about like a bigger vision of really what I wanted. I knew that I wanted to be involved in my community. I knew that by being more immersed in it, by helping people in my community, that that is what was going to fill me up. And that is what is going to make me a happier person. You know, the simplicity of things. And then I was downtown Great Falls, in my car, like on my phone, writing an email or something like this. And a friend of mine came up and, like, knocked on my window. She was like, "I've got to show you this space, it's for sale. You should open up a yarn shop here." And I was like, "I'm not going to open up a yarn shop. Like, no way." I mean, this is like August of 2020 and there's so many businesses that are barely even, you know, surviving. And she took me into this building and I immediately was like, oh my god. I just knew that it was like, you know, I was like, shit, I'm starting a yarn shop. I don't know how this is happening. And yeah, so then I think like three weeks later we had opened. Like it was so fast, I just made the decision, I knew that Great Falls is a really interesting place. It's very, it's up and coming moreso. But when I moved here ten years ago, you would have thought you were walking into like the 1990s. It's like, honestly, one of the reasons why I love it, because compared to a lot of other places in Montana that are just absolutely booming, crazy, you really still get this like Montana value feel to it. Also it has the most diversity of anywhere else in Montana, we have a military base here. We have a huge population of Indigenous people here. And I knew that that was really important for my kids, like I wanted them, if we're going to live in Montana, I want you guys to live like at least around a place where we can have like some diversity. But the downtown has been just really like beautiful, beautiful buildings, but very quiet, very sleepy. Like, hardly anybody comes and shops downtown. You know, there's a mall and there's box stores ,and that's where a lot of people flock to. But in the last, you know, like a lot of other places in the last five, ten years, there's definitely a resurgence of small businesses. And I could see that. I could see that it was going to become something bigger and better and really more community-based, and that I could offer something to the community by being in here. I wanted a makerspace, a place where people could come in and they could feel welcome. I think that, you know, there's a lot of not just yarn shops, but a lot of stores, but we'll just say yarn shops, where if you are different of any way, you're not always accepted. And sometimes yarn shops, I mean, again, it's very intimidating to go into a place of like all of these like tools and yarn, like, you know nothing about any of it. Or maybe even if you know a little bit about it, I think people can just treat you differently, or not so well, and I had experienced that, you know, before. And so I just really wanted a place where everybody felt welcome no matter what. We opened in September of 2020 and it's been a really, like, the yarn shop has been a really interesting journey. I mean, 70% of our business is online, you know, and it probably always will be, you know, and we're still wholesaling. But to have this space and see it grow over the last year has been really amazing, and see the community, you know, starting to really embrace it more and more, and just be a part of that very first, I think, ground level of bringing the community together is very satisfying, and especially as we've seen growth even in the past year that I've been here, we've seen so much growth downtown and so many new businesses coming in. So it's really exciting.
Ashley YouslingSo I'm going to go way back to the beginning when you first started sharing, you were talking about kind of like living in this imaginary world. And I have three young boys, and so I pick up on that more with them. I never considered myself someone that kind of lived in an imaginary world. But I realize as you're talking, this imaginary world is one that I think a lot of entrepreneurs live in. It's almost what we would call vision now, having these ideas and dreams, you're manifesting these things through that. If you took a moment to contemplate thinking about this imaginary world where you had kind of created these different stores in these different places, in this space that you lived- how you see that in the world that you live in right now. Could you put some correlation between the two?
Candice English [00:33:55] Yeah, I mean, I think every day when I walk into this place, into Farmer's Daughter Fibers, I get that same sensation of that like imaginary world almost. It's like, I don't know if it's a dopamine rush, or if it is connection of being like there's all of these beautiful, wonderful textiles and things that I'm surrounded with. And then I have customers that come in and they want to talk about yarn, and talk about knitting, and they need help, and we can pick out colors, and just like the process of checking them out, and the entire thing feels very, almost surreal sometimes. Like, I'll just be walking into work, like, I can't believe this is my life. Like, I created this through a manifestation of really what I wanted my life to look like, and how to make myself happy, you know? And I think that through a lot of that, like healing of trauma, it really kind of came down to like, how do I make myself happy? How do I not fall into toxic behaviors? You know, how do I do these things that are true to who I am and true to, you know, my spiritual being, too? And a lot of that is like letting go, keeping things as simple as I possibly can and not letting everything that is surrounding us just fester and get inside of you. You know, if you can imagine this better world, if you can just take the small moments, you know, whether it's like a squirrel doing something silly when you get out of your car, like just seeing and noticing those little things. And that is probably where like that imaginary thing kind of comes in, is really being able to like hone in on, on the small things. And a lot of that has to do with nature, right? You know, it's it's how you're connecting with nature at seeing those things. It's not just like going through life so busy. Whenever I feel myself, and as I've practiced it more and more, whenever I feel myself getting too busy, it just sits so uneasy in me. I mean, that's where we get so much anxiety, too. You know, if I can just slow down, even though I might be having a really busy day, if I can just slow down enough to, like, go for a walk around the block and notice things in my surroundings, it just it just makes such a huge difference. I think that a lot of times we don't think we deserve to be happy, especially as women. We just have so much on our plates. There's so much invisible work that we do that we don't even realize that we do. I truly believe that that we are a society that that for a long time didn't think that we deserved to be happy. And we do have a lot more opportunities to hone in on that with resources. I also think once you can open that up, it opens up a floodgate. There was a point where I was really trying to figure out, okay, like do I just do online? Do I just do, you know, I always come to these points of being like, what do I do? I only have so much of me, you know, how do I move on from here? And one thing I always ask myself is, is it going to make me happy? Am I going to have fun doing this? Is it going to bring me joy? And I do have to ask myself the question of, is it going to be financially gaining? Sometimes - and if the answer is yes for both of those, then I'll do it - sometimes I do things that just make me happy and it's not going to make me money. I don't care. And sometimes I have to suck it up and do things for financial reasons. But once I started letting that really guide me and letting happiness guide me, and it is a manifestation of, okay, this is what I want my life to look like. I want to be able to travel. I want to be able to give my kids opportunity is outside of their world so they can expand their, you know, view on the world. I want to be able to help others in those small decisions that I make. If I'm kind of thinking about that, then I can really, you know, manifest that. I mean, it's true. It's happened to me like, you know, by doing that. So anybody who's out there struggling with it, just do what makes you happy. And if you, you know, if you fail, it's okay. It's okay. That's the other thing, too. It's like, we don't have to be good at everything. We can fail. And while we can't always be happy, I think that there is something about you know, you look at art. The best art comes from trauma, it comes from sadness, it comes from all of those things. Like those things are never going to go away, it's a human experience. It's what you do with that that matters. You know, if you can take that - we all, you know, no matter what, I really believe that we all have the opportunity to just take all of those things and shift it into something positive and good.
Ashley Yousling [00:39:24] We live in a time of opportunity. We also live in a time of growing awareness, whether it's personal or like collective awareness. Just acknowledging that trauma exists and that it's something that has to be dealt with and that you're not alone, and having more tools to deal with that, I think is really important. The good that I see coming out of it all is this awareness and support. And so watching your journey, just from my perspective over the last like five years, it's pretty amazing.
Candice EnglishThank you. I think that with, you know, the knitting community and fiber arts community and kind of where we were at in 2019, and figuring things out and having these conversations to where we are now - and we do have, things are always going to happen. There are always going to be people who are taking advantage, who are, you know, racist, who are not just understanding it. They cannot expand their minds. I think it's really important to call that into action, to recognize that to not support those, you know, people. Allow them to grow, allow them to have the chance, allow them to figure it out. They might not figure it out by you telling them, but eventually they may figure it out. Also, though, seeing the good, like the conversations that we have are incredible. I try to explain it to people who aren't in the knitting community or not on social media, and they're just like, What? Like, what is this? Like, what are you - you guys are talking about what? Like you guys are knitting, it doesn't even, like, pertain to anything. But it does, and I also think that, too, making and knitting are so connected to so many different things. I mean it's, it is about the craft. It's about making, it's about touching something natural. It's about using your hands. But the other huge side of it is that it's about making connections with other makers. I think that that's one thing I loved about knitting originally when I first started, it felt like this deep ancestral sisterhood, you know, that we are connected to all of these other knitters before us and with us. And I think that that these conversations and who we are as people is so important to all of us. Like, you can feel that. You can feel that energy. And I just think it's really important to keep in mind.
Ashley Yousling [00:42:15] I would love to hear a little bit more about Sisters United and and when you started it and what your mission is.
Candice English [00:42:22] Yeah, so I started Sisters United in 2019. In 2018, we had two girls, women go missing here in Montana, Ashley Heavyrunner and Jermain Charlo. And Ashley Heavyrunner was 19 years old, she lived on the Blackfeet Reservation. She just, you know, had graduated high school and was kind of having like a fun summer. She had went missing. At this same time, there was a hiker that had went missing in between East Glacier and West Glacier, and she was a white girl. And they had every single possible resource to find this girl. And when Ashley went missing, I had saw it on the news. But besides that, there wasn't a lot of effort besides the family who was going to find her. There was something about it that just was like deep in my soul, in my core, that I could not stop thinking about her. And it was months and months and months and she was still missing. I don't even know how to explain it. She went missing in an area where I spend a lot of time. My sister has a campground in Saint Mary's, so I'd spend a lot of time there, so I don't know if it was like a connection with that. I would dream about her. It just was getting to me more and more and more that nothing was being done. And so I thought, okay, well, what, you know, at this time it's 2018. I'm like in my shop, I have a really great Instagram following. If I put something online, you know, if I do a shop update, it's like sold like that. So I thought, well, what if I do, what if I collaborate with somebody and put some yarn and we could sell it? And it was actually in 2019, My little Facebook memories popped up yesterday, which was really exciting. My mom donated 40 tees, I donated 40 skeins of yarn, and we made 1500 dollars like within 10 minutes. And then when I looked at like, okay, where can I donate this to? There's no MMIW (missing and murdered Indigenous women) organization in Montana at that time. There was no place to like specifically put these funds towards, so I looked at different organizations in my surrounding area. The YWCA here serves so many, like not only Great Falls, but so many like rural areas, including three reservations. So I thought, well, that would be a good place to start. And then I got, I wanted to get involved more. So I got on the board of the Human Trafficking Task Force here in Great Falls. Learned so much, gained a lot of knowledge. I started going to State MMIW meetings and at the same time I just thought, well, in 2019 I can do an initiative every single month, have other makers collaborate. People seemed like they wanted to help, they were interested in this, they knew that it was important. And so they would donate, you know, 40 to 50 items and I would pair yarn with it and then we would generate this money. I was donating it to the YWCA, to the Women's Coalition, Native Coalition, just different organizations. And then I started a scholarship that year as well, and it's a scholarship for an Indigenous person in the Great Falls Public School system, an Indigenous student, I guess I should say. And then from there, by September of 2019, I really realized, okay, people want to donate, they want to give us money. We can do more with this. But I don't want to like co-mingle my funds of Farmer's Daughter Fibers and Sisters United. They also wanted to donate to a 501(c)(3) so it could be a tax write off for them. And so I was like, okay, we'll just start a 501(c)(3), hired a lawyer. You know, I had an amazing friend of mine who had come to a couple of retreats, and she worked at a nonprofit in Chicago. She wrote all of our bylaws. I mean, we just kind of were able to put it all together to create the 501(c)(3). So in January of 2020 is when we officially got it. During that time, there was another girl in Billings, Montana, that went missing, Selena, and they found her a few days later, but we were able to like actively help with that search. And they they found her deceased, I guess I should say. But we were able to like, actively help with that search by giving funds to, you know, search dogs and rescuers, and all these people were coming, which was so eye opening for me. I'm like, I started this a year ago. I know no nonprofit things. I only know like what I know about MMIW and human trafficking and missing people from the knowledge that I have gained in my community and by researching and doing these things. And there is people from the state telling these families to come to me to help. Like that just shows the lack of resources - one, that we have, and, two, the desperation. Most of the time when when anybody is going missing, it is the families who are looking for them. The bureaucracy of, you know, tribal council or tribe, tribal police, and BIA, and FBI. I mean, it's just so messed up. I can't even really express how messed up it is and how corrupt and how dark and seedy all of it is. I don't necessarily talk about a lot of that publicly because I am afraid that, well, a couple of things. I am afraid that it becomes almost like an entertainment factor. And sometimes I see the MMIW movement shifting into like the true crime, like, you know, and while that - it's hard because it's like we need awareness, it's good - but then at the same time it just perpetuates an idea about Indigenous people that isn't, you know, true. Yes, there is a lot of things that need to happen. There's a lot of resources that can be used. But through this, through all of the research, through all of that whole journey of that first year, I really realized that, like I I'm not the person to help when somebody goes missing. Like, I'm not that person. If I if that was my full job, sure. Yes, I could totally get into it and learn more and do it. But that isn't really where you know what I can do to help. But what I can do is look at how can we help these women and girls before they go missing? Why is this even happening in the first place? Like, what are those things? And really, to me, it all came down to like empowerment. How can we empower, you know, women and children to see their happiness, to see their light, to see all of these things, to be able to heal, too. You know, there's so much trauma. There's so much that happens there that I think kind of lead to these things. And so how can we really help to heal? So that's really our mission as Sisters United is empowerment and healing of Indigenous women, children, and families. You know, we need to, I think it's really important that we include boys and men in everything that we're doing, even though it's Sisters United, men have sisters, too. So I think that that is really important. So we're still just kind of at this point continuing to help fund other programs that we see in our community need the help. The YWCA's door has been broken. I mean, the door to their shelter, like it's such an important piece. So we were able to to get them a new door. We recently donated to the Indigenous Education Department here in Great Falls. They have an amazing director and leader and he has so much vision, ideas of what to do. And so it's like, okay, let's not have you spend weeks filling out grants to do all of these things. Let's just get you the money so you can go and do what you need to do. I mean, that's really so much like bureaucratic stuff that we can just get rid of, along with many other things that we're doing. But it's exciting. I mean, you can hear it, I'm sure, like in my voice, it's just - I feel like we're at such a good place with Sisters United, I feel empowered to help.
Ashley Yousling[00:51:32] How can people get involved?
Candice English [00:51:35] We have on SistersUnitedMT.org, we have knitting patterns on there. So, just by purchasing a knitting pattern is an awesome way. We have donations, we always accept many donations, and we have healing bundles. So our goal this year is to distribute at least 150 healing bundles. And basically what a healing bundle is is like a really beautiful, we want really nice, well made products. So it's a lovely little bag. And then it comes with journals, pens, sweetgrass and sage, which surprisingly are really hard to, you know, they're not very accessible. Even if you are Indigenous, those things aren't always accessible. So having those in there, we have a beautiful book by Richard Wagamese. His poetry, it's all about healing self-care. And then we distribute those to shelters, to victim services, to recovery programs, any place where, you know, people really need that kind of peace of healing. And you can sponsor a healing bundle, is a great way to do that. We're going to be asking for some sewists this year to help us out with bags. And, you know, if you go to Sisters United, sign up for the newsletter. We'll be putting out more volunteer opportunities on there.
Ashley Yousling [00:53:03] Are there any resources, top of mind, that we can share here so people can dive in and learn a bit more?
Candice English [00:53:11] So one of my favorite books, and, again, this is by Richard Wagamese, he is Ojibwe. I really, really love him. There's a book called Indian Horse. It's also a movie, but I would recommend reading the book. It talks a lot about, I think it's one of the best books that, I mean, there's so many books out there, but I really connected with this. Of this boy's journey through, you know, boarding school, what his life was like before boarding school, boarding school, and then how he was treated after, he was a hockey player in in Canada. That's a really great one. Connie Walker is an amazing podcaster. So if you listen to podcasts, which you probably do, she is an investigative reporter for Gimlet Media and she has some amazing podcasts about missing girls. And one of the girls here in Montana, she did a podcast on her. So all of her podcasts are really great, she also has a podcast about children getting adopted and basically stolen out of their families, too. So she's a really great resource. You know, again, I go back and forth on how much I share that is negative because I just don't want it to perpetuate that perspective that so many people have of Indigenous people. You know, I mean, we grew up with it in the media. You look at all the media surrounding the last hundred years of Indigenous people, and, for me, the awareness is important, but then at the same time for every negative thing, I want to share five positive things.
Ashley Yousling [00:55:05] We're so grateful for our BRIGHT Collective supporters and wanted to give a shout out to two of them today. Nestled in the heart of Belfast, Maine, Fiddlehead Artisan Supply is a makers paradise by the sea, offering a large array of apparel and quilting fabrics, patterns, notions, books and extensive art, craft, and embroidery supplies. Fiddlehead helps you turn inspiration into reality. Visit their online shop at FiddleheadArtisanSupply.com and their local yarn shop in Belfast, Maine. Tangled Yarn is a family-run online yarn shop specializing in sustainable yarn from smaller independent suppliers. Making connections and building a community with other crafters is of great importance. They hosts regular knit nights and workshops in their studio in Romiley, Stockport in the UK. Visit their online shop at Tangled--Yarn.com If you'd like to be a BRIGHT Collective supporter, send us an email at email@example.com. The biggest of thanks to everyone involved in this week's episode. I hope you'll join me each week as we talk and learn from more fascinating makers. For notes and transcriptions, visit our blog at MakingZine.com. Have a wonderful week.