Maine, United States

Sponsor Spotlight: Kelbourne Woolens
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Sponsor Spotlight: Kelbourne Woolens

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Enjoy an interview with Kate Gagnon Osborn and Courtney Kelley of Kelbourne Woolens, Making / FAUNA sponsors!

What is unique about your company or brand?

We're unique in the industry as we are one of the very few (or only? I believe other partnerships like ours may have evolved over the years) where Kelbourne Woolens is technically a distribution company, but throughout our existence, we have only distributed one brand of yarn, The Fibre Co. Unlike more traditional distribution models, this has afforded us the opportunity to play a large role in yarn and color development over the years, as well as develop our own branded products such as tape measures, knit checks, and a large line of knitting and crochet patterns.

Both Courtney and I have educational backgrounds in art/textiles (she an MFA, and I a BS in studio art with a textiles concentration, and MS in weaving focusing on Jacquard), and worked in different facets of the industry prior to forming Kelbourne, so we try to bring our unique set of experiences to the table when running the company. We're also really proud to be women owned, and from the start putting a wide variety of pieces of the puzzle together in order to run a successful company has been a big focus of what we do, from teaching to pattern support, to traveling to trade shows.

What project of yours are you especially excited about, either current or forthcoming?

We just got back from the Nordic Knitting Conference, and I had the pleasure of taking two classes with Laura Ricketts. I was able to start a bunch of new projects while in class (you can read about our trip here), including a pair of Skolt Sámi boot socks. Coming home and assessing my projects made me realize I have a lot of things mid-process, so I am determined to be more "monogamous" with my crafting and finish one thing a week through the New Year. Luckily, the socks are tons of fun to knit, and I'm well into the heel flap on the second one and should have a cosy f.o. in no time.

While in Laura's classes, I saw the samples for her Ájtte Treasure Mittens in person, and was taken with the fine gauge and intricate colorwork. I immediately purchased a few balls of Lopi Einband from the Tolt booth, and am really looking forward to working them up this winter as a special "selfish" (read: not related to Kelbourne Woolens) project - once I finish all those aforementioned already in progress projects, of course!

What's your favorite color?

I am always drawn to neutrals and cool colors - smokey grey blues, pale mint, navy, etc. I mostly wear neutrals and navy, too and bring color into my wardrobe with accessories. But (not so secretly) I love love love neon pink, chartreuse, and acid yellow. If I had to choose just one color as my favorite, it would be pale, mid-tone heather grey.

- Kate

Tell us how your company got started!

Back in 2008, Kate and I were both working at our LYS, Rosie's Yarn Cellar. My son was born that year, in November, and while I was on leave I got a call that The Fibre Co. were looking for a North American distributor. I don't know if it was the euphoria (yeah, let's call it that...) of new motherhood that had gone to my brain, but I thought, "Why the heck not?" I knew that if I was going to do it I needed a partner, and I knew it should be Kate. She's the steady behind my flighty, the firm NO that I need to hear (and then accept) from time to time, and the one who doesn't always see the world through rose-colored glasses. I knew we would make a great team.
Eight years later, we're still at it! We have a warehouse full of yarn in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia, and three wonderful employees.

If you were going to create something just for fun today, what would it be?

I just finished some design work for our upcoming Spring Collection, and I purposefully haven't scheduled any other contract knitting work for the rest of the year, and into 2017. I'm expecting in February, our third child, and am looking forward to knitting some cute and ridiculous baby items, as well as trying to work on some really exciting kits and projects I've picked up over the years that I haven't had time for. I have a rug hooking kit I got at Stitches West last year, a Swedish mitten kit from Yarn Fest that I bought last March, and a Custom House of Needle Arts crewel embroidery kit I bought at Fancy Tiger that has been worked on in fits and starts.

Which project of your are you most proud of?

I know it sounds kind of corny, but I am really proud of the company Kate and I have built together. It really is a life's work, and I couldn't be happier with the way it continues to develop.
But, if you mean in terms of knitting, my favorite thing I've made is probably a shawl I knit years ago called Maude.

Originally knit in Koigu as a store pattern at Rosie's, I reknit it in Acadia a few years ago and re-released the pattern with updated formatting. It is one of my favorite shawls to this day, and I loved the process of designing it. Maude was one of my very first designs, and I made it while living alone on Smith Island years ago, trying to make a living as an artist and designer (this was pre-Ravelry days). It was a blissful time, and the shawl has a lot of great memories wrapped up in it. Including when I submitted it to Interweave Knits and it was rejected!

- Courtney

Thank you, Kate and Courtney!