Woolfolk Yarn appeared on the knitting world's horizon in 2014 when Kristin Ford, owner and CEO, debuted the yarn at the Fall TNNA Show, the industry trade show for independent retailers. It was there that she introduced a uniquely luxurious yarn: Ultimate Merino. The inaugural presentation was for two superb weights: Far (worsted) and Tynd (fingering). The yarn was introduced in an assortment of colorways that reflected Kristin's appreciation of the colors of the Pacific Northwest, her family's home territory. In no time at all, the show floor was abuzz with talk of the special new merino yarn.
Far on the left and Tynd on the right
We covered the Woolfolk story on our blog in 2014 and described the high micron count "Ultimate Merino" as "knitters bliss." To learn more about their story and the sustainable practices that result in its superior hand, please visit their website at www.woolfolkyarn.com.
Last year the company introduced Sno, a marled version of fingering weight Tynd and Hygge, a unique bulky yarn that mixes Ultimate Merino with baby alpaca and mulberry silk.
Sno on the left and Hygge on the right
With all this growth, we thought it a good time to catch-up with Kristin Ford and the company. We were curious to know what she has learned over the past few years. We started by asking her what she had discovered about herself in her role as head of Woolfolk Yarn.
"I realized that I couldn't do it all... and I found Meredith, my wonderful new customer service/shipping person. This has allowed me to spend more time looking forward and focusing on the company’s growth."
In getting specific about the challenges inherent in moving forward, she mentioned the importance of anticipating demand. The introduction of new colors and yarn weights are two important ways in which Woolfolk continues to broaden their line. They now offer Far and Tynd in 18 colors, many of them variations on the hues of the Pacific Northwest that are distinct to this line. Even as we write, Kristin and her team of designers are looking forward to 2017 for new color choices.
Woolfolk is very much a collaborative venture in that the designers who work with the brand are in alignment with the aesthetic of the owner. Many of the designs reflect Kristin’s architectural perspective: Form follows function, but with sophistication that reflects each designer’s unique style.
Clockwise, left to right: Arkade (Antonia Shankland), Kurv (Ashley Yousling), Birk (lOlga Buraya Kefelian), Mos (Michelle Wang)
Kristin is realistic in her view of a designer’s huge contribution to a brand’s success, and this year she made the decision to give 100% of the proceeds from all downloaded patterns back to them:
“I am a yarn company, and consider their beautiful designs advertising. I believe that they should be fairly compensated for their vision and hard work. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn't mean it's the only way to proceed.”
This type of support goes two ways so it’s no surprise that loyalty to the company runs deep among those who work with Woolfolk. See this year’s collection and you will recognize the names of leaders in knitwear design: Olga Buraya-Kefelian, Norah Gaughan, Antonia Shankland, and Michelle Wang -- to name just a few.
Another on-going charge for the company is service to the retailers who have supported the brand from the beginning. “We have no desire to be in every yarn store in the land. We wish to focus on strengthening partnerships with existing customers and giving them the right tools with which to support our brand.”
As Woolfolk looks forward, there are some “interesting changes” that are being promised. Keep your eye out for a new weight this month. A cotton and wool blend is planned for next Spring, and some “yummy new colors” will be shown in 2017. Beyond that, Kristin isn't talking, but you can be sure she's got more than one new idea up her hand-knit sleeve!
This continuous support of product innovation, design, and the independent yarn retailer has distinguished Woolfolk Yarns from the very beginning. It will, no doubt, take it well into the 21st Century as a classic success story in the constantly evolving yarn market world.