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Lichen and Lace unfurled slowly. I chose the business name on a whim one afternoon in June 2012, as I had to hand over my email address, instagram account, etc. with the sale of my yarn store (Lettuce Knit in Kensington Market Toronto) - so I needed a new identity - though I wasn't sure exactly what it would represent at the time, it was vague enough and "me" enough, that I was comfortable with it and I could kind of grow into it.
When we moved to the East Coast, I brought a large dusty bin of dyes left over from the dye studio I had set up in the basement of my yarn shop so many years ago. A few months after moving to Sackville I became inspired by rug hooking after visiting Deanne Fitzpatrick's Rug Hooking Studio. I started dyeing yarn to use in the rugs that I was creating, and I started selling my rugs and other small crafts made with wool on Etsy. I also started working with Deanne at her studio, and one of my jobs was to dye wool cloth and yarn to sell in her studio.
In the spring of 2013, one year after I had left Toronto, I returned to teach a class at my old yarn shop on rug hooking for knitters. During that trip I visited a yarn mill in Toronto that I had purchased from in the past and bought a bunch of undyed yarn.
I also created my first yarn labels that spring, using brown packing paper, I cut it into 8.5 x 11" sheets so that it would fit in my printer!
I didn't start sewing them right away - In the beginning I closed them with tape - the first photo I can find of my sewn labels was in the spring of 2014, and you can see the rolls of packing paper I was cutting and printing on!
first Halifax Crafters Market for me - April 2014 - I used my dresser drawers for display!
Over the next two years I continued to work in the rug hooking studio, and I started selling Lichen and Lace Yarn to Deanne to sell in her studio (first wholesale account - thanks Deanne!) I started vending at maker markets like Halifax Crafters, and Dartmouth Makers, as well as the Sackville Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings, and I also continued to sell through my Etsy shop.
Market days! Me at the Sackville Farmer's Market - March 2015
In August 2015 I launched lichenandlace.com on Shopify. I had taken the summer off from working at the rug hooking studio and had picked up a job as a server at the Coy Wolf oyster bar in Sackville. James had taken the kids to Newfoundland for a week to visit his parents, and I dyed all the yarn, took the photos, designed and set up the style of the online shop in that one week.
first photo of new logo on yarn label, vending at Sappyfest - August 2015
I was only able to create the online shop that week because of two essential tools that were lent to me by Deanne Fitzpatrick for the summer: An iphone with a good camera and a laptop. If she hadn't lent me those tools I don't think I would have been able to start, since at that point I shared a phone and computer with James, so I had to work in fits and starts, and the task of creating the online shop required an extended focus which I only had because my family was away! As this story makes clear, Deanne was a major catalyst for me launching Lichen and Lace Hand Dyed Yarn and she continues to be an inspiration and mentor - I love you Deanne!
I didn't return to working at the rug hooking studio in the fall of 2015 like I thought I would. I wanted to put more energy into Lichen and Lace, and when I did, it continued to grow.
The first few months were slow in my new online shop, but each month sales increased. By April 1st of 2016 I was ready to leave my job as a server at an in town bistro and once again be a full time entrepreneur. It was a leap of faith at the time, but I could see that the more energy I put into my own business, the more it grew and it has continued to grow!
Lichen and Lace continued to add wholesale accounts ( at this time we are in over 50 knitting shops including Loop in London, England and Walnut in Kyoto Japan!) but I had to cut down on the maker markets I was vending at, and stopped setting up at the Sackville Farmer's Market. Those sales opportunities were essential in my early days, but as the business grew and wholesale orders increased, It became clear that I had to be intentional where I was putting my energy, and physically setting up shop takes a lot of energy!
In September 2016 I moved all business operations including dye studio out of my home. I was really lucky to find the perfect space at the perfect time, and so Lichen and Lace now has its own address on a pretty tree lined street in Sackville just a 20 minute walk from home.
In November of 2016 I took in my first intern for a week and she was an angel (Hi Maiesha!) Not only was she a super competent worker and lovely, but she gave me the hint that maybe I could take on an employee and enjoy working alongside people again (because I am an introvert and I do really enjoy working alone).
Izzy is an artist, yarn dyer and creature of habit. They are a sucker for color theory, bulky yarn and hanging yarn to dry out in the sun.
The universe once again gave me a nudge in this direction in April 2017, when a friend needed a place for her sister to stay for a few weeks, and was wondering if she could stay at the studio (yes there is a comfy bed here!) in return for work. Well, that kind of broke the seal, and since then, I went on to hire Izzy in May 2017 and who is now the head dyer in the studio. In April of 2018 Rebecca joined the team and she is now head of shipping and packing. Having lots of help now - I really wonder how I was doing it all by myself for so long!
Rebecca is a sculptor, performance artist and art technician. Her interests include arranging flowers, sewing, and reorganizing her room every few months. If you enjoy the penmanship on your Lichen and Lace labels, it's probably her cursive you're looking at.
Lichen and Lace continues to grow; now we are a happy hive of activity working away in the pretty Lichen and Lace Studio which has a really sweet back porch if I do say so myself - especially when the long clothesline is full of hand dyed yarn! There are always challenges and stresses of being self employed, but I can't imagine a different life - I love making beautiful yarn for you!