As a fourth generation family member of Lion Brand, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to meet and talk with very passionate people that are prominent within the yarn industry; people like Janet Johnson Stephens, Rita Weiss, and Gwen Blakely Kinsler. I met Gwen a number of years ago when I spoke to her Guild in Rolling Meadows, Illinois and I was impressed with the many ways she has contributed to the craft industry.
Gwen was instrumental in establishing the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) organization 20 years ago and is also an author, designer, teacher and writer of everything crochet.
This year, the Crochet Guild of America chose Gwen as their 2014 recipient for the Jean Leinhauser Hall of Fame Award. Her passion and determination to host the first meeting with crochet enthusiasts in Chicago is now recognized as an incremental part of yarn history.
For everyone who is passionate about yarn and loves to crochet, Gwen Blakely Kinsler is an inspiration. I’d like to congratulate her on this well-deserved honor.
|For over 30 years working at Lion Brand as a traveling salesperson, it has been one of my greatest joys to witness the growth of the many crafting communities all over the United States. I have always felt immeasurably proud to be a part of a company that enables people to find happiness in each stitch and a sense of accomplishment in every final product.Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak at the Happily Hooked on Crocheting Club, the Connecticut Chapter of the Crochet Guild of America. This group started in 2001 as a bunch of crafters who wanted to get together and share their love for crochet. Now they have expanded to an organization “dedicated to preserving, promoting, and teaching crochet” within the Tri-State Area; it was like looking into Lion Brand’s past.At the end of my talk, the president presented me with a personalized honorary membership, for all of the hard work, passion, and inspiration Lion Brand has helped give the crafters of today.|
|Irene and Ariel in a sweater she made.|
Following the event, there was a “show and tell” parade of garments made by members who used Lion Brand yarn, ending in the biggest surprise of all: my longtime, good friend Irene Iannelli had brought her young daughter, Ariel, that day to model some of her own garments!
Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing how our product has transformed itself into a handmade sweater thanks to an imaginative crafter. Seeing members of Happily Hooked on Crocheting Club enthusiastically welcome Lion Brand and myself into their community makes visiting knit and crochet guilds across the nation all the more worthwhile.
|With Janet (pictured left) and the other ladies from the Guild|
As a fourth generation member of a family-owned business, I’ve always been fascinated with the “living legends” of the yarn industry since, like me, many of them have been involved in the business for 30 or 40 years.
The very talented Janet Johnson Stephens is a particularly influential person. Not only is she a dedicated crafter, but she is an accomplished teacher and designer.
One of my favorite shows to attend has always been the Knit and Crochet Show. And earlier this month during Crochet Guild of America’s Professional Development Day, I got to hear my fellow colleagues and peers in the yarncraft industry speak about what we’ve all learned this past year. What always excited me about this show was hearing other people, who were just as passionate as I was about yarn, talk about what they love.
It always felt like a family coming home for the holidays, reuniting and catching up what everyone has been doing since the last show. It was this experience I always look forward to the most.
This year was particularly special because I got to see Rita Weiss be inducted into the Crochet Hall of Fame. It reminded me of the reason why I work in this business and at Lion Brand. She has served as my role model, and was the reasons why Lion Brand got involved with the Crochet Guild of America. How she has become a household name and what she has done for the yarncraft industry is what I hope that Lion Brand will one day become.
Not only that but because I travel so much it also gives me a chance to see what Lion Brand has been working on this past year. When videos of my family and I talking about Lion Brand and Vanna White giving Lion Brand’s annual proceeds to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, it brought a tear to my heart knowing I was seeing on screen what I always want our customers to know about Lion Brand. Just like a family, we are taught to be generous and to care about others, but most of all that family comes first.
This year I also got to see I got to see Lauren and Brandyce model for the Lion Brand segment of the Crochet Fashion show. It always impresses me how much our employees go above and beyond when it comes to showing their love for Lion Brand. Whether it’s working behind a desk or working the runaway to model this year’s designs.
I can hardly wait what the next show will bring but I do hope to see some of you in July…
Want to check out a Lion Brand booth near you? We’ll be in Hartford, Connecticut for Stitches East from November 10-11!
As a traveling salesperson for Lion Brand for over 30 years, I’ve crisscrossed the country meeting knitters and crocheters from all corners of the United States and hearing their stories. In addition to yarncrafters, throughout my travels I’ve sometimes been lucky enough to run into some celebrities. Being that I am a huge sports fan, it is always extra exciting when I run into an athlete. During my travels, I have met the likes of Muhammad Ali and Darryl Strawberry.
My father, like me, traveled for the company for over 40 years and he too ran into his share of famous faces. One of my personal favorites that he had the pleasure of meeting was Deacon Jones of the Fearsome Foursome from Los Angeles Rams. Deacon sadly passed away today and it reminded me of my father, how much he loved traveling for Lion Brand, and of his adventures on the road.
May Deacon rest in peace.
[Pictured: my father George Blumenthal and Deacon Jones.]
Recently I was invited to the Knitting Heritage Museum Symposium in Madison, Wisconsin. The symposium, which takes place in November, focuses on preserving the history of knit and crochet.
The whole symposium is about history, which I’m very fond of. I love my family history and I love Lion Brand history and that’s what intrigues me about this opportunity. The museum contains many historical knit and crochet pieces on display for anyone to see. I treasure the pieces I have from Lion Brand and make sure that they are preserved in our archive.
At the event, I’m looking forward to broadening the knowledge I have of knit and crochet history. I already know a lot about Lion Brand history but I want to learn more about knit and crochet history. I think it’s important to collect things, archiving them and cherishing them and giving other people the opportunity to experience them. Sharing with others is inspiring and is something I always try to do.
I’m also excited get to have a meet and greet with the Madison Knitters Guild while I’m there. As a member of the board of directors of the Crochet Guild of America, I’m always pleased to meet with guilds all over the country. I can’t wait to meet such a large guild from Wisconsin.
If you’re as interested in the history of yarn crafts as I am, I hope you’ll also consider attending.
Knitting Heritage Museum Symposium
November 8-10, 2012
Wisconsin Historical Society
Madison, Wisconsin 53706
Click here for more information and to register.
Last month, a few members of the Lion Brand team and I had the pleasure of attending the Fall Knit and Crochet Show in Reno, Nevada. The show offers many classes as well as a marketplace, featuring unique and wonderful products from many different companies. We also gave out 500 goodie bags to people who signed up for classes, and it was great to see people walking around the show with them.
Lion Brand had a booth at the show, and it was so much fun for me to speak with the attendees and hear their feedback. We got to show them our new colors and new yarns and everyone especially loved the new Bonbons multi-packs. It was really exciting to see the expressions on their faces when they got to see it up close and personal. I told everyone that I thought they were so cute I put them in a candy dish in my house!
Growing up in the Blumenthal family, I learned early that yarn is a treasure. Dad used to say that everyone in my family was born with a ball of yarn in their crib, and it was true (often literally!). In recent years it’s sometimes been seen as unusual to know how to knit or crochet, but I can remember a time when crafting was nearly universal, and it was very common to see a basket of yarn in any living room you might happen to visit.
I took this picture in my office at Lion Brand Yarn headquarters; I love keeping antiques that have to do with the tradition of crafting with yarn. This particular piece is an authentic cover of Life Magazine from 1941. The small text in the bottom left-hand corner says “How to Knit” and inside they included knitting instructions and a pattern for a regulation military vest. One line in the article reads, “To the great American question ‘What can I do to help the war effort?’ the commonest answer yet found is ‘Knit.’” Because yarncrafting was so abundant in everyday homes, this was one way folks found to contribute to the war effort.
In that era, it wasn’t out-of-the-ordinary to see people knitting a few stitches at the bus stop, crocheting a few rows in the park, or toting a bag of yarn to the library. Yarn was often a part of home-life too, even if you weren’t born into it like me. Needles would be clicking after supper and during family gatherings, and more than one child from the time has the memory of holding open a hank of yarn for Mom or Grandma while she wound it into a ball (a process I remember personally, one which always seemed to take an unusually long time).
One of the things I love about working with Lion Brand is seeing the culture of knitting and crochet grow with the development of online resources for learning, web-based ways to meet other crafters and online availability of great yarns. My personal dream is to see knitting, crochet and all sorts of yarncrafts become a large part of American culture again. Yarncrafts have an important place in our history, and I’m delighted that today’s communities of yarn-lovers will ensure a place for crafts in our future.
Want to learn more about yarn in history? Try these posts:
Growing up in the Blumenthal family, I learned from an early age that gifts made with yarn are also made with care and thoughtfulness.
Being a part of Lion Brand Yarn my entire life, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many hand-made gifts crafted with yarn and patience. Everyone knows that when they get a home-made gift, countless hours and a great deal of care went into making it. I’ve always felt very honored and lucky to receive gifts given with so much thought.
I like to keep gifts like that out in the open where they can be enjoyed. The piece in this picture hangs in my office at Lion Brand Yarn’s New Jersey headquarters. It was made for my father by my second grade teacher, as a thank-you present for all the yarn he’d given her over the years.
One of the things I liked best about being out on the road with sales was meeting yarncrafters face to face. Now that I spend more time working with the Lion Brand Yarn Outlet here in New Jersey, it’s still a treat for me to talk to knitters and crocheters in person, and to see their faces light up when they see all our colorful yarns and supplies.
Last week several ladies from the Cedar Crest Retirement Community in Pompton Plains came out in dreary Monday morning rain to pay a visit to the Outlet. The ladies came in, shook off the weather and strolled through the rows and rows of vibrant yarns stocked on the shelves.