This originally appeared in our Valley Yarns 2011 catalog.
Kathy and Steve Elkins, owners of WEBS – America’s Yarn Store, established the Valley Yarns brand in 2004. But the exclusive line existed prior to their taking over the company from Steve’s parents. Read Steve’s story below about the creation of the brand.
What’s in a name?
When Kathy and I took over the business from my parents in 2002, they were already sourcing yarns directly and had been doing so for many years. At that time, they were focused primarily on weaving yarns, but there were several knitting yarns in the collection. Anyone remember Peru, Quabbin, or Monterey? They were branded along with the weaving yarns as the WEBS Permanent Line. It was a functional name, but it didn’t give Kathy and me much to work with in terms of marketing. So we set out to come up with a new name and tossed around a lot of different ideas. We had a long list of possibilities, but we ultimately chose Valley Yarns.
Why where you come from matters
My parents started the tradition of naming yarns after local towns. My three favorites are Prescott, Dana, and Enfield. You won’t find these towns on any modern map as they were flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. The Pioneer Valley is where I was born and lived until I left for college, it’s where my extended family has been for a long time, it’s where Kathy and I call home, and most importantly it’s where WEBS has always been. Paying tribute to the local culture by naming our yarns after the lovely towns found in the valley and surrounding hills only seemed fit.
A yarn is born
Bringing a yarn to market is one of our favorite aspects of our job. We work with mills from all over the world. Most often the process starts out with a mill sending us or visiting us with a set of samples. When looking at samples, we can quickly eliminate any fancy or novelty yarns that don’t fit under the Valley Yarns umbrella, any yarns that duplicate what we already have, or any yarns we simply don’t like. We sometimes end up with nothing in our “like” or “need” pile. Other times, we might have two or three, or more yarns that we are interested in looking at further. At this point, we ask for full samples of the yarn. We swatch the yarn at different gauges, test the yarn for wear and durability, and wash the swatches – basically we really put the yarn through its paces. We spend time discussing how any potential new yarn will fit into the line. Naturally, pricing is always an issue, especially in challenging economic times. We may sometimes love and want a yarn desperately, but if the pricing structure doesn’t work, we sometimes have to walk away.
Color my world
Once the base yarn is selected, we then go through the color selection process, which is not as easy as it sounds. We have to consider how the yarn will be used and what we feel is an appropriate palette. It’s important to have an interesting but functional color range that works as well in depth of color as it does in coordination of color.
New kid on the block
Once the order is placed, we finalize a name. Sometimes a name is crystal clear; other times we have to try a few on for size. The label artwork then gets created, and then we wait. We wait anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks or more, depending on lead times from the mill. We usually have some advance bags flown to us so that we can start designing. The balance of the shipment usually comes by boat. When a new yarn arrives, it is everyone’s new BFF, and we all have to remind ourselves not to ignore all of the other beautiful yarns in our Valley Yarns collection.