Business Sense

Oh, Color Cards…

It’s color card making season at Kelbourne Woolens headquarters! 

Do you ever wonder how color cards get made? I’m here to tell you all about it!

In order to fully understand the magnitude of the task of making color cards, let’s go a little bit deeper. Twice a year we introduce a new yarn to The Fibre Co line. Yarn development takes about one to one and a half years from initial inception to release to the general public. 

In the fall of 2015 we began working on our new yarn for fall of 2016. In December, we had a sample skein (to be sure we liked the yarn in its final incarnation), and we had settled on the colors in the line. In January we decided on the 6 colors we wanted to use in the collection to accompany the release. In February we received a sample run of 40 skeins of these 6 colors to start knitting the designs for the collection. Finally, in April, we received 40 skeins of the remaining colors. Then it’s crunch time! We immediately set to work winding 20 yard mini skeins of every color for our sales reps, and additional windings to take to TNNA with us.

Meanwhile, at the same time, we were revising the existing lines – deciding which colors to discontinue and which new colors to add. This process is also a delicate balancing act based on how well each color sells, how much of it we have left in stock, and what colors may be missing in the line (why is there no “real” purple in Meadow?), and which lines we need to reorder. In the winter, we get color samples from our dyers, just small windings called lab dips, and we pick and choose which ones to add. The colors we like are approved with the dye house, and we order a 20 skein sample to be sure it looks as good in the skein as it does in the lab dip. (Just like cooking, it’s easier to make macaroni and cheese from scratch for you and your family, but making it for a crowd of 500 people is a whole different ball game. Sometimes it is amazing in small doses at home, but elsewhere doesn’t turn out quite right or is downright awful!) Once we have the 20 sample skeins, and approve those, we also have to make a bunch of mini skeins of those new colors! (Shout out to Nancy’s Knit Knacks, manufacturer of our mini skein winding equipment). All of this has to happen on a strict schedule so that we have full skeins of approved colors to knit samples with, can photograph the skeins for the website and newsletter, have enough yarn to make mini skeins for our sales reps, and have full skeins to show at TNNA. And all of this is happening months in advance to have everything ready for the shops and end-user in the fall. 

How does all of this relate to color cards? For every change in a color line up, we have to make all new color cards. Each color card is hand made by our trusted color card maven, Lisa Johnson, who is the owner of a LYS down the hill from our warehouse, Hidden River Yarns.

That’s right. One person makes all of our color cards, by hand. Each and every one

We start by taking one skein of every color in the line, removing discontinued ones and adding in the new ones. Kate organizes these into a line up that looks good, and this is the official “order” of the colors. It is how they will be organized on the color cards, the website, and on display at TNNA. She then writes down the line up, puts it into a template, and prints them. (By this point Daphne has also had to come up with names for all the colors, but that is a separate post). Then we cut a skein of each new color into 4-5″ long pieces and put those into a ziploc bag labeled with the color name. Each yarn gets it’s own tote bag of labeled yarn bits. Then we pack the die cut cards, tiny brads, and color name stickers into the tote and Meghan walks it down the hill to Hidden River. Lisa diligently sets up the whole operation assembly-line style, making upwards of 100 color cards at a time. She stickers the cards first, then adds a strand of each color to all the cards in her pile. Then she moves on to the second color, then the third, and so on. Once they are all the cards are full of yarn, she pokes a hole in the corner with a pin and uses a tiny brad to secure the two cards together. The ends are then neatly trimmed. Then she’s on to the next line. 

So, what happens if we discontinue a color and we still have color cards with that color on it? That’s a great question. We try to use them up as quickly as possible, until the new colors are “officially” released, but then we have to just throw them away. It is very sad.  

The moral of the story is that color cards are a pain. But they’re also wonderful and a great way to see the product in person, so they are totally worth having!

Lisa, we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you!

Want to brighten Lisa’s day? Leave her a comment below and let her how much you appreciate the color cards she is so diligently making! 

5 thoughts on “Oh, Color Cards…

  1. Susan says:

    Lisa, I have quite a few of your color cards (thank you) and I love visiting Hidden River Yarns! I may be down this weekend for more Cumbria. Love that yarn. Kind regards, Susan aka Button and on ravelry.

  2. Lee says:

    Wow! I find it fascinating to learn about all that goes on ‘behind the scenes’! Sounds like you do an incredible job, Lisa-kudos to you!

  3. Ann Ross says:

    At Gosh Yarn It! we are so grateful for color cards that include the actual yarn. And now that we know the story of how they come into being, we will treasure them all the more!

  4. Antonia Shankland says:

    As a rep I know the importance of real live color cards for the shop owners. It is easier to make your decisions when you see the true color and feel of the yarn on a card. Images on computer screens just don’t do the trick. Thanks Lisa for making these color cards. I love the look behind the scenes and to get the word out how much work is involved in running a yarn company. Thanks Kelbourne.

  5. Terry says:

    Amazing work! Done so well! I admire you for your tidy work 🙂

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