We started by selling patterns to mom’s friends and neighborhood ladies who came to the house for knitting classes. Our first big break came after placing a tiny ad in the back of Vogue Knitting. This little ad was incredibly expensive, and placing it was a big gamble on our part…especially since we moved to Guthrie shortly after it ran.
We immediately started receiving calls and mail orders (literally in the mail) from all over the world!
Magazines were a lifeline for knitters 25 years ago. You pretty much needed a subscription, for finding a knitting magazine at the grocery store and the likes was quite rare. Magazines were your source for patterns, yarn, technique, ideas. The shop listings and mail order ads in the back of the magazine were the only resource for many knitters, in that yarn shops were lacking in many respects. We advertised frequently in all of the knitting magazines for many, many years.
As a young woman in her 20s who designed knitwear, I was such an anomaly that the press began to pounce. The Edmond Sun did a feature story about me, that was picked up on the AP wire and ran in countless newspapers across the country. We’d receive mail and newspaper clippings from far and wide, simply addressed to SWAK in Guthrie. Because of our booming mail order, I was on first name basis with everyone at the post office so they knew where to find me.
After opening the shop to the public, we started advertising locally in various newspapers and magazines. This was before social media was even a concept, and most people still didn’t know what that internet thing was. And remember the phone book? I cringe at the amount of money I’ve spent advertising in the yellow pages, but back then it was a necessity. Print advertising, along with word of mouth brought people through the door, and we outgrew the tiny house in no time.
One of the challenges with designing complex intarsia designs was that no one, and I mean no one, knew how to knit these designs and have them actually look good. Mom was a perfectionist who believed her intarsia stitches should be as perfect as anything else she knit. She set out to develop techniques to perfect the technique, and in 1997 the first edition of Intarsia: A Workshop for Hand & Machine Knitting was published.
We received excellent reviews from every publication, and set out on the teaching circuit to promote the book. While compiling scrapbooks last spring, I ran across reviews that I completely forgot about. At the time I didn’t think much of them, but looking back I realized what a really big deal it was! In many of the reviews of our workshops, we made the highlight reel, side-by-side with Kaffe Fasset. WOW!
Another lifeline for knitters back in the day were mail order catalogs. Unlike online-only retailers, mail order catalogs actually HELPED the knitting industry. Many knitters squealed with glee whenever these catalogs would appear in their mailbox. Outside of magazines, these catalogs were often the only other link you’d have to the knitting world at large. Those who had nowhere, as in nowhere in their entire state, to shop relied on these catalogs for supplies. And those lucky enough to have a shop within a half-day’s drive would bring their catalog along in hopes of finding similar goods.
We were fortunate enough to have our patterns, kits, and Intarsia book featured in many of the major catalogs, including Patternworks, Wool Connection, and Cotton Clouds to name a few. They helped get our products into the hands of many more knitters, and we enjoyed a long working relationship with each of them.
I have complied many of these clippings into our IN THE NEWS scrapbook. If you take the time to flip through, I have added many annotations including the technological obstacles involved with producing print ads and a glimpse into the past. You’ll also find stories including “PANTS ON FIRE!!!”, along with the time I thought mom’s hair would literally light on fire she was so mad. So I think you’ll enjoy the read.
Today I have SWAK swag bags to give away to three lucky readers.
To get your name in the hat, simply comment with: Sorry, drawing is over!
- How you first discovered SWAK
- Do you prefer to knit or crochet
- T-Shirt size
You have until midnight!