Handmade: Here’s a ‘Crazy’ way to knit and crochet
It’s “crazy” good when you develop a product that becomes so amazingly popular you have to limit the amount a store can request in a single order to allow for even distribution among others wanting to sell the item. (Wow!)
Debbie McDermott, owner of Stonehedge Fiber Mill (2246 Pesek) in East Jordan, is the creator of a multicolored 2-ply sport weight yarn, called “Crazy.” The soft fine wool keeps the orders coming. She said, “It’s gotten so popular that we have to limit stores to an order of 50 skeins. Once I send them the order, I can put them back on at the end of the list.”
Why are knitters and crocheters crazy for Crazy? McDermott, who lives in East Jordan, thinks it’s the surprising blend of colors and the fact that no two skeins are alike. She said, “You can find skeins that have similar colors, but there are no two alike. It’s done randomly. It surprises you. It gets you out of your comfort zone.”
And, how did she get into such a “crazy” business, if you will? Well, she said, “The original Crazy Yarn was just called mill ends because that’s what they were. After plying batches of yarn, there is always a tiny bit left on one of the bobbins. I saved it and plied it all together, so it was all different colors, fibers and weights of yarn in one skein.
“After we started making Shepherd’s Wool Worsted (which is a 3-ply, dyed yarn in 65 colors), those mill ends had color randomly here and there throughout,” she added. “The ones with the color became so popular that we had to actually hire an employee to make them 40 hours per week, and use just the colors from the Shepherd’s Wool. That employee, hand-splices every color change as she winds them on cones. When the cone is full, two of them are plied together in the finished 2-ply, sport weight yarn that is now called Crazy Yarn. We had a contest on our Facebook page about five years ago to name it.”
Today, there’s still just one person creating cones of Crazy, but McDermott remarked, “If I had three people working 40 hours a week each, I could still sell that amount.”
McDermott, both a knitter and crocheter, who goes “back and forth,” depending on what her hands are telling her, said she and her husband, Chuck, who died two years ago this month, developed the fiber mill in 1998 as something they could do together. “He was retired from General Motors when we moved here. We started raising sheep and I started hand-spinning, and we had a petting farm. He was bored, and we wanted to do something together, instead of me sitting in my craft room, and going to craft shows (where she sold her handmade goods).
“We started processing fiber for other people into roving and batting, and then after we were open a couple years, we started spinning for other people, and that meant we had to build another building,” she added. “We wanted to utilize one side of our 24-head spinning machine, and that’s when we started researching what kind of fiber I wanted to use, and we started our wholesale line of Shepherd’s Wool. It’s fine wool.”
Back when McDermott saved what was left “at the ends of bobbins from custom processing batches of yarn for other people,” she said one day her husband saw the box of cones wound with the leftover yarn (“a yard of this, and a yard of that”), and asked, “Why don’t you throw them away?” Her reply — “I’m going to figure out something to do with them.” And, that, she did, creating a “Crazy” success story along the way!
Today, McDermott employs 11 individuals, including her adult children — Ron Riddle, Jodi Peck and Jamie Sparks, all East Jordan residents.
Crazy Yarn, which retails for roughly $12 a skein (230 yards), can be found locally at Heritage Spinning & Weaving in Lake Orion, Skeins on Main in Rochester, the Knitters Nest in Clarkston, the Wool and the Floss in Grosse Pointe, Michigan Fine Yarns in Livonia, Ewe-Nique Knits in Royal Oak, and the Yarn Stop in Clawson, among others. In total, it’s sold at 250 shops across the country, one in both Israel and Sweden, and three in Canada.
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, email@example.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Stonehedge Fiber Mill (2246 Pesek, East Jordan) at stonehedgefibermill.com and on Facebook. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.