Handmade: AJHC Wools is 'creative outlet' for busy mom
Being a stay-at-home mom led Ariel J. Bishop to owning a small business. While home schooling and spending time with her children, she did a lot of research on the internet in search of "a creative outlet" that could be turned into a profit-making venture.
Crocheting since her early childhood, Bishop, who lives in Eaton Rapids, taught herself to knit when she was expecting her fourth child. So it was only natural that the mother of five children, ages 15, 10, 8, 7 and 3, direct her creative energy toward a fiber related art form -- yarn dyeing.
About seven years ago, Bishop, 33, taught herself to dye yarn. After perfecting her skills, she launched her hand-dyed yarn company, AJHC Wools, in 2016, with plans for it someday becoming a family operated business, an idea that's reflected in the name she chose. AJHC is an acronym for her first and middle name, the "H" stands for husband, and "C" for children.
AJHC Wools has become a familiar name on labels in many local yarn shops, including Unwind Yarn Shop in Brighton, Spun in Ann Arbor, and the Yarn Garden in Charlotte, where she's also done a trunk show.
"Those have more of my yarn than a couple others that just have a little," she said. "Unwind carries my mini skeins (20 grams each), Spun carries my basic sock yarn in regular skeins and the lace alpaca, but Yarn Garden has a variety, including my mohair, my basic sock yarn, my minis, and some of my DK, which is a thicker yarn.
"I have some yarn that is super wash merino with nylon, and then I also have some that is super wash merino with silk," she explained. "But one of my favorites is the yak blend that I carry. It's superwash merino and yak, with either silk or nylon. So, one is a little more luxurious."
Bishop said her "Mythical Gods Collection," named after different gods and goddesses, is very popular among customers. "They're a single color semi-solid with darker specks. They're popular because they're very personal. They work well in cables and lace, they're a little more variation for plain knitting, and they don't distract from the stitches, which is nice," she said. This collection comes in 56 colors as both minis and full-size skeins.
The minis are "much more cost effective," and allow customers to be more creative. "One woman recently used 18 different colors to make a shawl, so she created her own gradient for the colors."
Bishop tries to spend at least two or three days a week dyeing yarn. "I'm able to go into my studio and get things started. There's a wait time between the process. I'll go back and do something else. The kid's are learning work ethics through helping when they feel they want to help. They put the labels on the yarn. The baby wants to help, so I give her some stickers to make her feel helpful." (Ahhh!)
Aside from yarn, she has two patterns available in her Etsy shop -- a knit hat she designed, and a crochet shawl, designed by a local crafter, which she owns the rights to. "I also put together kits for knitting and crocheting projects, and I make stitch markers for both techniques."
Lately, Bishop has become more of a knitter because of carpal tunnel. "Crochet is more of a wrist movement that gives me a problem sooner," she said. She knits sweaters, shawls, hats, socks, mitts, and cowls, but only as samples "to show off new yarns" in her Etsy shop at ajhcwools.com. She also finds knitting to be a relaxing way to end her busy days.
Bishop is also a spinner, but no longer sells her hand spun yarns. She does it for personal use only. "Something's got to give," she said. "I have the kids to focus on, too!"
AJHC Wools is in great demand. Bishop was just in Macomb at Crafty Lady Trio several weeks ago, where she did another trunk show. She said she's already booked for the remainder of the year and is currently booking trunk shows for 2020. Earlier this year, she was a vendor at Yarncon, Chicago's Indie Fiber Fair; and the spring Fiber Expo in Ann Arbor. She plans to do the fall expo (Oct. 12-13), as well.
This has been a good year for the company. Bishop said, "We're actually picking up with wholesale accounts this year. We're on pace to have our best ever year for 2019!" And, as the business continues to grow, she's looking forward to more family involvement.
Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact AJHC Wools at ajhcwools.com, on Facebook or Instagram. Email: email@example.com.