Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
Approximately 40 million knitters and crocheters live in the USA. According to Becky Talley, Sheep Industry News, Associate Editor, in 2007 Brown Sheep Co. was the largest producer of natural fiber knitting yarns in the United States. They sell their yarn at local yarn retailers, Internet sales from their own web page and those of their retailers. This paper teases out the story of a family run operation in western Nebraska that serves the appetite of a population of yarn consumers, primarily at the handcraft level. Owner/operators, Peggy Wells, the daughter of Harlan Brown, founder of the company, and her husband Robert Wells, forged relationships with likeminded textile businesses to help sustain one another. First hand accounts from manufacturers in the handcraft textile industry, such Barry Schacht and Jane Patrick of Schacht Spindle Company, will describe how these businesses survive the ebb and flow of passions for handwork, and have evolved over the decades. They have forged a successful collaboration that yields customers and profits to both entities. This paper explores the day-to-day operation of this business and how the owners have adapted to a changing environment. For example, the Wells have implemented sustainable water use practices and have updated equipment from the original used mill machinery. The Wells reflect on their experience in the industry to explore the questions: "What political factors have influenced the production and distribution trends for yarn products in this specialized sector?" and "What is the future for the handcraft textile industry in the USA?"