My #RaisedByAMaker story is also the story of Halcyon Yarn...
...my family’s shop - we kind of grew up together.
As the second generation owner of Halcyon Yarn I’m lucky enough to have been raised in an environment where the family business was “making” and weaving was a way of life!
My parents, Halcyon and Hector, are both makers, especially weavers, but also dyers (and between them they also sew, knit, felt, and work with wood - pretty great cooks too!) Not long before they made me they started Halcyon Yarn and I grew up in the store surrounded by sooooo many amazing makers. I learned to weave practically by osmosis from my earliest days, just being around my parents and their students as they wove, dyed, and taught other makers.
The shop started in downtown Denver in the early seventies and we lived in an apartment above the store while my dad’s dye vats were in the tiny back yard.
My mom had gone to business school in California but both she and my dad wanted to make a life around something more creative and down to earth. My mom had learned to weave around 1970 from her mother who’d learned just a few years earlier - and she quickly taught my dad. Pretty soon they had opened the shop and were teaching others in the little basement classroom. My dad’s love of color drew him to dyeing almost immediately and they started buying up remnant lots to overdye into custom colors for the store. These early yarns were a hit and they began getting bigger batches of custom yarns to dye in more consistent colors - those early yarns are now our “Signature” collection and many of the lines and colors are still in production,
We were outgrowing the location of the first shop, and now that building is long gone - replaced by what is now the Denver Convention Center! My dad was from the east coast so after I was born they packed the shop and they found a big empty building in a small coastal town of Bath, Maine.
We don’t dye the yarns out back anymore, but we still put a lot of care into where they come from. They’re actually dyed in a fourth generation family-run dye house in PA and spun in two mills that are fourth and fifth generation family businesses. Even after 50 years we’re still the new kids and glad to be learning from such talented and dedicated colleagues - in a sense they’ve helped raise us too!
To keep in touch with our customers back in Colorado, and to reach new customers around the world, we created the Yarn Store In A Box. This collection of sample cards brings the yarn store to you. Even then I was ready to tell people about this great design tool and I still am as we relaunch it this June!
We are always finding new ways of sharing what we love. A few years ago we made a holiday ad titled “Make Something Special for Someone Special” and the idea came from our webmaster Amos (btw, his kids also grew up in the shop and his mom has worked and designed here too, hi Gram Jan!)
One of my mom’s ideas for the business has always been to make sure people working here had the same flexibility she did. Both she and my dad worked full time in the store so that meant if they could bring me to work everyone could bring their kids - and they have! So we have a whole crew of next-generation makers at Halcyon Yarn! We even recreated the Yarn Store In A Box at Popham Beach with Amos’ daughter - the rotary phone was replaced with an iPhone, but no matter how things change, the good stuff (like yarn, and sincere customer service) never go out of style!
My dad has come full circle and is back to dyeing his own colors and weaving in the basement. However the basement is now a full studio with a view across the Kennebec River, and the rugs he’s weaving have become works of art.
My mom is still rolling up her sleeves to help with a tricky weaving question or to warp up a new project design. I’m still learning from her - both the crafts and the business! We’ve learned a lot from each other about what it means to pass something along and what it means to value the work and skill that have come before. When I was deciding whether to take over the business I happened to be reading Wendell Berry and came across the essay The Gift of Good Land. While the family business isn’t exactly land, his words resonated and I knew I was being given a gift to continue the stewardship of these skills and to continue cultivating the community of makers.
The title “maker” gets tossed around a lot these days, but to me it’s kind of sacred. It is more than just making stuff - it is a connection to my family and community, it is a calling to slow down and do something useful and tangible in a world that sometime seems too fast and that is treated as though it were disposable. But something handmade, something made with purpose, these are the artifacts of a good life and the story of how they come to be is as much a part of them as the way they look or what they do. If we’re lucky both the things we make and the stories that they remind us of will live beyond us in the hands of others as they practice their craft and as they appreciate the history of how they, and the things they make, come to be.
You could say I was born into it and I’m so grateful I was made to be a maker! In the last few years my maker story has moved into a new chapter as my partner and I have taken over Halcyon Yarn. Both of my parents are still weaving and both are still involved in helping us make the next years at Halcyon Yarn
I’m still so happy when someone calls and says “your mom/dad is who taught me to weave and I still have my first yarn store in a box” sometime they even remember a certain shop-baby! I’m proud I’m just one of many makers that my parents have inspired and taught over nearly five decades, and I’m grateful to be in the company of those who care about these skills and the joys of a handmade life.
Some people have baby pictures… Some companies run ads in magazines… For us it’s both! I’ve been a “brand ambassador” since my osh’kosh days. Maybe that’s part of why our customers feel more like extended family and I still answer the phone looking forward to talk with friends who share my interests.
When we teach a craft we’re not just teaching the skill of warping or casting on, we’re sharing how important it is to “make something that matters” and we’re giving the gift of our time. We hope you’ll join us as we encourage the next generation of makers to embrace the fiber arts!
Many thanks to our friends at Interweave press for celebrating being Raised By A Maker. We’re proud to have been working together for over 40 years!
Share your maker story online too - follow the hashtag #RaisedByAMakermis