Late last year, we began to share the history of Louet North America; you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here if you are just now joining the story! In our first installment for 2013, Dave sheds light on the years leading up to the turn of the century in his own words. Enjoy!
September 1994 is when I officially started working for Louet North America. Having left the Canadian Forces for the family business, I started in the office, learning the ropes of customer service, bank deposits, accounting 101, inventory control, shipping and receiving. I have joked with my family that in those years I took the equivalent of an MBA: an MTA…. Masters in Trudy’s Administration.
Louet North America had been a business that needed to provide for Jan and Trudy plus an employee and was easily able to do that up until this point. Jan worked as an engineer outside the business, so Louet North America was also about satisfying Trudy’s creative and intellectual needs.
With Dave joining the business, suddenly LNA had to provide for another family. LNA had to grow to accomplish this.
Trudy had been sewing and knitting since she was 5 years old. She often made her own clothes and clothes for her kids while we were growing up. Her knowledge in these areas was strong.
LNA had a line of weaving yarn, a 6/2 wool yarn which we sold slowly (mainly to weavers). This line was included when we took on Gerald Whittakers fiber business in the early 90’s. Trudy decided we could sell this yarn as a knitting yarn as well, though we would need to change it slightly so that it was more suited for knitters.
Trudy designed a yarn that used a long staple fiber for added strength, a soft wool – 22 micron Merino, in fact! She added more twist to the single spun yarn which gave it a natural resistance to pilling, and a looser twist in the plied yarn to give it more bounce and softness. This yarn would eventually become GEMS.
Trudy went to a mill in Canada and had the yarn spun. She used her outstanding colour sense from her years of hand dyeing and selected a color range. Over the years, the range of colors available in the GEMS line has always been a strong feature, one customers have always commented on.
Of course, LNA needed to promote our products, which we did through advertising was well as attending shows. Trudy felt the best way for stores to be convinced to purchase and stock our yarns was to have consumers asking for them, So Jan and Trudy spent a lot of time on the road and Dave stayed in the office.
Trudy did a lot of teaching in the 90’s: she taught hand dyeing techniques, supporting the sales of her book, Indigo, Madder and Marigold. Trudy would often teach and run a booth at a show or attend Stitches conventions as a vendor, then teaching a workshop somewhere nearby before heading home.
It was by going to these shows that Jan and Trudy met The Westerinks, who sold a Linen yarn called Euroflax. When the Westerinks decided they wanted to retire, Jan and Trudy offered to purchase Euroflax. So in late 1995, Louet North America became the new owners of Euroflax and suddenly had 2 lines of knitting yarns!
After trying to sell knitting yarns for a couple years, we decided we needed more patterns to support our yarns. It didn’t matter how good the yarns were if people didn’t know what to make with them! Initially, we worked with a reputable fashion designer, but eventually, Trudy just started designing patterns herself. She wanted to make classic garments:
things people would want to (and be able to) wear for years. She wanted to design wardobe staples.
What came next was an explosion of designs and patterns which still support our yarn sales to this day. Patterns like Lily, Dakota, Krystina, Brayden and Shauna came from these early design days.
So by the turn of the century, Louet North America was a fledgling knitting yarn company with a couple of yarn lines and a dozen or so patterns. Our yarns and patterns were growing in popularity and the company was growing too!
Thanks for joining us! We’ll be sure to share our next installment of Louet history soon!