Free Pattern: Lilith

This fall we’re re-releasing a collection of our favorite patterns from Louet North America’s founder, Trudy Van Stralen. Trudy started her retail store, Hilltop Wools, with a $2,000 loan from a local bank back in the 1970s. Early on, Trudy sold more Louet spinning wheels than anyone in North America, which began the relationship with Louet (Holland), and eventually turned into our present North American distributorship.

In the late 1990s, Louet North America purchased Euroflax yarn, and thus began our knitting distribution. Euroflax was later joined by Gems, our superwash merino wool yarn. Trudy soon learned that without patterns, the quality of the yarn would make no difference. To sell the yarn, we needed patterns.

Pattern development became Trudy’s focus. At her height she was producing a pattern a week, along with the help of her dedicated assistant, Lynda Rossetti. book cover

She Made Them Her Own: The Best of Trudy Van Stralen is a collection of her son Dave and his wife Pam’s favorite and most iconic patterns from Trudy. The book is available in print from your local yarn store, and also available as an ebook on Ravelry. For a limited time when you purchase $100 of yarn at Louet.com, you’ll get a free copy of the book, She Made Them Her Own – just enter TRUDY at checkout (offer good through 8/31/16).

To celebrate the release of this book, we’re offering Lilith as a free pattern download for a limited time only! Through the end of August, sign up for the Louet North America newsletter and get the Lilith pattern for FREE!

Lilith is a versatile piece that can be worn as a shrug, vest, or poncho. The light and airy fabric will deceive you with its warmth. Knit in one straight piece from cuff to cuff, it’s a fun, fast and easy knit. The width can easily be adjusted for your own custom look. Click here to download the pattern for free.

Louet lilith graphic-2

 

In Memoriam: Trudy Van Stralen (1942-2015)

It is with a heavy heart that Louet North America announces the passing of our founder and creative director, Trudy Van Stralen. Trudy battled a Rheumatological condition for over 10 years which had slowly been deteriorating until mid-June, when she quickly became too weak to battle any further.

Trudy developed a reputation in the hand dyeing community in the mid 70’s, when she began dyeing with nature’s palette (natural dyes), creating wonderful color ranges of wool fleece, mohair fiber and yarn. She sold her handspun yarns and dyed fibers from her small shop, Hilltop Wools, in the same location that Louet North America now calls home. Trudy is the author of one of the most comprehensive Natural Dye books: Indigo, Madder, Marigold, a book that is still used today as a textbook for schools and a bible for dyeing by many new dyers. In addition to her written work, Trudy taught dyeing throughout North America in the 1990’s.

Trudy’s passion for fiber arts began when she learned to knit at a young age during the post-WWII years in Holland; in the 1970’s she taught herself to spin and weave (in addition to dyeing wool and yarn). Trudy created woven garments and was a frequent contributor to Handwoven and Spin-Off Magazines in the early 1980’s. In the late 90’s, Trudy began creating hand knitted garments and patterns, returning to her roots growing up in Holland. Trudy often joked that she knit in “Dutch”. Until 2009, Trudy continued developing knitting patterns with her team of knitters and designers and also designed new yarns for Louet North America.

Trudy’s legacy continues under the direction of her son, David Van Stralen; Louet North America will continue to develop new patterns, yarns and products for the knitting, spinning, weaving and dyeing communities guided by the foundation that Trudy so carefully created during her many years in the fiber arts industry.

Our story continues: LNA grows by leaps and bounds!

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! 

Our Story Continues

Present-day, from L-R: Jan and Trudy Van Stralen with Jonathan Heap of Wadworth Heap, supplier of our Canterbury Prize Wool Group.

A few months ago, we began to share the history of Louet North America, a family-owned company located just west of Montreal in Prescott, Ontario. In our first installment (found here), we shared the story of LNA’s creative vision through the guidance of Dave’s parents, Jan and Trudy Van Stralen. Today, we continue that story as Dave recounts the early years of the company. Enjoy!

In the 1980’s, the manufacturer of Louet equipment in Holland (Louet BV) established a Canadian company to distribute their products in North America. Jan Louet and his partner Clemens Classen, approached my parents, Jan and Trudy Van Stralen to run this company in 1989.

Trudy had been operating her own business, Hilltop Wools, but soon found she could not do both. She initially sold spinning fibers and some weaving yarns under the banner of Hilltop Wools, but streamlined the process under one roof – Louet – soon after taking on distributorship. In 1992 Jan and Trudy purchased Louet Sales from Louet BV.

During that time, I had left home for University and eventually joined the Canadian Airforce. I also met and married my wife Pam and we started our family.

While still serving in the military, I joined my parents in Washington DC for Convergence in 1992, helping them in the booth and driving truckfulls of looms…some good quality family time! It was a very positive show; we picked up the distributorship of Gaywool Dyes and Fibers and I also met Jane Stafford. Little did I know how integral this relationship would be towards the long-term success of Louet North America!

In 1994, my military career was at a crossroads, so I offered my services to my parents on a permanant basis; my other option was to go into computer programming. I had already been assisting them via remote access software working on databases and newsletters; they accepted my offer and I began my full-time employment for Louet Sales.

In our next installment, I’ll take you through my early years at Louet and how we came to manufacture knitting yarns.

Welcome to the Louet Family!

We would like to take you on a little journey through the inner workings of our company, from where we are today to where we started years ago. In the months to come, you’ll be given an inside look into our processes, from designing the perfect loom to carefully selecting a yarn or fiber based on a refined set of criteria. We hope you’ll enjoy reading these bits of knitting, weaving, & spinning history from Louet North America.

Dave Van Stralen, photo courtesy of Cotton Clouds’ Blog

Louet North America was originally founded in 1983. Dave’s parents, Jan and Trudy Van Stralen began managing the company in 1989 and bought LNA in 1992. It’s been family owned and operated since that time.

Today, Dave and his wife Pam own and operate Louet North America. They have 3 kids; a daughter who is 24 has blessed them with their first grandchild eight months ago, as well as two boys who are in their late teens. Pam and Dave are dedicated to growing and cultivating strong relationships in the industry for many years to come.

Creativity from a product and design standpoint is paramount for a company in the fiber industry. Dave and Pam recognize the strong ties people have built with Louet over the years and know that it is because of high quality and great service. They strive to continue these characteristics, and only expand the product line if the quality is right, such as our latest addition to the Euroflax family of yarns, Euroflax Lace.

Stay tuned for future installments, where we’ll share even more fibery stories from our storied past here at Louet North America!