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Namaste Farms puts a different spin on yarn

Fiber producer and artist Natalie Redding shears, washes, dyes and spins her fast-selling products by hand, from animals she and her family raise on their Temecula farm.

June 19, 2011|By Adam Tschorn | Los Angeles Times

"I realized that the economy was tanking and we had five kids and I wanted to really make this work. And the good thing was that at this point, I already had all the tools I needed," she says.

Although Redding started out selling her fiber through a few bricks-and-mortar yarn stores, the big leap forward for the burgeoning business came in September 2010 when she convinced one of the biggest online retailers of yarn and fiber to stock her hand-spun, single-ply long wool.

"The quality is absolutely superb," says Deborah Knight, chief marketing officer for Yarnmarket, which runs Yarnmarket.com. "Natalie buys high-quality animals and breeds them herself and ends up with a very high-quality fiber. And she's a good hand spinner."

Knight declined to divulge specific sales, but would say that by the time they tallied 2010 year-end numbers, Namaste Farms ranked 50th out of their 80 yarn providers in sales.

"Within four months she was already 50th," Knight says, "That isn't just pretty good, it's huge. Especially since everyone else we deal with is a huge yarn manufacturer that ships us hundreds and hundreds of bags — and she's the only yarn producer we deal with that spins all her yarn by hand."

Knight says that even taking into account the substantial difference in price (a comparable-quality machine-spun merino yarn retails for $21.85 for 110 yards at the site while Redding's 40-yard skeins of the same sell for $44.85) the yarn has sold remarkably well.

Redding says that Yarnmarket also helped her design labels, packing slips and invoices — all things she hadn't had before — and urged her to connect with the enthusiastic online fiber arts crowd through social media.

"When I started I was so riddled with self-doubt I didn't even want them to pay me for the yarn I sent them," Redding recalls. "And they told me to get on Facebook and to sign up at [online knitting community] Ravelry.com — I hadn't done any of that."

Today her frequently updated Namaste Farms Facebook page has 1,245 friends and she's posted nearly two dozen YouTube videos offering tips on sheep shearing, wool dying and spinning, and tours of her farm.

So, in a way, Yarnmarket didn't just give Redding a cyber-storefront and a chance at making Namaste Farms self-sustaining, it gave her a voice too.

adam.tschorn@latimes.com

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