I am delighted to share Felicia’s story with you as part of our Women Making History series. Read all the way to the bottom. You are never going to guess what else she’s in to.
How did SweetGeorgia get started?
SweetGeorgia started back in 2005 when I had been knitting and blogging about knitting. My interest in knitting grew into an interest in spinning yarn and then dyeing yarn. I initially dyed spinning fibre as a way to get colour onto the raw white wool that I was spinning with. Eventually, I started dyeing yarn and became so enamoured with the process that I couldn’t stop myself from making more and more yarn. Over the past 14 years, it’s grown to be a tightly-knit team of mostly our Vancouver studio plus several remote team members with whom we collaborate with on a daily basis. It’s something I could have never imagined, but just the most incredible realization of a fantasy in the fibre arts.
How do your values impact your business?
As a business owner and creative, I’ve always had very strong principles and values that I hold close. And over the years, as we have built our team at the studio, it’s become clear to me that all of our team lives and works from a shared set of values. Eventually, I was able to articulate them, but basically we have five beliefs or values that guide everything we do in our business — colour changes lives, materials matter, always pursue excellence, we are community, and never stop learning.
I came to dyeing from a different career and industry because I experienced the incredible transformational power of colour in my life and I genuinely wanted to be able to share that with others. I wanted others to experience that same joy, comfort, beauty, and self-expression through colour and craft.
In terms of materials, we believe in making yarns that endure. We are hyper vigilant about making yarns that wear well and can withstand wear and tear. Knitting takes a great dedication of time and energy, and you might spend a hundred hours with yarn flowing through your fingers before you finish your project. That’s why it is essential to us to source and make beautiful and exquisite yarns that last. This value guides us to find yarns that have good structure, adequate twist and number of plies, as well as fibre blends that are long-lasting.
We also aim for excellence in all we do, whether it’s dyeing or answering the phone. And as a community, we aim to be generous, share knowledge, and serve each other as a team as well as serving our customers and suppliers. We truly believe in the importance of our relationships both within our team and out in the world.
Finally, I strongly believe in the importances of continual improvement and learning. If we don’t make mistakes, then we don’t learn. And of course, over all these years we have definitely made our fair share of mistakes, but the hope is that we learn from those mistakes and continue to progress and improve with each step.
What can you tell us about future plans?
In addition to being focused on producing the finest quality hand-dyed yarn we can create, my future plans also very much include making more makers. Specifically, my hope is to bring more knitters into the wider realm of the fibre arts and encourage them to experience spinning their own yarn, dyeing their own yarn, or weaving their own cloth. There are so many amazing things that we can create from yarn and colour, I’m excited to be creating more and more educational content around the fibre arts, design, and colour for the School of SweetGeorgia, our membership-based online school for craft.
What is the ugliest colour you’ve dyed and why didn’t it work?
One of the earliest colourways I ever handpainted was something I had envisioned as tropical and beachy. In fact, I think I called it Beach. It had turquoise and blues at one end and then golden yellows and ochre browns at the other end. It was meant to be like sun, sand, and surf. It was lovely in the skein, all twisted up. But then when I went to knit it into a sock, the yellows and browns stacked on top of the blues and turquoises. It was basically one round of golden brown and one round of blue. From far away, looking at that knitted sock, all I saw was a mixed and murky brown colour. The distinction of the blue and gold had faded away and the two complementary colours basically visually blended together to make mud! It was disappointingly ugly to me. All my favourite hues disappeared into mud! It was the first time I realized how important it was to design my colourways to work in knitting and not just look pretty in the skein. Eventually when the yarn is knitted up, all those colours will affect each other, so it was a lesson that forever guided our colourway development. And it just showed me how important it was to remember colour theory and how it affects what we do in knitting and other fibre arts.
What advice do you have about combining colours in, for example, a two-colour shawl?
Yes, absolutely. I love a good two-colour shawl and coming from a visual design background, my advice would be to first consider the “mood” you want for your piece. Do you want it to be quiet, soothing, and calm? Or bold, vibrant, and brash? This mood sets the direction for how you choose colours. It might direct you to choosing colours that are similar in value (like all pale, or all muted, or all dark) so that there is less contrast in your shawl — this can make it feel more soft and subtle, overall. Or you might choose highly contrasting values like very light and very deep and dark or saturated. This would give a visually strong and powerful feeling.
What are two interesting things you do that aren’t fibre related?
Well, outside of anything fibre-related, the first thing is that I absolutely love being outside in the winter. The snowy side of a mountain is my happy place. Before we had a family about 6 years ago, I loved snowboarding a couple days a week during the winter. Now that our kids are a little bit older, we’ve all switched to skiing and enjoying that as a family.
And totally unrelated to anything else in my life, I’ve just become surprisingly fascinated with Formula One auto racing. I love seeing the drive and passion that people have for something that is so completely different from my fibre arts world, and I also love that while there is one driver for the car, it’s actually very much a team sport where everyone has a role to play and everyone’s part is critical to the team’s success. I just fundamentally love that idea and it’s brilliant to see it in action.