We had the good fortune of connecting with Carla Hanson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carla, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
My name is Carla Hanson, and I’m the owner of Purple Lamb Fiber Arts. Mine is the story of a hobby that became a business. Way back in 2003 as the mother of 4 young children, I decided out of the blue that I wanted to learn to weave. I found a used rigid heddle loom, and with the help of my husband, I started weaving. Weaving is one of those things that can be fairly simple and can be very complex. It’s like a game of chess. It doesn’t take that long to learn how each piece moves, but it can take a lifetime to learn different techniques.
I had spent some time living in Italy, and I gained the Italian mindset that natural materials like merino wool and silk are superior to acrylic and polyester, so unlike most new fiber artists, I started with fine yarns right away. I wasn’t willing to compromise on the quality of yarn, but I thought maybe I could save money on materials if I learned to spin too. Looking back, that was just an absolutely crazy idea, but I did learn to spin. I took some lessons from a lovely lady and got started. I loved it so much from the start–even more than weaving.
There is something so amazingly relaxing and almost meditative about spinning, and learning how to make all different types of yarn quickly became my jam. I love all different types of art yarn especially–yarn that has complex texture and amazing colors.
When I had been spinning for about 7 years, I decided to start an Etsy shop called Monet’s Garden Art Yarns where I (very slowly) sold my handspun yarn. Handspun yarn is so time-consuming, and it takes a special customer to realize its true value, so sales were very occasional, but that’s okay.
After some time had passed, I decided to start selling art batts to other spinners and felts. Art batts are made using something called a drum carder, and it’s basically like a cylinder covered with a wire brush that can be used to combine different fibers. I used (and still use) merino wool, Polwarth wool, baby alpaca, several types of silk, and kid mohair locks to create these art batts that we spinners use to make art yarn.
These art batts definitely sold a lot faster than the handspun yarn. Somewhere along the way, I decided I needed to change the name of my shop from Monet’s Garden Art Yarns to something short and snappy. I chose Purple Lamb. Purple has always been my favorite color and one that reflects creativity and delight. I chose lamb because it showed where my materials come from, and everyone knows that lamb’s wool is soft. Everything in my shop is soft enough to wear next to the skin.
I often hear people say they think wool is itchy, and some wool definitely is. It’s all a matter of the micron count or how fine the wool is. The lower the micron count, the softer the yarn, and merino wool is the softest of all. It’s lovely to wear–not itchy at all.
After starting to sell my art batts, I found the need to dye some yarn or fiber now and then because I couldn’t find the colors that were in my mind. At first I actually didn’t enjoy dyeing because I did it so infrequently that I had to relearn the process each time, and it requires a lot of time and lot of equipment.
Later, though, as I started to dye a little more frequently, I learned to love that too. I eventually started dyeing millspun yarn, and now that is the majority of my business. I take my inspiration from the beauty of nature and the classics. When I say classics I mean classical literature, music, and art. In fact, I have a monthly club inspired by a different famous painting each month.
I have heard a lot of people say that when they turned their hobbies into businesses, they stopped enjoying the work. For me the opposite is true. I love what I do so much. I usually start working while I’m still in my pajamas and the house is quiet before everyone else is up.
As much as I love the actual work, I think the thing I love even more is that I get to be a small part in the creative process of my customers, and what I do makes people happy. That makes me happy.
Let’s talk shop. Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I think the biggest challenge has been going from business-as-hobby to having a “real” business. I had to take my business seriously if others were going to. I work from home, but I definitely work more than the standard 8 hours a day. There’s always something to be done, and while my husband and a few of our children help out from time to time, the buck stops with me.
When COVID hit, we quickly realized that my husband’s work as a realtor was going to go on pause for awhile, so that provided the incentive to take my business to a new level. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I started creating more and marketing better, and the fruits have been tremendous.
One of the things I love most is that my children see me work at something I love. My greatest hope is that they too can find something they love to do and find a way to make a career out of it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Honestly, I’m much more of a home body. Perhaps we could hang out in my studio and chat and drink coffee while I work. 🙂
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate this shoutout to my husband, Robert, who has always supported my business with his time, his help, and his love.