I’m Alisha, and Alisha Goes Around is mine.
For Christmas 2006, my sister gave me a crochet book. I hadn’t knit or crocheted since I was in grade school, but as a newly-made foster parent, I needed a portable, kid-safe hobby. Restyling Blythe dolls, dyeing fabric, quilting, gardening, makeup-making, and jewelry making just didn’t fit in the purse, no matter how big that purse grew. Crochet was something I could take along to doctors’ appointments, child therapy sessions, and eventually became something to occupy my hands in the dark while my mind raced, while my presence soothed a child woken by his scariest dreams.
Eventually I found crochet blogs. Then I found knitting blogs. That knitting, I liked how it looked, but pointy needles + my son = scary. Then Ravelry was created. I joined the waitlist, and when I was approved, I was enchanted by the way colors moved on Joelle Hoverson’s Chevron Scarf, especially the version knit by a blogger named DoggedKnits. I coveted that scarf. But I couldn’t find anything like that yarn at Hobby Lobby, the only non-Wal-Mart yarn seller I knew of. I did recall that a website I’d shopped from previously had both white yarn and yarn dye, though, so I took the very big step of ordering real wool yarn and real wool dyes. I used Google-Fu. I dyed some yarn. I bought Stitch N Bitch. I retaught myself how to knit, this time continental style because my crochet-friendly hands and muscle memory wouldn’t let me throw stitches. And I knit that scarf. It was my first knitting project, my first dyeing project, my first Ravelry FO, my first yarn photograph, my first blocking (oh, my, did that thing roll!), and the first time I forced someone to wear a woolen in the blistering Texas Summer.
Not long after that, I learned that there were other stores besides Hobby Lobby, Michael’s and Wal-Mart where I could buy yarn. But they were all an hour from home. Good thing there was the internet — back to the undyed yarn and more dye. And back again. When I could, I went to real yarn stores, but it wasn’t often enough.
In 2009 I started spinning, dyed some fiber, then went to a few knitting group meetings. First question: Where’d you get that yarn? I answered that I made it (Because doesn’t everyone? Everyone dyes their own when they can’t find what they want, right? And surely, most knitters spin too, right? Turns out, no.). Second Question: Will you sell it? I did.
I dyed and spun and dyed and spun. And then I made a Shawl That Jazz out of Merino/Tencel handspun. I went into a real yarn store, Yarn Barn of San Antonio, to buy needles for my first pair of socks in July 2009. Shawl That Jazz was in my WIP bag. First question: Where’d you get that yarn? Second Question: Will you sell it? The answer that time was no, I won’t sell this yarn, but I will sell other yarn. Two days later I brought all my hand dyed yarn and fiber to the store (A whole Rubbermaid bin! So much yarn, I thought. I had at least 40 skeins. At least!). The owner bought all of it and asked for more. After the meeting I sat in my car with a check in my hand, still not believing what had happened, and called my husband. I said, “I think I just started a business. The $250 of yarn, that undyed stuff I was scared to buy, is all gone. And she wants to buy more. I think I need a name.” He laughed. I don’t think he believed me.
The husband wasn’t the only one dubious of the idea that yarn could be a business. I’m crafty. I do a lot of stuff. I like to learn. I like to make. But I get bored after a few months, once I’ve gotten good at something, and I move on. With that in mind, when I mentioned to my parents that a store had bought my yarn and that I was starting a business, my father said, “There Alisha goes, around the bend again.”
I left to visit my grandparents the next day, bringing my pots and dye with me. Once there, I ordered more yarn. I dyed it, my parents, siblings, grandparents, and son watching with interest. I laid out saran wrap over my grandmother’s 1960s Formica counter tops before I dyed. I squawked at my father when he “helped” by stirring the pots with grandma’s wooden spoons (and then I bought her new wooden spoons). I dried yarn on the clothesline alongside towels and swimsuits damp from the lake. I loved sitting on the patio watching the skeins twist in the wind. I worked on my first sock and learned that I knit very very loosely with small needles. My grandfather told stories about his grandfather, who had worked at the wool mills in Northern Minnesota as a dyer until an explosion blinded him. Cautionary tale, perhaps. Grandpa mostly wanted to see more red and blue.
I made cold calls in Minnesota. I got picked up by a few shops. I still needed a name. My dad’s words, “There Alisha goes, around the bend again,” had rattled around in my head for a few weeks. Sounded a bit like a challenge. I claimed it, reclaimed it, even, and took Alisha Goes Around as my own. It seemed right enough. And it wasn’t yarn-specific, so if I decided to go back to quilting or knitting sweaters for dolls, I could still use the same name.
I began work on AlishaGoesAround.com in July of 2009 and it opened in the fall. I did the Yarn Crawl at the Yarn Barn. I sold to more stores. I sold to knitters in town. I worked. I learned. I sold in person at Kid N Ewe with Rosewood Yarns. I kept going.
Now, only a few years later, I’m still going as fast as I can. I exhibited at The National Needlearts Association’s Spring and Fall trade shows in 2011. My yarn is carried by dozens of stores across the country. To my delight, Alisha Goes Around yarn has been used in patterns designed by Cat Bordhi, Ysolda Teague, Miriam Felton, Cookie A, Janel Laidman, Romi Hill, Anne Hanson, Nicky Epstein, Cecily Glowik MacDonald, Laura Nelkin, Sheryl Thies, Anne Kingstone, Wooly Wormhead, Grace Akhrem, Heather Dixon, and Hill Country Weavers, among others. As a knitting magazine collector, I am lucky enough to count Knitscene, Knit.Wear (the cover!), Interweave Holiday Gifts, Interweave Accessories, and Living Crafts as users of my yarn. For a knitting nerd, it could not be better.
Not everything has been unicorns and rainbows, of course. The past year has brought difficulties I never imagined. My father passed away without warning two weeks after the June TNNA trade show. A month later I found out I was pregnant, high risk for loss, and became very ill for the next eight months. I fulfilled my commitments. I did what I could when I could. Growth, however, was impossible. My plans were paused. Commissioning mills to custom-spin base yarns? No. Revisiting lotions, shampoos, and other bath and body products? No. Expanding my wholesale business? No. So I waited. My daughter was born in March, healthy, good-natured, and lovely. My body began to recover. In May I made a last-minute decision to return to the June TNNA trade show, even though I wouldn’t exhibit, to see if I could still see myself in the fiber arts world. Just like last year, it was exciting and inspiring. More than that, it was comforting. It was familiar, even though I barely recognize myself. It was sustaining, affirming, exhilarating and FUN. I had fun. And then I realized not only was I ready to come back, I had to come back.
So I’m here. New website, fresh yarn, new products. The long-delayed bath and body lineup is in formulation now that I can stand the scents and textures that go along with it. My old fabric dyeing skills are in use as I experiment with woven baby wraps. Patterns go out to test knitters as fast as I can edit them. Custom spun bases arrive in September. I’m back in the ceramics studio. I even knit.
I have movement. I have momentum. I have joy. I’m back.