The Power of Her
By: TNNA Editor
What better way to celebrate Women's History Month than by shining a spotlight on one of the many talented women in needlearts? Lorajean Kelley, owner of Knitted Wit in Portland, Oregon, has spent much of her time over the last few years cultivating a line of yarn she dubs "HerStory." Knitted Wit caught our eye during the 2019 TNNA Winter NeedleArts Market, so we got in touch with Lorajean to learn more about both her business and the inspiration behind HerStory.
TNNA: Tell us a bit about HerStory.
Lorajean Kelly (LK): HerStory began in 2017 as a response to women continuing to be talked over and written out of the current cultural narrative and history. Watching the Olympics and the election process of 2016 lit a fire and [my team and I] decided to channel that into our work.
TNNA: Which powerful “her” has had the biggest impact on your career in hand dyeing? Why?
LK: I think it’s more than one "her." It’s like an award speech, there are so many people to thank and so many influences. I don’t think it boils down to just one individual. There have been moments when Beyoncé’s music has pushed me through really tough times as a business owner. And, the support of women in my community, behind the scenes, by offering support or encouragement have gotten me through joys and hardships. I hope I can be there to support the next person.
TNNA: By a quick count, we see you’ve developed around 15 HerStory dyes inspired by female artists (the most recent two being Teresita Fernandez and Ava DuVerney) in the last two years. Can you share a bit about your process and how you select new artists to highlight and the colors you choose?
LK: In 2018 we focused on international women in STEM, women who did groundbreaking work in their field. For 2019, we are focusing on women in art. We chose 12 categories and found women who everyone might not be familiar with to highlight. There are so many incredible women to consider that we've thought about highlighting one and providing a homework list of more that people can research! For the women in art, we pull an image from their body of work or a theme they represent and used that for dye inspiration.
TNNA: Speaking of female artists… as a female artist and entrepreneur yourself, what is one resource you recommend to women who might be starting a business of their own?
LK: For other women starting the entrepreneurial process, I highly recommend visiting your local Small Business Development Center. I have taken lots of classes and programs through my local chapter, and it continues to be a resource for me 12 years later. I also recommend having a cohort of other business owners, industry related or not, to commiserate and bounce ideas around.
TNNA: Knitted Wit has been developing yarn for more than 10 years — congrats! What is one thing you wish you had known going into business that you’ve since learned?
LK: I don’t think I could have understood how full my life would be with what Knitted Wit has created. I think going into starting a business I wish I had more faith to trust myself and what I am capable of doing.
What began in a backyard in Portland, Oregon in 2007 has grown into a vibrant and socially-conscious dye house with a committed staff, a fearless (and multiple-print-wearing) leader and just enough chocolate to help carry us through it all. Knitted Wit loves creating bright new colors, including Magical Mythical colorways; a huge line inspired by Harry Potter; a colorful tour through the National Parks of the U.S.; and, many "Colorways for a Cause," raising funds and awareness for issues that strike a chord with us. We dig collaborating with other crafty folk all over the world, and love being a part of this craft community.
Learn more about Knitted Wit and follow news about HerStory on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.