Canadian fiber artist Julie Sinden creates handmade hat and scarves to keep her customers warm and fashionable. She shares her story.
ABI: How long have you been creating your hats and scarves?
JS: I began making the hats and scarves in 2005, shortly after graduating from the Kootenay School of the Arts in British Columbia, where I majored in textiles. At the time I was working mostly with weaving and natural dyeing, but one day made myself a boiled wool purse, and became very excited by the possibilities of the material and the process.
I came up with a pattern for hats, and included a small run of them at a studio tour that I was participating in. The response to them was overwhelmingly positive, and the following winter I participated in the One of a Kind Show in Toronto, a very large and very popular retail show in Toronto. The show was an incredible success, I was able to quit my job waiting tables, and have been making hats full-time ever since.
ABI: What methods do you use? Are you using any natural dyes?
JS: The hats are made using a method called boiled wool, which means that each piece is knit very large, and then shrunken, or felted. The result is a hat that is virtually seamless, a very warm thick weight for winter, and since I use only 100% merino wool, incredibly soft. Each hat is hand-embellished with boiled wool fabric, reclaimed fur, or buttons.
While much of my work in art school was focused on natural dyes, and I am still very passionate about it, my line of hats are not dyed by me, simply because it would be cost prohibitive. My goal with the hats has always been to create a unique and functional handmade product, but one that was also affordable. However, I do have a small line of naturally dyed yarns and cotton scarves that I sell through my website.
ABI: What’s new in your line for the Buyers Market show this year?
JS: After years of being asked, the new hat style this year is finally one for the men. It’s my classic design, subtly embellished with pinstripes. I also have new colours in the flower cloche and fur hat styles, my two most popular designs. My new favorite is the fur hat in warm winter white. It’s classy and gorgeous.
ABI: What’s your best tip for new exhibitors who are just getting into wholesale?
JS: I’m relatively new to the wholesale market myself, having only participated in the Buyer’s Market last year in Baltimore. I learned many things that first show, but perhaps one of the most important things was the value of following up with customers.