Saturday, January 16, 2010

Be Sweet: Fiber That Feels Good (In More Than One Way)

Hey Y'all,
As promised, I am now ready to start telling you about some of the amazing people I met and some of the outstanding products I saw last week at Market. A word, first, about my personal fiber choices. I am, for the most part, a creature of habit. Which is why you can find me again and again dipping into the Manos (original and silk blend) or hurling myself against the Noro wall (I am the self-proclaimed Whore-o for Noro). I’m not averse to other products—witness my stash which features plenty of other options. But the Manos and Noro are, for me, my comfort yarns.

A big thing I realized at Market is just what an impact Meeting Your Maker can have. Well, okay, not “meeting your maker” in the traditional sense of the phrase. But as I encountered the folks behind one product line or another, and as I chatted with them, admired their displays, and learned about their companies, I had a desire to broaden my palette some and try out what they had to offer. Suzanne and I talked a lot about how story makes a difference -- when you know what's up behind-the-scenes it can make a difference.

Which brings me to Nadine Curtis, founder of Be Sweet. Nadine started the company in 2003 when she was living in Cape Town, South Africa. She had the idea that she could connect poor artisans and their funky fiber art with consumers wanting products that were both fashionable and had a good social/environmental conscience. Her plan worked. These days you can find the Be Sweet line at shops around the world including, of course, Hill Country Weavers. Over 200 artists in South Africa make mohair, organic cotton, and bamboo yarns. They also make accessories and items for around the home. Be Sweet provides these artists—mostly women—with a livelihood. And the company turns around and donates some of its proceeds to a school in the Eastern Cape (a lot of the kids of the artists go here).

Besides creating a business with a soul, Nadine also happens to create one heckuva booth to show off her wares at Market. Sticking with the theme of the company’s name, she had plenty of candy dishes out (I ate about six pounds of salt water taffy). Some of her yarn was displayed on tiered cake plates. Some of it was wound so that the bird’s eye view looked like those hard candies with circle-within-a-circle stripes. I especially liked those. I also liked the bright pink balls that appeared to be embellished with mini-marshmallows.

Suzanne had an excellent time selecting yarn and
bags from the Be Sweet line to bring back to the shop. For my part, besides all that salt water taffy eating, I kept following Nadine around, intrigued by the sweater she was wearing, which her mother designed. It went so far beyond my imagination—its chunky, bumpy texture and its color—that I was more than a little inspired.

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