Behind the Scenes: Denise Interchangeable Knitting & Crochet

I’ve known the folks at Denise Interchangeable Knitting & Crochet for years, as we live about 30 miles from each other and sometimes carpool to trade shows. Recently I paid a visit to their office and talked about family, community, and love affairs with yarn. Since you couldn’t be with us, here’s my report. There’s a prize at the end.

A Visit to Denise

Headquarters of Denise Interchangeable Knitting & Crochet

Headquarters of Denise Interchangeable Knitting & Crochet

Tucked away in the lush woods of central Virginia is a seemingly non-descript two-story garage. This is no ordinary garage, however. It was purpose-built to serve as the headquarters for Denise Interchangeable Knitting & Crochet. Just steps from owner Linda Krag’s Albemarle County home, the interior of the light-filled workspace is the embodiment of an ideal workspace.

emily-and-freda

Emily McKeon and employee Freda Fretwell share a laugh when Freda arrives at work.

It features high ceilings, spacious desks and work tables, cozy carpet, a comfy sofa, and a kitchenette with full amenities. Skeins of colorful yarn hang on the wall. Large windows and skylights provide plenty of natural light. Indeed, the electric lights are only used on overcast days or during the short days of winter. On the warm September afternoon when I visited, the view from the second floor office was of thick green forest. As the seasons change the scenery will change, as well.

Window view

Even the view from the first-floor shipping station is serene.

All Denise kits are shipped from right here.

All Denise kits are shipped from right here.

Company Background

combo kit

A Denise2Go combo kit combines both knitting and crochet.

Denise Interchangeable Knitting & Crochet makes a variety of products which allow knitters and crocheters to create their own custom-length knitting needles or Tunisian crochet hooks. They sell both wholesale and retail, and you can even order custom-length cords for that super-long afghan knit or crocheted sideways. Check out their website for more product information.

THE original Denise set. Linda liked them so much, she bought the company.

THE original Denise set. Linda liked them so much, she bought the company.

Where did the name come from? The original owners of the company worked with a marketing expert in the ’70’s to come up with a name, and they chose their niece’s name, Denise. It was a popular name at the time, and the marketing person thought it was perfect. Denise Interchangeable Knitting Needles was the company name when Linda bought the company in 2002, and she just kept it. They changed the name a bit when they added crochet hooks several years ago.

 Keeping it in the Family

Claire's workspace takes center stage. I understand that it was cleaned up in honor of my visit.

Claire’s workspace takes center stage. I understand that it was cleaned up in honor of my visit.

The company is the very definition of a “family business”. Linda and her daughter Emily McKeon are the two full-time employees. When you email the company, your response will come from Emily. If you phone, you’ll be speaking to the CEO/marketing director/bookkeeper/designer/new product developer: Linda. They have one part-time employee and several contract sewers.

Emily’s 6-year-old daughter Claire has been an important member of the staff since birth. She has her own workspace and offers her opinions on fabric and color choices. Who needs “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” when she can be there every day?

 Keeping it Local

colorful-components

Cords and needle tips await assembly into Denise2Go kits.

All of the components are made in the Shenandoah Valley.

All of the components that go into the Denise knitting needles and crochet hooks are made in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, supporting my local economy! A company in Weyers Cave provides the phthalate-free tubing used for the cables, while the injection molded tips and other small parts are manufactured in Waynesboro. The cute cloth cases in the Denise2Go kits are made by home sewers.

The locking connection mechanisms are inserted by hand into the tube after the manufacturing process. The cords and tips come from the manufacturer to Denise HQ and are packed and shipped from there. Even those custom cords are cut to order and the locking tips inserted on the spot, then shipped out. Scroll on down to watch a video about this process.

 Relationship Building

Linda and EmilyDenise‘s respect and concern for their customers comes through loud and clear in conversation. Their stated goal is to make people happy about working with yarn. All parts, except cases, are guaranteed forever. If you have a broken component, just send it back for a replacement (although Emily did point out that they aren’t guaranteed against puppy-chewing and car-door-slamming damage).

They love to get emails that say the warmth and flexibility of their needles allow people with hand problems to continue to knit. They love working collaboratively to develop new products. Designer Lorna Miser helped develop the Denise2Go packaging, and crochet designers and teachers, including myself, gave input into the development of the crochet hooks.

Interesting Facts

    The most popular colors in China are oranges/reds.

  • There are a surprising number of shops in China which sell Denise. The most popular colorways in China are oranges/reds, while the most popular U.S. colors are blues/purples.
  • Through the Pink Project, Denise customers have donated over $200,000 to support immuno-based cancer therapy research.
  • The company receives many donation requests from prisons. Apparently the plastic resin components are considered non-weapons-grade needles.
  • Double-pointed color-coded needles are coming! I didn’t get an ETA, but I’ll be sure to let you know when they are available.

 

Read more about the company on their website, and if you want to try out their products, use the coupon code EDIE to save 15% when you order directly from DeniseIt’s limited to one use per email address.

 

FAQs: Craft Yarn Council Certified Instructors Program

CYC logoThat post title is really a mouthful, isn’t it? One of my many professional gigs is Master Teacher for the Craft Yarn Council’s Certified Instructors Program.  According to the Craft Yarn Council’s website, “since 1982 more than 15,000 students have completed the course and gone on to teach in retail stores, adult education programs, and to share their knowledge with friends, co-workers and family.”

If you have a strong basis in basic knitting and crochet skills, the Certified Instructors Program helps you become a better teacher of those skills.  As a matter of fact, if you want to teach knitting or crochet at Michael’s you need to have finished (or be working on) Level 1 of the program in your discipline.

You can read more about it on the Craft Yarn Council’s website, and I’ll be talking more about it in the future, as some changes are in the works.

Frequently Asked Questions

As a master teacher, I have found that many of the students enrolled in the program have questions. They are worried about how to complete the assignments. They stress over being tested. (Hint: There is no “test”.) Because I get the same questions over and over again, and to allay the fears and anxieties of students, I’ve shot a video that addresses these most frequently asked questions. I was actor, producer, camera person and sound engineer on this one, so it’s not as professionally produced as my Craftsy and Creativebug videos, but I hope it gets the job done.

If you want to sign up for the Certified Instructors Program, register here.