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FF: I’ve also noticed that knitting varies from person to person. I used to knit when I was younger, and I would find that if I would start a project, and then put it down, and maybe a couple of months later pick it up, I would be maybe doing it tighter or looser.

Janis Stemmermann: Oh sure, yeah.

FF: What are some recommendations and tips for how people should take care of the sort of items you make; the sweaters, the skirts, the shawls. How should they be cleaned, and how should they be taken care of so they stay beautiful?

Janis Stemmermann: The best is dry cleaning. Because that is the easiest, and it sort of mothproofs too. For longevity, dry cleaning is the best way, because when you start hand washing wools, they become much more -- I don’t know what it is, but when you hand wash it, the detergent takes out that sort of solvent that protects it from moths.

But I’m not opposed to washing them, because a lot of wools can be very easily hand washed and cared for just fine (When using home wool washing products, be certain to follow the instructions carefully --Gina).

FF: And how often should people dry clean wool garments? Not too often, because that also wears it down, doesn’t it? Or is wool pretty resilient to dry cleaning?

Janis Stemmermann: I think if you have a sweater or a hat, you wouldn’t do it more than once or twice a season. Right? I think that’s fine.

FF: And storing it between seasons, what is the best way to store wool so that it breathes, but is protected?

Janis Stemmermann: Well, if you just dry clean it, and you leave it in its cover, then it’s totally fine. If you hand wash your woolens, you should really store them in cedar, with cedar or mothballs or something where you sort of layer one of the two between your pieces.

FF: Right, that’s a good point. And so when you started the business, it was initially hats, gloves, scarves and other wool accessories?

Janis Stemmermann: I just started with hats.

FF: Hats.

Janis Stemmermann: Yeah. In terms of knitting an object, for me the hat was like the ideal -- it took just the right amount of time. It was the right shape. I was very interested in the hat as a form, because I’ve always made hats, and I’ve collected hats. I’ve sort of had this lifelong interest with hats as a form.

And so that was the thing that for me it was like ideal, because it took just the right amount of time. It’s the kind of thing that I could finish. The socks I always had problems doing the second one, you know. But I just started with hats.

And I thought that was a really manageable, very specific thing. I always wanted to get into larger pieces, but in terms of business, I thought I wanted to keep a very sort of narrow focus -- just to start and figure out how to produce them.

FF: And then you started to broaden out with mittens and scarves?

Janis Stemmermann: Right. I think the next season I introduced the scarf.

FF: And how long after that did you start doing home accessories, like pillows and throws and that sort of thing?

Janis Stemmermann: Right, the third season I started with that. Because I was trying to figure out a way to sort of broaden my market and not be so seasonal. And I thought I’d give that a try. I could say that’s been successful because I really haven’t pushed it. And it’s another market than the accessory market. So I haven’t gone that far. And they tend to be very expensive, and I felt that there was a lot of price resistance to it in the beginning. So I didn’t really investigate it. I mean I didn’t push it that far. I do it for my store, but that’s really all that I’m doing it for right now.

FF: And so now this is your fourth or fifth season?

Janis Stemmermann: Well, I started in ninety six. So I think this is my fourth.

FF: You’ve really branched out quite a bit this year, adding coats, sweaters and skirts, right?

Janis Stemmermann: Right, right.

FF: And do you have a celebrity following?

Janis Stemmermann: You know, I’m not quite sure. I know that celebrities do have my things, I just don’t know who. It sort of gets back to me by word of mouth, I guess. Someone just called me up the other day and said that Whoopi Goldberg on Hollywood Squares was wearing a hat that I had hand knit.

FF: No kidding!

Janis Stemmermann: Right. But I don’t know if it’s true or not. But one of my hats was in a magazine last year, and they dubbed it the Eddie Vedder hat. He’s a lead singer from -- I don’t know. It’s like they call it that because he has one.

FF: He’s the Pearl Jam guy.

Janis Stemmermann: Right.

FF: And how much more do you think you’ll broaden it in the next year or two?

Janis Stemmermann: Well, I don’t think I’ll broaden it that much, because this year we introduced a small children’s line.

And I introduced a sweater. So this year, because it’s the first year, it’s just sort of like planting the seeds. So basically next year I’ll just concentrate on growing those two parts of the business.

FF: And would you say overall do you have any particular philosophy about your creations, your designs, your knitting -- the whole thing that you do and your approach to it?

Janis Stemmermann: Well I think a lot of it for me is the making and the product. You know, I really like the women that work with me, making these items and knitting them. And I really love that interaction, and almost the collaboration that goes on between us.

And I have very clear ideas, but I also sort of can be open to suggestions and ways, and where that takes you in terms of the end product. Some things I have a very clear idea of how I’ll make it, and it’s exactly what I thought it was going to be. That’s like half of the items.

And then the other half is sort of having an idea of a shape, or an interest in a particular wool, and then trying to figure out where that’s going to take me. And you know basically just doing what you want, or what you like.

I decided with this business -- I’ve had another business that -- not that I didn’t do that well, but I just thought that well, you know I’m just going to make things that really please me. And that way I feel like I can sustain the journey and where it takes me.

Janis Stemmermann and Beatrice


Next, 5 more of Janis' creations....