We interviewed Rachel Riley from Paradise Fibers.
Spinzilla: What is the focus of your business?
Rachel: We really have a huge selection of spinning fiber. Our monthly fiber club is very popular and has been going for a long time now with no end in sight. The spinning fiber is a very large focus for us and we are always investigating new sources and trying to find better pricing for our customers.
Spinzilla: What is your typical day like?
Rachel: I usually get to the store at 9. We have a meeting over coffee with all the staff for a few minutes to address any questions for the day. Then I respond to my emails until the storefront opens at noon. Once the store is open to walk in customers, I split my time between helping people at the front desk and shipping orders. After lunch I add products to the website and if it’s not a late night, I head home around 6pm. Once I’m home I usually hang out with my four kids that I just adore. They are 11, 5, 3 and 1 and we often watch Brave or Frozen for the 15 millionth time. I don’t mind though, because the kids snuggle next to me while I knit or spin and they watch the movie. My little girl Romi always asks me what I’m making. It’s often a shawl, and she has said, “I like that shawl your making mama.” She has being cute down to an art. That’s pretty much how my days go.
Spinzilla: What is your favorite part of your job?
Rachel: I really like helping customers to choose yarn for projects, or helping them find the perfect pattern to make their next project. It’s like vicarious knitting and it’s a great opening to get to know someone new. We have customers from all walks of life and areas of the world and I really enjoy getting to know each of them a little bit as we interact.
Spinzilla: Which of your products specifically help spinners produce more yardage and how?
Rachel: I would probably go with a diz. We have a small wooden diz that is made in our woodshop and it’s a really nice tool because you can pull a thick piece of roving through the tiny hole in the diz and it make sit easier to draft thinner and more consistently. When roving is prepared in this way, it is easier to spin very fine yarn, thus giving you more yardage per pound of fiber.
Spinzilla: What about your business would surprise our team hosts and spinners?
Rachel: That’s tough. We have a beautiful old building that was built in 1906 with 25000 square feet of space but we still don’t have enough room to display all of our yarns on the main floor of the store. Also, several of the employees believe the building to be haunted by a ghost named Charlie. Our lead shipper Lei-Sea swears that Charlie helps her find lost yarn that is needed for an order. One day, she came in to work very excited because a rack of yarn had been knocked over and there were balls of yarn everywhere. We reviewed our surveillance video only to find out that the “ghost” was actually our co-worker Kari trying to make her way out of the store in the pitch dark and knocking everything over. It sure made for an exciting start to the day though. So far no conclusive ghost evidence has been found but Lei-Sea is still hopeful.
Spinzilla: That’s funny. I worked in a yarn shop where sometimes yarn would jump off of the shelves. We sometimes said it was a ghost, but it could just as well have been due to a train going by. What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?
Rachel: I started Spinning at a relatively young age and I just took for granted that the ladies of our spinning guild would always be around to answer questions and pass on their extensive knowledge and experience. As I have grown up we have lost some of our dear friends and I wish I had realized how important and influential these people would be to me. I wish I had taken more time to discuss all things fiber with them and to write down their pearls of wisdom. I hope they knew how much I admired and respected them.
Spinzilla: What kinds of crafts or other activities do you enjoy personally?
Rachel: I’m a spinner and a knitter at heart. I do enjoy crochet as well and like to do some weaving but I always come back to knitting and spinning.
Spinzilla: What is your fiber background?
Rachel: I started off raising angora rabbits as a 4-H project when I was 9, and my Mom bought me my first wheel, a Babe, when I was about 12. I spent a lot of time on that wheel and then moved onto a Kiwi wheel and I was hooked. I have been spinning ever since. I even won the Grand Champion skein in the Spokane Interstate Fair one year. I had a bundle of merino/cashmere roving that I purchased as a new spinner and left in a drawer for years and finally decided I was good enough to spin it. After I peeled off the felt from the outside of the bundle and predrafted it, I was able to make a beautiful lace weight yarn that ended up being a two ply. I ran the roving through a diz before I spun it and I think it took me 9 months to spin the 8 ounces. It was pretty slow going, but I was very pleased with my resulting yarn. I just like the process of spinning. I want to finish my yarn, but for me it’s more important to enjoy myself along the way.
Spinzilla: What was the first fiber item that ever caught your interest?
Rachel: Angora Rabbits are really what got me into fiber. I had done some knitting and crocheting before I got into rabbits, but it was those Wookie- like fluffy bunnies that I fell in love with first.
Spinzilla: Tell us about why you are in the fiber business? How did you get started?
Rachel: My Mom got me started. Growing up she was always encouraging me to take something I love and turn it into a business. When we both started spinning, it seemed natural for us to purchase fiber and sell it at small local shows and gatherings. We did this and sold a few wheels as well for about 10 years before we heard that Kate Painter was looking to sell Paradise Fibers. After a lot of family discussions, and a little begging and pleading, my Dad helped us buy the business from Kate. She had done a wonderful job getting Paradise Fibers started and it is a real privilege to get to continue to help her original customers with their fiber needs, and to grow the business with new customers.
Spinzilla: Why are you sponsoring Spinzilla?
Rachel: Because it is a fantastic event that inspires spinners to push themselves to reach their spinning goals.
Spinzilla: What is the most fiber fun you have had?
Rachel: Over this past summer I got to attend a spinning retreat with Judith Mackenzie and it was such an amazing experience. I learned so much and got to meet some fabulous ladies, including Judith, who is a FABULOUS teacher. Her passion for the fiberarts is such an inspiration! I left that retreat feeling invigorated and full of ideas to help inspire our customers at Paradise Fibers, and the spinners of Spinzilla!