Ysolda: Going Digital

While 2020 was difficult in many ways, it was very good at one thing: bringing people together to reflect on their industry, personal lives, and offer solutions to long-standing issues and challenges. In the last year, we saw a surprising number of new knitting businesses begin development, and I suspect that in 2021, we’ll see even more. 

A big change we’ve noticed in the yarn industry is a shift from stores away from brick and mortar retail presences. Ysolda, a yarn shop run by designer Ysolda Teague, is shifting its focus into new models that focus on digital goods and web-based community. 

When Ysolda announced this year’s Colourwork Club, the shop also introduced their customers to a new, digital option for the club that would allow members to access the same patterns, projects, and tutorials as Colourwork Club members who had purchased the physical kit. This space wasn’t just advertised as access to instructional materials, but also as an online community –intrigued, I reached out to Ysolda for more details about the idea behind her new online offering. 

Teague has been working with the idea of a private, online learning zone for a while. Her initial idea for this online space was to use it to host her test knitters and knit-a-longs. Over the holidays last year that idea began to change and expand. Teague and partner Kit found themselves focused on the idea of gathering, creating spaces that people enjoy occupying. After listening to episodes of Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast and reading The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker, the couple began to analyze the driving need they felt to create a safer educational space that is centered around common interests and group activities.  The Colourwork Club is just the first foray into realizing her vision. 

For seven years, Teague and her team have been running clubs, knit-a-longs and digitally based events. Using a combination of newsletters and Ravelry groups to distribute information that needed to be kept exclusive was difficult. Ravelry was  not designed to be a private forum. Teague thought about many alternatives before settling on using Mighty Networks to build and host their private group. Facebook wasn’t a good solution–although the groups are a popular alternative to Ravelry’s forums, group pages and fan pages can be tricky to manage with the constantly changing interface, and many people are trying to get out from under Zuckerberg’s eye.  With this new model, all you have to do is create an account and all of your digital materials are centrally located on the site. 

Long term, the goal is to bring in voices from all over the knitting community and create a truly digital, world-wide yarn shop experience. Ysolda plans to add focused sub-groups, with lessons and information from herself and a network of fantastic teachers, writers and educators. 

While Teague and her team admit that there is no replacement for in-person activity, the free-flowing nature of a digital space affords certain flexibility that brick and mortar cannot. The transient nature of internet activity allows us to make the commitment we have time for. To accommodate less frequent or active participants. With these casual users in mind, Ysolda has plans to maintain an accessible area of the platform where members are not immediately overwhelmed by information and can get their bearings before joining the larger community. (If you’ve ever opened a Ravelry forum and seen 3000 unread posts, you know how daunting entering the conversation mid-way can be). 

For now, this larger idea is being tested exclusively within Colourwork Club. I’ve joined to keep an eye on what’s happening there and make sure Sloe readers don’t miss out on anything fun. If you see me, say hello!

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