In recent years, the DIY movement has gained momentum—inspiring people to build their own structures, grow their own food and create all manner of crafts, both practical and whimsical. It was perhaps only a matter of time, then, before the UDIY movement got underway. Yes, some folks are now un-doing things themselves and Austin’s two-man business Yarn Harvest is leading the way.
A couple of years ago, Greg Goeken and Sean Saenger settled in Austin and quickly sought ways to become part of the creative community. Trolling for business ideas, they happened upon a website explaining the process of unraveling old sweaters to repurpose the yarn. Both fell in love with the indie green spirit of the concept, and decided to pursue it as a business venture. Yarn Harvest was born a short time later, but with it came a snarl.
“The hard part was finding the sweaters,” says Goeken. Texas isn’t exactly known as a sweater-rich environment, and the sweaters had to be 100 percent wool with easily removable seams. “If you don’t do a good job taking apart seams, the yarn will break or snag,” says Goeken. The first nine months were mostly dedicated to sweater hunting.
To unwind the de-seamed sweaters, an end is connected to a motorized wheel which gently untethers the very crinkly wool. The pile is placed in water with natural softeners, then hung with a weight at the bottom until it sets. Finally, the yarn is wound into 126-yard skeins.
Last October, Yarn Harvest made a splashy debut when it participated in The Best Little Yarn Crawl in Texas —an annual event where yarn shops in Austin and the Hill Country join forces to celebrate knitters and their passion. Stacy Klaus, owner of The Knitting Nest, invited Goeken and Saenger to set up a minishop in her store during the Crawl.
“I think what they’re doing is ingenious and so in the spirit of Austin,” says Klaus. “I was happy to host them and people are enthralled with their idea.”
Curiously, the guys were not big knitters when they started the business—drawn more to the renewable resource idea than the craft side of fiber. But they’re working to improve their skills. “I’m just learning,” says Goeken, who recently completed his first project: a beer koozie.
Currently, the entire Yarn Harvest operation is housed inside of Goeken’s garage, and sales are conducted through their website and at the HOPE Farmers Market on Sunday afternoons. The pair hopes to ramp up the business, build their brand and sell wholesale to knitting stores. They’ll likely pace themselves, though, to make sure they always have at least a little time to unwind.
Find out more at yarnharvest.com.