Darn Good Yarn = India + Jobs for Women + Recycling

In 2008, Clarkson alumna Nicole Snow '04 launched Darn Good Yarn,  an importer, wholesaler and retailer of responsibly sourced and recycled silk and fiber.  The daughter of two entrepreneurs, she  had watched closely as her parents built up their own company.  After working with another internet import business for a couple of years, she decided  to strike out on her own.   

Her goal was to create a company that would provide the highest quality yarn and ribbon for knitters and fiber artists from ethically sourced materials in India and Nepal.  She also wanted to provide much-needed jobs for women in these countries.  Today, Darn Good Yarn employ some 300 women in several villages to machine and hand spin and dye yarn.The company works in the Bangalore region in southern India and in Bihar where silk manufacturing is big business.  Snow and her team work with family-owned mills to collect the silk fiber and fabric waste from sari making and remnants leftover from rug making. The work of turning this material waste and remnants into ribbon and yarn is a multi-stage process and engages women in several villages. One village separates the materials, while another rips the fabrics apart. Another village will spin the yarn using a drop spindle. Occasionally, a spinning wheel is used. The employees also use nonelectric, foot-action sewing machines to sew pieces together to make ribbon. Every hank of silk starts out multicolored. The color is stripped out of it and then overdyed by hand to make the multi-colored yarn and ribbon.Building relationships — with the women employed and the family-owned mills overseas as well as wholesale and retail customers back home —is key to the success of Darn Good Yarn.  “You want to find people who share the same ethics and values as you do.  You want to know that the work that you are providing is making a difference in the lives of the employees and their families.”The yarn and fiber are sold on the  company’s Internet site and in their  store in Schenectady, N.Y. Since 2008, the business has grown by 2,500 percent. Fifty percent is wholesale and 50 percent is retail. To date, the company has saved 100,000 pounds of material waste and turned it into yarn.

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