Sunday, May 10, 2009

Visit to Berroco

We've been meaning to catch up with Amanda to ask her about her internship at Berroco, but she's been so busy helping to get the Fall line out -- getting samples knitted and finished, booklets photographed and to the printer -- it's now only a week until her internship ends. However we did finally take a road trip to Berroco's office and warehouse in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. The entrance is through the front door of a little white clapboard house and down a twisty, narrow stairway. However, like Dr. Who's spaceship, the inside is bigger than the outside. There's a definite Alice in Wonderland feeling to stepping out into a large (and largely underground) warren of office, factory and warehouse spaces.

Amanda is only the second student to intern with Norah Gaughan, and she freely admits her maneuverings to get the job fell only slightly short of actual stalking. Hey, Norah is her knitting idol!

While working at Berroco, she took on a little bit of everything. There was some typical intern-type grunt work, for example cutting up lengths of yarn for custom sample cards. But there was also real design work: she developed the intricate pattern stitch that runs up the front of a cowl-necked pullover you'll see in one of the Fall books, and now she's working on designs for her own line of accessories. At Berroco she never knew what she'd be called upon to do. When they were one model short for a photo shoot, Amanda was drafted on the spot to lend her ethereal charm to a picture of a cabled hat and ribbed scarf.

We toured the factory and warehouse where the yarn is wound, labeled, and packed in bags, awaiting shipping. The yarn arrives from the spinning mills in cones and needs to be turned into skeins and balls before being sent on to shops. Trailing up and down the seemingly endless aisles of yarn felt like a treasure hunt. At the very back corner we found these slouchy boxes of discontinued yarn, waiting to be donated.

What's next for Amanda after her Berroco adventure? Would you believe another Fresh Purls? Adventures in wholesaling and designing aside, Amanda ultimately hopes to own her own yarn shop, perhaps in her native Michigan. This summer, Karen is going to teach her about the nuts and bolts of yarn retailing, including the oh-so-thrilling inventory and financial systems, not to mention real-time experience in how to launch a web store. Stop in to say "Hi" and ask her how it's going!

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