Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 16, 2012

International exposure for Traverse City knitter's work

By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
mdrahos@record-eagle.com

TRAVERSE CITY — Laura Andrews is burning the candle at both ends after one of her hand-knit blankets was featured in a New York Times online gift guide.

The Traverse City native and University of Michigan grad student was in class during finals week when she got an email from an administrative official at Etsy, the online handmade marketplace where she sells her scarves, hats, cowls and blankets.

"She said I needed to send a high-resolution photo in the next hour-and-a-half if I wanted to be considered for the gift guide," said Andrews, who booted up her laptop and fired off an image of her Chunky Knit throw blanket to a Times style staffer.

The 54-by-50-inch blanket appeared in the Times' Dec. 9 "The Gift of Comfort" guide. It's one of nine items featured, including a glass teapot with infuser from the Museum of Modern Art Design Store and a faux fur bean bag chair from Restoration Hardware.

"It's really cool that a little shop from Traverse City is now in The New York Times," said Andrews, who'd photographed the throw earlier at her parents' house. "The blanket is (pictured) over a chair we've had at home forever. My mom was horrified the chair was in the New York Times."

Andrews learned to knit when she was 8 or 9 and remembers bringing her knitting with her to day care. Now 25, she launched her business in July 2010 and began to get orders almost immediately.

"I love to knit, but I was making too many things and I needed a store," she said, adding that she's filled orders from as far away as Brazil, France, Spain, England, Ireland, Canada, Mexico and South Korea. "I like to joke that my scarves are more well-traveled than I am now."

The entrepreneur doubled her sales this year and credits the online "pinboard" Pinterest, which allows users to organize and share things they find on the web. She said knitting gives her a creative and guilt-free outlet from studying.

"I like to make things and this is something I've been able to get good at. I'm at the point that I can create my own patterns," said the 2006 Traverse City Central High School grad, who studies library and information science. "I really like that people like these items and they can go places I haven't been."

Andrews said she is especially busy this time of year and recently made her 1,247th sale.

"It's a very busy time of work, so some days I will be up until 2 or 3 in the morning finishing items. But I think that's what people who have businesses do at Christmas," she said. "I just have to devote more of my sleeping time to other things."

Andrews sells her blankets for $129-$199 at Laura's Lovely Knits on Etsy.com. She said the money they and her other knit items earn has given her lots of flexibility and will allow her to hold out for the right job after graduation in April. She hopes to work as a digital librarian and last summer got experience digitizing records for preservation purposes as an intern at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

"It has definitely helped get me through graduate school," she said. "It helps me pay rent and gas and extra things. And I've been able to save some in case I can't find a job right away."

Janice Andrews isn't surprised at her daughter's "discovery."

"We come from a long line of creative people," said Janice, who taught Laura to knit. "She just picked it up and off she went. Laura's worked really hard the last two-and-a-half years on her shop. She's creative and innovative and is always looking to see what's new and what people are doing out there."

To see the blanket in the gift guide, go to http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2012/12/09/fashion/20121209-REGISTRY-6.html