Tugging at Heartstrings

Heartstring | ‘ha:tstrin |
Noun (usually heartstrings)
Used in reference to one’s deepest feelings of love or compassion: the kitten’s pitiful squeak tugged at her heartstrings | the romance fails to tweak the heartstrings even a little. 


This februari it has been 10 years since I first opened my first knit shop on Etsy and 12 years since I started working in the world of wool. In those years a lot has happened... and the new year brings new ideas and new challenges. Let me tell you the story of Ja, Wol and my plans for the future...
selling from a table outdoors... 
teaching from a table indoors at the sewing café...
selling from a studio...
Selling from a small shop...

selling from a large shop.
In the year 2004 my heartstrings were pulled after picking up a pair of needles and a ball of yarn for the first time since my childhood. It was a magical moment. 
I felt like I found my first love again. My heart skipped a beat and then began pounding harder and harder. (Note to self: mention this to the doctor next time you see him, knitting makes heart beat fast...)
My hands remembered what to do right away. It had been 20 years... how amazing is that?! I soared and my first projects (seemingly) flew off the needles. Churning out projects like aunt Thea calling out numbers on a bingo night. I did make lots of mistakes and had to frog* a heaps of knitting.

* Pulling out a piece of knitting is named Frogging because: you rip it, you ripit, you rippit, you rippit, rippit, rippit. -say it out loud!

Apparently I had just the right type of brain for this, I was a perfectionist, but also a realist, creative and focussed once I was knitting. Buzzy and bouncy in real life but my mind rested with the repetitiveness of the stitches: ‘in, around, through and off, in, around, trough and off...‘ what a treat to my busy mind!
I used books and the internet because at that time there weren’t any lessons or workshops around. Every new project had at least 2 new techniques in it and I made mostly small projects. I learned super fast. In one of my projects I learned to do stranded knitting, felting and yarn dyeing all at the same time. It became the most hideous purse you've ever seen. 
I wanted to share all this magic from the get go. Me and my sister in law invited some friends over and held our first Breieenkomsten (knittogethers) in 2005.
One day, when we couldn't meet on a whim I started my first blog: SAS Knits It Again. (SAS K. I. A.).
Here is the blog if you are curious. It's full of fun and awkward information. You can find the exact date I publicly disassociated myself form acrylic. Spoiler: it was 29 April 2006. And the time I was interviewed on a national TV show (DWDD). You can look at al my failed projects and odd choices. And my ugliest design, I'm not telling you where to find it though!
2008 I'm pregnant with my youngest and Yvon (friend and yarn dyeing teacher) is ushering me through London while we visit Knit London, my first international knit event. 
The history of Ja, Wol can’t be drawn in a straight line, it has bumps and holes everywhere. There were heaps of laughter but also a few tears. Working in a field where people flock together to relax and to make new friends (often when they are vulnerable) puts you in the line of love and sometimes in the line of fire. 
In 2008 I registered at the chamber of commerce as a designer and teacher by the name of SAS Knits It Again. After opening my first brick and mortar shop I re-named it Ja, Wol.
My functions and goals have changed, morphed from one thing into another, vanished and returned. Here’s some of the (knitted) hats I wore over that last 12 years:
  • blogger (I had a pretty nice amount of international followers in my day),
  • paid knitting for different customers,
  • knit pattern designer,
  • ready-to-wear designer,
  • project manager,
  • selling at (Christmas) fairs and festivals,
  • teacher,
  • product developer (it started with knit kits and now Ja, Wol GOODS, my own label)
  • webshop owner (ready-to-wear and workshops),
  • studio owner (focussing on teaching and designing morphing into yarn sales),
  • commissioned designer for brands like Zeeman and NS (Dutch Railways)
  • artist (a few art productions)
  • tiny shop owner (designing became yarn sales and teaching stayed)
  • big shop owner (designing almost completely vanished but the shop grew in quality and name)
  • curator of other makers’ products
  • yarn dyer 
  • school (needlecraft) teacher
teaching at Motel Mozaique arts festival and Oogst Festival in Rotterdam
And off-course lots of times I functioned as a
  • addiction enabler
  • psychologist 
  • motivator & coach
  • hideout 
  • baby-make-sure-he-doesn’t-brake-anything-or-himself-while-mom-is-pre-occupied-sitter
  • tough-love-kick-your-but-er
  • activist (I need people to understand the importance of wool in our lives and how to be a good and respectful consumer in a small business on our hurting planet)
plants in knit nests and screenprint on knit, my small addition to textile arts 

My knit kits were so much work, it took ages to make te patterns, pictures, buy the materials and make the boxes. I didn't sell many but a lot of people knew of them and they helped me grow my name.
Cut to seriousness...
Last year, out of the blue, I had to be taken to the hospital with a super fast heart-rate. Twice. It turned out that I have a congenital heart condition. I am 44 and had no idea that I was born with this! It was very scary, the first time it felt like I was going to die. The second time I knew what it was, but still, calling yourself an ambulance is an eerie experience. 
I had a heart operation and they managed to ‘fix’ my cardiac arrythmia. A few months later, I continued to feel bad and imbalanced and my heart was still dancing all over the place. It turned out that the operation revealed an underlying problem.


Long story short, I am not in immediate danger but this thing is affecting me on a daily basis and I have to decide how I want to live my life and what steps I want to take to make it better. There will probably be another operation in the future but first I have to slow down a bit more and give myself the rest that I need. 


this is me learning to take it easy...

After I had talked to the cardiologist you can imagine that it took a few hours of panic and days, weeks, of emotional contemplation before I had ANY idea how to do that while I run my own business and be a partner and a mom too. 
After talking to my loved ones and some professionals from different areas of this situation, I did get a better grip on things and put it all in perspective.
I since have decided to focus more on some parts of my business and take a step back from other parts so I can free up some time where I can be more flexible and take the rest if I need it without people relying on me at any given moment.
 Guen Douglas Tattoed this on my upper back in 2012
I never knew how many layers of symbolism it would turn out to get. 
I have always been an investigator, student and teacher. I learn as I teach and I am never not curious. 
The biggest change in the timeline of my business is that I have become an entrepreneur. Selling wool to knitters is not the best business model. It really isn’t. But in learning and investigating, in connecting dots and seeing the bigger picture I have discovered the entrepreneur in myself and how much I love to be one, to take risks (leaving Drops and Facebook, wow that was hard!), try new things, doing things I am afraid to do, leave out the balast and climb new ladders. I have learned to focus on the fire that burns in my heart and answer the question: what is my role and the part I can play in the bigger picture? 
Read on to learn the answer. I am very proud of you for even getting this far. I know that people have increasingly short attention spans for reading large texts, so well done!


The year 2020 will prove to be another year of feeding, growing and pruning my business. 

"A little pruning is nescessary to grow a steady stem and plentiful fruit."

My trusted shop sidekick Angela has been an invaluable asset to the shop and a dear friend. She will be running the shop Fridays and I will stick to Saturdays only for now. This means that I have focussed time to grow the other parts of Ja, Wol; the Needle Craft School and webshop. 
In the last 12 years I have become a very experienced teacher and have worked with amazingly talented craftspeople that have shared their knowledge with our students. I feel my flame burning harder when I talk about teaching (adults & children) and sharing knowledge.

'' Knitting makes insecurities secure and big talk a little smaller. ''

I believe it's essential to know a skill like knitting. It grounds people, it makes insecurities secure and big talk a little smaller. It connects, binds and nourishes. And it is a way to live a more conscious life, making your own clothing from well sourced materials. This is my true mission. 
Working with the right materials is key and what I can’t find locally I will develop myself. So the webshop and the Ja, Wol Goods home brand will hopefully only become better with more of my dedicated attention.
I am looking forward to making the website even more clear and easy to use with a customer service that will make the best butlers blush and a collection that will cater to all that share my belief that we need Goods that are GOOD to people, animals and the environment.
Online www.ja-wol.com open 24/7 sending out packages on Thursdays.
Brick and mortar shop open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00-17:00
Find our list of classes, events and workshops here.
Please mail me with any of your questions, reactions and fun gifs! I love a good cats, corgis or alpacas video too!

See you soon at Ja, Wol;

online, in our shop or in one of our workshops!

Can't wait to see you,

-x- Saskia


Thanks to all that worked and helped @ Ja, Wol: Diane, Mae, Sazz, Lot, Roos, Helen, Marlie, Madeleine, Puk, Lia, Anja, Inge, Angela, Floor, Sanne, Bobby, Marije, Rashmita, Sanne, Rivka, Femke, Fay, Yvon, Andre, Charlotte, Louise, Cheyenne, Job, Jol, Michael, Nanna and Henk who keeps all those huge windows clean. 

And thank you all that have bought from, learned at and supported the shop independent small businesses depend on their loyal customers and I am forever grateful for your support.