When Lucy Blue Knits products are viewed online or at our booth at an artisan fair, we doubt our customers picture this as their origin!
We spend many hours in aisles like these hunting for just the right sweaters that become our mittens and headbands, cashmere scarves and neck warmers.
While it's hard to be inconspicuous when you're loading a cart with dozens of sweaters, we do our best to blend in. We don't want to offend anyone, and we are very aware that many who shop in the Chicagoland thrift stores don't have other options.
And while we have fun, it's still a tiring process. Much of the initial work is done by comb-ing through racks of sweaters, using our fingers to detect wool. Many times we think we have a gorgeous pick, only to find out when we read the label that it's acrylic. We HATE that word.
Because we only use sweaters that are a minimum 80 percent wool, it's a time-consuming process of sorting and checking to find the gems. Cashmere finds are few and far between, but it's pretty easy to identify on sight.
We go to some pretty decent lengths in search of high-quality sweaters at bargain prices. The stairwell to the left is at one of our favorite stores. We feel like we have created our own LBK workout with the number of trips up and down them we have to make to get our purchases to the van!
When we've finished shopping, we reward ourselves with some ethnic food, and then we head to the laundromat. We choose an area where we'll attract the least attention and begin dumping the bags onto the floor for sorting.
We work fast because no one understands what we're doing, and the looks we get range from perplexed to perturbed.
We sort by color and texture. It's a constant "dance"—checking the machines to make sure the wool is washing properly, re-washing when necessary, and transferring them to the dryer.
If we're feeling really industrious, we cut the sweaters at the laundromat. One time, an older couple watched us cut up sweater after sweater, and we could tell they thought we were either crazy or incredibly wasteful. We decided to address the "elephant in the room." We used a phone to show them our website and their faces lit up.
We hope your faces light up when you see the new styles we're producing for the 2017–2018 season, and that you'll think of us the next time you go on your own thrifting adventure! If you have a sweater you no longer wear, but would like to give another life, we always accept donations (provided the sweater is 75 percent wool or higher). We also can make it into a pair of mittens just for you! For more information on this, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.