The print version of our interview with Cydni ran in the July 16, 2014, issue of Sync in a story called “Handmade heroes.”
Cyndi Minister admits to an addiction: yarn. Having picked up knitting after having kids, Minister realized she could never find the colors and textures she was looking for in yarn. “When it’s commercially made, a machine makes it, so there’s not personality in it,” she says. After a couple years of sticking eight or nine yarns in one knitted piece to get the effect she wanted, she decided to try her hand at making her own yarn. “The yarn I make is really different. It’s got textures, and it’s full of stuff, thick and thin. It’s an art yarn.”
Now, Minister’s Facebook fans follow the journey from fluff to skein as Minister dyes and spins her fibers into technicolor textures for yarn and felted soaps.
Tell me about the different fibers that go into your yarn.
For the soap, I mainly use wool because it felts. When I make the yarn, I’ll use wool, alpaca, bamboo, silk — it just depends. Sometimes they’ll have the wool locks that come off of sheep. The alpaca I get from a local alpaca farm here in Conway, Sweet Clover Alpaca. I actually don’t have any of that right now. Anytime I’m spinning it, I get messages on Facebook and people buy it before I’m finished spinning it. I call it all-natural Arkansas alpaca. I get the wool through wholesale. Unfortunately, the sheep I like to use, the breed is called merino, and it’s too humid and hot for them to live here. A lot of people, when they think wool, they think itchy, but that’s why I like to use the merino. It’s very soft.
Your felted soaps are in more than 70 shops and in the U.S., Canada, Australia, England and China. How did you get into those other markets?
I sell a lot of my items on Etsy, and I market it wholesale and bulk. That’s mostly the soaps. The yarn, I really don’t have as much time, fulfilling all the retail orders that we’re getting with all the soaps, so I rarely list my yarn. A lot of times people call dibs on them when I make it on Facebook. I’ve kind of been stocking up yarn because I’m going to the Arkansas Fiber Arts Extravaganza in September. I’m trying to hoard yarn so I have enough to sell.
Last year, The Twisted Purl won Arkansas Sourcelink’s Battle of the Brands against competition like Whole Hog Cafe and Mountain Valley Spring Water. How has social media affected how you’ve been able to turn your craft into a business?
It’s huge. Social media has been just absolutely amazing. What I do is so visual. I’m tapping into sharing that handmade journey with everybody and showing what I’m doing, showing the basket of fluff, and then showing how it goes from that to a carded bat, and then from that, turning it into the yarn.
What were you doing before you discovered a passion for yarn and fibers?
I worked for Bank of America as a personal banker. Then I had my kids and stayed at home. I wanted to find something to do to help supplement my husband’s income and really had no idea that this would take off the way that it has. I’m really excited about doing spinning classes and offering the ability for people who really want to make their own yarn but have no desire to actually physically make their own yarn on the wheel. I want to offer the opportunity to come here and pick out if they want sparkle or texture or whatever, then I can card it and turn it into yarn for them while they watch.