There is nothing quite like in person events for making real connections that lead to business growth. Our team at Aeolidia, my woman-owned Shopify development agency, have been working with craft-related businesses since the year before Etsy existed. We have followed along with Craft Industry Alliance since the early days, and we were honored to be asked to teach at the first h+h americas conference in 2023.

We have attended many conferences and trade shows and this one immediately became our favorite. Not only did we get to meet many of the shop owners we work with in person, but we made wonderful new relationships as well. We were particularly impressed by the Kelbourne Woolens booth, and stopped to talk with the owners. What follows is an interview with founders Courtney and Kate about their experience at the show and the results they saw from it.

courtney and kate with arms around each other
Courtney Kelley and Kate Gagnon Osborn, founders of Kelbourne Woolens.

Photo courtesy of Kelbourne Woolens.

Tell us a bit about Kelbourne Woolens. You’re a values-led brand. Can you speak to that?

Courtney – Kate and I founded Kelbourne Woolens in 2008 while working in a yarn shop in Philadelphia. From the beginning, we set out to create a brand that represented what we wanted to see in the world, and I think more or less that is still 100% true!

We make yarn, develop colors, choose suppliers, and make a lot of decisions based on what we like and what we want to do. I think because of this, and because Kate and I are also good friends, we have created a company that feels good to be a part of. The values of the brand reflect the values that we hold, and we make sure that we hold ourselves accountable.

At the end of the day, we built this company and we live in it every day. It should feel good to be a part of Kelbourne Woolens, and feeling good means you’re meeting your needs, the needs of your employees, your family, your customers, and your suppliers.

kelborne woolens website homepage
Custom about page for Kelbourne Woolens highlights the company’s values.

Photo courtesy of Aeolidia.

What in-person events does your company find valuable?

Courtney – Over the years we have done all manner of in-person events! Book signings, public appearances, lectures, workshops, classes, travel, trade shows, and fairs. They are all valuable in different ways, but I think the thing that makes them all valuable is that not only do you get to tell your story, but more importantly you get to meet the people who actually spend their precious time and money making something with the yarn you have created! How wonderful is that? But, if I had to choose a favorite event I would have to say the annual trade fairs are the most valuable. It is where the industry magic happens.

woman with knit sweater in front of plants
Finished sweater made using the Powell Sweater Pattern.

Photo courtesy of Kelbourne Woolens.

How was your experience at h+h americas, as far as forming and improving wholesale relationships?

Courtney – It’s invaluable. There is no other way that we can own and run a business in Philadelphia, serving shops all over North America and beyond, and develop in-person face to face relationships with our stockists. It makes a huge difference when working with shops when you know the owners, even if it’s just been on the show floor. You can put a face and a feeling to the name, and those relationships and friendships are sustaining.

crochet stuffed animals on chair
A collection of toys crocheted from Kelbourne Woolens patterns.

Photo courtesy of Kelbourne Woolens.

Did h+h americas spark any new collaborations or relationships with fellow craft businesses?

Courtney – There is always more that happens at the show than we are ever able to follow through on, but it is where some great ideas are born! We worked with Anne Merrow and her team at Long Thread Media over the last year on a couple of projects,  which were born over drinks at H+H last year. Our Skipper yarn development began in a mill meeting room on the show floor two years ago, and there is another yarn from last year’s H+H that’s still in development. I’m sure there is more I’m not thinking of, but I do know our calendar for the first week of May is very full!

multicolor yarns
Mojave yarn collection.

Photo courtesy of Kelbourne Woolens.

You met Arianne & Helen from Aeolidia at the show, and had a chat about how frustrating your websites were. What were a few of the things about your websites that made online sales harder for you?

Kate – Oh boy howdy…how much time do you have? The short answer is that they were both very slow, no matter what additional measures we put in place to make them work efficiently for our customers. Our biggest concern was the wholesale website; once shops added more than a few items (bags of yarn) to their carts, it became embarrassingly laggy.

On top of the speed issues, as plugins updated, others became outdated and/or were no longer supported and thus broke. There were also features we were not able to offer customers that became more important as time went by. Then, the final nail in the proverbial coffin was that the theme that we used as our starting point for the custom design also stopped being supported, which irrevocably broke the look and overall branding.

kelbourne woolens website page
Collections and product pages have been customized to show thumbnails with additional information such as yarn weight and colors — complete with a swatch selector to make choosing colors easier.

Photo courtesy of Aeolidia.

One lovely outcome of meeting up at h+h americas is that you ended up working together with the Aeolidia team to build new retail and wholesale websites for Kelbourne Woolens on Shopify. It’s early days, but how are the new sites helping you out?

Kate – They’re just….better! We were able to inspect every aspect of the old sites, what worked, what didn’t, and implement the changes and upgrades that we wanted. The speed is there, it is easy to make the customizations we want, and we designed the wholesale site based off of feedback from our customers to better help them when they need to place an order or easily access assets. There is still work to be done and more tweaks to be made, but we have never looked at anything that we do as being “finished”, so I see it as just a part of the day to day of running the business. Our sales are up on both the wholesale and retail platforms, so the ROI is certainly there and worth the effort!

kelbourne woolens website heros
Retail & wholesale websites for a values-driven yarn shop. Image credit: Aeolidia.

Photo courtesy of Aeolidia.

What would you recommend that people attending a trade show or conference keep an open mind to? What has helped you see a good return on the time and money it takes to attend and exhibit at events?

Kate – While we went to the show knowing it was time to make a huge overhaul/change to the sites, “find new developers” wasn’t necessarily on the list at a yarn/fabric show. It made perfect sense to work with a team who has a lot of experience with designers and other small businesses, so it was worth taking the time to meet and talk to them and I am so glad Arianne and Helen came to the booth!

We always look at any show or event we attend as being a small part of the bigger picture; the relationships that are built and long-term partnerships that are made last longer than the 2, 3, or 4 days of the event. A positive interaction may not lead to an immediate sale, but it has great potential to become a long term relationship once the customer has the financial means, shelf space, or time to take you on. Our goal with any sale is a long-term and repeat customer, so putting names to faces and building in-person relationships is an invaluable part of what we do. Also it is really fun!

multicolor yarn balls arranged in circle
Kelbourne Woolens Skipper is a 4-ply 100% un-mercerized cotton yarn, perfect for knitting, crochet, and crafts.

Photo courtesy of Kelbourne Woolens.

What’s next for Kelbourne Woolens? Anything fun coming along this year that we should keep an eye out for?

Kate – We have 3 new yarns in development, and a photoshoot for two super cute pattern collections tomorrow! (All samples will be at the show – yet another reason for shops to attend to see what’s new first!)

Thanks to Kate and Courtney for sharing their experience with us. If you’d like to see all the details of what we were able to do for their website project, take a look at the full case study here. You can view their gorgeous yarns, patterns, and kits on their new website.

We’ll be at h+h americas again this year, teaching three classes and hosting an ecommerce meetup. We hope to see you there!

Arianne Foulks

Arianne Foulks


Arianne Foulks has focused her career on creating online homes for fascinating people. At Aeolidia, her branding and web design agency, she and her team have launched more than 700 thoughtful redesigns over 20 years. Level up your ecommerce channel by engaging your customers and making more sales with Aeolidia, the niche Shopify experts for designers, artists, and craftspeople.

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