This is a guest blog post by Ben from our NJ offices, who spent the day with Natalie Bayer, the winner of the Lion Brand and Hancock Yarn Imagination Contest.
When Natalie Bayer, age 88 and the Grand Prize Winner of the Yarn Imagination Contest visited the Lion Brand Yarn Studio as part of her prize package, she said to me, "I loved your Studio. It was a once in a lifetime experience!" [Pictured: Natalie and Peggy in front of the Studio]
Natalie--an experienced and professional knitter originally from New Zealand, now living in Virginia Beach, VA--created a Lion themed sweater that won her a round-trip ticket and 3-nights hotel stay in NYC, including a special VIP tour of the Lion Brand Studio given by David Blumenthal, president of Lion Brand. It was a truly special experience for her, and I was glad to be a part of it!
The day started out with Marlene (who you may remember from blog posts such as this one) and myself meeting Natalie and her travel companion, Peggy, at Newark International Airport. Natalie was an instant inspiration. We were immediately drawn to her sassy, charming, witty, funny and upbeat personality.
On the way into New York City, Natalie shared stories with us about her journey to the U.S. and how she learned to knit at 5 years old and has kept on stitching ever since. In her earlier days, she averaged 85 sweaters per year! Natalie also told us, "I've knit for profit but mostly for pleasure. For every sweater sold, there are many more that I've given away." Not having been to New York in over 46 years, she was looking forward to visiting our Studio and seeing "all that yarn" and meeting David. In fact, she dressed up for the occasion.
As we walked into the Studio, Natalie's reaction was priceless. Her jaw dropped as she stood in awe looking at our winter window display. Entering the store she said, "Did I die and go to heaven?"
On the tour, David shared with Natalie a little bit about Lion Brand's history and values, and Natalie told David, "You have such a community-focused company. It was a great honor to have won the contest and meet you." [Pictured: David and Natalie]
What really struck me about Natalie is how passionate she is about Lion Brand. She told us that, with her eyes closed, she could touch and recognize our yarns. She's very particular about her yarns and looks for very specific weights and properties. What's her favorite yarn? Wool-Ease, she told us, because "Wool-Ease washes so well that my sweaters have been passed down from generation-to-generation and they still feel and look new."
In addition to the tour of the Studio, we took Natalie and Peggy to Mesa Grill, celebrity chef Bobby Flay's restaurant around the corner from the Studio. Natalie was also interviewed by Patty, our Studio director for the video below. Finally, we topped off the day with Natalie and Peggy as the special guests at the Studio's special event night, featuring popular knit & crochet designer Nicky Epstein. [Pictured: Natalie holding her prize-winning sweater, Nicky, and Patty]
Natalie is one of a kind. It was a real treat and pleasure for us to meet her and have her visit our Studio.
Click on the video below to hear from Natalie in her own words:
Keep an eye out for Lion Brand contests throughout the year at your local store and on LionBrand.com!