Taking an idea to market

Boise inventor's Knit Kit gets noticed by local knitters, Martha Stewart


kmoeller@ idahostatesman.com

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

A couple of weeks ago, Boisean Barbara Barry got an e-mail from staff at "The Martha Stewart Show." HerKnit Kit was going to be mentioned in a show on knitting.

"I was so in shock. It was just wild," said Barry, who flew out to New York City last week to be in theaudience for the taping of the show.

Barry hopes the exposure on the do-it-yourself maven's show will boost her business to the next level.

"You can't pay for publicity like this ... To have it in her hands is the greatest thing (to) happen in the craft industry," Barry said.

Watch it: The show will air at 9 a.m. Wednesday on KNIN-Channel 9 (one day after it airs nationally).
Published: March 9, 2010
© 2010 Idaho Statesman

It all started with a new hobby - knitting - which Barbara Barry took up about four years ago.

"Every time I learned something new, I'd have to buy something new," Barry said of knitting accessories, such as a stitch counter, crochet hook and tape measure. "And they all kept getting lost at the bottom of my knitting bag."

Barry scoured the Internet for what she thought she needed - some kind of kit that packaged all, or most, ofthe things she needed for knitting in one tidy little package. But she didn't find it.

"It was that 'a-ha' moment," said Barry, a former teacher, restaurant owner and longtime entrepreneur.

She decided to invent one for herself - and the millions of people worldwide who knit and crochet. She began selling The Knit Kit last year, and has since sold 40,000 in the United States and 10 other countries.

already popular

Mary Humme admits she was skeptical when Barry first brought The Knit Kit to Fuzz, a fiber arts shop in Boise. Now she owns five of them - she keeps one in all her project bags and one in her car.

"I was hooked within the first 15 minutes," said Humme, co-owner of Fuzz with Diane Rinaldo. "It's compact and easy to use."

Rinaldo said the kit is $5 to $6 cheaper than buying each of the individual accessories separately. She recommends it to novice knitters, while seasoned knitters who've heard about it are beginning to seek it out.

Carolina Homespun in Meridian carries The Knit Kit.

"When it first came out, people were kind of excited about it," said Morgaine Wilder, owner of the shop. "It's a nifty little idea ... It really does nicely what it's intended to do - keep a group of tools all in one place. It's easy to hold, easy to manage."

getting started

Barry, who is originally from Los Angeles, worked as a bilingual (English/Spanish) elementary school teacher before opening and running three pre-schools. She's also owned a restaurant in Ketchum - where she still has a ranch - and sold real estate.

The process of creating a new product isn't as hard as some might think, she said. She sketched it out on a napkin, then worked with a prototype maker in Santa Monica, Calif., to get it just right.

"That was kind of fun - and tedious," Barry said, explaining that the prototype maker had no idea what theaccessory tools are used for.

In January 2009, The Knit Kit was introduced at the National Needle Arts Association's winter show.

Now she's closing in on about $800,000 in sales - more than earning back her initial investment of $150,000 to get the business going. The profit is invested back into the product, she said.

Barry has a patent pending. And she's already planning to create new kits for the crafts market, including quilters.

ok on some planes

So what's in the kits?

The newest version, which is slightly larger than a women's mirror compact, has seven items: stitch counter (for rows), double-sided crochet hook, thread cutter, 5-foot tape measure, point protectors, collapsible scissors and a darning needle.

The scissors are Transportation Safety Administration approved.

"One of the hugest uses is for travel. Just throw it in a bag and go," Barry said, noting, however, that it's not guaranteed to fly through screening for international travel.

Barry's Boise-based business has a half dozen employees at a basement office in BoDo - including a newly hired marketing director - and the "kits" are manufactured in China. They retail for $19.95 at what Barry calls "little yarn shops."

"They have more loyalty," Barry said, adding that the process for getting into the large chains is onerous.

"I just wanted to grow my baby, and I love the industry and the people in my industry."
Joe Jaszewski / jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

Barbara Barry just returned to Boise after taping an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show, where she promoted The Knit Kit, a product she created that contains commonly used tools for knitters in a compact package.

Joe Jaszewski / jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

Barbara Barry's Knit Kit is like a Swiss army knife for knitters.

Copyright 2010, The Idaho Statesman