Interview: Local shop, Liamolly crafts facemasks with care in the Catskills
I first learned about local crafting business, Liamolly, at one of the biannual The Half Moon Markets held at Washington Park in Albany, NY. I adored their bright and buttery soft Italian spun 100% Egyptian cotton knitted wraps. Their patterns reflect the beauty of nature from butterfly wings, ferns, animal prints and more. Recently, Liamolly has added face masks to their online store and they can’t make them fast enough. Their Instagram stories (@liamolly) are consistently full of appreciation posts from people all over showing what a big difference a small business can make. I discussed the pandemic, family, music and more with Liamolly owner, Seema Sudan.
Susan Rice: How did Liamolly start? How long have you been crafting wraps?
Seema Sudan: Liamolly started in 2007 in New Orleans. We were making sweaters, dresses overseas back, but quickly realized that it was very hard to be creative and grow sustainably without the actual knitting machine accessible to us. Having to meet large minimums and ordering 9 months in advance required too much stressful future tripping and little control over our business. So with the help of Kickstarter supporters and their encouragement we raised the down payment for our knitting machine. Once our machine arrived the reality of the long learning curve set in and we decided to move to our place in the Catskills, Upstate New York to save money and settle into quietly mastering the technical challenges of learning to produce our products ourselves. Even though I have over 25 years of experience as a commercial knitwear designer I was amazed at how little I truly knew about knits until I had the tool in my own hands.
SR: How has the pandemic effected your business?
SS: I used to travel overseas a lot for my old corporate job at Anthropologie and one of my most vivid memories was traveling to Hong Kong after my son Liam was born and being a bit terrified as the SARS outbreak had just happened. I remember temperature checks, people wearing masks and buying a mask myself. Once the news started emerging about Covid I couldn’t help but be alarmed, as I was back then. The Pandemic rolled in as I was booking spring craft shows (Phoenicia Flea, Hudson Valley Hullabaloo, Renegade Craft fair) and preparing yarn orders and my knitting schedule. I quickly realized that we were no longer going to be at our favorite maker craft fairs at least for the spring and we decided it was time to put our energy into our online store and Instagram. I also just wanted to help in some small way and to use our skills. Our wraps are great for travel, and began to think of other ways they could be relevant to our times. Having a machine made pivoting and adjusting to the times easy. We still work from home and the machine is next door so staying at home is normal for us. We created a mask and wanted it to be as affordable as we could make it, so we created a reusable mask out of the extra yarn we had in our studio.
SR: How big of a role does your family play in the business?
SS: Liamolly is a family-literally! Liam is the name of my son and Molly is the name of my daughter. It’s a whole family endeavor. my daughter Molly runs the online business, social media, and designs, my son does a lot of ironing and they both model our pieces.
SR: Do you listen to music while you are crafting? What kind?
SS: Lately Liam has been exploring 90’s music and asking lots of questions about it. So we have gone down memory lane. Molly has been listening to Fiona Apple’s new album “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” on repeat while painting and designing new patterns for our wraps. We have a baby monitor attached to our machine so we can hear if the machine is still going and the sound of is a kind of contact mechanical hum throughout our house.
SR: You’ve made hundreds of face masks during this quarantine. Were you surprised by the demand? Were customers ordering masks from just NY or all over the country?
SS: We are really surprised! We have made hundreds and amazed ourselves that we can make 100 per day sometimes more just our little operation.
SR: Do you have any advice for beginners who want to learn how to knit/sew?
SS: Make, make, make! Jump into it and don’t be afraid. Don’t beat yourself up if it isn’t perfect and just let yourself play. Skill and technique comes from practice:)