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Dealing in dishrags

Tyler woman has made a home business with her knitting machine, and dishrags are the top-selling item

August 22, 2011
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

TYLER - People looking for both comfort and a measure of financial independence often wonder what kind of business they could run out of their home, like some professional writers, consultants, or certified public accountants do.

Liz Hansen, who lives on Hansen Street in Tyler, manufactures knitted goods in a spare room in her home to sell at crafts shows and to a small group of devoted customers.

"I started 25 years ago in Alexandria," Hansen said. "That's when I got my first knitting machine. I was working at the fabric center in the mall. In '88 or '89 I moved down to Tyler and started going to crafts shows."

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Photo by Steve Browne
Liz Hansen operates a knitting business out of her home in Tyler, and the most popular item she makes is dishrags.

Hansen makes acrylic/polyester sweaters and headbands, but she said the greatest demand is for knit cotton dishrags.

"I sell dishrags more than anything else," Hansen said, "I can't compete with Wal-Mart and K-Mart sweaters."

Robert Olsen, environmental administrator for Lincoln County, has been Hansen's customer for the past five years.

"They're really nice," Olsen said. "They're very durable and they're really good for scrubbing, but they don't damage the pans."

Olsen orders several of Hansen's dishrags at a time, and bundles of them to give to his sister and daughters at Christmas.

Hansen still has her first knitting machine, as well as a custom embroidering sewing machine, but now she mostly uses a more recent model with more automatic features.

"I was at a crafts show sitting next to a gal who wanted to go into custom embroidery and offered to sell me her machine and a closet full of yarn."

Hansen said she works a few hours a day, "just for something to do." She used to travel further for crafts shows, about six weekends in a row during the year, but these days limits herself to local shows.

"The crafts show in Tyler is coming up and I'm on the committee so I've got to go," Hansen said.

At a typical crafts show Hansen said she expects to sell 40 to 50 dishrags at $2.50 apiece, and when the season is over she switches to her other line of work.

"I do alterations in wintertime," Hansen said. "It keeps me busy putting zippers in jackets. I don't even run an ad in the paper anymore. People call and say, 'Do you still do this?'"

One gets the impression Hansen could have a much larger operation if she cared to, she said her regular customers are almost entirely people who've bought her dishrags at crafts shows.

"I don't know why people like my dishrags," Hansen said, "but they always come back for more."



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