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the story of explorer knits + fibers

from explorer to maker: my story

Hi there! My name is Ali, and I'm the founder, owner, and creator behind Explorer Knits + Fibers.

I first learned how to knit at a young age, curled up next to my aunt around Christmas time, awkwardly wrapping (and tangling) yarn around my needles. I made something that resembled an oddly long dishcloth if I remember correctly. I am happy to say that things have changed a little since then! My passion for knitting (and making in general) really came to fruition during my gap year after getting my bachelor's degree in Biology + Environmental Science. I had more free time than usual, and being the type of person that always needed to stay busy, knitting became my comfort craft. With piles of yarn in our tiny apartment (emphasis on tiny), I decided now was a better time than ever to try and start selling my knitwear. During the holiday season, I found myself knitting up a stack of 18 cowls (which seemed like a million to me at the time) and officially opening my Etsy Shop. We spent many nights contemplating the name of my shop and finally arrived at Ford Explorer Knits (my maiden name is Ford, I love spending time in nature, and I also love a good pun). I started my shop to use my knit goods to help keep others warm all over the world while they were exploring. 

In starting my shop, I slowly discovered the maker community through social media and fell in love with it. The supportive, kind, creatives that I have met through Instagram (and in real life!) are truly what has kept me going through this journey. Six months after I started Ford Explorer Knits I was accepted into graduate school for Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology. Juggling a small business while attending graduate school was not a simple feat. In fact, many times I find myself wondering whether I should just choose one of these things and make my life that much simpler. But, I loved learning too much to give up my behavioral research and since letting my creative side out, there is no chance of hiding it away again. So there I was, studying the social behavior of foxes by day, selling knitwear by night. 

In December 2017 my now husband, Zach, gifted me with a small set of materials and bare yarn to give hand-dyeing yarn a try. I had always talked about how much I admired other indie yarn dyers and their ability to create such beautiful colorways time and time again. Zach, sometimes knowing me better than I know myself, thought it was time I give dyeing a try. Sure, he thought the five skeins he gave me would be enough for it to be a fun little experiment and that would be the end. However, many months later, I found myself with a home full of bare yarn waiting to be dyed and my own little single garage dye studio + workspace set up in our home, transitioning away from selling knitwear and pivoting fully to dyeing yarn. Some may call it 'maker ADD', but my passion for dyeing is something I could have never expected. Creating something so unique and inspired by places I've traveled brings me so much joy and inspiration. AND seeing others create beautiful knit garments with my hand-dyed yarn is the most special feeling in the world! 

Fast forward to 2019, with my husband becoming a DVM and myself a Master in Biological Sciences, we made the long-awaited move to Colorado, where I took the leap to full-time small business owner. In July 2020, after releasing my Italy Collection, I hired my first two employees. While it was one of the scariest things I have ever done, it was the best possible thing for Explorer Knits + Fibers and my own personal wellbeing. 

Now, in July 2022, we have just recently moved into our very first commercial space(!!!) and II have a team of seven incredibly talented, kind, hardworking women standing alongside me. These women are helping Explorer Knits + Fibers become the best possible version of itself and I will always be immeasurably grateful for having them by my side.  

Being an artist is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done, and in addition to it keeping me happy and creative, it also helps me support the lives of my team and, equally important, buy more toys and treats for my CPOs (Chief Pet Officers), Noona + Frankie.

So thank you, truly, from our EKF family to yours, for joining us on this adventure and supporting my dreams! 

giving back to nature + more 

Because of my love for the great outdoors and determination to play a role in helping our environment, a portion of every purchase has always been donated to the National Park Foundation. Starting in 2021, EKF made a 3-year, $75,000 pledge to the National Park Foundation’s Park Ventures, a program created in an effort to focus “on communities who have been historically excluded from national parks and the outdoors.” This program awards grants to non-profit agencies “who have a significant and proven connection with historically underrepresented communities and to National Park Service sites to encourage a greater connection and collaboration to bring people to the parks.” Here at EKF, we firmly believe in equitable access to all spaces, especially in our National Parks. The outdoors should be a safe space for everyone and we hope that this pledge will help make this dream a reality. Stay warm and happy exploring!