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Parkersburg thread company has success sewn up

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Photo courtesy of Kreinik Manufacturing Co. Photo courtesy of Kreinik Manufacturing Co.

By CYNTHIA McCLOUD
For The State Journal

A Parkersburg company continues to bring innovation to the hand-needlecraft industry.

The first product Kreinik Manufacturing Co. brought to market was born of necessity. Satisfying crafters' needs would become its pattern for success.

"My mother used to teach couture and design," Doug Kreinik said. "She created the first needlework organizer on the market.

"It was a fairly new industry at the time," he said, retelling a family story that resulted in the start of the family business little more than 40 years ago.

"My parents had moved to West Virginia in 1966. My father had worked for a chemical company that no longer exists. He was in the plastics chemical industry, and they fired everyone who was over 55. This was before age-discrimination laws," he said. "My dad had lost his job and my parents were driving to a job interview somewhere in Delaware and my mom was doing needlepoint and her supplies spilled all over the back of the car."

Estelle and Jerry Kreinik invented a needlework organizer, but they didn't stop there.

"Both had backgrounds in textiles and both had great imaginations," Doug Kreinik said. 

According to Jerry Kreinik's obituary, "he worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yards developing textiles used for submariners and polar explorers, advanced the science of zippers, fasteners and buttons, working on the creative team developing the ‘D' ring used by millions today, and established sizing for woman's clothing. He taught the first class in plastics in the 1950s at Brooklyn College in N.Y., designed dustless charcoal. Along with this, he advanced the innovation of foam plastics, structural plastics and laminates."

And, in 1971, Jerry and Estelle Kreinik took their experience and founded Kreinik Manufacturing Co. in Parkersburg. 

"Using materials that had never been contemplated, they developed lines of soft, usable craft yarn products in silks and metallics that felt good to the touch," Jerry Kreinik's obit continues.

"They made a real difference because a lot of people do things today because of things they introduced," Doug Kreinik said. "They did a lot to introduce silk embroidery yarn into the marketplace."

When the couple retired, Doug and one of his brothers took over. They continue to pioneer new products.

Most recently, Kreinik is getting into knitting and developing his own line of twisted yarn.

Kreinik is a leader in metallic and other specialty threads and yarns, including a reflective yarn that has glass beads in it.

"We have metallic braids in 260 colors and seven sizes," Doug Kreinik said. "We have a full line of silk embroidery threads, actually three lines. We usually have to stay ahead of the curve and we're constantly being copied."

The company's glow-in-the-dark yarn isn't just for Halloween.

Doug Kreinik brought that out in response to someone who makes a lot of costumes for Broadway shows who was looking for something that would reflect or glow when the lights turn out.

When he talked to a customer in Miami who makes a whole line of swimwear from Kreinik glow-in-the-dark yarn, the customer started to talk about how the fiber is good for both chlorine and saltwater. Kreinik quickly learned that in Miami such clothing is worn to a disco more frequently than to a pool or beach.

Another Kreinik innovation is Treasure Tape, a double-sided adhesive that's popular with card-makers, scrapbookers and clothing embellishers.

"We would put it over pictures and take thread and trace around the picture and pour clear beads on there," Kreinik said. "People use it on shoes and clothing and all sorts of places."

Kreinik sells thread products all over the world through 22 distributors, including a fly-fishing company in Denmark.

Kreinik is encouraging craft stores to run fly-tying classes to attract fly-fishermen and women, who find Kreinik's blending filament superior for tying flies. 

"The fishing stores don't carry the quantity and variety of thread we do," Kreinik tells them. "We welcome them with open arms. They're customers. 

"You don't care what they're using it for. You want to sell the product."

The innovations that cause Kreinik to thrive result from identifying what people want and filling those needs in the marketplace.

"I would go to costuming shows," Kreinik said. "Lots of young people we dealt with couldn't sew and because they couldn't sew, they loved tape. They could cheat. 

"Now, we have iron-on thread. It's the cheater's way of doing embroidery. It's a big business that is in Japan and also in England."

Handcrafts aren't dying out as Kreinik's parents' customers age. Younger crafters are picking it up.

"Generation Y wants to customize everything and make it their own thing," he said. "It's great for us. They want to recycle, repurpose and reuse.

"When I visited my daughter in Los Angeles, she took me to an art show of all these young people who had made their own stuffed animals by hand. It shows that art is alive and people still like to create."