Sarah Parys is the one-woman entrepreneur behind East Parlor, an online vendor of handwoven home goods and accessories. She’s a weaver based in Omaha with an eye for simple, classic looks and stylish color combinations. And, since she makes her products from natural materials such as cotton, wool, and bamboo, she appeals to environmentally conscious shoppers who prefer handmade items over mass-produced, manufactured goods.
“They want the one-of-a-kind thing,” says Parys of her customers.
East Parlor items are available on Etsy, where customers are able to order customized pieces. Parys says many of her goods, such as her large, woven wall hangings, are made without patterns, so each will be unique just by the nature of her process.
Offline, her woven items are available in a few locations. In Omaha, Parys sells her goods through Made In Omaha and at local maker fairs like Hutchfest and Bench: MADE.
One of her customers, Vera Petersen, co-owner and head of community engagement of Bench, bought a scarf and wall tapestry after seeing Parys at local maker fairs. She describes Parys’ products as having a rich, high-end feel to them. You have to touch them to understand the reasoning behind the price, she says.
“It’s almost hard to believe that it’s handmade,” says Petersen. “There’s a good luxury quality about it.”
Parys didn’t set out to work with fibers. While studying at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, she focused on drawing and mixed media. She even sold some of her drawings. Then, a few years ago, she noticed a trend. Tapestry weavings were gaining in popularity, so she decided she’d try it out.
With the help of books and Youtube videos, Parys taught herself the basics. And she loved it. She learned to make more designs and got herself larger and larger looms.
Now, more than four years later, Parys works out of her home. A mom to seven boys, ages 1 to 17, she weaves when she can—typically during naptime and after bedtime.
“It’s not finding the time, it’s making the time,” she says.
She fits her business around family life. A large four-shaft loom rests in the corner of the dining room beside the dinner table and ironing board. She buys most of her yarns online, and some locally at Personal Threads Boutique and ImaginKnit Yarn Shop. A few hand towels she recently made from hemp are stacked on the table. A couple of her pillows are on a chair.
Depending on the size and design of a project, Parys dedicates about two to three hours to weave a scarf; wall tapestries, which tend to be larger, require more than three hours.
With a few years in the business, Parys has learned to simplify her workload to what she knows sells best. “After doing this for a while, I have my staple ones I like to do,” she says. “Simple ones…Tone it back and keep it real simple.”
She’s learned the textures and colors that appeal to a wide audience, and those best-sellers continue to do well.
Petersen bought one of those pieces.
“She has a pattern right now—maroon, white, and a unique blue,” describes Petersen. “That one blew up and everyone loved it, and she made a bunch of them. It was perfect, exactly what I wanted.”
Visit etsy.com/shop/eastparlor to see more of Parys’ work or to purchase a custom piece.