The Tulip Company: Precision Tools for the Meticulous Crafter

In January 2015, my mom and I were honored to be invited to Japan by the Tulip Company to help promote Tulip products. We were asked to demonstrate bead crochet, knitting, and crochet in the Tulip Company booth at the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival at the Tokyo Dome. When we expressed our excitement and our shared lifelong dream of visiting Japan, Tulip generously expanded its welcome, inviting us first to Kyoto and then to Hiroshima, where we were given a tour of the company’s offices and factory. It was the trip of a lifetime.

We had been working with Tulip since 2006, shortly after launching our two companies: The Well Done Experience and Chicken and the Egg Designs, both of which are devoted primarily to the perpetuation of, education about, and production of bead crochet and other fiber arts. At that time, members of the Tulip team had just designed a line of crochet hooks called Sucre specifically for bead crochet. We met with company members who wanted to introduce these products to the American market, and we fell in love with the hooks (as well as with Tulip’s other products). We began using them exclusively for both our own work and teaching.

An International Friendship

Our relationship with Tulip continued to grow. We met with members of the team each time they were in New York to hear about their newest innovations and to help them expand their visibility in the United States. In 2012, at the TNNA summer show, we launched our book, Bead Crochet Jewelry: An Inspired Journey Through 27 Designs (St. Martins Griffin, 2012). Tulip not only sponsored our class but also hosted a book signing in the Tulip booth.

tulip company

Before our trip to Japan, we knew Tulip made superior products that we preferred to others on the market because of their sleek design, comfort, and durability. But it wasn’t until we visited the factory in Hiroshima and witnessed production firsthand that we truly appreciated the quality of these hooks.

Hiroshima has a rich history of needle production dating back more than three hundred years. Because its unique geographical location gives it access to “tatara” iron manufacturing from the Chūgoku Mountain iron sand region via the Otagawa River, Hiroshima was able to make the production of needles a distinctive local industry during the Edo period (1603–1868). Today, Hiroshima remains the center of sewing-needle production in Japan, producing more than 90 percent of the country’s needles and pins.

Tulip’s Heritage Continues

Atsushi Harada founded the Tulip Company in 1948 as a manufacturer of finishing needles and wire processing, established on a commitment to developing a high-quality product that is both reliable and easy to use. In 1953, the company began manufacturing and exporting crochet hooks and knitting needles for the handcraft industry.

The second and current president, Kotaro Harada, continues the company’s legacy. Tulip has always used traditional needle-making techniques, processing crochet hooks more than twenty times and sewing needles more than thirty. Not surprisingly, Tulip describes its needle crafters as having “an almost stubborn obsession with quality.” Today, the Tulip Company maintains its dedication to traditional techniques while constantly striving for innovation in the five hundred products it manufactures.

Our visit to Japan and the company’s headquarters has left a deep, lasting impression. Each time we hold a Tulip product in our hands, we are reminded of all the members of the Tulip team who share the same dedication to improving customers’ experiences. It is rare to find a company whose employees, from factory workers to sales people, genuinely want to give customers a better quality of life by producing something they will truly enjoy using.

Dana Freed Fiddes is the cofounder of The Well Done Experience and Chicken and Egg Designs. She teaches crochet and knitting and designs in New York City. You can find her and her designs on Ravelry as DanaFreed.

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