Fiber Expo

Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds. 5055 Ann Arbor Saline Road  —  Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103. Hours: Saturday 9:00am—4:00pm & Sunday 10:00 am — 3:00 pm. $4 admission – one day; $6 admission – two days (children 12 & under free).

Join us for a fiber fantasy – wool, alpaca, linen, cotton and more – from the plant or animal to the finished product. No Dogs Allowed except service dogs.

Autumn Fiber Festival

We are excited to announce the 6th Annual Autumn Fiber Festival!
Local fiber producers, craftsmen and artists will be brought together to display and sell their wares, demonstrate their skills and educate the visiting public about natural fibers and their importance to our community and culture.

FREE ADMISSION/FREE PARKING

when you expect something

Last year I could see that my event schedule would be changing quite dramatically.

A Knitter’s Fantasy, which was the very first fiber show I vended at (and attended), shut down after 20 years. It was sad for several reasons, not just that it left a hole in my yearly schedule. Another show I said goodbye to was the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival. It too had been an early vending experience, but the expense was too high to justify going. Perhaps after this spring without it, I will reconsider for 2017. Without those two events, March and April were left wide open. May was stable with the Great Lakes Fiber Show and June was still in question, although I know now that last year’s June event, the Mid Ohio Fiber Show, is scheduled for the same day as an SCA activity I have to attend, so no show for June. I expected to have a very empty spring season, but I didn’t realize this until it was too late to do anything about it.

Or so I thought.

April || Just a few weeks ago I was told about the Ann Arbor Fiber Expo, so I checked out the webpage and sent in my application. This is a totally new show for me and it’s in Michigan! I was surprised to discover it is only 3.5 hours away. It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve been to Michigan — this is significant because I was born in Petoskey, MI. So why not expand to a new state? Oh yes, the taxes. We’ll figure that out later.

March || I decided to apply again for Homespun Yarn Party in Maryland. This will be my second time applying and most likely being declined. Because who doesn’t like hearing again that you are unwanted? I know they focus on locals and that’s nice, so I shouldn’t be too whiny about it. Vendor list will be distributed next week, so the wait will be over soon. I’m not entirely sure which way I want it to go.

April again || Just a few days ago I received a letter in the mail from a local yarn shop (local is a relative term) regarding a replacement for A Knitter’s Fantasy called A Knitter’s Delight. Since I had the weekend free, I figured I ought to do it. The booth costs $25 and it’s not that far away.

If I lost you somewhere in there, here’s the final score:

February = Indie Knit & Spin
March = Homespun Yarn Party (maybe)
April = Fiber Expo & A Knitter’s Delight
May = Great Lakes Fiber Show
June = vacant

There is still a possibility that March will be vacant, but I’ll have two the next month. And February is usually vacant, so March will be bolstered on either side. If you are the type of person who likes complete control over things, don’t get into this business. Things drift in and out of your life whether you like it or not. I know I should be doing wholesale orders and fiber clubs to fill the gaps, but I can barely keep a handle on what I have going on now.

By the way, I am aware that my calendar widget is not working. I have to find a new one.

PKC coupon

FBcoupon

Heading to the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival next month? Dates are March 27 through 29. Shop Friday afternoon and all day Saturday and Sunday. Be sure to claim your coupon on my Facebook page to receive 25% off your total purchase in my booth. This offer is valid for one time use at that event ONLY. Don’t forget to “like” my page to get updates and special offers like this for every event.

on the road again

This weekend I am heading to WOOSTER! Yes, it’s time again for the Great Lakes Fiber Show, one of my favorites. It looks like the weather for this weekend is going to be superb. Last year it was cold! And the year before I could barely function in the heat. I think this time around we’ll get it just right.

I don’t have anything wildly innovative and new for this event. I’ve got some dyed roving in a new breed, Romney/Border Leicester, plus locks, freshly carded batts, and a larger selection of Companion Colors. In addition to the fiber, I will have two sets of wool combs from Valkyrie. One is the larger Viking comb and the other is a smaller, finer set. And my new logo buttons will be available! These were made locally by a friend and fellow small business person. I am going to pick them up today, in fact. If you want one, it’s just $1 or free with $30 purchase.

buttons

Since the month of June is surprisingly vacant, I suppose I feel the need to continue to add in other events. In that spirit of panic, I just added something else to my schedule at the last minute: Festival on Phelps in Youngstown. It’s a community event/benefit headed up by some friends, so I thought it would be a good thing in which to participate. It’s next Saturday, and the night before I am doing a fiber workshop at Greyland Gallery. You could make a weekend out of it! Oh, it’s going to be another busy one. That’s the job though, right?

facets of the business

I often realize that there are many different facets to my business, Gwen Erin Natural Fibers. While it may have started as a knitting-focused endeavor, things have definitely changed. When I am at craft show, where most customers expect to buy finished goods, I usually get a few people who ask about my mitts as if I am there solely for the purpose of giving them ideas for their next personal knitting project. They flip the mitt over and over again, trying to figure out exactly how I created it. “Oh, I can do that,” they inform me. “I never said you couldn’t,” I think. Even though these interactions bother me, I’ve come to the conclusion that knitwear is not my primary focus. Rather, I am in the business of selling fiber and yarn. If I can encourage a customer to purchase yarn because they see what I’ve made with it, then I’ve still made a sale. I have now come to see my finished goods as samples-for-sale. Of course, if I were actually able to record the patterns for the things I make, all the better!

There are two main types of events I participate in, and they have slightly different inventory. This can be confusing sometimes. Why didn’t I bring my spindles to the Holiday Art Show? Because I didn’t make them. Below I have outlined the major characteristics for these two types of events.

Yarn/Fiber Shows

  • Items must be fiber related
  • Large quantity of fiber & yarn
  • Spinning & knitting tools (including resale items)
  • No finished items (or a very limited selection)
  • Typically a “booth” space (10×10, 10×12 or 8×8)

Craft Shows

  • Everything must be handmade by the artist/crafter
  • Focus on finished items: knitwear, jewelry, housewares
  • Smaller selection of fiber
  • No resale items (spindles, notions, etc.)
  • Typically a single table (6 or 8 foot)

booths

In addition to “live” sales, I have had an online shop since 2008. Recently I shifted from using Etsy to using Storenvy. One of the main reasons I made this decision was financial. Also, I wanted to step away from the restriction of only selling handmade items (not that it really matters on Etsy anymore). My goal was to create a separate branch of the business, a way to differentiate the online aspect and keep it open during festival season. This led me to create a destashing shop. The fiber inventory listed there will only be available online.

Having all these different aspects to my business can get confusing, but it also makes me very versatile. I can shift from one type of event to another, recreating myself as I go. My display changes with the inventory, but the theme stays the same: natural fibers!

event recap

This was year #5 for me at A Knitter’s Fantasy. While it isn’t the highest scoring event on the schedule, it is still special. This was my first step into the world of yarn shows (back in 2010). I appreciate its proximity to my house: about 7 1/2 miles. I enjoy setting up Friday night. I am glad the booth fee is reasonable. And of course, I always love seeing my fellow vendors and friends. Ana and I shared an 8×16 booth again. My half is pictured below.

AKF2014

This year I quietly debuted my newest dyed item: Companion Colors. I only had three pairs, so it was more of an experiment than a grand introduction. Mostly I think they were ignored, but I did sell one to someone who was very happy to take it home. I am looking forward to playing around with the process more during my next dye day. Perhaps by Great Lakes I’ll have a nice stock of them and do a bigger display (with signs).

Right before packing (and I mean RIGHT BEFORE) I was still labeling yarn and fiber. I’ve been fiddling a bit with my tags, so some items had a newly updated version. I’ve been trying to print horizontal labels, but it’s actually been somewhat difficult. I don’t use any fancy image software and whenever I print things, they always come out grainy or fuzzy. The best method yet has been to print a sticky label and attach it to the band. I used them for new Sheep Tones skeins and the Companion Colors. I do like the way they look, however, the edges of the label are coming up! Blarg.

turning straw into gold

Or at the very least, turning white fiber into colorful fiber. It feels like I’ve been spinning more in the past three weeks than I have all year. Totaled up, I got 10 new skeins done. Some have already found new homes, but I’m going to keep at it this week because I’m not quite done yet.

Untitled
This past weekend I went to Pittsburgh for Indie Knit & Spin and it was a fantastic day. When the right people are there, ready to shop, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable, it just doesn’t get any better. I sold the Country Craftsman spinning wheel, so now my living room is a bit more spacious (just in time for Christmas!). The totes and bags I just filled with fiber are already empty again, so I see plenty of dyeing in my future, although that can wait until January!

Indie Knit & Spin
Even though I am done for the year with fiber festivals, I have one more event to attend. I am participating in a local art/craft show this weekend. Many of the other vendors are friends from my days in college, so it will be nice to be “back home” this holiday season. For this event I will need primarily finished goods, but I’m going to bring yarn and a bit of fiber to help fill in the space. I’ve been trying to get as much knitting done as possible, but I always wait until the last minute. And where I should have 50 pairs of fingerless mitts done, I only have 12. My goal is 15, so this week I will be doing a lot of frantic knitting, some felting, a bit of carding, and some spinning.

amccard
After all the hubbub dies down, I swear I’m going to start crocheting more. I bought those two books from Knit Picks and I just haven’t had the time to really sit down and work with them. My December and January are clear right now, so I’m looking forward to taking a breather, washing my fleeces, conducting some experiments, and learning a few new things. Sadly, when you are in production mode, you don’t always have the time to explore. But if you don’t, then your work can get dull. It’s a delicate balance.

Indie Knit & Spinnin’

That’s right, friends. We’re already making plans for this year’s Indie Knit & Spin in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We’ve expanded significantly since our first show in 2011. This year we are moving upstairs to accommodate more vendors. It’s going to be a crazy awesome time, so mark your calendars. You won’t want to miss it! You can get the details on the blog or join the Facebook page to get the latest updates.

Wilkins School Community Center in Regent Square
7604 Charleston Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15218

Saturday November 16th, 2013
11 am to 5 pm

8x8 booth

shots of the booth

Finally getting to share these photos from Great Lakes. I used my new “check-out counter” for the first time. It is also from Woodland Marketing, so it folds/stores/transports easily and it matches the other lattice shelving that I have. I love that I can hang yarn from it and attach my sign with no problem. Once I get a shelf in there, it’s going to be even better.

Overall I am very pleased with this layout. There is more room for expansion if needed in the future. Having a spot for Rich takes up some space, but I’d really hate to be there alone all day (not to mention the weekend)!

Great Lakes Fiber Show

Great Lakes Fiber Show

I used the “in-between” shelves again this time for the batts. We cut those last summer, but I didn’t start using them until last month. Once I get the spacing down, it will look less tweaky. Guess I didn’t realize I was still a bit low on inventory – the bottom shelves aren’t full. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me to get ready for Woolfest.

Great Lakes Fiber Show

Sitting there during the day, it felt like the traffic was slow. However, after counting everything up, it came out fairly average. It’s always interesting to me to see how the different items move. At some events I won’t sell any Eucalan, like last month. But this weekend I sold several large bottles. The locks weren’t popular at all, but other times I sell loads. I’m definitely seeing that it’s good to have a variety!

Great Lakes Fiber Show