…which I am not.
For years I have been steadfast in my use of carbon copy paper receipts. “Oh, I don’t need a receipt,” the customer would say. “Too bad. I’m already writing it,” I replied. In general I have been fairly resistant to change and technology – I’m a spinner for Pete’s sake! How fuddy-duddy can you get? But every now and then I pop my head out of my hovel and see that there are things out there that could make my life a little bit simpler. Quickbooks for accounting! Sort of helpful, sort of a huge a pain in the ass. Smartphone with Square! Allows me to take charge cards. Excel spreadsheets! Keeps track of my fiber inventory and tallies stuff up. Aaaand that’s where it ends. Until last week. I took the plunge and got myself a TABLET! Impressive, I know. I wanted to try switching from handwritten receipts to keeping track of all my sales through Square. I went to a show over the weekend, so I didn’t have to wait long to give it a test run.
Some cool things:
- Tax included. I already do this, but now all the math has been done for me. Phew!
- Time stamp. I can see that I had a sale at 9:20, 9:22, 9:26, 9:30, etc. And my suspicions that the last hour is a bust have been confirmed.
- Sales totaled. After my big day, I get a report from Square complete with charts (yay!) and numbers letting me know how much I grossed and what items sold the best. I love charts.
- Less “stuff”. Now I don’t have to have a pen, calculator, notebook, receipt book, cash envelope, change purse… blaaaah…
- Looks fancy. What says “small businesswoman in the 21st century” more than flipping a snazzy new tablet around in people’s faces?
I wish they had a way for you to make multiple inventory lists. For some events I don’t sell certain things and it would be nice to hide them. There is no hiding of items.
Another funny thing that happened on my way to modernity: I forgot my cash box at home. That included all my change, receipt books, pens, markers, notebook, and Square reader. Yep. When I realized this, I asked some other vendors if they had an extra reader, but no. Then I went hunting online to find a Best Buy or Staples. So far away! THEN I went to Square’s website and found out that they are sold at Rite Aid. WHAT?! After dinner my trusty companion, Amber who rocks, and I headed up the street to the closest Rite Aid and they had it! Plus I got some change. I was saved and it was spectacular. Bonus: now I have two working readers. The day went great. I think using the Square went great. It is always amusing to watch as someone smashes your stylus into the screen and asks why it is so sticky. Or they lay their entire hand on the screen and can’t figure out why the stylus isn’t writing. There is a reason I applied a screen protector.
Also, I didn’t have time to buy a case, so I whipped together a little sleeve before leaving the house on Friday. I took a piece of felt and sewed up the sides (as seen above). Blammo! Other than the awesome Square app, I haven’t figured out why my tablet is better than my smartphone or computer. I still prefer to navigate websites and such on the laptop. And the camera on my phone is FAR superior. However, using the tablet in the kitchen to read recipes has been handy. Hopefully I will discover other reasons to justify its purchase. I just wish I could get my email account to work on it.
And here is the obligatory booth shot from Autumn Fiber Festival in Ashland, OH. I love this event because we get a 10×12 space. And it is just one day of fever-pitch shopping!
I feel inclined to do a follow-up post about the YSU Summer Festival of the Arts. Just before we went, I was so very excited. However, when I got home that enthusiasm had waned considerably. First, the good parts. Our booth looked awesome! Amber and I worked very well together (by my estimation) and I think it showed. Since we both use each other’s products, we can talk about them with confidence. Her items went on the table since it was the most stable item in the tent, and I was able to test out my clothesline display along with all my new signs and photos (that I am quite sure no one noticed).
Saturday started out hot and it stayed that way all day. Everyone who came into the tent let us know that it was hot in there (which of course we knew) and eventually we lifted the side walls to get some breeze. It did help, but nothing can stop the sun when it is determined to bake you alive inside a polyester bag. Overall the traffic was slow, but we remained optimistic.
Sunday presented new problems. Instead of blistering heat, we had WIND! and RAIN! and wind and rain together! When I arrived Sunday morning, I found that my shelves had been knocked over, so I set them back up. While I was out visiting, they fell over again. It would become a reoccurring drama throughout the day. “Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just standing in front of this shelf so it doesn’t fall over.”
Eventually when the rain came in earnest, we had a serious problem. The roof was sagging at the corners allowing water to pool and then fall straight through onto my goods. Luckily wool is water repellent, so nothing was seriously damaged, even the tags remained whole. But two hours before closing, I was ready to call it quits. Thankfully the table with Amber’s items was safe, so we moved it out to the edge of the tent and soldiered on. By the end of the event our excitement had literally been dampened. However, we experienced a harrowing adventure together and came out stronger on the other side!
I’m super excited about this weekend for a lot of reasons.
1) It’s the Summer Festival of the Arts at YSU. Which is awesome all by itself, but I’m going to be vending there for the first time! I’ve been going to this event for years. First just because it was a fun family activity. Then I started working on campus, so I would work that weekend and get to enjoy the food. And for a few years our SCA group did a demo. Now I get to really be a part of it by having my own little tent!
2) I’m doing the show with a friend of mine I’ve mentioned before: Amber. She’s an awesome crocheter, but her main thing is beekeeping and urban farming. She makes lovely lotions, perfumes, and lip balms with the various things she grows. Our products together are going to look awesome! I just can’t wait to see it. Planning out the booth with her yesterday made me so happy. Check out Wick & Fifth.
3) New display! I’ve been wanting to display my knitwear in a different way, but I just wasn’t sure how. Laying the stuff flat on the table is so dreary. I really love tiny clothespins and I thought hanging the items up would make them more visible, but I would need a sturdy line on which to hang. What would I attach the line to? It can’t be something that would fall over under the weight. Since I’ll have a tent frame, I’m going to attach the line to the legs at the back. I won’t have to bring anything extra and there is no risk of it fall in on itself. Success! I hope.
4) Along with the knit items on the clothesline, I’m going to hang photos I’ve taken during the spinning, knitting, and dyeing process. Many people at craft shows don’t understand what makes these items special; they don’t know what “handspun” means. I’m hoping that seeing the photos will either explain things to them or at least encourage them to ask questions. Plus it will look awesome!
The only thing that is crushing my spirit is the weather forecast. It’s supposed to be nice on Friday, which is good since we’re setting up that day. But there is a 40% chance of rain for both Saturday and Sunday. WHY?? It’s never rained any other year I’ve gone. Why this year? Oh, now it says no rain Saturday, but a higher chance on Sunday. Maybe by the weekend there will be no chance? All I can do is forge ahead and bring my sidewalls.
I was so jazzed when I found out that Walgreens will print square photos directly from Instagram! I went through my year’s worth of pictures and selected ones that represented my work in progress. In an hour I went to pick them up. How cool is that? I threw in a few pictures of Olive, my cat, just because I don’t have any printed photos of her. I’ll intersperse these among the knits. I cannot wait to see this! Even if no one else cares, I’m going to enjoy it. So there.
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.
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?
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.
- 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)
- 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)
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!
The new online shopping destination for Gwen Erin Natural Fibers is finally open.
I hadn’t really planned to work on it today, but then I did. And now it is open for business. I am excited about the new look and the new opportunities it presents. Not only do I have fiber listed, I also have Eucalan available and the tote bags!
As I mentioned before, the main goal with this shop is to have older inventory and destash items for sale instead of spinning them myself. Since the roving and top are “well traveled” I have discounted them. It’s all still useable, you just may want to do more predrafting than usual. Or use them in a felting project. Or card them. Or maybe you won’t notice a difference.
Take a look. Feel free to let me know if you have any suggestions. Since these are destash items, I will not be bringing them on the road. This means I will be able to have the shop open all year round, even during festival season. Hopefully this will be easier for me to maintain and better for you. No more, “Is it open? Is it closed?” Simply, it is open!
One way I have grown my business through the years is by selling spinning and knitting accessories crafted by talented friends. I have put together a collection of handmade goodies that compliment my own fibers and yarn. It’s been a great way to support other small businesses, supplement my inventory, and increase the general appeal of my business.
My inventory reflects a variety of handmade items, some of which I have created and some created by other artists and crafters. Over the next few weeks I will be showcasing the wonderful collection of handcrafted spinning and knitting accessories I have gathered together.
Stay tuned for more about these fine artists :
- Nature’s Honey Craft Soaps
- Beaded Stitch Markers by Jan
- Valkyrie Supply
- Michelle’s Assortment of Crafty Creations
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.
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.
Whenever I get a new idea for something, I just assume that it appeared in my head because someone else has already done it. The fear of copying keeps me from doing many things. However, I know that almost nothing we do is truly original. Should I just blaze on ahead, regardless of what may already exist in the universe?
Anyway… my latest idea came Thursday while I was trying to squeeze in some dyeing. Since the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival was more successful than I had anticipated, I am now scrambling to get more inventory ready before A Knitter’s Fantasy. Rather than dyeing for three days, I just did as much as I could in one. Along with my usual crock pots and stock pots, I also had two roasting pans in service. Usually I lay out 8 ounces and dye it all the same. Then I have two 4-ounce braids that match. This time, instead of laying them side by side, I laid one on top of the other. When they came out they weren’t the same, but they did go together nicely. And that’s when I thought, “aha! Companion colors!” You would get 8 ounces total, but you could spin them as separate yarns, ply them together, alternate, etc. One is semi-solid and the other has more variety.
I’m sure no one actually wants this, but I’ve got a few to try out and then I’ll probably keep doing it anyway (because I just do whatever I want most of the time). Even if the customers don’t care for it, I may enjoy using them myself. Or I could split them up and sell them separately. Basically it’s very low risk to try something new-ish. Why not, right?
Despite the weather, I had a nice time at the Winter Market last weekend held at the B&O Station in Youngstown. I’ve been purposely building up my home base and it seems to be working! Along those lines, I will be setting up this weekend at the Good Life Fest at the Calvin Center, just down the street. In addition to what you see below, I’m going to bring more of the “yarn show” inventory, such as spindles, Eucalan, etc.
Remember that lovely, natural, spindle-spun Shetland I blogged about a few weeks ago? I finally got around to knitting it! I started it last Sunday while I was at the Winter Market. All afternoon I would knit a bit, count, and realize I had messed up. It’s actually a very easy pattern, but I was distracted by shoppers and the constant picking up and putting down of it. Once I had the opportunity to focus a bit, I made a lot of progress and now it’s almost done!
I am super excited about the new GE logo tote bags that arrived last week! I’ve wanted to have a nice thank-you gift for my big spenders, plus I have to admit a bit of envy when I see shoppers carrying around logo bags for other businesses. After shopping around a bit, I ended up having these done by VistaPrint since I could get all the colors instead of just one. They are $10 each, but if you spend $75 or more, you will get one for free! They are not available for purchase in my Etsy shop because I’m not sure if I am “allowed” to sell them there or not. Do they even have rules anymore? However, if you really want one and will not be at any of my shows, please send me an email and I will get one out to you!
Speaking of Etsy, if you feel the desire to make a purchase in my shop this month, use the coupon code YarnSchool to get free shipping. I decided it was time for some continuing education (and inspiration), so I signed up to attend Yarn School in Harveyville, KS at the end of April. I was worried that it might be just beginner stuff, but then I was reading on the Ravelry group about how many people go back again and again. It can’t be too dull/easy/basic then, right? I’m excited to get out of my corner of Ohio and see a new state! I’ll be flying out there alone, which is an adventure all on its own. And I’ll have to be friendly all weekend. I think that is scarier than flying! I tend to get weird and distant in situations like that (roommates, group lunches, chatty classes, socializing with strangers). Let’s just hope I can keep my mouth shut and learn something new!