Here I am, sliding out the back of the fall fiber season. In September I was looking across the weeks and it felt as though it would drive me mad. One weekend on, one weekend off, one weekend on, one weekend off, two weekends in a row. I’ve never had that many events so close together! But, here I am with just one more fiber show on the schedule. I made it through without having a break down. In fact, it was nearly as terrible as I’d imagined it to be. For years I was too timid, too afraid to load up my schedule. I didn’t think I could handle it, but apparently I can.
So, after Indie Knit & Spin in November, what’s next? I’ll be switching into finished goods mode – knitting, weaving, felting. This year I applied for three events, one in Akron, two in Cleveland. I figured I might get accepted to one, instead I was accepted to all of them! You’ll find me this holiday season (every weekend in December leading up to Christmas) at Lake Affect Studios on December 2; 78th Street Studios on December 9 + 10; and Last Call at Goodyear Hall on December 17. I’m working really hard to keep calm!
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.
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.
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!
I had so much fun at the Last Minute Market in December, I decided to join the Artists of the Rust Belt for their Winter Market! It’s taking place this Sunday, February 9 from 1 pm to 7 pm at the B&O Station (530 Mahoning Ave, Youngstown, OH 44502).
With no gift shopping to distract you this time, just buy something special for yourself ! Or, if needed, pick up a unique item for Valentine’s Day (rather than “some dumb little thing“). In addition to having a few new knitted items and yarn, I’ll also be bringing more fiber (batts and locks). Should be a good time!
Sorry, but I’ve got to do a quick walk down memory lane! I realized today that this is the eighth year I’ve participated in a holiday arts & crafts sale. It all began in 2006 with my mom’s table cloth, five pairs of mitts, and a few balls of yarn that were just there for show. Isn’t this the saddest and cutest thing you’ve ever seen? It’s really quite terrible. But I’ve learned since then!
This weekend I participated with the Artists of the Rust Belt at their Last Minute Market. I tried something a bit different with my setup and was very pleased with the result. It seemed to work fine, since most of this is gone now. So, I think it’s safe to say things have improved a bit?
For some reason I couldn’t resist jumping on board one last show this year. Why not? I’ve already surpassed my own expectations. First I booked two weekends in a row, then three. Why not add another craft show? Just go for it, right?
I’m going to be in Youngstown again, but at a location never before experienced. I went to the B&O Station once when I was a little kid and all I remember is that it was an expensive restaurant at which we didn’t stay to eat. Now it’s a fancy hall where they have wedding receptions and, apparently, craft shows.
The B&O Station
530 Mahoning Ave, Youngstown, OH 44502
December 21 & 22, 2013
12 pm to 7 pm
12 pm to 5 pm
I am working on a few new items for this weekend. Even though it should be low priority, I couldn’t stop myself from spinning. There will be 11 new skeins of yarn. And so far I have six pairs of mitts done with the intention of doing two or three more this week. Also, I’ve been fooling around with crochet more. I got one clutch done (another in the works) and a button-up neckwarmer. It’s fun! It’s new! I was getting bored!
This past weekend I was at the Holiday Open House & Sale hosted by the Artists of the Mahoning Commons at the Ward Bakery Building in Youngstown, OH. That’s a mouthful, eh? Two different local news outlets came and wrote articles about us. The first was from a TV station. Their article was short, but they included a photo. I ended up in the picture! At least my underwear wasn’t sticking out the back of my pants.
The second article was written by a reporter from a newspaper, The Vindicator. It didn’t have any photos, but it was much longer. He talked to me for quite a while and he was very nice. I feel a bit sorry for him though, having to listen to me ramble on and on about drumcarding and sheep breeds and yarn. A few details in the article are a bit inaccurate, but when you are trying to write about something totally foreign in a small amount of time and you are piecing together my descriptions of how things work, I think you are allowed a bit of wiggle room. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the newspaper before, at least not for this sort of thing.
If you missed out on the show last weekend, you will have another opportunity to shop the weekend following Thanksgiving. The hours are 12 to 5 pm both days. Support Small Business Saturday!
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.
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!
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.
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.