modern businesswoman

…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!

Just spending the day at Autumn Fiber Festival. #transientvendor #woolmerchant #booth #Ashland #Ohio

ramblings of progress

Yesterday morning I was feeling rather squashed. What to do with that darn Etsy shop? Make it seasonal? Establish separate inventory? Close it entirely? After sharing that post, I went out to lunch with my dad. I basically spent the entire time talking about my situation (FYI – I often have to talk out loud in order to think). I realized that I needed to differentiate the two businesses somehow: my online business vs. my traveling business. They are already quite separate, so maybe I should capitalize on it.

That’s when I came up with the idea of using the online shop as place for de-stashing.Usually my process goes like this:

  1. Dye fibers to sell.
  2. Spin fibers that don’t sell after 6 months.
  3. Sell yarn.
  4. Knit with yarn that doesn’t sell.

However, instead of using those older fibers myself, what if I placed them in a “sale bin”? That would be my online shop! I could also list things like the grab bags when I have them available. And maybe I would list a few other resale items that I couldn’t sell on Etsy, like Eucalan or notions. Ironically, I just cleared out all my old stock and knit it up for holiday craft shows. So, it might not happen right away. This also means that I won’t have those lingering items to use myself, so instead I’ll just dye a pound or two extra for my use. That will also help freshen up the colors of the yarn and knitwear, since they will be intentional and not left-overs.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. It was good to hear from fellow merchants and customers alike. It’s easy to lose perspective. We all need support from the community from time to time. Without each other, none of us could do this. I’m still thinking about closing the Etsy shop and reopening in a new location. For a long time I was afraid to do this. I would lose the following I had developed there over the years and the help from Etsy reaching customers. But honestly, it isn’t happening there. Nothing is happening there. I want to reinvent this aspect of my business and I feel like creating a new space might be the way to do it. I’ve been developing a shop at Storenvy and it’s fun! In fact, I can work on my listings while the shop is closed! WHAT?! Yes, someone decided that shop owners should be able to see their listings even when the shop is closed. Hm.

Stay tuned as I work through this new adventure!

new banner!

decisions as a dyer

As a regular reader of this blog would know, I enjoy taking trips down memory lane now and then. Having a Flickr account since October 2006 (hey – seven years this month!) gives me the chance to compare earlier work to my current work. I can see how much I’ve improved — or stagnated. I can see how much more — or less — productive I am now. Either way, it’s good to remind myself of my progress.

Today I am taking a look back at my early dyeing experiences. I am sure that I had started dyeing earlier than what is available via Flickr, but I hadn’t started documenting things yet. The first photo I have of dyed locks is this one from November 6, 2006. It was Lincoln wool. I had run them through the carder and decided it looked like a potential wig… so it went on my head!

Lincoln Beehive
The next two photos are from the following spring. The first from March 9, 2007 is combed top, just a domestic wool blend. When I first got into dyeing, I would buy a pound of domestic (super cheap!) and dye 2 ounces at a time to make it last longer. Now I am buying 22 pounds at a time. What a difference.  Those colors say lanaset to me, so at that point I was already getting past the Kool-aid/Wiltons phase and into wool dyes.

nugget of joy
This photo is from March 11, 2007. It’s the wool roving I received from a fiber processing mill that lost my original fleece. To this day I am not entirely sure what the breed was, but I think I still have some of it lying around. It wasn’t the greatest stuff, but it gave me a lot of experience dyeing.


Where was I going with this?

I think it’s safe to say I should be out of my “experimental” phase by now. Sure, it’s fun to try new things now and then. Different techniques, fibers, dyes, etc. One doesn’t want to get bored. However, I have been avoiding something that almost every dyer I know can do: repeated colors. I have always claimed that I take an “unscientific approach” and I don’t record any recipes. It ruins the artistic flow. And that is true, but also I am using it as an excuse to remain casual and detached, a way to avoid being purposeful. On one hand, having repeatable colors would make my life easier in many ways. On the other hand, it could be boring.

Why not do… BOTH!? Someone (Rich first and then my dad) suggested that I have two separate collections: those that are predictable, repeatable colors, and those that are special little moments in time that will never be seen again. I’m sure many dyers take this approach, but it makes a lot of sense. I can still have the fun of “come what may”, but those shoppers who want a sweater’s worth in one color can get it. We’ll see if I can pull it off!

This week is going to be full of dyeing. With Indie Knit & Spin coming up quick and a successful event behind me, I have a serious amount of restocking to do. Planned for this week:

  • Grey Romney roving
  • White Border Leicester/Coopworth roving
  • White Cotswold locks
  • White Border Leicester/Corriedale locks
  • White Falkland top
  • White Blue-faced Leicester top
  • White Colonial wool top

Have things gotten out of hand? #wool #fleece # fiber #stash

making progress

Since I just uploaded a few new pictures of my booth from the weekend, I started looking back at booths from previous years. The set up changes just a bit each time, so I always take pictures. I want to document a good idea, and it’s fun to see how much I’ve grown. It’s kind of crazy when I realize I haven’t been doing fiber festivals very long. The first one I did was in April 2010. Let’s take a look.

Knitter's Fantasy
A Knitter's Fantasy. April 2010.

I didn’t do much else that year, so it wasn’t until the following February that I had another fiber festival. I shared a booth, so I only had a 4 foot table with which to work.

table set-up
Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival. February 2011.

And then I was back at Knitter’s Fantasy again.

8x8 booth
A Knitter's Fantasy. April 2011.

The next thing was Great Lakes for the first time. I had a 10×10 with tables on opposite sides, so it was hard to get everything in one shot.

10x10 booth
Great Lakes Fiber Show. May 2011.

After that I didn’t have a fiber show again until November. I had to fit everything onto a 6 foot table.

6 ft table set-up
Indie Knit & Spin. November 2011.

That takes us up to the beginning of this year. I started with PKC and a 6 foot table again.

festival booth
Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival. February 2012.

I had purchased a set of shelves and finally got to use them at a new show in March.

Women's Fiber Fest. March 2012.

Things stayed the same until I had a different configuration at Woolfest. It worked out well and we tried a few new things with the shelves.

booth at woolfest
Woolfest. June 2012.

And that brings us to the most recent event. I had a 4×12 booth, so it took a bid of work to fit everything in. We ended up rearranging things on the shelves all weekend. We moved the batts into the crates on the table and the yarn went into the center top section of the shelves. The locks took up the lower three center shelves. The entire left side was all Falkland and the right section was all roving. We also unwound skeins of yarn and hung them from the corners of the shelves. I suppose I should’ve taken a picture of the improvements.

4x12 booth
Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair. August 2012.

friday’s question

I’ve been feeling mopey and nostalgic lately, which has driven me to browse through my Flickr photostream. I like to look back to the beginning, seeing how far I’ve come since establishing the account in late 2006.  It’s pretty obvious that I had no idea how to use a camera when I began six years ago.

My first photo, a knitting project, was posted on October 29, 2006. The colors are washed out, it’s out of focus,  and yes, those are my legs. Overall it’s pretty dreadful. Even though it’s a WIP, there is no way to tell what the project is supposed to be.

April's Hat in Progress
"April's Hat in Progress"

Also on that day I posted this image of some very early handspun yarn. I remember being very proud of that skein. But the image is not flattering. Apparently I had not discovered how to focus yet. And you don’t really see much of the yarn itself.

Fresh Grass
"Fresh Grass"

Here is another washed out gem. I must have been trying to work with natural light, but eventually went ahead and used the flash on this one. Overall it just looks sloppy and flat. I had hung the yarn on a speaker, probably thinking it would be artsy, but instead you are distracted by that weird grey thing in the corner.

Yaht Club
"Yacht Club"

You can also see that I hadn’t decided on cropping the photos to a specified size. I remember being annoyed that the pictures on the page weren’t lining up, so I eventually settled on cropping everything to 10 x 8. I prefer it when things match.

Question: What are the earliest images of your craft that were posted online? Did you start off knowing how to use a camera? What techniques have you improved upon since getting started? Include links to your photos if  you like.

day 3: worthy of photos

I’ve been working on the organization of the wool room for three days straight. Actually, it’s been four days, counting the clearing out on Sunday. And I have finally reached a point where I feel good about it. It’s not perfect: there are still piles of to deal with and totes that need individual attention. But in the nearly two years we’ve lived in this house, this is the most organized my wool room has been. I suppose it would be more impressive if you had seen it before I cleaned up. Yikes.

one wall with desk

I found a few things I’d forgotten about including an entire tote’s worth of dyed top; my needle felting tools; a kit for this pattern (which I distinctly remember failing to create due to my confusion regarding yarn-overs); 1000 more tote bags; Rich’s yarn stash; more fiber; more yarn… If you can’t get to the stuff, how could you know what you’ve got? Also, I can see the floor again, which I had forgotten about. I was able to vacuum in there for the first time in months.

a corner with a couch

Anyone want to stop in for some knitting or spinning? There’s a couch! And space for sitting! And room for projects! And an end table with a lamp! And lots of boxes, baskets, and totes to snoop around in! Come on!

the other corner

wall of shelves

a timely friday’s question

I can hardly believe another year has already passed. They always say that time goes faster as you get older and I’m beginning to see the truth of that statement. I am pleased with what I have accomplished this year, checking several things off my “big things” to-do list.

  1. Pay off my student loan. Officially student-debt free as of October.
  2. Organize the wool room. We did do that, but now it has fallen into disarray again. Maybe a better goal is to organize it and keep it that way. Of course, that would require all those random items that drift into the wool room to find a better home.
  3. Keep track of my business finances better. That is still a work in progress, but I’m on the right track. At least I have a file box for receipts and documents.
  4. Apply to more festivals/shows. The final total was seven, up from two the previous year.

There are a few other things I didn’t get done, but generally I am pleased. Now I have even higher hopes for 2012. Although I’m also beginning to see that “hopes” aren’t enough to achieve success. Watching Erin work so hard to establish her business has really inspired me to focus on making short-term and long-term goals for next year. On my mind, in no particular order (although I should do the first thing first)…

Knit a new hat for my mom.
Finish dyeing the remaining Cotswold and Corriedale-Lincoln locks.
Register my business name with the State of Ohio.
Relabel everything using tags with my new logo.
Organize a fiber club – possibly locks?
Re-rearrange wool room.
Compile and release a collection of mitten patterns.
Update Etsy shop more regularly.
Cook at home more often.
Knit a new pair of socks.
Use my drumcarder more.
Buy a larger number of fleeces.
Be awesome.

Question: What are your goals for 2012? Are there specific projects you want to make? New techniques you want to learn? Something really big and exciting you want to embark upon?

this just in —

Literally!  I got home from archery practice tonight and ran into the living room where two large boxes were waiting.  Not fleeces (sad face), but something else that is equally exciting!  I have been anticipating their arrival since last Thursday.  So what is contained in these mysterious boxes?


Why it’s Eucalan!  Lots and lots and lots of lovely, fragrant Eucalan Delicate Wash!  After using this product for several years on everything from nylon stockings to grandma’s quilt (not to mention every wool item I own and have ever made), I decided to inquire about a wholesale account.  Why not start offering it with all the other goodies at my booth?  What could be better than to give a gift of mittens or yarn and include a bottle of wool wash along with it?

unpacking eucalan

kitty in a box

I decided to start out with a bang and ordered their Starter Kit, which contains a sampling of almost everything they sell.  Wool wash in three sizes: sample size, small bottles, and large bottles; stain wipes; lint remover sheets; gift packs; brochures.  It also comes with a display.  The great thing about this is that it is flexible, just like every other aspect of my set-up.  If I have plenty of space, I can bring the whole display; if I have a small table, I can bring just a few items.  I’m excited to be part of the Eucalan family now!  Wool wash anyone?

eucalan display

friday’s question

When I first started knitting, I felt compelled to hunt down every single yarn shop within an hour’s drive and visit them all.  Rich would ask, “Where are we going this time?”  And then we’d hop in the car, driving off to some unknown town (pre-GPS) simply to check another shop off my list.  Of course I had to buy something since we’d gone to all that trouble to get there.  In fact, I’d feel rather guilty if I didn’t.  Eventually I wandered away from purchasing commercial yarn and started spinning.  Finding shops with fiber and wheels was much more difficult.  I would scour the ads in Spin-Off, hoping to discover some previously unknown gold mine.  Occasionally something would pop up, so off we’d go again, and I would feel compelled to buy.  Then I found out about fiber festivals.  These are considerably more exciting for the spinner/multi-hobbyist.  At first I would come home with gobs of stuff, but it has slowed down recently.  I look at all the lovely things and hesitate to buy.  As a dyer and spinner, I appreciate what others are doing, but I want to go home and do it myself.  That’s when I realized why I feel so drawn to vending.  I want to be a member of the fiber community, but being purely a consumer is not enough.  By creating and selling, I can still enjoy attending all the different events, without the pressure to purchase.  Instead I am the one putting that pressure on other people!

Additionally, I have become much more aware of fiber content.  I began with acrylic yarn.  Not just that, I was excited about it.  But then I discovered wool and decided to stick with it.  Now I am very interested what type of wool, what breed I am buying.  The more you know, the more you want to know.

 Question:  How has your interest in fiber arts changed over the years?  Do you focus on one aspect more now than you did before?  Have you become disinterested in a particular thing?