This year I decided if I really wanted to grow my business locally I needed to participate in more markets and festivals. I now find myself with booked Saturdays from July thru most of September and a couple of dates in October – wow! My first 2 events have been at the Golden Farmer’s Market which have been a bit slow. I have had at least 1 sale each event and am grateful I don’t have a booth fee. The big market is this Saturday the 12th which is the HorseShoe Market. This event is more of a craft event with lots of vintage sellers and small business owners along with great food trucks. It was a big investment for me and I’m hopeful that I will not only make my booth fee back in sales but also a profit this year.
The great thing about the markets is setting up the booth and laying out my merchandise. My first market in Golden helped me realize how little knitted items I had and how few hand spun yarns were for sale. As I am going for more of a fiber supplier business model I knew that I had to create many more skeins of yarn if I want to make this a viable business model. Fleeces and rovings are in abundance in my inventory but most of these will truly sale at the Salida Fiber Festival versus the farmer’s markets. So with some clear goals and set time for production my yarn inventory is increasing. This year new display tools were purchased and I’m still working out the best way to use each to highlight my merchandise. My lace shawl gets so many compliments and draws in quite a few people – I know one of these days it will find its’ way into a good home.
One of the best features of the market is the networking opportunities that come while I’m spinning yarn. Thus far I have made contacts to obtain new fibers at minimal financial cost and an opportunity to teach seniors how to spin yarn. I always bring my wheel to the markets as it is a great conversation piece and allows me to get in some production time. Men and boys are always drawn to the mechanics of the wheel and ask lots of questions which over time I have developed answers for.
This past Saturday I taught my first drop spindle class of 2014. I taught this method twice last year and then somehow let teaching get away from me. The class was held at the Recycled Lamb in Golden, Colorado and I had a total of 5 students. We spent 2 hours learning how to draft fibers, thigh spin, spin on a drop spindle and then review fiber tools. The next class will be 3 hours so that my students spin a decent amount of a single ply yarn and then we can 2 ply it so they have a small skein to show for their class period. As with any process the more you engage in it the better one can tweak areas to make the process better. Even though I was a bit nervous about teaching others once we started talking about fiber I found my groove.
Things are a bit slow on the production front from last week for several reasons. Primarily I received a record number of 7 sales last week which required packaging and shipping. Also I had to prep for the spinning class and get goody bags together for my students. The second set of goody bags was packaged for the Horseshoe Market in July and given my schedule I am just going to mail the items to the event versus attempting to drop them off this week. The college kid will be assisting in labeling packages which should help me get the 50 bags out the door sooner. I did manage to finish knitting one summer hat and spin a single ply of some merino/silk last week plus there are the 2 skeins finished earlier last week.
I still have knitting and spinning projects in the works this week and will have pictures for you a bit later.
This year has brought so many challenges and activities. Last month I had the privilege of learning bobbin lacemaking from an established bobbin lace maker. I confess that the project which is just a band of lace is still on the pillow as it requires me to move my work up and take out all of the pins to do so. I am equating this process to be similar to “steeking” in knitting.
The first farmer’s market has passed and I have learned that my handmade items for sale are very low. There are only 6 hand spun skeins in inventory at this point along with 3 hats (fall weight) and 2 cowls. How did I sell so much of my products? Of course I still have several mohair/silk ruffle scarves and the lace shawl/stole.
The market was a wake up call to me as I have been working on several long term knitting and spinning projects along with learning bobbin lace making. On the positive I have started recording my knit projects in a journal to keep track of them and the yarn used. It also helps in writing the blog. Since it takes me about 2 hours to spin 4oz of roving for sports/worsted yarn, I am dedicating at least 3 nights a week to spinning. As I now know what my handmade inventory is lacking I have 2 summer hat projects on needles.
These photos highlight the new yarns I have my work cut out for me but I am much more productive when I have a goal!
I managed to end the 2013 craft fair season with a profitable show. At this past weekends Holiday Artisan Boutique I took paid orders for 3 custom knit hats. Patrons loved the faux cable hats made but as they are more kid size than adults each requested a hat with longer length.
The first of the three is almost complete and has engaged my knitting skills. My patron chose a sports weight yarn as opposed to worsted weight. I have had to adjust needle size along with alterations in the stitch pattern. It is turning out rather nice though.
I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family. November sales were also my highest ever and explains my exhaustion. This weekend marks my last craft fair for the year and I’m hopeful about selling most of my finished items (hats/scarves).
As the year is coming to a close my first business decision has been to not restock fiber till the new year. I find myself thinking more and more like a business person versus a hobbiest as time goes by. Nonetheless I still have plenty of fiber inventory to sell especially my alpaca fiber. The stock of alpaca just may go on sale so that it finds it way to new homes. Projects include finishing a cowl and a lace doily so that I can start to knit a shawl with beads (ohhh!)
So looking forward to Christmas and having the college kid home for a few weeks. What are your holiday plans?
I am going to try something new on the blog front – small updates versus lengthy paragraphs. Perhaps this will allow me to write more often. The past month has had numerous health issues which have also impacted how much I am able to do. I am participating in the Alpaca on the Rocks this weekend. The evenings this week have been in preparation for the event. I used my mill spun yarn to create a hat for the show my only concern is that it appears to be huge as the yarn is not as thick as the original yarn used for the project. I am making a second one with less stitches to make it smaller.
On the spinning front I have 3 oz of alpaca/tussah silk spun and will be plying it tonight or this weekend. The special order yarn is drying and I have started spinning the alpaca/milk roving. The milk fiber is not as sticky as the silk so the VM does come out better. Both rovings have rich medium brown color from the alpaca and will make nice yarn and projects. As I have set aside rovings in 1 oz, 2 oz and 4 oz packages my overall stash of alpaca blended bamboo and silk has decreased. Still need to follow up with my LYS on purchasing rovings.
Off to the docs soon then the day job. I am not as prepared for this weekends event as the Farmers Market but a lot of my items are from last weekend and ready to go. I do have 2 days for potential sales and a nice selection of items to present. We shall see how it goes!
I was excited to learn this week that a local newspaper while covering the joys of alpacas highlighted the cranberry lace scarf that I listed on Etsy. The purchaser made me aware of an article published in the Boulder Daily Camera on March 11, 2011. The journalist Aimee Heckel spotlighted an alpaca store in Boulder, a fellow Etsian from Boulder who crochets items and our shop to her readers.
Needless to say this re emphasized my push to complete some projects so that photos can be taken and items listed this weekend. On that note I spun up the wool yarn for the scarf on hold which is now complete and needs to be washed and blocked. I also plied the red yarn to complete the custom gloves this weekend too. Currently working on the woven scarf from 100% alpaca yarn from ATAR which is turning out well.
Tomorrow will be spinning and I hope to start/finish a few headbands with my small batches of alpaca blended yarns for listing. My newest buyer is also interested in purchasing more scarves in the future. I am giving myself a month leeway to create this type of product and put a plug for holiday and future birthday shopping needs. I am so thankful for this unexpected piece of advertising and the positive feedback received on the items I create with so much love and joy. It is so nice to have one’s works of art appreciated by strangers and a true boost of confidence on the talent front.