The ‘General’ Category...
July 14, 2014
Hey! Did you catch Nicole on Fiber Hooligan? Listen as she tells the story how she went from a New Jersey girl playing craft corner with an old cash register, to an officer in the United States Air Force, to running the best recycled silk yarn company to the fabulous Benjamin Levisay. If you’ve ever wanted to know how Darn Good Yarn got its start, this is a great place to find out. Benjamin asked all the right questions and Nicole entertained with the fabulous story of Darn Good Yarn. Make sure to check it out here or go look for it on iTunes! Better yet, take the time to subscribe to Fiber Hooligan on iTunes.
Special thanks to Benjamin Levisay, CEO of XRX Books which publishes Knitter’s Magazine, XRX Books, and Stitches Events, for taking the time to chat with Nicole. Be sure to check out all of the other great Fiber Hooligan podcasts for interviews with with your favorite knit and crochet designers and other celebrities from the fiber arts world. Fiber Hooligan recently made it into the top 10 podcasts for Hobbies in iTunes. Way to go!
May 14, 2014
Have you ever wanted to know some of the secrets to Darn Good Yarn’s success? Don’t worry, we don’t have them locked away in a vault somewhere. The good folks at FedEx, who have helped support Darn Good Yarn through all kinds of growth and changes in shipping needs, have sponsored a great article about us on the website “Small Business Trends”. The site has all kinds of great business advice, check them out here.
The article describes how Nicole’s choices in technology, the folks she went to in order to gain support and advice, and her marketing strategy all helped to make Darn Good Yarn a successful, expanding business. There are also some great business tips for anyone looking to expand their own business! Well worth a read. Check out the full article here.
May 8, 2014
Along with over 300 families in India and Nepal that get a majority of their work for their co-operatives from Darn Good Yarn, Darn Good Yarn also employs some great folks in the rest of the world too. Of the Darn Good Yarn employees, both full and part time, 7 come from the US, 1 in Canada, 1 in the UK and 1 in Australia. You can read up about everyone in our “Meet the Team” page here.
These jobs would not be possible without the freedom to import such wonderful products from places like India, Nepal and Chile. In fact, over half of all of the businesses dependent on imports here in the US are small firms just like us! In celebration of small business and the benefit of imports, Stefanie Holland, Director of International Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, used Darn Good Yarn as an example of a successful import business creating jobs overseas and here at home. Check out the article she wrote for “Imports Work for America” week here.
Thanks so much to Ms. Holland for mentioning us! We hope to be able to expand our imports, as well as more easily reach our international customers, even more in the future.
May 5, 2014
Here at Darn Good Yarn we always love to see the projects that everyone is working on! We recently got some fabulous photos from Darn Good Yarner Pat Staehler. Pat made a gorgeous shawl out of our 3 Ply Silk Cloud yarn. Check it out!
I really love how this crocheted shawl really shows off the great colors in the variegated yarn! Take a closer look:
It looks lovely! Thanks so much for sharing, Pat! What have you been making with Darn Good Yarn? Share with us any time on our Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest pages, or just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
May 1, 2014
Denae Merrill is a serious knitter. I might even go so far as to say, a hardcore knitter. On a recent post from her blog, DenKnits, she mentions a Knit-A-Long she is planning of a pattern that she designed, a charity knit-along that she is taking part in for a lap blanket, some blanket squares that she is working on to make a couch blanket for her own family, and a color-work project that started as a hat but then became a scarf. In the same post (which was only written 2 weeks after the previous post) she also catalogs a shawl that she completed, 2 spinning samples she created, and 2 skeins, one of them 2-ply, one single-ply, that she spun. When I asked, “How do you finish so many projects?” She seemed to be under the impression that her knitting output was not unusual. Considering I have a blanket that I started at age 12 which I still haven’t finished and is currently gathering dust in the corner of my room, I felt a bit differently.
Denae got a “learn to knit” kit for Christmas in 2007, but it wasn’t until later in 2008 when she got some hands-on lessons from her Mother-in-law that she really got hooked. She did have some trouble learning because there aren’t enough good “learn to knit” books written for lefties! Her MIL is left-handed as well, but she knit right-handed, and that’s what Denae ended up doing as well. At the time she was traveling constantly due to her job, and a co-worker of hers helped her expand her knitting skills. I asked Denae if she ever tried out any other crafts. “I used to do lots of scrap-booking, but knitting has taken over!” she tells me. While she has tried out crocheting and weaving, knitting remains her strong favorite.
Denae has many great ways to fit more knitting into her day. “I knit every day,” she explains while answering my question about her nearly super-human productivity. “I find some down-time in the evening, I knit when I’m waiting in line – I always have a project with me.” She has some specific projects that she likes to have going simultaneously. She usually has a sock project going, just because they travel so well, one simpler project and then one more complicated project. I may have to try this method myself. It seems like a great way to prevent being bored with one particular project. When I asked how she managed to have so many FOs (finished objects) as opposed to the many UFOs (un-finished objects) that I have hovering around my room, her answer was simple. “I just really want to have the finished product,” she remarks. Maybe I need to get re-invigorated about some of my old pieces.
Denae started making her own designs at almost the same time that she started knitting. She would find a stitch pattern she really liked, and then modify it so it would work with whatever piece she wanted to make. As her knitting skills improved and expanded, she got more ambitious. She would find inspiration in lovely knitted garments in movies or television, and then create her own personalized version. While she does plan things out prior to starting a new design, Denae tends to be very flexible once she’s in the middle of one. “I don’t like ripping out work and starting over, I’d rather make it work from where I am,” she says.
In addition to her blog, Denae is on Ravelry under the username “denmoma” – click here to see all of her original patterns – and under the same name on Instagram. Social networking – especially the fellow hardcore knitters she has met on Ravelry – have really helped expand the reach of her blog and her designs. She also has a great “podcast”-style show on YouTube where she does product reviews, talks about her own personal twist when designing, and demonstrates some unique and fun ways to wear finished knitted pieces. You can find all her videos here. Most recently, Denae has opened up her own small online shop where you can get great kits including her patterns and all of the yarn needed to make them. Check out her store here.
When I asked about her most memorable project, Denae said, “The cowl-neck poncho I designed that started the great relationship I now have with Darn Good Yarn!” Denae had found Darn Good Yarn through Facebook, and had just finished creating the cowl, made of Recycled Photon Rainbow sport weight silk yarn, just in time to enter it in a designing contest that we were holding at the time. When she won the contest, she used the gift certificate she received to get some great Banana Fiber yarn and came up with another great pattern, “That Sunset was Bananas!” – and we here at Darn Good Yarn loved that one too! She since has provided us with some lovely hat patterns with our llama wool yarn (find a kit for those here), and a couple more of her patterns will be showing up on the site soon. Her patterns are some of my favorites that we have on the site! (Shhh, don’t tell any of the other pattern designers.)
So many thanks to Denae, for bringing us such lovely patterns on our website, and for taking the time to chat with me. Keep on madly knitting, designing, and inspiring!
April 30, 2014
It’s time for another (slightly belated) business blog Wednesday!
Getting new customers is, of course, extremely important for any company, large or small. But what about repeat business? How do you get customers to keep coming back?
A great app that we use here at Darn Good Yarn is called RetentionGrid. It helps organize sales data in a way that anyone can understand. Which people would most appreciate an email blast about a new art yarn? Which people need to know about new colors of an existing yarn? RetentionGrid takes the guesswork out of these questions. RetentionGrid has really helped us get more repeat customers. In just 4 months our percentage of repeat customers went up from 28% to 46%!
A few months ago, the folks over at RetentionGrid were nice enough to highlight Darn Good Yarn and our successes over at their site. The feature includes some great tips from Nicole about how to drive growth and revenue, how to keep loyal customers, and what’s on the horizon for Darn Good Yarn. Read all about it here.
Thanks to Kalie Moore for writing such a great piece! You can learn all about what RetentionGrid could do for your business by clicking here.
Happy Crafting (and business building!)
April 24, 2014
Genea Crivello-Knable has been a dedicated crafter and artist for most of her life. She was accepted into her first craft show as a vendor when she was just 15. Since then, she has discovered and refined new skills, made many new friends through her work, and been able to do what she loves for a living.
Genea has always loved beads and jewelry, but has worked with many different mediums to create them. She started with polymer clay and a bead collection, and she is continually evolving new styles and techniques. “As you take more art classes, you fine tune your skills, and find out what you really have a knack for,” Genea tells me. Genea has tried her hand at knitting, sewing, curtain making, painting, drawing, sculpture, and even metal-smithing, but her favorite medium is glass.
A lampwork glass maker creates glass pieces with colored glass rods and a torch. After the glass has been melted into shape, the final piece is then heated in a kiln to harden it and make it durable. Creating lampwork glass beads involves a steady hand and a lot of detail work. Genea was working in a bead shop when the owner started taking lampwork glass classes. “I thought it was a natural next step, as I already knew so many different jewelry techniques,” Genea remembers. Soon after that, she was selling beads in the shop where she worked, and decided to set up her own Etsy store. (You can check it out here.)
Not only does Genea sell her beads online, she sells her own mixed-media jewelry as well! (Check that out here.) The piece shown, called “Love Earth” is made with her own beads, Darn Good Yarn reclaimed sari ribbon yarn and Wooly Wire. Where does she find awesome products like “Wooly Wire” – wire with hand-dyed wool spun around it – and Darn Good Yarn? Mostly through social networking! Genea has been able to meet and become friends with lots of other great bead and jewelry artists through Facebook. There are many active beading groups that are a fabulous support network. A fun example is a project called “Bead Soup“. Started by blogger and jewelry designer Lori Anderson, “Bead Soup” is a project where two random jewelry artists are paired up, and they then send each other a mix of beads including a focal point and fun clasp. They then make a piece using the beads they received from their fellow artist, and blog about the experience on their own website. It’s a great way for artists to promote each other and create something gorgeous and meaningful.
Along with her Etsy sales, Genea also vends at major shows like Bead Fest in Philadelphia. I asked her which was the most lucrative, shows or Etsy. “It’s about half and half,” she reckons. “Etsy is a great marketplace,” she explains, “but it’s hard to stand out there. You are a droplet in an ocean of people.” And while she tries her hardest, it’s hard to really represent the look and feel of the beads through pictures alone. “It’s so great to see personal reactions to your work, to forge a personal connection,” she says.
Genea is constantly honing her craft and always stays creative. The beads shown above are her “wingdings”, which were actually created by accident! A bead of hers wasn’t turning out, so she smooshed it in frustration. It’s now one of her best-sellers.
One reason that Genea loves working with glass is it’s versatility – glass can be manipulated to look like many different things. The stone-like appearance of the bead shown above is achieved by adding baking soda to the glass. As the glass heats, bubbles rise to the surface. As the bubbles pop, it creates the organic pitted look of the final product. I love the look!
We always love seeing the awesome places that Darn Good Yarn ends up. Interested in becoming a wholesale customer and using Darn Good Yarn in your work? Just click here. Make sure to support Genea by liking her on Facebook here, and checking out her blog here. What are you doing to expand your creative skills? How are you using your Darn Good Yarn? Let me know at email@example.com, and you could be featured in a future blog. Thanks to Genea for chatting with me and creating such beautiful pieces!
April 20, 2014
As spring is very slowly emerging, my favorite thing is watching all of the flowers pop up! In fact, this weekend I’ve been madly crocheting even more flowers to put on hats, purses, headbands, or just as decoration! I wanted to share some fun flower patterns so everyone can enjoy spring, even if it hasn’t quite gotten to your neck of the woods yet.
The first pattern is from Lauren Dahl, and is this great spiral rosette flower! You could make it in any color, with almost any yarn! Our Silk Roving yarn would look especially fabulous. You can pick up the yarn here, and the pattern is available here!
The next knit pattern is for these great pinwheel flowers! Frankie Brown put up this great free pattern on Ravelry – you can take a look at it here. The pattern is free, but Frankie does ask for donations, if you’re able, to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation. You can choose to donate here. So many yarns would work beautifully with this pattern! You can try Kaleidoscope Banana Fiber yarn, or any of the Lux Adventure yarns, just to name a few!
The next pattern is for these great crocheted flowers called “Flowers in the Wild”. Great with solid colors or variegated yarn. I think they would look especially fun with Firecracker Recycled Resolution yarn! You can find the pattern here.
These are the ones I’ve been crocheting all weekend! You can choose three coordinating colors, but I have had great luck using variegated yarn. Our 3-ply Silk Cloud would probably look great! The pattern is by “B.Hooked Crochet”, and you can find it here.
Hope you are inspired to add some spring into your crafting projects!
Enjoy, and Happy Crafting,
April 17, 2014
The local paint-your-own pottery shop right by Tracy Radcliffe started hosting visiting artists giving classes in their studio space. She decided to take a course of four ‘introduction to knitting’ classes. As soon as she learned how to knit and purl, the knitting obsession – which so many of us are so very familiar with – had her safely in its grasp. She was also able to take a class with Stephen West, an excellent knitwear designer, and she was very inspired by his “Boneyard” shawl. At the time, Tracy had no idea how far this new hobby would take her.
Tracy started designing, creating, and selling pieces for her own label, PunkRocKnits, in 2010. “One word to describe my style is ‘freeform’,” she tells me in our conversation. She graduated with a major in Biology and a minor in Studio Art – but knitting is not as big of a departure from studio art as you would think. “Yarn is my paint, and needles are my canvas,” she describes whimsically. When you see her work, the truth of this statement is evident. She has a great eye for color, texture, and pattern – mixing uniquely spun wools with sari ribbon, one color flowing easily into the next. “I don’t really follow patterns – the yarns I use are all so different color and texture-wise – I like to combine things naturally, in a non-predetermined way,” she explains. Letting the different textures and weights of yarn determine the pattern can make the piece go in unexpected directions. “Sometimes the end result surprises even me!” Tracy admits. Each and every piece she creates is absolutely one-of-a-kind.
Tracy started off selling her work at shows – in 2011 she appeared at 21 of them! She was working an outdoor craft event in 2012 when she had one really special customer. One of the women who had purchased a scarf at the show turned out to be the Division Manager of Accessories at the clothing company Free People. Soon after the show, she was contacted by the company and asked to knit one-of-a-kind original pieces for them. They visited her and explained they wanted larger, triangular shawls to offer through their website and in their stores. She made up a 10 piece collection of shawls as a kind of trial, and every one sold! A few of the shawls went to the Free People store window in New York, and Tracy was so excited to see it there when she visited over Christmas! The first larger order was in the fall of 2013, when Tracy created 5 different shawl styles and made 34 total pieces in only 2 months! While still working a full-time “day job” and being a wife and mother! I think she may have been knitting in her sleep. Along with being in stores, Free People features the shawls in their catalogs and online. Her most recent spring collection was made with lots of Darn Good Yarn Reclaimed Sari Ribbon, as Free People were looking for more light-weight shawls for ‘music-festival fashion’. 10 of the “Dragonfly” shawls were created, and all 10 sold in the first 3 days they were available! However, if you need one of her shawls, don’t despair. You can always check out her Etsy page here and special order your own!
With these successes under her belt, Tracy is looking to expand her business ambitions. She was able to hire a part-time assistant, Taylor Reynolds, a local Graphic Design student. Taylor was blogging about the great pieces in the new Free People catalog the winter that Tracy’s shawls were included. They soon became friends on Facebook, and Taylor is now helping Tracy with trend and material research, labeling pieces, adding fringe, and even knitting! She is a crafter in her own right, and creates gorgeous Dreamcatchers which are featured in the Punkrocknits Etsy shop as well as at the shows they still attend.
Tracy’s most recent knitting experiment? Working with size 120 knitting needles! That size doesn’t conventionally exist in knitting needles, but a seller on Etsy hand-makes them. Not surprisingly, knitting with what are essentially small trees in public garners some odd looks, but Tracy tells me she has started many an interesting conversation with people while using them. Her 7 year old just learned to knit with them, and loves them!
As long as Tracy keeps thinking “big” about her work and her business, I’m quite sure she’ll go far!
Many thanks to Tracy for sharing her story with me, and, as always,
April 16, 2014
Lucy Chapman runs the one-woman business of Rosy Toes Design from her home in Ohio, but her products have been seen in nation-wide magazines, publications in the UK, and backstage at Hollywood events! In this week’s business blog, learn all about the unique ways Lucy has managed to get her business in the public eye, her tips for other business craftspeople, and how she does her best to balance business and family.
Lucy is a member of an elite group of artists and craftspeople that make up The Artisan Group. This group’s goal is to “…introduce Hollywood to the best-of-the-best in handcrafted products.” In order to apply, you must handcraft all of your products yourself, not send them off to be mass-produced somewhere. Along with the quality of your work, they also look at your website and social media presence in order to be accepted. The members of this group give their products to celebrities, important media and advertisers, and other people with a large social impact at A-list events. Hopefully this will get celebrities and other folks with a large social media following to talk about an artist’s products, and help smaller artists to really get their name out there. Being a part of The Artisan Group has already helped Lucy. She has gotten articles, magazine mentions, and online reviews – all which has helped increase traffic to her website.
Lucy has also been featured in magazines like Vogue UK, InStyle UK, and Urban Farm magazine. She discovered opportunities to be involved in each of those magazines through social media! She found someone to refer her work to the British publications through LinkedIn, and knew someone who worked for Urban Farm magazine who asked for submissions of organic arts through Facebook. She told me, “You really have to become involved yourself, you have to keep putting yourself out there,” in order to market your business. She certainly has excelled at doing just that!
Like so many small craft businesses, Lucy is the designer, owner, and sole worker at Rosy Toes Designs. It is only somewhat recently that Lucy has decided to really put all her effort toward making Rosy Toes a successful business venture. Before focusing her energy, she was being pulled in too many directions at once, and none of those paths were very fulfilling. “Focusing energy was the best decision I could have made! I won’t ever regret trying to make the business work,” she asserts. With that energy, she, “…was able to prioritize, figure out where I wanted things to go, what direction I wanted to move in, where I wanted the business in general to ultimately go – that is when Rosy Toes jumped from ‘hobby’ to ‘business’,” she remembers.
I asked Lucy if she had any tips for other people with craft businesses based on lessons she had learned. She shared many great ones!
- Don’t be afraid to take risks in approaching others for help!
You don’t have to do absolutely everything. It’s not a requirement. For example, Lucy recently went to a professional photographer to make sure she had great pictures for her website, and got some help with press releases and marketing. Also, don’t be afraid to ask someone more established for ideas and pointers.
- Little steps are fine, but have a larger goal in mind.
Even if you can only take your business is tiny steps, make sure those steps are headed in the right direction. Be purposeful.
- Learn to market yourself.
It isn’t about bragging or boasting – knowing how to market yourself and your business is essential to getting your name out there. Have confidence that your product is great, and other people will want to buy it!
- Know your market!
Are all of your customers women over 50? Boys around 10? Retirees? Golf enthusiasts? You don’t have to get too specific, but knowing the general demographics of your market will help you make things they like, sell more, and help you know where to market your products.
- Be flexible! Change things if needed!
Don’t be so attached to your work that you refuse to ever make any changes – but make sure not to change your artwork to the point where it’s no longer “you” just to make a sale. Stay true to your passion, but be flexible – especially in the marketing and selling of your work.
- Don’t give up when things don’t go quite how you thought they would.
Sometimes you won’t sell as much at a show as you hoped, your Etsy site stays quiet for a while – don’t be discouraged! Try some new methods of advertising your site, sign up for a different show – always keep trying.
Lucy has some more great advice on an issue that I’m sure many at-home crafters deal with – trying to balance business and family! Here are some of the solutions she tries to implement.
- Try to compartmentalize your day.
If you’ve got a kid-free morning, try to get as much work as possible done then, so you can put it away for a kid-filled evening. Will this work every time? Of course not! But it helps to structure your day.
- Involve the kids when you can!
Lucy’s kids can make small projects on her knitting machine, and they also help with putting tags on finished pieces. Involving family in their own craft projects can be great too!
- Make sure to carve out time for family! If you concentrate so hard on your business that you start neglecting other parts of your life, it’s easy to burn out.
Lucy tries to give herself at least one day off every week, and volunteers at her children’s school once a week as well. She knows that when everything you need to do is right there in front of you in your home, it’s hard to put down. “One of the most difficult things about operating a business from home is always thinking about the next thing I need to do, next person I need to contact – it’s very hard to put aside,” she remarks. One of the things she has found she needs to do to accomplish this is to put away all devices – phone, ipad, laptop, whatever – when she wants to concentrate on family. The business will still be there later to come back to!
I hope these tips have helped you think about what you may need for your own business. If you want even more great advice and insights, check out Lucy’s blog here. She’s also got a great sale going on to clear out her inventory before releasing new products – check out all of the great stuff that is on sale here!
Best of luck in all of your business endeavors, and Happy Crafting!