The ‘General’ Category...
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!
April 13, 2014
You may know that Darn Good Yarn recycles many different kinds of fabric left over from the manufacturing process. Sari silk, silk remnants, cotton – we’ve saved over 25,000 pounds of fabric from landfills since Darn Good Yarn’s creation! Not only that, but recycling fabric helps save the earth even more than you think! Check out this info-graphic from USAgain, a textile-recycling business.
Remember to be green by donating or re-using your own old clothes and fabrics! There are so many great crafts you can use them for, and so many people who will appreciate your used clothing! And your support of Darn Good Yarn helps us continue to recycle as well!
Be Green and Happy Crafting!
April 11, 2014
Lucy Chapman, owner of Rosy Toes Designs, has always been a knitter. It is possible that when I called her up to chat about her expanding business, as she is a long-time friend of Darn Good Yarn, that I interrupted a knitting project. I don’t think she minded, though. I was happy to hear all about her love of working with felted wool, her experiments with new fibers, and the way she carefully sources all of her materials.
Lucy has a wide variety of gorgeous and functional fiber art on her website, rosytoesdesigns.com, and a large amount of those pieces are made of felted wool. In case you don’t know, “felted” wool, sometimes called “boiled” wool, is when you knit or crochet a piece much larger that you want the end result to be, and basically shrink it on purpose using boiling or hot water, in a pot or in the washing machine. Have you ever accidentally shrunk your favorite wool sweater? You actually felted it. This process only works with a fiber that is at least 80-85% wool. Felting wool (llama and alpaca wool works too!) creates a dense and very strong fabric, and you can’t even see the knitted or crocheted stitches used to make the piece! When Lucy first started, the only fiber she worked with was wool. She had an Etsy shop called “Seasons of Wool” filled with felted items. When she started “Rosy Toes Designs” she started really branching out into different fibers, but she still loves the felting process. “I like how the fiber changes when you felt it, the tactile nature of the piece, that no matter how much you plan it’s different every time,” she tells me. Lately she’s been working on combining Silk Cloud with the wool in felted pieces. Silk doesn’t shrink the way wool does, but it gives an interesting look and texture to the finished product you can’t get with wool alone.
Lucy is very particular about the materials she uses in her work. She brings both her compassionate and artistic sides to the process. She first found Darn Good Yarn just doing a simple internet search for recycled sari silk yarn, she really liked the product and the service, and it only grew from there. We even started carrying some of her gorgeous work – and we still have a few of her knitted lace infinity shawls made of Cloud Silk on the site! You can get one here.
“I like the message, I like what Nicole does,” she reflects. “Purchasing yarn through Darn Good Yarn makes me feel good!” Darn Good Yarn isn’t the only company that has a feel-good message along with great products that Lucy frequents. She gets her Alpaca wool locally through a farm near her home. She get a lot of her wool from a company called O-Wool, which concentrates on providing cruelty-free organic wool, along with spinning and making the yarn into skeins right here in the US. The fabric she uses to line her bags and purses comes from many different sources. She raids Goodwill for fun fabrics, uses upholstery remnants, vintage fabrics, and is always on the lookout for small-run, limited edition fabrics and patterns. She really shows how a “reduce, re-use, recycle” mentality can work to make beautiful and quality fiber art!
Lucy’s most recent new craft is needle-felting – the use of special needles with tiny barbs to create designs with wool roving onto wool fabric. “I really liked how it was almost like painting with the fiber,” she remarked. “I’m a self-taught artist from beginning to end, and I always like learning new things!” Needle felting is especially useful because if you don’t like a design, you can just pull your work out and start over! Lucy told me that she “…tried both sewing and embroidery worked onto the wool, but I couldn’t achieve the detail that I wanted.” Needle-felting has added a whole new artistic dimension to her work.
Right now, we can all reap the benefit of Lucy’s constant creativity – her current “In Stock” items on her website are on sale so she can make room for new work! Make sure to visit her page here and get 35% off her delightful merchandise.
Thanks so much to Lucy for chatting with me, and best of luck on all your new work!
April 9, 2014
I know sometimes it can be tricky to find great uses for some of the more funky and unique Darn Good Yarn products. But don’t let yourself be intimidated! It’s a great chance to unleash your inner Fiber Artist! Let’s take a look at some of the fabulous pieces that our fiber artist friends have made with Darn Good Yarn.
Friend of Darn Good Yarn and fabulous fiber artist Tracy Radcliffe achieved gorgeous effects on this shawl using our Reclaimed Sari Ribbon mixed with other fibers. Tracy’s fiber art career has expanded from her own label, Punk Rock Knits, to becoming a designer of exclusive shawls offered by the clothing company Free People! She often uses Darn Good Yarn ribbon and other yarns in her work. Mixing ribbons and other yarns together is a great way to show off a funky and unique yarn without it overwhelming the whole piece.
That doesn’t mean you always have to mix and match! Fiber artists Kelly from the Vegan Yarn Store, George from 10 Hours or Less, and Lucy from Rosy Toes Designs all create fun and functional fiber art using only Darn Good Yarn!
You can find Kelly’s pattern to make your own back scrubber here.
Want the pattern for this amazing cowl using Silk Cloud yarn? You can buy it here.
While there are endless ways to be unique and creative with your inner fiber artist knitting and crocheting, make sure not to limit yourself! Darn Good Yarn is so versatile that it works in many great crafts!
For example, have you ever tried your hand at Rug Hooking? Jane, proprietress of the River House Rug Hooking studio and fiber artist extraordinaire, uses Reclaimed Sari Ribbon in her rug hooking projects!
You can also include that fiber artist mojo into jewelry! Genea, who makes amazing lampwork glass beads, creates breath-taking mixed media jewelry using Reclaimed Sari Ribbon along with many other components.
Finally, you can be a fiber artist and your own interior decorator! Darn Good Yarn works for many fun projects in the home. Check out Darn Good Yarner and mixed-media fiber artist Pan and her great wall hanging.
In this wall hanging she used Darn Good Yarn’s Reclaimed Sari Ribbon, newspaper yarn, and burlap, along with wire and sea-glass beads. What a great expression of her inner fiber artist!
You can also be a fiber artist using our great sari ribbon yarns and a glue gun! Darn Good Yarner Lauren K. wrapped vessels with “Blender” Live Wire sari ribbon yarn (you could also use Soft Spun Reclaimed Sari Ribbon yarn) and created some really stand-out pieces.
I hope these ideas have you bursting with creativity and ready to unleash your own inner fiber artist! Check out our collection of items especially designed for the fiber artist in you here. Thanks to everyone who shares their fantastic and inspiring work with us!
April 7, 2014
I know all obsessed…I mean…dedicated, all dedicated crafters are always looking for fun new crafts to fall in love with doing. We here at Darn Good Yarn want to support all of your crafty experiments, and that’s why we carry fun products like silk roving and llama roving!
In case you don’t know, “roving” is what any fiber is called after it has been cleaned and combed, before it is made into yarn. There are many fun crafts you can do with silk roving. For instance, you can knit or crochet with silk roving directly, no spinning into yarn required! This is made especially easy with our “pencil” silk roving (about the width of a pencil!) because it is just the right size.
Your knit or crocheted piece will be especially soft and fluffy! You can even make your own ‘pencil’ silk roving from fiber batts or wider silk roving. Check out instructions for making your own silk roving to knit or crochet with here.
Knitting or crocheting directly with roving isn’t enough of a departure for you from your regular crafts? Don’t worry, there’s so much more! For example, you could try your hand at Nuno felting. Nuno felting combines wool and silk to achieve gorgeous effects. You can use our llama roving – find it here – and our lovely reclaimed silk saris here to create scarves or shawls of any size! Check out some great step-by-step instructions for Nuno felting here.
But we can’t ignore the classics! The most common use for gorgeous silk roving? Spinning your own yarn!
You could add sari silk roving in with other fibers to give a pop of softness and color to the yarn you are spinning. You could spin your silk roving into whatever weight of yarn you choose. Need some hints on spinning silk roving? Check out this free e-book here.
April 6, 2014
George Shaheen got an early start on his current career. Very early. He sold his first original knitting pattern to a young company when he was just 13! In fact, he was able to earn some spending money for himself throughout high school by freelance designing. The road from there to starting the House of Shaheen, Inc. publishing company was a winding one, but it seems he has ended up in the place he needed to be.
George got his start when he found an old “How to Crochet” booklet in a closet of his home when he was just 12 years old. He was truly “hooked” from then on! He loves both knitting and crochet, but didn’t look immediately to make a career out of them. He got a BA in Business Psychology and went on to get a Master’s degree as well. While he was working in a more corporate setting, he began doing freelance design work once again. While doing freelance work for others, he started really wanting more creative control over the designs. He also was tired of feeling like a “cog in the machine” of the corporate world. He made the bold decision of quitting his job, moving to another state, and starting up House of Shaheen, Inc. publishing company to produce his “10 Hours or Less” patterns. If you want to learn more about the business side of 10 Hours of Less, make sure to check out the blog I wrote about that here.
Like a majority of crafters, George played around with many different crafts. He has tried his hand at tatting, cross-stitching, and needlepoint. He also trained in Fashion Design, where he learned pattern design, drafting, and construction. However, knitting and crocheting remain his favorite mediums. His detail-rich, intricate and elegant patterns are available on his website, 10hoursorless.com. During our interview, I asked the question which may have occurred to you by now – “How do you know the patterns are going to take 10 hours or less?” I thought perhaps he would have some pattern testers, or some sort of magical 6th sense about patterns not known to us mere mortals. I was surprised to learn it’s all about math! He determines the number of stitch movements per pattern, and divides that by the number of stitches the average person can do per minute. These numbers change based on yarn weight and needle size as well, so it’s no easy process! While not every single knitter or crocheter will finish every pattern in the predicted 10 hours, the vast majority of them will! This self-imposed time restriction forces him to be extra creative with the designs. He describes it like this, “Imagine someone tells you have 1,000 lines that you can use to draw a picture – you could draw almost anything. It’s very different if you only have 10 lines.”
I also asked George if he had ever gotten any really strange pattern requests. Apparently, he had. He has lent his design skills to creating a miniature dress for a Martha Washington doll. “When I was a freelance designer, I never turned down work,” he recalls. “Everything you try can have a benefit, and you can learn something from every project.” Very true! One of the most important lessons he has learned is to, “Play with the yarn, let it speak to you, then design.”
10 Hours or Less will be featuring one more pattern using Darn Good Yarn which will premier this Tuesday, April 8th. You can also use the coupon code DGY20 until then to get 20% off of George’s lovely patterns! You can support George’s innovative designs by following 10 Hours or Less on Ravelry and Facebook as well.
Enjoy the fabulous patterns and Happy Crafting!