August 15, 2014
Hello! If you haven’t heard, I’ve been super sick with whatever the latest hack up your lung cold, cough and flu that has been going around and even though my body didn’t let me keep up with all of the things I had planned for last week, I didn’t let it keep me from being productive! I’ve said before that when the unexpected comes, it’s time to be flexible and go with the flow. Downtime is the perfect time to put a new project on your needles, and then think, get perspective, come up with new ideas, and make sure that you are staying true to your vision. When you have a chance (or are forced to) to step away from the daily grind, it’s easier to remember the big picture and think about whether all of the day-to-day is helping to achieve it. So, let me share just a few of the thoughts and ideas I had while recovering…
-New patterns…on day one of being under the weather, I took some Black Yickity Yak Wool, Reclaimed Suede Ribbon, and Recycled Rainbow Silk Yarn and came up with the Black Magic Woman Shawl. I’m looking forward to wearing this more and more as the weather turns cool with the upcoming fall! It’s going to be great for putting around my shoulders or tying around my waist with some leggings and t-shirt. I also made a wine bottle gift bag with our At the Bahamas Sari Silk Ribbon Yarn. This is going to give you a great way to present that bottle of wine to your host with the upcoming holiday party season. Better yet, make one for the host, but make sure to make one for yourself too! This looks amazing just sitting on the table. I’ll have the pattern out ASAP, so watch for it!
-New products…we just got in a huge shipment of product and there are so many new items on the site and so many more to come. Did you catch all the fun and vibrant colors of banana yarn? That’s just a piece of it! Thank you to all who are participating in our naming contests on our Facebook page! We love your ideas and wish we could use them all…but if you didn’t win, keep your eyes peeled for more because we still have lots of fresh products to bring you. We just got a fresh batch of sari skirts too! They won’t last long, so if you’ve been waiting to get one, now is the time. Between the new products and my next share, I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting at the computer.
-A book…yep, that’s right! I’m writing a book. Can you believe it? Sometime I can’t, but every time I get a second, it’s on my mind. And every time I get a minute or two, I sit down and try to get my ideas out. It’s going to be all me, all small business, and all to help you know all the secrets of how Darn Good Yarn became what it is and how I work to keep it going and growing…consider it my own personal consultation session with you!
-StitchesEast…if you’ve been reading the blog, you know that we’re going to be at Stitches East! We cannot wait to be part of the fun in Hartford, CN from October 9-12 and we’re making plans for a space that’s going to feel like home. We’re hoping you’ll feel as comfortable there as you do in your own living room. Please come see us, sit and chat, and knit or crochet a little or a lot. We’ll bring the yarn and needles, you just bring you! I can’t wait to see you there!
-Oh, and let me share one more thing with you! This week, we had a special visitor to our Schenectady, NY space. Linda, one of our fabulous Darn Good Yarn wholesalers, came to pick up a ton of yarn to take to the New York State Fair! Be sure to check her out in Syracuse, NY from August 21 to September 1 in the Wool Center across from the sheep barn. She says she’ll have all of Darn Good Yarn’s fibers that “grow on four legs.” Here’s wishing Linda a fabulous time at the fair - thanks for taking Darn Good Yarn to the people of New York!
So, sure, I wish that nasty virus had passed me by, but even though it didn’t, the upside is that my ideas bucket is full and I’m feeling more grounded in my vision of what I want Darn Good Yarn to be. And now with all that time to think and plan, it’s time to get back to the doing! Hope you all have a wonderful week!
August 11, 2014
About 15 years ago, Patricia bought a doll from a local crafter as a gift for her mother and the crafter let her pick the hair and eye color. She thought it might be fun to make one herself, so she found a local class from doll artist, Billie Rooker. She used doll making as a therapeutic outlet during her years as a high school math teacher and likes to joke that even if the students were out of control, the dolls would sit still! After making porcelain dolls for several years, she found an online class for soft dolls and made a doll that she describes as “gosh-awful” with a “nosed that looked like a mashed potato and hands that looked like Shrek.” Ready to give up, she found a class from doll artist Judy Skeel that was close to home and came away from that class with a doll that had a beautiful face and a perfect nose!
August 5, 2014
I’ve been sick this week and I spent my recovery time creating this fantabulous shawl for you that you can get as a kit right HERE.
If you’ve hung out with Darn Good Yarn for any amount of time, you know that I love easy projects that don’t require too much planning because Darn Good Yarn’s fabulous fibers and yarns speak for themselves. I made this super cute shawl with outrageously lush fringe and pulled it together as a kit for you. This would look cute worn as a typical shawl (around the shoulders) or with traditional back worn in front and then wrapped around your neck. You could also pin and tie it around leggings for a whimsical look perfect for an afternoon music festival in the park.
So, this super simple pattern looks like this:
Grab your size 19 circulars (my cord was about 2 feet)
Then loosely cast on 25 with your yak wool. For each row after, k1, ktf&b, then knit until you have two stitches left on your row, ktf&b, k1
Work both hanks of yak up until you have a small handful of the yarn left and bind off.
Weave in any ends.
Now, the fun part. Make some fringe from the suede and silk. The pictured shawl shows 3 feet lengths because I wanted it to have some cool drama but you should play around until you find what you love. This kit will come with all the yarn you need (2 hanks of black yak wool from Nepal, Reclaimed Suede Ribbon, and Nighttime Rainbow Recycled Silk Yarn)
July 31, 2014
Phew! Time to sit down and take a break. It’s been one jam packed week! And I mean that in a good way. Maggie rolled into town on Friday and we have been going at full blast ever since with meetings, planning, photos, and more meetings. It’s been a week for making connections. I’ve learned that it pays to reach out to those around you, even if you’re not sure if anything will come of it, even if you think that person is “bigger” than you, and especially if you think it’s out of your comfort zone. Reaching out to those that can help you and those that you can help is an essential part of making your dreams happen.
That’s what happened with Mikey of the The Crochet Crowd and me. Mikey and I have been internet friends since 2008 when we were both just beginning to make steps towards our dreams. A few weeks ago, Mikey told me he wanted to stop by our new space because he was going to be close by in Manchester, NY for a show. After six years of being friends online, we were finally going to meet. And on Monday, it happened! Mikey and Diva Dan stopped by and we had a fantastic, whirlwind, fun and laugh filled time together. We only left the shop to go get dinner (everyone else got Shepherd’s Pie and I had a salad – I’ve got an image to uphold, you know!), and the rest of the time we sat surrounded by all of the fabulous yarns and shared potato chips and wine. You know how you meet some people and you just click? That’s how it was. Mikey even contemplated crocheting something out of my hair…perhaps a new trend? Well, probably not, but it was fun! We tried to make our time together last as long as possible by staying up late and I sighed as they left, but Mikey and Dan left with armfuls of yarn and I can’t wait to see what they make with it!
Another big announcement I’m so excited to make is that we are going to be at Stitches East! Of course I said, “YES!” when we got invited to come by CEO Benjamin Levisay. I loved our time together when he interviewed me for the Fiber Hooligan podcast and one of the things we talked about was how we had never met each other before. Now, I am sure we will get to meet and I’m ecstatic that Darn Good Yarn is going to be part of this event. If you’re in the area, or if you can travel to make it, Stitches East will be held in Hartford, Connecticut from October 9-12. I would love, love, love to meet as many of you as possible there!
And one more story, just to keep it real here. I always love when Maggie comes to town and we work around the clock when she is here, making the most of every moment we have together and taking advantage of that synergy. So, on Tuesday, after a long weekend and our late night with Mikey and Diva Dan, I packed my bag for a day in the office. Maggie took one look at it and said, “So, I see it’s going to be a real day.” Yep, she was referring to the box of wine I had packed, my adult Juicy Juice, if you will, slipped right in there next to my notebook. I know me and I know a glass of wine is just what I’m going to want at the end of the day, so I prepare! Embracing your own quirkiness and those things that make you unique is essential to success. So many things want to change us, mold us and conform us, but Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke truth when he said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
July 29, 2014
Darn Good Yarn and Nicole have been up to some big things this summer…here’s a re-cap in case you missed anything!
*As a 2013 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Winner, Nicole attended the US Chamber of Commerce’s America’s Small Business Summit. Not only did she hear an inspiring speech by Colin Powell, but she was part of the teaching as well and helped lead a breakout session on Small Business Insider Tips with the other winners from the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, Danny Catullo of Catullo Prime Meats and Ari Hoffman of Gobie H2O.
*Nicole also attended the IRCE, the Internet Retailer Conference Exhibition, in Chicago and gave an insightful interview with Daniel Burstein of MarketingSherpa Media Center about starting a small e-commerce business. She gives her best advice and tells how she grew Darn Good Yarn by 2900% on a totally self-funded budget.
*Another great interview with Nicole happened on The Shut Up Show with Berni Xiong. Nicole chats with Berni and shares the story of Darn Good Yarn, how she finds courage in the face of fear, and how to build purpose and connection in your business. If you haven’t watched yet, you are missing out!
*And just a teaser here…Nicole took a trip to Toronto to get the ball rolling on something huge! I can’t wait to tell you what she is up to!
July 24, 2014
Hey there everyone! I’m back in New York this week and ready to rock this remodeling out with Joie – we are two chicas on a mission to use our girl power and spruce up this space! I am a firm believer that every girl needs to know how to use a rachet strap because when you are at Lowe’s gathering supplies and you’re not quite sure how they are all going to fit in your Honda Element, a rachet strap always saves the day! And that’s exactly where Joie and I found ourselves this week. The scruffy contractors rolled their eyes at us, but after shuffling a few boxes of yarn around, everything was in and we were on our way and ready to get to work.
But, when we got back to the store, we noticed the toilets were making a funny noise. I made the mistake of flushing when I went to check it but it only made things worse…the water started to rise and we didn’t have plunger on hand to help. Yikes! Time for an emergency trip back to Lowe’s for two plungers and snake! And then the real craziness ensued. After snaking and simple plunging didn’t solve the problem, Joie and I each armed ourselves with a plunger and made our way to the two different bathrooms. We thought that synchronized plunging might provide enough power to clear the backup. I yelled down the hall to Joie to start and then we counted and plunged together…one, two, three, four, five, nothing, six, seven, eight, still not working, nine, ten, and all the way to twenty-five. And in the end, all we got out of it was laughs and we had to call the plumber. One thousand dollars later, the tree branches that were blocking our pipes are now cleared. Situations like these confirm that the emergency fund is a necessity, not a luxury.
After a day spent on plumbing issues, we made our way to work with the intention of making good use of the remodeling supplies we’d picked up the day before. As I pedaled up to the parking lot, an incredibly large piece of our maple tree stopped me in the parking lot. The thunderstorm from the night before had broken it off, and I had to change my plans so we could lop this monster of a tree branch (it was as big as a small tree) and get the parking lot cleared. So, Joie, Terry (our landscaping fairy, remember him?) and I (good thing this Jersey girl spent some time in Maine so she would know how to properly lop a tree) made quick work of it and we were back to business.
Even with couple of unexpected setbacks this week, we are making progress. A few weeks ago when Joie was out walking Squeakers, she found a free pegboard on the street. She called me to come pick it up (and yes, if you’re wondering, I did have to use those ratchet straps again) and this week, Joie painted it and made it into a fabulous display our kits. The painting of the office continues and we are saying our goodbyes to the eighties wallpaper. And I’ve been doing lots of picture taking and description writing – there are oodles new products going up this week that I can’t wait for you to see.
And one more thing…I’m excited that something we’ve had in the works for a bit is ready to go. We have new custom and one-of-a-kind drawstring sari silk pouches made just for us that use to pack any order over $30! And orders over $87 get the larger size! These sacks are so fabulous and soft, I want them all for me! Really, I got them for all of you, so I will share and I can’t wait for you to get one!
Those unexpected things always come up, but I take them on with an open mind, flexibility, being able to draw on the emergency fund when needed, and good friends (and landscaping fairies) to help!
July 21, 2014
Have you been wanting to get a sari skirt, but thought you might end up in tangles trying to tie it? Well, worry no more! Nicole shows you how to tie your sari skirt in several ways (as a dress, as a shawl, as a skirt, and a few more…these are SO versatile) in this fantastic video.
These sari skirts are one of a kind so just make sure to tell us what colors you want and don’t want when you order and our shipping staff will fill your request!
July 17, 2014
Hey Everyone! It’s been one jam-packed summer so far! If you haven’t heard yet, we moved our operations to Schenectady, NY. I’m crazy excited about our new space! It’s in the the Stockade Historic District, a neighborhood that’s been around for over 300 years. It’s full of window boxes, quaint old buildings, so much character and I’m in love! Squeakers and I make the mile and half bike ride to work which is helping me recover from a long winter and I’m happy to report that I can fit into my jeggings again!
Darn Good Yarn’s shipping operations are up and running here now (thanks to our fabulous new team member, Joie) and by the end of the summer, we will open our first brick and mortar store! I’m so thankful to be a home grown in Maine business. I still have family and a home there and will run my consulting business from there, but I chose NY for Darn Good Yarn because I’ve wanted to find more balance in my work and family life since Mike changed jobs.
And I went right back to Maine last weekend to be a Breakout Leader for the Sustain Maine Entrepreneurial Conference. I got spiffed up with a new haircut and color and was on my way to the beautiful Chebeaugue Island. Did you catch the picture of my view? That’s what the amazing Ann Marie Almeida and I woke up to every morning in our shared house. She is a Senior Director at BRAC, an organization dedicated to building opportunities for the world’s poor and the #1 NGO in the world, and if that wasn’t enough, she also works to inspire women to make changes in their local community through Leadership for Local Change.
The organizers filled the conference with so many inspiring individuals. Eric Hopkins, is a super talented artist who got the wheels in my head churning with his speech and I hope to share more of ideas here. The energy when entrepreneurs get together, share ideas, and make things happen truly motivates! And that’s what we did in my Breakout session…motivate through strategizing about using out-of-the-box solutions for branding, content management, and building small e-commerce businesses on bootstrap budgets so you can make your business work for you. I was lucky to have Deb Buxton from North East Forest Products, Jim Van Fleet from Mainely Tubs, Emily Nelson from Nelson Treehouse and Supply, and Christine Williams from Crockett’s Cove along for the ride.
Oh, and I can’t forget the delicious food from Jen at Shady Grove Farm, Kitchen and Events. She does farm to table catering and it’s simply fabulous! And, of course, at the end of the day, I sat down with a glass of wine to chat up some great business ideas with Chris Rector, the Regional Representative for Senator Angus King. What a day! So many great people with great ideas and I’m looking forward to sharing more details here. I’m happy I could be there to support the growing businesses in Maine and make connections that will bring more purpose to our mission here at Darn Good Yarn.
Back in Schenectady, we’re working on projects to spruce up the outside and inside of our new space. Our building had been empty for five years, so we have a long to-do list and we are transforming this place! Joie, Mike, and I (ok, mostly Joie) have been cleaning up, planting, and pruning our grounds here. There’s magic in the air around here, or at least it seemed like it, after we found free flowers to plant in our beds and had a visit from our very own landscaping fairy! One day, Mike pruned our gorgeous shade cedars (can’t wait to yarn bomb them!) and left the pile of branches in parking lot. When we arrived at the shop the next day, the pile was gone. Come to find out, the landscaping fairy was our neighbor, Terry, and I love that he’s making us feel right at home! Indoors, we are hoping to fill the entire store with re-purposed furniture. Joie and I took a trip to the local thrift store and we found some pieces with great potential. Now onto sanding, painting, and putting that Darn Good Yarn touch on them. How many chairs do you think we will need for the knitting space we are carving out? Better too many than too few, right? So many plans and so much happening! We love being here in Schenectady and I can’t wait to get the store open and get feedback from the community so we can tailor our classes and offerings to their needs. If you are in the Schenectady area, be on the lookout for the plans for our grand opening and be thinking about the perfect local yarn store because we want to hear your ideas!
I’ve always been a big dreamer and I’ve loved seeing my dreams come to life this summer because it means that we are doing more good, empowering more women in India and Nepal, and bringing your creative ideas to life!
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.