Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marketing strategy

I read a great post on the Etsy forums on developing a marketing strategy for our businesses.  It was refreshing to realize that many of the concepts covered I had implemented or at least thought about.  My niche will be knitwear accessories (scarves, gloves/mittens, hats, etc.) along with yarn and fiber.  No crocheting in my future or making sweater or socks.  Although I love the concept of knitting shawls, I do realize that for me such an item would not be a good business product.  My love of complicated lace patterns means that generally a shawl would take at least a year to finish and would be priced at over $100 US.  The smaller items are much more reasonable and require less yardage of yarn.  Still searching for projects for my small quantities of yarn blends.  This weekend I will be creating a 3 color roving listing to spice up our fiber options.  I plan on have a trio in 1 oz and 2 oz color batches for people to blend/spin at their leisure.

Woven scarf
The white woven texture scarf is completed, cleaned and blocked.  It is just waiting for me to be able to take daylight photos for listing on Etsy - see image to the right.  I finally listed the handspun alpaca yarn from Sopie Mae.  My internet research has revealed several pure alpaca lace scarf patterns and products.  This was inspirational as I had become aware from spinning tutorials/mills that alpaca lacks elasticity and should therefore be blended with wool to improve projects. Lulu's fleece which is still being spun into lace weight yarn is back on the radar.

On the wheel right now is a bobbin of the Wensleydale roving which I hope to completely fill and ply within the next 2 weeks and sale.  Another bobbin contains Lulu's fiber spun for lace weight.  Goal is to fill bobbin to ply with my other single ply yarn from this fleece.  I have decided to spin up some of my black wool roving to ply with the colorful mohair single.  I am thinking that black will balance the reds, greens, white, and blues of the mohair fiber nicely.  We shall see and I will post pictures of the yarn when I get to that step.

On the needles is the self designed hat project from 2 ply fingering weight alpaca handspun yard.  I have a book of knitted stitch patterns which I at first I thought was a great way to help me design my own items.  Well the pattern are created for flat and not circular knitting and my design skills are not that developed as of yet to do the conversion.  So this hat has been ripped about 3 times thus far in attempting to create it.  At this point I have a 2x2 rib band and I am creating a lace design for the body.  No idea on the decreasing which will probably require additional ripping to get it right.  Luckily this is not a custom order and doesn't have a deadline to be finished.  My praise and kudos go out to all of those knitwear designers out there.  You are truly talented/gifted individuals.  Knitting from patterns can be challenging but no where near as challenging as creating the pattern.  I have no idea the size of the hat - it will probably turn out to be for a child as the circumference seems pretty small.  This weekend I will be completing the custom gloves as they are due by the 8th. 

Still have high hopes for the stitch book to aid in developing scarves and headbands though. I did use the moss stitch pattern to create my beret.  It is the cables and textured patterns that are posing difficulties for me.  Just learned that my roving is ready at the mill and will be picking up next weekend.  The plan is to take about 3 lbs of fiber to the mill to be converted to rovings in April with the larger bags to be converted to rovings/yarn by August.  Need to start listing/selling items to cover the mill costs.  Well that's all for tonight from Colorado - take care!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Newspaper Promo and completed projects

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.

Monday, March 14, 2011

First sale of March

I had a buyer contact me today for the cranberry lace scarf (Cranberry Alpaca Scarf) in the Etsy shop - yeah!  This is my first cash sale and we made arrangements to exchange the scarf for payment at a local busy store (one can never be too safe).  Just when I start to think my crafts don't appeal to others I get a sale.  Learned new terminology on Etsy and visited the forums to see how others have handled/listed items for cash sales.  The forums contain so much information for we beginners which is very nice.  Sometimes you have to know the key words to ask but in general I have found answers to my selling and shop setup questions there.

I was quite lazy this weekend so I haven't plied the yarn for the 2nd glove.  I also still need to spin the rest of the fiber for my lace scarf which I am 4 rows shy of completing - yikes.  On the positive the woven style scarf is progressing nicely made with alpaca yarn.  Still deciding which batch of fiber to send to the mill in April but every sale aids in paying for processing fees.  There is still so much fiber in my bins to be spun up.  Every time I think I have made a dent I find more - how does that happen???  I have a love affair and passion for fiber and connect so well with other fiberholics.  My wheel and I have a date for Wednesday - let the plying and spinning move forward!

On the business front I am still practicing simplicity and trying to enjoy the journey of running a business.  I do have a few years to make a profit before the IRS comes down on me.  This week I will be finishing up projects, taking photos, and writing descriptions for my handspun yarns.  Can't sell them if I never list them!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lack of focus - burnout??

I feel like I am drifting from my purpose or I just have too many irons in the fire.  I need to revisit my business plan and get back to a more focused view of running the Etsy shop.  Still thinking about the shop critique and that I need lots more items listed.  I do have several skeins of handspun yarn which I could list.  Missing the energy to write up profiles on each so that they can be posted.  Pictures exist for most of my handspun.  There are days that I completely understand why most businesses delegate tasks to professionals as it is somewhat overwhelming to be a one man show.  My passion is spinning yarn and I have been faithful to that path over the past few weeks.  On the business side I start to work the business i.e. post pictures, list items, etc. and then my energy is sapped so I push it off to another day.  Today was my first day checking into the Raverly forums - last checked in on Saturday.  This is probably just a slump which will pass - hopefully.  At the end of the day I know that I do have items for sale, some decent photos of the product and a custom order to finish.

I did a google search for alpaca fiber in Colorado and my etsy listings came up on the first page not sure if it is because they are in the cookies on my computer or we really are liked by google.  I think I will have a friend do a search and see what they come up with.  One day I really need to do some research in SEOs and find out how to improve the visibility for all of our items.  Don't think that will happen this week though.

The fingerless gloves are progressing - one is complete.  I need to spin up another bobbin of fiber to make more yarn for the project.  Sent a photo of the completed glove to its owner for approval - which I did receive.  I purchased a sampler box of luxury fiber about 2 years ago and amazingly the dreaded moths haven't gotten to them.  Have you ever heard of Karaoke Fiber?  Well I learned that this is a mixture of wool and Soysilk fibers that produce a silk like yarn.  It has been plied with tan alpaca fiber into a skein.  Made another skein of tan alpaca, whhite cashmere and white silk and yet another of tan alpaca and grey cashmere.  They have all made some nice tweedy looking yarn.  Still have several 1 oz batches of other luxury fibers (bamboo, silk, llama, alpaca, angora and cashmere) to spin up.  It has been fun testing out different spinning techniques with the fibers and learning the traits of each one.

Well I'm off to bed - tomorrow is another day of knitting and it is Ash Wednesday!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mini Etsy App

Today I learned how to create the various "mini Etsy" photos on the sides of the blog.  This is so cool!  I must give credit to another Etsian and blogger Audrey of TheChristmasCorner for pointing out this feature to me.  She has been kind of enough to create this app on her blog of my Etsy shop this week.  I plan to showcase my favorite finds once a month and keep a mixture of craft shops on the blog to help market the great artisans on Etsy.

I signed up for a website on Artfire this week.  Still reading through how it is different than Etsy but for now I am sticking with the free basic service to test the waters out.  Sent of state and local taxes this week for sales last year too.  I believe I filled out the forms correctly but I am sure the treasury departments will let me know if I made an error.  The yarn from the shop was featured in another treasury this week:  http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4d6e52d269ba6d91d01dc276/i-want-to-knit-you-a-sweater.  There is a new alpaca group in the Etsy forums which I joined since I love all things alpaca.  I have found several works of art that have truly be inspiring and humorous on Etsy like the hats for cats from XMOONBLOOM and hamish bear by AMYANDPIA.  They both made me chuckle this week and laughter is the best cure for all ailments.

I have cast on stitches for the first fingerless gloves.  The handspun yarn is much thicker than what I have used for previous versions of this pattern so I have had to make some adjustments in the design.  It is knitting up beautifully though and has more structure to it then the fingering/lace weight yarns of prior projects.  Need to make it to the post office to mail off the donation of yarn this week - hopefully on Saturday.  The woven scarf is on hold now that the gloves are cast on and I am hoping I made enough for two gloves but we shall see in a week.