Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Marketing Venues

So I was given a $100 credit to use Google Adwords earlier in the month.  I have taken them up on the offer and have spent $25 for several thousands of impressions with minimal clicks and no conversions to sales.  Still need to follow up on the free keywords advice but I am not sure how well there program works for craft/knitting businesses.  It is increasing my exposure but the bounce rate on my site has increased to 60%.

On the project end I am leaning towards one knitting project at a time.  The Estonian lace scarf has my full attention and I am very close to completing the body of the scarf.  The edge will be the true challenge.  My heart is just not into fingerless mittens and I know think that the CVM will make a wonderful hat versus mittens.  Haven't been on my wheel or drop spindle in a while perhaps this weekend - I do miss the feel of cotton.  So looking forward to a 3 day weekend and doing either a movie marathon (Lord of the Rings) or TV show (Torchwood) and getting lots of fiber processed.

Although the Etsy store has 20+ items based on feedback that really isn't enough visibility.  I am reading/following the book "How to Start a Home-Based Craft Business" to obtain some guidance on truly turning my hobby into a profession.  I haven't been good with my life plan this week but hey I am blogging and knitting.  Didn't make it to volunteering this week but will be there on the weekend (need to check library closures for the holiday).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Slow weak with focus

It has been a rather slow paced week for me but still a good one.  I developed plan to balance career, craft business and personal life and for the most part followed through on the plan.  Organization is my nature and since starting my craft shop things have felt sporadic and somewhat chaotic.  The plan sets aside time to volunteer, market the business and create items on a schedule.

On Saturday I met with festival shop owner and went over products to carry this summer.  Everything was well received although I might need to tweak the prices on the yarn up a bit to flow with the booth.  The CVM items were well received and thought to work well for men as well as women.  She is not sure that cowls and sachet bags will sell at the festival so I will be listing these items on Etsy.  She also advised to not display white items as it is an open booth exposed to the elements and items will not stay white for long.  All in all she liked the items I offered for sale and now we just wait for opening weekend to see if things will truly sale. 

I also met with the owner of a local yarn shop on Saturday to discuss selling fiber/yarn at the shop.  It was very informative and helpful.  They are looking for more hand spun local yarn versus mill spun yarn.  I learned yardage requirements for lace, fingering and sport weight yarns which will guide me in what to produce.  My core for the 4th bobbin still has not arrived to 3 ply yarns are not looking promising.  I am thinking a 3 ply is as close as I can get to spinning a worsted weight yarn as bulky is not in my nature.  It does seem easier to spin thickly from a batt versus a roving so I may give that a try.  I know to stick with the plan of converting the fleeces to rovings/batts versus yarn to reap the most profit from selling it online or locally.

My fiber has not arrived from the mill but the shop is open to carrying some if it is unique.  Not certain if my costs would be met by selling it at the shop.  Toying with the concept of it being a loss leader but a good marketing venue to at least get the store name in the marketplace.

The cotton bolls are still on the spindle and progressing well.  I am spinning the second bobbin of the llama/silk roving - hoping to get a yarn of at least 300 yd.  My Estonian lace scarf is coming along very well I am on the 11th repeat of 16.  Reviewed the border and I can tell it will require true focus so as to not need to do any ripping especially with the live stitches unraveled to create the border.  I do so love a challenge.  Started making some fingerless mittens with the CVM but the pattern bores me - will probably rip this out too.  A fellow knitter suggested creating mismatched fingerless mittens with my small batch of yarn.  They have sold well for her and people apparently like the uniqueness of each mitten.  As I am color challenged I am willing to give this a try perhaps with the basket weave pattern and alternating every 2 sets with different yarns.  I'll keep you posted - sorry no new pictures as of yet but hopefully next weekend I can show you the cotton and Estonian scarf!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spinning cotton bolls

So I broke down and opened up the package of cotton bolls tonight.  I was supposed to defer this to the weekend but the thrill of working with new fiber got the better of me.  I am using my lightest weight drop spindle and teased fiber from one of the bolls (removed the seeds).  So far so good, it is spinning up pretty easily for me and I am adding lots of twist to the fiber before winding it onto the spindle.  I relaxed a bit of the yarn to allow it to fold back on itself and it stayed strong along with looking like a decent 2 ply yarn.  Not sure if I will ply it with the white wool roving, white huacaya fleece or white suri locks as of yet.  Still have 9 1/2 bolls of cotton to spin so that decision is on the distant horizon.

Fleece market day was a lot of fun and yes I kept my purchases within reason.  I bought some mohair (goat) fiber that is naturally black and white.  The fiber is clean but the ladies from Sister Sheep had washing instructions for future mohair purchases.  Also purchased a very small amount of their CVM wool fiber which so reminds me of my very first fleece purchase.  This fiber is in the raw stage so it will need to be scoured prior to spinning.  There was a very cute lamb by the name of Jane who escaped from its keepers and ran across the street to the other shopping center.  I was frozen with horror when she ran across the street and we were very fortunate that cars in both directions had stopped.  Jane stayed with us for a few more hours and then went back home to her ranch.  The angora rabbit was beautiful and I got some good advice on spinning up angora for the future.  The owner of the rabbit also has alpacas and we met up again on Sunday for Shearing.  Of course we had 2 alpacas at the shop both boys who were quite well behaved.  Black Romeo had a thing for sniffing my spinning wheel and me when I wasn't paying him any attention.  Overall it was a great fiber sales day for all and an educational day all the way around.

Sunday was shearing day and 65 animals were shorn including several Llamas.  I aided in skirting a lot of fleeces that day.  Mr. Midnight is a rescued llama that hadn't been shorn in a very long time.  He got trimmed on Sunday and the joke was that I wanted his fleece - not!  Although he has beautiful coloring his fleece was a felted/matted mess and I am sure he is feeling so much better to get that coat of off him.  We had quite a few volunteers including my son and lots of camaraderie that day which is what makes shearing day so much fun.  There were actually a few ladies that volunteered throughout the day to assist with skirting even if it was just passing fiber to them for the trash.  Good learning experience and most importantly I did not add to my growing fleece pile! 

This month I am exploring markets for the fiber/yarn products and looking into broadening my marketing campaigns on the web.  Have to remember that I haven't been in business for a year and that things will fall into place when the time is right.  I work my business everyday in some manner and that is the important thing.  I have the llama/silk roving on the wheel; an Estonian lace scarf on one set of needles; a cotton cowl/hood on another set of needles and of course now the cotton on a drop spindle.  I LOVE FIBER!!!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ribbons and fleeces

The annual fleece market day will be held at the Recycled Lamb shoppe in Lakewood, CO this Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  This will be my first year attending the event and I will be helping the ATAR ranch with their alpacas on display at the shop.  There will also be sheep and bunnies on display along with lots of fiber, tools and yarn for sale!  My goal is to not spend more than $10 as I have 2 fleeces at the mill for processing and haven't had any sales thus far!  I know it is only the beginning of May but the shop has 28 items and items have been featured in a few treasuries over the past few weeks.

Of course on Sunday is shearing day at the ranch so that will be another animal inspired and filled day for me too.  It will be nice to see the alpacas and to see how big last year's babies have grown.  I have 5 fleeces remaining to be sent to the mill but may pick up an additional color scheme to blend in with what I have on stock - maybe.  It is possible to have too many fleeces when you don't live on ranch/farm.  Need to find some venues to sell the rovings/yarn being created by the mill. 

My yarn came back from the Great Western Alpaca Show competition and it placed 3rd - yippee!  Given the comments on the judging and am taking that there were only 3 entries into this division but a ribbon is a ribbon.  I also received some good constructive criticism and advice which I will be putting to use in the next  batch of fiber I spin up.  I am definitely going to enter my spindle spun yarn into Estes Park to get even more feedback and advice in the quest to improve my craft.  Still it was very nice to receive a ribbon on my first venture into competition.  Can't wait to show the ladies at the ranch and the shop this weekend.  Need to also look into submission of mill spun yarn as a marketing tool for those products.

I have been working very hard on the Estonian scarf but I think it is time to set it aside for a bit and complete other projects.  Need to purchase sachet bags/potpourri for the Mother's day presents along with buttons.  The wheel hasn't been used in a week - sigh!  On the other hand I did spin some alpaca fiber on my spindle during the trip so I wasn't totally ignoring my yarn spinning passion.  My marketing and updates have been sketchy lately but the full time job has been a handful.  Baby steps is what I keep reminding myself to take and not to panic too much if the plan is not working out as thought.  This is all a new journey and each event is a learning experience which I am very grateful for.  The fiber, knitting, craft community is such a great and supportive environment which has become a blessing to me over the past few years.  My hope is that the items created which find new homes are able to bring a bit of happiness and comfort to their new owners over time.