The Future of The Yarn Office

I know it’s been a while; I think of writing (and things to write about) and then I put it off. But today I made an important decision: I’m letting all my etsy listings expire and am closing down The Yarn Office on etsy (my studio space at home will forever be The Yarn Office). In total, I have a very modest overall profit, modest enough that given the time I put into it, I’m more in the hole to etsy than profitable. There’s also the matter of marketing, which isn’t exactly my strong suit despite buying and reading 2 books on how to turn your art/craft into a business. My takeaway that’s been festering for a while is that I’m not a good businessperson and it’s time to move on to something new.

This morning etsy sent email to all shop owners announcing some changes. Listing fees will remain $0.20 per listing, but etsy’s commission on sales is going from 3.5% of the item price to 5% of the item price and shipping. In addition, they’re creating a monthly subscription service called etsy Plus that’s supposed to help your business grow and will roll out etsy Pro for high volume sellers next year. Not subscribing to these plans supposedly won’t affect your search results or access to current tools, but I can’t help but think little vanity shops like mine will be at a disadvantage. In the end, I’ve sunk more time and money into this than I’ve gotten out and so yeah, it’s time to move on to something new.

I said on Instagram that I was going to just let my listings expire over the summer instead of shuttering the whole thing, but the fee change goes into effect July 16 – I may just put the shop on vacation mode then and leave it in case these changes end up being beneficial overall to little cheeses like me. But I doubt it – I think they’ve been catering for quite a while to high volume sellers and factories rather than artisans, and in the 3 years since they’ve gone public, they’ve shifted even more to focusing on etsy’s bottom line, to which I no longer want to contribute without getting something more back. I mean, sure – etsy is a business, but it’s a business for which I’m pretty sure I’m no longer a customer.

I might actually start my own shop here on this domain, or at least create a gallery of work that I’m most proud of and move in more of an art direction rather than a craft direction (which I’ve been sort of trying to do anyway). I also heard about FiberCrafty for the first time today, too, so I might check that out – it sounds like it’s etsy (and Amazon Handmade) but for fiber crafts only. There are lots of possibilities, I just have to figure out what I want to do and what’s going to work for me.

The Week Dec 5 – Dec 11

Last week’s goals with progress indicated:

  • Make recommended changes to the pattern for the Gir hat & scarf, including (reluctantly) instructions for using DPNs.
  • Figure out how to organize test knits for both, including what expectations to set.
  • Add another pattern as a custom knit to The Yarn Office.
  • Start keeping track of things people ask me if I can make. Evaluate whether or not I can or want to make them, possibly add to etsy. (Cat butt coasters aren’t exactly keeping with the vibe I’ve got going on in the shop, but if I like making them and they sell, why not?) List started in my Bullet Journal, I haven’t really decided on whether or not to make any of them yet.
  • Finish the Chunky Herringbone Infinity Scarf and start a listing for it in the shop.
  • Start etsy listings for the FOs I took to the event on Saturday.
  • Edited to Add: Text Al to get Master John’s email addy. Email him the info for requesting a custom order from TYO and ask him to send the pics he showed me. Also pre-emptively ordered yarn from Webs, along with some other goodies.

This week:

  • Make recommended changes to the pattern for the Gir hat & scarf, including (reluctantly) instructions for using DPNs. Decided to neuter the instructions, so to speak; they now talk about knitting in the round but leave it to the knitter to decide on whether to use DPNs or circulars/magic loop.
  • Figure out how to organize test knits for both, including what expectations to set.
  • Add another pattern as a custom knit to The Yarn Office.
  • Start etsy listings for the remaining FOs I have, including the Chunky Herringbone Cowl – next step will be pics.
  • Gild the reindeer head that I finally found again this morning after seeing it in a craft store a few weeks ago. (I made myself do the edits to the Gir Hat & Scarf before writing this post and before gilding the reindeer; so excited!!!)

Deer head

The Week Nov 28 – Dec 4

Last week’s goals with progress indicated:

  • Make recommended changes to the pattern for the Gir hat & scarf, including (reluctantly) instructions for using DPNs.
  • Figure out how to organize test knits for both, including what expectations to set.
  • Finish Henry’s hat & attach scales after the fact, if at all; it’ll be easier to scatter them on the finished hat than to scatter as I knit.
  • Keep working on the fronts for the Green Wood Cardi.
  • Add another custom knit listing to The Yarn Office. Added the Infinite Wave Cowl.
  • Start getting the house ready for the onslaught of people coming for Thanksgiving, which means cleaning. Ugh.  Edited to add: Thanksgiving was lovely. There were at least 5 dinner-/cooking-related arguments, but no big blow-ups (which has happened in previous years). It was really good to see all of my in-laws and Enzo, the widowed Jack Russel Terrier boyfriend of our dog Jacey; she died last June (2105) and he still looks for her when he makes the trip.

I also:

    • Participated in my first in-person event for The Yarn Office; a small business Saturday promotion at the tae kwon do school my kids & husband go to. I didn’t sell anything, but did hand out a few business cards that I created & printed on Wednesday, when I committed to doing the event.
Jeff is helping me get ready
Getting organized for the first public appearance of The Yarn Office, note my helper’s furry legs in the top center of the photo
  • Edited to add: I almost forgot! I did get a custom order for a hat from Master John, the 2nd biggest cheese at the tae kwon do school. I need to remember to send him email with info on how to create a custom etsy order.
  • Got a lot of requests and referrals on Facebook as a result of posting about the small business Saturday event. People have asked if I could make: crocheted slippers using flip flops as a base, crocheted cat butt coasters, crocheted owl hat for a child. I see 100% more crochet in my future.
  • Priced out some finished knits that aren’t in my etsy shop for the small biz Saturday event, all items knit using not-my-patterns, which I’ve hesitated to sell before, but I might just throw caution to the wind and list them.
  • Spent 6 hours in the car yesterday driving my son back to school. Luckily I was passenger, so I finished off a Chunky Herringbone Infinity Scarf I started on Friday (I needed something easy to pick up & put down to work on Saturday). Well, finished except for grafting/3 needle bind off. And I got in 8 more rows on the fronts of my Green Wood Cardi.

This week:

  • Make recommended changes to the pattern for the Gir hat & scarf, including (reluctantly) instructions for using DPNs.
  • Figure out how to organize test knits for both, including what expectations to set.
  • Add another pattern as a custom knit to The Yarn Office.
  • Start keeping track of things people ask me if I can make. Evaluate whether or not I can or want to make them, possibly add to etsy. (Cat butt coasters aren’t exactly keeping with the vibe I’ve got going on in the shop, but if I like making them and they sell, why not?)
  • Finish the Chunky Herringbone Infinity Scarf and start a listing for it in the shop.
  • Start etsy listings for the FOs I took to the event on Saturday.
  • Edited to Add: Text Al to get Master John’s email addy. Email him the info for requesting a custom order from TYO and ask him to send the pics he showed me.
The Yarn Office *in the flesh*!!!
The Yarn Office! If I’m going to do more of these, I need a sign or a banner. Also, the round table wasn’t my choice – that’s what they provided, though I think it worked out pretty well.

Cowl Kick, Pricing Finished Knits

I’ve been on a cowl design and making kick after spending a couple months working on a Exeter cabled sweater. I can’t stop with the cowls now – they’re quick, easy projects that give me near-instant gratification.

The cowl kick started at the end of the sweater project. For about 2 years now I’ve been trying, somewhat successfully, to knit down my yarn stash. I wanted to find something to do with 3 skeins of Plymouth Earth Ecco Baby Camel that’s been in my stash since 2008. InfiniteWaveCowlIt’s a bulky weight yarn that Mr. Q got for me at With Yarn In Front for my birthday & Mother’s Day. He got it intending for me to make a hat with it, but the hat designs I found for it over the years haven’t wowed me. I wanted something close to the skin for this luxury fiber, a reversible fabric, and a cowl that could be finished as a loop or a möbuis. (Möbiuses are so cool! Two sides become one! What’s not to like?) After swatching, ripping out, and more swatching – thinking with yarn is what I call that process – I came up with the Infinite Wave Cowl. It’s a relatively quick knit, I can finish one in about 12 hours, and fun. It’s easy enough for TV knitting, but the cables keep it interesting.

I wrote the pattern up and decided to make it available for free for a limited time to get it out there in the knitting world. I’ve published 4 other patterns (Owl Honeycomb Blanket, Pasithea baby blanket, Double Rainbow Scarf, and Feathermoss stole) with limited success – under 10 people have bought them (some less than 5) and no one else has actually made any of them, just me. And so with the Infinite Wave Cowl, I’ve made 5 so far; 4 are available in The Yarn Office and I sold one to a friend. Although no one else has cast on yet, over 400 people have downloaded the pattern when it was free on Ravelry & Craftsy. I even briefly made it onto the first page of Ravelry’s hot right now patterns! Hooray!

So all those cowls I made are also now available in The Yarn Office. I’ve had some people exclaim that the price is relatively high, so I wanted to explain how I arrived at the prices. After some research, I’m charging 20 cents/yard + the cost of materials. So, for example, the Infinite Wave Cowl uses 220ish yards of yarn; 220 x .2 is $44. If a scarf takes me 12 hours to knit, that means I’m earning slightly less than $3.67/hour. Not only did I knit the cowl, but I also spent time designing it using skills I’ve built up over time, none of which are factored into the price. From my perspective, $3.67/hour is a bargain for you; minimum wage in my state is $7.25/hour, so I could/should be charging a base price of $87. Or could/should I charge closer to my hourly rate in my chosen profession as a technical writer, which requires some of the same skills, at $45+/hour?  These finished cowls are a bargain.

Now let’s talk about materials. 220 yards of bulky/chunky weight yarn doesn’t seem like much. I should just be able to pop over to JoAnn’s and Michael’s for something cheap, right? The least expensive suitable yarn available at JoAnn’s is Big Twist Collection Chunky Yarn at $4.49 for 195 yards of 100% acrylic yarn. Aside from the fact that I don’t find knitting with or wearing acrylic enjoyable, I would need 2 balls of this yarn to complete a cowl – $8.98. So the total for even the least expensive cowl would be $44 + $8.98 = $52.98. That’s certainly less expensive than the baby camel cowl I made the pattern for – materials for that cost $54, but it’s baby camel! Try to find that in a store! Or the alpaca scarfs I have available – materials for them cost me $31 each and I priced the cowls at $75 – can you even find a 100% alpaca scarf in a store? So yes, I can make them for less money but at the same time, yarn isn’t free and neither is my time.

Could the knitting be outsourced to hand-knitters in other countries and made for less? Sure, that happens, but most of those hand-knitters still aren’t receiving a fair wage in their economy. Could these be made on a machine in a factory (probably in China) in large quantities for less? You bet, but I don’t have (or want) those resources. Offering these handknits for sale on etsy clearly isn’t about making money for me or providing you with a cheap, disposable consumer good: this is more personal than all of that.