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 July 17-July 23

Last week:

  • Begin knitting the commissioned shawl. One of the yarns has already arrived and I can get started on the first part of it before the second skein arrives.
    Done. The second skein arrived last Monday, so there was no lag time or head start at all. I’m roughly halfway through it, maybe a little bit more – it’s hard to tell because I’m working on the longest section, which will end with around 400 live stitches. Bonus: it’s garter stitch, so while knitting, I finished the book I was reading (The Solitudes by John Crowley, 6th time reading it) and started another (The Chemical Wedding by Christian Rosencreutz by Johan Velentin Andraeae in a new version by John Crowley – lots of authors & a complicated explanation for that).

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    Commissioned Shawl Progress
  • Spin for Tour de Fleece every day.
    Done. I might even make it through this bump of Spunky Eclectic BFL and end up with a skein of yarn by the end of the Tour. Usually I spin much, much more and it’s hard to make myself spin and then, after I’ve gotten into it, rip myself away to work on the shawl. So it goes – I can always keep spinning long after the Tour has ended and the shawl is done.

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    One of my favorite progress photos from TdF, which I’ve been posting daily on Instagram (I’m madgefaces there). I like this one because it shows both the roving and the singles really well.
  • Go to TKD even though I don’t want to, even though it’s going to be hot and the dojang doesn’t have AC, go even if Julia doesn’t go.
    I went Monday at 6:30 without Julia and Saturday morning, where we had a lovely time faux-hitting each other in one step sparring practice.
  • Drink at least 3 Nalgene bottles of water each day (32oz) so I can handle the heat and TKD.
    I didn’t keep track of this, but I also didn’t feel faint or ragingly thirsty at TKD or any other time for that matter, so I suppose my mission was accomplished.

 

This week:

  • Carry on with the commissioned shawl.
  • Spin for Tour de Fleece every day, even today, a rest day.
  • Go to TKD.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • KISS. (Keep it simple, stupid/silly.)

The Week July 10-July 16

Last week:

  • Carry on with Aranami/Imanara.
    Check.
  • Finish the pinks in the Fox Embroidery project.
    Almost! I have four more small things to embroider with pink.
  • Spin for Tour de Fleece every day.
    Check check check check, etc. I’ve surprised myself by getting a little into it too, so my spinning mojo is coming back.
  • Go to TKD once or more.
    Nope. But I picked my family (well, 3/4 of them) up from the airport and they’re all black belts so that kind of counts! (But not really.)
  • Get the house ready & grocery shop for the return of my family from S. Korea.
    I got the house ready but I didn’t grocery shop until today – I’d rather buy and make stuff that they want, not what I think they might want.

In other news, I also got a commission for The Yarn Office (me) to make a shawl for an old college friend! I ordered the yarn and started planning for it. Hurray!

And I decided what to make my friends Stephanie & Tommy for their baby: baby mitts and hats and (maybe) washcloths. I knit two wee pairs of mitts; I plan to knit a medium and larger size, too. I do need to brush up on my elastic skills; the 1×1 rib of the cuff isn’t elastic enough to keep them on a baby’s wrist.

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Baby mitts for Steph & Tommy’s baby. She knows I made them (she follows me on Twitter and Instagram) but I’m keeping the color a secret until after they receive them.

This week:

  • Begin knitting the commissioned shawl. One of the yarns has already arrived and I can get started on the first part of it before the second skein arrives.
  • Spin for Tour de Fleece every day.
  • Go to TKD even though I don’t want to, even though it’s going to be hot and the dojang doesn’t have AC, go even if Julia doesn’t go.
  • Drink at least 3 Nalgene bottles of water each day (32oz) so I can handle the heat and TKD.

I don’t want to overload myself; that commissioned piece is the most important thing on the list and I don’t want to get distracted or bogged down with other projects.

I hope you all have a good week and that if you’re spinning for Tour de Fleece that you enjoy it as much I have been enjoying it, which is a lot!

 

Digital Pattern Sales: etsy woes

I’m starting to think selling my patterns in my etsy store, The Yarn Office, was a bad idea. Ravelry is so great in how they handle patterns that I just somehow took for granted that etsy would behave in a similar way, but no, it doesn’t. Let me explain …

A good friend of is making my Pasithea Baby Blanket pattern as a gift for her nephew, who’s expecting his first child in August or September (I’m fuzzy on the details). She’s a fantastic writer and editor and found a few mistakes that my tech editor and I missed – I swear, no matter how many people carefully proof and edit, there are always a few niggling problems that escape into the wild. In this case, one was minor (two mislabeled subsections) and one was more serious (transposed instructions).

As soon as my friend pointed these out to me, I updated the source file (InDesign) and created a new PDF for revision 3 of the pattern. I asked my friend to let me know when Ravelry notified her of the update – Ravelry notifies pattern buyers when a pattern is updated so they can download the updated version – and discovered there was a catch: she didn’t buy it on Ravelry, she was super sweet and gave The Yarn Office some traffic & a sale.

The problem: etsy doesn’t have an easy way – or really, a way at all – to send an update or let purchasers know that one is available. I can go into the past orders for the shop and track down each buyer’s email address and, I suppose, email them an updated file. That’s fine for the moment since I have so few sales of that pattern, but what happens if/when I get more and it becomes more cumbersome and time consuming to send an update? I could add a note to my pattern template with my website, aka this blog, or Ravelry and start keeping track of corrections here/there. I could also just wash my hands of it and put a warning in the product description that the patterns won’t be updated, an option I really don’t like. Or I could just pull them all off of etsy and only offer them on Ravelry. And oh yeah, Craftsy.

I need to noodle this through and really decide what my goal is with the etsy shop. I’ve put far more money into it than I’ve gotten out of it. Perhaps it’s time to put it on vacation mode for a while and revisit it when I have more clarity (and better things to sell).

Birthday

Today’s my birthday – yay! I get to eat as much cake as I can! And also reflect on what’s happened in a year …

I’m in such a different place  mentally; last year I was still recovering from something that happened in January and still struggling with drinking. I took my last drink in July, so I know I was craving it badly on my birthday – how else was I supposed to celebrate than to let loose? I’m happy to say I don’t feel that way this year. I can let loose any time, I just need to give myself permission to do so. I don’t need alcohol to relax, I can do that on my own in a number of ways, including fiber art stuff (knitting, spinning, even my nemesis, crochet).

I was also still playing roller derby. I was on two travel teams and the captain on one. The pressure I put on myself to be a good captain was really bringing me down last year. I had a hard time focusing and being happy about the things I was doing well and only focused on the things I was doing badly, and that applies to my derby skills as well. I think I hit my peak skill level at the end of 2014 and 2015 was a slow descent into still okay but not as physically strong as I was in November & December of 2014. I stopped getting MVP Jammer awards (I have 9 or 10 from my 4 year derby career) and also stopped playing in as many jams, partly because my endurance was down after January and partly because my anxiety was shooting through the roof. I decided to quit the team I wasn’t captaining in May and take a step back after the season was over in June. What I didn’t realize is that I’d be done (for a while or for good, I haven’t decided yet).

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All 100 of my 100 Day Project pictures

Last year I was also in the middle of my 100 day project. I designed and released two new patterns: Feathermoss and The Double Rainbow Scarf. I finished two hats, a sweater, two scarfs, three shawls, and did a lot of spinning. Luckily the project overlapped a bit with Tour de Fleece, so I got two birds with one stone. I also made felt and dyed it with false indigo; it’s the bright green felt I beaded & embroidered as the Moss Garden and this shmancy upcycled Sucrets box. And I felted one of my husband’s store bought wool sweaters (it no longer fit him) and embroidered on that with handspun naturally dyed singles (also what I used in the Moss Garden & the box).

This year, I was on the lookout for the start of another 100 day challenge but it seems that there are a number of them; I might as well start a new one on my own any time. Rather than being so formal about it, I’ve just been trying to do something every day either with knitting, reviving my etsy shop, writing this blog, or keeping up with social media. I feel really good about reviving the etsy shop even though I haven’t had any recent sales. I’m positive I’ve paid etsy more than I’ve made off the shop, but my traffic and favorites are up thanks to working on my SEO so I still have some hope.

I also feel good about designing – I will eventually move away from cowls to something else – and I’m looking into ways to expand my reach and become a little more professional about it. I found another designer group on Ravelry, one that actually has calls for submission. I’m working up the courage to respond to one of these and see where I can take this design thing.

My family is doing well; my oldest will be graduating from high school in June and has decided where he’s going to college next year. My middle son has his learner’s permit & is doing really well with driving. He’s also running track this spring and breaking his previous PRs. And he thinks he just aced the AP Psychology exam. My youngest son has adjusted really well to middle school and I’ve been squeezing in all the hugs and kisses on the cheek that I can before it gets too weird/embarrassing for him. My husband is stressed in his job and travels every week and I wish he had time to look for a new one that’s local, but overall I suppose he’s doing okay – our marriage is more solid than it’s ever been.

Lastly, pet-wise things are a lot different than they were last year. We had to euthanize our smallest dog, a toy fox terrier mix, last June. She badly ruptured a few disks in her back, lost control of her hind legs, and was in a lot of pain. Poor chick – she was a good dog, much more like a cat than our other two dogs. In November I started talking up cats to my husband (and myself – I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another pet) and in December we found the perfect cat for us thanks to some friends who foster cats for a rescue organization. Jeffrey Lebowski (aka The Dude) was just under a year old, is very calm/chilled out, and has fit in with our family so well – I post a lot of pictures of him to Instagram.

All in all, I’m happy with where I am and what I’m doing! If you made it this far into my post, congratulations – I’d share my birthday cake with you if you were here, but you’re not, so go find some cake and have a happy Tuesday!

Spring Cleaning

Yesterday I tidied up part of The Yarn Office, my work/studio space (and the name of my etsy shop). I used to occupy the room in our house known as the office but outgrew that several years ago and took over our formal living room. One of my sons called it “The Yarn Office,” which we all thought was very funny at the time, and the name stuck.

The Yarn Office
My work space in The Yarn Office

I feel so much better having cleared my desk off and tidied most of the boxes and baskets that are hidden underneath it. I also cleaned off the top of my yarn stash cabinet, but not the inside – I still need to go through my stash (which has spilled over into a basket and box) and sort out the bottom shelf, which is where I shove yarn & project bags and where I keep things I don’t want to part with, like old journals and projects the kids have done. The bottom drawer also needs a good clean-out; it’s where I keep my knitting needles, beading supplies, extra whorls for my spinning wheel, and other miscellaneous things.

The Yarn Office
The Yarn Stash Cabinet

See those rolls of fabric in the corner in the yarn stash picture? I need to do something with them, like sell them or give them away. I’ve had one of them for 5 years and the other for 2. I was going to make curtains, but I don’t get along well with my sewing machine (ironic because I come from a long line of seamstresses). If I haven’t done anything with that fabric yet, I don’t think I’m going to. That pretty much applies to the rest of my fabric stash – I need to use it or lose it. This spring has been all about being realistic about what I can and want to do and letting go of things & projects that I’m not going to tackle any time soon.

I haven’t even touched on my fiber stash, which is taking up a little room under my desk and an entire corner of my dining room. I’m hoping to take my unwashed fleece & washed but not carded fleece to Maryland Sheep & Wool next weekend to drop off at the Singleton Fiber Processing booth. They’re within driving distance; I just haven’t gotten around to getting my fleece there since I decided 2 years ago that I’m not interested in processing them myself. I’m glad I know how to go from sheep to yarn but I’d rather work with finished roving for now, which I haven’t been doing because I have fleece guilt. Ah, the life of a procrastinator is filled with guilt, but I’m working on both of those problems.

How about you? Have you done any spring cleaning?

The Yarn Office, The Post Office, and Fleece Washing

Over the last week or so, I’ve been super-busy. My knitting friends have been encouraging me for a long time (trust me: for at least a year) to start a shop, if not a brick-and-mortar yarn shop, then a shop on etsy, or really, someplace online. A brick-and-mortar yarn shop seems like a pretty high risk endeavor right now; several local-ish yarn shops have disappeared over the last few years: Capital Yarns and With Yarn in Front both in Chantilly I think, Eleganza in Frederick, MD, and at least 2 others (I’m too lazy to go dig up the thread on Ravelry). I can’t tell you how many people, not just in Loudoun Needleworkers, have longed for a local-er yarn shop. If FibreSpace in old town Alexandria ever decides to open a satellite store, my knitting group dearly hopes it will be all the way out here in Loudoun.

Not being such an entrepreneur type and being rather skittish about things like accounting, I have been procrastinating since June, when I vowed to make this yarn/fiber/artsy thing work. At Shenandoah Fiber Festival, Lisa, one of my LNW friends who’s been encouraging me for a while now, was as excited as I was about the fleeces I bought and told me she couldn’t wait to see what I did with them. Of course, a month passed before I even blogged about SVFF or did more with the fleece than move them out of my way. Last Wednesday, at our regular mid-week meet-up, Lisa told me about the project she had in mind for a batt from me. She had a project. She needed wool. She wanted to buy wool from me! What more could she do except come to my house, force money on me, and make off with wool? So, I started an etsy shop called The Yarn Office, what Ethan, my middle son, called the living room after I took it over with my spinning wheel, knitting books, etc.

So far, I don’t have much in the shop, just some batts that I made last spring, when another knitting friend, Jenni, let me borrow her drum carder to make a few batts. A week or two later, I made a few batts using my own carder, which Mr. Q surprised me with on Mother’s Day or my birthday (both in early May). I did finish the batts for Lisa, she’s purchased them, and I have those two initial sales to someone that I know & like and who will be able to give me feedback (or leeway) if something is wrong with the batts! And if something *is* wrong, I’ll be able to fix it super-quick without having to deal with the dreaded Post Office (of doom). I hate the PO, though of course I’ll be doing some desensitizing therapy in the form of shipping any orders I get by going to the actual building. (Yes, it’s silly that I have a Post Office thing, but there it is.)

I am cleaning fleece like a crazy lady. Well, really, just a lady with a purpose. I’ve used two methods so far on the cormo fleece, which is pretty greasy (but cormo! so worth it!). The first, the lock-by-lock method that Beth Smith of the Spinning Loft showed Jenni and I at the 2010 Spinning Loft Spring Retreat. It involves washing each lock individually using a bar of Fels Naptha (no, it doesn’t contain naptha – they should possibly consider renaming the product). This method was excellent for getting some of the super dirty locks clean, except the water I was using wasn’t hot enough to remove the lanolin and the batt I made from that wool was a little greasier than what I’d like.

The second method is the tulle roll technique also mentioned/shown/described during the Spinning Loft Retreat and detailed by Beth in Knitty’s Winter 2008 issue. Yesterday afternoon (Halloween!) I made rolls just like Beth’s but instead of using tulle, I used some more flexible white netting from some curtains I got a while ago (the curtain story is a post all by itself). Today, I washed the rolls. I filled up two buckets with really hot water, one with some non-enzyme-containing detergent (Ecos Liquid Laundry Detergent, which I bought at Costco while feeling guilty about my carbon footprint but not guilty enough to apply the elbow grease required to get it to work as well as Tide), the other with clean water. And away I washed. It went reasonably well, except that a few of the rectangles used to make the rolls were more like uneven parallelograms and some of the locks escaped. It could have been worse – most of them were still attached by a few fibers to their neighbors and I was able to keep everything together until it was time to dry them. I think for my next washing session, I’m going to use hot water, rubber gloves (with lotion on, killing 2 birds with one stone), and the Fels Naptha.

More soon (Thursday, if I’m with-it) on dying with mushrooms, pokeberries, bittersweet, and indigo. (I used indigo on the freshly-washed locks today, but indigo requires a post of its’ own.)