Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: September 2010

A cushion for the meh

I've been thinking a lot about craft shows and picking a good one and the inevitable meh show. It can be so disappointing when things don't go as well as you like and it so easy to slip into self-doubt. To keep myself from spiraling too far into the meh, I'm compiling a list of things to remind/encourage myself next time.

What's a meh show?

Any show that doesn't thrill you.

Maybe your expectations were high (and unmet).
Maybe your location wasn't great.
Maybe there were too many people selling the same thing.
Maybe the crowd wasn't in the mood to shop.

It seems like there's not a lot you can do.

And it's easy to see all the ways you can't turn the show around.
You can't change your place, you can't get rid of the competition and you can't convince an unbuying public to want to buy.

So what can you do?

You can institute an insurance policy. A few small things that will make sure the meh doesn't turn into a total waste of time.

Here's what I do:

Pick carefully. Think about what your Right People are looking for…will they be likely to find it at this show? Will they even hear about the show?

Invite your people. Tell them in your newsletter, on Twitter, on your blog. Email them personally. Offer them something (free gift, % off) when the show up and mention they heard about the show from you.

Collect new people. Other vendors, curious lookers, shoppers, non-shoppers. An email list is the simplest way to do this, but you can use anything that both helps you collect the information and then put it to use later. (I go into detail on the whole post-show-sales subject in this class, if you'd like to know more.)

Stay open to other opportunities. Selling your thing is great, but it's not the only benefit of the show. You may make contacts in the media (leading to a future profile or writing opportunity?). You may meet shop owners (wholesale opportunity?). You will definitely meet other vendors (collaboration opportunity?).

Schedule something fun. Plan to meet-up with the locals. Visit the tourist destinations (even if that just means cupcakes + yarn).  Stay the night with a friend. Eat new food.

And despite all this…

It sucks when things don't go well. And you may doubt yourself, doubt your thing and doubt the whole doing a craft show thing.

And that's ok.

You totally don't need to see the positive, or keep your chin up, or learn from your mistakes, or any of those other encouraging things people will say.

Go on. Look at the meh. Accept the meh. Maybe pout or sleep or write a blog post about the meh.

In the meantime, I'm here to gently remind you that the meh isn't all there is.
That there will life and sales and awesome shows after the meh.

In the comments

Putting our thing out there, into the big world can be scary. In the comments we don't give advice or “you should…”; we give encouragement and share our own experiences.  I wrote this post for future-me but if it helped you, I'd love to know.

Good Shtuff: NYC Edition

Good Shtuff is a weekly(ish) snippet of the stuff I’m reading, listening to or watching.

The Twitter

This week, every bit of Good Shtuff is thanks to Twitter. The people I've met (or gotten to know better) via Twitter filled my weekend in NYC. Twitter provided me with a bed, with a yarn-shopping pal, with a museum-trolling pal, with a lovely evening of getting to know people I truly adore and even an iced coffee during the heat of the craft show.

When my friends (those I knew in “real-life”, pre-Twitter) ask about Twitter, I tell them Facebook is for people you're already friends with, Twitter is for people you want to be friends with.

But after my weekend in the city I know that, heck, I AM friends with these people. Friends enough that they'd offer me their couch, shlep around the city with me, crack me up over coffee.

And now, with that bit of Twitter-love, let's move on to the individual good Shtuff:

The people

Amna is as smart and gentle as her site feels. Patient, hilarious and generous beyond anything I could have imagined, I'm now crazy thrilled to be in her writing workshop.

Laila, who makes the most amazing knit/crochet wearable fiber art, met me for a cupcakes and yarn-fondling. She's funny, smart and as lovely as she seems online.

I first met Shannon at Urban Craft Uprising, when I bought a pair of her Polymath earrings (that was almost 2 years ago and I  still wear them every week). I got to see her crazy lighting-up skirt (I want one!) and heard her ideas for new projects and whoa, I am so excited to share it (when it's ready to be shared).

Kyeli, Melissa and Anna met me for a coffee on Friday night. They are each so amazing in their own way; it was a delight to just talk to them each about their passions. And a big hug to Kyeli, a non-knitter (but an amazing photographer and writer!), who sat through quite a few knit-heavy discussions.

Anton and Erica brought me a tasty iced coffee and yay! They are fabulous and funny and make their own homemade sodas. Jay and I have talked about doing this forever (and I have made ginger ale a few times) and they've inspired me to be even more daring.

The places
What was the best people and places and Twitter of your week?

Good Shtuff: Craft Show Smartness Edition

Good Shtuff is a weekly(ish) snippet of the stuff I’m reading, listening to or watching.

I leave tomorrow for NYC and I am in all-craft-show-prep all-the-time mode, so this week the Good Shtuff is all craft-show related.

more yarn

How I prepare

I was going to link to some other people's helpful stuff, but then I remember I did that in this post. Not only does it link out, it's also a great description of what I do to get ready.


I wrote this after my first craft show and I think it's most clearly expresses how much I love doing them: 5 1/2 Shocking Facts about Craft Shows. My favorite line: “Being friendly is exhausting, but being passionate is exhilarating.

Do I make any money?

The short answer: yes. The long answer (and how it all breaks down) is here.

But it IS a lot of work

I get real about the pain of craft shows in this post. Painful, yes. Awesome, totally. As I say, “I do craft shows because it’s the one place, the one situation in which being a full-time yarnie feels good, normal, accepted. The people get me. ”

But if you wanna do it

I compiled everything I've ever learned about succeeding at craft shows, with a heavy focus on getting post-show sales in this class. It's one of my most popular and the great news is: you can take it any time.

What have you been reading and writing this week?

Share it in the comments!

Listastic: Craft Show Prep

I had high hopes of writing insightful posts this week about my process of getting ready for a craft show (2 days till NYC!).


But, alas, I'm knee-deep in preparations and my brain is barely functioning beyond single syllabic phrases, such as SPIN, PRINT, and What?

I had to have spell check fix the word preparations, so yeah, it's dire.

But I know that if I wait until after the show, I'll forget everything that goes into it, so I want to write something now.

So, lists. I am surrounded by lists and maybe lists provide the clearest view into the method and/or madness.

Or maybe I just need to go make another list.

Master List


This is the list that has absolutely EVERY thing that has to be done before I go. Things like driving Jay to pick up the truck he's borrowing while I'm out of town with our only car, baking gluten-free bread (so I can pack myself sammiches for the trip), shipping out the BCB orders, labeling everything, picking the last of the blueberries, etc.

(I just noticed that “paint toenails” is on this list. This is not mere vanity, I always end up taking off my shoes to spin in front of customers….and end up with three year olds saying “Your polish is messed up”. True story.)

The Master List also has a list of everything I need to gather and put in the car, it has a list of the food I want to pack, it has a list of the things I'll need money for.
The master list also has a list for Jay (things like: print X of these labels, clean car, find the screws to go with those shelves), which I assure you thrills him.

Did I mention Jay is not a list-maker? When you consider my deep and abiding love for lists, it's amazing we've lasted nearly 10 years. Shocking, really.

Daily List

daily list

I make one of these around 2 weeks out (but this becomes Super Serious by the last week).

Every day has a list of the things I need to do. In theory, everything from the Master List finds a place on the daily lists. This is the ONLY way I make sure everything from the Master List actually gets done.

When, like yesterday, half of the stuff doesn't get done, it gets moved over to the next day. In theory, I won't end up with everything on the last day…

List of Smartnesses

This is the list of what I read a few weeks before I start getting ready. It gets me in the right mind to do what I gotta do. It's a combination of “remember this” and “think about this” and “what a good idea!” stuff.

Check back in tomorrow for the full List of Smartnesses (with links to everything!)

PS. If this random rambling isn't at all helpful, be comforted by the fact that I thought long and hard (and in multi-syllabic sentences!) when I taught my Rock the Craft Show class.
As the holiday craft show season approaches, it's becoming a bit of resource for crafters  and I'm hearing great things from everyone who is using the checklists.

Good Shtuff: Boats + Treasure Edition

Good Shtuff is a weekly(ish) snippet of the stuff I’m reading, listening to or watching.

This week, it’s all about the adventures, boats and treasures.

Adventure Prep

In preparation for upcoming adventuring I've been listening this song (Adventures, Be Your Own Pet) over and over.

And shopping or new knee highs, like the ones I'm wearing today:

You know, the important stuff.


I'm going to NYC next week!
On my list of must-sees: BabyCakes (gluten-free cupcakes), Purl (yarn!), MOMA (free on Friday night) and of course, the Maker Faire (where I'll be selling my yarn). Top of the list: YOU! Wanna hang out? Lemme know here + I'll plan a meet-up!
It's @babycakesNYC and I'm @blondechicken.


I've been admiring Bridget's boat-pregnancy and have loved reading about how she's making this dream happen. My very favorite is this post about sailing, which is mostly about fear, in a really beautiful way.
She's @intuitivebridge.


I wanted to get in on the Treasure Project the last time my friend Lisa B held it. And now! She's doing it again! I love that she's using drawing (or photography, or whatever you prefer), she's using creativity to bring mindfulness to her surroundings. It's so easy to get wrapped up in my head, in my creativity and forget all about looking around me.
She's @zenatplay.

What have you read or listened to this week that you loved?

Your questions, answered: Newsletter software

With all this talk about newsletters, several of you have written to ask:

How do you keep track of all the names? Isn't that an awful lot of administrative work?

This is a splendid question, because it reminds me I haven't really addressed the infrastructure of sending a newsletter, the thing that makes it shockingly simple: email marketing software.

I use Mailchimp and this week's guest expert Wendy uses aWeber. I know there are many more out there, but these are the ones used by, well, everyone I know.

What do they do?

  • Generates a sign-up form. It can be a seperate page (like this) or code for your sidebar (like you see here).
  • Keeps track of subscribes and unsubscribes.
  • Puts an Unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email, so you don't break any spam laws (yes! There are laws about this!).
  • Helps you design a pretty email (like this one).
  • Gives you stats on what got opens, clicks and forwards.

(this is what they look like in Mailchimp)

Getting started

The magic of software is how easy it is to get started. Setting up my first list (for yarncustomers) only took a few hours and I've learned more and more features as I went.

If you want to skip the random poking around that comes with teaching yourself (or if you know you'll keep putting it off if you wait to have a few hours to learn it), I can't recommend Wendy Cholbi, tech translator, enough.

Wendy's helped me figure out all sorts of confusing newsletter-ish stuff and now she's joining me to teach the basics of setting up your first list using newsletter software. She'll make it simple, straightforward and give you a checklist so you know you're not missing a step. You can join us for the class here.

Love Letter to…you?

I wrote you a letter.

Well, maybe it's for you.
But I don't know yet!


Sometimes, when I'm working on sharing a thing, I write a letter. Sometimes the letter is to the THING (like, to a specific class) and sometimes it's to a person; the Person the Thing is for (like, to an IdeaStormer).
This is a super-useful practice I learned from Havi.

This morning (ok, it was 3am, I was awake with this crazy idea), I  realized that I have time to do three IdeaStorming sessions live, face to face, when I'm in New York City.

I've never done an in-person session (although I've taught hundreds of live knitting lessons), and I got SO excited thinking about how awesome it would be to do my favorite thing with the Person right there.

I got all atwitter and couldn't get my thoughts clear, so I wrote this letter. I wrote it as if you scheduled a session and I am welcoming you, telling you a little about what you can expect.

I don't usually share these letters (I wrote it in my journal, as you can see from the pictures), but I just feel like it today.

If the letter is meant for you, I hope you love it.



Hello! I am SO excited to get to IdeaStorm with you!

Did you know that IdeaStorming is my MOST favorite part of my work?

It's true! I adore thinking about another business (or a yet-to-be-hatched business) and looking at all the ways it could grow.

And this isn't empty gushing.
IdeaStorming is my Great Work.
It's the thing that makes my heart sing.
It's the work that everything has been leading to.

My ideal day has an IdeaStorming session, as the first work I do.
My dream job is a day full of writing and IdeaStorming.


And you! You, my darling crafter!
You are full of possibilities.

You may be a little confused now…or a little overwhelmed.

But that's ok.
Because I can see clearly.
See your strengths, see your path and see your success.

I have hope.
Clear, unfettered, feathery hope.

For you.
For your craft.
For our work together.

Restricting that hope or trying to ignore it…I've tried that.
And it made me small, constricted, hesitant.

Letting that hope out of the cage; it freed me, inspired me, stretched me.
In a delightful, delirious way.

That's why I'm writing you, darling crafter, to let you know that I have a table at a cafe.
There's a seat for you, for me and one for Hope. I'm saving our seats, delighted to have you join us.

Here's how it works: you bring your baby business, with all its uncertainties and worries.
I'll bring Hope and clarity and the space for us to play.


See you soon!
Maybe in NYC?


PS. If this isn't the time for you, I understand. Know that I'm here, with basketfull of hope muffins and a thermos of clarity (on the blog, for free) that you're welcome to.


And that's it!

I have no idea what “clear, unfettered, feathery hope” is, but I like it!

If the letter was written to you, you can get an IdeaStorming session right here. If you want to have it face-to-face in NYC, the weekend of 9/24, I'll email you (after you buy it) and we'll  figure out the details!

NYC or Bust

I am so super excited to be planning a trip to New York City!
I'll be in town from September 24 – 26 (for the Bust Craftacular at the Maker Faire) and I would love to hang out with you, my fellow crafty biz people!

(This is only some of the yarn I'll be bringing)

I'm still trying to figure out the wheres and whens, so I still get it all figured out I'm collecting info about who wants to hang out.

If you think you'll be in town and you might want to meet other crafty people or get together for a one-on-one IdeaStorming, let me know by signing up here.

I have no ideas yet on where we might meet, so if you have any ideas, please share them in the comments.

I hope to see you soon!

Good Shtuff: Sparkles + Unicorns Edition

Good Shtuff is a weekly(ish) snippet of the stuff I’m reading, listening to or watching.

This week, it’s all about the sparkles, glitter and culture.

Last week (I think it was Friday), I read three posts, all in a row, all about the SAME thing.
There's something in the air.
Or something is changing.
Or, you know, maybe this is just really good advice.


David Crandall wrote about How unicorns improve your business. It's true! Show your love for unicorns (or pink hair or blueberries) and you suddenly become a real person and can connect with other real people


Naomi discussed Glitter (uh, not the movie, the sparkly stuff) and the amazingness of creating a brand. But ew, the word “brand” sounds so…intentional or manipulative. But that's not what she's talking about. Go read it.
(As always with Naomi: language alert!)


Havi wrote about culture (not the yogurt kind, the people kind). More than anyone else I know online, Havi has this culture thing down. Spend more than 3 minutes on her site and you get it. Even though none of it is…defined. It's obvious without being stated. I've been thinking a lot about this obvious-yet-unstated thing and I still haven't figured it out, so it was a treat to read her thoughts on it.

What do you think about these three posts? Do they spark some glittery unicornish cultured ideas for you?

Your questions, answered: newslettery video edition

This is a regular-ish thing, where I answer your questions about an upcoming class. I hope it helps you decide if the class is right for you (and if it’s not, I hope the answers spark something for ya.)

Today, we're talking about tomorrow's class: Send a Delightful Newsletter. I was inspired to answer via video.  If video isn't your thing, I've got a short summary of my answer under each video.

What does this class cover?

We're going to cover:

What: What should you send? What kind of information would delight your People? What's your goal for your newsletter?
Who: Who's gonna get this? How are you going to get people to sign up?
When: How often? What days + what times?
How: How do you make it irresistible?

Is this class for me?

Both classes are for the selling-your-crafty-goodness crowd. Or at least, it's for those of you who are trying to sell your crafty goodness. If your sales aren't regular, having a newsletter will help you steady those sales.  In the video, I get on a tangent about WHY having a newsletter will help you steady your sales.

Let me know in the comments if you like the video answers or if you prefer text.

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