Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: December 2010

A letter in the morning cold

I woke up at 6:30 am (about 2 hours earlier than usual!) with the following email burning inside me. I couldn't sleep, I just kept thinking I need to write this!

I sent it to my SparklePointerettes on Tuesday and only waited to share it here until I was all moved (I'm still a little wary of sharing where I am or what I'm doing in real time on the web, since the break-in).

Morning snow 12/26/2010


Today's my last day in this house and I'm sitting just a few feet from my busted up back door.
As you may have read, my house was broken into.

Jay and I have felt unsafe, anxious and never-quite-comfortable since it happned.
What was once a beautiful, comfy farmhouse has become a source of tension.

We knew we wanted to get out of here fast, but we didn't want to make a decision on a new place fast. We want to take our time, pick just the right place, create a new home.

To give ourselves space and peace, we made an unusual decision.
Today we're packing almost everything we own into a storage space and we're moving, temporarily, onto a friend's farm.
This will give us the time and space and security to look for a new place while living without fear.

I've been hesitant to share this with anybody. The break-in left me feeling raw and vulnerable, like a turtle without its shell.
But I woke up very early this morning, with this email burning in me.


Because this is a success story.

Lots of “online business gurus” show pictures of their fancy car, big house, or island vacation and claim success.
I'm doing the opposite.

I'm saying, even when things are rough…
Even when things are not going as planned…
Even when what I really wanted (to feel safe, to stay in my home) isn't working out…

My business is giving me what I need.

My yarn-making has given me exactly what this situation calls for:

Flexibility (to live and work wherever I want (or need) to).
Peace of mind (to take the time I need off work).
Support (both financial and through the community of my Right People).

Working for myself, and specifically working within the amazingly supportive crafty community, has given me more security than any dayjob.
I'm not tied to a location.
I'm not tied to a specific schedule.
I can get up at 6 am to write a blazingly honest email.

First, I just want to say thank you.
For your emails, your tweets, and as always, for your support.

But also, I want to encourage you that you can have this too.
No matter what 2010 has looked like.
No matter what 2011 may bring.
You deserve to have security, community and peace of mind.

This kind of business – one that supports you in the hard times, one that gives you space and flexibility and freedom – this is the kind of business that we create in the CraftyBiz Kitchen.

Your stories (and my own!) of illness, of job loss, of hard times have encouraged me to include even more practility and pragmatism. Even more concrete, do-this-next-steps. Even more personalization, so that stuff you learn can be applied to what you'red doing.

If you need a little more stability or flexibility or freedom, I hope you find it in 2011.

No, I hope you craft it for yourself.

If you have any questions or you'd like some help in deciding if the CraftyBiz Kitchen is right for you, just ask (and I'll get back to you as soon as I get moved in!).

Thanks again for making today possible,

PS. A BUNCH of really smart businessy friends (along with a few people already in it!) told me that the CraftyBiz Kitchen wasn't expensive enough, that it should be over $80. I raised the price (to $54) for a few days, but it just didn't feel right. The price I started with, $47 (even though the experts say it's not the kind of number that will psychologically seduce you to buy), just feels perfect, so I've corrected the page.

PPS. Oh, it just occurred to me that I never mentioned: even though I'll be in a new place, classes and Ideastorming and yarn-making will go on as normal. None of my plans for the CraftyBiz Kitchen are changing. In fact, they're just getting more fabulous. That's the joy of a flexible business!

Merry and Bright

I wish, for you my dear sisters-in-craft:


And most of all, I hope that all your dreams and all your plans for the new year come true.

I'll be far from my desk for the next week, but I look forward to joining you in the CraftyBiz Kitchen or right here in the new year.

Good Shtuff: Naps + Rests Edition

Since I'm on sabbatical, and the rest of the country is in a holiday-induced panic, this is a rest-filled, super-short Good Shtuff.

How can I NOT love a book called Take That Nap?!

Stop worrying about the website stuff. Updates, plug-ins, meh! Let my pal Wendy handle the hassle while you just work on creating your awesomeness.

During all this resting, how about a little knitting? I have plans to make 11 shawls in 2011 and I know at least 2 of them will be the fabulous Betico. I LOVE patterns that let you work your own magic. And I can think of a zillion ways to make it and 50 people to make it for. Totally smitten!

Hope your week is filled with rest, joy and light!

PS. If you're using the next two weeks to plan the new year in your business, I humbly submit the CraftyBiz Kitchen as a fabulous place to learn, hang out and generally figure business stuff out in a no-panic, no-should cozy (virutal) kitchen.

Sugar Cookie Day

I woke up today, the first day of my sabbatical, thinking about sugar cookies.

(Well, not just sugar cookies. I was also humming this song (you're welcome!) and wondering if new people joined the CraftyBiz Kitchen overnight (they did!).)

Specifically, these sugar cookies. I'm making them right now (ok, as soon as I stand up).

That's a LOT of flours!
(the recipe takes a LOT of flours! 5!)

And I am dying to decorate them like the Pioneer Woman and Bakeat350 taught me here.

And, well, I just wanted to share. Sugar cookies! Decorating!
No big business lessons. Just luxuriating in a sabbatical. Look for pictures tomorrow (or follow me on Twitter and get pictures LIVE. Thrilling. I know.)


That's how I'm spending my snowy Thursday. What are you doing?

(pictures added 12/18. You can see that I fell far short of The Pioneer Woman's beautiful examples. Sigh)

Throwing a party inside the CraftyBiz Kitchen

Let's get right to the point: The CraftyBiz Kitchen is now open.
You can join us here.

I tried to keep that page short and to the point, but there is so much that I'm excited about that I just had to share some of it here.
Let's do Q+A, shall we?

What's the CraftyBiz Kitchen?

When it started, in July 2010, it was simply a subscription to my CraftyBiz classes. Every class came with recordings, worksheets and post-class chats. As more people joined and started asking for different features, I decided to close it to new members on September 1, so we could experiment together.
Over the next 3 months, I added some things, tried other things and asked the Kitcheners what they wanted at every turn.

They voted and what we have now is something we all really love:

  • 2 hours of classes/month (most of them private, a few classes will be available to the public for $30-$70)
  • 30 minute one-on-one session with me, via Google chat. We talk about your business, prioritize for the next month or just brainstorm product ideas (like Zombie Jesus. Yes)
  • Weekly chats, in a private (online) room and on Twitter

The best part?

You pay each month and can leave at any time.
Or, if you'd prefer, you can pay for 3 months at once.

(Once you've been in it for 3 months, you have the option of buying a 6 month membership, at the request of some very eager Kitcheners!)

What classes?

This is the part I am most! excited! about!

The CraftyBiz Kitchen allows me to know who, exactly,will be in the classes, so I can shape the content and discussion to benefit you, the individual business crafter.
I've started to work on the outline of the first quarter and am delighted that as I was mapping everything out,  it turns out that each step could happen in a real kitchen, as you're planning a party. So that's the metaphor we're going with (but we're also going to spend some time coming up with a metaphor YOU like, for YOUR biz (if you're into that sorta thing)).

For starters, everyone who joins will get Right Price + Right People in mid-December, so we're all on the same page when we start in January.

Build your own Kitchen: Building the “home base” for your business, the fist step in creating a thoroughly-you business. We'll look at all the different spokes of your business + learn how to make them cohesively you. This step makes it easier for your Right People to recognize you when they find you.

Stocking the Shelves: Does your online presence (website, etsy shop, etc) answer all of your Right People's questions? Is it easy to navigate? Easy to understand? Before we invite people over, we need to make sure we've got what they need.


Planning a Party: We all want more sales, but before you invite the people, let's plan for what kind of party you're throwing. In other words, what your Unique Selling Point? What's the thing that makes your thing awesome?

Putting together the invitation list: In this class, we'll dig into who YOUR Right People are. Who do you hope shows up? What do they want from you?

Who has it helped?

Here are some CBKers who agreed to share their story.

Kristine says, “I launched my crafty business in 2010, and the help that Tara gave in form of classes, one-on-one, and chats was invaluable to getting off the ground.  I'd highly recommend that if 2011 will be the year of something new for YOU, consider investing in yourself and join the CraftyBiz Kitchen!”
Joyce started her business after our first IdeaStorming and has since started teaching, succeeded at her first craft show and totally rocked it.
(Also, she sends me emails after classes that say hilarious things like this:

“I got so much from the most recent class!!! SO incredibly informative and helpful! I dub thee Tara Awesomepants! “

There are lots more stories and sillyness, but everything you share in the CBK stays in the CBK. Privacy and mystery and ridiculous passwords. Yes.

But here's the thing: none of this is the CraftyBiz Kitchen.
It's all them. Their hard work. Their application of what we've talked about. Their curiosity and experiments and willingness to try.
I'm just delighted I get to hang out with them while they work on it!

Is this for me?

It depends.
If you're wondering if this is for where you are in your business, the answer is “Probably yes.” I'm working on baking layers (like a cake!) into each of the topics we cover. The general concepts are great for someone just starting their business, but the specifics of how YOU  implement them will help even the most advanced crafty business.
For newbies, you'll be building your business as we learn.
For established businesses, you'll be tweaking and improving as we learn.
For everyone in between, it'll be a combination of new-to-you-stuff and oh-I-should-really-look-again-at-that stuff.
Everyone will have the support of me (via one-on-one time) and other crafters (via chat) to ask questions, dig deeper and explore all the gooey layers.

(Side Note: The layers thing is something I am terribly excited about. I plan on playing with the concept (and maybe even actual cake layers) a lot during my sabbatical. You've been warned.)

If you're wondering if this kind of thing is right for you, the answer is “maybe“.

Before you decide, it might help to ask yourself these questions (this is what I ask myself before I buy anything):

  • How do I intend to use this, actually implement it, to improve my business?
  • Do I have time to listen to the classes and join in chats (about 4 hours a month)?
  • Do I enjoy the other things by this person (blog, other classes, etc)? Would I like hanging out with her on a regular basis?

But is this for ME?

Still not sure? Send me an email: vulcan@taraswiger.com

And you know what?

If this isn't for you? Or it isn't for you right now? That's totally cool. I still adore you and your businessy dream and can't wait to hang out with you in the comments.


I quit my dayjob in July 2009. Since that first day, I have always had a to-do list. Always had deadlines. Always been working.
Oh, I have taken some vacations, but each of those were full-fledged ignore-all-work weeks off.

I have not experimented.

I have not started a work day without a list.

And I love lists and calendars and plans; it's not lists that are the problem.

It's that I've been working in much the same way that I worked in the dayjob. Similar hours, similar goals. Looking at my time in chunks of hours of days, not weeks or seasons.

I'm ready to play with this. To explore. To experiment.

I'm taking a sabbatical.

Not a vacation.
Not away from work.

But a focus on a more inward kind of work. More writing. More plotting. More listening to what wants to be built and building it.

From this Thursday through January 3rd, I'm changing the way I interact online and off, with customers and with ideas, with working and with resting.

What this looks like (for you):

I'll be:

  • Answering emails once a week (except about something you bought, that gets a reply within 2 days).
  • Writing for the blog once a week.
  • Finishing up the IdeaStorming sessions I have left in December, but not scheduling any more until late January.
  • Taking a break from the SparklePointer emails. They'll recommence on 1/4.

What this looks like (for me):

I'll be:

  • Experimenting with my relationship to work. What does a day without a to-do list look like? How do I feel when I don't have (self-imposed) deadlines?
  • Organizing and researching for first quarter classes in the CraftyBiz Kitchen.
  • Writing mini-books to go with my past classes (I'm turning them into more-complete resources, which will be available in January and February. If you want them at their current price, get them now.)

So what's different?

Really, from your point of view, not a lot. It's mostly internal.

It's really a pulling-back, not a going-away. I'll still be on Twitter (as, just, myself, hanging out). I'll still be sharing the Good Shtuff I find.

But I won't be brunching or launching or promoting anything new. Even though I've had the CraftyBiz Kitchen set to reopen 12/15 (for months!), it's getting very little fanfare.
Tomorrow I'll share a bit about the specific classes for the  first quarter of 2011 CraftyBiz Kitchen, but that's it. It's not even officially open and it's already  filling up, so I'm comfortable with it.

Thank you

Thank you!

It felt scary to even imagine a world with a sabbatical, let alone say it out loud. But here it is. And I feel great.
Thank you for your support with yesterday's bad news and thank you for making the past year awesome!

Wanna take your own sabbatical? Check out my course with Stacey Trock of FreshStitches: Take a Break (without breaking your biz!)

The recent unpleasantness

My house was broken into last week, while I was in Seattle.

It's the third time.

We're moving. As soon as we can.

But, of course, it's not as simple as that.
It's the feeling unsafe when we're home, worried when we're gone.
It's never feeling really home-y.
It's knowing how much we love this house, how much it symbolized (my first studio! Our first not-apartment!) and how we've lost all that fondness.
It's the wondering if they're watching us or if they know us or if if if.

It's not knowing how we're going to afford everything involved in moving (deposits, rent, getting all the utilities turned on, moving truck).
It's feeling like someone else (some very bad, very violating person) is dictating the timing of this big decision.

I considered not writing about it.
It feels personal. And raw. And scary.
But my goal with this space is to share my own experience in crafting a business. And that means sharing these unpleasant aspects where “personal” comes crashing into “business” and everything feels like it might crack apart.

Also, this impending move is prompting a bit of a sabbatical, which I'll talk more about tomorrow.

Until then, I'd appreciate words of encouragement, but no you-should-have-alreadys, please.

Good Shtuff – PDX Edition

Portland, as it proved in my short 27 hour stay, is overflowing with good shtuff. Here's just a snippet of what I loved.


Twisted PDX is a seriously great yarn store. Delightful selection, well lit and open and spacious and smart. Not to mention, they know how to make a girl feel welcome. My trunk show was absolutely wonderful.


Part of what made the trunk show so fun was the people who stopped by (knitters + non-knitters alike!). If you're not already following the following on Twitter, what's up with that?
A huge smooshy hug  to Chris, Kristine, Sparky + Jenni, Danielle (+ friends!), Dryden, Shannon, Lee, Jolie, and all y'all who's names are escaping me (leave a comment and remind me?)

I'm sure you already suspected this, but Sister Diane of CraftyPod is as sweet and smart as you imagine. This was our second (or third?) time hanging out and every time I walk away bubbling with inspiration and encouragement.

Bridget was another fabulous eating companion.  Funny and generous and clever, she introduced me (verbally, not visually) to vagazzling. Yes.

The food!

The food! I only ate 4 meals, but all of them were delightful. Even a vegetarian gluten-free gal like myself found a tasty burger/fry/milkshake combo at Bugerville. The sweet potato chipotle soup at Costello's is just the right kind of warming-spicy.  Mother's honors a “Mother of the month” that contributes recipes for the specials. How adorable is that? I go to Thai Peacock every time I'm in Portland, because, well, I keep walking past it.

Now that I'm on to my last 2 days of Seattle (and really, the first time that I'm not working), what Good Shtuff should I not miss?


Seattlites + Portlanders!

I will be in your fair cities this week (see this if you want to hang out!) and I'd love to sample as much coffee, glutenfree sammiches + yarn shops as possible.

So…what do you suggest?

Leave it in the comments and next Thursday I'll share all the places I went!