Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: May 2011

Let’s craft your independence.

(If you're reading via email or reader, click through to see the changes!)

One year ago, I guided this site into the world.
I wrote a mini-festo, embracing my unapologetically wonky nature.

18 months ago, I began teaching classes for craftybizes.
I didn't plan on doing more than one, but as my inbox filled up with questions, I thought, there's got to be a better way to share the answers. So I taught a class and was hooked.

I was soon annoying my yarn-buying people by talking to the biz-class-buying people, so I split the craftybiz stuff from the yarn stuff.

And I had no idea what I was doing.

I had a vague feeling that I might teach more classes.
I thought we might explore some non-yarn stuff.

I didn't know I was crafting a community.
I didn't know I was leading an adventure.

In the last year, you've taught me LOTS (more on that, Friday).
And together, we built something so beautiful I can't look directly at it without going blind (from the tears).

To reflect those changes and acknowledge that we are each, together, crafting our independence, I've changed the site name and my twitter handle (yep, I'm @taraswiger now, because it's time to stop hiding behind my alter ego).

If I had a new mini-festo, for this next part of the journey, it would say this:

There isn't a right answer.
This is all a big adventure.
By engaging with the adventure, by exploring your own world, you are crafting independence.

We'll be talking more about this in the coming days, but one of the easiest way I'm shifting the focus is with the banners.

The banners will rotate, but I thought you might like to see them all at once, along with a bit about each photo (yep, I took 'em all).

This picture was taken for the Happy Hat pattern, but I love the clear trail in front of me.
Obviously I didn't take this one, Jay did.

This is Mt. Ranier, as snapped through my airplane window.
I love the feeling of possibility I always get in an airplane.

The most bittersweet of all the images, this is a picture out the front door of my former home. The one I moved into on my first day of self-employment, the one that was burglarized three times, the one I had to move out of suddenly and painfully.

Taken from the train from Seattle to Portland, I'm pretty sure this is right outside of Portland. This was the first leg of a loooong train ride all the way to San Diego…one of the most adventurous (aka: hard) trips I've taken.

This is a snippet from my journal…a letter I wrote to you. It says, “I have hope. Clean, unfettered, feathery hope. For you.”

This path curves around my favorite blueberry farm, in the mountains.

nyc skyline banner

The Manhattan skyline, as seen as I drove from Brooklyn to Queens for the Bust Craftacular last September. The day before I got up early to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge because I heard the view was gorgeous. Surprise! the fog was so thick I couldn't see my hand in front of me, let alone the skyline!
But as I drove to the show the next morning, I finally got it. The view was amazing, even if I did have to watch the stop + go traffic while clicking my phone camera. Safety first!

And that's it for memories of adventures, but it's just the beginning of a fun week.

To celebrate this site’s one year anniversary, I’m throwing a  launching brunch for the Starship.

I’m cracking champagne over the bow, I’m making pancakes in the replicator.

You can join me in the Starship (tomorrow!), but you can also celebrate with me in the comments, on Twitter, and in the SparklePointers.

Tomorrow, I'll invite you to the brunch; Thursday I’ll explain WHY I’m giving everything I made in the last year away for less than ½ priced; and  Friday (my birthday!) I’m throwing a little birthday party with an awesome gift for you.

I’m so bad…

Do you ever say that to yourself?

When you know you should be doing one thing, but instead do another?
When you know what to do to move your business forward and just don't do it?
When you feel guilty for not doing better?

In our recent Starship chat, “I'm so bad” jumped out at me.  I heard it (in some form or another) from everyone.
From hard-working, thriving mavens.
From successful, I can't fulfill demand crafters.
From just getting started, don't know where to go next adventurers.

I thought (and said): You're doing what you can. This takes time and you're on the path. You might not be there yet, but you ARE taking steps to get you there.

And then, out of town visiting my mother-in-law for her birthday this weekend, I had a seizure of panic on Sunday morning. I turned to my husband and said, “If I was only working harder, I wouldn't feel so bad about taking this weekend off. If only I got more done last week! Ugh, I just feel awful!”

Jay, wonder-hub that he is, said, “You couldn't do anymore. What you're doing is enough. And you know it. You know that longer hours and more work doesn't lead to better work or more sales. It just wears you out.”

He was convincing and I was calmed, but I got to wondering, where does this come from?

Is there some gold standard of productivity, some level of business that we're all striving for? If so, where in the heck did it come from?

More importantly,  how did it insinuate itself into my relaxed, experiment-rich, journey of a business?

I find there's a tension (for some of us) between wanting to thrive, to grow, to move AND wanting to keep a Sabbath, to respect the cycle, to grow organically.

We worry that we're not doing, being, pushing enough while also knowing we need naps, floor stretches, and novel-reading.

We embrace the tenets of self-care and rejuvination when we're tired and burnt out, but rush back to pushing and judging when we're short on cash.

Clearly, an experiment is order.

But what?

What would help YOU remember that by going slow, taking time, taking naps you are refilling the well, not shirking your duty?

Share your thoughts in the comments and we'll build an experiment together.

Laila’s crafting a community-lovin’ business

The concept of “creating community” can be tricky. I asked Laila, who is the creative genius of LaiGrai to give us her insights, because the Ravelry group for fans of her work is seriously fun place. Unlike a lot of other groups based on a shared passion for an artist's yarn (even mine), hers is filled with fun, sillyness and non-stop interaction.

Long before I knew I was going to create my own little community of craftybiz'ers (the super-awesome gathering place is coming in just! 4! weeks!), I was curious about Laila's and so I shot her these questions.


(because I find everything about Laila completely adorable, I'm keeping her answers in her own voice + style of writing. I know you're going to fall in love with her!)

Laila, your Ravelry group, which celebrates your handmade yarn and spinning fiber is seriously rocking.
Has it always been like this?

In short, yes and no.

Let's start from the beginning.

Businesses aren't islands- we all help each other. so from the very start, i had the aid and wonderful support of my first yarn mentor rachel-marie. rachel marie wanted to help me get my newly formed group going.

we kicked it off with a big shared knit-along … bringing in a THIRD person,  melissa of yearofthegoat, by deciding to use her “the medium is the message” tunic sweater as our knit-along pattern.

it was completely unintentional- it wasn't like, i'll do this KAL and people will flock to me- or anything. it started that rachel & i were going to work through the pattern together and people saw our photos on flickr and wanted to make it too- so we put up a thread and more and more people joined… it felt SO great!! many people came out of lurking + rachel marie brought her base + melissa helped point people our way with mentioning our KAL & my group in a magazine… so that was the start of my group becoming “active”!

next, a knit-along-er who made the sweater with us, { & who would later become one of my close yarn friends}, drucilla pettibone, suggested that i host/participate in the tour de fleece in 2009, something i had never really heard about… so just like that, we started a tour thread seeing if anyone was interested in doing this crazy thing? the tour  team was born – that is sort of how i reached my core group of fiber friends,

the first team had a full pirate theme and i custom made over 20 ravatars (avatars for Ravelry) in photoshop- everyone picked monikers like “marooned hot pants”  – it was a hilarious good time and that was the first thread that reached over 1000 posts!!

now i host a team annually, this july will be our 3rd year.

there is a lot of silliness that happens in the group and we sort of feed off each other with that- nothing is too silly for us.

as a way to pay it forward with all the help i received, i keep my group super super OPEN to any and all fiberistas looking for a place where members are already active & looking to host a KAL {maybe as a way to test a pattern, or just for fun}

last year, rachel-marie was hosting a handspun sock-along (one of the owner's of webs was participating!) and rachel was hosting a sweater-along. this year- currently dani is hosting a shawl-a-month-along

The  KALs (knitalongs) are open-ended so the most recent couple are STICKIED to the top of the board but the others are not archived so anyone can pop in & use all our past comments as helpful bits on how to get past a tricky spot that had the rest of us stumped (or  more like, just me ;)) or to revive a KAL that petered out.

it is more fun that way- no deadlines to stress over, make what you want..when you want it!!  we also have a thread dedicated to just SUGGESTING what we want to make next called “future fun-alongs

Do you think a lot about “building community” or has it happened organically?

so yes, it has happened organically- but also because i realized that what makes me most happy about being a fiberista is the community. and that is beyond etsy, beyond ravelry even, i spend every day corresponding and emailing the friendliest (!!) knitters and spinners and chatting about fibers. i love talking about yarns and wool breeds and even just seeing what people are creating.. another thing that keeps it open and friendly is that i never force anyone to use only my fibers- b/c that's not the point.  so despite it having the most like ME-ME-ME name ever “i love lai grai” – it is really way way way way more than that! it should be called- “i love talking to like minded spinners, knitters, crocheters, who are funny and witty and just want to be able share jokes and humor and recent projects and new fiber acquisitions and of course, gab about the latest fiber club shipment, or show what just came out of your dyepots!”

i don't ever want it to feel like- THIS IS ME BEING PROMOTIONAL. b/c it was never about that- i love that it stays true to what the rav boards are… FORUMS! anyone can start a topic- i love that there are definitely ancient threads, showing my history- i love that threads can get buried and pop! back to the top after a long hiatus and i'm like, oh i totally forgot we had a “what are you watching?” tv thread! i love the IT crowd, it's great to see that my friend dani's kids do too! haha, and we are ALL true blood fans! tara- you and i discussed our love for HIMYM! 🙂  (we also have a what are you reading thread + a what are you listening to music thread!)

it's just a place to come and chat and sometimes bitch and always laugh and be super super friendly!

Most everyone you listed here, the most active community members, actually sell what you sell (as do I!)…but there's no hint of competition in your description.

sure, technically we are all in “competition” with one another, but i just DON'T see them as that- they are truly my friends.  some of us talk every day. we try to plan fun things to share together. lacey dished how she works in those awesome knitted icords, and dani shared her awesome triloom photos, and faun shows peeks at some of the awesome flea market finds she digs up (for crazy cheap too!!) and despite them having their OWN ravelry groups- i like that we are able to cross over without being like … oh gawd, stop pushing your fiber in my group (well they never do that anyway, and certainly aren't PUSHY) but still, i would LOVE if one of my customers bought from them- i support all their shops – why shouldn't my customers?

i feel like there is plenty of fiber-love to go around! the more you give, the more you receive. b/c i have their backs- they have mine & we never planned that- we just became pals and WANTED to spin-along together or knit-along together. but then, i have to step back and remember that each of these gals are ROCK STARS, i am honored that we get to be pals and i love that my ravelry group makes it even easier to connect with even more yarnies like them- b/c i am ALWAYS open to making more fiber friends! 🙂

It seems (from your explanation), that the steps to growing your community were:

1. Partner with others in the community
2. Create a space where everyone (even “competitors”) are welcome
3. encourage sillyness, inside jokes and fun!


partnering with others & embracing competitors are kinda the same! they go hand in hand.

plus, yes- silliness, inside jokes, fun are crucial. start with a core group of 5-10 participants that are really active + good friends.

reach out to include others- that means -ALONGS! spin alongs, knit alongs, hug alongs, laugh alongs! those are really the cornerstone foundations of a fun group.

try to create some base rules, but keep it loose. by not demanding that everyone only use my fiber- it made more people feel able to be included without financial pressure.
also, create some threads that are not about fiber/yarn/knitting/spinning. yes we all love those things- but what ELSE do we have in common?
a love for true blood? AWESOME!
a hankering for british comedians? yes please!
coffee addicts not-so-anonymous? yes, yes, we are all that too!

and like you always say, tara, let YOU shine through and they will come & want to hang!


A huge thanks to laila for giving us a look into how she's done it.

Even though she's a knitter + talked about knit-alongs, I'm certain you can adapt them to fit your own craftybiz.

What bit of community-lovin' can you apply today?
Tell us about in the comments!


(all images courtesy of LaiGrai.com)