Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: February 2013

The Adventures

Every week is an adventure and this is the view, the path and the finds that made this one special. You can follow all my adventures here.

The view

Your nightly Andre. #kittyyawn #omgadorbs

Kitty yawn!

My newly-knit hat is a liiiitle more rasta than I had planned. #butperfectlypink
Finished a new hat!

3 hours later...the ginormous   wholesale order is packed!
A finished wholesale order

Snuggled in.
Snuggling with my handmade throw

My first-ever knitting student, now 13 yrs old, brought me llama yarn she spun after borrowing my carder. #awesome
Spun by my 13 year old knitting student (she carded and spun the yarn from a local llama!)

The path

  • This week's email (How to not get bummed about the internet) really struck a chord and the replies have been flooding my inbox in a wave of solidarity. If you've been feeling down in comparison to everyone's apparent success, read it.


  • Budgets + Boundaries, my advice-column-y take on the tricky issue of your business money + your family, on OhMyHandmade. It sparked deep + sweet conversations during the live chat. I'm always open to chatting about this, so if you need a sounding board, don't hesitate to write. (I might be the only person in the world that really loves my inbox. Don't be shy!)


  • The ladies at Create Hype interviewed me! You can read the truth about fear (uh, yeah, I have it!) here.


The finds

“Sometimes we set out to do something, like write a novel, and we fail at writing that particular novel. But in the process of failing at that novel, we can actually succeed at writing another.”

-Wil Wheaton, in this awesome post on failure.  (Thanks to Kim's newsletter for the link!)

(This is doubly true for business. You might start to sell one thing, and have one kind of business and decide to change your mind (500 times). While you've “failed” to do the first business, that process created your better idea)


This is a beautifully honest post by Diane. Please read the whole thing.

Thanks to Alex for sharing ReciteThis. With it, I made this in about 30 seconds:

explore. dream. beam


What was your adventure this week?

Adventures in Business, with knitwear designer Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark

Today I'm delighted to have Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, knitwear designer, teacher and Starship captain, sharing what a life (and business) as a knitwear designer is really like. You can take her awesome online class for the lovely Artemisia sweater  or drool over her patterns.


You're a full-time knitwear designer and teacher , which sounds like you get to spend all day knitting with beautiful yarns…what's a typical work day actually like for you?

Not too many days are typical, exactly. I usually need to fit in some combo of marketing (either by blogging, email, or social media), email, freelance writing (I do craft writing for a few websites, besides my own blog), designing (making up submissions for new work, or doing the technical writing for current projects), and production knitting. The knitting is usually knitting while taking exacting notes, but is usually the more relaxing part of my work. I have a sort of rotating to-do list, where new things get added in and prioritized as old tasks get shuffled around or accomplished as needed. I love the iPhone and online app called Orchestra for this; a fellow designer introduced me to it, and it’s been my fave to-do list app so far because it lets me prioritize well.
For the new year, one of my big goals is to try to make out a weekly schedule to have certain regular tasks assigned to fairly regular weekdays, since the place where I lose the most time and momentum is switching between tasks. That’s one of my Starship goals for this quarter!

When I talk to new designers, who have just one pattern on Ravelry, it seems like a ginormous leap to go from there to an actual, regular income. What was that leap actually like?

My path to full-time designer was so circuitous! I went from being a dedicated knitting hobbyist with a degree in fiber arts (Savannah College of Art and Design, 1999), to owning a local yarn shop, to designing part-time for magazines and yarn companies, to being a yarn dyer selling online and at fiber events, to designing full-time. At any point in that path I would usually be juggling more than one career goal. Even now, when planning toward 2013, I would have thought I’d have been more focused on moving to selling my self-published patterns wholesale, but instead I’ve found myself picking up increasing income from freelance writing and teaching. When I developed the Artemisia Seamless Sweater class with Craftsy, it was an unfamiliar experience, and a little scary, but it’s been a great step forward for my indie biz!
Hands knitting
I think you have to plan your path up to a point, but not get your focus so honed in on one thing that you miss other opportunities. I’ve gotten to a place in my business where flexibility is key to my success. I say no to some projects, but more often I say yes, because it’s worth exploring and extending past my boundaries.

What's surprised you most about life as a full-time designer?

How many different business models there can be! As I’ve talked to other designers, our ways of planning for our businesses are so different and individual. While some friends make most of their income through their self-published patterns, others make more of their income via traveling and teaching, while others work for yarn companies for their main income source. It’s all based on full-time design work, but the business goals are incredibly tailored to the individual and his or her needs. We get great ideas from each other, but there is no one “right” answer for everyone.

What's the next destination you're working towards?

I just signed on with Interweave Press out of Loveland, CO, to write a book to be published (tentatively) in 2014 (it’s all super top secret for now). Most of this year will be dedicated to the project, with tons of designing, knitting, and writing to be accomplished. It’s exhilarating and terrifying, all at once! While that’s going on, it will be hard to juggle too many other projects, but by the end of the year I’d really like to revamp my pattern collection to get it ready to wholesale to indie yarn companies and local yarn shops.

What new thing are you exploring?

Better organization and planning. From using spreadsheets to organize my projects for the book, to utilizing better apps for my to-do list, to planning out dedicated personal time so that I don’t burn out. I tend to be pretty laid back and just wing it most of the time, but as my schedule gets busier, the chance of missing sight of a long-term goal or dropping the ball on an important task increases. It’s one of the reasons I signed up for the Starship, so that I could begin to put some better planning habits into place, and check in with other indie biz owners for ideas and support.

What's your definition of success for your business?

For me, it’s partially about income goals, like knowing I’ll have enough money every month to pay for my health insurance and build a nest egg, but also having a truly healthy balance of doing the work that I enjoy and having personal time to spend with friends and loved ones (and my dog, Leelu). I’ve been through burnout and health problems that have followed it in the past, so having enough time to take care of myself is a huge goal for me.

What's a recent lesson that you're now applying?

Ask for help when you need it! It doesn’t make me (or any other indie biz owner) less independent or successful. We really do need to take advantage of community, both emotional/moral support and making it clear how people can support us through our business. Make it clear that buying those $5 patterns or signing up for a class really does help us keep producing great work.
On the other side of it, getting together with other biz owners is important, too! My word for 2013 is “collaborate,” meaning not only actual collaborative efforts, like a joint design project or a project with a yarn company, but meeting up with other creative business owners to bounce ideas around and use each other as sounding boards as we plan and grow. The Starship has been a great place for this! I’m finding that as I make an active effort to extend outward and make connections rather than being overly independent, my business has been better for it, and I’m less sabotaged by feelings of self-doubt as I work.

Thanks so much Mercedes!

I love Merecedces' focus on flexibility and collaboration! How do you stay flexible in your planning?

The Adventures

The view

Every week is an adventure and this is the view, the path and the finds that made this one special. You can follow all my adventures here.

First flowers! #foundwhilerunning
The first flowers of the year!

Beau is hard at work on my to-do list.
How my to-do list gets done

After 2 hours of editing, my video broke, programs froze...and then my computer crashed. So I bought myself a celebratory Vanilla Spice soy latte. #deepbreath
Starbucks Vanilla Spice Soy latte: my new best friend

Before and after: pink tips!

Eep! I pinked the tips of my hair (instead of the front  stripe)

Bowl of knits in progress -new coffeetable centerpiece.
Currently knitting

The Path

  • My week was filled up with class discussion and solo-sessions with Starship members (I had five, which might be a record!). It's so invigorating  to talk to interesting people about their adventure.


  • I just brought on a new writing client and I'm just loving the inside view at a business I've long admired. I don't do much writing-for-other-people because with the wrong fit, it can be draining (for both of us!)…so I'm also delighted (and a little shocked) when someone finds the info and signs up. Which reminds me, I should probably mention that I do that kind of thing, sometimes.


  • Banana yarn finally (finally!) came back in stock! I've got just a few skeins left, and you can grab 'em here.


  • I'm a Frockstar! Karina Dresses said so!



The Finds

  • I was delighted to learn that fellow coffeeshop-regular David makes music I love. Listen in here.



  • This retreat is SO close to me, I almost can't not go. Who's coming with me?


  • This envelope for expenses is going to the change the way I live (currently: all recipes for a whole year go in sad, torn-up envelope at the bottom of my purse)


What to do with all those Pinterest followers?

What do I do with all these Pinterest Followers

Last week during the #omhg chat* Marisa asked a great question:

“What do I do with my nearly 1 million Pinterest followers?”

Yes! I jumped all over it and Marisa and I got to emailing with ideas and suggestions for what she could do with all that possible-traffic. I've come across this question (and some great answers) so often that I know you're probably wondering the same. So here's my 4 tips for doing something great with your Pinterest account:

I forgot to mention it in the video, but I recently read and enjoyed Pinfluence. If you want more ideas and some technical how-tos it's a great book! {Buy it from your local bookseller!}


Do you use Pinterest for your business? How's it working out for you?

I get quite a bit of traffic thanks to Pinterest, but I'm just starting to use the kind of pin-able images on my blog posts (like this, for example). How about you?




Got a question you need answered? Ask me!
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*Next week I'm co-hosting the chat! Come hang out, Thursday 1p-2p!

Get comfortable, be an explorer


We've been talking about money lately. And money-talk can be…uncomfortable. Talking about hard times, slow learning and real numbers opens yourself up to judgement…even if it's just from yourself.
And that's why it's so important to be an explorer.

Before we get into your numbers and profit, let's talk more about exploring and how it can help us get in the right space to do this work:



This exploring is what we'll be doing in PayYourself. If you're ready to explore your profit margins and build on what's working, join us here. (Class starts on Monday, and that's the last day you can join. No, I won't be holding it again.)

What are you exploring now? What could use some gentle curiosity?

A messy path to profitability

A messy path to profitability

Last week I shared a bit of my story, of what it was like to have to figure out how to pay myself once I quit my dayjob. But I left out the messy middle. The part where I had to take apart my whole system of profit and look at it piece by piece.

When I first started selling yarn, I did what most of us do, I looked around and priced my work according to what else was out there. But it soon became clear that I could barely afford the skein of yarn I was dyeing at that price. I had to buy in bulk, at wholesale prices in order to have ANY kind of margin.

But then, I had to look beyond the expense of that particular skein (also called Cost of Goods Sold) into my overhead: paper, ink, dyes, time, and figure out how that was going to get covered.

And when I get to this part of  a conversation with a maker, I usually get two reactions:

But I can only raise my price so much! 


But I can only reduce my expenses so much! 

Also true.

And this is where the exploring breaks down, because you just know there's nothing else you can do so you better stop looking at it before you discover something really awful (maybe you shouldn't have a business, maybe you'll never be a success, maybe this is crazy).

Honey, I know. I know that looking at these numbers brings up all kinds of panic. And I know that you're afraid that there's nothing you can do to make it work. I know because when I got to this point of my numbers-crunching I freaked out. I wanted to stop looking and just hope that the math would magically resolve itself if I just worked harder. 

But it didn't. (And I gave that magic solution a good long time to show up.) What did resolve it was looking at other options. Revisiting the numbers and figuring out what else it told me. Just like with your marketing: explore what has worked and build from there. 

So now I also know that there are lots of things you can do to make it work. You can introduce a new product, you can try a new income stream, you can shift your focus a bit.

There are a zillion things you can do to make it work, and none of them involve giving up. 

These zillion things are what we're going to explore in Pay Yourself. We'll find out what's not working, sure, but then we'll focus on what is working and build more profit from there.


What has your path to profitability been like? What have you learned? What are you afraid to look at?

The Adventures

Every week is an adventure and this is the view and the finds that made this one special. You can follow all my adventures here.

The View

Snow day = spending allll afternoon making a  #vegan apple pie.
Actually, this whole neighborhood reminds me of Downton. #ifnotforthestripmalls
Just posted a short #monthofloveyarn spinning video on Vine! (I'm taraswiger, of course!)
Hanging art! #momsfirstexhibit
Yay!  Mom and her art are in the paper with my press release!

The finds

  • On my car trip yesterday I listed to this interview from On Being, with Seth Godin. It is so good. Every maker, artist, or thinker should listen in.
  • Tammie Bennett made the MOST AWESOME map. Check it out here.
  • Confession: I know nothing about who comes to my site or how they got here. I check Google Analytics every once in a while, but I'd like to be smarter about it. Thank goodness Diane is teaching this series of classes.

My path

  •  How to plan your daring adventure – my post on the Karina Chronicles
  • Right now I'm in Cookeville, for my mom's first EVER Art exhibit! There's an opening reception tonight at Corner Coffeebar + Arthouse. If you're nearby – stop by and say hi!
  • The best part of this week was opening the new class and meeting the new students! Join us here.