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Twist& Shout in car

After a death in the family last week, I've slowed down quite a bit. Being out of town for so long (first a craft show, then helping my mom move, then the funeral) resulted in me feeling a little scramble-y. But instead of snapping back into action, I'm taking it slow. Completing custom orders, pushing back the debut of a new line of yarn, spending some time with my new drum carder. Yarn is slowly re-appearing in the Boutique, but I'm taking my time and relaxing my demands (I'm a pretty demanding boss)
Here's how I'm slowing down:

Baking: banana bread, pumpkin bread, apple pie

Knitting: Twist & Shout (pictured above)

Sipping: Orange Dulce, Orchid Oolong

Listening to: Adele, Ray la Montaigne, Iron & Wine

Looking forward to: SAFF on Saturday, Urban Craft Uprising in December

I'll be back in full force later this week, with a new tutorial for Fiber Friday, on carding the fleece and the launch the new line on October 31st. The new line will be yarn and fiber made entirely from the first fleece I processed. I'm still looking for a good name for the line, as this is something I'd like to do every month – wash, dye, card and spin one local fleece and then offer the washed locks, dyed fiber, batts and yarn all from this one sheep. Any suggestions? I'd love to hear what you'd most like to see (locks, batts or yarn?)
How are you slowing down as the weather cools down?

Craft Show Preparation: When yarn ATTACKs

The yarn, fiber and wooly goodness is taking over my house! I've been getting ready for CRAFT ATTACK, a craft show held in Charlotte, NC, this weekend. It's only second craft show and I am overwhelmed and overexcited and swirling around trying to get ready in time. My mom and I are leaving Friday to take the scenic route, through Boone and Blowing Rock (3 yarn stores, right near a great coffee shop).
I met a few of the CRAFT ATTACK organizers at my last craft show and have since been Twittering with them. They've planned an excellent show that will have over 80 vendors in the lovely Independance park.
Since this is is just my second show, I'm still learning about preparation. Here's how I've been getting ready:

  1. Stock – trying to make as much as possible! What looks like “a lot” in my apartment, looks pitiful in the booth! I make a schedule a few weeks out and plan for how many skeins I need to spin a day that I WON'T list in my Etsy shop. Then I stick with my schedule (or try to!)
    As I work on creating, I add the “show stock” to my inventory list, just so I can know what I'm bringing, what sells and what doesn't. This is also an excellent way of figuring out what the “value” is of what you're selling. If you don't bring $2000 worth of stock, you certainly can't expect to make that much! I find this helps me have a much more realistic view of what I could potentially expect from a show.
  2. Labels – When adding those items to your inventory, this is a fantastic time to label them! I believe EVERY item should be clearly priced, so customers don't feel shy about asking the price. I print out my labels, on recycled paper and make little hangtag ‘books”. I fit 3 tags/sheet of paper and then fold them in half. The front has my logo, the back has my “story” and the inside left is printed with info about the fiber (so I have different labels for local wool, banana fiber, etc – each explains what makes these fibers eco-friendly). I then handwrite the yarn’s info on the inside right (name, yardage, weight, etc). It’s a much easier process when I do it once a week…instead of waiting until the night before the show!
  3. Displays – there are lots of great examples of displays on this flickr group . You want depth, height and movement. I use baskets on tables, a 3 tiered basket thing (it’s about 5 ft tall) and a hanging sweater thing (made for folded sweaters hanging in your closet). I also have lots of clear glass jars (like at candy stores) with a pop of bright fiber. People like to feel up yarn, so I try not to pile anything up (or else they can’t get to what’s at the bottom).For my sign, I sewed a simple rectangle that folds over a dowel (or can be used as a table cloth), the bottom half is the actual “sign”. I cut out and sewed on my name (in the font from my logo) with my logo next to it (overlapping rings) in both fabric and handstitched yarn (ok, so far the yarn hasn't worked so well, so I'm still experimenting). It’s super bright and I love it! Pictures to come after this weekend.Oh, and tablecloths! Cover each table all the way to the ground so that you can store stuff under them! As for the tables themselves, I like a rectangle table for the back of the booth (with business cards, newsletter sign-up and my cashbox on it) and a round table near the front of the booth.Because so few people have actually seen yarn being created, I bring my wheel and spin. This is really a major part of the “display”, so I have to make sure I have room with it (and that I bring plenty of fiber to spin. It draws people in, and I can talk and spin at the same time (I have a little explanation I do about how the wheel works, if they look interested and start asking questions). But once they start to look at the yarn, I stand up to talk to them. If your craft is small and fiddly (I’m thinking earrings), you’ll probably turn people off by being focused on something they can’t see. Knitting and crochet is similar…is it interesting or do you look bored? It’s a fine line!
  4. Marketing – I bring so many business cards I think I'll never give them all out. And yet I do. Bring all you have! And pens! I also have my newsletter signup sheet on a clipboard. The wind was really blowing it around last time, so I tied a length of yarn around the whole thing with solved the problem perfectly! I offer 10% off to anyone who signs up and if you’re already on my list (and you tell me that!) you get 10% off. This time I'll have a little bowl full of giveaways (and something to hand kids who try to touch everything else) – felted baubles, tiny bits of yarn, etc) and stickers. I'm still trying to figure out a way to tag the little free balls of yarn, so that they remind the customer of my business, but they're too round to tie a business card to. I don't want to put them in a little bag, because then you can't feel them! Any suggestions?Also be prepared to answer the “Can you make this in ***” question. Know how long it would take you and how you’ll handle payment for a custom order. If you don’t want to do custom, come up with a nice way of saying no, so you’re not taken by surprise in the moment.
  5. Packing the car – Obviously you need your stock, your tent, table, display units and cashbox. As for what else, this is the most comprehensive list I've ever found!

When planning for the show, I found the following articles to be super helpful

What do you do to get ready for a show?
Will you be at CRAFT ATTACK? If so, let me know!

If you’ve been thinking about doing craft shows or you’ve been wanting to them better, check out my How to Rock The Craft Show class!

Autumnal To Do

leafy sky
Photo from Nov 2006

Each season, I like to set an intention for how I will enjoy it. It's a pleasant To Do list celebrating the crunchy leaves and crisp apples. This year, I want to:

  • Bake an apple pie
  • Finish knitting a sweater (probably Twist & Shout) by the end of November
  • Find my favorite flavor of tea (this group has been helpful)
  • Spin fall-inspired yarns (my favorite suggestion to the contest, so far, is “Hayride”)
  • Make the perfect cup of hot chocolate (cocoa, honey, homemade whipped cream)
  • Eat lots of roasted fall vegetable (turnips, butternut squash, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, yum!)
  • Go on one last picnic, before the weather is too cold.
  • Finish dyeing, carding and spinning my Coopworth fleece
  • Take a photograph every day until the end of the year

What's on your Autumn To Do List?

5½ Shocking Facts about Craft Fairs

I participated in my first craft show last weekend, the Crafting Patch Market in Charlotte, NC. I was very nervous beforehand and stayed up way too late to get every last skein of yarn labeled. It all paid off in a lovely day (no hint of Hurricane Hannah) filled with fantastic people and a real sense of community. Despite being well-prepared by reading everything I could about doing a craft fair, there were still a few things that surprised me:

  1. A festival provides indispensable feedback on your marketing plan. Online buyers see & buy without disclosing what prompted the purchase. Did they seek me out? Did they stumble upon me? At this festival, several knitters came specifically to see me (thanks to my posting on forums, the blog, etc). Others registered recognition when they read my label. The feeling was indescribable. People recognized Blonde Chicken Boutique as a brand. The thought still makes me all sparkle-y.
  2. Instant feedback is a drug that I'm afraid I may be addicted to. Sending out yarn to my lovely online customers, feels a bit like sending my squishy friends into the ether. They may show up on Flickr or Ravelry, but mostly I release them into the wild with hopes that they find a good set of needles (or at least a comfy stash to marinate in). Watching a real, live, chatty, interesting person walk away with my yarn is ridiculously satisfying.
  3. Describing a product is entirely different in person. The long, descriptive prose that is so necessary to sell a tactile item online isn't necessary in person. The customer has the squishy soft item in their hand and can clearly see the colors. This may seem obvious, but after writing web copy for so long, I had to remember it while writing the labels. I also had to scale back on the descriptive talk with most customers. Some people want to know all about the farm where the sheep who grew that wool was raised, but some don't.
  4. Being friendly is exhausting, but being passionate is exhilerating. After years of waitressing, followed by 2 years managing a retail studio, I was expecting the usual exhaustion of a day filled with smiling at people and describing the product. I was shocked by how different this experience was. Yes, I was tired, but I was exhilarated. Selling someone apple pie is NOTHING like sharing a passion for creating!
  5. You don't have to (and probably can't) fake enthusiasm. For the first time in my customer service experience, I didn't need to tell myself “be nice”. The fiber artists came in, chatted and I was overwhelmed with happy, smiling words. I nearly hugged someone (everyone). It was ridiculous (but I didn't hug anyone other than my husband, so don't be afraid to come by my next booth!) Describing my process, demonstrating the wheel, chatting fiber, it was all so FUN!
5 ½ . I want to do it again! Ok, this isn't so shocking, because I've already agreed to do National Alpaca Farm Day at Silver Thunder Alpacas and have been accepted by Craft Attack. But I am surprised at how much I'm looking forward to the events. I am shocked at how much the experience has cemented that live, in-person selling needs to be a part of my overall business plan.

So if you're thinking about doing a craft show, I strongly encourage you try one. Find an inexpensive option (like a small one, or share a booth) and go after it! You may find it shockingly fun!

Edited a year later, to add:

Thanks to my continued great experiences at craft shows, I got a lot of questions about how to make it work. If you want to try this very satisfying experience, I put together a class, How to Rock a Craft Show.
If you’ve been thinking about doing craft shows or you’ve been wanting to them better,
check it out!


Ravelympics sweater - 8/26/08

Polite people would use a different word.
But let's be honest:

I failed.

My Ravelympics goal, which I knew was lofty and difficult and challenging (but that was the point); well, I failed at it. I set out to spin and knit a sweater in 17 days and I didn't accomplish that.

And that is fantastic.
Ravelympics sweater - 8/26/08

The risk of failure

incites action.

Without this challenge, I would have never begun. I have been talking about knitting a sweater from my handspun for months but without this challenge, it would still just be a dream.
Not only did I commit the goal, I worked hard towards it; spinning 400 yards of beautiful yarn, swatching, designing and knitting half of a sweater in 17 days!

The risk of failure creates commitment
The feeling of true commitment to something I really want feels great! By focusing all my knitting energy on one project, I've accomplished a lot, reminded myself what I'm capable of and started creating a sweater I am SO happy with.
And that was the point: to create a garment that I'm proud of, that fits well and that feels incredible. The timeline was just a little push to do it faster and with more focus.

Failing leads to success.

Failure in the Ravelympics isn't failing at knitting and spinning. It's failing at one goal. The overall goal is (still) to knit and spin an entire (wearable) sweater and that is still well within my reach. Risking failure with the Ravelympics is leading me towards success in the overall goal.

This is just a little reminder to myself and the other failed Ravelympics Ravletes (and regular athletes, too, I guess) that what we created during the Olympics could never be a failure because we were, simply, creating.

Gimme some love!

I really love reading what my customers think of my yarn. Whether it's Etsy feedback, in the Ravelry group or in blog posts – it's really nice to know how people are using the yarn. I've longed used GoogleAlerts to alert me of anything written about me or my yarn, but it must not be working right, because anytime I google “blonde chicken yarn”, I come up with a new batch of links to the shop. The most exciting are write-ups by shopping blogs or “knitting stars” – and lately I've been blessed with a few mentions:

Have you read anything about BCB? If you find a link or write a review relating to any of products (past or present) please post it in the comments below!
(If it's new to me, I'll contact you to send you a thank you gift, so be sure you leave a way to find you!)

I’m on the front page!

Edited to add: and again this morning (7.17.08), I'm on the front page!
It's this Treasury, featuring the Independence yarn.


So, the front page of Etsy is kind of a big deal. The admin at Etsy select Treasuries to feature on the front page and Treasuries are made by Etsy users. Only the prettiest pictures get in Treasuries (in theory) and only the prettiest Treasuries make the front page.
And my Sunshine yarn did it!

Finished Quilt

Today my very best friend is getting married.
Jamie and I have been through high school orchestra, family vacations, deaths, parental weddings and divorces, college graduations and my wedding together, as best friends.
Closeup of handquilting
As I sat with this quilt, her wedding gift, in my lap, I thought of all the hopes and worries and happiness we've shared. The giggle fits and camping on the beach and loud singalongs to Les Mis.
lines of handquilting
I wanted this quilt to symbolize so much: the warmth that our friendship has brought me, the years of letter writing we've engaged in, my hope that she'll enjoy husband-snuggling under a blanket as much as I do.
Making the quilt was a ritual I needed; to stitch our friendship into something tangible, to allow myself to believe in our new lives, to physically labor my prayers and happiness for her into something she could hug.
Jamie's wedding quilt, finished!

The quilt is comprised of 12 blocks that are 16 in square.

Separated by 400 miles, I purchased 4 fabrics, 1/2 yard of each while my mom did the same. We met up to exchange fabrics and buy the border. We retreated to our own homes and Mom pieced 5 blocks and I made 7; neither of us using a pattern, just throwing together the 9 fabrics however we wanted.

When I stayed with my mom during the weekend of Jamie's bridal shower, we sewed together the blocks, added the 6 inch border, purchased the batting, backing fabric and bias tape. I brought it home and handquilted the entire quilt by myself in 3 weeks.

Corners of quilt
The border is a double fold bias tape, machine-stiched on the front and hand blind-stitched to the back. I am SO proud of my handstitching – this was my very first time quilting or blind stitching anything!

I'll give it to her today, her wedding day, hoping that all of my thoughts, prayers and wishes make it out of the quilt and into her life.

Local Lunch

  • Spring Salad Greens from Abingdon Organics
  • Strawberries from Bishop's
  • Farm Fresh Herbed Goat Cheese from Oak Moon Creamery
  • Dried Sweet Cherries from the guy at the JC Farmer's market (no signage, no business card)

Not pictured:

  • Toasted Rosemary Focaccia from Scratch
  • Sumatra from Cooper Coffee Co.

PS. After searching for each of these vendor's websites, I am struck that only 1 has a website or even a small little information page! People, websites are imperative! What do you think is keeping these small businesses from embracing the technology? Lack of knowledge? Perceived cost? This is something I would really love to help other small businesses with and I wonder what the barrier to entry really is!

Inspiration Monday #10: Quilty Goodness

As I've been spending most of my weekends with quilt in hand, making tiny, tiny handquilting stitches, I'm a little woozy with the quilting bug. Here's a bit of the inspiration that led me down this rabbit hole:

I'm 7 out of 12 blocks, and then I'll do a few rows around the border, and then it's time for the bias tape (which I hear is pretty fun).

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