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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!

Failure

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.

frontpage7.16

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!
Yay!

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).

Maryland Sheep & Wool


I'll be here all weekend.
And on Saturday, at 11:30, I'll be at the Ravelry meet-up, hoping to (finally) meet Lolly!
Will YOU be there? If so, drop me a line so we can meet up!

PS. The shop will continue as usual, anything purchased Friday – Sunday will be shipped on Monday (which is the usual way it goes)

Inspiration board


Susy's post on Inspiration Boards really has be rethinking this board in my office.

I've read/seen/thought about making boards like this in the past, but not until reading this was I struck with the necessity of it. These weekly inspiration posts are a method of keeping all of my inspiration together, but I think I also need a visual board, one to continually inspire. I have a board both in my office (at the dayjob) and one in front of my sewing machine and both are pitifully bare. So to start the inspiration-fest, I've been checking out others!

Hanna's board is SO much cooler than the typical pinboard.
Design For Mankind's zine on inspiration boards is a plethora of goodness
The Flickr pool is not to be missed

Despite all the great inspiration boards out there, I don't see any that really “go” in an office like mine. Most are arty/crafty or fashion-based and while I love that for home, it just doesn't fit in with my work life…any suggestions?

I’m off

..for the rest of the week; for a drive to Ohio, for coffe-sipping with Mom, for quilt-making, for a bridal shower, a bachelorette party, and and and…

Enjoy your weekend!

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