Behind the Scenes – OMG Yarn (balls)

Behind the Scenes

Let’s Get Down to Business: Tips for Marketing Your Fiber Arts Business

November 14, 2017




I see it all the time, and not just in the fiber arts business. Entrepreneurs so excited to hop into business and they either do their work and flourish; or they skip steps and go out of business just as quickly as they started.

No, there is no magic formula to making a business work, and certainly not in the fiber arts world where there are so many subjective variables that contribute to a successful endeavor. We can, however, work on the things within our control and hope for the best.

As someone with experience at the business end of multiple service-related industries (health care, hospitality, and fiber arts to name a few), I like helping people try to realize their dreams of owning or running a successful business.

In a previous blog post, 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting or Growing Your Fiber Arts Business,I talked a little bit about avoiding the mistake of “not sticking to a marketing strategy”. I’d like to expand on that a little and talk about a few of the do’s and don’ts of marketing your fiber arts business.

In further posts, I’ll get into some social media marketing tips, but for now, let’s talk in general. Shall we?




THE DOs OF MARKETING YOUR FIBER ARTS BUSINESS

  • Establish your tribe: This is the latest jargon for find your niche, aka your corner of the market. Determine who you want to be your primary customer base and stick with it. Do some research. How old are they? Are they male or female (I know I’m super simplifying gender here, but if you’re marketing to a specific niche of the gender spectrum, establish that and own it)? Is your tribe more likely to buy from you online or in a physical shop? These are all things you need to define in your business plan, because marketing is a BIG part of what you’ll be doing to keep your business up and running.
  • Show & Tell: Show and tell all the things that make you unique. Make it obvious what your specialty is. OMG Yarn (Balls), from the yarn side, specializes in unique dye techniques that include speckle dyes and combinations of multiple dyeing techniques. I also offer patterns that can be used on my yarn or some of my favorite LYS-caliber yarns that you can find in big box stores. I mean, not everyone can afford $25 a ball to make a sweater, right? Show some of your life behind the scenes, get people interested in what you do and some of how you do it. Share your favorite color ways. Knit/crochet with your yarn or spin with your fiber. Show people why it is the best. Most of all, show your personality. Let people care about you and your business.
  • Expect to spend most of your time marketing your business: This is a big one. You will not be spending all your time knitting or dyeing, you’ll be spending it talking about your business or chatting with other business owners like yourself. I dye yarn once a week right now, but I spend about 20-30 hours a week hanging out with the Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists, MOFA admins, testing my own patterns over and over again (and coordinating testers other than myself), giving away copies of my patterns, planning Instagram posts, working on blog posts and coordinating guest posters, and so much more. The hard work is to paying off too!




THE DON’Ts OF MARKETING YOUR FIBER ARTS BUSINESS

  • Don’t skip your market research: Let me repeat that for those of you in the back: “DO NOT SKIP YOUR MARKET RESEARCH”, it will be your undoing. Why would you put all your money and effort into a business and self-sabotage by not doing your prep work. You wouldn’t knit a $5,000 sweater with the wrong needles or yarn, spending a year knitting it, only to throw it out, would you? Not on purpose.
    • If you’re opening a brick and mortar shop, make sure your market is not saturated. That means, check to see how many yarn shops are within a 5- to 10- mile radius and see what they’re doing. If there’s already at least one, probably not the area for you, even if you THINK you could do better. When I closed our shop, we were doing well, but two yarn shops opened just before then. My business model limited overhead costs and had a lot of what I called side-hustles. It paid for itself and eventually some bills for at home too.
    • If you open up in a market where there’s only $75k or less to be made, you’re taking money out of your own pocket and that of the other shops (aka you’re limiting your market share). Also, do as I mention above and make sure you differentiate yourself from the competition. If they carry a lot of a certain brand, carry a different one. If people are looking for that specific brand, be willing to send them to that store, because guess what, they’ll be more likely to send people to you when they don’t carry something you have.
  • Don’t skip any other part of your business or marketing plan: It doesn’t have to be a 90-page doctoral thesis on the yarn biz, but you do have to plan things. A simple business and marketing plan for your business could be 1-5 pages of bullet points that include your mission (your overarching goal), vision (how you expect to achieve that overarching goal), and the financial piece (how much you will invest and reasonable expectations for income and expenses).
  • Don’t expect to copy exactly what other businesses do and be successful at it: You may not have the certain magic that makes their business plan works. For example, don’t expect to do everything StevenBe does, because YOU ARE NOT STEVENBE, YOU ARE YOU. What makes you magical? That should always be part of your business plan. If you are the brioche master, show it and own it. If you like loud, unique color combos, make that known. Make it your life.

Get it now? Seriously, you’re more than welcome to contact me for questions or more tips in this department. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now (I got my MBA in 2006 and have been in business management in some capacity ever since).

Overall, DO HAVE FUN. If it’s your passion, it won’t feel like work.




Want to keep an eye out for more posts like these? Join my email list and get alerted to new posts, sales on OMG Yarn, and a lot more.


This is Domestic Violence: Silent No Longer

October 17, 2017




Trigger Warning: This blog post talks about domestic violence. With the social media outcry of “me too” opening up a lot of wounds for myself and many others, I chose to leave some aspects of my story out.

I heard it all during the initial stages of my divorce proceedings. No one believed that I, such a sassy and intelligent woman, could possibly have stayed in an abusive relationship long enough to get married and have kids. No one believed that I could have stayed for over seven years without saying something.

They were wrong.

He told his family that I was unstable. He passed on messages that I was just a bitter bitch trying to take his kids from him.

People believed him and I did not care. I was out, I’d pick up the pieces when things calmed down.

It is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I am finally ready to share my story. It took over two years to end the relationship from hell and I’m breaking the silence.

Maybe it will help you. Maybe it will help someone you know. All I know is: sharing is helping promote awareness and continues the healing process.




What is Domestic Violence?
According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, “Domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic abuse or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.”

Copyright by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project

It does not always have to mean physical violence, but also a number of other behaviors including:

  • Threats
  • Financial/Economic Abuse
  • Sexual Violence – including assault
  • Emotional Abuse (like gaslighting or threatening to hurt you or your children)
  • and more…

Domestic Violence is all about exerting control and power over someone else. No one deserves to be on the receiving end and it’s time that we raise more awareness on this issue.

One in four women will experience domestic violence in a relationship. Two in three children will be exposed to domestic violence.




My Story
In the beginning, he was nice. He said all the right things. We were going to experience life to the fullest. I’d never been camping, so he promised to take me camping. I wanted to experience life outside of Wisconsin, so he said he was looking in to moving to California. Just the two of us.

When my ex-husband was around family and friends, he stayed quiet. He was not rude, he was charismatic when he did speak. The salesman personality came out. He could do no wrong. He was a saint for “taming” such a free-spirited woman.

Then came the sarcastic remarks. You know, the ones that made people giggle about how we argued like an old married couple. We were cute and our sarcastic banter was even cuter.

What people did not see were the tears that followed. I’d privately stand up for myself. I’d pull him aside and say, “Hey, that wasn’t cool,” and where you’d usually expect a respectful conversation to follow, all I’d hear was how I was a “typical sensitive woman” or a moron for not seeing things his way.

Benign, right? That’s what I thought. Relationships had issues, they weren’t perfect. These were our issues.

Then came the humiliation. The first time we hung out with his friends together, I was not allowed in said friend’s house. Supposedly, there was a roommate that did not tolerate people of color in the house. My ex’s words. And we were to spend the day there.

I wasn’t even allowed to use the restroom in that house. When I had to pee, I was forced to go outside, off the end of a pier and hope no one was watching. My ex said nothing. I said nothing. I did not value myself enough then to protest.

Then came the isolation. If I wanted to hang out with him, I had to go visit. He had made the 25- minute drive to my apartment once and decided that it was too much for him. I had to make the drive in the rain, storms, or whatever. It was my “problem”.

My friends weren’t good enough for him. They were nerds and he just plain couldn’t be around them. I started to see my friends and family less and less. I was embarrassed at having to defend him not wanting to come along when they got together.

Almost daily visits to my parents’ house became a thing of the past. I had to “grow up” and “cut the apron strings”.

Then things became physical. The first time I was dragged down the stairs, I went to the emergency room to treat my back injury. The doctors knew my story didn’t add up, but the treated me and sent me on my way. Me and my “clumsy butt”.

There were hardly ever any bruises. I’d get cornered in an argument, and I’d have to push him to get away. Then I’d get tackled or pushed to the ground. He’d stand over me and watch as I cried from the pain. He used the fact that I pushed him as justification. I needed to be put in my place. I believed it.

After I’d had my oldest son, I had damage to my back and neck from the length of my labor and he knew that even sudden body checks would leave me immobile for hours. Sometimes he even left me laying on the nasty basement floor, telling me I was being melodramatic and that he didn’t do anything.

Now, mind you, there were some mental health issues that both of us were dealing with during all of this, I had crippling anxiety, a PTSD diagnosis, a history of depression and even post-partum depression. I always knew when I put myself for an in-patient stay, usually to escape him, to have a break and not have the personal pride hit of staying with my parents.

Then came the manipulation and the threats. Following one major incident, he had injured me badly enough to call 911. When the police arrived, my ex reported I’d beaten him with a crowbar. All he had to show for it was scratch marks on his wrists from me trying to pry his hands from around my neck. I was put in handcuffs and escorted to a police van. I was not arrested. I was taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation and treatment for my injuries.

He came to visit me before I was taken in for an MRI of my neck. He brought our son and essentially told me I’d never see him again if I told anyone what had really happened. He was not going to let me ruin his life. That’s really all I can remember of that day, because however violently he threatened me, I had to be sedated.

Arguments following that day always focused around the fact that he had told the police that I had beat him with a crowbar and I was “arrested” and no judge would give an unstable woman custody of the kids if I ever left him. He said that I was lucky that he decided not to press charges. It’s why I stayed for so long.

Funny thing is, his story didn’t add up. I later heard from my mother, who had arrived at our house just after the police did, that my ex-husband admitted to doing “something wrong” and that the police decided on their own not to arrest me. Classic gaslighting behavior to keep me in the relationship.




The Turning Point
In spite of all those horrific things, I only reported him once. That was in 2012. I begged the ER doctors not to do anything because my ex had our son and I needed to make sure he was safe first.

Things calmed down for a while, I had our second child and got sick. Very sick. Not expected to survive sick. I was told to prepare myself and have a discussion with my husband about final plans. So, I started the conversation.

“That sounds like something you and your mother need to handle,” and that was the end of it.

“They” always tell you that the end goal of the abuser is to kill you. I took his nonchalance to mean one thing only: he did not have to bother with killing me himself, my body was going to do it for him. With my newfound heart condition, I was in hell and God Himself had my heart in His hands as a final sign to smack me back to reality.

I am worth so much more and my sons need to see that.

I made one final attempt to speak with him before I was scheduled to be induced for our son’s birth and he told me that we’d talk after the birth. I closed my eyes and I said to myself, “If I survive this birth, I’m getting healthy, and I’m leaving this motherfucker.”

I have counseled many women in domestic violence situations when I worked in health care and I always could tell them to leave. I always said that no one ever deserves this. Maybe, over the years, those words really were for me.




Standing Up and Walking Out
Financial abuse
was a real thing in our relationship. During the last parts of our relationship it took the form of him refusing to work for nearly 18 months. He blamed me. He told me that I was not allowing him to work because I would not get a baby sitter for him.

We needed the money, I had to work, and he spent every single dollar. If I came into extra money, it couldn’t go into savings, he already had plans for it.

I had to hide money. I had to lie about how much my business was really making. I had to actively make sure my business didn’t make over a certain amount of money each month, because he’d find a way to sabotage my hard work.

As I adjusted to my new normal and my physical health improved, I began giving myself daily pep talks. I had to believe in myself more than I did.

I found myself with two kids, scraping together my hard-earned pennies from my yarn shop to buy diapers for our new baby. I went back to work a little over a week after giving birth, because my ex pushed me to open my shop for Bay View Gallery Night so that he could showcase himself (of course) as the “artist”. I was exhausted all the time. ALL. THE. TIME.

I got a foreclosure notice for the condo and began to look at apartments. He would join me with some extravagant idea of where we should live.

The manipulation and disregard for my limited mobility continued. I put our budget at $800 a month. He’d show me places twice or three times that a month. I was adamant that we couldn’t have any stairs so that I could take care of the kids and not pass out from climbing the stairs. None of the places he found were all one level.

I stood up for myself. I was not going to live somewhere where we weren’t safe, and that included me being able to get in and out of our home. The last place he showed me is where he eventually moved to post-separation. The apartment itself had holes in the walls, was on the second floor of a dilapidated building, and the laundry room was in the dimly basement that pretty much would remind you of a serial killer’s lair.

Then I found a place. It was perfect. Everything I wanted and within my budget (I could run the shop and pay for the apartment, woohoo). It was in a suburb with good schools for the kids, had a garage, and a public pool. Because I’d found it, it was not good enough.

Even when we looked at the model apartment, he shrugged, “It might be doable.” I snapped. “You’re a loser. You’re not supporting your family, I’m doing EVERYTHING and it’s still not good enough. Me and the boys are moving here, you’re not welcome to come with.” I stormed out and spent the rest of the evening with my friends.

He got a job and moved out within two weeks of that conversation when I told him he was not moving with us.




He even admitted that he wanted to hurt us in writing, claimed that me and my boyfriend being together was hurting my son…

It Did Not Stop After He Left
The rest? Well, it could be a Lifetime Original Movie in and of itself, right down to the knight in shining armor who became my happily ever after.

It is a whole long story, but here are the “highlights” (and I saved about 500 pages of pictures of damage he’d caused to our shared home and screen shots of texts he sent):

  • My ex-husband found out I was dating and would constantly text me about how I was neglecting the children and being selfish.
  • I was told more than once a week that I should break up with my boyfriend and give him another chance. That he still loved me and he could not believe that I found someone else. He even accused me of cheating and leaving him for my boyfriend.
  • He would tell the boys things like he would not allow me to divorce him or not allow me to marry my boyfriend, whom they liked.
  • He committed parental kidnapping (something that was never addressed in court…long story) and refused to allow me to see the boys for nearly 2.5 months until the courts issued a placement order and investigation by guardian ad litem. When I was granted placement, our court commissioner asked who would like the first weekend and he said he’d already made plans with the boys for the weekend and was awarded the first weekend’s placement. Twenty minutes following the court hearing, he texted my mother begging her to take the children.
  • He harassed my parents to figure out my whereabouts or to gauge what my plan was in court. It got to the point where he even contacted them while I had an active temporary restraining order against him (he also had retaliated by filing a harassment order the following day and complained to my parents that I was not talking to him).
  • He would sit outside my apartment until my neighbors would call the police. Eventually, I discussed the issue with my landlord and they offered to keep him off the property. One night, I even parked my vehicle in my garage rather than in my assigned outdoor spot and got a text message the next morning claiming that I’d taken one of our sons to my boyfriend’s house overnight and that he did not approve. I had not left my apartment, however, with my vehicle not in its usual spot, it appeared that I was gone.
  • He charged his van at myself and my boyfriend while the boys were in the van with him. I actually made eye contact with (then) one-year-old Sharky who looked terrified that he was going to witness something bad happening to his mother. That is how close he got to us with his van.
  • With all of the drama behind the divorce going on and eventually becoming pregnant with baby Ola, I moved, I abruptly closed down my yarn shop to protect my customers, and I changed my phone number. Our guardian ad litem recommended to the court that I not deal with my ex-husband face-to-face because, in spite of the mountain of evidence (all of which a judge found inadmissible), I could not get a domestic violence restraining order against him.

I could go on forever. I could write a book, but I’ve moved on from that chapter of my life and I’m happy to be living the life I am now, occasional dramatic performance by my ex-husband and all.

Our divorce was finalized on June 14, 2017, the day before my 35th birthday, and it was pure celebration. I will continue to move forward with my life, but I also know not to be complacent. I will always be aware of my surroundings should the stalking or harassing begin again.

No one should ever have to live this way. I wanted out to create a better life for my sons and myself. I was tired of pretending I had the perfect life, I wanted to actually live that perfect life.




I’m not writing this to make him look bad or for me to look good. None of that matters.

The truth is the truth, whether or not you believe it. I’m writing this in the hopes that someone could learn from this. I can only hope that my story can inspire someone to get out.

Looking back, all the warning signs were there that I was in an abusive relationship, even before the first tear was shed. I am not going to “coulda, woulda, shoulda” myself into anxiety, I can only learn and move on. I used that relationship to determine what I won’t allow myself to put up with anymore.

In the midst of talking to my ex (while I still did) after he moved out, he told me that the right man for me does not exist because my standards were too high and that I’d be disappointed. He told me to be prepared for the fact that I’d see him get married again and that I’d be lonely and miserable because he was the best I could do (emotional abuse).

Funny thing is, I was strong enough to tell him, “I’m willing to take that chance just to be away from you.”

No matter what, this will always be my personal victory: I got out. I un-paused my life. I am who I want to be. I keep OMG Yarn (Balls) because it is part of who I am. I don’t have to self-sabotage anymore. I can finally pick up and hopefully realize my true goals with my passion for the fiber arts.

If all the good things that have happened since ended right this second, I know that, even if for just a brief moment of time, I am worth so much more than I was treated in that relationship. I have someone who appreciates me for who I actually am.

The divorce and custody struggles? I got out. I got my babies. We live how we want to. We are all stronger. Nothing can ever take that from me.




If you need immediate help for a domestic violence situation, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline for more info on who to contact for help.

Put Down the Yarn Balls for a Minute: Let’s Make Some Slime

July 12, 2017




As a work from home mom, I need to find a good balance of work and play. That means sometimes I have to put the yarn down and pick up some fun activities that the kiddos can enjoy.

This time, my not-so-little Peanut had been BEGGING to make slime. I gave in. Of course, with this being a trend, and even having seen a YouTube goddess on Good Morning America with her own slime recipe, I had to try it.

The problem: All the slime recipes contained Borax. I make my own laundry detergent, so this is a common household item for me, but I also know that it destroys my skin if I touch it with my bare hands. I can only imagine what that would’ve done to my kiddos’ hands.

And because we do things with the OMG Factor, we needed to make bright and glittery slime without the requisite glitter epidemic that follows (I usually refer to this as glerpes, because once you have glitter, you have it for life).

My instructions are for one batch of slime which is enough for one child.

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 6oz bottle of Elmer’s Glitter Glue
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons Contact Solution
  • OPTIONAL: You’re welcome to add little things to the slime like toys, those little styrofoam balls, or whatever you like to make your slime even more awesome for your kiddos. I opted to add “Slime Ballz” that I found at Michael’s.

Other supplies:

  • Measuring spoons – Tablespoon and teaspoon
  • Mixing bowl – You might want to use disposable bowls or ones that you don’t care if you don’t use them again for anything else
  • Wooden stirrer – Like a paint stirrer or popsicle stick used for craft projects
  • Ziplock bags – For storage

Making slime is so easy, even 3 year old Sharky helped!

Instructions

  1. Pour the glue into the mixing bowl.
  2. Add the baking soda to the glue and stir until it’s completely mixed in. The glitter glue will look cloudy when ready. OPTIONAL: If you’re adding any toys or other things to your slime, this is the step where you add them.
  3. Add the contact lens solution. The mixture will start to harden quickly, so stir as much as you can before it turns into a ball. It will also stick to the stirrer, so you can pull the slime off of there when you get to the next step.
  4. Knead the slime by hand. Knead your slime into the remaining contact solution in the bowl like you’re making bread. The contact solution will make the glue become less and less sticky.
  5. Enjoy your slime! Play games with your slime. See how far you can stretch it. Mash it into a ball. Whatever you want, the sky is the limit.




Got questions? Want to keep following along and get alerted to when new blog posts are up? Join my email list!

 


Choosing the Right Yarn Continued: How I Picked Out Yarn for Dyeing

May 26, 2017




Just about 3 years ago now, I launched an Indiegogo campaign to grow OMG Yarn and convert my yarn shop space into a studio. At the time, I was only using one yarn base – a fingering weight, 2-ply yarn that was pretty awesome to work with – and I wanted to expand the line so that I could focus more on yarn dyeing and the aspects of being a yarnie that I loved the most.

Well, being a yarn shop owner turned yarn dyer, I was a bit of a yarn snob in the sense that I only liked working with yarns that had certain characteristics, but mainly I liked yarns that were great for both knitting and crochet AND a variety of project types.

What should you look for in a yarn to dye?

  1. Fiber content. Yes, I know the industry is saturated with 100% Superwash Merino yarns, but that was the first one I looked at. It’s easy for beginning dyers to work with and you don’t have to worry about the yarn felting while you figure out which dye techniques work best for you.If you want to focus on a specific target market (your tribe) do some research on what that group prefers. The average die hard sock knitter likes to see some nylon or other durable fiber content in their yarn, so a wool/nylon blend or a cotton blend might work best for you to start with.Want to focus on knitters and crocheters who drop big bucks on luxury fibers? Mohair, angora, cashmere, alpaca and the like may be what you want to go for. If you have no experience dyeing yarn, I’d suggest not working with these expensive fibers while you experiment.
  2. How the yarn takes up dye. Once you’ve found a good source/supplier, figured out a good dye technique, and found a type of dye you like, try a few different yarn bases of similar fiber content to see how they take up the dye.Believe it or not, the two different fingering weight yarn SW Merino bases I’ve worked with took dye differently. Sometimes it has to do with how many plies the yarn has, how tightly spun the yarn is, what dye you’re using, etc. There are so many variables that effect the dye process.




    After playing around with samples from my supplier, I actually dropped the original fingering weight yarn base I used and went all in on a more energetically spun 4-ply yarn that was SUPER soft, yet durable enough for socks. Why? The depth at which the yarn took dye compared to others was absolutely spectacular.
  3. Cost. I am a big fan of maximum quality for the lowest cost. Why spend $20 a ball for ok yarn that doesn’t do what you want it to when you can spend $10 a ball for a more luxurious feeling yarn? Why work with expensive dyes that require costly mordants or extra supplies to protect the environment you’re dyeing in, etc.Having a multi-income stream (diversified) business, I needed to get the most bang for my buck, as I essentially owned two businesses: the yarn dyeing side and the brick and mortar yarn shop side. I also paid cash for EVERYTHING, so managing cash flow was high on the priority list. Can you tell I put my MBA to good use?I was fortunate that my yarn supplier had a bajillion different yarn bases at varying costs, weights, and fiber content, so I had plenty of options to choose from. When you buy more, the bigger discount you get too! My supplier also offers free shipping on everything, and what’s not to love about that? I don’t even want to know what shipping would cost on 100 pounds of yarn (although, with my most recent collaboration for yarn dyeing, I’m about to find out…haha).
  4. The manufacturer/supplier. Yes, this is important too. Can you rely on your supplier to properly skein and protect your yarn from damage or dirt from the shipping and dye process?With over half a decade of yarn dyeing experience and yarn shop ownership at this point, I’ve definitely hit some speed bumps dealing with manufacturers. I’ve had a mill throw white yarn into a dirty box, then ship it with no bag to protect the yarn from the Wisconsin winter weather once it arrived on the shop doorstep. I was livid.And when I went to dye the yarn, I found out the hard way that the skeins were not properly tied, so I ended up with some really expensive yarn barf that I couldn’t even sell. When I called to complain, NO ONE returned my calls or addressed my concerns. I was DONE (with a capital ‘D’ DONE).No, you can’t possibly prepare for all of the what ifs, but you can significantly cut down on your disappointment or potential loss of income by choosing reputable suppliers (ask around the inter-webs…some dyers may not offer up any secrets, others, like me, are happy to offer some advice).

Check out my other post about how to choose the right yarn for a project, because that’s also a good guide for choosing yarn to dye.

In the end, it’s up to you what yarns you settle on to dye, but I wish all new yarn dyers good luck in their endeavors. It’s not easy, but it is soooooooo much fun. I mean, how else can you mix a little mad scientist work – that’s how I feel when dyeing yarn – with artistry and end up with something that will be beautiful for a lifetime (as long as you take good care of it)?




Want to learn more about dyeing yarn, the fiber arts industry, knit, crochet and other fiber fanaticism? Join my email list and get alerted to new posts, sales on OMG Yarn, and a lot more.


Baa Baa Black Sheep: Being a Person of Color in the Fiber Arts Industry

May 2, 2017




*Hits publish and waits for the trolls* I got my first trolls a few weeks ago. Seriously, just don’t bother, I won’t engage. Didn’t I tell you I was a little bit sassy? PS. My title was meant to be a little bit provocative to get your attention.

Reviving my fiber arts business has made me personally reflect on my life experiences, not only as a business person, but also on my career as a yarn shop owner and yarn dyer. Most of my experiences are good and only very few laden with the self-doubt that usually is involved with being a person of color in any realm of life. What does that all mean? Well, let me share a little bit of that with you today.




First, A Brief Sociology Lesson 

Although I was born in Florida, I have spent most of my life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and its suburbs. Milwaukee competes with other major cities each year being one of the most segregated cities in the country.

That doesn’t necessarily mean what most people think it means; it means that there are pocket communities within the city itself, but it also means that there is a lot of racial disparities, class/caste divides, and a ton of stereotypes about ANYONE and EVERYONE flying around.

Race is actually a social construct, so the definition of being a person of color has changed throughout history. Being black usually meant being an “undesirable” or “unacceptable”. It didn’t always mean African American, but included a number of ethnicities that now would be classified as Caucasian or White. It is because of that fact – and my personal family genetics – that I do not personally identify as black, but as either “other” or “mixed race”.

So WHAT are you?!

Sassy answer: I’m a superhero.

Semi-sassy answer: I’m human.

Real answer: There isn’t a real answer. I don’t fit into a nice and neat category and that bugs A LOT of people. My father’s family is Jamaican and Costa Rican with history that can be traced back to a dude that got kicked out of Ireland (What the hell do you have to do to get kicked out of Ireland?! ). On my mother’s side there’s (*deep breath*) German, French, Swiss, Native American, Chinese, and somewhere, buried deep is a couple drops of African American.




As a result of that cocktail of nationalities, this All-American Navy brat has “frotastic” curly hair, freckles, and white chocolate, mocha-colored skin with olive undertones (thanks to my Costa Rican familia). All that European background means I have some blonde hair mixed in to my deep brown and ZERO booty to shake, but all the other bass clef, Marilyn Monroe-esque curves.

My kids are various shades of beige ranging from “glow in the dark” to caramel latte. Ola has auburn/red curly hair, Sharky always looks pale, and Peanut was born with Royal Blue eyes (which has changed to a gorgeous shade of hazel).

But This is 2017! How does being a POC effect your fiber arts business?!

Meh, most days, it doesn’t. Seriously, I’ve been #blessed beyond words. My regular customers are wonderful and I have no complaints. In fact, I would argue that the fiber arts industry is much more open-minded than the rest of the country, probably why fiber artists have been the face of a lot of different social change movements both recently (think pink hats and knit/crochet uteri) and in the past. Remember, the road to change is paved with yarn.

Most of the effects are self-inflicted, but I have had some experiences that shape how I personally choose to do business. How?

    1. I refuse to be a patron to businesses that show obvious bias against me personally or my business. Not naming names, but outside of the fiber arts industry, there are some hotels that I will not stay at because of terrible service as the result of my perceived race and also because of my gender. One chain even went so far as to not return my calls when I filed a complaint, but they would return my then husband’s calls within minutes of his voicemails.It was only months later, when I filed a public review of management’s treatment of me and had the credit card company reverse charges, did I receive a call, which went something like, “You can’t possibly think we discriminated against you. Come stay with us again, free of charge, and we’ll change your mind.” To which I responded, “You couldn’t pay me enough to make me want to stay there again. Money is not something that motivates me.” *click*
    2. I am actively inclusive of ALL people. Hey, I may not always be able to properly vocalize how much of a neutral person I am, but seriously, everyone who isn’t a danger to me or my family is welcome in my proverbial store and is welcome to a hug if we ever meet in person. I also started out with silent tutorials to be inclusive of my hearing impaired audience.
    3. I pledge to get in front of the camera more so that people of color can have a fiber arts hero that looks like them, even if I didn’t.  My new motto these days, “If you can’t find a hero that looks like you, be that hero.” I am working on building up my self-esteem to get in front of the camera and introduce myself to you personally. See the person behind the knitting and crocheting hands and the personality behind the crass and sass.

We don’t always get to see people of color in fiber arts, so it can lead to a lot of self-consciousness for those of us to don’t fit the mold of stereotypical knitter or crocheter.Since knit and crochet design also fits into the realm of fashion, I need to get out and represent the curvy-hipped, larger-bosomed ladies like myself. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and colors of the rainbow, and I want OMG Yarn to reflect that vision. I’m totally ok with you and want you to be ok with you too!




Don’t miss any updates or new patterns. Join my email list!


 

Healing with Fiber Arts: Why I’ll Never Put Down My Yarn

March 24, 2017

I have always been intrigued by music and art therapy. In fact, as a former classical musician, my mother suggested that I become a music therapist and incorporate my talent into helping others. I never chose that career path, however, it wasn’t too far off from what drives me to be a part of the fiber arts industry now. Rather than just tell you a bunch of facts about how the fiber arts heals the mind, body, and soul, I thought I’d add a little personal touch and incorporate a little bit about how the fiber arts have helped me personally.




So what is art therapy?
Art therapy is defined as expressive therapy using the “creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being”.

I didn’t know it when I was younger, but my passion for the arts was keeping me whole. I was a bundle of nerves, insecure, and anxious all the time, but when I played the flute, my troubles just melted away. Playing an instrument was all about breathing control, expressing one’s self through notes scrawled on a page, and becoming one with a piece of music. Nothing else mattered.

How could you not feel powerful when Mozart’s Concerto No. 1 in G left you in control of the orchestra behind you? They backed me up. They slowed down when I slowed down. They paused when I paused. They quieted when I quieted. They flourished when I flourished. I overrode the conductor with every note that escaped my instrument.

I was quietly confident when I was on stage, but only when I was on stage. For the decade or so that I played the flute on a semi-professional basis, that’s all I did was live my life to be on stage where I felt the most comfortable. I went chasing that feeling, but did not think I could find that serenity without a flute in my hands…until I discovered the fiber arts.

What’s so special about the fiber arts, anyway?

Sharky’s Rainbow Blanket is ongoing. He loves rainbows and I love mindlessly crocheting this design of mine.

There are many benefits to the practice of fiber arts. According to the article 6 Unexpected Benefits of Knitting, the repetitive motions of knitting (or crochet) can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. A lot of times, depending on the mental health issue at hand, cognitive behavioral therapists recommend meditation. The act of knitting or crochet mimics this meditation as we count stitches, focus on written instructions, and repeat the same stitches over and over again.

Early last year, The New York Times published an article about the health benefits of knitting. The fiber artist community passed the article around online, thrilled about the positive press that the craft was getting. Knitting was not for grandmas and cat ladies anymore (yea, I know we all hate that stereotype…), it was therapeutic and healing for so many people. In fact, I had a few people encourage me to come and volunteer to teach knitting as a part of addiction recovery therapy at a local shelter, because there were proven benefits to this type of art therapy.





Reaching Nirvana Through Stitches

The different textures of knit and crochet fabrics can stimulate the release of happiness hormones.

I recall my littlest (and favorite) customer, an 8 year old boy who had learned to knit at school and would drag his mother into my shop periodically to buy “the good yarn” for another project. His mother would comment about how it was a brave new world once he had learned to knit. She, herself, didn’t knit or crochet, but something about her son eyes lighting up every time they walked into my studio made the trip worth it. I could see the universe turn into a haze behind him as he focused on each ball of yarn that he ran his fingers across. It was as if the tactile experience brought him to a place of nirvana.

Science explains this phenomena pretty well, too. The happiness we get from playing with yarn or making it releases dopamine, the happiness/feel-good hormone in our bodies. This hormone can keep us fiber artists motivated to begin (and yes, complete) project after project and send us back to our favorite yarn retailers over and over.

Healing One Stitch At a Time

Knit and crochet can also help with motor skills, help prevent arthritis pain and mild cognitive impairment. What hits home the most for me is help with motor skills. A few years back, as the result of malnutrition from a severe illness, I experienced nerve damage in my left hand. For a few weeks, I had intermittent paralysis and pain from constant muscle spasms. I used knitting to retrain my left hand to function, thus eliminating my need for physical therapy in a clinical setting. Yes, yarn saved me money and time and healed me through knitting and crochet.

Fiesta Hat & Cowl

It started with figuring out how to hold a needle in my left hand, because my grip was so weak. Then, I could grip larger needles, and began designing patterns for weights of yarn that I was not used to knitting with. OMG Yarn’s launch would not have been possible without patterns like the Fiesta Hat and Cowl, which was the first pattern design I came up with after experiencing the loss of function in my left hand. Fair isle/intarsia knitting, plus Aran weight yarn and knitting the sample out of yarn I had dyed was a big catalyst to turning life around (someday, I’ll share the rest of that story). That process alone is why I’ll never give up my fiber fanaticism. Occasionally, I take breaks to reflect on life, but I always come back.

Well, I hope this is the start of a good discussion as to why yarn is awesome. You know I’m not just saying that too. I encourage everyone to share this article with anyone interested in art therapy or to help prove why your yarn habit is much more beneficial than having something warm to wear in winter.

References.

Brody, J. E. (2016, January 25). The Health Benefits of Knitting. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/25/the-health-benefits-of-knitting/?_r=0.

Harper, K. (n.d.). 6 Unexpected Benefits of Knitting. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://www.lifehack.org/314247/6-unexpected-benefits-knitting.

Locke, R. (n.d.). Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer and Happier Mentally. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://www.lifehack.org/319404/science-says-knitting-makes-humans-warmer-and-happier-mentally.

What is Art Therapy? (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://www.arttherapyblog.com/what-is-art-therapy/#.WNUwlWMdfVo.




It’s International Women’s Day: Support These “OMG Worthy” Local Female-Owned and/or -Operated Businesses

March 8, 2017

Image Credit: www.pixabay.com

It’s International Women’s Day today! I’m sharing links to female-owned or female-operated businesses of women I know and women they know. Some are local to OMG Yarn (Wisconsin area), a few are not. Feel free to check these awesome boss ladies’ businesses and show them some love today (and beyond).

  • Alice’s Garden – A woman after my own urban gardening heart.
  • Authentically Beautiful Custom Creations – I LOVE her designs.
  • Azure Mahara Photography – I am in awe of this woman’s artistic talent as a photographer. I follow her on Facebook just for the photos and the moments she captures on film.
  • Birdman’s Pheasant Fare – Family-owned business that operates here in Wisconsin. A lady in a local mom’s group is part of the operations team. It looks like all-natural products too! Yes, please!
  • The Body & Soul Healing Arts Center – Creative arts for the mind, body, and soul? Count me in to visit, like yesterday.
  • The Creative Social – They bring the creative spirit to you! What’s not to love?
  • Frontiere Farm House – Long-time online fiber artist friend’s new little farm in Michigan. She’s living my dream of running a cute little farm!
  • Irie Zulu – On the must try list if you’re in the Wauwatosa, WI, neck of the woods. African-Jamaican fusion? Um, shut up and take my money. All of it. Feed me forever.
  • little om BIG OM – Yoga for the whole family in Madison, WI. Run by a lady I’ve known since high school. Wishing I lived closer so that I could bring my kiddos there!
  • LulaRoe Amber and Mike Gallun – Amber and her husband are totally killing it with their LulaRoe business in the Milwaukee Area and in-home boutique.
  • Mercantile 519 – Fiber artist Nicole Geotz’s online persona. So many little knit projects as inspiration, so little time.
  • Milwaukee Blacksmith – If you haven’t met Shannon and Kent Knapp and their talented brood, you should. Their passion for passing on this near-extinct art form is beyond inspirational. Shannon has been a role model of mine for years! Zoey is an amazing artist as well. The episode of their show where she sketched out the dinosaur bones and helped make it happen…BRAVA!

  • Miss Social – A local lady whose expertise and passion is for helping other local small businesses succeed in their social media marketing.
  • Sparrow Collective – An independent artisan boutique here. These businesses support crafters and their passions!
  • Sweet T Knits – A new friend of mine who dyes yarn. She’s a craftivist and one cool lady!
  • Swoon – In need of a clothing boutique with great atmosphere? This is your place.
  • The Tool Shed – An Erotic Boutique with classes and more.
  • UberDork Designs – We *heart* UberDork in this house for so many reasons. One bad a$$ creative troublemaker raising two little female forces of nature. Her ornaments are pretty stinkin’ awesome too!
  • Wasabi Sake Lounge – This one is on my “to visit soon” list.
  • The Waxwing – I love this store on #teamdennis’ delivery route and owner Steph Davies is pretty great if you ask me (and the rest of Milwaukee).

Image Credit: Plusquotes.com (Found on Pinterest)

This list is a work in progress. I have a list of businesses I am adding within the next 24 hours or so.

Contact me if you’re local or online and would like to be considered to be added.

 

 

Work from Home Mom Tips: Time Management

February 16, 2017

As irony would have it, the time I had scheduled to sit down and write this post kinda fell by the wayside due to a fussy baby girl who needed her mommy. Family ALWAYS comes first, so this post is slightly delayed. Baby girl got her nap, and mama got the best snuggles. You can’t get these early years back…

There’s a hashtag floating around Instagram using the term “mompreneur”. I suppose you could say that I have been a dedicated mompreneur for a good five years now, and it has not always been easy. A lot of people ask me how I do it, and I even blogged about being a mom and business owner back in 2012. Back then, it was just Peanut and I.  Sharky and baby Ola have been added to the mix, so how we do things has changed a lot.

With the support of my partner, #TeamDennis, and the encouragement of my mother, I’ve been back at it doing the mompreneur thing. I’ve likened it to spinning plates that are on fire in a lion’s den while those lions are juggling chainsaws, but that could possibly be a slight exaggeration.




Being a work from home mommy is not for the faint of heart and it’s not for every family. Every family has different needs. It’s important for me to have something to do while my kiddos are in school or enjoy free play time around the house, because they all are pretty independent.

I thought that my personal experience may not be like everyone else’s, so I consulted with a few of my mompreneur friends for input as well. Here’s some tips and tricks on how you can manage your time and work flow with your babies in tow:

  1. Be productive during nap time. Just about every mom that responded to me mentioned that they try to get the most work done during nap time. Every so often, the stars align and I can get Sharky and Ola to nap at the same time and I can focus on items that require my undivided attention. If your babies can sleep through conversations, get your important phone calls out of the way. You’ll have little to no interruptions from your toddler who might want juice, food, potty time, or just needs mom’s attention. If you have a business where you utilize shipping, make sure shipment pick ups or drop offs are scheduled around naps. There’s nothing worse than a kiddo who has not gotten their full nap AND there’s some valuable time lost if your deliveries wake up the kiddos.

    Sharky is proudly proclaiming that he’s helping mommy carry the mail.

  2. Plan, plan, plan. Planning and to-do lists help us maximize efficiency as well. How do you know how to prioritize if you don’t even know what needs to be done and when? When I worked in account management, I spent the first hour or so of my day sipping coffee and building my to-do list in order of priority. Projects with upcoming deadlines came first; projects that were on hold because of data issues came last. Emailing clients came somewhere in the middle, depending on the urgency. I’ve also had it where there was a National Needle Arts Association show and I only had one day to dedicate to the out of town show. I planned the heck out of that trip and went through the entire show in a blaze of glory, seeing all that I needed to and even managed to have time to lose my rental car keys for a while. Yup, I flew to Columbus, rented a car, saw the sights, got lunch, and flew home in an 8-hour day. It was glorious.
  3. Automate as much as you can. With social media being a major part of marketing/advertising for online businesses, you can utilize tools like Hootsuite to plan your social media posts around peak usage times for your followers. My followers tend to respond more to Instagram posts around 6pm Central Time, which unfortunately, is dinnertime for our family. I believe in having all of us eating dinner at the same time, so this tool is especially important. Tracy B., owner of Nails by Tracy on Milwaukee’s East Side, likes to use Google Calendars for reminders on upcoming events and client appointments. This eliminates the need to carry around a planner and allows access to her schedule from any mobile device. I prefer my iPhone calendar, but have linked it to Google Calendars and Facebook Events as well (that way I don’t forget birthdays for family and friends either).
  4. Let kiddos help with some basic tasks. I’ve found that it’s a good life lesson for older children to help with some basic housekeeping or assisting with specific things. It helps them take ownership and see how well hard work pays off. Amanda C., a Perfectly Posh consultant and mom of three, plans everything from her Facebook posts to in-home parties around her husband’s schedule. If dad cannot bearound to watch one or more of the kids, she baby wears or has her oldest daughter assist with showing off products. I’ve had Peanut show customers his favorite yarns around the yarn shop or sweep the front walkway when he offers. Sharky enjoys helping carry packages to the car or handing them over to our letter carrier if we can’t make it to the Post Office.
  5. Go mobile – make the world your office. It’s the age of the iPhone (or Android, etc.), so take advantage of the powerful mobile devices you have available. Sure, it’s easy for me, because of the industry I am in. I can knit or crochet anywhere, I have a portable spinning wheel, and do not always have to dye yarn. When it’s nice outside and I need to take the kiddos to the park so that they can run off some energy, I bring my most portable project along with. If I got emails or calls to the Google Voice number that were for my yarn shop, I could literally operate my business anywhere. Somewhere there’s even a picture of me knitting by the side of the freeway when our transport van broke down on vacation (kiddos weren’t with us, so I worked on knitting a shop sample to pass the time while we waited for help).

    Yarn, coffee, and soda: Just about everything a fiber artist mompreneur needs to take the show on the road.

  6. Keep the kiddos entertained with things that interest them. Katurah M. always kept her boys entertained with their favorite toys when they were younger. Peanut always had an iPad to work on his home-school work or to catch up on the latest episodes of his favorite cartoons on Netflix. It was definitely a good way to keep him busy during knit and crochet lessons.
  7. When all else fails, get baby sitter, grandparent, or someone else close to you to help with kiddos (if you can). I always enlist my mom for wrangling the kiddos when I have trade shows or big meetings. It is poor business decorum to bring children or babies to some of these events (although, I have attended a few trade shows where it was acceptable to be a baby-wearing, breastfeeding mom – those shows know how to cater to us hardworking ladies).

I hope some of these tips and tricks gave you perspective on how to get more done as a mom who works with her kids around. Feel free to share some of your mompreneur hacks in the comments below!

Additional momprenuer tip: Baby wear or tandem baby wear if you have multiples. You’ll be happy you did. It maximizes my efficiency and lets me run around doing housework whilst multitasking business items too.

Special thanks to: Amanda C., Katurah M., and Tracy B. and all the other hardworking moms that contributed to the making of this post. Make sure to check out their businesses too, by clicking the links where they’re mentioned above!

OMG Yarn Projects and Designs: Go Big or Go Home

February 14, 2017

Announcement: My Etsy shop is up and running! All my pink/rose colored hand dyed yarn is posted. Click here to browse and buy!

A Passion for Fiber Arts, Fashion, and Life

My mother quilted this mug rug for me and gave it to me for Valentine’s Day. She’s who keeps me motivated, gives me my pep talks, and taught me how to be a superhero and crafter. Yup, I even sew!

When I was in my twenties, I lived like I was the midwestern Carrie Bradshaw. I had a cute little apartment in Bayside, WI, wore my loud suits and coats, and kept a budget for piles fabulous shoes. As a mom, I’ve toned it down, but I still like to wear big cowls, sweaters, scarves, and functional hats to accessorize my new wardrobe of yoga pants and t-shirts. I dream of big chunky knit blankets, designing outrageous knitwear for celebrities, and living the life straight out of a shabby chic themed Pinterest Board.

 

I think I lost some of that in the hustle to make the yarn shop work for single motherhood (though I’m not single anymore). If the last couple years have taught me anything, it is not to apologize for who I am as a person. I am an artist; yarn is my medium.

 

OMG Yarn is supposed to be about putting myself into my work. Everything I knit, crochet, spin, design should leave me breathless and you saying “OMG” (hence, the name, right?).

 

How Pink Hats Led to OMG Yarn’s Revival

People who know me can tell you that I like to do things in a big way. I can’t just make a hat, I have to make 50 of them. Just ask Beth at The Big String. She and I spent a few weeks in pink

Pile of cat hats in various colors going off to a friend. Sizes from baby to Adult. Even a child/toddler version is in there too!

hat overload for the Women’s March on Washington. I have my own personal reasons for being dedicated to making hats for others who don’t knit or crochet. I think that we as women should build each other up and support each other, no matter what the struggle. The last count of hats sold between the two of us was over 100, not including our own family and friends who put in orders as well.

 

Why bring up this divisive topic? As I sat making hat after hat, the gears in my head started turning. This was what I wanted to do. Projects I could invest my soul in. Beth and I kept designing and re-designing these hats to make them quick and easy to churn out for the orders coming in. It led to designing a Groundhog Day hat for my parents’ Bed and Breakfast, because the pink hat design naturally makes cute little animal ears. From there, because my mom asked, I designed matching fingerless mitts. Then, I wanted different colors for hats and scarves. And the designs kept coming.

 

What’s next?

I’m a superhero, a mom, a fiber artist, and now a blogger. The goal is to basically live the fiber artist life in a big way. OMG Yarn will:

  • Keep the designs coming: All the accessories and clothing items I love to wear in the style I love. I prefer bohemian, shabby chic, somewhat modern, Soho, style with neutral tones highlighted with pops of color. The colors I like to add should be striking.
  • Keep the YARN coming: I am dedicated to all things fiber arts. So yes, I’ll still be dyeing yarn in limited quantities and listing them for sale on Etsy. I also have yarn from the shop that needs to go too, it’s taking up my entire craft studio right now.

    Sharky’s Rainbow Blanket is the first “Go Big or Go Home” project in the works. It features planned color pooling, so keep an eye out for some tips and tricks on how to do it.

  • “Go big or Go Home” projects: I keep saying that, right? Well, it either means that these projects are going to be simple but larger-scale, bring great joy to me, or something that I personally would want to wear and never take off. If I’m going to make something using planned color-pooling, it’s going to be larger than life. These may feature OMG hand dyed yarn, they may not.
  • Teach some knit and crochet techniques we all could use: Obviously, I want to keep some of the finer aspects of yarn shop life and teach people how to do basic, intermediate, and advanced fiber arts techniques that can be used in every day projects. I will be designing accessories and things you can wear, but learn something in the process. Again, if I’m working on a planned color-pooling project, you’d like to know how to do that and be successful at that first, right? (Hint: There’s going to be some planned pooling coming up in the near future)
  • Mom Life and Behind the scenes: I always love to share some behind the scenes action. In other words, how I make the work from home life happen for my family. Time management is a big one, obviously, but other little life hacks.
  • Other services: I’m also working on ways that I can help other fiber artists and entrepreneurs run successful businesses as well. I’ll soon be offering personal services like technical editing and business development (marketing, social media help, business and marketing plans, etc). I have a lot of knowledge and experience to offer, and I’m not selfish. I like to see others succeed.

Eventually, I hope to monetize the blog here as well, but that won’t happen until later.