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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.




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Let’s Do a Yarn Study: Alternatives to Wool Blends for Crochet Shawls

August 28, 2017



Oh my goodness! Why would I even do a write up about yarn that isn’t mine?!

Well, I’m a small-ish independent dyer, designer, and fiber arts business owner and I certainly am not at the point where I have all my bases covered yet (see what I did there?). That means I have friends and family that may not be able to use my yarn due to wool allergies, cost, etc.

It doesn’t mean that these people cannot get the most out of my patterns or even patterns that I highly recommend for my yarn or a good alternative.

I’ve decided that, since I am a former yarn shop owner, and like to be inclusive of everyone, even people who aren’t using my yarn for whatever reason, I want to pass on my recommendations. I do it for the love of yarn.




What do I mean by a yarn study?

Sometimes you see stitch samplers for crochet, knit, cross-stitch, which are basically studies on different techniques.

In this case, I’m working the same project in different yarns and comparing the qualities of each yarn in the hopes to better understand different fiber content, stitched fabrics, and thus inspiring new designs in various yarns.

For this yarn study I chose the Swagger Shawl by Barb Mastre Stanford because it’s a quick crochet project and with less experience designing for crochet, I felt that this would be the perfect opportunity to play with different yarns for crochet projects. And she so graciously designed it for OMG’s expansion back in 2014.

The yarns I chose are:

  • Caron Cotton Cakes
  • Lion Brand’s 24/7 Cotton
  • Knit Picks’ Shine Worsted

The yarns I chose are good Worsted weight cotton alternatives to OMG Liberty, which is what the Swagger Shawl calls for.

Cotton Yarn: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Cotton yarns that are wallet-friendly are notoriously rough and not always the first choice for a shawl that you would wear next to your skin.

When you are lucky to find a good cotton yarn that is soft AND relatively inexpensive, you notice that it has a wonderful drape, but can lack “memory”, meaning it doesn’t always bounce back from stretching.

It is because of its drape that cotton yarns can be good for shawls and other accessories including home décor items.

So here we go!




OMG Liberty (Pictured at the top)
Fiber content: 100% Superwash Merino Wool
Put up: 220 yards per 100 gram skein

  • Pros: OMG Liberty is fluffy, takes up dye very well, and has excellent stitch definition. When crocheted for the Swagger Shawl it maintained its springiness and drape.
  • Cons: As I mentioned in my introduction, price for larger projects with OMG Liberty might make this yarn cost prohibitive for some. That’s exactly why I did the yarn study. It’s $22 per skein, so you’re talking 66 bucks to make this shawl, plus the cost of the pattern.

Here are my recommended alternatives if you absolutely have to make this shawl (or any other project that might call for OMG Liberty).




Caron Cotton Cakes
Fiber content: 60% Cotton, 40% Acrylic
Put up: 211 yards per 100 gram ball

Added on at the last minute after discovering this new yarn at my local Michael’s store, I included Caron Cotton Cakes, because I thought that Swagger would look pretty awesome using this new yarn.

  • Pros: Pricewise, you’re only talking $4.99 a ball at Michael’s (or less since we’re nearing the end of cotton yarn season in the US). This yarn feels like chenille or microfiber fabric, so it is amazingly soft. I also like cotton/acrylic blends because it adds a little bit of memory to your stitches without losing any of the drape from cotton and this yarn certainly lives up to that. The self-striping aspect of the yarn made the shawl itself look unique compared to the other samples I crocheted.
  • Cons: The only issue I saw with this yarn was one ball had a knot in it like it had been cut and tied to complete the ball. This is something that occasionally happens with all yarn companies, so not necessarily a con per se.




Lion Brand’s 24/7 Cotton
Fiber content: 100% Mercerized Cotton
Put up: 186 yards per 100 gram ball

  • Pros: Pricewise, you’re only talking $5.49 a ball at JoAnn Frabrics (or less since we’re nearing the end of cotton yarn season in the US). I like mercerized cotton yarns for baby items, so this Lion Brand equivalent was screaming my name. It has a beautiful shine and drape in the finished shawl. I am loving wearing it around too.
  • Cons: It’s a little rough to touch, but it is hard wearing. With blocking, the yarn softens up a bit.





Knit Picks’ Shine Worsted
Fiber content: 60% Pima Cotton, 40% Modal
Put up: 75 yards per 50 gram ball

  • Pros: At $2.99 a ball, this yarn is at a great price point as well, but you will need 6 balls of this to make the Swagger Shawl. It is soft, shiny, and the drape is magnificent. This is the softest cotton blend I’ve found so far, and I’m happy that I tried it out! The yarn blocks well and even held up to me ironing it.
  • Cons: With a 50 gram put up, it means more ends to weave in. Other than that, I experienced one knot, but as I said earlier, I know that’s normal so it’s not a con for me.

Since gift season is quickly approaching, I’m sure you’ll want to use some of these good alternatives on your Swagger Shawl.

Here’s a link to the pattern: Swagger Shawl by Barb Mastre Stanford

Let me know how you like the pattern and feel free to tag OMG Yarn on FB or Instagram when you make yours!




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Guest Post: Art, Cultural Appropriation, and Inspiration an Essay by John Ziv

August 2, 2017




Uh oh, look out, another controversial post about a topic that affects artists everywhere. This time it is cultural appropriation.

It is a topic that comes up quite often in social media. With the sociopolitical climate being what it is, “call-out culture” has reshaped what it means to be an active participant online, even within the fiber arts community.

And the discussion always gets heated.

No one, not even members within disparaged culture/group in question, can agree on the subject, and because the Internet is what it is, people get offensive, defensive, or just plain bold. Maybe it’s an effort to not look a certain way, BUT feelings ALWAYS get hurt.

When the lovely John Ziv of Working Wood Production approached me with an essay on this topic to post in Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists, a LARGE Facebook group that I help admin, I sat back and read it. It provoked thought, and I immediately envisioned the s**t storm that would ensue within the group.

This is a message that must be shared as food for thought, but as I mentioned, feelings ALWAYS get hurt. So in an effort to be more about community rather than competition – in this case, the cliche competition of “who’s the most woke” comes to mind – I am posting this essay with comments turned off.

That does not mean approach me or other admins from the group, or John about the topic with name-calling or assumptions about our intent. The intent is to start discussion outside of this arena, because really, OMG Yarn (Balls) is about appreciation of the fiber arts and provoking thought for you to do with what you will, as long as any negative energy is not being flung at others.

Anyway, I love the group members, readers and customers I work with on a daily basis, but right now, this is the world we live in. So, just food for thought, don’t shoot the messenger, and any other overused saying…shenanigans won’t be tolerated.

Without further ado…




Art, Cultural Appropriation, and Inspiration by John Ziv

This is a topic that has been coming up a lot lately, and unfortunately, I think a great many people don’t actually understand 1) what the terms mean, and 2) that generally, it is none of their business.

—–

First off, what is Art?

Art is in its simplest form, expression. It can be stacking two rocks on top of each other in a way that pleases or satisfies the person doing the stacking. It can be someone banging those two rocks together. It can be someone taking strands of grass and wrapping those rocks in them. Does that mean that it has to please or satisfy anyone else, or evoke an emotion or expression? Absolutely not.

Art is personal. It has nothing whatsoever to do with other people, unless the artist themselves decides to make it for other people. Even then, their opinion of said art, unless they are buying it, displaying it, or helping put it together, is their opinion, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the expression of the artist.

—–

Cultural Appropriation?

That is the “theft” of cultural icons by another culture. This can be anything from clothing patterns, to music, and even to linguistic idioms. Most commonly it is done by a dominant culture to a minority culture.

The biggest problem with cultural appropriation is that it often distorts, and eventually leads to the loss of meaning in regards to the elements of the culture that have been stolen. This can lead to severe misunderstandings and prejudices, as well as damage to both cultures.

However, one thing to note is that cultural assimilation is an ongoing process, and will happen no matter how protective of ones culture a community may be. For instance, we have historic evidence of the Nordic Seafarers(aka the Vikings) having adopted elements all the way from Russia to Africa, and even some from India and the Far East.

Some exchanges are good, in that they have been exchanges of knowledge. Better methods of construction, medicine, textiles, even cooking. Others have been extremely harmful, such as the Opium Epidemic in the far east, the Abrahmic religions(which are based on an amalgamation of several religions dating back to at least as early as 2000BC), and the forced loss of culture by slave owners and conquerors of various countries/indigenous peoples.

—–

Inspiration is just that, whatever happens to inspire you to do something. Sometimes it is something that happens to be part of your personal mainstream culture. Other times it is something that is part and parcel of another culture entirely, but happens to call you to create.

—–

Obviously, these three things can and do come into conflict when people are more concerned about protecting something that is effectively immaterial, rather than appreciating that the thought process is different for each person.

What inspires one person, and what that person takes from another culture, and then creates in expression, will not, cannot, be properly judged by anyone else, because it is a personal expression of what they think, feel, and wish to create.

That doesn’t mean that you have to like it. In fact you are free to dislike it, dislike what it stands for, dislike the person creating it, and otherwise just despise the entirety. I certainly have some artists who I can’t stand them, their work, their inspiration, or the fact that they pull it from a culture that they know nothing about.

What it does mean is that you should stop, and really think about why something bothers you, and if there truly is a theft, then speak out. If it is someone simply crafting for the beauty of it, appreciate it, ask about their inspiration, and discuss it and politely note that it bothers you slightly. If it is something that is simply a cheapening of your culture, laugh at them, and walk away. If it is outright theft, go at them hammer and tongs.

Most of all, don’t get on a high horse about the work of someone else, when you know nothing about their culture, or their inspiration. Rushing to judge is not good for you, or the artist.

—–

My personal thoughts.

I see artistic culture as an ever evolving ecosystem. Some species never really change much, waxing and waning, but always there. Other species flare up, grow enormously for a short while, and then die off suddenly. And some species are born from a mixture of other species, and find their niche in the ecosystem that allows them to grow, thrive, and be a productive part of that particular biosphere.

I do not approve of outright cultural theft. Do not go and claim your art is the real thing, when you have not immersed yourself into that culture and really learned what it means.

Be inspired by whatever you come across. If you happen to be inspired by music, dance, painting, textiles, language, or whatever, that is A-OK. Let it influence your world view, learn about it, interpret it, keep your mind open to other thoughts and ways of doing things. And be respectful while you do it.

If it weren’t for the good parts of cultural appropriation, we would not have music such as R&B, Rock, or regional Folk Music. We would not have such amazing spices for cooking such as Ginger, Nutmeg, and Cinnamon. We would not have Chocolate or Coffee! We would not have Arabic mathematical symbols and calculating methods. We would not have advanced medicine. We simply would not have much of what most of us appreciate on a day to day basis.

Sharing pieces of a culture does not take from that culture. The culture itself is still intact, unless it is being repressed. If you want to preserve your culture intact, make the effort to do so, but be glad that people outside your culture find parts or even most of it, something that inspires them and is appreciated by them, however misguided they may be.

Basically, don’t be an ass.

—–

As always, my Essays, Rants, Jokes, and Philosophical Maunderings are free to share. On topic discussion is welcome. Trolls and off topic discussion will be removed with an industrial blender and a hose fertilizer attachment.




7 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting or Growing Your Fiber Arts Business

June 17, 2017




The OMG Yarn (Balls) blog and Etsy shop may seem like an overnight success. In fact, it’s been a LONG time coming.

I opened an Etsy shop back in April 2011 after becoming a stay at home mom to my oldest, Peanut, who was about 18 months old at the time. He was an easy baby who’d started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old, so I was feeling a little bored. I started knitting again. All the time.

By the following year, I’d opened a little yarn shop to keep me occupied. Peanut tagged along and took on the role of shop helper and the self-designated door opener for customers.

The success of my little yarn shop was not short lived, but I closed my doors to evolve the business beyond the storefront and do the things I loved.

Even with a Master’s in Business Administration and half a decade of management experience in the health care industry, I still made some mistakes and/or noticed other businesses make certain slip ups when it came to the billion dollar + fiber arts industry.

I warn you though. You can do EVERYTHING “right” in business and still not have the kind of success you want. Some of us will never be WEBS Yarn Store or Debbie Bliss, BUT we can have the kind of success that will feed our families or at least give us a little extra money to spend on more yarn. (That’s why we’re in this business, right? We love yarn.)

Let’s chat a little about some of those mistakes and what you can do to avoid them, shall we?

  1. Diving in head first without a plan or a safety net. 

    They tell you that entrepreneurs dive in and build the parachute on the way down. In a sense, we do, but really, there’s so much more involved.We stand on the edge of the cliff and decide whether or not to jump, whether or not the build the parachute, what color that parachute should be, and whether or not we might be able to aim for the bushes or not. What does that really mean?

    Start with a business plan. It doesn’t have to be a 50 page dissertation on why yarn and wool is awesome and that you think you can make money off of it, but it does have to lay out the basics – the Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How?

    I’m not going to go into how to write a business plan here, but things to keep in mind: Who is your tribe (target audience)? What services and products you plan to offer? What sets you above the rest (find other businesses that you love and write down what you could do better than they can or what you could stand to improve about yourself to be successful)? Where you will operate (a physical location, online, or both)? Why you are doing this (and no, it’s not just about making money)? What are you goals (mission and vision in the business vernacular)? How will you achieve your goals (include milestones and numbers – determine what success looks like to you)?




  2. Copying someone else’s business plan or strategy and not finding your own “OMG Factor”. 

    I often joke about making a project “OMG worthy”. Well, your fiber arts and your business should have that “OMG Factor”: something that’s unique and sets you above and beyond all the rest.Seriously. Don’t copy other people’s businesses. I’m not going to offer you a course on business ethics and it doesn’t matter what other people do. You need to do you, not be like someone else (and that’s a sub-point here too: don’t focus on what other people are doing). This isn’t high school.

    I once panicked because a local yarn shop opened up nearby and you could tell that the owner had essentially looked at my Facebook page and website and copied a lot (almost verbatim).The mistake there: businesses are more than just the sum of their parts. Fiber artists each have their own magic that they bring to their business. That means, you can copy EVERYTHING about a successful business and call it your own – you might even make some money from that strategy – but you will never have exactly what that owner and fiber artist offers to his or her customers.

    There’s also karma…eventually it’ll bite you in the ass.

  3. Not paying attention to overhead costs. 

    This kinda goes along with a well-written and executed business plan, however, overhead (operating) costs will make or break any small business.There are fixed costs – costs that won’t vary much or at all each month like rent, utilities, wages for employees (if you have them), etc – and there are variable costs – things like merchant fees that go up or down based on sales volume, etc.Offsetting those costs is what you need to do to be profitable. The more costs you have, the more sales you need to make in order to be successful.The best strategy is to keep your fixed costs low.

    For example, I took advantage of the fact that the real estate market in the area had not recovered yet from the market crash of 2008. I found a space where the landlord was desperate to find an occupant and ended up with 1,000 square feet of retail space and 1,000 square feet of storage for about $650 a month. There were no triple net fees like strip malls or other commercial spaces have.

    Because of how low the costs for my retail space and maintaining said space were, I could get away with just a few sales a day in order to break even! Any months where I got more than that offset the summer months when the shop was dead.

    I also did not take out any loans whatsoever. Not a Kiva loan, not a small business loan, nothing. Could you imagine getting a $100k loan and then not being able to pay it all off? I couldn’t take out any loans anyway, so paying cash for everything, learning to budget and managing cash flow were very valuable lessons I learned “on the job”. And it translated to my personal life well too. I don’t own any credit cards, I spend below my means, and I still have all the fiber toys I want!

  4. Offering only one or too few products to survive. 

    You think you can get away with just selling your yarn? Nope. You need to be creative with how you diversify your creative business.Sell your yarn. Work with a designer and offer patterns (or design your own). Find some unique tools or signature items that show off who you are as a fiber artist and stock them. Sell in multiple venues (online, retail space, craft fairs, trade shows, etc). Collaborate with other fiber artists or makers.

    The sky is the limit.

  5. Expecting it to be easy, find the magic formula, or be an overnight success. 

    As much as business coaches want you to buy into how you can be a success overnight, it’s always the exception, not the rule. Yea, there are people that are successful almost overnight, but you cannot compare what you see on the surface to what you have to do. You need to pay your dues (for the most part).

    The first thing a yarn shop owner told me when I was doing my market research was, “You know it’s a lot of work, right? You can’t just put in 40 hours and think you’re done.”She was right. I’m used to working a lot. I completed my MBA full time while working full time. By the time I was 24 years old, I had a Master’s Degree, an awesomely difficult job, and did nothing but work and sleep.

    I now have three kids and work from home. I ALWAYS have to be on the go (I’m my father’s daughter that way).Expect 60- to 80-hour work weeks. The front door of your shop may be locked and the sign may say “Closed” but you’re not done. There’s paperwork, bookkeeping, “running the numbers”, keeping track of sales, and so much more.It’s the stuff most people hate, but that I love doing and do it quickly and well.

    There are multiple things you will have to learn by doing and some things you can take classes for. Accounting/bookkeeping, basic business operations, and marketing skills are just some of the things you will absolutely need, even if you hire someone to help you.

    If you plan on blogging or having a kickass website, expect to have to learn some coding or server maintenance skills, depending on how you plan on running your site.




  6. Not keeping your business organized. 

    I prefer a little chaos, but I also know that there are certain things I need to find on a moment’s notice.Keeping organized is a must, so find tools to help you do that.My landlord noticed once that my studio space was always chaotic, but if he needed a copy of a canceled rent check from the beginning of the year, it took me two seconds to find it.

  7. Lastly, not sticking to a marketing strategy. 

    This is a BIG one. BIG. Focus on social media or another marketing avenue to let people know about your business. This was my biggest mistake.

    In fact, most of your time is spent on marketing, not actually making your signature product. I thought that all you had to do was publish patterns or tell people about your products and they’d buy. That’s not always the case.

    You need to make them want to buy from you. Make them see how awesome you are. If you’re on Facebook, engage your audience in a group, through your page, and in other groups as well, but don’t be spammy. If it works for you, stick with it.

    On Instagram, find your audience and cater to them by telling your story. They’ll be more likely to buy if you can show them your passion for the fiber arts and have something unique to offer them.

    Don’t just show your yarn. Show people how you make it. Show them what inspired your creations. Show people what they can make with it. I mean, not everyone buys yarn for the sake of buying it, some people want to have a project to make with it.

Above all else, have fun and fill your life with the “OMG Factor”. If fiber arts is your passion, you should be able to show that. It’s endearing to see how much other people are obsessed with their craft, because after all, we all love yarn.


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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.


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.