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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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Guest Post: Petticoats Are Sew Awesome, Let’s Learn How to Make One! (Part 2)

October 5, 2017




Now that you’ve met Shirley Will of Faery Craft, let’s get on with how to make a petticoat.

Petticoats Are Sew Awesome, Let’s Learn How to Make One! (Part 2)

What You Need:

  • 8 or 9 yards of 72″ wide netting (tulle, crinoline, etc) –  I use very stiff netting and advise my customers to wear stockings so it won’t feel scratchy. For a friend’s wedding, though, I used a softer chiffon; she’s on the autism spectrum and needs non-scratchy fabrics no matter how many layers. It didn’t “poof” as much, but it still looked gorgeous.
  • For the waist layer, you can use a different fabric, such as wedding satin – One or two yards is fine, depending on your measurements. You’ll be doing the calculations first, so you’ll know in advance how much you need. If you go this route, you’ll only need 8 yds of netting for the ruffles.
  • 48 yds of ribbon for the hem – I use a narrow ribbon, either ⅜” or ½”. You can use either a matching or contrasting ribbon.
  • Wide, double-faced satin ribbon or blanket binding, a couple of inches larger than your waist measurement – You can also double over a strip of fabric to make your own waistband, but after dealing with all the ruffles, you’re not going to want to deal with much else.
  • One or two large sew-in snaps – depending on the width of your waist ribbon.
  • Sewing thread – matching or contrasting, depending on the look that you want.
  • Lots and lots of straight pins
  • Rotary cutter – You’re really going to want one of these. If you don’t have one and want to start a petti before you can buy one, see if you know someone who will let you borrow theirs. You can certainly cut the strips with scissors, but the cutter makes it so much easier that it’s ridiculous.
  • A way to measure your strips as you cut – You’ll see me using a rotary cutting mat, and it has gridlines on it. These are pricey as heck, so if you don’t have one yet, I’d suggest faking it. You can mark out the width you need with masking or painter’s tape, which works on cutting tables, floors, and even carpet. You’ll need to maintain a constant, even width, so doing all this is to your benefit, trust me.

OK, got everything? Let’s get to cutting!




You’re going to need a total of 8 very long strips of fabric; 9″ wide and 8 yds long. For a shorter petti you can use narrower strips, but generally the length of your skirt depends on how long your waist layer is. This is why I sew up the ruffles first; it comes in handy in figuring out how much length you still need. Oh I know, you can measure it all out beforehand – but reality sometimes messes with you, and this way is much easier.

OK, so there’s my pile of 8 yds of net. Now to unfold it. I cut one layer at a time. They all NEED to be exactly the same width, or else parts of your petti are going to be shorter than others. How do I know this? NO REASON, LET’S MOVE ON, SHALL WE. *wink*

This picture was taken later at night so the colors look different.

Here’s one strip cut and folded up off to the side, and the second strip started. I use a metal yardstick to hold the edge down. I put my left hand over to the other side of the 9″ mark to steady it, but be sure not to pull, because netting will stretch a bit. Now sometimes my cut line does wobble, but I haven’t strayed more than ¼”, so I should be OK when I stitch the layers together.

You’ll get exactly eight 9″ wide strips out of a length of 72″ wide netting. Get that all out of the way first; this part doesn’t take any brainpower, but it is the most annoying; it’s all cake & pie from here! 🙂

Maybe they won’t be ALL 9″ since netting bolts usually say ’70-72″ width’. But that’s ok, most of them are close!

Do your six strips for the bottom ruffle at 9″. Measure what you have left. Mine wasn’t a full 18″, it was only 15″. So, I cut it down the middle for my two strips for the middle layer, which is now 7 ½” wide.

Now that they’re all cut, sew the strips together – sew two together and set aside, then sew the other six into one big, long strip. This is what I do, but if you only want to gather half the petticoat at a time, leave the two middle fabric strips alone, and sew the other six into two 3-piece strips.




I use a light-weight needle on my machine, like for chiffon. I don’t put a stabilizer or anything under it; it’s never been a problem for me.

I sew a straight stitch seam down, just my normal stitch length. I keep my left hand on the fabric to guide it, but don’t pull tight, or it might pucker.

Without cutting the thread, pull the fabric toward you, turning so that you can sew the seam allowance down. Open up the fabric and lay flat, pushing the seam flat off to one side. I try to push all the seams in the same direction, but when all the ruffles are gathered, you really won’t be able to tell.

Once you’re in position, sew down on top of the seam allowance to keep it flat. I use a zig-zag stitch here, but you can use an overlock stitch or even a decorative one. I use a cute vine-style stitch for my wedding pettis.

Now the fun part (or “fun” depending on how you deal with repetitive action, lol). I knit and crochet, too, so I’m good with it. If you’re not, just keep reminding yourself how cute it will be when it’s done.

The no-gather technique is this … find the middle of each set of strips. Pin together with right sides together; this will be the edge that the seam will be on. Here’s a pic of the two middles. Yes, I commandeer the whole living room floor for this! If you have a nice recliner or something, you can drape the excess fabric over the arms.

Now, without twisting the strips, slide your fingers along the edges until you find the beginning of the strip. I work to the left, but it really doesn’t matter. Pin together right sides together like you did with the middles.

In the picture above we see the middles pinned together, and off to the left, the beginning of each strip. In the center, the piles netting left to pin. I did say you’d need lots and lots of pins! If you’re only working with half the petticoat at a time, it will look the same, but the fabric piles will be smaller.




OK, now. See those piles of fabric strips? Time to find the center of each one! I do the top first, since it’s smaller. I pull the two pinned pieces together, and keeping it folded, slide my fingers along the edges until I reach the center. I mark the center with a pin, and let the two edges fall back open when I set it down. Sometimes I’ll actually pin it to the arm of the couch or something so I don’t lose track of it.

Then, I move to the other pile of fabric and, using the exact same technique, find the center. When you do, mark it with a pin in case you drop it. Not that I do this all the time or anything. But I do.

There’s the second set of “middles”, with the beginning of the strips off to the left there. Mine are pinned to the carpet, right sides up. It doesn’t matter how you keep track of the right sides/ top of strip, as long as you do. It’s easiest for me to make sure the head of the pin is on the right side, but if you have a different way that works for you, go for it. The only thing that matters it that it makes the process easier for you!

When you find and pin the centers, it doesn’t have to be done with mathematical precision. You’re just ensuring that you have an even distribution of ruffles all around your petticoat. Some video tutorials of ruffles start with people just sitting down at the sewing machine and scrunching up the longer side as they go. This stresses me out! I keep thinking “how do you know it won’t be more ruffly on one side?” “how do you make sure you don’t end up with extra at the end?” Well, this is what I do.

Eventually, you’ll be able to just stretch out both arms and reach both “middles”. Here, the midpoint that you’re looking for, of the center petti tier, is to the left, and the one of the bottom tier is to the right.

This is about as close together as you want to get your pins. I used to pin them down flat into pleats, but it doesn’t make any difference in the way the finished petti looks, so now I just scrunch it up and guide it under the presser foot as I sew. Much like those brave video tutorial teachers, but with pins in the middle to keep me from scrunching too much or too little.

Keep pinning, moving to the right, continuing to find the centers of the pinned … loops, I guess? You’re going to end up with a top strip that lays flat, with the much larger bottom ruffle pinned in even bunches on top of it. At this point, I’m settled in with a nice beverage, with many, many yards of tulle draped all around me. When I get everything to the absolute center pinned, I’ll have to stand up to start finding the centers again. I’ll continue to pin from the left to the right, so that by the time I’m done, I’ll be at the opposite edge of the petticoat.

At this point, you probably see the advantage of doing half of the petti ruffles at a time. I’ve done it, it is easier. When you get both halves pinned and the seams sewn, you then sew the two halves together at one of the side seams.




All pinned? Sew the seam along the top the same way you did between the strips. The initial seam is done with a straight stitch, sewing down all the scrunches/gathers. When you’re done, open it up so the fabric is flat, push the seam allowance down, and go over it with a zig-zag stitch, or whatever you’re using. I push the seam downward toward the hem, but like I said before, it doesn’t really matter; you can’t really tell when it’s finished.

It does make a difference if you don’t sew it down at all. Not only does it look more polished, but it’s more comfortable to wear, especially if you’ve used a stiff crinoline.

Well, we’ve reached the end of Part 2 of constructing a petticoat! Part 3 will arrive soon. We’ll see you then.





Photos belong to Shirley Will of Faery Craft.

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How to Dye Yarn with Kool-Aid

October 3, 2017




Way back when, in 2011, I had just become a stay at home mom and I needed to find some ways to pass the time. I opted to hone my fiber arts craft and spent the days knitting and crocheting.

One day, my mother mentioned to me that I should try dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid. And I did! I was a long process. I didn’t know about putting yarn into hanks yet, so I ended up with a ton of yarn barf.

Of course, over the years I taught myself a few different dyeing techniques and learned ways to make dyeing easier for myself. Recently, I was looking for something to do with my 8-year-old and 3-year-old sons toward the end of the summer break and I decided to go back to basics.

Since speckle dyeing is the trend right now, I wanted to teach the boys that technique, but without using the professional powdered yarn dyes I use. I thought, let’s dye yarn with Kool Aid!

Even better, why not make something for them that they could show off out of that yarn that they made. The idea was instantly a hit with the kids; they always love watching mom dye yarn, looking like a mad scientist in the process.

Here we go!




What You’ll Need:

  • White vinegar
  • A Liquid Measuring Cup
  • One hank of an animal based fiber yarn (we used my OMG Liberty yarn base; a worsted weight 100% Superwash Merino Wool) – cotton and acrylic yarn will not work for this technique
  • One Large Pot (at least 4 QT)
  • Water
  • Stove
  • Kool Aid packets of any flavor without sugar added
  • Ice Cube Trays, at least 2
  • Freezer
  • Sink
  • Dish Soap
  • Laundry Rack or Hanger

Instructions:

Prep Work – Make Kool Aid Ice Cubes

  1. Using hot water, mix approximately 6 ounces (3/4 cup) of water with one Kool Aid packet until the powder is completely dissolved. Use as many different colors as you like, but remember that the colors may mix, so remember your art classes from school. Purples and greens together will end up brown or other weird colors.
  2. Pour mixture into ice cube tray. If you are using multiple colors, use multiple trays. My mixtures of each color created about 6 to 8 ice cubes.
  3. Place trays in freezer and let freeze.

 Prep work – Soak Yarn

  1. Fill sink with luke warm water and add 1 cup of white vinegar.
  2. Place desired amount of yarn in water and soak it for 20 minutes.

 On to Dyeing Your Yarn

  1. Place presoaked yarn in a large pot. It does not have to be in there in any specific way, but make sure the entire bottom of the pot is covered and your yarn lays flat.
  2. Add about one cup of warm water evenly to the yarn in the pot. This is so that the yarn does not burn when heated on the stove. Make sure that there is not too much water in there. The yarn shouldn’t float and there should not be enough water for the colors to distribute through the water.
  3. Place ice cubes randomly on the surface of your yarn.
  4. Put pot on stove and heat yarn on medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Make sure that the yarn does not burn. If your water boils off, add more to the pot.
  5. Remove pot from heat. Your yarn is hot and so is your pot. Use oven mitts to carry the pot and dump yarn in the sink.
  6. Let yarn cool for 10 minutes in sink.
  7. Wash yarn with a little bit of dish soap and cold water until the water runs clear from the yarn.
  8. Hang yarn to dry.




That’s it! You have a skein of yarn dyed and ready to craft with.

3-year-old Sharky chose Grape, Pink Lemonade, and Cherry for his flavors/colors.

 

8-year-old Peanut chose Blue Raspberry, Pink Lemonade, and Cherry for his Kool-Aid flavors/colors.

 

Of course, I started knitting these hats right away.

Want to learn how to make the kids’ cute cabled hat that I made with their yarn?

Kool Aid Hat Preview

How cute are Sharky and Peanut?!

You will need the following knitting skills to complete this project:

  • Knit
  • Purl
  • Knitting in the Round
  • Purl two together
  • Knit two together

The gauge is approximately 5 stitches per inch in the cable pattern.

The pattern is written for use with OMG Liberty (my worsted weight yarn) or Lion Brand Wool Ease (worsted weight). Sizes range from baby (about 12 months) to adult.

Lion Brand’s Wool-Ease is just a little bit different than OMG Liberty, so instructions include the different needle sizes needed.

Tip: I’ve made several of these hats to test the pattern. If you find yourself playing yarn chicken with OMG Liberty in the adult size, use the smaller cast on for stitches, but follow the rest of the pattern as is, it’ll fit adult size too.

Click here to buy the pattern.




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Guest Post: Petticoats Are Sew Awesome, Let’s Learn How to Make One! (Part 1)

September 18, 2017




Introduction

We love all members of the fiber arts community at OMG Yarn (Balls), that means, occasionally I’ll feature some other crafts like spinning, sewing, and more on the blog here. 

This guest post is one of three parts and is all about how to make a petticoat, probably one of my favorite accessories when it comes to dressing on the fancier side.

I’ve actually sewn my own petticoat in the past as part of a handmade Moulin Rouge inspired costume. I spent a ton of money on lace to make it authentic. Unfortunately, my pictures of me in the full outfit are buried in basement storage right now.

Anyway, let’s welcome Shirley Will of Faery Craft who’s going to tell you a little bit about her process of making petticoats. In this first post, you’ll learn all about her inspiration. Enjoy.

-Melina




Petticoats Are Sew Awesome, Let’s Learn How to Make One! (Part 1)

Hi there! Shirley from Faery Craft and design here. I got into sewing because, like a lot of people, I couldn’t find anything in the stores that fit. Back in the 70’s models were getting thinner and thinner, and my “Barbie doll” build just wasn’t en vogue. Or in Vogue!

There were several small charity thrift stores nearby, and I found out that older styles, like 50’s stuff, fit perfectly. So I started getting all the old sewing patterns I could find at yard sales, and started making my own!  Two years of middle school Home EC classes hadn’t prepared me for the vast array of mistakes I would make, but I did learn. Eventually!

Now, thank goodness, we have the internet! Especially since my hour-glass figure is more like an hour and a half; I don’t have to guess on how to adjust measurements, there are blogs and videos out there to help. I’m more than happy to pass on what I’ve learned to others now.

So, on to today’s subject! All at once most of my friends were into swing dancing. First thing I noticed from their dance-night social media posts was a distressing lack of petticoats! Even among the teachers. I couldn’t let such a sad state of affairs continue!

After asking Mr. Google, I found out that TV Guide had posted directions in 1956. We had always watched “The Lawrence Welk Show” when I was growing up, so I was very familiar with the dancers and their fabulous dresses. I never knew that one in particular was well known for her petticoats and that her mother made them, but I’m happy about it now! And grateful to people who love to catch a “pettiglimpse” enough to maintain a website on them.

Most petticoats you can buy have a gathered waist, which adds bulk right where you don’t want any. These lovely pettis are made with the top “layer” being basically a circle skirt, with two layers of ruffles.

The bottom hem is trimmed with ribbon (you don’t have to hem netting or tulle). It doesn’t say to make a waistband or to add a hook or snap, though. These things were probably something that “everybody knows”, because everyone was wearing them at the time!

For the custom pettis I make in my store, I ask for the customer’s measurements, so I can fit not only the length that they want, but also their waist. I use double-sided wide satin ribbon (or blanket binding) for the waistband, and sew on a couple of large snaps.

This was my first petticoat, and while it turned out great (I’m still wearing it), there are some aesthetic differences I do now to make it look more professional. And OK, it does have some gathers at the waist, but I’ve gotten better at the math (don’t worry, it’s easy. I just don’t pay attention sometimes).

These petticoats will literally stand up on their own, by the way.

Here are a couple of customers who sent me photos for my blog:

 

The bride is wearing her grandmother’s ivory-colored wedding dress, and was looking for a petticoat to match, because she wanted it to peek out of the bottom. I think it was a great idea, she looks stunning.

Stay tuned for the instructions on how to make them!


Photos belong to Shirley Will of Faery Craft.




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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.

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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.




Quick Crochet Tutorial: How to do a Standing Double Crochet

July 5, 2017




You know I love to do ALL things fiber arts, right? That includes crochet.

I’m always knitting and always crocheting and sometimes things don’t always work out how you like them to, so you learn to fudge it, scheme it, or just plain make it work.

The goal of the site is to help cut out some of the scheming to make your projects look better by actually teaching some of the complicated stitches you might come across in your patterns.

Standing Double Crochet: A Brief Tutorial

I came across the standing double crochet while working on a cute little crochet sweater for Sharky two Christmases ago.

Even with almost two decades of crochet experience under my belt, I had never heard of this stitch which was being used to start rows of stripes along the front of his sweater. Sorry, I just remember what pattern I was using.

I initially shared the short tutorial on Instagram back in 2015, but it’s time to put this all in one searchable place that both you and I can come back to for reference. So, here we go:

Using the photograph above as a guide, complete these steps…
1. Yarn over hook twice. 2 loops on hook.
2. Insert your hook into the stitch, draw up a loop. 3 loops on hook.
3. Yarn over and pull through two loops on hook. 2 loops on hook.
4. Yarn over again and pull through two loops on hook. 1 loop remains and you’re done!
5. Once your next stitch is completed, your tail is tucked into the work.




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Gritty Photography, Free Spirits and The Oversized Sleeveless Tunic

June 28, 2017




 I like photography that stands out. I also like yarn that stands out and speaks for itself. When paired with the perfect project, photography and yarn can certainly make indie dyed yarn into a work of art.

The idea behind the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic design was to have a simple, oversized top that I could wear anywhere AND show off my yarn in a way that doesn’t take away from the speckled colorways I have been dyeing lately.

With the photography, I got adventurous in every way.

iPhone Photography

I use my iPhone for photography these days. Gone are the days where I had the time to grab my camera, take photos, download photos, edit photos, and then choose the best to go into patterns.

I take photos and edit them right in Instagram, send them to myself, and they get done in a much more streamlined manner (if that’s not another blog post, I don’t know what is…haha). The results are more unique photos and way less time is spent fighting with computer software to do what I want it to do.

The photos from the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic were purposefully grittier. They’re a throwback to when photography was new and a bit more of a raw art.

They’re also an homage to my favorite cinema director Tony Scott who experimented with older hand cranked cameras in the movie Man on Fire. The raw cinematography contributed to the die hard emotions of the film and was a way to draw the audience in to the wild spirt that comes alive when avenging the apparent death of a loved one.

I got a little adventurous and took the short walk to our lakefront in order to get a unique backdrop from the Lake Michigan shore. The free spirit in me has always loved looking out onto the lake and seeing nothing but endless skies and, of course, endless possibilities.

Showing off what gorgeous fabric that OMG Rushmore and the new color Newsprint is Dead can do, I created the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic.




Newsprint is Dead

The colorway wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my three-year-old. I was playing with an idea (I’ve been looking for black speckled yarn that looked like newspaper EVERYWHERE) and layered grey and black together. My toddler snuck up behind me and asked, “What you doing?” half-jokingly, because he knew what I was doing.

I asked if I should add another color to the yarn and he said, “Yes! Pink!”

The result: A page of newspaper that looked a little bloody before the dye set. It almost looked like a murder scene. Perfect.

Oversized Sleeveless Tunic

As the pattern description says, as a mom of three young kiddos that are always on the go, I need to wear comfortable, loose clothing that allows me to keep up with all the fun. One of my go-to clothing items is a tank top or sleeveless shirt that I can layer under a cardigan or over a t-shirt.

The Oversized Sleeveless Tunic is designed to be a go-to knit that you can actually wear, be comfortable, and stylish at the same time. Pair this with solid color yoga pants, layer with your favorite tank tops and/or cardigans and knit it with your favorite sport weight, hand dyed yarn.

This design is beginner-friendly and perfect to show off a speckled, variegated, or even solid colored yarn. There’s six inches of ease, so your top will have a gorgeous drape to accentuate almost any figure shape.

It is constructed from the bottom up and in the round. The front and back are worked flat and there is a faux seam on the side that tapers to the under arm.

The day that I photographed this, I walked down to the lakefront and back, and it was just so comfortable that I left it on ALL DAY. I ran to pick up my boys from their dad’s house, I took all three kiddos shopping at Target, and then came home to rest. Mom clothing needs to feel un-impeding of the process of caring for kiddos and this did just that.

It also will go perfectly with a black cardigan I just bought, so it’ll likely get put into the rotation of my mom wardrobe aka the mom uniform.

The pattern is available for purchase in my Ravelry store and my Etsy shop as well. See links below.

Limited time only: The pattern is free in my Ravelry store until July 4, 2017, no coupon code necessary.




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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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Your Complete Guide to OMG Yarn’s Fingering Weight Yarns

April 19, 2017




Picking the right yarn to dye is difficult, just as picking the right hand dyed yarn to make your next project is. I, personally, can be a little bit of a yarn snob, because I’ve gotten spoiled from playing with so many different yarns while owning a yarn shop (and of course, I was able to sample some amazing yarns that I didn’t even carry).

I know you’ve been tempted by the gorgeous photos I share on Instagram and Facebook, but there’s no way of telling how great and soft these yarns are. This is the first in a series of posts to entice you a little bit more to try the different yarns I create. Let’s talk about OMG’s awesome fingering weight yarns, OMG Calatrava and OMG Vegas.

All About OMG Calatrava

Named after the architectural beauty known as the Milwaukee Art Museum (located in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the city in which I grew up), OMG Calatrava is an energetically spun, light fingering weight yarn.

OMG Calatrava’s details: 100% Superwash Merino Wool; gauge: 7.5 sts/in on US 2; approximately 400 yds/3.5oz.

I chose this yarn because of how it is spun and takes dye (yep, I try dyeing every yarn before I select it). It is great for shawls, scarves, and other accessories.

Because of the tight spin of the plies, you can even use it for socks. In fact, my most worn pairs of socks are made from OMG Calatrava and they hold up well, even without nylon in it!

Even though it is tough enough for socks, it is soft enough to wear next to the skin and great for baby wear, like Ola’s dress that I keep sharing pictures of (and with this little cutie wearing it, how could I not keep sharing?). I also used OMG Calatrava in the color Pisces for the latest pattern I released, the Mesa Shawl.

The Glamour of OMG Vegas

Chloe Shawlette

If you need yarn that is a bit more fancy, something with a little glitz, try OMG Vegas. A little heavier fingering weight yarn, OMG Vegas has a bit of sparkle like the lights of Las Vegas.  This would be gorgeous in any accessory imaginable or as a great gift to the yarn lover in your life.

The plies of this yarn are a bit more loosely spun, but it is not splitty, so it can be worked in knit or crochet.

OMG Vegas’ details: 63% Superwash Merino Wool, 20% Silk, 15% Nylon, 2% Polyester Glitz; gauge: 8 sts/in on US 2; approximately 420 yds/3.5oz.

My first shawl design, the Chloe Shawlette, was done in OMG Calatrava, and I still keep the sample around. It’s next to the skin soft, has a wonderful drape, and takes the dye just a little bit lighter than my other yarns, showing its unique fiber personality.




Intrigued? Well, head on over to my Etsy shop and try a skein or two of these fingering weight yarns! Use coupon code OMGYARNBALLS for a 10% discount since you’ve spent the time reading about them.

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