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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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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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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.