Am I Ready?

“Am I ready?” is the question I ask myself every year as the craft shows start. I spend a week making lists, crossing off things as I get them ready, adding two more for every one crossed off and still have the feeling I’ve forgotten something. This process continues until I have the two inside shows under my belt, then starts again until after the first outside ones….adding tents, weights, camping gear to the already bulging trailer.

I can’t really say I’m stressed, I know I have the important things together. I think it’s more excitement to get back into the routine of things after not having a concrete schedule for the winter. I’ll report back after the first is done!

Last Weekend’s Show

Last weekend’s show was a morel (mushroom) festival.We set up Fri morning for the three days. Friday it was somewhat cold, but it is May in Michigan, so we prepared with our winter coats. (Problem; my finger-less gloves kept getting caught in the wool I was demonstrating spinning with.) At almost closing time the brave souls who had ventured out had slowed to a frozen trickle, so I took my wheel back to the car and we prepared to close.

An outdoor event meant my husband’s paintings needed to be packed safely away for the night, maybe a plastic over my yarn, table skirts raised to keep them from wicking ground moisture up to the displays, and finally we finished by dropping and zipping down the sides.

It started a cold rain as we finished up, so son and I sat with the car heater running to warm up. Luckily I had spoken to one of the food vendors and he was staying open past closing time. We chose a delicious smoked turkey sandwich (hot) and retreated to our warm “dining car.” (Husband had left before the rain started for his part-time job, and then home !) Son and I were “camping” in the car (actually a suburban) and the utility trailer- (I have a mattress in it!) We were “parked in” for the duration, so driving to a local restaurant wasn’t possible and we didn’t want to get wetter walking! Especially when the weather is iffy I prefer being closer to our set-up for night-time security.

Saturday I put on flannel lined pants and as many jackets as I could, happy to have brought my felted hat! High temperatures were in the 30’s (F). Whitecaps were blowing in from as far out as we could see, and by closing time we had decided to break down and lose vending for Sunday! We weren’t the only ones, as many tents were close to blowing away. (In case of weather show organizers will normally agree with that decision ๐Ÿ™‚

Sales seemed slow, but after adding things up, better than I’d thought! Sunday we awoke to SNOW!

snow in May

Those white specks are falling snow!

I did return to the town to discuss a custom order that had been initiated in a conversation on Sat. (glad she took my number to call) and I have started work on it.

3-ply linen

3-ply, two shades of blue+one white, linen.

Sorry I didn’t take any pictures of the show, but didn’t want to freeze my camera! It took a day for us to thaw out ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are some of my FO’s (finished objects). I have also been making prints and more magnet prints of husband’s art for the up-coming shows.

 

skewed small shawl.

multi-color shawlette, plied with black. Shawl pin by Cliff.

third skewed shalette

almost finished, wild-berry with variegated burgundy edge

It’s a never-ending process when re-stocking inventory means making instead of ordering, but we wouldn’t have it any other way ๐Ÿ™‚

tree fungus

fungi from a friend, waiting to be wood-burned and varnished!

garden

and a garden that needs planting.

Are you making things? Buying more local? Buying more hand made things?

 

Blogging Branding

I signed up for blogging branding through WordPress U . Without a posted start date, it started immediately. Checking out the tag bloggingbranding in the reader I realized why they no longer have a private commons for members of this course as they had in Blogging 101. Everyone is starting this 10-day course on their own schedule!

Now that I am three days into the course, I still haven’t done the assignment for day one; “Set three goals for your blog.” Their resource page seems to be recommending goals with a 2-3 month time-line. If you have been following my blog, you will realize that we do craft shows and that this blog is mainly to communicate with anyone interested in learning more about our retirement business of crafting. But some of our other interests will also appear from time to time.

This is the beginning of our busy summer season (as you may have gathered from my lack of posts.) Therefore I have decided that although I do need to learn more about consistent blogging/branding, my priority now needs to be ensuring everything is set properly for the craft shows, to continue growing our local business.

So as an official start to this course here are my summer blog goals;

  1. to continue posting at least twice a month (more if I can make/find time)
  2. collect and read all the information from the class and start to utilize it this fall.
  3. Increase followers by 50% by the end of the year.

A heartfelt thanks to all who have made the choice to follow our blog. Keep in touch, enjoy the summer, and watch for eventual improvements.Any suggestions are welcome in comments.

Meanwhile, here is a quick look at some things started a couple of weeks ago. More editing andย  there will be FO’s for next time ๐Ÿ™‚

hand dyed wools

Hand dyed wool & nylon yarn, wool, mohair, & nylon yarn, and merino wool top.

hand dyed

Another colorway, the top has now become yarn!

pastel purple merino wool

On my wheel

knitting

a shawlette on my needles

 

Craft Show Success

What makes a craft show a success? At yesterday’s show it took us the full three hours before the show to unload and setย  up! Throughout the day we saw familiar faces as well as new ones, talked to many people who gladly accepted our show schedule for the year and made some sales.

Kalkaska Craft Show

ready to sketch

#2 Kalkaska Craft Show

some of Edwin’s art, including black light

#3 Kalkaska Craft Show

more of Edwin’s art

#4 Kalkaska Craft Show

the rest of Edwin’s booth

Trying a new set up with new additions to our display equipment took a little longer to set up, but we liked the results (and of course have plans to tweak it more for our outdoor shows that are coming up ๐Ÿ™‚

#5 Kalkaska Craft Show

Bev’s Woodburning

#6 Kalkaska Craft Show

Some of Bev’s Hats and Yarn

#7 Kalkaska Craft Show

a closer view

#8 Kalkaska Craft Show

Bev’s Soy Candles

#9 Kalkaska Craft Show

Back side of Soy Candles and more wood burning as well as packing space and corner of spinning wheel.

#10 Kalkaska Craft Show

Cliff finishing his 5′ table

#11 Kalkaska Craft Show

Ready for viewing!

Customers were great and interest was shown in some potential custom orders.

At the end of the day we were tired but happy! Now we are rested and it’s time to make a few more things before our next shows. And we will have to readjust the trailer to hold the tents and weights that we will need for next time ๐Ÿ™‚

Reset

Today we started to do a reset on our trailer! We’ve only done one small show so far this year, so had just pulled out the necessary things that weren’t already in the house for the winter. That left the trailer disorganized and messy when I finally was able to move it to the driveway.

trailer view before reset

left in from last year

We were lucky enough to purchase some used grid-wall and additional shelving this Spring, so that had to come out of the garage. Of course we had to decide how many and what to take. Next Saturday is a one day show, with my husband having one booth to display his art (the reason we really needed the grid wall ๐Ÿ™‚ He will be across the aisle from us to have electric to show his black-light paintings. And our son and I will share the second booth in our regular spot.

grid-wall

new grid and old candle shelves

Working out the things we need, we started loading. I’m excited to see how everything will look when it’s fully merchandised. Yes I am claiming some of the grid and the wooden shelves! The grid will be attached to the two heavy shelves and have about 4′ between! Did I mention we also bought some hat stands that clip to the grid ๐Ÿ™‚ And the shelving should work well to display my yarn. Yes I will take pictures.

heavy shelf

one of two new shelves

We still have at least 4 or 5 more totes to finish re-packing and load, as well as the boxes of candles to be loaded last minute. Canvases and easels will go in the vehicle as well as my spinning wheel and an ice chest for snacks.

beginning to reload

trailer partially filled

I’ve more things that will need to fit for the next shows on our list since those will involve craft tents, sleeping bags etc. Will need to pack a lot tighter and more efficiently, or not carry such a large selection? I like having back-up even when I can’t display it all, especially for the multi-day shows.

 

Spinning vs Other Chores

I’d rather be spinning, but some other necessary things were competing for attention this week. As tax day looms closer I had to prepare the things for our accountant. As a business owner, I trust a second opinion when dealing with red tape! And it’s a relief to have that finished.

To motivate myself, I gave myself rewards of spinning time, and then knitting time, between organizing receipts and totaling columns of numbers.

spinning snow-dyed

on my wheel

 

First I spun the merino top that I snow dyed last week. I planned a heavy yarn that would match the gauge of the commercial thick and thin that was dyed at the same time. It pleasantly surprised me to see how the colors arranged themselves to mimic the first yarn.

thick and thin with handspun

colors aren’t quite true but you can see the pooling

Of course I needed more breaks (and chocolate) so I also cast on a hat to see how the yarns worked together! That finished I had just enough yarn to make a second slightly different one ๐Ÿ™‚ย  Pictures of those tomorrow if the light is better.

balls of yarn

wound into balls ready to knit

Lesson of this post, work a little and play more, don’t be a last minute person ๐Ÿ™‚ย  To add to this years goals…Keep current on paperwork! So today we dropped my car to the garage for a little fixing, did some shopping, and tonight I finished 4 batches of magnets for the shows. Tomorrow maybe some more snow dyeing…it’s supposed to be gone by this weekend!

Playing Catch-up

Yes, this week was as busy as the last one, so I’m going to attempt to catch you up on things I’ve been doing.

Finished projects; knitting

The green hat is finished and ready to felt!

Green and gray wool hat to felt

ready to felt!

The white mohair cowl is also finished, doesn’t seem to need blocking, is fuzzy and light but very comfortable and warm. Have been debating adding some dye to it, in hopes that the pattern would show up better. What do you think? I’m leaning toward leaving it white, to go with anything?

mohair cowl

You can still see my table through two layers! That’s airy.

I also discovered a new shawl pattern, Maluka. Decided to try it, since sorting through some of my stash I had found some lovely sock yarn that I know I will never turn into socks. And one skein should be enough, so another choice to make! Of course I chose the one that had red in it. Wound into a ball it looked even prettier. On the third start on the pattern, it’s beginning to take shape. Not the fault of the pattern, but the user! This is my first time knitting from a chart for anything but color changes, so 12-14 rows in each time I realized my mistake and had to frog! At least it was a different mistake each time ๐Ÿ™‚

skeins of sock yarn.

which to pick?

 

 

Yesterday was a family day, involving a lot of driving, time outside (in 30 degree weather) to watch a parade, some shopping, some visiting, another long drive home with some more shopping on the way (my husband found the perfect easel for his summer sketching and our son added to his collection of charms for wire wrapping) Last night I was too tired to even partake of Jacqueline’s wonderful Brunch Party, but that is still going on today so be sure to pop by and meet some interesting bloggers and enjoy her great food and music!

Last night my eyes were too tired, from driving with the bright sun in my eyes, to read blogs or even knit so I pulled out some roving that I’d obtained from a friend last summer and started spinning. Once started it went so quickly that I finished the first ball of roving and decided toย  ply it with some of the mohair that I’d used for the cowl. I wound that skein off this morning (130yds) and should soon have another the same size. The mohair added a nice bloom and softness to the colors.ย  Now to decide, is it to keep, to sell, or to knit into something to sell ?

wool roving

red, white, and blue roving

2+ oz. of spun wool yarn

one ball spun

Thinking I was tired enough to spin a lumpy type art yarn, training kicked in and it is an almost balanced knitting worsted size ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess I have to work harder on making lumpy yarn!

 

I’ve been making magnet prints of some of husband’s canvases and still have the regular sized prints to make (in my spare time)

Stay productive everyone and if you have a moment leave a comment about what has been keeping you busy.

A Busy Week!

A week ago tonight we were setting up for our first craft show of 2016! It was a garden seminar and the vendors were mainly busy during the student’s breaks. It was a well organized show, but it seemed strange not to have the full assortment that we usually set up. We were limited to needle felting, soy candles, and wood burning, to avoid havingย  content similar to that of other vendors.ย  Please excuse the darkness of the pictures. It wasn’t quite that dark in reality.

 

 

Saturday, after the show, I finished the magenta hat from last week’s start. It’s now waiting for another one to be finished so both can be felted.

knitted magenta hat

knitting finished, felting next.

Last week a vendor friend and I were lucky enough to make it to an estate sale of a talented fiber artist who passed away last year. With lots of equipment, beautiful finished product, roving, yarns and even a loom, there was lots to look at and still plenty left. The sale will be continuing on Sat’s and by appointment for a while yet. Of course my vehicle was partially loaded for the show, but we squeezed in her purchases and some of mine. HE HAD GRID WALL!ย  So I had to buy it and make arrangements to pick it up this week. With the pegs and hat hooks I can hardly wait to see the displays we will be able to do this year! Took my husband and son for the man power to load it all on the second (hour plus) trip, but it was worth it. My husband has been painting more canvases so he will now have a wall to display them on, instead of just easels. And we each found a few more goodies as well. And I picked up the sewing machine and another display for my friend (she forgot to get the machine when we were there before) Big cones of yarn for weaving followed me home. One is mohair so I started a knitted cowl, just to see how it would work up, it’s so soft! Can’t wait to do some weaving next!

fluffy mohair

fluffy mohair, almost invisible, but warm.

The rest of the week has been busy with family stuff, getting a leak fixed by my gas tank, printing some prints of finished paintings, and of course more knitting ๐Ÿ™‚

kelly green for knitting hat

start of next hat

Have a great week-end everyone. And please let me know what your next projects are? Are you like me and have more than one going at a time?

Realism in Business

Snowy view

The realism of winter.

This view of our back yard isn’t the subject of this post, but it needed a picture ๐Ÿ™‚ as I present some cold hard facts opinions of the realities of our business.

Disclaimer; I am not a business expert or even a former student of business courses. I have worked in both retail and service industries and observed many practices, some that are applicable to our style of business and others that are not.

In trying to analyze our business goals, I am trying to keep a realistic approach to what is possible.

We are in business to make some money, but also to provide customer satisfaction by providing quality handmade products. How much money and how many customers is dependent on many factors, primarily the amount we can produce and finding suitable markets.

Our business is completely handcrafted, limiting our expected growth by the amount of time we can spend creating. As we develop good markets, we need to be able to produce enough to supply them without running too low on merchandise. (With craft shows you’re unlikely to sell what you don’t have with you)(The things we have listed on line are also ready to ship, but custom orders can also be made to requests)

Hiring outside help, besides not being in our present budget, would defeat our premise of handmade by family. If we had to concentrate on quality control and supervision, it would take time away from our own creating. As it is, if a product we make doesn’t meet our self-imposed standards, we don’t sell it!

Having a variety of crafts. I’ve heard the opinion that a craft person should concentrate on only one medium, to become successful and create a professional,cohesive display. This is not our opinion! Throughout our lives, we have become acquainted with and proficient using a variety of supplies and tools. With three of us creating, that broadens our scope of expertise even more.

So when we display our work, at a craft show or on-line, our business will look more like a boutique or department store than a specialty shop. Our products are tied together with an array of colors and completely hand made by us. That way we don’t become bored and our customers mat be pleasantly surprised.

The above is far from a professional business plan, but is beginning to work for us. After years of gathering (investing in our business while we were still working for others) we are at the point of now pushing our business to its limits.

Do you have a small business? Or dream of having one? What are some realities that apply to yours? Would love to hear in a comment.

 

Organization of Inventory

One of my goals this year is to improve my organization of inventory.ย  As a business I need to have control of my inventory. Although most of what I make has a long shelf life, instead of making what I enjoy, and struggling to make more of other things before the next show, I’ve decided to better track the specifics of things I sell and develop an inventory par level, to relieve some of the stress between back-to-back shows. Of course I will still be developing new projects as well as tweaking older ones, since another part of business is constant change. With a better inventory system I should be better able to see where I’ve been as well as where I’m going.

Last year I made a spread sheet for candle inventory. Instead of just writing down the scents I sold at each show (as I had in years past) I began by listing all of my scents (over 100),ย  included my beginning inventory, my sales of each for each month, and the number of each made each month. Then I had a running inventory to tell which ones needed to be made next. (Yes, this could be done in excel, but was easier for me to track by paper & pencil/pen on a columnar pad.) This year I have plans for slight changes which should make inventory keeping easier yet.

Soy candles at a craft show

Free smells of Soy Candles

Now at the end of the year, I have a complete picture, not only of my best sellers (which tend to vary from year to year) butย  also of the monthly and seasonal variations which will allow me to better tailor my production for this year.

With candles somewhat under control, I decided that yarn needs to be my next challenge…..I spin a lot more than I realized, both at craft shows and at home.

I have more than five 18gal totes of yarn that I have spun over the last several years. (Plus a smaller amount that I have listed here and here. Startingย  with the five craft show totes, I emptied them on the table, one at a time, sorting them by color.

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Then I started taking each color and dividing the skeins into families by color (dye lot) and fiber type, assigning a “parent” number and sub-numbers, and recording the pertinent information on a spread sheet. This way with a quick look at the parent number, I can tell a customer how many skeins of a particular yarn is available, whether it is in my back stock or listed on line.

two different colors ready to re-label

sorted into reds and greens

 

ย The greens and the reds are completed (unless I find more in hiding). I am pulling some skeins to use in knitting hats and cowls. It’s a good way to display how well the yarn works, and gives me a better idea of the yardage needed for a project (although this will vary with pattern and individual gauges.) But best of all, I have the enjoyment of working knitting with my own yarn; A skein with no knots, easy to wind into a ball without tangles because of the way I wind my skeins from my spools. And I see how the shades of color work together to enhance the pattern, forming an unique project.

Yarn for future knitting

Some of my added stash

 

 

(Hover mouse on pictures below to read captions)

 

Organization is a lot of work, especially when I get distracted with knitting ๐Ÿ™‚ย  Two totes turned into two and a half, plus a bag of stash for me. I have only three totes plus a small box left to do. It is progressing quicker than when I was handwriting everything on my old labels.

retagging yarn

new yellow tags ready to replace the old handwritten ones.

 

spreadsheet taking form

yarn and my inventory tools

Once finished I will know which colors I need to dye more of to spin. This leads to the roving totes that will next need to be “organized”! Then there’s hats etc that need their own spreadsheet!

As I create, I’ve also created “the never-ending organizing-inventory monster”! (I do like red though ๐Ÿ™‚ All a part of growing a business I guess!

What inventory and organizing secrets have you discovered? Please share in a comment.