Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wintersmith Socks


My Wintersmith Socks are finally done! I posted some progress photos and talked about my husband's reluctance to wear hand-knit socks. As I was trying to figure out how to make socks that worked for him, my LYS asked me to write a basic sock pattern, and it all came together.


These socks are worked toe-up, using Judy's Magic Cast On and a short row heel. The sole and back of the heel is worked in reverse stockinette, which prevents the purl bumps from digging into your feet when you walk on them. The verdict? Success! Nate loves them. This pattern is great for basic plain socks so you can let variegated yarn do all the work. You can also easily add a basic stitch pattern to it. The pattern is written for three widths with custom foot lengths, so it works for most adult foot sizes.

I know summer is about to start (or at least I hope so, it hasn't been promising around here), but it's never too early to start knitting for fall! Wintersmith Socks are available on Ravelry.


As for this colorful pile? This yarn is at its new home in Irvine, California. Ewe + You is opening this Saturday, May 31st!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pattern Review: Lida Shawl


Pattern: Lida Shawl by Bristol Ivy
Yarn: Quince and Co. Sparrow in color Paprika

I finished this shawl a few weeks ago and have been enjoying wearing it. The linen yarn is light but warmer than I expected. It has definitely been softening up with wear, which is great. I admit I was a bit worried about the stiffness of the fabric when I first started knitting it.

The pattern is very nice to work up. The lace pattern repeat is the same throughout, making it a relaxing project once you have it memorized. The pattern called for three skeins. Despite swatching, I ran out with two rows to go and had to order a 4th. Since I had the extra yarn, I added more repeats to the eyelet border than the pattern called for. I am actually quite happy with how it turned out.


Have any of you knitted this pattern? It was written for Quince and Co. Sparrow, so I'm kind of curious about how it would knit up in a wool fingering weight.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Making Decisions

What an emotional roller coaster the last week has been. I was amazed by the response I got to my post on why I lost a customer. I received an overwhelmingly positive response, from both other business owners and customers. It was a truly amazing feeling to receive countless notes telling me that my work was appreciated on its own, without the need for extra gifts.

This discussion has come at an interesting time. I was in the process of developing a rewards program, which I had talked about at the end of April. This is something I had been thinking about for a while, and it was on my radar long before the experience from last week. Now I am faced with some difficult questions. If I offer the rewards program, will it come across like it was a response to that customer's complaint? If I offer the program, will it set the stage for people always feeling like they are entitled to rewards and freebies?


I have decided to still go ahead with my original plan, because I don't want to let a nasty experience derail it. The rewards program is a way for me to acknowledge people who have truly made a difference to me and my business. It is not something done out of a sense of obligation or necessity, and I hope it will be received and appreciated as such. Stay tuned!

With that said, it's time to focus on the positive and the future again. I am happy to continue discussing the issues of appreciating handmade, customer expectations, and all of that, so please feel free to continue sending me messages. 

Now back to the dye pots! There is a new store, Ewe + You, opening in Irvine, CA next month and they'll be carrying Toil & Trouble Merino/Nylon sock yarns. I'm also getting ready for the Squam Art Workshops the first week of June, and I'll be a vendor at the Art Fair. See you there! 


As for that shawl I've been working on? I got a little sidetracked, but I'm back to swatching to design the next step for the lace.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The hard stuff: Managing Expectations

I was ready yesterday to write my usual Wednesday blog post showing you what I am working on, but something happened. Almost two months after a trunk show, I received some upsetting feedback from the venue. 

A customer had returned to the venue to announce she would "never buy Toil & Trouble yarns again." The reason? She had purchased 5 skeins, and I had not offered her a free pattern. 

This comes back to a discussion that happens over and over in the world of small businesses and handmade. My friend Liz talked about paying for handmade a while back, and I discussed it again in terms of paying for knitting. Inevitably, as a professional artist or artisan, you end up thrown into the role of educator. We find ourselves repeatedly having to explain the value of our work.


I love what I do. I work hard at it and I am thankful to be able to make a (tight) living with my fiber company, and I am very aware that this is because of my wonderful customers. But sometimes I wonder if my customers realize that their every purchase literally allows me to pay for a place to live every month, and for groceries every week. 

Even though this customer did not leave her name behind, I remember her well. I remember her face, her name, what she bought, and the discussion we had about the pattern she was interested in knitting. I truly value customer interaction and remember every single one of your faces, even if I'm not great with all your names. We had a very pleasant exchange. There was no "buy x skeins and get a free pattern" deal posted. She never made any requests of the sort to me at the time. But she returned to the venue two months later to express her dissatisfaction that I had simply not made the offer. 

There are some important questions that I feel consumers of handmade need to ask themselves before asking for discounts or free items:

"How would I feel if someone asked me to work for free?"
It takes me days, even weeks, to come up with a pattern idea, make a sample piece (sometimes several sample pieces), write and re-write the pattern, format it, photograph the sample, have the pattern thoroughly test-knitted and tech-edited. So, how would you feel if someone felt entitled to getting the product of many days/weeks of your hard work for free?

"How would I feel if my boss asked to pay me less this month?"
"How would I feel if my boss said he wanted me to work 8 hours, but would only pay me for 6?"
Every free item, every discount, very literally takes money away from my pocket. With the yarn I dye, I pay for the raw wool, for the dye, for the water and electricity I use to dye it, for the labels I attach to it. Every pattern costs me supplies to make the sample and tech editing fees. Also, there is the less visible cost of my time and labor. 

"Would you go into a supermarket, restaurant or clothing store expecting gifts?"
If often feels like these expectations only happen when doing business with small companies. I ask myself if this person goes to a restaurant and is upset when she isn't offered free dessert. Does she go into a store like J. Crew and feel slighted when they don't offer her a free shirt with the pants she just bought?

There are companies that purposefully hike their prices. They do this so they can run frequent promotions and give the illusion of offering a bargain, while keeping their profit margins intact. There are companies that raise prices to cover the costs of giving out freebies, so they are in fact not free at all. I prefer to price fairly from the get go. When I do offer a discount, I am making a conscious decision to earn less money that day/week. 

Making a living as an artisan is not an easy task, and is made entirely possible due to customers. I am so thankful for each and every one of you. But at the end of the day, I need to make sure my business is financially viable. And I hope this is something you can understand. I welcome your thoughts on this, as small business owners and/or as consumers. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

FO'ing some UFOs

It's time for me to admit that I have too many projects going at once, even for me. This month's goal is to finish as many as possible, so I can then justify starting a bunch of new projects of course.


I finished this whole cardigan minus the button band several weeks ago, then left it in a basket, sad and neglected. Why? No good reason, because I am actually very anxious to wear it. I finally pulled it out of the basket and gently blocked it before adding the button band. Since the cable pattern was shrinking the width of the back before blocking, I didn't want to end up with a too-narrow button band. Now it's almost dry and I vow to pick up stitches for the collar next week.


I also made good progress on my Lida shawl despite some yardage drama. If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I ran out of yarn two rows before finishing it. Once I overcame my completely justified rage, because I did swatch before starting, I contacted Quince & Co. They had one single skein left in that same dye lot, phew!

Since I just couldn't make peace with getting a whole new skein for just two rows, I added several repeats to the eyelet border. The shawl is now finished and waiting for the cardigan to dry because I don't have enough mats to block both of them. Note to self: buy more blocking mats.

How are your spring projects coming along?

Have a great weekend!