Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rumors of a New Website ...

Well, they may not be rumors, but real websites
coming online in a few weeks. The word 'rumor' just might cause you to read this!

My webmaster has put together some modules of a good eCommerce program, and I am working to get my part of the duties completed so that we can get up and going. There will actually be two new websites: one for retail customers, and one for wholesalers. The wholesale site will be a password-protected site. The screens should make choosing which yarn, the weight, and payment options easy to understand. Because the new program is a true eCommerce site, you will soon have choices in how you pay for your purchases. Hooray! I feel like we have all been a prisoner of PayPal for the past three years, far too long, especially for me.

When you are ready to order, you'll just fill out a form with all the shipping and billing info on it, and that form will be available to me at any time. It will make life easier for me because I won't have to chase the details of your order through a series of eMails or back through the history of your PayPal purchases. As you use the new site for repeat orders, I will be able to read a history of the yarns you order, which could be useful if I get in a limited supply of a yarn similar to what you've been using.

Yesterday I was describing the new site to a person I was interviewing for a job. She was applying for what I loosely call the 'studio assistant' position, but in her case, I was looking for someone who is more savvy at the computer than I am. Years ago someone, whom I admired very much, told me to always hire people who are smarter than I am. Hmmm. Is this why I am having such a terrible time finding help around the studio? I think not! BUT I don't have an answer either for why it is so hard to hire someone for the job.

No, this person will be primarily responsible for getting the site up and running, creating a beautiful home page where I can communicate any news of back orders, stock levels, details of new yarns or special purchases, etc. As I was describing the position to her, I had this growing sense of excitement. Just hearing myself describe the new sites and imagining using them to communicate, to retrieve orders much easier than the current set-up, well, it was just so invigorating and I felt very much as I did when I first began to plan the business.
Yesterday I wrote to a new customer who is just setting up a new business, and as I wrote I again felt that excitement. It's really fun to put ideas into practice! No matter if you are just rumbling about with the hint of an idea, or if you have been up and running for a while and get that surge of enthusiasm and that shot of adrenalin. Of course, business is very practical and at the same time it is very much like any complex project. It takes planning before implementation.
I've had months of planning for the introduction of the new sites, and was ready to get them up and running months ago, but have to work with the schedules of my webmaster and find a good person to keep it up dated regularly. Maybe just maybe everything is aligned as it should be, and my plan will actually get implemented soon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Knitting for a Great Cause: Children in Need

Here is a link to the ultimate charity for our hobby:

Are you going to Stitches East this year? If so, you can sit down and work on knitting socks for children in Eastern Europe. Or, knit them before your trip and drop off a pair of child's socks at Booth #89, near the entrance to The Market. Please pass the word along.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Riding the Wave of Interest in Hand-Dyes

I have customers who have been so successful at their handdye business that they have quit what they used to call their real job, and have become fulltime fiber artists. They're making a living at it too. When they write to me about trends they see in the demands of their own customers, I listen.

Lately, what I have been reading from these folks is that they foresee a need for good handdyed yarns in sport and DK weight. Their customers, who buy handdyes at fiber festivals, go back to the local yarn shops and tell the local shop owner that they wish they could find something like the handdyed yarn they got at such-and-such fiber festival. Shop owners have been responding with shelves full of Koigu and other yarns which have ridden on Koigu's success, especially in their choices of filling their sock shelves. First it was the self-patterning sock yarns which looked like Fair Isle, then it was the more muted yarns which mimicked handdyes, and now, they are actually buying your handdyes and stocking them on their shelves.

Not all knitters who see the lovely handdyed yarns are sock knitters. In fact, it has been said that there are fabulous talented knitters out there who have never knit a sock in their life! So, see? There is a huge market of sweater knitters, baby clothes knitters, shawl and shrug knitters out there and they are awaiting some lovely handdyed yarns in a little heavier weight.

What I hear is that the next wave of popularity of handdyes is in the sport weight and Dk weight. So, when I heard about a closeout on an upscale yarn, I decided to take a chance and buy all of it. What 'it' is is a blend of 15% silk with 85% superwash merino in a DK weight yarn. I have some of it shown on the SPECIALS page of my website. Other choices to try creating your own line of handdyed sweater yarns would be Kona Superwash (for the superwash customer) and two yarns from the non-superwash lineup, giving you some choice. Try Montana for a classic knitting weight yarn, and Licorice Twist for a visually interesting yarn. (Remember the Licorice Twist is a 4-ply with some superwash merino in the blend, and the SW takes up more dye than the non-superwash, giving the yarn a candycane look. When knit into fabric, though, Licorice Twist gives a sort of heathered look. Very nice, and lots of fun to dye, too.)

Trends and fashions change, and in the knitting and crochet world, we are a part of the next wave of interest. Our luck, though, is that we can see it coming! Think about it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Customers With Many Monikers

I spend so much time trying to match people's different names, and have tried to remind people that I would like some help in finding their information. I wish I could count the wasted time spent in searching for alternate identities. For example, a customer may write an email asking about a yarn, and that email could be their husband's address, or one of many they hold. Often, customers only sign their first name, or do not sign the email at all. The biggest problem in identification is in the name which appears in the 'From' spot on emails, and that's where people love to get creative and invent new nicknames, use a company name which may not appear anywhere else, abbreviate their email address, or ... my favorite ... use their first name. Help me, please!

If theirs is a Special Order, I have to use an email address to invoice them through PayPal, so I go into PayPal and use the invoice from the original request to bill them. If they have a different email address for their PayPal account, they write back asking me to bill them at the alternate address. I go back into PayPal, edit the invoice, send it again, print another invoice copy, and throw away the first one. Or, they could throw me a curve, and pay the invoice through another PayPal address and I have no clue who is whom.

I have some customers with two or three email addresses -- all cloyingly cute, by the way! -- and who's names I have never seen. They do not sign their emails or inform me that they are writing from a different address than the one I should use in PayPal billing. It is so frustrating.

A couple of months ago, I decided to add to my email signature an automatic message which asks people to tell me if their PayPal address is different from their regular email, and also to sign their first and last names to their correspondence. A few have been so very nice to help me out, but most people either have ignored the message, or think it just doesn't apply to them. I am thinking particularly of a few regular customers who are billed for their shipments, and they never, ever copy down their billing email address.

So, how can I conquer this constant irritation? Through a new website program! Yes, that is definitely in the works. It will be a true eCommerce site, powered by OSCommerce, and customers will fill out a form which asks for this information. I will have behind the scenes access to these reports and can more easily find the info I need. Now, the only problem is to gently urge my webmaster towards my problems again. I'm in a waiting mode for his attention at the moment, and will be so happy to hear from him again!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

That is the address of the big spinning party in Central Park, NYC coming up at the end of the month: September 29th from 11 to 5. It is actually a wonderful day in many ways. A place for spinners to get together, a place to shop, the chance to mingle with other fiber artists, etc. The big event will benefit a wonderful charity organization, Heifer International. Proceeds will go to purchase chickens, goats, sheep, animals which feed families in underpriviledged areas, all in the effort to end world hunger. ( Check out these websites. Very touching, and a way we can actually make a difference.

Spinning in the Open?

I cannot remember when this day of spinning out in public is, but think it is coming up. What fun it would be to dress up in my little colonial costume, don my mop hat and sit out in the driveway and spin. But, I can't recall that date.

Hard to Find Good Help

Picture: Such a creamy, lovely, just exquisite yarn in this picture. It is a blend of silk with superwash merino (15% to 85%) in a 4-Ply yarn. Because the silk takes less dye than the superwash merino, one strand dyes up a few shades lighter than the other three plies. Nice. Unfortunately, there is a limited supply of this yarn because it is a closeout of a high-end yarn which I bought. All good things must come to an end! You can find this yarn on the Specials page of the website in 8-oz skeins (640 +/- yds), priced well at $28.
I have lost my helper, my wonderful and enthusiastic helper, to higher education. Yes, I know that I should be 100% happy for her, but I do need some good help around the studio. This work is a mixture of handling yarn all day in filling orders and accepting the incoming shipments, labeling cones, neatening things as you walk by. But, there is quite a bit of computer work in accepting orders, sending invoices, printing info cards and labels, and even shipping by computer.
Some days I declare the afternoons as Play Dates, and that's when the dye pots come out and I raid the secret stashes of yarn which have been hoarded just for this day! I always seem to have a stash of mystery yarns which got separated from their buddies, so they get tossed into the Mystery Bin and are destined for my dye experiments. My new natural dye buddy is out of the picture for a while as this Maine native deals with allergies to the pollens and pests of Virginia. I sure do miss her, too, because together we just came up with terrific combinations and tried all sorts of methods and combinations of dyestuffs and mordants and after baths which simply did not occur to me alone. I am hoping that after mosquito season, she will be able to join me for Play Date again.
But back to the search for a new assistant. I am reduced to passing out my card at the local drug store! Actually, it was the closing of the last locally owned drug store in our town, and I had stumbled upon their closeout sale. I fell into conversation with the people in front and in back of me as we stood in line, and wound up passing out my card to everyone in hopes of finding some good help. In my mind, there is someone out there who would just love this job! Unfortunately, they just haven't heard about it yet, so I am having to raid my husband's crew for help with the heavy lifting and repetitive tasks of labelling things. They're great help, but not very good conversationalists about fiber.