Thursday, December 22, 2011

Efficiency Startles Yarnie Company Owner into Action

Over the past several weeks, I have been in negotiations with two local companies who have warehouse capabilities beyond what I can do.  Both companies have some different services to offer, and I will wind up working with both of them in the end.  This business, Wool2Dye4, has grown quite a bit in the past two years, and this means handling lots more inventory.  We receive it and check it off a list, then lift it and put it in place.  We label the outside of the box, then we open the boxes, take the yarn out and remove the mill labels, and replace them with our Wool2Dye4 labels.  Then, we stock the shelves or close the boxes again, and if there is any need to shuffle placement around, we lift them again and move them around.  Considering that a box of skeins weighs 44 pounds at a minimum, and cones up to 70 pounds ... well, it is a physical job requiring strength as well as attention to detail.

In the eight months since I moved the company the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I have had two packers/stockists who both had to be let go.  Oddly, both claimed they had no idea why they didn't last, and one, unfortunately, was a friend whom I kept on as an act of friendship.  Sadly, he didn't seem to think as much of our friendship and it ended badly, I am sorry to say.  This last incident clarified my thoughts about hiring more employees to handle stock and warehousing, and through a circuitous route, I came to consider two different options for both warehousing and the labelling of all stock as a new alternative.  It is wonderful when opportunities fall across your path, and you actually recognize them as such! Advantages include no physical labor for me or my assistant, a freeing up of current space for better use, and paying for this as a service rather than employee wages.  I have had both packers file for unemployment benefits, and here in Virginia, you can receive benefits without having to prove you could perform the job!  Pretty amazing, really, and very disappointing, especially over the one whom I had considered a friend.  I cannot tell you how many conversations I had in my mind, but, of course, can never actually say out loud.

Yesterday I decided on a part of the upcoming change, the warehousing, stock labelling, and sample creation.  I am going with a local sheltered workshop, a non-profit which employs physically and mentally challenged individuals.  Twice I have been to the site and both times been so impressed with the attention to detail and pride in workmanship.  Nothing like what I have just experienced with people who sought out a job and then slouched through the days.  I feel so happy about this decision.  In addition to getting all of this work handled, I am able to give back in a small way to the community.

The efficiency part, though, is fascinating to me.  For years, I have created a process for each of the elements of my business.  Samples, for instance, have undergone quite a change from the original little wound bits of yarn round individual cards printed with the yarn specs.  I think we had 12 yarns at that time.  Today there are 39 yarns in the permanent line, 9 special purchase yarns, and 5 or 6 retirement yarns.  We are about to add 8 new yarns in January 2012, too!

Yesterday I was asked to come over and help revise the process of assembling my wholesale sample pack.  The most recent incarnation of the wholesale sample pack has been a layering process, two columns on the front and two on the back, in a 9x11 bag with a sticky closure.  For me this presentation has been cumbersome, so I absolutely understood the need for a new way to pack all the samples into one bag in a way in which the new packers could accomplish this, and which would be pretty.  (I have a running joke, which is actually quite serious, and I frequently intone, 'Here at Wool2Dye4, Rule Number Two is Make It Pretty!'  If a new employee ever asks what Rule Number One is, I know they were listening.  This former friend, most recently disengaged, never thought to ask that question!)

So, they asked me to create a wholesale sample pack and timed me.  Of course, my fingers were fumbling and it definitely did not look very pretty.  Then the first modification came: using a piece of cardboard as a center sort of spine and glue dots to affix two of the sample baggies at a time.  That worked better, so we tried that.  Again, I was asked to create the entire packet from start to finish, and I didn't do too well. So we three tossed around ideas, until the simplest and most efficient idea of all came to one of them.  The new idea was to draw a single line down the center of a piece of card stock, and, using round clear stickers, affix two sample baggies at a time, working from bottom up.  It made a spectacularly pretty, very neatly arranged set of samples.  All these years, and I had never thought to try this!

They break down all jobs into a process and study the movements and method until they come up with an efficient way to perform the task.  This includes much more than making samples, but in handling a large number of stock boxes and the contents, how to stack and warehouse them for efficiency.  The next study will be about shipping efficiently from other countries, and there are some very exciting possibilties there, including some non-traditional approaches.  More on that later.

Suffice it to say that coming into contact with these people has made an impact on my thinking.  I realized that I no longer have to have total control over every aspect of the business and can learn to use the expertise of others, and to to trust the people whom I hire to handle that.  This was brought home very suddenly on the day of their visit to look over the business.  I was interrupted for about fifteen minutes, and when I returned, the President of the company asked me, 'What would you do with your time if we took away all the responsibilities of the warehouse?'  I started to stutter, and couldn't form a complete sentence.  Those who know me well will surely not believe that, but it is true.  My mind was racing with flashes of marketing ideas I have stewing around in there but no time to turn into reality, of the new website almost ready to go but caught in a limbo where I just cannot move it forward, of the letters unwritten to customers in response to theirs to me, or just the very time to consider new ideas.  The eMails alone used to take up three or four hours of each day, and in the past month, I have been distracted and my attention sidelined.  So there I was looking like a dummy, unable to answer that simple question, but this guy recognized that my mind was busy, busy, busy with the possibilities.  That was the moment I knew they were onto something which would help me and allow the business to grow.  It would mean that I would have to give up micro management!  I am very good at that, but in my own defense, I do feel that without control of the processes, the business could never have grown as it has.  Oddly, though, I felt a sense of relief come over me, and that was one of those Bingo! moments in life when you know that a good idea has just occurred and it is time to act and act well.  So, I moved forward and it is all about to come to fruition.I had another Bingo! moment seven years ago when I started Wool2Dye4.  I just paused to reflect on that realization that hit me, and immediately turned my thinking towards how I could make the idea work.
Through my life, many opportunities have fallen across my path, and I've followed a lot of them.  While all were not good, I have learned how to let the bad ones go.  Right now, though, I am sure I am onto something which will allow my business to grow in a healthy way, and allow me to enjoy it much more.
It's a good time to be coming to a new realization, isn't it, with the new year approaching.  I am corny and like making resolutions and writing lists, and taking care, and for anyone who is reading this right now, I've got to say that these little oddball preferences for order are key to growing a successful business.  You have to like what you do and how you do it.  You have to be happy with your choices, have the guts to look hard at how things have always been and take the chance to make a few changes.  That is where I am just now, and I feel it is the right place to be. 


Friday, December 02, 2011

Sales tax for internet merchants? Could happen soon!

Sales Tax measures ‘to Cost Us Big’ … December 1, 2011 WSJ
By ANGUS LOTEN
Amazon.com wants to bring order to the way online retailers collect state and local taxes. And that has Web entrepreneur Stacy Strawn feeling anxious.
Under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, online retailers including her aren't required to collect sales tax for purchases made in states where they do not have a physical presence.

Stacey Strawn says proposed online sales-tax rules would hurt her Silver Gallery: 'The big retailers will eventually take over online shopping.'

Amazon is backing new sales-tax proposals but some small businesses are worried it may hurt them in the end, Stu Woo reports on digits.
But Ms. Strawn, and others like her who operate with just a dozen or so employees, would have to begin collecting and remitting taxes for the more than 40 states that currently charge sales and use taxes, along with thousands of cities and counties across the country, as set forth by a Senate proposal unveiled last month.

That proposal, which has the support of Amazon, includes an exception for small-business retailers with less than $500,000 in annual "remote" sales—a sum so low that it wouldn't even cover Ms. Strawn's employees' wages.

"These are the most small-business-unfriendly measures I've seen in years," said Ms. Strawn, whose Waynesboro, Va., store, Silver Gallery, sells sterling-silver bowls, cups and jewelry. "This is going to cost us big."
Ms. Strawn isn't entirely sure what the cost to her business would be. A 2006 PriceWaterhouseCoopers study found local and state tax compliance costs small retailers 13.47% of all sales tax collected, compared to 2.17% for large retailers.

The concerns voiced by Ms. Strawn and other small online retailers highlight a new point of contention in the debate over taxing Internet sales—the so-called small-business exemption in federal proposals is now so small that even many small fry aren't protected.

"The Internet is the only place where someone like us can be next door to an Amazon," Ms. Strawn said. "If they don't do something, the big retailers will eventually take over online shopping. And that would be a huge loss."

Nearly all of the Silver Gallery's $3 million in revenue last year came from online sales. The store currently has seven full-time employees, but she may have to cut some jobs as a way to deal with the added costs.

Legislation that would require online retailers to collect state taxes has been proposed in each of the past seven Congresses, including House and Senate bills in 2007 that set the small-business exemption at a much more generous $5 million in annual sales.

Amazon's willingness to get behind the proposals—combined with pressure from states for new sources of tax revenue, and bipartisan efforts in the House and Senate—has given the movement more traction this year.

Last month, the world's largest online retailer expressed support for a Senate bill calling for standardized federal rules that would require online retailers to collect out-of-state sales taxes—with a $500,000 exemption for small retailers. Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president of public policy, said at a House Judicial Committee hearing Wednesday that any small-business exemption must be kept low to protect states' rights to collect taxes, while leveling the playing field between online retailers and their brick-and-mortar competitors that already collect state taxes—typically reflected as higher sticker prices. "No one should want these online sellers to take advantage of a newly created un-level playing field over small Main Street businesses, and no one should want government to pick business-model winners and losers this way," Mr. Misener said.
"Amazon is prepared to make its technology available as a service to help sellers by collecting sales tax for them," he added.
Other supporters of the proposals include brick-and-mortar-only retailers who believe the standardization will help create a more level playing field overall in the retail industry. Without a state sales tax, online retailers "have nearly a 10% discount automatically," contends Maggie Jetter, owner of Tweed Baby Outfitters, a baby goods and apparel store in Nashville, Tenn., that doesn't sell its wares online. "We're doing the same thing, offering the same products, so the law needs to be reformed and updated," she says.
Online retail sales in the U.S. grew 13% to $176 billion last year, and are expected to grow by 12% to $197 billion in 2011, according to Forrester Research.

The University of Tennessee estimates that states and local governments will lose up to about $12 billion in 2012 from uncollected sales taxes.

Tod Cohen, vice president, eBay Government Relations, said in testimony Wednesday that the company believes the U.S. Small Business Administration should be the one to determine which small business retailers would be exempt. Forcing small businesses to take on the same costs and tax burdens as national retail businesses is unrealistic, unfair and will "unbalance the playing field" between giant retailers and small-business retailers on the Internet, Mr. Cohen said at Wednesday's hearing.

The SBA defines most small retailers as those making less than $7 million in annual revenue. In some categories, businesses such as women's clothing, book and games stores are considered small businesses if they have revenue of less than $25 million, according to the agency.

Some small and midsize retailers argue they may have to raise their prices to cover the costs of complying with a slew of new state taxes, under the proposed standardized federal rules. The risk is that shoppers looking for the best prices may then move their purchasing to larger sites that can absorb the added costs, said Joe Sponholz, president of BabyAge.com, a Wilkes-Barre, Pa.-based online baby products retailer with 29 full-time employees.

"It's not the start-ups or the Amazons of the world you have to worry about here. It's all the guys in the middle," said Mr. Sponholz, whose company recently built a distribution center in Nevada rather than California, to avoid paying state sales taxes. He says the $500,000 sales limit will only help very small retailers who have yet to develop a truly national reach.

A House bill introduced in October is also limited in the number of small businesses it would exempt. It makes an exception for those whose out-of-state sales are less than $100,000 in any one state, or a total of $1 million nationwide.
—Stu Woo contributed to this article.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Next Re-Stocking on Monday, Dec 5, 2011

New yarn in the incoming shipment, don't forget!  It's Donegal Sock, and I, for one, will probably knit something out of it in the natural state.  It's just so different looking and pretty!  Ask for a sample if you do not yet have one!

The re-stocking shipment is definitely scheduled for delivery on Monday.  We will spend all day settling it in and may get some of the orders out Monday afternoon.  Tuesday, though, we'll be at 100% shipping capacity, and as usual, we ship in the chronological order in which your order was received.

Tomorrow is Friday, and I will send out the invoices for private orders, and then release the newsletter.  By the time you receive the newsletter, the inventory on the website will have been updated to reflect the incoming stock.  So, when you get the newsletter, you are free to browse the website and shop from everything that is coming in.  What we have been waiting for is the new Donegal Sock, of course, and also the yarns wiht Stellina sparkly stuff in them:  Sheila's Glitter, Sheila's Sparkle and Sparkle Select Lace.  We even had most of the sparkly yarns up until last week, and I'm very happy about that change.  Holding larger stock levels has definitely reduced the frantic factor around order time.  Still, here we are at the holiday when everyone really wants to wear something sparkly, right?  And we've got it coming on Monday, I assure you.

Here is a list of what is in this shipment.  (skeins, unless otherwise noted)
Angel Select
Cash Aran MCN
Cash Sock MCN
Crazy Eight, skeins & cones
Donegal Sock
Platinum Sock
Sheila's Glitter *
Sheila's Gold
Sheila's Sock
Sheila's Sparkle *
Silk DK 50/50
Silk Sock 50/50
Sparkle Select Lace
W2D4 Merino DK-SW, skeins & cones
W2D4 Merino Worsted
* returning to stock

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Future of our Falkland British Merino line

We have had a look at the stock of our Falkland British Merino yarns, and feel that there is about a six-month supply if our customers continue to pick it up at the same rate.  In the late spring, our U.K. supplier made nine lovely new yarns available to Wool2Dye4, all from a unique area of the world, the Falkland Islands.  The wool from animals who live their lives in one of the most extreme climates on the globe reflects a ruggedness that is unique to this particular yarn.  These sheep have to work really hard to manufacture that fiber, so when we source it and bring it to our customers, we know that the yarn is something special and all the more valuable for the limited supply of sheep in the British Falkland Islands. 

Here are our nine yarns, exclusive in the States to Wool2Dye4, straight from the sheep on the British Falkland Islands. 
Falkland 100% 4-Socking
Falkland 100% DK-SW
Falkland Bamboo Sock
Falkland Platinum Sock
Falkland / Silk Sock
Falkland / Silk DK
Falkland / Tencel Sock
Falkland / Tencel Select laceweight
Falkland/ Bamboo Select laceweight

If you have already knit with the Falkland yarns, then you know that they have a lovely hand, the twist is beautiful, and that they are all nine beautiful yarns.  Too, the white is startlingly white!  They don't have to be dyed, unlike most other fibers which may have a creamy or beige tone.  The Falkland British Merino yarns are beautiful in their natural state.

Would you like a sample?  In your next order, be sure to make a notation in the comments section requesting a set of samples of the lovely Falkland British Merino yarn line.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Soft introduction of two yarns this month

Without much fanfare, we are doing a soft introduction of two yarns, a higher yardage sock/fingering yarn and a non-superwash in 100% merino.  I'll tell you about the yarns and then about the possible future of each.

The Basics about the Yarns
Euro 500
100% superwash merino
6-ply fingering weight, 500 yards / 100 grams.
Presented an 150 gram skein of 750 yards
Sold by the skein for a short time
Priced as Crazy Eight.

W2D4 Merino non-superwash, fingering
100% merino,  2-ply yarn,   438 yards / 100 gram
looser twist than sock yarns
Presented on typical 100 gram skein
weight and pricing to be determined

Looking forward with these two yarns ...

Euro 500 is one of those yarns which fell into my lap, a happy surprise.  The yardage of 500 yards/100 grams makes it a very lightweight sock yarn, or, for lace and garment knitters, a heavy fingering yarn.  It depends on what kind of knitter you/your customers are, and the sort of fabric which will be created from it.

Six plies.  That is sort of a European thing over the years, a thin yarn of many plies, and it makes for a strong yarn.  The fibers used, of course, determine whether it is soft on the skin and easy to wear.  I mean, we hate to wear scratchy yarns next to our skin, so shy away from knitting cowls, scarves, hats, turtleneck sweaters with scratch yarns.  This is not a scratchy yarn, but is made from our usual springy superwash merino.  It's the same yarn that goes into Sheila's Sock and Merino DK-SW, for instance, but it will feel different because there are so many plies.  So, it is an aquired taste.  I dyed my first skein last night and it rested overnight in the dyepot.  Today I will wash it and give it a bath in some wool wash.  I did two baths of purple, one I mixed and one straight from the dye manufacturer, and I think I am in love with this purple.  Hope I can do it again. 

I can see machine knitters coning this one up and using it.
I can see knitted sock blanks from flatbed machines.
I can see antique circular sock machine (CSM) owners loving this one.
I can see fine gauge sweater knitters going nuts over it.
I can see complete vests knit from one skein of 750 yards/150 grams.
I can see some great possibilities for this one.

Non-Superwash Merino

Now, this time I am doing something entirely different. I am sampling a yarn that I am not sure will be the final yarn we'll spin.  That's because the weight hasn't been decided yet.  So, I will invite everyone who samples the fingering skeins we'll have available to give feedback.  What I need to know is this:
Do we need to add a non-superwash to our line?
Do we want it to be another sock weight?  (Current sample will be 438 yds/100 gr)
Do we want or need a sport weight in the non-sw?  (I tried this a few years ago, and it languished on the shelves in a noticeable manner.  Picture yarn languishing; now, picture it calling attention to itself?  Hmmm...)
What applications will my customer base make for a sport yarn, if we go to the sport weight?
Do I have the customer base to support bringing in a new yarn in sport weight?

Good questions.  All will be answered as we sample!
Want a sample? Write to me and I'll send you a little butterfly.

Winter Re-Stocking

Below are lists of our incoming stock lists for November and December.  Some of our winter popular yarns are shown in Red.   One new yarn will be introduced in each shipment -- Single & Stunning in November and Donegal Sock in December -- and those yarns are shown in Green. As usual, I will send out a newsletter when the shipment is about to arrive.  That is when we also send out private invocies for any yarns which have been reserved.  If you need to reserve any of the yarns in Red or Green, then please eMail me, at your earliest convenience:  Yarnie@Wool2Dye4.com

Incoming stock:  expect it mid-November
(skeins unless otherwise noted)

Cash Sock MCN, skeins & cones
Sheila's Gold
Sheila's Sparkle
Crazy EightCash DK MCN
Single & Stunning *
W2D4 Merino DK-SW, skeins & cones
WD4 Merino Worsted-SW, skeins & cones
W2D4 Merino Worsted, skeins & cones

*Single & Stunning... NEW ... a superwash DK in Singles construction


Incoming Stock:  Expect it mid-December ...
 a little early to predict ...
(skeins unless otherwise noted)

Angel Select
Cash Aran MCN
Cash Sock MCN, skeins & cones
Crazy Eight, skeins & cones
Donegal Sock *
Platinum Sock
Sheila's Glitter
Sheila's Gold
Sheila's Sock, skeins & cones
Sheila's Sparkle
Silk DK 50/50
Silk Sock 50/50
Sparkle Select Laceweight
W2D4 Merino DK-SW, skeins & cones
W2D4 Merino Worsted

* Donegal Sock ... NEW ... 2-ply with flecks of dark NEP (nylon) sprinkled through in the tradition of Donegal Tweed fabric

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Creating a 'line' of yarns

From time to time things change.  Seasons, shoe sizes, availability of my favorite brand of potato chip.  And what is there to do but change myself, roll with the punches, adapt.  There is a life cycle for everything, including business.  We live in a world where options and possibilities offer more change that we can sometimes handle, and in order to keep up and not flounder or let our business become stale, we simply must change when the time comes.

In my business, we have to come up with new lines of yarns to meet the demand of our dyers.  The knitting world has done a quick catch-up in how it reacts to trends in color and style within the clothing industry, and the immediate interaction afforded by the Internet means that the old laws of supply and demand are constantly running at top speed.  The demand is created, in the fiber arts world, by designers who distribute their looks and sell their patterns through Internet outlets.  People buy the 'look' of a pattern or sample and try to duplicate it, so a colorway and/or a fiber blend will become popular almost overnight if the original garment is hot enough.  It used to be that yarn manufacturers controlled the speed with which trends changed.  They brought choices to local yarn shops who picked and chose what they would buy for their shop according to the buying history of their customer base.  The Internet has changed this approach and speed of introduction of new choices.

Producing the yarn and getting it to market is not quite as quickly accomplished as the flash of an image around the world.  We run three months behind, at a minimum, and six months, to state things realistically.  So, we hover at the fringe of top fashion exhibits held in the fashion capitals of Europe to see where designs are headed, and if/where knitting appears on the fashion scene. 

Every year we look to the future and plan out how we will produce and bring to market a new yarn or fiber blend or yarn construction.  Something new to attract and keep the interest level of our handdyers.  And, when a trend hits the knitting world, our dyers want what they want immediately.  We scramble and schedule and figure and meet and calculate and do all sorts of things in the background to get the demand met, to balance our lineup of yarns with current trends, tried and true classics, and fading trends.

Achieving balance means that all things cannot be produced at all times, and that we must recognize the time when the lifespan of a yarn is approaching it's end.  That is when we make the decision to retire a yarn, and it is a decision not lightly taken.  We always know that someone is fully vested in that yarn and that they believe that their market absolutely demands that yarn.  Usually, it is with difficulty that we convince those dyers to introduce something new to their own customer base.  If they've had success with a yarn going out of production, they sometimes panic and try to convince us that they will fail if we retire a yarn they use. 

I firmly believe that all customers at every point along the route will change if change is presented to them -- from our production to the handdyers who turn it into the beautiful finished yarn to the end consumer, the knitter who holds the yarn in their hands and has an idea of how to turn it into a handknit fabric.  My customers mostly sell over the Internet, and many are regular vendors at fiber festivals, and some supply their local yarn shops with their handdyed yarns. They often feel that they have a certain expected 'look' which their customers will seek out and which they are comfortable with providing.  And, sometimes, they do not want to change what they have to offer possibly because they do not trust that they will achieve current level of sales. 

I also firmly believe that the ease of distribution which the Internet offers has made it so easy for anyone to go into business that people jump for the sale without doing their homework.  Marketing.  It's all about marketing, which is very close to Psychology 101.  It is as much about what you have to offer in the moment as it about how you promote your ability to forecast trends, how you keep up with them, how you adapt to change.

About two months ago, in a newsletter to my customers, I announced that we would cease production of five yarns.  Oh, my.  What an outcry and barrage of eMails with the same message:  I cannot change.  My customers demand that I stay the same.  I must give them what I perceive that they want.  So, in an effort to respond to these requests from my own customer base, I decided to produce one more round of most of these yarns, and to bring in one more shipment of each one.   My broker, who is one of the top yarn distributors in Europe, offered to supply the fifth yarn to me on a special shipping arrangement.  If I could put together enough private orders to fill one box from the folks who had been traumatized by the possibility of losing that one yarn, he would ship them to me with my weekly order of his special yarns, the Bluefaced Leicester British wool.  Not once have we been able to fill a box.  I've had to take space from my weekly BFL orders to bring in one kilo here and two kilos there, and even that small amount has dwindled down to nothing. 

I have one more theory about how the Internet has changed my own business plan, and that is that it is hard to gauge a real demand from a perceived demand.  Those customers who say they love that yarn will not be able to find it anywhere else and they may just fall in love with something new that we introduce.  I have a tendency to take these complaints seriously, especially when they reach the point of hundreds of eMails.  Sometimes I get tired and in my answers I speak too honestly, and sometimes people take offence and write back eMails painting a picture of how my honesty in speaking of the market in general has belittled their sense of individuality.  The Internet allows people to say just about anything they want to say to me in an eMail without a single bit of compunction that they may be dramatizing their case.

When I started my business, I wrote a business plan.  Every few years I revise that plan to include new ideas, and also to clarify my approach to the dealing with people over the Internet.  How I present myself, how much of my personality I reveal, how I use humor, etc.  Actually, the use of humor in the written word is a dangerous thing, and something I struggle with.  From time to time, I try to diffuse high emotion in my customer by using humor to bring us back to the situation at hand and putting a new focus on dealing with the problem, and it sometimes works.  When it does not work, I know that I'm in for yet more of an explanation of how my insensitivity has affected their business.  The use of humor is a lesson that is hard to beat out of my personality, because I pretty much see humor in all things.  I remember a wonderful Scottish gentleman I met years ago in Texas where we were both working with a school system to set up a bilingual program.  He was in his 80's and he travelled around the States writing federal grants for school systems looking for funding.  He told story after story of the towns where he had lived for six months here and there, and the bottom line of every single one was this:  don't take yourself so seriously!

That's a good lesson.  In the context of looking at a line of yarns, it translates, in my mind, as another lesson.  Be open to change, look forward and plan, and keep your line fresh.  That's what we are doing.  I know that some people are slightly dismissive that the world of knitting yarn could actually be fresh, as it still has a reputation of being great-granny's pastime and what is cool about great-granny, after all?  I am here to tell you that this is not great-granny's crafty world any longer.  The Internet has made shop keepers in the virtual world of the Internt of hundreds of thousands.  How they choose to stand out from the rest is up to them.  We are the background folk who offer change.  It's there for the taking.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Yarn Lessons

I am in the middle of learning new lessons about the importance of matching the right yarn to the right pattern.  I don't think I will be spoiling any of my sister's holiday expectations if I talk about their gifts because I don't think any of them know I even have a blog, and one may not know what a blog is.   I could be wrong about that, and she might have one of her own that I don't know about.

In early September I decided to begin my holiday knitting with enough time to allow me to change my mind, unravel my work, and generally get sidetracked if that is what it would take for me to actually finish their gifts this year.  They are accustomed to getting handcrafted gifts from me, and I do not want to disappoint them.  I am not sure that they always appreciate the item or the amount of work which goes into their gifts.  One year, for instance, I worked like a demon to produce wrist warmers on my antique circular sock machine.  The items themselves were simple; it was the learning process which was time consuming.  They only knew of the end result, so they might have been a little underwhelmed when the moment of truth arrived.  One even called me up and asked me how to wear them ... well, maybe not expressed in such a blunt manner.  After all, we are Southern women and we suggest rather than come out and ask when what we really want to know is 'what on earth are these two tubes of knitting for?'   She did, however, suggest to me that they were a little loose and odd to wear, but I just love my own and could not understand what she was talking about. 

This year I decided to knit something specifically chosen for each one, and each gift would fall within the same range of difficulty of knitting.  I decided to knit three shoulder shawls, all one-skein products.  The plan included only yarns from my own line, i.e., Wool2Dye4 yarns.  Too, they would be yarns which I hand-dyed myself.  These last two qualifications are not difficult as my personal secret stash is impressive.  I dye up all of the yarns we sell and they yarns we consider selling.

Two shawls are now complete.  I'll post pictures when all three are complete and blocked, but two are knit and bound off the needles.  They are a little scrunchy looking now, and this is normal.   I know they will grow when the finishing is, well, finished.  That is always such an exciting time, the day of blocking, but I really need to be in the right mood to actually get to it.  I have a wonderful blocking table set up, all padded and covered with a muslin gridded fabric left over from quilting days.  The work area is stocked with blocking wires -- which are the very neatest knitting accessory I have found in years! -- and blunt pins which are sold in the floral arrangement aisle and which are sold in quantities intended for a lifetime supply for at least two persons.  So, I'm set up.  It is the mood which needs to strike me.  The things and stuff are in place.  I decided, as I greedily grabbed up wool and pattern for Shawl #2, to finish all three items at one time and to hop on immediately to the next project.  I mean, that's the fun part, isn't it?  Instant gratification of casting on a new project?  Of course it is!

BUT, Shawl #3 turned into a scarf somehow when my eye went to a sport weight superwash merino from years ago, one which I had ordered from a mill as a sample.  I had just purchased a pattern online that caught my eye, and I tried to put the pattern and the yarn together into the same project.   Those yarn trial samples are not cheap or easy to come by and this fat ball is the last of that lot of yarn, something that made me consider getting a run of this yarn actually made up for the Wool2Dye4 line.  The dye job on this yarn is really neat, too, because it is the result of one of those lazy days when your movements are slow and your consideration is long, so the end product is actually deeply layered and interesting.  This one started off with two overdyes and ended with eye-dropper applications.  Really fun. 
That's a fuzzy quick shot of the yarn, and you can see that it has a big bump of unravelled length that will be a mess to knit from, but I am saving this yarn  for a future project.  Back into Secret Stash it goes, and may possibly emerge as Shawl #3 ... not sure.  Actually, I just made that decision as I typed the sentence before this one I'm typing now.  I think I won't consign it to an indefinite future, but use it for the third shawl and cast on this afternoon after the orders for the day go out the door.  Something wonderful and delicious to look forward to, and Sister #3 gets the Shawl #3.  It is decided.  This will mean that the rule that all three shawls would be made from W2D4 yarns will be broken, but will it?  I bought the trial run and dyed it and it is owned by Wool2Dye4, so I think I will consider it a proprietary yarn, after all.

And, what will I do with the lovely, smooth and luscious Silk Sock 50/50 waiting for become a circular scarf, the same which almost was substituted for Shawl #3?  I will make the unique garment for myself ... or make one just for the fun of knitting that pattern and then add the scarf to the Gift Cabinet.  This is a good resolution to the problems of the day.  My life is simple at this moment.

Friday, September 16, 2011

New Spam

There is a new form of spam hitting my mailbox lately, and it hits right where it is the scariest, my bank account.  This one looks absolutely legit with a message that a recent ACH (automatic clearing house) transaction was denied on my business account.  Scary because this is how I pay and receive payment in my business checking account.

The first time I received the message I forwarded it to my bank, who had not yet seen this type of spam before so we were both thinking something was wrong with my account.  They searched for like transaction numbers and dates and amounts and found nothing, and came back to me with the spam diagnosis.  I deleted the eMail, after first forwarding it to the government agency which purportedly overlooks the spam industry.

Then, for a while, I didn't get a single spam message at all, until this week when the same ACH failure notice has come daily.  Today my security program scanned it and alerted me that this eMail has a Downloader function attached to it.

So, here is my message, loud and clear:  if you use ACH services and receive an eMail like this, do not open it.  Forward the eMail to your bank manager or service rep and tell them to look out for other spam messages like this.  Then forward the eMail to:  SPAM@uce.gov

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

September welcomes back Sheila's Sock ... lots and lots

Instead of our usual multi-yarn monthly stocking, September is a transitional month for us.  We have now completed six months' worth of orders which were placed in the springtime, and are about to embark on a new system of re-stocking Wool2Dye4 website inventory.  This means that we will begin to hold consistently higher levels of stock, and this begins in early October.

September will be a month to catch up on orders for Sheila's Sock, and to introduce a new yarn ... Sparkle in DK weight with a bit of silk added to it (priced as Sparkle Select lace, as it is the same blend).  Too, we welcome to the line a yarn which we introduced in limited quantity a month ago, Single & Fabulous!

We have a major shipment of our most popular yarn, Sheila's Sock, due at the end of the week, and are only waiting on notice from Customs that the shipment has passed through Customs and will be delivered on Thursday or Friday.  When we hear, we will send out the newsletter to registered customers and post the new inventory of Sheila's Sock for sale.  There will be no private orders taken for Sheila's Sock since there should be nice stock for the next few weeks.  In October, even more Sheila's Sock will arrive.  So, lots and lots of Sheila's Sock and enough to go around.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Restocking: October and November 2011

Here are two lists of incoming stocking orders, skeins unless otherwise noted.  You will notice that some of the yarns which we have announced as discontinued yarns are coming in one last time.  They are marked with an asterisk.

October 2011 arrivals
Bamboo TwoStep* skeins & cones
Cash Sock MCN skeins & cones
Platinum Sock skeins & cones
Sheila's Glitter (goldtoned Stellina)
Sheila's Gold
Sheila's Sock
Sheila's Sparkle (silvertoned Stellina)
Silk Sock 50/50

Cash Aran MCN
Tweed Aran* skeins & cones

Cash DK MCN
Silk DK 50/50
W2D4 Merino DK-SW skeins & cones
W2D4 Merino Worsted-SW skeins & cones

Angel Lace*
Boo Select (a unique purchase of bamboo/merino select weight lace)
Butterfly Select lace
Ultra Select lace

November Incoming Shipment
Cash Sock MCN skeins & Cones
Platinum Sock
Sheila's Gold
Sheila's Sock
Silk Sock 50/50

Sheila's Aran*

Cash DK MCN
W2D4 Merino Worsted

Ultra Select lace
* = last shipment and then will be discontinued

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Step away from the programming language ...

Step away from the programming language ...

I simply should have a padlock on the part of my computer which allows me to tinker with the behind-the-scenes programming features. Every once in a while I get a mad and uncontrollable rush that cannot be stemmed or guided, and nothing will do until I have had my way with the website's background. Simply stated, I think I know more than I actually do about my program.

This time came on one of the busiest days we have had lately. We were preparing for a really big incoming stock shipment, and putting up all available stock on the shelves. Too, we had to prepare at least a hundred receipt packages so they would be ready for order filling on Thursday and Friday. Then, we got in a shipment of a new yarn (which is a secret for now and will be sold in September), and of course, there was the off and on search for any earthquake damage from yesterday. So, all in all, a busy day.

Today appeared to me, for some strange reason, to be the perfect day to rearrange the payment methods that a customer would see on the Wool2Dye4 website. I do these things because I am incapable of learning from experience in certain areas of my work life, and maybe in life in general, come to think of it. So, off I headed to the very serious list of modules which control the important aspects of the website such as payment and shipping, and I decided to start accepting checks. This, in total disregard for previous bad check experiences, but never mind. Today I decided, for about two hours, to accept checks. Then, I noticed that the order that the payment choices were appearing on the website seemed not to be very pretty, and here at Wool2Dye4 we like to make everything pretty. So I rearranged the order of checks/credit cards/PayPal to a pleasing array on the payment page, clicked 'Save and Update' and went back to work with the packers.

About two hours later, in checking my eMail, I got a shock of seeing letter after letter with one common word in the subject line and that was, 'problem.' Nothing, absolutely nothing is less welcome on a busy day than an eMail with the word 'problem' in the header, and this was not one but many eMails screaming about a problem. Oh, No. Quickly, I read various descriptions of the same issue: the website was frozen in place and was accepting no orders at all.

There could only be one reason. I'd been fiddling around in the secret depths of the program and caused this mess myself. But how to fix it? I thought that undoing my changes and restoring the original choices would do the trick, so I undid the choice to accept checks and reordered the payments to the original lists, I thought, ... but, no. So, I tried it again with the same results; however, this time I knew how to take a screen shot (because of my new online class in Adobe Acrobat, no less! See? I am trying to learn how to fix my problems). Quickly I fired off two screen shots to WebGuy with a short and sweet confession of my errors. Then, I called the credit card processor.

The young man at the other end of the line was insistent that there were only three errors which could yield the Error Message Number 13. It had to be thirteen, right? Numbers one and two were not applicable, he said, but I just couldn't believe that choice number 3 was right! That one was that I had changed the log-in name. I had not, or so I thought. I continued to try to bring his attention back to reasons one and two. Eventually, he made a deal with me that if I would just try to reset the log in, and if it didn't work, he would take care of setting everything back to normal by himself. But I had to give his way a try ... and long story made short, of course his suggestion worked. In practice, I had not reset the log-in, but in reality I had inadvertently done just that. That is to say that the program had an automatic reset to the default login of the program, not the card processor's coded login, and that was how the error message came to show on the website.

While I was at the crucial point of understanding what all of this actually meant in plain English, my call waiting feature started to buzz and buzz and buzz. So, we quickly got off the phone, and there was WebGuy to the rescue, hoping he was not too late and that I had not reset the basic code. Luckily, I had not, but it was an opportunity for me to ask him when the new program would be ready.

The new programs are a lot easier to handle for a natural born fiddler like me. There are checkmarks where the changes are immediately shown in example format. I am guessing that some smart programmer came up with that idea to stop people like me from ruining the delicate programming features they work hard to create. At any rate, when I turned eMail on again, there were zip/zip/zip several orders posting one after the other. Two, of course, were my own from the testing, but I didn't care. Orders again. Ahhhh.... that lovely sound of the soft little ping when the order notices come in.

I'll admit to a moment of panic, OK, yes. But, I must say that I had a moment of pride, as well. When I realized that I had a hand in fixing the problem, I was really proud of my day's work.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Honeysuckle Patterns

We took the samples of the patterns developed for The Honeysuckle Project to Sock Summit 2011,and we had so many wonderful and positive comments. These ten patterns will be sold on HoneysuckleProject.com and the site will be up and active in the next week, by August 17th. Please check back and after a week or so to see when the site opens up for sale of yarn, patterns, and kits.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Honeysuckle Project at Sock Summit 2011

What a wonderful reception for The Honeysuckle Project, our breast cancer awareness campaign, at Sock Summit! Caught a couple of new designers who want to be added to the project, a major magazine is going to mention THP in the magazine's next editorial. So many breast cancer survivors came by the booth to thank us for getting knitters involved at any level, and I gave skeins of Honeysuckle pink to each one. I heard stories and shared tears and laughter. It was wonderful and moving and made me so very proud.

Pictures from Sock Summit

Our booth
A closeup of the yarn display ...
Sharon G and Barb B burst into song!
Our booth stood out on the marketplace floor!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Single & Fabulous fabric

Luxury yarns are just that ... made of delicate fibers and requiring extra care. They are not the workhorses of our knitting bag, but are of rare fibers with unique properties. Alpaca, silk, cashmere --- these are three fibers which we are lucky enough to be offering in our current lineup of yarns and they number among some of the most expensive fibers on earth.

Here is the Single & Fabulous yarn after being dyed and dried, and in the process of being knit into a fabric. In this case, a hat which will be lined with the same fiber in a different color before it is finished.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Single and Fabulous

On Ravelry.com a question was asked about how Single & Fabulous holds up. It is a single, not plied, yarn and many of them on the market are pilling as they wear. I dyed up a skein this morning in a steely light blue, using two of ProChem's acid dyes, Periwinkle Blue and Chocolate Brown, in a watered down pot of warm water. Then I dunked the skein in a clear warm bath and the green from both dyes separated out, leaving a nice toned down blue. Very sky-like on a hot day, which is appropriate for our Virginia summer heat wave.

Alpaca is a slippery fiber, but at only 40% of the blend, the merino (40%) and silk (20%) should hold it in place. The twist of Single & Fabulous is not loose and almost like spinning fiber but has enough to make for a definitely knittable yarn. Here is the skein out of the pot.

Monday, July 18, 2011

July Stocking by end of this week

One of my favorite things to do is to announce the estimated arrival of a new shipment; however, since my move in April, the shipping schedule has been sketchy at best. I have gone to war with the importer, and they have checked down the line with every person responsible for any delay along the way from the mountains of South America to the mountains of Virginia. People have been added in offices along the way to watch the progress of the shipment, and a couple of people have been called into someone's private office for a chat about professionalism, it is rumored.

So, now, it is with a little trepidation and a lot of anticipation that I announce the contents of the incoming shipment. If all goes well --and why should it not with so many additional eyes watching over things? -- the shipment is expected to arrive by the end of the week.

I will send copies of private reservations by eMail when we hear that the shipment has passed through Customs, and release the newsletter to registered customers at the same time. Please note that the entire quantity of Sheila's Sock has been exhausted from this shipment; however, a triple amount is coming in about 3 weeks' time. Sheila's Sparkle will be in that next shipment, too. Now, for the list, as promised (skeins, all) ...

Cash Sock MCN
Crazy Eight
Platinum Sock
Sheila's Glitter
Sheila's Gold
Silk DK 50/50
Silk Sock 50/50
Tweed Sock
Ultra Select Laceweight

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Canadian Post is back!

Even though our US Postal Service was more than a week late in instituting the freeze on shipping by any method other than Express, the notice that all services would be restored today, June 28th, was good information. And, somehow, we got many packages sent by International Priority during the Canadian strike. I am in the 'don't ask, don't tell' mode on this one. Today our local postman will be happy again. Seems his idea of a good time is staggering out the door, bumping into the gate, with a running patter the entire time about how we overwork him. He's a lot of fun when he's got a pile of orders to carry, and we like nothing better than to make him very happy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Canadian Postal Strike causes Problems with US shippers

On Friday, we tried in vain to ship packages to our Canadian customers by US Postal Service (USPS), and were only able to access the Express International service. Today, in response, to my inquiry I have received this slightly intelligible reply:

Following 12 days of increasingly costly and damaging rotating strikes being carried out by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Canada Post has suspended operations across the country. The accelerating decline in volumes and revenue combined with the inability to deliver mail on a timely and safe basis has left the company with no choice but to make this decision.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We have a mystery!

The status of the shipment has changed in the past few moments. The info now tells me that there was an 'airline error' and the shipment is not in Virginia, after all; however, the delivery date still shows it is scheduled to reach Wool2Dye4 by noon tomorrow, Thursday. We will have to wait and see... a mystery! and the Government is involved. Quick, grab a pen and write this down. We could write a book about it!

One Day's Delay ... Not so Bad

Now, the delivery date has been moved to Thursday, June 16th. The shipment has been released by Customs and has arrived in Virginia, so I am fairly confident that we will see it tomorrow by noon.

We have helping hands to get the counting and incoming process done with and will begin to ship a few orders in the afternoon, and lots more all day Friday. I thank my customers for their patience!
Sheila / Wool2Dye4

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June Re-Stocking Update

I have a tracking link to the incoming shipments and see that our June shipment is still in Customs in Miami. Lately, Customs has been taking much more time than it used to, and we notice that in each shipment more boxes are opened and the contents sifted through. While I appreciate the fact that so much yarn going to one address might be suspicious in the mind of a non-knitting, non-dyeing agent, I do not appreciate it when the bags are broken open and luxurious fibers are pawed through and left looking like a rat's nest. What recourse is there, though? Those skeins are unusable and it is money lost.

But, back to the idea of giving my customers more info on this shipment: The delivery schedule is still showing that we are to receive the shipment here in Virginia on Wednesday. Tomorrow. I am going to guess that this will not happen, and that we will see the shipment on Thursday, or even Friday.

I will post more info as it becomes available.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Planning for June Stocking

We are not ready to announce an arrival for the June stocking, but I thought I would publish the preliminary list. This will allow customers to make plans, especially if restocking for summer festivals is a priority. Sheila's Sock, one of our favorites, is returning with this shipment. When we hear that the shipment is in Customs, I will make a guess of the arrival date. I am totally aware that I may appear a little shy about predicting arrival dates and for good reason. Since the move in early April, our shipments have stumbled a bit on their final leg of the journey to Wool2Dye4. There is nothing worse than fielding irate eMails from customers who need yarn! So, a little caution on my part, especially since I have not received the packing lists, but this is what I believe to be in the stocking. Shhh.... don't tell anyone, but here is the list ...........

Angel Delight Fingering, Angel Select Lace & Angel Sport Sock
Cash Aran MCN and Cash DK MCN
Platinum Sock
Sheila's Aran, Sheila's Gold, Sheila's Sock, Sheila's Sparkle
Silk DK 50/50, Silk Sock 50/50
Tencel/Merino 50/50
Tweed Aran

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Retail Packing Event, May 21-27, 2011

Starting today, Retail customers will be able to purchase our yarns in half-kilo packs. The normal presentation is one kilo packs, and there are ten skeins weighing 100 grams each in a kilo pack. So, yes, that's ten times one hundred equals one thousand grams, aka one kilo. Expressed in pounds, one kilo equals 2.2 pounds, so half a kilo is 1.1 pounds. For most knitters, a pound of yarn will take care of just about any project. It's those pesky wholesale handdyers who deal in the mind boggling numbers of kilos. I often wonder how on earth some of my customers are able to put out the sheer volume of work involved in dyeing those large orders! I've tried it and found out very quickly that these artists are also strong and determined folk, and are to be admired!

But, back to the Retail Packing Event... This is a time for hobby buyers to pick up more yarns because they don't have to commit to a full kilo, and can spread the pennies around. Yarns with silk and cashmere, for instance, in the blends are more accessible. It's a great time to stock up for future projects or to tuck away a couple of fancy skeins for an upcoming dye workshop. For Christmas knitters who love to give gifts which are just about as hand made as you can get without owning and shearing your own sheep, the Packaging Event is timed just right for getting ahead of the plan. And, we all know that many of us are knitting right up to Christmas eve.

At our end, we've altered the wholesale inventory to reflect the yarn moved into these new listings on the website, and will be opening and repacking the kilo packages as the retail orders come in. It will be a week of counting, recounting, and then trying to undo all the double inventory figures at the end of the week.

It's worth it, though, especially when a month or so later there is a post on our group on Ravelry.com from a retailer who discovered a new favorite yarn, and they post a picture of their work. Many of our retail customers grow into wholesale customers. Their hobby becomes a home-based business, and this opportunity to try out new yarns could be background research for someone's business plan. We never know.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wholesale Requirements apply to every order

Just a reminder to wholesalers: Every order must weigh a minimum of five kilos. If you have a private order and it is under the weight minimum, you will need to add in other yarns to meet the wholesale requirement. In the past, we have been nice and gentle about a little forgetfulness here and there, but some folks are making a habit of being forgetful. So, please note that every time you use your wholesale discount, you must order five kilos, and the five may be mixed between yarns, of course.

If you do not need five kilos, please create a new retail account. Do not enter your company name or tax id number in the fields as this will prompt the computer to recognize an application for a wholesale account. Use your retail account for orders less than five kilos please.

Thank you,
Sheila/Wool2Dye4

Monday, May 09, 2011

Holding Stock: BFL and new Falkland yarns

Every business needs to make changes when it is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that the current system is not working, and that is just what we are about to do with the stock levels of our BlueFaced Leicester and new Falkland British Merino yarns. The demand for these two lines has taken off in the past couple of months, and our old habit of ordering in every week is not enough to keep the stock levels at a healthy point. What has happened is that we have a pile of backorders! I just hate backorders, so we are going to have more of both lines sent in, and have ordered new shelving too.

The thing is that we are fairly proud of how quickly we send out orders. Almost always, unless there is a published reason, we turn orders around within 24 hours, and most of the time they go out sooner depending on the hour they were placed. My customers know this and have come to expect it, in fact so much so that they think nothing of writing an eMail of complaint when an order is delayed two days in shipping! Pretty amazing, really.

So, we've asked Mr. Wool to ship enough of both lines to catch up our backorder list, and to send more in a couple of days of every one of the BFL and Falkland yarns. This includes all of the following yarns:
BFL Aran-SW
BFL DK-SW
BFL High Twist
BFL Platinum
BFL Silk Sock
BFL Silky Lace
BFL-4 Socking
and
Falkland Merino 4 Socking
Falkland Merino DK-SW
Falkland Merino/Bamboo Select lace wt
Falkland Merino/Bamboo Sock
Falkland Merino/Silk 50/50 Sock
Falkland Merino/Silk 50 50 DK
Falkland Merino/Tencel 50/50 Select Lace wt
Falkland Merino/Tencel 50/50 sock
Falkland Merino Platinum Sock

Please allow a week or so for this to work out. It will take that long to catch up and then to get ahead on the packing and shipping.

I think this will solve the minor backorder list we have right now. Even though we have published the warning that there will be a short wait for these yarns, the creation of a backorders means more places to double check an order, and basically, more work. We try to keep things efficiently organized so that we have a handle on stock and orders. It is 'demand' which is the unknown factor, of course. And that's the way of business, isn't it?

We will do what we do best and that is explain what is happening and then move to make the wait go away for our customers. I will reference this post in the next newsletter so that all of this will not be repeated there.

Do I thank you enough? I certainly do not mean to skip over that part of doing business, so here is a heartfelt thanks for making problems like this for me to figure out! Supply and demand, supply and demand....

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Making Plans and Adding Names

The last time we had any yarn from the top bales of a special offering at auction, it was the superfine British Merino. That was such lovely stuff, and I still have a cone of the superwash Aran and a pound of the spinning fiber in my Secret Stash. One of those things that cannot be used for just any project, but saved until the right one comes along.

I believe that is how folks will feel about the Falkland British Merino we are about to handle. It, too, is limited in that there was only so much available, and once it is gone, it will be over and done. In my annual face-to-face meetings with Mr. Wool last week, I learned more about our share of Falkland British Merino. There are 100 kilos of each of the nine yarns made available to Wool2Dye4. The yarns will be posted on the website over the weekend. We will receive weekly shipments to fulfill customers orders, so this means that there may be a backorder of up to a week after you place your order with Wool2Dye4. It is convenient for us to work this way because we have a nice arrangement with UPS and weekly orders come in four or five days, so there is not a very long delay. I know that we usually ship within 24 hours, but since this is a special yarn of a special circumstance, a few days will only sharpen the anticipation.

Here are the nine yarns:

100% FBM
Falkland British Merino 4 Socking
Falkland British Merino DK-SW
Blend with nylon
Falkland British Merino Platinum Sock
Blend with silk
Falkland British Merino/Silk 50/50 Sock
Falkland British Merino/Silk 50/50 DK
Blend with bamboo
Falkland British Merino/Bamboo Sock
Falkland British Merino/Bamboo Select Lace weight
Blend with Tencel
Falkland British Merino/Tencel 50/50 sock
Falkland British Merino/Tencel 50/50 Select Lace weight

We will sell each of the yarns until the one hundred kilos is depleted, and delete them from the inventory as each one exhausts our supply. We will create a new category for this collection called, of course, Falkland British Merino.

This posting of the new line will be in time to be ordered with the next incoming restocking, which is expected around mid-week. Here is a list of what is coming on that shipment.

Cash Aran
Platinum Sock
Sheila's Gold
Silk Sock 50/50
Sheila's Sparkle
and ...
Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle is our only dyed yarn and it makes it's entrance next week! We are so excited to have the chance to have created a yarn to support our efforts to raise consciousness for breast cancer. Lots more on The Honeysuckle Project as we move forward ... (new website included!).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Private milling of Falkland Merino

To mark the visit of Mr. Wool to our U.S. shores, Wool2Dye4 is going to offer 100 kilos of a private milling of superfine merino from the Falkland Islands. Some knitters and dyers may recall a gorgeous and creamy soft Falkland Bulky we had about two years ago. That yarn just few out the door.

Once someone bought a kilo of it, they came back and stocked up for more, and easy to understand as it has such unique properties to it. Just imagine, for a sec, the unique climate in the Falkland Islands, and what it takes to survive there in the open. These sheep are an example of survival of the fittest in the most refined sense of the word.

All I can tell you at this writing is that the 100 kilos of this new Falkland merino will be in more than one weight, and will be a finite amount of yarn available. We will have samples available, but by request this time. Usually we send out samples of new yarns with all orders, but these samples will be sent by request only.

We will be sending out a special newsletter with details within the next day or two, and also will add more details here, and on Ravelry.com, as well.

Cannot wait to get my hands on this lovely stuff!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Old Stand-By Favorites are back in stock

Today I have not been happier to see that truck backing up to the door! We welcome back some of our favorite Wool2Dye4 merino yarns. These yarns have already been posted on the website and are available now.

Cash Sock MCN (skeins)
Ultra Merino 3Ply (skeins & cones)
W2D4 Merino DK-SW (skeins & cones)
W2D4 Merino Worsted-SW (skeins & cones)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yarn Stats on the Website

I frequently have customers write and ask me about yardage per skein. All of our yarns are put up on 100 gram skeins, and should have the yardage on the package label; however, if you cannot put your fingers on that info, there is a place on the website where it is listed.

Go to the Home Page of www.Wool2Dye4.com and look at the tabs at the top of the page, just under the picture/banner. On the right is one called Yarn Stats, and it is a chart which lists yards per 100 grams, the industry standard. If you need yards per kilo, then multiply the 100gr skein figure by ten and you will have yards per 1,000 grams (which is one kilo).

If you are working with yards per pound, then figure the yards per kilo.
Then, divide by 2.2 pounds to get how many yards per pound. (Because there are 2.2 pounds in a kilo.)

So, even if a yarn is not showing on the website === and they do not generally show if there is not stock === you can still find out basic information on all of our yarns. Also, if a yarn is not showing, it simply means that we have no stock of it at the present and NOT that it has been discontinued. Seems that every time a yarn is out of stock for a little bit, I get frantic letters about it going out of stock.

We all have to stock up when we can, and this goes for customers who may be expecting Wool2Dye4's stock to be solid and robust when they need to order, but this is not always possible. So, my advice is to start in a small way to stock up, a kilo here and there, on your best sellers so that when we are low, you will not suffer.

Believe me, I know what it is to suffer when you want a yarn very badly! I am right at this moment suffering fivefold for Sheila's Sock, Sheila's Gold, Silk Sock 50/50, Silk DK 50/50, and Platinum Sock. They will be back, all of them (see published lists of earlier posts), I promise. In the meantime, there are so many wonderful yarns to work with!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mr. Wool is Coming to Town

My wool broker, fondly known as Mr. Wool,has actually bought an airplane ticket and is flying in from England at the end of the month to work with me. We plan a whirlwind three full days and will make the most of the last morning, probably, on the drive to the airport. Over the mountain, and through the woods, talking wool all the way.

He comes over once each year and we find ways to fine tune our work, plan future releases, talk about market trends, the economy, etc. He brings samples and European knitting magazines for me to consider after the visit, and we remind ourselves, in person, tha we really work and think and plan very well together.

We may try to do a Chat or RoundTable on Ravelry.com on my group, Friends of Wool2Dye4. Or come up with another idea to mark his visit with my mostly US market. (No offense, please, to my friends in Canada and Australia, who's numbers are certainly growing.) There will be an announcement closer to the end of the month of how we will celebrate his visit.

I am thinking that because Wool2Dye4 is his exclusive Bluefaced Leicester dealer in the States, that maybe it's time for a 3-day sale. While he's here, that would be a nice gesture, but watch for an announcement here, on the home page of the website, on the Ravelry.com group, and also in the newsletter. Whew! May as well post it on FaceBook, right?

So exciting!!! Now, I have to spiffy up the new studio, and maybe even get those posters of rare sheep breeds finally laminated and hung! He sent them five years ago and they languishing in a cabinet. SSShhhh....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Surprise shipment of yarn is just a week away!

Over and above the previously listed incoming yarns, there has been a welcome release of the last of my yarns held at the mill. So! The good news is that in just a week, a couple of the best sellers will be in stock again, and the wait for restocking is shortened.

Today or tomorrow, Cash Sock MCN arrives. No change there and orders where this is the only backorder will go out immediately. We are poised at the ready, and our new UPS and USPS men are just thrilled that Wool2Dye4 is on their route. Well, they seem happy, anyway. Wait until they start coming in after the big shipment arrive and the mountain of outgoing boxes is taller than they are. Am I gushing, here?

Here is the surprise yarn, due next week, probably before April 18th. It is now posted on the website, but anything currently out of stock and on this list will be shipped, of course, when it arrives. Hmmm. A better way to say this, is that if you place an order with any of these yarns on it, shipping will be delayed until the actual arrival here in the studio, around April 18th or earlier. Watch the Home Page of the website, on that little message which crawls across the top, for arrival date. Or, on Ravelry. You are on Ravelry.com, right? If not, please join and come find and join our group: Friends of Wool2Dye4. But, now onto the important and exciting stuff... the list!

Platinum Sock skeins
Sheila's Sock cones
Ultra Merino 3Ply cones and skeins
W2D4 Merino DK-SW cones and skeins
W2D4 Merino Worsted-SW cones and skeins

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Updated Stock Arrival List - April 7, 2011

Subject: Wool2Dye4 incoming orders through August '11

Mid-April: Cash Sock MCN
… skeins unless otherwise noted
End of April/Early May
Cash Aran MCN, skeins and cones
Cash SockMCN
Sheila’s Gold
Silk Sock 50/50
Sheila’s Sparkle

Mid May
Sheila’s Gold
Silk Sock 50/50
Tweed Sock
Ultra Select
W2D4 Merino Worsted
The Honeysuckle Project yarn

Late June
Angel Delight Fingering
Angel Sport Sock
Angle Select
Butterfly Select
Cash Aran, skeins and cones
Cash DK, skeins and cones
Cash Sock, skeins and cones
Sheila’s Aran, skeins and cones
Sheila’s Gold
Sheila’s Sock, skeins and cones
Silk DK 50/50, skeins and cones
Silk Sock 50/50
Sheila’s Sparkle
Tweed Aran, skeins and cones
Ultra Merino 3-Ply, skeins and cones
W2D4 Merino DK-SW, skeins and cones
W2D4 Tencel/Merino
Platinum Sock, skeins and cones
W2D4 Merino Worsted-SW, skeins and cones

Late July
Cash Sock, skeins and cones
Sheila’s Glitter
Sheila’s Gold
Silk DK 50/50
Silk Sock 50/50
The Honeysuckle Project, skeins and cones
Tweed Sock
Ultra Merino 3-Ply, skeins and cones
Ultra Select
W2D4 Merino DK-SW, skeins and cones
W2D4 Merino Bulky
Platinum Sock, skeins and cones
W2D4 Merino Worsted-SW, skeins and cones

Mid-August
Angel Sport Sock
Butterfly Select
Cash Aran, skeins and cones
Cash DK, skeins and cones
Cash Sock, skeins and cones
Crazy Eight, skeins and cones
Sheila’s Aran, skeins and cones
Sheila’s Gold
Sheila’s Sock, skeins and cones
Silk DK 50/50, skeins and cones
Silk Sock 50/50
Sparkle Select Lace
Sheila’s Sparkle
Tweed Aran, skeins and cones
Tweed Sock
Ultra Merino 3Ply, skeins and cones
W2D4 Merino DK-SW
Tencel/Merino, skeins and cones
W2D4 Merino Worsted, skeins and cones
Platinum Sock, skeins and cones
W2D4 Merino Worsted-SW, skeins and cones

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reskeining question

Someone wrote a broken link to an old post I wrote when I first started having Wool2Dye4's exclusive yarns milled. I will post it below, but just ignore the talk about one pound cones, as we only do kilo quantites these days.

The Golden Rule of Measurement: Don't try to split small skeins into smaller measurements. We are at the gray goods end of the market where measurements and weights are approximate.
My suggestion: sell sock yarns by yardage. Most sock knitters examine labels to see if there are close to 400 yards in a ball of commercial sock yarn. That seems to be the benchmark to knit up a pair of socks, so be a little generous and make your skeins into 425 or even 450 yards. This measurement may increase your sales because you will be giving the customer what they want...the number of yards needed to knit a pair of socks. Giving the customer what they really want is how we do business.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Next Re-Stocking ... end of the week?


Have just received the packing list for the incoming re-stocking. We will not be holding any aside of these yarns, and there will be enough stock to serve all customers from the website.

This shipment is expected to arrive on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
Angel Lace -- Angel Select -- Bamboo TwoStep -- Butterfly Lace -- Cash Sock MCN -- Crazy Eight -- Platinum Sock -- Sheila's Sock -- Sheila's Sparkle -- Silk Sock 50/50 -- Sparkle Select Laceweight (new) -- Tweed Sock -- W2D4 Merino Worsted-SW
The next shipment will be in early April. Sheila's Gold will return at that time.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Poor Man's Silk


Frequently I mention, either here on the Blog or on my Ravelry.com group (Friends of Wool2Dye4) my surprise at the huge appetite of sock knitters for luxurious fibers like cashmere and silk. I blame the clothing industry to the glut of cashmere on the market, and now we are in a true supply v demand mindset and, still, the appetite for these fibers continues. We'll see how long this wave will roll.

The rise in silk and cashmere fibers affected Wool2Dye4's recent price increase. Nylon, too, rose in price with the more luxurious fibers. We don't usually think of nylon as a luxury, but at these prices, our opinion may just change. Of course many of our custoemrs either personally prefer a sock yarn with nylon in it, or their customers will demand it from them. We hear reports that some knitters turn away from a sock yarn if there is no nylon in it. And, then we have the purists who are 100% wool knitters. I won't mention acrylic here.

In the past month, here in the studio, we have all noticed an increasing interest in Tencel/Merino which is often called The Poor Man's Silk. Those not yet in the know about tencel yarn may be in for a shocking surprise at how very soft and pliable this fiber is. It possesses the very attributes which describe the more expensive fibers, those that are more desired ... strength, innate shine which shows through the dye process ... these are the things we say about silk!

And, Bamboo TwoStep is also starting to become a bit more popular as well. It is actually closer to silk in my opinion, but this particular blend which we carry is an 80/20 blend, so the merino is the main fiber in the yarn. The bamboo is so silky feeling and so smoothe, though, that it makes the perfect fiber partner in that blending and combing and then in the final and lovely yarn itself. I am hoping that both of these yarns will attract interest as people may begin to look at a wider choice of our yarns.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Price Increase set for March 1st

Must say that I am impressed by the level of understanding reflected in customer letters about the upcoming price increase. It is the first time people have written insightful letters to me about the world economy, and how it relates to our small fiber businesses.

Now, the price's are only going up on the merino yarns and blends of cashmere, silk, nylon, alpaca, tencel, bamboo. Not on the BFL yarns.

The Bluefaced Leicester yarns are set, pricewise, for the next year. We have recently held a 10% discount sale on the new superwash BFL's and quite of few of our customers took us up on the opportunity to get to know these new yarns. The new yarns were developed in after the fire at the BFL warehouse in the U.K., back in October. That fire destroyed the entire stock of two of Wool2Dye4's BFL yarns, BFL Ultra! and BFL Aran (non-superwash). This, in addition to three tons of lovely BFL yarns which were the stock of my U.K. supplier. When he began to restock, he decided to revamp the BFL line and to respond to current trends in the market. So, we have a high twist sock weight (think of Sheila's Gold interpreted in Bluefaced Leicester), BFL Silky Lace, and a BFL/silk sock weight in addition to the DK and Aran weights in superwash.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Restocking!


It's that time again, and we are just about ready to accept another shipment of spring yarns. Here is what is expected on Friday (skeins, unless noted):

- Angel Delight Fingering
- Angel Sport Sock
- Butterfly Select
- Cash Aran MCN (limited quantity)
- Cash Aran MCN (cones)
- Cash Sock MCN
- Sheila's Aran
- Sheila's Sock
- Silk Sock 50/50
- W2D4 Merino Worsted
- W2D4 Merino Worsted-SW
- W2D4 Merino DK-SW

Lots of interest lately in the sparkly yarns! Our silvertoned Stellina yarn, Sheila's Sparkle, will return to stock in two weeks. And, we introduce the goldtone version, Sheila's Glitter, at the end of this week! It is priced just as Sparkle, and we have a good quantity of it in stock right now, enough to go around.

As promised, the price increase will go into effect on March 1, 2011. We will be ready to send printable pricelist revisions next week.

One of my assistants, Sarah, has cut her hours recently as she prepares to go to pharmacy school in the fall. She has been working so hard to get some required courses under her belt, and this semester, unfortunately, has had to pare down her time at Wool2Dye4 to Thursdays and Fridays. Sarah is mistress and guru of all things 'Excel' around here, so that's why the delay in producing a printable new pricelist.

I suppose I will have to get serious and learn about Excel! There is actually a four hour short course in April on mastering the most common formulae. That is the class for me. This date is definitely on the calendar.

We will be making an announcement about a charity project that we've been working on, and we'll start to talk about this sometime next month. The background is that Wool2Dye4 has been looking for an opportunity to particpate in a charity on multiple layers of involvement, a program which we can continue to support as we go forward. So, we have come up with a unique yarn which we will have dyed and which will present opportunities for our customers and for us to give back. Yes! Color at Wool2Dye4. Just one yarn, though, will be produced so we had to look very hard to find just the right color. Here is the address of the one color we have chosen have dyed and which we will carry on the website ... http://www.pantone.com/pages/Pantone/Pantone.aspx?pg=20821&ca=1

It is Pantone's Color of the Year 2011. More about our project next month. But, take a look at the color and ready the description about courage and strength. Just the sort of words we would choose for our charity, ourselves!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

New yarns just arrived...

Over the past year, I got away from posting the contents of new stock shipments, and was sending a newsletter to a Wholesale mailing list and a separate Retail list. The program, though, has become less and less reliable as my list has grown, and only rarely allows me in. So, today I am back to posting the list of incoming stock on the blog.

Here is what arrived today:
Sheila's Gold ... Sheila's Sock ... Cash Sock ... Platinum Sock ... W2D4 Merino DK-SW ... W2D4 Merino Worsted-SW.
We have some customers who took up my suggestion, put forth on Ravelry.com, to eMail me and ask for some yarns to be reserved. Some of these invoices have already been created and sent to the customers with pre-reserved yarns, and the rest will go out by the end of the business day.

I will have all the private invoices posted on the website. If you have reserved yarns, you may pick up your private listing under the category Odds'n'Ends. I will send you a copy of the private listing in a confirming eMail and that's how you know that the invoice is posted on the site. Just choose it as you would any other item on the websie, and the program will figure the weight and postage for us.