Sunday, December 8, 2013

Promoting the Paddock Market Venue to Customers

This fall I have participated as a vendor at the Paddock Arcade Fall Market for the third year in a row.  This has been another great opportunity to extend the market season for my products, with vendors there every Wednesday, 9am to 3pm, October to December.

I was worried that it would not run this year, as our dear friend Sandi McCarthy, who had coordinated the market for the past two years in a wonderful way, died suddenly last winter.  This October, when the hall was full of new and returning vendors , I really felt Sandi was there beaming.  Her former colleagues did a fine job of carrying the torch forward. 

I love this market, even though the hallway gets very cold and the traffic is slow.  In any case, we vendors always seem to have many a good laugh together, even if sales are nonexistent in any one week.  But traffic really needs to increase in order to keep vendors interested in coming back.

This is how I have tried to make more people aware of this market: 

1.  Word of Mouth - I tell everyone interested in my stuff that I am there every Wednesday, whether I am talking to someone at the hair salon, library or grocery store.  And I am there every Wednesday unless I am deathly ill.

2.  Customer Orders - If I am at a craft fair or somewhere other than the market, I will tell customers about the market.  I try to arrange to have them pick up any order they place at the market, so they become aware of the location and the wonderful things there.

3.  Coupons - This year I was behind the eight ball, but last year I printed up coupons for discounts and distributed them during the last month of the summer market, with discounts expiring at the end of December and the market schedule printed on the coupons.  This did bring in 2-3 customers last year. 

4.  Flyer Posting - This summer I posted the market flyer at my booth and talked it up to customers during the last 4 weeks of the outdoor, busy market.

5.  Facebook - I try never to miss posting a reminder about the Wednesday market on Tuesday evening, and then make several posts with pictures at intervals during market hours on Wednesday showing my and others' products to lure shoppers.

6.  Van Adverts - I bought markers that can write on glass, and wrote the market scheduled on the back window of my van!  Rainy and snowy weather has been a challenge for this, but I haven't really minded the frequent re-writes, and since I drive our van all over town so much, I think it MUST have some impact?!  Maybe I'll do a 'mention this window for a discount' message next season!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

What? Summer's Over Already?!

I have been revisiting my online sites and realized that it has been WAY too long since I posted here!  I seriously cannot believe how fast this past spring and summer flew by for me.  What a blur.  A good blur, but a blur nonetheless.  Which is why I really have to post here more often to keep track!

A major development this summer was my having the opportunity to expand my inventory in a magical little shop where I sell on consignment - An Eclectic Boutique in Carthage, N.Y. 

The boutique carries a little of everything from a variety of handmade vendors, mostly local artisans:  healthy olive oil based soaps, lotions and balms (made on premises!), antiques in the form of furniture,housewares and decor, vintage clothing and linens, vintage and handmade jewelry, beeswax candles, locally produced foods, hand crocheted accessories (of course), and so much more!  The only real way I can describe An Eclectic Boutique is that it is as if someone emptied only the best of what was in your grandparents' packed attic, cleaned and repaired it all, and arranged it for your treasure-hunting pleasure.

Even better than the wider exposure for my goods, due to this opportunity, are the connections I've made with fellow crafters and businesspeople, being able to support them while experiencing their support and encouragement as well.  I am continually learning something new and valuable through my engagement in this community, and I am so very grateful.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cashmere Part II

So I continue to praise the glories of recycled cashmere fiber (and other recycled fibers) since my last post.  I have several skeins waiting for me to decide what to make with them (see photo at left - a bright pink and bright orange skein not pictured complete my current stash).  I feel like the fiber is so precious and beautiful, I'm taking extra time to figure out what to make because I want it to be just the right thing!

In the meantime, I've been learning a little more about cashmere, thanks to The Fiber of My Being(, a spectacular place to learn about fiber, spinning, dyeing, and a great source for wonderful yarns.  There are many educational tutorial videos there, also.  Sales proceeds go to support their fiber animal rescue operation!  That's right - they rescue animals in terrible circumstances, give them a new home and good care, and use their fiber to make yarn.  A truly remarkable and worthy effort, IMHO.

Recent additions to the farm include goats, from which they are harvesting cashmere, cashgora and angora fiber.  Their research has revealed that there is no particular breed of goat favored for producing cashmere, per se.  A cashmere goat is a type of goat, which could be one of many different breeds, that produces hair with certain measured cashmere characteristics of softness and fineness.  In addition, a goat that grows cashmere doesn't necessarily grow it for its entire life!  A goat's coat typically gets thicker and coarser over time.  So even more reason why cashmere is so darn precious and expensive!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Recycled Cashmere Rocks!

I recently came across a tidbit of info that finally made it clear to me why I can't afford a complete cashmere wardrobe.

Cashmere yarn is spun from the softest underbelly hair combed from Cashmere goats, bless their hearts, and one Cashmere goat can only grow about 4 ounces of this luscious fiber per year. On average, it takes about 32 ounces of fiber, or eight goats, to produce one medium-sized adult sweater.

Just take a second and let that sink in.

Eight goats, lovingly fed, watered, tended, and combed. For a whole year. For ONE sweater! To be more realistic, I calculate a sweater for me would take, kindly estimated, say, twelve animals. Well, no wonder!! And no, I don't have the time, land or unique goat whispering skills to tend my own herd. Don't think I hadn't thought of that... briefly.

This is why I will be ever and eternally grateful for the dedicated people out there who have taken it upon themselves to retrieve Cashmere items no longer wearable, and painstakingly deconstructed these items in order to reclaim perfectly wonderful yarn for reuse. The task is not for the faint of heart, as any yarn addict will know, and the effort, IMHO, deserves our highest praise and our cash whenever possible.

Because it seems, in fact, that the word about how wonderful Cashmere is has been getting around. An increasing worldwide demand for very soft clothing is causing no small overgrazing problem in China, where the majority of Cashmere goats live. Please know that in no way do I begrudge any goatherding family its fair share of the economic pie. My philosophy is that all humans deserve the opportunity to make an honest living and provide for their families. However, I also know that it'd take a heck of lot of goats to supply anywhere near the full demand for this fiber. I mean, have you groped a hank of Cashmere lately, people?!

SO. Here's what I do, and what I hope to inspire you to do, when you have a project for which only Cashmere fits the bill. Look around in your local yarn store and/or online, and purchase reclaimed yarn. I'd consider it a personal favor, too, if you'd consider the distance the yarn might have to travel using fossil fuels to get to you and buy from as close a location as possible. Though still dear in price, you will be doing a small business, yourself and the Earth a world of good.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Gift Within the Gift

This Christmas, my lovely sister-in-law, Ruthie, sent me a delicious skein of yarn, made with fine merino wool, cashmere and silk, and dyed a deep, rich, garnet red.  This yarn is just dreamy.  Soooo soft and warm.  She stipulated that it was to be made into something for me - a treat!

You'd think that I would know exactly what I would want to make.  Well, no.  Especially lately.  I've been having these creative voids these days - a combination of burnout after the busy holiday crafting season and cabin fever, I think.  Mostly I've spent a lot of time groping this yarn, trying to get a feel (literally) for what it might want to be.

One thing I know:  I want this yarn next to my skin a lot, for sure.  Hat, scarf, cowl, mitts, socks, some kind of shoulder wrap?  Lacey or solid?  What stitch pattern(s)?  Dimensions?  Use a pattern already written or create my own?  Use the yarn alone or add in other yarns?  Add beading?  Fringe?  Ribbon?  Oh, the possibilities!!

The design process can be overwhelming. And yet...

It strikes me that the real gift I have received here isn't just a skein of beautiful yarn.  I've been given the gift of endless possibility and the opportunity to uniquely express myself.  I've been given the gift of another's confidence in my creative ability.  Best of all, I've been given the gift of having people in my life who understand that, for me, a simple skein of yarn means so much.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Experimenting with Fair Isle Using Tapestry Crochet

This winter I'm determined to try at least a few of the techniques I have on my "to do" list, amassed over the past three years.  January 2013 has been Fair Isle month for me, having found a book called 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory by Mary Jane Mucklestone while browsing the bookstore at the end of last year.  The book contains wonderful instruction about all aspects of Fair Isle knitting, plus color photos and graph diagrams of 200 patterns, which can be easily transfered to crochet.

This type of color designing has also allowed me to try tapestry crochet - a method of carrying the unused color thread inside the stitches of the color being used, so that the back of the fabric contains no loose threads.  A two-fer!!

Fair Isle knitting is said to have originated in the Shetland Islands of Scotland, which are actually located closer to Norway than Scotland.  Traditional Fair Isle knitting patterns were made with various shades of fine wool spun from Shetland sheep.  Alternating multi-color patterns typify the Fair Isle design.  Usually, a smaller border-like pattern is alternated with a larger multi-color pattern. 

I started simply with a base and accent color, trying out tapestry crochet as I went along and keeping the color changes straightforward (see the teal and white pattern below).  Crocheting this way requires a lot of patience and untwisting of yarns as you progress!  Then I began working in border patterns with shapes.

So far, I'm proud to show you what I've done - please tell me what you think and feel free to share your own attempts, if you've tried this, too!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My First Model and Print Ad!

Sometimes I forget to get the word out about what I'm trying to do.  Thankfully, I have good friends who remember me!  Recently, one of these friends worked out a rather complex barter deal that led to her daughter modeling my work for a print ad in a regional business magazine!  I'm very grateful, and excited for me, the model and my friend - a triumph of collaboration :D. 

Now... to flesh out that marketing plan...