Stitches, big and small

You know how I made a knit sign for vending at craft fairs? Well, I loved it, but I felt like it looked a bit like a kindergartener made it. So I decided to re-do the letters for Renegade. But after the show, I realized I needed to make over the whole theme of my booth to fit in with the modern, sort of minimalist design that goes with poufs. So my new sign looks like this.

I’m disappointed that I couldn’t fit the word “knits” on there, but those letters took FOREVER to make and I decided to just let them be. I love how if you look closely you realize everything is made of yarn. And I love how the letters resemble typewriter type.

Speaking of stitching on a canvas, I got this sweet anniversary present from my grandma.

I love all the different layers — it’s a more complex cross stitch than what I’m used to seeing. My favorite part is our names stitched in those itty bitty letters.

Giant poufs for Erin’s office

I can’t believe I forgot to mention this, but my poufs are part of a blogger’s home makeover on HGTV.com!

A few months ago, Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind contacted me about getting some giant poufs for her home office.  She was redecorating it and sharing the progress on HGTV.com.

Erin is possibly the nicest person on earth, so I was happy to help her out. I made her two gray poufs, and here they are with her DIY shelving.


photos by Erin L.

It was also pretty cool when I saw this reblogged on Swiss Miss!

You can read more about Erin’s home decorating projects here. I will be excited to see the final office reveal.

Also, I have more plans for that rope-y yarn…

On feeling like a legit business

I’m not sure if it was because of Renegade, or because of my giant knits, or just because, but last month something changed with my little business. I’ve been selling crafts in some form for almost three years now, but not until July did I really start to feel like it was working.

I’d been in kind of a drought up to that point, and my mind was all over the place wondering what to do next. I thought about getting a normal job, going back to school, changing my career path entirely, and a million other options. But at some point my thoughts started to focus, and I realized that the combination of my knitting business, which I LOVE, and my writing business, which has always been something that felt right to me, deserved my full attention. So that’s what I did. I found my focus. I think that’s what I needed all along.

I’m getting to the point now where I have to order pretty much all of my supplies online in bulk because I have emptied my local craft stores (of yarn, batting, foam rolls, dye boxes…). And I don’t have time to make the trips anymore because I need to be at home working.

I’m starting to have problems that are good problems to have. Yes!

That is to say, I really have to start taking this seriously now. My business is starting to look like what I always wanted it to look like. It’s amazing. Also scary.

I know I am doing the right thing, though, because my mind is constantly thinking about more things I can make, ways to improve what I’m already making, shows I can sign up for, giveaways, marketing, all of it. Thank goodness I am an organization freak, because it’s a lot to manage.

In the interest of taking things seriously I read an article (can’t find it now) about pricing your products. I usually have to ignore these recommendations because knitting just doesn’t work in these formulas. I pretty much proved myself right. I determined that my most popular item, the xlg pouf, should retail for $520, the giant pouf for $876, and a small pouf $240. The small pouf currently retails for $35. So yeah, I’m a little off.

But joking aside, what does that mean? I don’t want to just write it off as impossible. But obviously something is going to have to change for this to be sustainable. One possibility is having some luxe products that make up for the lack of profit elsewhere. Another option would be to just stop making the smaller poufs altogether. I hate to eliminate all of the less expensive items, but maybe I could make some smaller things out of rope, which would be faster and more unique anyway.


Darling photo by Sarah.

You probably don’t want to hear all this. But I can’t be the only one with a handmade business that struggles with these issues.

The other thing that is going to change is how I’ve handled shipping. I am so done with the post office! I have put up with their cranky employees, long lines, crazy rules and terrible customer service for too long. No other company could operate so poorly and still exist. The last straw was yesterday when I received an email confirming that my packages had been picked up while they were still sitting on my front porch. Gah!

I have my issues with Fedex and UPS, but I think I’ve learned enough about them now to make it work.

I’m happy to say now that I’m off to start working on my first wholesale order for a new store in San Francisco. It’s in north beach, the same neighborhood as the Jack Kerouac Alley show. I had to turn down another offer to sell at a store because it just wasn’t right for me. That was hard. This makes it worth it.

Pouf giveaway!

Exciting news today — I am giving a away a small knit pouf to a reader of the lovely Green Eyed Monster blog. Details here. The blog features all kinds of “pretty, indie things” and does giveaways all the time, so I am definitely happy to support it!

To enter the giveaway for a pouf in your choice of color, comment on the blog. You get extra entries for tweets and Facebook mentions.


Charlotte really wants you to have a pouf.

Renegade recap

First, I’ll just say that the Renegade Craft Fair was by far the most well-organized show I’ve ever been a part of. It should be, considering it is 10 times the price of every other show I’ve done, but you can imagine that pulling together such a big event with hundreds of vendors would make for some logistical challenges. But everything was smooth sailing — plenty of information, a very cohesive group of makers, bathrooms with no lines, yummy food that never ran out, etc. etc.

I wish I had more photos to share, but by the time everyone is set up, the crowd makes it hard to take a lot of pictures. And it was quite a crowd!

Here’s what my booth looked like.

I redid the letters on my sign so they would look a little more like the font I use, but they ended up a little too big. I didn’t have time to fix them, so I had to leave them as-is. Oh well…

The little owls were very popular. I stayed up until 1:30 Friday night finishing them, and I’m glad I did because I sold more of them than anything else by far.

I didn’t become rich off of this show, but it really helped me decide where I am going to take my shop from now on. The giant pouf (which I almost didn’t bring because I was having trouble fitting it in my car), was a huge hit. I think half the people there touched it, sat on it, or otherwise marveled at it. I had several shop owners and interior designers ask about it (!!!). It’s obvious that people are enticed by the large-scale knitting. And though I am having some issues sourcing the materials, I am going to spend more time on it because I can see it has so much more potential.

I had to restrain myself from shopping too much because there was SO much good stuff from other vendors. I heard from some shoppers that the selection has really improved over the years.

I bought this yummy smelling soap from the folks at Clean Getaway Soap.

I learned they are from Denver, so I would encourage all my Colorado friends to check it out if they haven’t already.

Apparently I am the last person to realize that the next big animal to inspire the crafting world is the narwal. Mike had to convince me that yes, the narwal in fact is a real animal.


Narwal tee from Gnome Enterprises.

I am totally in love with everything from Rae Dunn, especially her salt and pepper cellars.

I was also quite smitten with the booth next to me, jfish designs. You know I have a thing for succulents, so I loved these curvy hanging planters.

I ended up trading a pouf for this cool organizer.

Not sure what I’m going to put in it yet. Maybe jewelry?

I learned that I want to do some things differently for future shows:

• Get some kind of dolly or rolling cart so I don’t have to carry everything, especially if I am by myself.
• Bring twice as many business cards as I think I’ll need. I completely ran out!
• Work on getting more vertical displays, possibly shelving.
• Streamline the look of my booth, which is kind of all over the place right now.
• Become wealthy so that I can buy everything from other vendors!

I am probably not going to do any more shows until it gets closer to fall just because it’s hard for me to sell knit goods in the summer, and I need some time to regroup. But I’m feeling as hopeful as I’ve felt in a long time that I can make this crafting thing into what I always wanted it to be. So, onward!

Renegade!

It’s finally here, my first big show at the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco. I’ll be there all weekend with all the same goodies I usually have, plus an appearance by the giant pouf!

Here are the details:

And check out the other vendors. I’m totally overwhelmed by all the talent here.

Mary Marie

Sometimes when people message me on Etsy they assume that I am the Mary behind Mary Marie Knits. Which is totally logical. But the real Mary is my grandmother, Mary Marie Mason, who is every bit as crafty and good at storytelling as I could ever hope to be.


Sure do love this lady.

But I also just wanted to share that I learned recently that her name comes from the name of a book, Mary Marie by Eleanor H. Porter.

It looks like you can even get it as a free ebook. Apparently my great-grandmother read this book and thought the name would be perfect for her daughter. Isn’t that sweet?

My mom and I were just talking about how much we love to read and always have. Apparently my grandmother told her that she felt the same way, and had gotten her love of reading from her grandmother. “She would just let her house go to pot while she sat and read a book!” as the story goes. I love it.

Currently reading: “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. What can I say? Doing two craft shows in Jack Kerouac Alley piqued my interest.

A Fair to Remember and new knits

Tomorrow is my second A Fair to Remember show in Jack Kerouac Alley, and I’m super excited.

I will have a lot of the same things I had last time:

A big pile of poufs,

fingerless gloves,

seed stitch dish cloths…

But then I will also have a lot of new items. After the last show I realized I needed more small, feminine accessories, so I made some headbands,

flower pins,

berets,

and lightweight scarves.

And just for fun I’ve started making these little owlies.

Let’s hope for good weather and lots of tourists!

(Anything I don’t sell will get stockpiled for Renegade.)

A Fair to Remember

I know I’ve said here before that one of my favorite places in San Francisco is Columbus Avenue, with all its cute Italian restaurants, and my favorite bar, Vesuvio.

Well, in a bit of serendipity I got a message on Etsy saying that once a month there is a craft fair in the little alley right next to Vesuvio (Jack Kerouac Alley), and would I like to be in it?

Um, hell yes!

It’s called A Fair to Remember, and the next one is Sunday, May 22. Here are the details:

I’m super excited about this. It’s my first chance to sell my poufs on the west coast, and I want to see how it goes over. I’ll have a lot of other home-related goodies including crocheted hangers and cup cozies, too.

I’ll also be participating in the June event on the 19th, and then I’ll be at the Renegade Craft Fair July 9 & 10. I’m a little overwhelmed at the prospect of getting prepared for that one, but hopefully the other two will help me get inspired!

Introducing: giant knits

At long last, I am finally ready to show you the knits I’ve been making with giant rolls of cotton rope. The testing process has been absolutely exhausting and expensive, far more than I ever thought it would be. But the end result is super fun, and I can’t wait to show it off.

I have two new items in my Etsy shop. The giant pouf, available in white or gray.

And giant loopy rugs in two sizes, 36 or 48 inches.

In addition to looking cool, these feel amazing underneath your toes.

This was definitely an exercise in persistence. I started off with dye experiments and found that one type of rope took it much better than the other. I tried every kind of dye I could find, some waaay more toxic smelling than others.

So I bought a bunch of that rope, dyed it to perfection, and then realized that it would never work for the knitting. It was also really expensive, hard to find in bulk, and twice as heavy as the other. Fail.


Just the right sized spool.

So I ordered the other rope and started testing the knitting. I can’t tell you how many times I did and undid a rug trying to get the perfect gauge. I made my own needles. Those didn’t work so I spent more money on better ones.

I had an idea in my head what sizes I wanted to offer and at what prices, but that went out the window when I realized just how many thousands of feet of “yarn” it would take to achieve those.


Loop-de-loop.

Then when I moved on to big-batch dyeing I realized too late that my dyeing bin was way too small, so I got a pretty uneven result.

It was one fail after another, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Now I just hope people think these are as cool as I do.