Christmas Project Update

>> Friday, October 23, 2009

As of today, I have a total of one Christmas project completed. I was supposed to get FOUR done this month. Obviously, I'm a bit behind. I'm making progress, though, and I have pictures to prove it. Warning in advance of a pic heavy post.

Elephante. Legs, body, and tail are all done. I have knit the trunk and am on the increases for the head. I don't like the way the legs look, but I doubt Caitlin will care and they are on there securely. I looked up whipstitching, but must have stitched through the wrong part of the cast off edge of the legs. I will hopefully be done this little guy some time next week.A tightly knit hat. The main yarn is Peace Fleece Worsted colorway "Siberian Midnight" a heathered blend of blue and black with tweedy white bits. The white stripes are a wool, alpaca, silk blend I bought years ago. I think it looks awesome. When Bear said he wanted a tightly knit hat, I decided to use very small needles to make a dense fabric (I'm using US 2s for this). I found out half way through the damn thing that he wanted small stitches - apparently I should have been using fingering weight yarn instead. Tough. Fingering weight yarn won't keep his head warm enough, and there's no WAY I'm frogging this thing and starting again with another yarn. The hat is 110 stitches and I'm using Jared Flood's Turn a Square hat decreases to the top of it looks manly. I will have to block it out a bit as the hat is a tiny bit too small for his head, but that shouldn't be any kind of problem. I hope to have this done tonight or tomorrow night.

I've been impatient with both of these projects because I finally have yarn, pattern, and needle to start Grammie's Icarus shawl:

The yarn is Knit Picks Alpaca coud, colorway "Autumn Heather" the needle is also Knit Picks, a fixed circular size 3, 24". I am going to cast on for this as soon as I finish one of the projects above.

In other news, I've been spinning. I find that if I spin during Sunday football games, I get a ton of spinning done. The most recent spinning I've been doing is a CJ Kopec's October Spin Along fiber, a SW BFL colorway "Trust Me" - vibrant rich shades of red, burgundy, gold, orange, brown, violet and more. I spun it into a fingering weight single. I got 582 yards and am in LOVE with this yarn. I am waffling between making a cowl and fingerless mitts or a small shawl like Swallowtail or Ishbel. The colors were too pretty to ply together, and I am thrilled with the color separation I got.
How is your Christmas knitting coming?


Setting Up Accounts

>> Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I filed for a tax number and Seller's Certificate from the State of Maine this week, and am waiting to get paperwork for that. I have no idea what will happen when my husband and I file our taxes this year, but since I only estimated making $200 for the year, hopefully it won't be too bad. I have *no* idea if I filled out the online form correctly; there is an assumption that one knows what is being asked for each fill in box and drop down menu. I guessed.

I ordered 2 lbs of undyed fiber, bought the vinegar I need for the dyes, and photographed my first two braids of roving. I'm not very happy with the pics, so will try again soon. I need a brighter light for the outside of my lightbox.

I set up a free account with Quickbooks Online for my income/expenses. So far, this business has cost me $157.40 (not counting the dollar something for the vinegar). That doesn't sound too bad, especially considering most of that was put onto a $100 visa gift card I won a while back. The free version of Quickbooks is very simplified, but so far, I like it. I haven't been able to find accounting software that I've liked for a business; most of the free stuff I've seen is for personal/home accounting.

I verified my checking account with PayPal. Now I'm a "verified" member and can use either my credit card or bank account for purchases. I am combining my paychecks from work with my husband's in HIS bank account, and hope to use my old checking account for the business.

I am keeping a list of ideas for my shop - thing like product themes, contests, freebies, etc.

I am taking an online freebie class about starting your own business. So far, I've learned lots of good stuff. I'm taking notes to refer to later.

I am looking for fiber business owners to intern/shadow next summer. I haven't contacted anyone yet, although I do have a few people in mind. I would like to begin sending letters in the spring, explaining who I am, what I want, and why they should let me. I figure if I can get my shop off the ground over the winter - have some sales, grow a business - they will be more willing to help me. The fiber/knitting community is very supportive of small businesses, even when they technically "compete" with each other.

I am thinking about long-range goals: Getting a TM, having a graphic designer design me a logo and possibly my own webpage (speaking of which, I'd better snag the domain name today if possible), branching out to brick and mortar stores as well as other online vendors (TLE, for example). I am also trying to find ways/space to maximize production possibilities. Right now, I can dye two, possibly three 4 oz. bundles of fiber in an evening, and they take about two days to dry. I can only dye two nights a week reliably, thanks to my second job.

I am working on pricing and shipping costs in my head. I will have to play with these as I start shipping and see what actual costs will be. Ideally I'd like to be able to say I ship for free (first class) with an option to upgrade to Priority for another two dollars. Does that sound fair? Depending on cost of shipping, I may charge a small fee of a dollar or two to offset the costs. I'll have to wait and see. Initially, I will be offering free shipping as an incentive to get people to purchase fiber from a brand new shop.

Question: should I start a new Etsy account using my company name as the seller name? It will start me back to a zero ranking, but perhaps I could link to my boutrosbabe shop? Or does it matter what the shop is named? I am starting to think it does, and I need to know before I start listing items. Help!


Highland Handmades

>> Monday, October 12, 2009

For a long time now, I've been wanting to get into the fiber business. I don't consider knitting and spinning to be hobbies; they are an integral part of who I am. Knitting and spinning are, to me, a lifestyle. I'd like to be able to live more of my life in those fields. I have thousands of ideas, things I want to do, try, create. I bounce many of my ideas off of my husband who is always supportive and encouraging. He knows that some day, ultimately, I'd like to have my own yarn and fiber shop. I'd like to get up each morning and spend the day doing what I love and sharing my love of all things fibery with others. I'd like to teach classes in the evening. Have a shop cat. Have an afterschool group of kids who learn to knit and donate their items to charities. In my head, the possibilities are endless.
But like the characters in Eugene O'Niell's play "The Iceman Cometh," I'm afraid that most of my dreams are just that - dreams. The pipe dreams that his characters are forced to confront but shy away from instead of grasping. The great "what-ifs" of life. As long as the idea stays in my head, I can never fail. I can keep dreaming about the yarn shop I want, making it better and grander than ever.
Recent events in my life have, however, forced me to reconsider. To wonder if maybe taking the risk is less dangerous than staying where I am now. Because as my life is now, I am professionally unhappy. I'm questioning my career choice for the first time, wondering if I really want to be a teacher forever. The more I think about it, the more my answer is no.
The problem is that I know NOTHING about owning and operating a business. I have never taken a business class, have no friends that own their own business, and am afraid to risk everything and fail due to ignorance. It's all just so overwhelming!
There are a few things I know that I can do. I can dye fiber and yarn and sell it online. I can start with just an internet presence, and if someday it expands, I can move to a brick & mortar location later. I can start small and get all my puzzle pieces lined up. If I start on the edge, the middle section might be easier.
So I have been spending a lot of time online looking at how to start a business. What do I have to have to do even a tiny bit? I want to have all the legal stuff correct from the beginning so it's easier later on. The first thing I did was google my potential business name. I went to the Trademark and Registration depts. and searched their databases. I found nothing with my proposed company name. I will have to trademark it myself right off, but I don't know if that will cost money so for now I'm holding off. The name? Highland Handmades.
The next thing I did was totally free and super easy. I filed for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS. I can now purchase yarn and fiber *wholesale*. Granted, I don't have the $500 I need to purchase a bump of undyed fiber, but since I'm all about the baby steps, I'll worry about that later.
The next thing I have to do is get a Seller's Certificate. In order to do that, I need to get a tax number. That comes from the State of Maine, and I'll be working on that tomorrow. As I understand it, once I get my Seller's Certificate, I am legal to sell in the State of Maine. No idea if this will cost me money.
Once I'm all legal and stuff, I need to work on increasing my inventory. I'll be selling from, and many sellers on Etsy say you should start with 6-12 items for sale in your shop, and should update with new items often. I have two items so far, and will probably do a third one today, but will have to wait until the end of the month to get the fiber shipment I need for the rest. I will spend some time looking for yarn to pick up in the interim, so I can sell some of that, too.

I am definitely lucky that my friends on Plurk have helped me with much of this. They are infinitely supportive and for that, I love them dearly. Coby, Jenna, and Brandy especially. They are fiber artists in their own right and for them to believe in me means the world.

I will keep you updated as I journey towards the life I've always wanted. Wish me luck!


Christmas Project Update

>> Monday, October 5, 2009

Okay. So the mitts did NOT get done when I thought they would. The first mitt was done ahead of schedule, and the second mitt was right behind it - until I got to the thumb. For some reason I had a hard time getting motivated to pick up and knit those thumb stitches and weave in the ends. I busied myself with re-knitting Hubs' sock in straight stockinette and ignored the mitts for the better part of two weeks.

Yesterday I was watching my favorite video cast "Around the Twist" and enjoyed Carin's update on her Christmas knitting. In that same episode she discussed what her next spinning project would be. Now I know that Carin is a speedy knitter and that with a video cast she is highly motivated to complete projects, but still. She is getting much more accomplished that I am and has a fifth as much Christmas knitting to do as I do. As soon as Hubs went off to do the cleanup at the mill, I got started.

First I made the lightbox I've been meaning to for a month now. I participate in a spin-along each month and need a better way to photograph my finished skeins. It was easy and only took about ten minutes.

Second, I went up to my craft room and finished spinning the first half of the BFL fiber I bought from Spunky Eclectic this summer. I need a dk weight two ply for the thrummed mittens I'm making for Tara for Christmas. I love spinning BFL, so this was no hardship. I'm going to try to have the second half done this week.

Third, I sat on the couch and finished those mitts. Thumb, weaving in of ends... all of it. I even made sure that I closed a couple of holes I had near the thumb. They are totally done:

As you can see I need to work on taking better lightbox shots.

Fourth, I cast on for another of my Christmas Projects. This one is Christmas Project #3, an Elephante for my friend Caitlin.
I have all four legs done and finished increasing for the body. I have two and a half inches of straight knit to go before I begin the body decreases. It's a really fast knit so far, although the m1fb into every stitch on the body was a pain that first round. I'm using Red Heart Super Saver multi for the body and some soft cotton chenille for the feet, ears and nose. To fill it I'll be using bamboo fill. This way the toy is washable and naturally antibacterial as well. Caitlin has a very rare autoimmune disorder, so germ-free toys are important. I hope she likes it.

That's all I have for now - I'll take a pic of elephante in my lightbox once he/she is done. How is your holiday knitting coming along?


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