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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Unravelings: How To Unravel A Sweater For Its Yarn

It came to my attention that a lot of my readers had never considered using store bought sweaters, bought on the cheap, in order to augment their stashes. Great finds at thrift stores and Goodwill means that you can get a yarn with cashmere in it, for a fraction of the cost of just buying the yarn.

Thrift is the name of the game for this. But, you have to wonder, is Unraveling right for you?

Should I Unravel?

  • Are you patient? Unraveling takes time and effort, and is not for the faint of heart.
  • Do you have experience with sweater construction? It's not necessary, but certainly helps.
  • Are you looking for a project that helps you be thrifty and put old sweaters to good use?

If you fit into those categories, then read on.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Remember This When Writing A Contract

image from
I've just completed my contract with my logo designer, and I though there would be a few tid-bits you'd be interested in.  Keep in mind, you will need to know how to work out a contract with your vendors or designers, and you will need to know how to keep it fair.

I am lucky that my designer and I are friends. This aids in communication, but all of the following morsels should be done even if you and your contract-ee are recent acquaintances.

1) You must have conversations
                   Proper communication is key when you are trying to figure out what you both hope to get out of the contract and agreements. You need to be prepared to talk about every little detail even before pen hits paper.

2) Have a Checklist!
                   This will prevent you from forgetting any key component to your agreement. Make sure you write down which rights each of you have over the agreement in question, and what situations would allow an amended contract to be drafted.

3) Write a Rough Draft, and check it with your partner
                    You know I harp on the idea of rough drafts. They are incredibly important. And since you are in a working relationship, you must be prepared to write out all the details and double check everything with both your attorney and your co-agreement signee before signatures get added. This way any little rought spots can be buffed out, and you will be able to sign the page knowing that it is the best for both parties.

4) Important Sections

      1. Intro-outline what this agreement is about and the full names of both parties
      2. Rights- write out which rights belong to which party and what might cause infringements on these rights
      3. Mitigating Circumstances- Write out what situations would cause this contract to be null and void, and what action must be taken if such an event occurs
      4. Summary- "By signing this contract(agreement) both parties agree that the following is applicable in all cases.." blah blah blah. Make sure there are no loopholes.

5) Remember 
                      Your signer is not your enemy. It is simply good business practice to spell it all out in case something happens in the future.

6) Reread the contract before signing
                       Both parties need to reread the contract (before any signatures hit the page!) after it's been drafted. In my case, I had to fix the legal name of my designer so it would be concurrent with her registry at the Chamber of Commerce.  Both you and your attorney (you do have an attorney, right?) will need to read the agreement before any signatures are added. Make sure it happens!

7) Keep a couple copies:
                   You will need: at least one digital copy of your signed contract. and one PRINTED copy to keep in your lockbox/file/safety deposit box, what-have-you.  You will need both, signed and dated, in case of any issues, and so that you have a safe copy in case of legal proceedings.

Please remember these things when drafting or reading contracts. You can never tell when this will come in handy.                

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How "Despicable Me" Is Like Running A Business

Despicable Me (Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)I finally got around to watching Despicable Me on blu-ray this morning. I couldn't help but notice how close Gru's experiences are like how I am working on starting and running a business. Here are 7 examples of how Despicable Me is like running a business.

1) You Need A Good Team

    • The minions were cute, sure, but they also helped Gru build his evil empire. Without that team, there would have been no success.  This is important in the business world, because, just as Gru had his weaknesses, there will be things in your own business that you will not be as good at.  Not good at record-keeping? Then you will need someone on your team that is strong in that area.   Not a good communicator? You'll need someone who can get the message across.
2) You Need A Plan
    • Gru didn't simply launch into his evil plot. He researched, he planned, and most important, he wrote it all down.  The greatest disservice a business owner can do it simply walk in blindly. You need to know who your market is. You need to know where you want to go, and how you will get there. You need an exit strategy. Write a BUSINESS PLAN. It doesn't matter if you are doing your business part time or full. You need to have a plan.       
3) You May Fail/Make Mistakes At First, But It's All Valuable Experience
    • Two attempts at stealing the Shrink Ray didn't stop Gru from trying again.  He learned what would work, and what didn't. He actually looked back at his failures and made necessary changes (which in this case, included adoption).  Your business venture may not go as planned. We all make mistakes. The true test of a leader is what is learned from those mistakes. For example, my own first attempt at an Etsy shop was miserable. I knew nothing about the climate, and I didn't even know how to advertise. But this time I am remembering who my clients are and what they need. I learned to advertise. I am making it better this time.
4) Competition is Fierce, So What Makes You Special?
    • Vector was the bane of Gru's existence for the whole movie.  Evil villains all trying to make their mark. I'm sure you've got plenty of people who are out there doing the same thing you are.  What you need to figure out is what makes you special, and how will you use that to attract your customers? Hundreds of companies make computer parts. But Intel was able to differentiate themselves by marketing their innovations. They were new and always improving, and that's what made them stick out from the crowd.
5) You'll Need To Relax Once In A While
    • You may be tempted to eat, sleep, and breathe your business. But the most productive time for Gru was when he was taking time to do things other than work, like play with the girls. To prevent burn out, you're going to need to turn off the business brain and do something fun. When you come back to the business, you will be much more productive and better able to deal with the myriad of issues that will arise as part of being a businessman.
6) You'll Need To Be Resourceful
    • Gru got turned down by the Bank of Evil to fund his idea. Instead, his minions pitched in, and they built the rocket out of whatever was handy.  You'll need to do the same thing. Look around you. I'm sure there is something in your general vicinity that would be useful for your business. Things won't just jump out at you. You'll need to look, but they are there. 
7) The Biggest Dreams Require Work And Patience
    • From his childhood, Gru wanted to go to the moon. He built prototypes and drew pictures. You are an entrepreneur. You are a visionary. Don't let anyone tell you differently. You must be willing to work hard in order to make your business a reality. You are the heart and soul of your business. Make sure that you know the work required to make it a reality, and be patient with yourself. You didn't become an adult overnight. And some of the biggest names in business spent years building their brand identity. You can do this.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why Coffee Is So Important

I eat healthy, I exercise, and take care of myself. But trust me, I wouldn't make it ten feet out the door without my cup of coffee.

Since I started my new Mediterranean diet from Cinch!: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches, I have not been able to give up my morning cup of coffee. But now, instead of me just grabbing the cup and running out the door, it's more like a meditation.

Bodum 1548-01US Brazil 8-Cup (34-Ounce) Coffee PressEvery morning, I boil the water for my French Press (a Bodum 1548-01US Brazil 8-Cup (34-Ounce) Coffee Press) . I grind the beans that morning (using a Proctor Silex $14 model see here Proctor Silex E160B Fresh Grind Coffee Grinder, White). I wait the 4 minutes for the coffee to brew, and set about planning my day. I have my day planner out, and write down all the things I need to get done in order to feel accomplished. Then I sit and enjoy my coffee, holding the cup to warm my hands
Bodum 1548-01US Brazil 8-Cup (34-Ounce) Coffee Press   
Bodum 8 cup French Press

Proctor Silex E160B Fresh Grind Coffee Grinder, White
Proctor Silex Grinder
Without this moment of Zen, I'm sure my life would be more hectic, and I'd probably be a little more crazy than usual. This is important when working full time in addition to trying to run a business, and seeing to household concerns as well as recreation and crafting. 

Find your moment of Zen and do it daily. It will help you be more productive in the long run, and reduce the burn-out factor from working 60-70 hours per week.  My moment of Zen cost me a total of $30.  But it gave me the ability to be more resilient.

Remember that your business will only be as good as you feel. You need to take a little time each day to reflect and plan. Why not enjoy your business a little more, and stress a little less?

What's your moment of Zen? How do you deal with wearing so many hats for a business? What do you do to relax?               

I'll talk to you in the comments!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shop Update Tonight

Here is some of the yummy:

from the top:
1)Lake Placid DK
2)Nectarines In Winter DK
3)Pomegranate Stains DK
4)Radioactive Goo DK
5) Roses Under A Steamroller DK

for this and more, please visit the shop, The Elusive Thread

Monday, January 17, 2011

When Motivation Wanes...READ!

After seeing a lot of tweets from after the ALA conference (American Library Association) about how libraries are closing down, I started feeling like we don't do enough to support our libraries. Two towns in the Western Washington area voted to not pay the taxes associated with libraries. Their library priveledges were taken away, and they griped about it.

The best thing we can do is to frequent our libraries. We need to show both the townspeople and the governing bodies that these are very important establishments!

*off of soapbox*

After dyeing 6 new items this morning, I started to feel like my motivation had gone out the window. So I turned to my Kindle to entertain me. I downloaded two samples of books that struck my fancy:

These are books whose samples were engaging and look like they should be incredibly helpful.

But before you go and buy them off of Amazon (using my link of course....can't pay my internet bills without an income...), Search your local library and see if these books are available. They are relatively new, but most libraries have a great procurement department. Read through them. Then, if you decide that they are worth the trouble, do two things:

1)Purchase the books through my link of linky goodness
2)Remember to vote yes on the levies to support your library.

Everyone wins. You stay entertained, and get a little motivation to try something different. And your libraries get to stay open. Perhaps a little more support will prevent the library systems from continuing to have mandatory days they must be closed in order to stay within budget.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Inspiration for The Elusive Thread

I thought perhaps you would like to know how this started. Afterall, getting to know your dyer is a helpful way to get to know the products that you buy.

Trial and Error
I started dyeing a few years ago when a friend of mine asked me to dye up some yarn in UW Husky colors (purple and gold) for a hat for a friend's son. I knew what was needed, and I knew that no one else would be providing that type of yarn commercially, so I did it. It took some trial and error, but it seemed like I was genuinely helping someone.  That's when I started down the slippery slope of indie dyeing.

A few weeks after that, I picked up some yarn at my LYS and started tinkering in the kitchen. I dyed some colors that were really bad, before I figured out how to get the colors that I wanted. It was a lot of trial and error, but it was fun. It was a creative outlet.  I had been burned pretty bad on a sweater project that I was doing (GAUGE ATTACK!), so knitting was in time-out.

A short time after that, I started looking at getting undyed yarn cheaply. eBay and KnitPicks were especially helpful.  I read all the books I could on color theory and dyeing yarn.  I think I spent more time researching those few weeks than I did actually dyeing anything. 

Living in Seattle, we are particularly lucky to have greenery around us year round. But those grey skies can be a little depressing.  I started dyeing jewel tones to cheer myself up. Reds and oranges, deep purples helped me remember that we do have a non-rainy season during the year.

Also, I am an art girl at heart. If I had any skill whatsoever with a paint brush, I would be doing oil paintings like Donatello or Botticelli.
Ceiling at St. Mary's
Art is an act that gives me hope for humanity. Or maybe I could sculpt marble like the great Michelangelo! Unfortunately, I do not have the funding for something so huge. And I lack the patience as well. At least with dyeing yarn, it only takes about an hour start to finish in the kitchen for each colorway, and the supplies are commonly found.

I also find inspiration in clothing movements. Right now I am in love with the blend of metal and silky colors for SteamPunk. I like the layered effects that came back from the 80s (ahem, 80s hair...not so much. Trust me, I lived through the age of crimping. And it was horrific)

Homemade King Cake
Sometimes even food can inspire me! Take this King Cake for example. Only a Mardi Gras favorite like King Cake could combine green, purple and gold and make it so festive with sprinkles! I took one look at that cake when my friend handed it to me, and said "I need to make that green!" It is things like this that inspire me. Food is often a colorful and cheerful affair, and I love to tinker around in the kitchen, so it is only natural that I find inspiration in the food that I eat.

The biggest inspiration so far is still my friends on Twitter and Plurk. I asked what you wanted to see, and you told me. You filled out my Zoomerang survey, and told me what you wanted. I dye for you, my friends.  You inspire me to try new things and see if they work.

What inspires your art? How do you keep going? Do you have anything to add? 
I'll talk to you in the comments!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shop Update Complete-Commence Collapse

Here are a few of the wonderful items currently available in my shop.

from the top:
1) Corriedale X Top in Iris in the Mist
2)Merino Silk Sock in Melon Ball
3)Romney roving in Tartan's Got Nothing On Us
4)Alpaca fingering weight in Edamame

Please check out The Elusive Thread shop

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How To Write Product Listings/Descriptions

Last quarter I was taking a Business Communications course, and learned a few key ingredients for all communications. I thought you might be interested to try improving your own product listings.

1) Write a Rough Draft

We did this in grade school and into college as well. You always write a rough draft to get all the information out on paper (or .doc file) so that you can be sure you aren't forgetting anything.  This is very important when writing product descriptions, because you may discover that there are items that would be more cohesive if they were moved around. Rough drafts are important because you don't judge your writing until afterwards.

By getting it all on paper, you can make sure what you want to say is there. And then you can ask your friends, classmates, or family if they like the way it is written or if it makes sense. Always check your writing with another human being. Product listings are not the time to have an ambiguity or lack of information. You need these to make sense to anyone that reads them.

Remember. If a message is lost, it is not the fault of a reader. It is the sender who is at fault.

2) Tell a Story
Your readers desperately want to see the human side of the item they are considering buying. It is human nature to seek a connection.  This is why customer service reps exist. There needs to be a human face or voice behind the service or product.

Help your readers and potential customers connect with you by telling them a story. It doesn't have to be about you, or even about them. But you need to set the scene so that they understand what you want them to think about the item. You do not tell your customers what to think, you help lead them to the proper conclusion about it. 

For example: Let's imagine I have a hand-knit red scarf that I want to sell. It is lacy, but made out of mohair and wool, so it is particularly good at keeping one warm. Don't just say "Red Scarf. Warm" That's not very engaging and will most likely not warrant that click to buy it. Instead, help your customer see the inherent value by telling them a story.

            "Snow is falling all around you and you need to walk to work.  It is bitterly cold out, and the blizzard is coming. Aren't you glad you have that rocking red mohair scarf to keep the chill at bay?"

You tell the customer where they are, and how the scarf will make it better.  You told a story, and it didn't take any longer than simply listing the specs.

3) Remember the Specs

After telling a story that helps the reader connect, you need to remember to tell them the specifications as to what they are buying. No one likes to take a shot in the dark as far as buying online goes.  Tell them everything. And include this information on your rough draft when you are hashing out the details so that you can refer back to it.

             Specifications would include:

                          -Dimensions: height, weight, volume, yardage, etc. Anything that tells them about size or shape
                          -Materials: No one wants to buy a $50 scarf and then find out that they are allergic to something in it. Be specific. No one is going to steal this information or anything, and truth in posting allows the potential buyer to see your honesty and integrity.

                          -Color:  I don't care where this information is in the story, but it also needs to be listed in your specs. Pictures are unreliable because every monitor will display the spectrum differently. Make sure you use specific, every day examples so that the reader will know what colors the item actually consists of.

4) Conciseness/White Space

When writing descriptions, it is hard to avoid some of the flowery wordy paragraphs.  Potential buyers do not want to read paragraphs.  They want the information quick and easy. The faster you can give them the important information without clouding their eyes with unnecessary words.  You need to get the information across in as fast a manner as possible.  Keep your paragraphs to a maximum of three to five lines. Any more than that, and your information won't get to the reader.

Readers do not often read the entire posting. Sorry. We are all guilty of scanning for the pertinent information. That's why it is so important to have that story as the first section. After that, the readers start to scan the page.  In order to keep things that are important in the forefront of their minds:
1) Make sure the font is easily readable. Anything flowery will be immediately struck from the cerebral cortex, or worse, ignored completely.

2) Make use of white space. This draws attention to your important information, and also prevents the reader from being overwhelmed. (You can see that I make liberal use of white space in this post by putting a space between paragraphs and by starting lists with a space and indenting them)

3) Use bold face and different fonts in order to draw attention to section headings and important information. When a reader is scanning for a particular piece of information, this will show them where to look. (See my headings?)

Need to read more? Here are a few books that we used in class, and that I've researched on my own.

Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion                 Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (New Rules Social Media Series)                  The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well             Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, Second Edition      

Do you have any other ideas on how to write better product descriptions? Leave a comment! I'm always looking for new information to improve my writing!

I'll talk to you in the comments!                

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

When Writing Product Descriptions, or top 5 Marketing Books

I just finished the rough drafts (yes I said ROUGH DRAFTS, we have gone back to grade school) for my yarn and fiber descriptions.  I've read a lot about these things, and it seems that you need to write something that grabs a reader's attention, and also explains inspiration in a fun way.

I've never taken a Marketing class (but I did try to get into one last year as part of my tuition program at the University). I've just read books. And I thought a list would be helpful for those of you who are in the same boat.

Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion1) Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion  This is a book on rhetoric, and before you say that it has nothing to do with marketing, please remember, marketing is about convincing people that your product meets their need, and rhetoric is about communicating effectively to convince people of things. They go hand in hand.  I read this book as part of an awesome business communications course, and it was well worth the money.  Lesson number one: Tell a story. Your customers want to buy from you, but first they want to connect with you. Tell them a story about how your product helps them with what they want.
Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (New Rules Social Media Series)
2) Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (New Rules Social Media Series) This is a book that you'll need to read more than once.  What is the most important aspect of marketing? Making it interesting. Content Rules helps you hash out what you need to do to make your writing interesting to your customers and their friends.  It also has cool things like links and examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly in marketing terms.

Brilliant Marketing: What the best marketers know, do and say3) Brilliant Marketing: What the best marketers know, do and say This is a book that I picked up a few days ago. I read the intro, and it really is a how-to manual.  It teaches you what has worked and what hasn't, so you don't make the same mistakes.  Real life examples, such as Nike and Heineken are included in the first few chapters! It's a great reference tool.

Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (New Rules Social Media Series)

4) Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (New Rules Social Media Series) This is a book that we can all relate to. We all know that Social Media rules the day when it comes to reaching new customers. This book explains how to do it, and what works best.  I had my blog before I started reading this, but it certainly has reinforced my better habits, such as posting regularly, and making sure my Twitter and Facebook accounts are active and interesting.

UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging.

5) UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging. Any book who has the seven deadly social media sins earns a gold star in my book.  This book is all about how to be engaging, and how to actually connect with your audience and have a conversation. You don't sell to your friends. You simply have friends who buy from you.  I like this book because it is a good course in marketing  that is in language non-business majors can relate to.

I hope this helps you. And a disclaimer. I linked to these books because I think they have a lot of good information and helpful tips. If you buy them through my links, I will get 1% back through Amazon.  Rest assured, I wouldn't link to them if I didn't think they were good, and Amazon has no control over what I link to.  Remember, all cards on the table.