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Contracts That Work For You and Your Business

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, July 13, 2017
Updated: Friday, July 14, 2017

Legal Know-How: Contracts That Work for You and Your Business

By Danielle Chalson

The craft and needlearts industry is collaborative by nature. Designers need materials to bring their ideas to life. Needleart companies work with designers to create new designs that promote their product and contract with craft stores to sell their products. Magazines and publishers rely on companies and designers to generate content (and advertising) to fill their latest issues.


Craft and needleart stores rely on companies that provide materials, designers and publishers to attract customers and create products for sale. These are only a few traditional examples. As the needleart industry grows and changes in the digital age so do the number and type of collaborations.

What happens when the collaboration between two people, companies or stores goes wrong? What are the repercussions? Most importantly, how could the situation have been avoided in the first place?

In this series, you’ll learn how to read and understand the most important terms in your existing contracts. You’ll also learn how to create future contracts that aim to maximize the benefits for you and your business. Because that’s essentially what a contract is: An agreement between two entities that want to collaborate.

1. Dispel the notion that “contracts” have to be complicated, expensive and impossible to understand

A contract can be as straightforward as a single page (or even a paragraph) that summarizes the key points of an agreement between two parties that intend to work together. In certain instances, a contract should be longer with additional terms spelled out in more detail. Regardless of what format the contract takes what matters is that:

·         The contract correctly covers the most important points for each party

·         It covers those points clearly so each party understands their rights and obligations.

2. Because contracts can take many forms, we need to consider when it’s helpful to have a contract

The short answer is “almost always!” Designers regularly sign contracts for a design that appears in a publisher’s book or magazine. These formal contracts, which typically have been prepared by the publisher with the input of at least one attorney, are appropriate and necessary because the cost and exposure for both parties is significant. Here are a few more examples of common (and, some might say, “casual”) situations where the two parties should prepare at least a basic contract:

·         A craft store brings in a teacher to teach weekend classes

·         A needlearts company commissions a popular designer to create a design for a promotion such as a knit-a-long

·         A craft store wants to use a published design that they do not own as a teaching tool for a new workshop

3. Where to begin? At the beginning, of course!

We’ll explore how to get to the heart of any agreement, whether it’s a casual one-time collaboration or a more formal, long-term relationship. We’ll ask and answer key questions:

·         Who are the parties?

·         Why do the parties want to work together?

·         What terms are “non-negotiable” for each party?

When we understand the motivation and goals of each party, we’re in a better position to reach a written agreement that can avoid future misunderstanding, financial loss or hurt feelings. This series will be greatly enriched by your own real-world experiences within the craft and needlearts industry. Please write in with your questions and suggestions!

Finally, a disclaimer: The general discussions in this series are not legal advice. If you need specific legal advice about a certain matter, please contact a local attorney!


About the Author

Danielle Chalson is a patent attorney. She’s also an independent knitwear designer who designs for established publications and self-publishes under her own brand, Makewise Designs. You can find her on Ravelry (makewise) and on Instagram (@makewisedesigns). She and her family live in Long Island, New York.

Tags:  Business tips  TNNANews 

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Summer Trade Show: After the Show

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 29, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Trade Show: After the Show

By Stephanie Shiman

The summer market is over, your bags are unpacked, and several new projects are underway. What now?  The TNNA summer show is excellent for discoveries, inspiration, connections, and overall appreciating this awesome industry, we are all a part of.  


Now that you’re home, how can you use what you learned and keep the creative juices flowing?

Whether you’re a shop, designer, or vendor, the following applies to you.

  1. Debrief yourself (and companions, if you took others with you).  Take notes!  You won’t remember this stuff next month!  What inspired you?  What are the new trends you should stay on top of?  What did you see that could set you apart and give you an edge?  What do crafters want to learn?  Which items are vanishing from booths that might be a heads-up that they’ve had their day in the limelight?
  2. Next, deal with all the paperwork you came home with—the flyers, catalogs, and business cards.  Evaluate what you will realistically want to remember later and which things don’t seem as useful.  Write notes on the keepers so when you come across them later you will remember why you kept them.
  3.  What crafty things did you bring back—that special skein from SampleIt or that free pattern you can’t wait to get started with?  Make a special place for these items for future projects so they don’t get lost in your stash.


Shops: When the orders start coming in, how can you be sure they get the best visibility to inspire your customers like they inspired you?  

  1.  As soon as you get back, begin sneak previews of items that you will add to your shop’s offerings.  Put a table up front in your store and cover it with samples and cash-and-carry items from the show. Use social media to start a buzz.  Even if you don’t have the items in hand, use photos from the vendor’s website or photos of finished objects (with permission) from Ravelry to get your customers excited.
  2.  Space out orders if possible, even if it means waiting a week to put them on the shelf.  Keeping your shop continually new and fresh is a great way to keep customers coming back. Update your social media outlets with photos from each new shipment along with inspiration for using the new products.  
  3. Unbox orders on Instagram. This hot new trend for social media really gets people excited. Start a live video when you unbox the order, describing the items as you go. Potential customers can then comment if they’d like you to put something aside for them. Just be sure to give a cut-off date for pick-up, and if items aren’t claimed, add them to your shelves.
  4. Show your customers what makes this or that new item unique. Most crafters don’t really need more craft supplies, but we do buy more when we are excited about a new project. Inspiration is the key! Classes, trunk shows, and shop samples are perfect for this.


Designers: What did you see that really inspired you?

  1.  Each year new yarns come out with new qualities. How can you best highlight the hottest new yarns? Staying on trend with the hot yarns will keep your work fresh and appealing.
  2.  What new techniques and construction methods are knitters really into right now?  Garter is out, garter is in. Brioche is hot. Chevron and odd angles are in. Felting is out. Lace is always in. Incorporate currently trending techniques into your work.
  3. Whom did you connect with at market that you would like to work with? Be sure to reach out with design ideas and proposals whenever you have them.  Everyone loves to bounce ideas around when inspired at the show. It’s important to show intent by following up with solid ideas after the market.Vendors: Hopefully you’ve come back with plenty of orders. Now the real work begins.  Besides just filling them, try these tips to keep re-orders coming in.

Vendors: Hopefully you’ve come back with plenty of orders. Now the real work begins.  Besides just filling them, try these tips to keep re-orders coming in.

  1.  Educate your customers on new items. Even a quick and dirty information sheet tucked into orders is helpful. Key phrases about your products are especially useful: “This kit comes with a full-size skein and three mini skeins as well as a shawl pattern behind the label.” The more a shop knows and understands about your product, the easier it is for them to sell it.
  2.  It can be hard to predict before the show what the hot sellers will be. Now you know! Therefore, stock up on those items as soon as you can, and filling re-orders will be a breeze. When something is hot, everyone wants it yesterday.
  3. Do you feel like some products didn’t get as much attention as you thought they deserved? Use your social media outlets to highlight anything that might have slipped through the cracks.
  4. Believe it or not, even though the summer show has just ended, it’s the perfect time to think about what you’d like to launch next season. Often seeing your product line laid out and taking orders face-to-face is a good way to see where your holes are. Prepare now to fill these holes next season.
  5. Pack up your booth items, for storage, in a way that makes it easy to prepare for the next show. January seems a long way off now, but it’ll be here before you know it.  

Overall, use what you’ve learned at market to keep things fresh, inspired, and interesting!


About the Author

Stephanie Shiman (www.frabjousfibers.comstarted frabjous fibers and Wonderland Yarns in 2004 with a box of yarn stashed under her dining room table.  Now, with a team of a dozen or so creative people, FF&WY hand-dyes fabulous yarns and fibers that make their way to LYS all over the world.

Tags:  Business tips  Summer Trade Show  TNNANews 

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Starting a Blog: Find Your Audience

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 29, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 29, 2017

Starting a Blog: Find Your Audience

By Janet M. Perry and Anita M. Wheeless

You’ve decided to join the club and  use a blog as a way to let people know about your needlework business. FANTASTIC! A blog is a great way to build shop, brand, and name recognition. While most articles about blogs concentrate on software, there are many other considerations that go into making your blog successful. Don’t worry; there are easy ways to grow your readership as well as simple methods to implement on social media to promote your blog. 

 The most important decision to make is what you want the focus of your blog to be. Blogs could cover many subjects; however, with so many out there, you won’t get viewers if your blog does not have a focus. . You may want to write about your vacations, your knitting,  or the activities of your local PTA, but you have to ask yourself if all of the same people will want to read about those topics. You don’t have to ignore the rest of your life, but your blog should concentrate on one subject.


Related to this is understanding the purpose of the blog. Do you want to get more people in your classes? Is education your focus? Do you want to drive sales? Do you want to build brand recognition? Pick one main objective and one or more to be secondary. Putting too many topics in one blog dilutes its value and keeps readers away.


Once you know what you want your blog to be about, there are two important things to consider: your platform and your theme. The platform is the basic software that you use to build your blog. It’s what allows you to create this complex edifice without knowing how to program. There are many platforms to choose from, many of which are free. One of the most common platforms is WordPress. There are thousands of themes and tools for it, and there are people you can hire to help you with it if you are unfamiliar


WordPress exists in two forms. The first form is where WordPress itself hosts the website, while the second form is where you run the website on servers from a hosting provider. Both use the same software. There are many books, videos, and websites that will help you set this up. Google also offers popular platforms for blogs. Google's Blogger, a free publishing platform, allows you to publish a blog within your custom website, while Google's Blogspot is an all-in-one free domain service provider. Janet has always used WordPress and she loves it, while Anita uses Blogspot.


The theme is what gives your blog its look. Each platform has a default theme, but there are many others paid and free. You will want to look, test, and learn until you find one you like. Ask your colleagues and friends to look at it.


Another area where blogs can fail is in its accessibility. If your blog isn’t accessible, you won’t have as many people reading it.


Often website templates come with blog pages. You may decide to use one,  but the only problem is that it may not work with the blog-reading software many individuals use. Additionally, it may not give unique URLs to each post, or it may not allow people to subscribe in a simple way.  Any of these problems can wreck your blog. As a new blog, you want to make it easy for people to follow you and to read what you say.


Another part of making the blog accessible is the numerous little things that can make it easier to read. Some of these are:

  • Have titles for every post. People don’t want to read a long URL instead of words they can remember.
  • Use tags and categories so readers can find what they want. These tools make it easier for your readers to find the content they want and for them to see you as the source for authoritative info. As your blog grows, it also helps you find older posts to cross-reference or to give to customers.
  •  Always use dark type on a light background. You may want to be cool and white on black is supposed to be that, but it significantly reduces readability for everyone -- young and old.
  • Use vivid pictures and working links. Both of these make your blog more attractive and will keep people reading.
  • Use subheadings, bold type, captions, and lists. All of these make your blog easier to read and make it more attractive to the hurried reader.
  • Don’t neglect copyright. Image stealing on the Internet is common, but that doesn’t make it right Always give information about the source, even if it’s “unknown” or “public domain.” It sets you up as a good Internet citizen.
  • Remember the mobile user. When you are looking at themes, you may see some labeled “responsive.” This means they adjust so they can be seen on cell phones. As more people search the web on their phones, having this capability is important. Test your theme by looking at it on a phone. If it isn’t responsive, pick a different theme.
  • Add a Call to Action (CTA) subscriber check box. This is one of the first ways to grow your reader base, according to HubSpot.


About the Authors

Janet M. Perry is a needlepoint educator, creating print books, ebooks, on-line classes, stitch guides, and blogs that provide great information for stitchers at all levels. She has 13 books in print currently including Bargello Revisited, the most comprehensive Bargello book in print. Her Nuts about Needlepoint blog,, is the leading needlepoint blog. Her Needlepoint News blog provides news to all stitchers. She welcomes folks to contact her (and contribute news) at 


Anita Mumm Wheeless has been a member of TNNA since 2012 and has been certified as a knitting instructor by the Craft Yarn Council.  A former newspaper writer/editor, she designs knitting patterns for toys and novelties. Leisure Arts published her book, “Storybook Dolls to Knit” in 2011. Her patterns are also featured on, and You can find her on and Love Knitting. She maintains a website: and a blog: Connect with Anita on Twitter @AnitaPatternBox or by email:


Tags:  Business tips  education  Social media  tips  TNNANews 

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Ask Social: To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 29, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ask Social: To Tweet or Not to Tweet

By Vickie Howell and Mari Chiba Luke

Welcome to Ask Social, an advice column for TNNA members aimed to demystify social media practices and strategy. In every issue, we answer questions from store owners, manufacturers, designers, teachers and bloggers about simple and effective ways to use new media to influence their businesses.

Dear Ask Social, 

I signed up for a Twitter account ages ago, and I just never post to it, because what can I say of value in 140 characters or less? Is this a channel I need to be spending time on? I'm just not sure what I should be posting on Twitter, or how important it is, when there are so many things I need to do to promote my business. 

- Clever Name

Dear Clever Name, 

I have good news; you don't need to add Twitter to your task of daily to-dos. The reality is,  our crafty demographic spends more time on other channels. Sure, there are knitters, spinners, and stitchers of all sorts on Twitter, but there might still be a few on Myspace too. As a small business, you need to focus on the channels where you're going to get the best bang for your buck, and  odds are, that isn't on Twitter. Twitter is predominantly male (22 percent of males online use Twitter, while 15 percent of females online use the platform), and the largest segment of Twitter users are 18-29. Furthermore, the average Twitter user spends 2.7 minutes per day on the platform, whereas Facebook users spend 20 minutes or more a day on the platform. 

That being said you could use IFTTT or another automation app that automatically exports your posts from other channels directly to Twitter, so that your feed still has fresh content. We recommend connecting your Instagram feed directly to Twitter, and if you can train yourself to write a short intro, then include a hashtag or two, and then the rest of your caption, you can get a post that also looks great on Twitter without any extra work. Bonus: Since Instagram also clips your captions, they will make more sense on Instagram, too. 

We do recommend that you check in on Twitter regularly (once a week or so) to make sure that people aren't trying to reach you there. Twitter seems to be a favorite platform for people with a complaint, so monitoring the channel for feedback and responding quickly will help you provide the best customer service. 


 Dear Ask Social,

As a relatively new knitwear designer trying to make a name for myself, I’m having a hard time balancing my design work with what I think I should be doing on social media. Other than a blog, how important is it that I have a presence on all of the prominent platforms? I want to be taken seriously by publishers and yarn companies, but I also want to maintain my sanity. Help!



Dear Overwhelmed,

First off, know that you’re not alone. Shop owners, yarn companies, and freelancers alike struggle with keeping all of the plates — involved in both running their businesses and promoting it — spinning.

Secondly, although in the digital age it is very important that you do have some social media visibility, it isn’t crucial that you are on ALL of the major platforms. Social media is the new portfolio, so publishers and yarn companies looking for designers go straight to the web as a source of confirming experience, talent and legitimacy. Because of that, we recommend that rather than spreading yourself thin by having a mediocre presence on several platforms, you instead work towards strong, well-thought-out campaigns on a couple. Digital marketing is a numbers game, and a perspective creative director or editor for company X will be much more impressed if you have 3,000, truly engaged followers on two platforms rather, than only 500 followers on five.

Lastly, as a designer, visuals are key. We recommend putting your efforts into a beautifully curated Instagram feed, including a mixture of your finished designs, styled shots of your works-in-progress, and perhaps some lifestyle or inspirational photos that exude your aesthetic. Most importantly, though is that the photography for your main stream is Instagram-worthy meaning, clear, well-lit, and styled, if appropriate. Fortunately, thanks to the ever-improving smartphone cameras and a plethora of photo editing apps out there, getting a strong snap isn’t difficult. We recommend using the A Color Story App (available in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play) to amp up your images. With over 100 filters, 40 effects, and 20 tools, it’s an invaluable asset at an affordable price (around $10.)

Designers are also often teachers of one form or another, so a place to interact with your community authentically, and in a less calculated manner, is Facebook. The ability to share info, give updates, broadcast live, and upload video tutorials is key to creating a community. Varying content is important, as is not only uploading native content but also sharing other people’s content. To quote marketing guru, Guy Kawasaki, “If you’re not sharing other people’s content, then you’re not following the right people.”

Perspective hirers look to see if you engage with fans of your work, and thusly —in addition to your mad, design skills — bring a dedicated audience to the mix. Your followers then become accessible to that company and therefore increase their promotional reach.

You’ve got this!


Got social media questions? Send them to or leave a comment below!

Ask Social is a collaboration between Vickie Howell (@vickiehowell), executive producer and host of The Knit Show with Vickie Howell (premiered on YouTube, October 2017), and Mari Chiba Luke (@mariknits), business integration manager and design director of Stitchcraft Marketing.

 Vickie Howell      Mari Chiba Luke
    Vickie Howell              Mari Chiba Luke    


Tags:  Ask Social  Business tips  Social media  TNNANews 

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How to Market Yourself as a Designer at the TNNA Summer Trade Show

Posted By TNNA HQ, Friday, June 2, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2017

TNNA Summer Trade Show: How to Market Yourself as a Designer

By Brenda Bourg

Attending your first TNNA show can be very overwhelming, so I've asked three experienced designers for their best advice to new attendees.


All three designers agreed that setting appointments with the top companies you want to meet with are a top priority. Go through the exhibitor list carefully, and make a must-see list and a secondary must-see list. When you set your appointments, be specific about what you would like to meet with them about, such as a proposal for a jacket, sweater, etc. Be sure to keep your meeting brief, 20-30 minutes at the most, unless your contact says they can give you more time when you schedule the appointment. Wear business casual attire with very comfortable shoes  you will be on your feet a lot!


If you are a new or unknown designer, bring a one-page resume that has thumbnail photos of various projects that are representative of your skills. Or even better, if you have a tablet, create a portfolio of your designs. You are more likely to sell your work if they can see visuals of your capabilities.


For more experienced designers, bring photocopies of book covers or designs from magazines to hand out to contacts. Be sure to bring plenty of business cards and give them out. You will also collect a lot of business cards in return write notes on the business cards while on the floor. This will make it easier to remember what was discussed and help with follow-up organization. You may also want to bring a small notebook, pen, and tape or small stapler. This can help organize the business cards.


Don't forget to stop by and thank companies who have given you support in the past. It is a great chance to introduce yourself and put a face with the name. If you are a published author, check to see if your publisher is there and if they offer to do a book signing. Also, if you have a book and one of the yarn suppliers is there, ask if they will display your book. This is a great opportunity to bring in wholesale orders!


If you continue checking back on a busy booth to introduce yourself to no avail, drop a card off and get a card to follow up later. That said, never, ever interrupt a meeting unless someone calls you over. Often, an official meeting looks like a casual conversation. Business relationships can be quickly ruined over this.

Don't ask for materials from a company you've never worked with before. Instead, ask about their supply support for designers' policy. If they offer it to you, then it's fine to accept it.


You do need to work the floor, but make sure to take some breaks, too. Your feet and sanity will thank you! Your first show can, and probably will, be very overwhelming and your brain can be quickly overstimulated.


One of the three designers said it best: "I guess the bottom line is that if you want to be considered a professional, act like one. I think that sums it up."

About the Author

Brenda BourgBrenda Bourgauthor of Fair Isle Tunisian Crochet, is also an editor, writer, spinner, knit and crochet designer for 10 years and counting. She is co-editor for Annie's Talking Crochet Update newsletter – a job she's enjoyed immensely for almost 4 years. Brenda also loves to blog about crafting, encouragement, finding humor and beauty in everyday life on Encouraged by Design.

Tags:  Business tips  Designer  Summer Trade Show  TNNANews 

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