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TEN Award Winner: Q&A with Stu Berg

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, July 27, 2017
Updated: Thursday, July 27, 2017

TEN Award Winner: Q&A with Stu Berg

The Tribute to Excellence in Needlearts (TEN) Award is given to an individual each year who represents, or has represented, the finest in the needlearts industry and who personifies and upholds TNNA's mission statement. This year, Stu Berg was presented the TEN Award. Read about his decades in the needleart industry.

TNNA: How did you get into the needlearts industry?

 

Stu: I used to be a life insurance salesperson, which I did not like in the slightest. My wife worked for a large company a textile company that owned five or six subsidiaries and Bucilla was one of them. It was a young needlepoint stitchery with a big showroom in NYC at the time. We saw an ad in the paper and I sent a resume. I got the job and transcribed orders for salesmen who were doing business with department stores. Department stores were very involved in the industry at that time. I learned the craft of selling by sitting in a showroom in those early years. Eventually a territory opened up in the Southeast, we moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and I went on the road in the yarn business.

TNNA: How did it progress from there?

Stu: I then transferred to New York and worked for Paragon Needleworks. After that, I received a call for a better deal from Brunswick Worsted Mills and I covered the Northeast territory, including New York for 25 years. I broke a million dollars in sales during that time. Following Brunswick, we moved to Colorado Springs from Long Island to take a vice president role at Pinguoin Yarns. I also began carrying Unique Colors (Collinette) in 2001, Muench Yarns, Prism Yarns in 2009, Malabrigo in 2006 and others. Now I am currently with Trendsetter Yarns, Prism Yarns, Malabrigo Yarns and Knitting Needles Plus.

TNNA: What’s one of the most memorable moments from your career?

Stu: Winning the TEN Award is definitely top of the list. No sales rep has ever won in the past. Other memorable moments include just getting to know owners from all over the world. I do knitting cruises with Trendsetter, and I’ve gotten to know the owners of some mills in Italy. The people I’ve met over the years is the best part. Every day is a possibility of meeting someone new.

TNNA: What was the hardest thing to overcome in terms of the yarn industry throughout your career?

Stu: Being away from my family was always a major challenge over the years. I unfortunately missed things due to traveling, but now if there are major things I am home.

TNNA: Since you have been in the industry for decades, do you have any predictions about where the industry may be heading?

Stu: The online market is huge today, but that’s the frightening part for many owners today. I think yarn shops should have an internet presence even if they have a brick and mortar shop. The industry also always seems to do fabulously when there is a trend like a specific yarn, color or style. Whenever there was a big trend, it always boosted sales. Now, if something exciting is going on in the industry we need to be able to draw the younger generation in. Some yarn shops are not marketing to younger people, but the ones that are more innovative and have different types of styling and displays will come out ahead.  

Tags:  membership  TEN Awards  TNNANews 

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Fashion Forward: Needlearts on the Runway

Posted By TNNA Editor, Thursday, July 27, 2017
Updated: Thursday, July 27, 2017

Fashion Forward: Needlearts on the Runway

By: Ellen Lewis

As part of the fashion industry, couture and ready-to-wear designers and their shows heavily influence the yarn and hand knitting industry. The most recent London show for Autumn/Winter 2017 was an early peek at what will be trending in stores as runway looks trickle down to ready to wear.  

 

Trend 1: Deconstructed Knitwear

Some looks are unlikely to make it to most knitters' needles such as deconstructed knitwear like this three-sleeved sweater from Christopher Kane.

 

This pullover-cardigan hybrid from Burberry available at Saks Fifth Avenue is also an example of something that many needlearts professionals may use only for inspiration.

 

 

Though many of us may not knit these garments, look for designs that feature mismatched button bands, half collars, and asymmetrical styling from the more avant-garde hand-knitting designers.

 

Trend 2: Oversized Knits

Another trends we are likely to see include oversized cozy knits with plenty of ease and generous sleeves.  Acne Studios, Prada, and Chloe, are all showing exaggerated sleeves, dropped shoulders, and thigh-length pullovers.  

        

 

 

Trend 3: Chunky and Textured Fabrics

Another look we're likely to see reflected in yarns available and designs created are chunky fabrics that focus on texture.   Some fashion critics have referred to this style as Soft Armor, with gently padded shoulder lines and thick bold cables, bobble, and honeycomb stitches that create a feeling of safety inside the clothes.  This pink and white pullover from Aldo Martins is a perfect example.

Part of this whole over-sized and heavily textured look is related to Hygge, the Danish concept of getting cozy.  Especially nice for yarn store owners, as these giant garments take lots of yarn, and fit is not an issue!  

 

Trend 4: Sleeves and Peplums

Some of the more subtle trends include bell sleeves and peplums, shown her in a design by Cinq a Sept and Altuzarra.

   

 

What trends in knitwear have you seen on the runways?  Share what you're seeing and how you plan to feature it in your shop with us by posting on Facebook and tagging @TNNAORG.

 


About the Author

Ellen Lewis is the owner of Crazy for Ewe in Leonardtown, Maryland. Ellen opened Crazy for Ewe in 2004 after a career in management consulting for the Department of Defense. She is vice president of her local business association, leading the organization's Mastermind Group, chairing the First Friday Committee, and supporting the Marketing Committee. Ellen has four children and a big fluffy Old English Sheepdog Dorey.  

Tags:  TNNANews  trends 

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Will You Knit That For Me?

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

 Will You Knit That for Me?

By Lee Bernstein

The Needleart Spotlight monthly column will shine a light on various sectors within the needlarts industry including needlepoint, knitting, spinning & weaving and counted thread & embroidery.

In the world of knitters, there are those who think of knitting as a hobby, those who think of knitting as a craft, those who think of knitting as an art, and those who think of knitting as a business.

In the world of non-knitters, the considerations are different. Many people assume knitting is for the meek, elderly, bored, or for those who are too dim to do something significant.

I’ll concede: There are reasons why some non-knitters might feel the way they do. They could have possibly fallen victim to getting a gift from someone who thinks they know how to knit—one of those squeaky-yarn-people who knits miles of irregular garter stitch to produce nothing short of . . .

Well, nothing.

Yes, there are bad knitters. But, there are also engineers who disrespect infrastructure, actors who are worth casting only as bad actors, sculptors who sculpt lumps, writers who don’t know the difference between a comma splice and an apple slice, and sociopaths disguised as business executives and politicians.

However, if you ask a person what she or he does for a living, and she or he replies “I’m a (n) [engineer, actor, sculptor, writer, business executive, or politician],” then people go, “Oooh.” People go all bubbly inside. People go on to assume she or he is brilliant unless proven otherwise.

If someone says, “I’m a knitter,” people go numb.

Unless they want something.

Here’s how it works: A non-knitter falls in love with something that’s hand knit which, all too often, was unearthed in a social media post. The knit is either:

Ridiculous: A hat that looks like a toilet.

Impossible: A barn cozy, knit in lace to illustrate the story of Charlotte’s Web.

Costly and time-consuming: Socks.

Or, it’s crochet.

Take my friend Sophie for example. Over the holidays, she knit a sweater as a gift for her niece. As her niece opened the box, her parents radiated those saccharine grins that only non-knitters can produce. “Oh, well, oh, my gosh! Just look at the sweater Aunt Sophie made. How sweet is that?”

Timeout. Let’s discuss Aunt Sophie. That “sweet” sweater is one of the most beautiful and intricate cable knits you’ll find. It is perfection.

Sophie designed the sweater. Her use of positive and negative ease makes the sweater fit perfectly, and her pattern calls for innovative techniques. Sophie published the pattern and sold an impressive number of copies. She’s even received critical acclaim for it.

This means Sophie is an artist. She is an engineer. She is a sculptor. She is a writer. She is a business woman.

Sophie sells her hand knits at high-end vendor fairs and online.. Her finished pieces are expensive, or at least as much as the market allows. She respects the trade, and while she usually doesn’t get a full return on the knitting time she puts in, she charges enough to make a profit.

Sophie wishes more non-knitters respected her work and she wishes they understood the reason why her prices are high. It doesn’t help when others undercut her by taking a loss on what they knit to sell online, or when they buy mass-produced items and misrepresent them as handmade.

It helps that Sophie’s pattern sales offset making a proper production wage, the amount of which should be . . .

Well, let’s think about it. Whether Sophie knits as a career or as a sideline, what should a person get paid if she’s one of the finest artists, engineers, sculptors, or writers? Whatever the amount, Sophie doesn’t earn it. Some of it is her burden for putting up with it, and she knows it. Yet she fears raising her prices might hinder rather than help.

And then there’s the curse of non-knitters such as her niece, who have fallen in love with a toilet hat and who know Sophie knows how to knit.

“Aunt Sophie, will you knit that for me?”

Sophie loves to knit, but here is what is going through her head:

I don’t want to knit a hat that looks like a toilet, and I have no idea if the pattern is impossible to follow or filled with mistakes. If it is, I’ll need to redesign it, which can be crazy-making and time-consuming.

Yarn is expensive. I don’t like knitting with inferior yarn. It isn’t enjoyable, and I don’t want my name attached to anything but the best.

In addition, I have issues with asking friends and family to pay for my knitting, even if I only ask them to pay for the yarn. HA! They’d choke if they knew how much it costs, and they’d think me a fool for paying it.

Oh, well. Maybe I have enough in my stash to make it, and I’ll not think about the price.

If all goes well, I might finish it in a few weeks, but only if I spend every spare minute on it, which means having to sacrifice knitting something I might have enjoyed or sold. So, not only am I losing time and money on knitting this thing, I’m sacrificing pleasure, income, or both, for every hour I spend.

Oh, am I?

The niece nudges again, “Aunt Sophie, are you listening? WILL YOU KNIT THAT FOR ME?”

A spotlight shines inside Sophie’s head, and as her emotional curtain rises, she becomes the finest actor in the world.

“I’d love to.”

Oh, dear. Now Sophie’s gone and done it. You think she’d learn. You think she’d remember the countless times she said yes to someone, only to swear she wouldn’t do it again. But, deep inside, she can’t resist. She knows that after weeks of what she prays will not be knitting torture, she will produce a treasure—a priceless piece of love. And love is what it’s all about, right?

Well, yeah, whatever. A person also deserves to enjoy knitting every stitch and a person needs to eat. A person should be able to relish her knitting without toilet-loving-non-knitters stinking up the place.

Will Sophie’s work be appreciated? Probably not. After all, in the non-knitting world, knitting is just knitting.

Yet, Sophie knits away. It takes her weeks to re-design and sculpt the hat, and when she hands it to her niece, she cringes as she watches the little love crumple it into a backpack and dash off.

Sophie sighs and asks herself why she even tries. For the next few weeks, every time she thinks about the work she put into that stupid project her heart and stomach duel in a battle to see which one aches the most.

Some people might wonder why a person would feel such remorse after doing nothing more than knitting a novelty. Why indeed. Even Sophie would admit that the resentment she feels is unhealthy and a waste of time.

As Sophie vows to never knit anything for anyone again, there’s a knock on her door. It’s her niece. The little love yanks the hat out of the backpack and holds it out to Sophie, as if to return it, but instead asks, “Aunt Sophie, will you teach me how to knit?”

In an instant, that hat becomes Sophie’s tour de force. Sophie smiles because she knows that teaching her niece how to knit spins the promise of becoming a masterwork to live throughout the generations. This time, there’s no acting involved.

“I’d love to.”

And then, there are those who think of knitting as a miracle. 

 


About the Author

In addition to managing a financial institution, Lee Bernstein loves to knit, design, and write (knittingisglutenfree.com). Her work has appeared in numerous publications. To some, she is best known for having written “I Love You,” the signature song of the children’s television show Barney & Friends, but to those closest to her, she is best known for loving life, family (including pets, of course), friends, and a good laugh. She is an addicted knitter and intends to stay that way. 

Tags:  membership  TNNANews 

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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  business tips  TNNANews 

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Next Steps for Your Blog: Keep Readers Engaged

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

Next Steps for Your Blog: Keep Readers Engaged

By Janet M. Perry and Anita M. Wheeless

You’ve started your blog and successfully pinpointed your audience, but now the challenge is to keep your readers coming back week after week.

 

 Once blog visitors become subscribers by opting in to receive your updates you’ll be able to send notices of your new blog posts via email. There are useful little plugins and apps you can add to your blog to make getting subscribers easy and completely transparent.

     According to the Hubspot.com blog, “... each time you publish a new blog post, it's your subscribers who'll provide you with that initial surge of traffic -- which, in turn, will propel those posts' long-term success. The key to getting more blog traffic (and, eventually, leads and customers) all starts with growing subscribers.”

 

     Are you willing to update your blog regularly on a set schedule? This is the number one reason why blogs die. It sounds so easy, but you need to commit to the process. Your readers will come to expect the updates on certain days and times. If you miss too many of these days they may not come back. This is the blogging version of the cost of finding new customers. To stay on track, set a schedule and keep to it. Update your blog on the same days and, if at all possible, at about the same time. Doing this consistently allows non-subscribers to visit at specific times and see new content. If you really want to target a specific audience, you can use analytics to see what day and time gets the most visitors and post new content at those times. While there’s no hard and fast rule about how often you should update a blog, the Sumall blog suggests posting new material at least twice per week.

     

Another area often overlooked is search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. Being found by search engines is important for your business and your blog. Having titles for each blog post is a good start for SEO, but there are plugins you can install to help you improve SEO for each post. The one Janet uses is called Yoast and it even gives an alert status for every post.

   

 In addition to your blog, posting frequently on a variety of social media networks is another way to connect with potential followers. Many tools and apps are available that actually allow you to schedule various social media posts to become live at the best time of day to reach your audience.

   

 Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the scheduling tools available:


MailChimp.com: With its free automated marketing tools, MailChimp looks like a great place to start. According to the website, “If you have 2,000 or fewer subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month absolutely free. No expiring trial, contract, or credit card required.” To help you build that subscriber base, MailChimp also has built-in sign-up forms for many platforms such as, WordPress, Facebook and Twitter. There are other direct email providers available at many different prices.

 

Buffer.com: From Buffer.com’s description, the free individual plan allows you to connect one type of social account per network. For example, you can connect one Facebook account, one Twitter account, one LinkedIn account, one Google+ account and one Instagram account, posting the same content or customized content on one or each at scheduled times. Connecting with Pinterest requires an upgrade to $10 a month. 

 

Hootsuite: If $19 per month suits your budget, Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts to a variety of social media networks using up to 10 social profiles. Real-time analytics help determine the best time to post.

 

If you’re interested in only scheduling Tweets to your Twitter account, you can do so directly from your Tweet deck. Select “compose Tweet” from the Tweet deck. You simply write your tweet and then click “schedule tweet” to select when you’d like it to post. You can even choose an image to go along with it. 

           

These tools, tips and ideas can help your blog look its best, but the key to keeping your followers is being active. Make it a priority to post the most interesting content you can on a regular basis.

 


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, nuts-about-needlepoint.com, is the leading needlepoint blog. Her Needlepoint News blog provides news to all stitchers. She welcomes folks to contact her (and contribute news) at napaneedlepoint@gmail.com. 

 

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 Knitty.com, Knitpicks.com and Craftstylish.com. You can find her on Ravelry.com and Love Knitting. She maintains a website: thepatternbox.com and a blog: mummble-jummble2.blogspot.com. Connect with Anita on Twitter @AnitaPatternBox or by email: anita@thepatternbox.com.

 

Tags:  business  business tips  TNNANews 

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Best Practices for Productive Conversations

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

Update From Business and Creative Services: Best Practices for Productive Conversations

By Liz Gipson

The TNNA summer show is a wrap! I witnessed many great elevator pitches, clever vendor outreach and the development of new partnerships. I also saw a number of botched attempts at getting vendor support or missed opportunities for creative collaboration. Here are some tips to get the results you are looking for at future shows.

Creative Services Types

 

You are a customer, too. Don't be shy about approaching a vendor with your ideas. The most successful interactions I've witnessed, from being on both sides, is to approach the vendor with some version of this MadLib.

 

Hi, I'm _________________ (name) and I'm a __________________ (blogger, designer, podcaster)

[Hand vendor your card]. I'd love to talk to you about collaborating on a future project. I’m working on _______________________ (elevator pitch for the new project you want to talk to them about) and I think our businesses would be a good fit. Can you tell me what your policies are for product support and what kind of collaborations have been successful for you in the past? What are your marketing goals over the next year?

 

I've seen the word “collaboration” and “businesses” be successful for many people. You are stating that you are interested in mutual benefit and that you think of yourself as a creative business, with business being the operative word. Trade shows are about creating sales. “The ask” is not about you. It is about them. Asking what their biggest challenges are will give you good information about how you can solve problems for them.

 

Track records do matter. If you have successfully worked with another company that resulted in sales, use it as an example. It may take a while to build a few wins. If you are new at this, doing more listening and less talking will help.

 

Don't forget to ask about cash and carry. This new feature of the show has made it easier for Business and Creative Services (BCS) members to buy products at wholesale prices, but that doesn't mean that every product in their booth is cash and carry.

 

Every product someone gives you is a lost sale for a vendor. It may also represent future sales due to exposure, but that is not a guarantee. However, once a sale is lost, it is lost.

 

Attitudes toward product support vary widely. Some companies are willing to give out product freely to anyone they meet, while others need to see you at a show a few times before they will commit to a relationship.

 

Everyone is entitled to run their business as they see fit. Having these conversations with many vendors will help you find your right fit.

 

Aggressiveness is not the same as assertiveness. Be polite. 

 

Vendor Types

 

There are various types of vendors out there. Some folks give out their product to whoever asks, some offer their product at wholesales and others will offer wholesale prices and reimburse after publication. Have written policies or landing pages, stating your policies around product support. Do what works for you and ask your fellow vendors what they do. 

 

Spend some time thinking about the business and creative sectors before you come to the show. Think about what you would most like from a future partnership. Do you want more product reviews, pattern support in a new yarn, help with your social media, content for your platforms, content that tells the story of your business or help promoting a contest or campaign? Be specific.

 

Be ready with hashtags. A quick explanation of a hashtag you want to use will already start generating sales.

Have some small samples that you can give to potential creative partners. The more memorable the better. You want people to post your products on Instagram. 

 

Be sure to ask your contact if they are a member of TNNA— bonus points for being a BCS member. This is also a way to determine the maturity of their business.

 

If they are a BCS member, give them something extra special, and tell potential collaborators that you did so. That way if they are interested in getting product they know that their chances may increase by joining and attending BCS meetings and gatherings.

 

Rudeness never pays dividends. Treat all interactions as if they are a potential sale.

 


About the Author

Smitten by small looms and big plans, Liz Gipson has been coming to TNNA for the past 15 years in search of new ideas and renewed relationships. Liz hosts Yarnworker.com, a popular site for weaving know-how. Her latest book, Handwoven Home, was released earlier this year and she just launched an online weaving school where she hosts weave-alongs and classes. To contact Liz, email worker@yarnworker.com.

Tags:  business  business tips  leadership  TNNANews 

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Summer Trade Show: After the Show

Posted By TNNA Editor, 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:  Summer Trade Show  TNNANews 

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Starting a Blog: Find Your Audience

Posted By TNNA Editor, 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, nuts-about-needlepoint.com, is the leading needlepoint blog. Her Needlepoint News blog provides news to all stitchers. She welcomes folks to contact her (and contribute news) at napaneedlepoint@gmail.com. 

 

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 Knitty.com, Knitpicks.com and Craftstylish.com. You can find her on Ravelry.com and Love Knitting. She maintains a website: thepatternbox.com and a blog: mummble-jummble2.blogspot.com. Connect with Anita on Twitter @AnitaPatternBox or by email: anita@thepatternbox.com.

 

Tags:  business  business tips  TNNANews 

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Ask Social: To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Posted By TNNA Editor, 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!

-Overwhelmed

 

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 astramowski@tnna.org 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  business tips  TNNANews 

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Summer Trade Show: One Attendee's Experience

Posted By TNNA Editor, Thursday, June 15, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Trade Show: One Attendee's Experience

By Joy Macdonell

Stepping foot on a trade show floor is exciting. There is a shared energy as vendors get ready to show off their new products in beautifully curated booths and attendees are prepared to begin a search for new products to introduce to their enthusiastic customers.

Summer is the perfect time of year to gather as a trade organization because fall creative content calendars are being firmed up, retail events are in the planning stages, budgets have been analyzed, and open to buys have been approved!

TNNA returned to Columbus, Ohio for the 2017 NeedleArts Summer Trade Show, where the familiar North Market offers delicious foods and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams can be enjoyed!

#stitchlove by Stitchcraft MarketingOver in the convention center, there were new experiences including Blue Sky Fibers’ booth visitors on Sunday of a llama and two alpacas! The newly conceived TNNA Lounge provided tables and chairs for mini meetups and gatherings. Also located in the lounge area, presented by Stitchcraft Marketing, the #stitchlove wall filled the space with good vibes and warm sentiments from attendees.

The convention kicked off Friday night with the Yarn Group Fashion Show and Sample IT! This year, there were 104 looks presented on the runway from 35 companies and 100 brands. Resourceful, discrete, playful, intense and integral are words used to describe the fashions that hit the catwalk. Silhouettes included dusters, shawls, wraps and ponchos.

This is the year of the sleeve and we were presented a variety, including minimalist sleeves, textured sleeves and, most notably, a garment featuring one long-tapered sleeve and one poncho sleeve. Asymmetry was found in hems and wrap shapes.

Color created movement on the runway. “Let the colors move; let the colors come to life,” the presenter said as solid colors, color gradients and touches of glitter moved in front of our eyes. Sweaters featured yolks with stranded work, cowls, and hoods.

The showstopper was a piece of art named the “Woodland Sweater” by Nicky Epstein. This piece stole the show with a knitted forest scene, appliqued knitted pieces and embroidery. The excitement at the Fashion Show set the mood for the weekend.

There were more than 90 exhibitors on display on the show floor with the majority participating in the “Discover What’s New” area — perfectly placed by registration. If you were early to the show, this was the place to linger and stroll. Each tabletop vignette offered a peek at the newest products on display at the show. This was a must-see destination prior to walking through the show and before leaving — just to make sure you did not miss anything in the show!

An Education Theater, conveniently located on the showroom floor, offered instruction on trend-right topics that included introductions of new tools, explanations of how fleece becomes fiber, and the importance of the fiber value-chain. Instructors included Karin Skacel, Tabbethia Haubold, Trisha Malcolm, Lisa Meyers and Sy Belohlavek. These educational moments were easily accessible by all attendees and provided a great opportunity to rest for a moment while still participating in the show!

The vendors, however, were the stars of the show! Each booth carefully arranged to present an artful display of products. All vendors focused on the attendees and welcomed everyone to touch, feel and explore their goods. Exhibitors provided plenty of literature to share with every type of attendee from the retailer to designers and teachers. The vendors fostered new relationships with open arms. The spirit of the show was led by the exhibitors, and their energy and excitement will continue to contribute to the success and growth of the industry!

 


About the Author

Joy MacdonellJoy Macdonell (www.craftingwithjoy.comis a Creative Blogger and Fiber Consultant. Her job has provided her with lots of great opportunities to teach, including as the host of a television show on the DIY network (Greetings, from DIY) and one on PBS (Crafting at The Spotted Canary). She has also been the guest representative for Martha Stewart Crafts on the Home Shopping Network and has been the education director for the Martha Stewart Crafts brand since it launched in 2007. Prior to starting her career with EK Success Brands in 2001, she and her sister owned the very popular scrapbook store in Fairfax, VA, My Scrapbook Store.

Tags:  Summer Trade Show  TNNANews 

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