Mass Production

I am working on mass production. In preparation for the Handmade Fair in September. I have an aim of ten items every two weeks, with is doable but I have to keep my foot down. This last fortnight I have managed to make eight cushion covers, but I have had a bit of paperwork to do too which has been taking up my time. That was sent off yesterday, and today I refocus on my wooly world.

I have a pile of cushion covers which I have sewn up, with new patterns. I am resisting the temptation to put the cushion pads in until I can take photos at some point today. More pictures to follow.

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Mass Production

Business Planning 

I mentioned in the last blog that I have a mind which is constantly trying to apply logic to this world and failing. I hope with this near constant disappointment by trying to get my life as organised as possible. So I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t done a business plan before. It’s practically on page one of my well thumbed copy of The Handmade Marketplace, my bible and touchstone on my way to becoming a successful small business.

I worked through The Prince’s Trust workbook (which got a mention last time) and do you know what I found? I have been seriously under charging for my cushions. 

In my previous calculations I’d rounded up here, down there, not included Etsy fees, zips, etc, and finally plumped on a price for my cushions that I think people wouldn’t mind paying, rather than what they should be prepared to pay for a quality product.

Doing a business plan made me realised that realistically I was making only £3.00 on each cushion, which was quickly swallowed up if the postage went over what I charged, or if the buyer wanted to return the item.

So now I have to be brave and put my prices up. I will sit at my computer screen and wait for the cries of horror from my followers, but they will hopefully not come. It comes at the right time. I am going to close my Etsy shop for a few weeks to give me a chance to build up stock for The Handmade Fair which I’m attending in September, and when I return there will be new prices and a new business head on my shoulders.

Business Planning 

Jury’s Out

Over the last few days I have been forced to take a break from my day job, my knitting machine and the childcare. I have had to sit in a room with nothing to do but read and write. Have you guessed what I’ve been up to yet (the title is of course a big hint)? That’s right, jury service, ( I of course won’t  mention the case or what went on the deliberation room).

At first it seemed like the most awkward thing that could have happened. I’ve done it before but not recently enough to be excused, I’m in charge of childcare so I had to find cover and because you have no idea how long it will go on, for it it has to be cover you can cancel or extend as you need to (basically my Mum, my Mum is a star and she genuinely enjoys spending time with a snotty toddler). 

If my husband, who hasn’t done it before, had been called he would have been interested, it wouldn’t effected the childcare set up, and it would have improved his commute considerably for a few weeks. Still I can feel my logical, over organising mind searching for order in a situation which is beyond my control. I shall strive for grace to accept the things I cannot change (blimey a bit of my Catholic upbringing floating to the surface there).

So I have decided to spend my time writing a business plan. What? I hear you cry, you should be concentrating on court cases and such like. I assure you I will not be doodling my USP instead of paying attention in court. But there is a lot of sitting around to be done and so I feel must use it constructively if I can. Is this a trait common to most crafters? I suspect it is. 

I have downloaded a guide and a work sheet from The Prince’s Trust website. Which I find is a great source of inspiration and advice for small businesses in the UK. The website is aimed at young people but a lot of its advice applies across age groups.I’ll let you know, in the next post, how I get on. 

I have also been concentrating on improving my photos with a plan to apply for Not On The High Street before the end of the year. Here are some of the results.

Jury’s Out

My Top Five Tips For Machine Knitting

 

  1. If you start producing loops at the edge of your knitting, check you haven’t got your weaving brushes on – and also check your yarn is feeding correctly through the tension mast.
  2. If you drop stitches at the side of your knitting, take the weights off the knitting to prevent it from getting worse. Grab your tools and get those stitches back on the needles anyway you can. To prevent dropping more stitches move your edge weights up more often and hang them a tooth or two over the edge of the material – Also check your yarn is going through the tension mast correctly.
  3. Changing your main colour yarn is a dangerous moment. This is when you are most likely to deposit your nearly finished garment, weights and all on to your feet, so always check the yarn is in the sinker plate holder correctly twice, and then maybe just once more to be sure.
  4. When doing a repetitive task always get a system in place so you are less likely to miss a step. I normally sort the yarn, then the carriage, then the needles.
  5. If you’ve been at it for a while, you’re getting tired and you start to make mistakes, that’s the point at which to go to bed. Never knit tired.

 

I have compiled this list from my own mistakes and from having done it wrong myself soooo many times.

My Top Five Tips For Machine Knitting

Use the Best Materials You Can Afford

I have recently splurged out on some lambs wool from JC Rennie, a British Wool producer. It was a bit more than I would usually spend, but my word was it worth it. I produced my first swatch and I haven’t looked back since. I love this wool, in a very deep and real way.

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I have set up my old Jones KH585 which has an eight button patterning centre rather than the punch card on the Knitmaster 360. Even through it is older and more basic, it works as smooth as a lounge lizard on an ice rink. It makes me smile.

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Combining the JC Rennie Wool and the classic machine makes the experience of knitting a real joy. The wool stands up well to a gentle felt. Because of this, I don’t have to cast on and cast off, I can cut it after it’s been felted and small mistakes are just felted out. The time this saves has made me think I might be able to create a lot of items in the little time that the family work schedule allows and if they are popular than I might be on my way to making my hobby my work.

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It has made me think of a piece of advice I’m sure I read somewhere, ‘use the best material you can afford’. This is very true but I would add, practice of the cheap stuff first, with knitting machines, there’s a lot of mistakes to work through first.

Use the Best Materials You Can Afford

Post 27: Socks

I have a project in mind. I am going to try and make all my family socks for Christmas.

When thinking about this I start to evaluate my family. How related am I to In-laws? Do I count my cousins but not my friends. All of a sudden I find myself being quite ruthless.

This is because I started one pair of sock in January and what with everything else I am up to, and the fact I am a slow knitter, I finished it the second one in at the end of February. At this rate I will only manage 6 pairs in the year, so I have to be quite harsh, Husband, Daughter, Mum, Dad, Sister, and possibly Brother. I say possibly brother because he has big feet, but my daughter is only little so if I have time for both of those, they should balance out.

Apart from my little girl and her tall uncle, everyone will be getting roughly the same sized because we all have fairly uniformly sized feet in our family, which is a bonus.

I am now on to my second pair, the first sock is at the ‘looks a bit like a weird sea monster’ stage. The yarn is ‘Man of steel’ by the very talented The Yarn Tree.

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The pattern is the basic socks pattern from Knitty Gritty : The Next Steps. This is a great book along with its counter part I used it to teach me to knit, and going back to again I still find things I’d love to have a go at.

 

 

 

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Post 26: A Success for the New Year

The coming of the New Year has made think about this blog. I find I have more to say about being a crafter in general than about being a machine knitter specifically so I am going to change the focus to a more general discussion of how my crafting life and business is doing.

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I have been working on my fox pattern which seems to be very popular on my Etsy shop. I am planning a little range which I hope to launch in the next few weeks. This has lead me to think about the business and my success and blunders.

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I think it is fairly usual for someone trying to set up a business to make mistakes. I have made them all; bought expensive wool, duplicated stock I already have, made expensive items there’s no call for and not paid attention to what people really wanted to buy, charged too little and not mentioned it when friends just haven’t paid me. I am finally beginning to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, and have a little bit of success.

I have read a lot of books on the subject of setting up your craft business (I have included a list of some of my favourites at the end of the blog post). They all start by asking you to think about what kind of business you would like to have. They usually start with a little list that looks something like this.

  1. Would you simply like a place to sell what you make and make enough to cover the cost of craft materials?
  2. Would you like to earn enough to go on holiday?
  3. Would you like to give up your day job?
  4. Would you like to employ a bunch of people and become a business genius?

I would say yes to all of the above really, but the first mark is almost always making enough to cover the cost of craft materials, and for the first time, this month I have actually managed to do that.

How did I get to this point? Personally I picked myself up on my sloppy practices,

I am now more targeted when I’m buying wool – I know what I am going to make and how much it will need.

I now have a really clear idea of what is in my craft room and if someone asks me to make them something I will see if I can make it from yarn I already have rather than using it as an excuse to go straight to LoveKnitting or Deramores.

I take notice of what people are favouriting in my Esty store and what search terms are finding my products. The foxes are getting a lot of hits at the moment so I’m running with them.

Finally I am planning ahead in a detailed way, before I was a bit wishy washy and if I got the time to make something –not always easy with a little one – I would make one thing and then try out a few ideas, useful in some ways but it didn’t fill up the Etsy shop. Now I have a plan for each month, with room for changes and specific time for product development.

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Hitting the first milestone on the list is a small victory in some ways, it is only really one month of success but it’s changed me, this is the point at which I think of my hobby as a business, something I can make a success of, this is when it gets serious.

So the drink which I owe my lovely hubby , great family and kind work colleagues for all their support is getting closer to being bought from the profits of my own company, what a lovely thought!

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The Handmade Market Place by Kari Chapin

Grow your Handmade Business by Kari Chapin

Starting an Etsy business for Dummies by Kate Gatski and Kate Shoup

Blogging for Creatives by Robin Houghton

Online Marketing by Hilary Pullen

Make it Happen: the Princes Trust guide to starting your own business.

Post 26: A Success for the New Year