Tuesday, January 31, 2012

31:365 And The Dyeing Continues

And the prep for Stitches West continues. I am highly focused on dyeing right now knowing that I have many decisions which lie ahead.  I need to plan the booth layout, potentially design new booth displays and lighting. And of course, figure out the flora which will come along to help make everything be as beautiful as possible. Well, I better get back to sample knitting. Here are some photos of what I dyed today.

I sure hope if you are in the area and planning on attending Stitches West, you stop by our booth! 

Monday, January 30, 2012

30:365 The 30th Day

Oops! I just noticed that this is Day 30, though yesterday's post was also labeled as Day 30. And, that is precisely what today felt like, a very long extension of yesterday. So I left work early and am very gracious to have enough people on staff to do so. And spent a couple hours relaxing, and am now cooking hot chipotle salsa.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

30:365 Busy Bees

Cal Patch came to the shop this weekend to teach pattern drafting. I made a skirt pattern and two dress patterns. I am so excited. She is a great teacher. If you ever have the chance to take a class from Cal, do it!  I can't wait to start sewing my new clothing! My fingers are crossed that she will return to teach more sewing classes.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

26:365 Food P0rn aka Tartine After Hours

Add creativity to high quality ingredients, as they would be known in cooking, or materials, as they would be known in craft and find an endless sources of inspiration. Take that creativity and add it to a new business model and I am sold. Welcome to the boom of pop-up shops and restaurants.

If you have ever visited the Bay Area, or live here, you know that it can be quite expensive to live. Then, throw in the fact that you might be an artist or creative type, wanting to explore the hundreds of possibilities life has to offer, and don't want to commit to just one quite yet. The answer to the above two quandaries is the pop-up. People have begun renting places for just a month, Pop-Up Holidayland, or perhaps once a month for a year, like The Pop-Up General Store, or a restaurant for a night. 

Samin Nosrat is a local chef, writer, and food organizer. She has cooked in many renowned kitchens, including that of Alice Waters. She is a co-founder of The Pop-Up General Store in Oakland. She is now hosting an event called Tartine After Hours, at you guessed it, the famous bakery, Tartine. Yep, this is the place where people line-up around the block to get a loaf of bread, an hour before it is ready to sell. The tricky part about Tartine After Dark, it is hard to get a seat. It's all by luck of the draw, literally, it's by lottery. I entered for 4 seats. And I was chosen! Then, the night before the event, I received an email from the coordinators asking if anyone wanted 2 more seats. Yes please, I'll take them!

The dining room was so packed that we had to enter through the back door.

We were seated in the kitchen where all the action is! Being that everyone at the table were knitters, dyers, business owners, or some combination of, we all eagerly watched as the dinner took shape and happily received each delicious course. I have to say if any of these people were stressed it did not show a bit. Cooking for a large group of people was completely second nature. I was thoroughly impressed.





All the food was delicious. Samin and her crew took such great care of us! I can only hope we get another chance to dine at Tartine After Hours! If you get the chance, go! 

If you don't live in the area, or don't like to dine out, I hope this inspires you to cook something great for you and your friends.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

25:365 Completely Magical

On Feb 19th, we're going to the closing party at SF indiefest. The reason we are going is to attend a screening of Girl Walk All Day and a dance party featuring CHERYL. Girl Walk All Day is a series of short films of a girl dancing through the streets of NY to a mash-up (completely awesome) of songs. Ok, that's all I can say at the moment, because it is too good and I can not justify it with words. Vibrant and happy and alive!

Ok, I am really excited. I just spent the last hour watching Girl Walk All Day - and I LOVE it and highly recommend it. So highly I hope that you stop what you are doing right now. So stop reading this blog post and go watch it. Here's the first chapter:

And if you go to their website, you can watch all 12 chapters. I swear it will make you smile!

I have not been so happy and so utterly enthralled in a very long time - to the point where I finally had to put my deadline knitting down so I could watch every movement.

Alright, so I hope you're back from watching Girl Walk All Day. So, I've never heard of CHERYL and decided to check-out what that is all about. Um, more awesome. Adrienne and I are laughing our asses off, 12:30am! Yeah!

Here's one of my favorite titled Administrative Soul.


Ok, so the two videos aren't exactly photos or my photos. Though they are funny, and they remind me of how wonderful, creative, and silly humans can be! Oh! And I should add - WEIRD!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

24:365 On Big Rock Candy Mountain

Yesterday, upon waking up, I realized that I have a little under a month to get my act together for Stitches West. Every year, I plan a giveaway for the booth. And every year, I have a mini-crisis realizing that prepping for the giveaways takes time, and that I have once again have started late. So have to beg, borrow, and steal time away from other projects to get the giveaway together and ready.

This year, I am doing things a bit different and sharing a both with Romi. Both Romi and I love to set our goals high, very high, and then do everything in our power to meet them, so when she approached me to share a booth, upon instantaneous excitement, it quickly dawned on me - uh-oh, we could work ourselves to bits! Luckily, both of us love creating and working, and are having lots of fun concocting this year's treasures for the booth.

For this year's giveaway, Adrienne and I have made a little illustration of a knitterly woodland scene, where the trees grown ball of yarn, and dachshunds hunt for mushrooms. This illustration will be printed on organic cotton project bags. I can't wait to see them in person!!

Tomorrow I'm going to a pop-up dinner at Tartine and am SO excited. I am hoping to have a good photo to share with you. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 23, 2012

23:365 Indigo Dots

Brand new pink shirt. And brand new indigo dots. Damn! Wish I took the time to wear an apron.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

22:365 Balance

2011 brought me the overwhelming task of running a fiscally healthy business and maintaining creativity and freshness at the dyepots. 

In order for my business to grow, we must have stable base. We need to have our numbers, both inventory and financials, in order to map where we've been and to plan where we're going. Though to be frank, creating the operations in order to capture such information, has been desultory at best.

When I tell you I own a dyeing studio and yarn / fabric shop,  you might think I get to knit and sew a lot. Yes, I do knit and sew for work because samples are needed to sell yarn and fabric. Though most of that work is done once the shop is closed.

A large part of my day, running my crafty textile business, consists of taking inventories, examining cost, and allocating taxes. And if I am not doing those tasks, I am thinking about how I am going to get them done. For the past couple years, in order to expand the business, I had to stay within a strict budget, constricting my colorways to the confines of reproducibility. Questions of price-point, if we use this dye in this quantity, on this base yarn, which will take this much water to rinse, can we stay within the designated price-point? Can we wholesale it at this price-point?

Thinking, thinking, analyzing. Blah. A big ol' case of the blahs. Ok, not that big, I love the dyeing process 80% of the time. You know what would help me love it even more? Creating without having to think of the business side of it. Or at least finding the balance between the two. But isn't that always the way. No matter what you job is.

At my last job, similar to Verb, we manufactured a product and sold it ourselves (v. wholesaling).  There were so many times when we had an idea for a new product, and just to map the production of it through bookkeeping, would kill the project. To make things more complicated the owners of the business were married (do you see a pattern here?), the husband was in charge of product development and sales, and the wife was in charge of the books. Slowly, we would watch the books chomp on the product and the husband would exclaim "This is a sales driven organization!" Meaning that, if you allow the books to rule your business, they can create a bureaucratic nightmare. At some point, as in our case, you have to acknowledge that while we could chase every gram of dye to make sure we are priced correctly, it doesn't mean we should because by doing so we are going to suck all life out of the business.

This year, 2012, I hope the business will continue to grow roots in our new location. And as it does so, I plan to continue creating and perfecting operations around inventory and bookkeeping, of which can be delegated to the Verb staff. This means more time for me with the dyepots, and hopefully a bit more time with myself. I want to be more frivolous, I mean creative, in making new colors which reproducibility is not of question, the quest for color, and a further understanding of natural dyeing process is the focus.  The scales will balance, 50/50 business and creativity. Having an intention is a start, right?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

21:365 Indigo Blue Sky

I'm releasing a new yarn at Stitches West. This is the sample I'm knitting for the booth. If you look closely, you'll see a glass beads. We'll have those in the the booth too. I am very excited about both of these facts.

And now my brain is mush so I must continue knitting. Goodnight!

Friday, January 20, 2012

20.365 Two Funny People

I just uploaded a bunch of photos from my iphone to my computer. These photos span the last year and then some. Going through them gives me a complete case of the giggles.

Last year felt like such a blur, the shop opening, so many new friends, a bunch of other crap thrown in for good measure, and then bang, the year was over. A big reason I wanted to blog this year is so I have something to look back on, something to be present within. Though in blogging and posting a photo every day, one thing I feel particularly vulnerable about is the fact that my photos I post can be grainy and temperamental - well, let's just say they are not as refined as I would like, nor artistic, or poised - that said, doesn't that in its own way capture the feeling of where I'm at in life. Chasing the sun before it sets, grabbing my iphone and snapping a photo (while the fancy camera sits in a bag at my feet), catching a moment in a restaurant. One thing is for certain, the more spaciousness I have to wander, the more the big fancy camera comes out for a visit. I am curious to see as the year goes on how the quality of the photos I post wax and wane in quality. 

The particular photo I uploaded tonight to the blog is on my birthday. I was surrounded by very silly friends whom always make me laugh and create such a light space in my heart. xx.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

19:365 Knitting with Alpaca

This evening, I taught friendly people about knitting with alpaca and alpaca blends. We talked about the animal, the characteristics of the fiber, how it is shorn and milled, the wide amount of natural colors available, and how adding other materials affect the fabric. It seriously amazes me how long I can talk about yarn, and how happy it makes me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

18:365 Good News!

I went to the allergist today and we've ruled out one important thing - I'm not allergic to Cleo! Gotta run and get back to my cuddles with the little snuggle-bug!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

17:365 Itchy!

All year, I've had patches of hives. Some travel, like this one, which a couple months ago, could be found on my elbow (that was fun!). Over the past year they've gone from only 1-2 patches to 5-6. In October, I visited the doctor, and was sent home with special cream. The hives have only gotten worst. So finally this morning, ast the hives climb towards my neck, so sick of scratching, or trying not to scratch them, I called the doctor and received a referral to the allergist. I go tomorrow morning. Hopefully I will get a scratch test so at least I will know what I am not allergic to.

Monday, January 16, 2012

16.365: Chop-Chop

Remember yesterday's post, all that green yarn, hanging so dreamily in the backyard. Well here we are today. This evening, while about to embark on my weekend, I've discovered that some of the wool I've dyed is ruined, so I've chopped it up! It feels so cathartic, when I would like to scream to just chop-chop, take that yarn! For a moment at least, but really, the disappointment, of dyeing it all, 3 dyeing processes, and washing it, drying it, to only at the very end, as we are about to skein it, to discover that it is ruined, and then there's the materials costs. Sigh.

Sometimes I just curse being a natural dyer. Part of my job is to change the pH of the wool from one end of the spectrum to the other, and to not ruin the wool while doing so. The only wool I ever ruin is that which has gone through the superwash process. There are 2 ways of creating superwash, one in which you fill the wool scales with resin, the other where you burn them off. I have a feeling that the wool which has gone through the burning off process finds it very hard to go through steep pH changes. This is a large reason why I would like to dye only upon all natural wool. Though on the other hand, superwash wool takes dye much more saturated, the tones much deeper. Right now, the most popular colors are those that are very rich, jewel tones. These colors are very hard for me as a natural dyer to get on regular wool, especially softer wools like Merino. So for us to keep selling yarn, I dye on superwash, even though it means ruining yarn sometimes, so we just have to keep trying to get it right.

Hey, when pastels become the Big Thing, I'm going to be the most popular girl on the block. Happy too, since I will be working within natural dyes' natural range of colors on wool that has not gone through the superwash process.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

15:365 Green

Winter light on the back patio. Fustic, logwood purple, and indigo.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

14:365 Yelp You

Oh to be a business owner in the era of Yelp.

So, we received a new Yelp review; a new 3 star Yelp review:

i think they dye most of their yarn here.
they have some really nice yarns, found plenty of fingering yarn. sample projects are provided, which is a plus.
downside is that their selection is small, especially the colors that i like and prices are high. havent been greeted by anyone here since my last two visits here.

Hey, 3 stars isn't too bad. It's fair. Too bad I strive for a straight A record. Though if there is one thing my business has taught me, is teaching me, is to accept the lack of control I have, and the fact of the matter is that I must not get bogged down, and to keep reaching, growing, and learning.

In light of this being my year in which I post daily to my blog about being a business owner in the year 2012, I would like to address a few things that this Yelp review states. And my hope, by addressing this is that folks reading this might consider a few things when analyzing, critiquing, and judging businesses especially on Yelp.


1. As a business owner, it helps me to know what you are looking for. The more you can help me understand what you would like, the easier it is for me to purchase those things. For instance, in Anita's review, she states that we don't have a large selection and that we don't carry colors that she likes. Fair enough, though, it would be great to understand what she would like to see - both in terms of size of yarn and color. I specifically reserve a portion of my budget, and choose not to overstock my shop, so I can bring in yarns that customers would like to seem - or to see more of.

There are vendors that have 300+ colors. I do my best to select a range of colors. Though any help you can offer would be great knowledge for me to have. Also, know that we constantly have product on order, so what we have during one person's visit, can be different than another person's visit. We tend to work with hand dyers and the time it takes for them to process an order can be longer than mass manufactured yarn. So sometimes, I will be the first to admit, there can be a lag time between shipments, and the shop can look a bit picked over. Though, I have spent so much time hand selecting yarn, you might be surprised to find a new yarn you've never met and that we have in stock.

2. Our shop has been open 1 year. We have over $100,000 in inventory. We have over 700 bolts of fabric. I have not counted how many skeins of yarn we have, though I will, and I will post the number here. This is a very large amount of stock. This is the 2nd Yelp review, where we have been nicked for a perceived lack of stock.

Here's a quick and dirty lesson in bookkeeping and taxes.

+ You have expenses: things (office supplies, advertising) you spent money on that can be written against your profit.
+ Then there are assets (things you have spent money on, but can not be written against your profit).
+ And then you have your profit (this is what you have made, from what you have sold, on which you must pay taxes).

As far as the government is concerned, inventory is an asset, it is not an expense. We can not write our inventory off against our profit. Because of this fact, at the end of the year, it is possible to show a profit (of which we must pay taxes), but really all of our profit is tied up in inventory. Point being is that then, a business owner, if not careful, does not have enough money to pay taxes, though are customers desire more inventory. It is an insane conundrum. At this point, the business has to look at lines of credit and more than likely create a cycle of debt. Many small business owners who own shops get caught in this cycle. It is extremely unhealthy fiscally. Yet, we have nipping at our heels once again the conditioning of big box selling strategies, tons of inventory to choose from, always new inventory, big sales. I don't mean to sound like a broken record, I just need to express how pervasive this type of conditioning is and how detrimental it is to the health of our society.

I know this kind of thing can be a drag to think about but it's important especially if we want to turn the boat around in this country, recover from this recession, and maintain healthy debt-free businesses.

3. In addition to comparing our shop to a big box store, it is unfair and unrealistic to compare our shop to shops that have been open 9 - 30 years in this area. We simply, for better or worse, can not match that kind of inventory. On one hand, because our store is new, our inventory is new and fresh. A common instance is the shop who has over purchased, and now can not sell their inventory. Now, because of the lesson described above, they have an overvalued inventory, they can't afford to purchase new stock, making their customers unhappy. I tend to be more conservative in our purchasing. I choose not to overbuy. I would like to see how customers respond to a brand of yarn before purchasing a large amount. I would rather have a mid-size selection of yarn with room for growth than be boxed in by old inventory.  Would it be possible to analyze what our shop might bring to the community of fiber, fabric, and yarn shops? A good Yelp review for us, would potentially, and more than likely, mean more business, more profit, and more inventory. I would love to bring you more yarn!

4. When people bring up that Verb is pricey, it would be more helpful to know what kind of pricepoint you are looking for.

Here's how large corporations / companies that manufacture abroad work (Gap, Nike, etc). They manufacture products abroad paying people very little to make them. I once watched a documentary, China Blue, where the Gap was (caught) negotiating with a Chinese factory and wanted to pay 6 cents per pair of jeans, and the factory owner, wanted 7 cents. This figure included the labor and the material. They were literally bargaining over a tenth of a penny. How embarrassing and demeaning. Ok, so then the Gap goes and charges us $69.95. A large part of the profit from the jeans goes into advertising, promotion, and branding. Of course, as the brand strengthens, the more jeans the Gap will sell. The Gap is counting on selling a huge amount of unit sales because that gives that even more bargaining strength at the factory level. The more factory time they reserve, the less chance a competing demin company (Levis) can come in and win the factory's time, in turn, the more able Gap is to undermine that denim company's pricing at full price, and the less they lose when putting their jeans on sale.

While there are only a few yarn companies that could be even closely compared to the above example, it would be a similar scenario. So, yes, there are yarn companies on the market that create (abroad) a less expensive product. In my shop, we specialize in 2 things. Manufacturing our own yarn in North America and supporting other companies who do the same. By creating and supporting products made or at least partially made in North America, we have to abide by labor laws and I can feel somewhat cleared of conscience that no one's life is severely in danger. That said, obviously labor in this country costs much more. When customers choose to shop at Verb, they are choosing to support humans who are living a sustainable lifestyle; they are paid every 2 weeks, they work an 8 hour day / 5 days a week, hopefully they have health insurance. I hope that makes our customers feel good. It certainly makes me feel good.

It takes money to make our product as well as the other products we carry. In comparison to the above example of manufacturing abroad, that kind of mark-up simply does not exist. The price we charge is extremely close - almost stupid close - to the amount of money we charge for a product. It kills me to know about the pricing structure that common American goods go for, and yet people continue to judge us, and others in positions similar to us, as if we are ruthlessly marking up yarn and material. We are simply asking you to pay for what it costs.

The only thing that is going to change the current frustration with our government and big business and to change how we view our spending habits and our conditioning. If you are receiving a product for a price that seems to be too good to be true, it is. Someone somewhere is paying for it - either financially, physically, or emotionally.

To be totally forthcoming, me, and everyone who works at Verb, income-wise make nothing in comparison to those who would be in a similar position to a large corporation, yet it takes the same amount of brain power, intelligence, and hard work. It would be really disappointing to have to close our shop because we have been wrung dry.

Business is a relationship. It is an exchange. With the imposition of big business, box stores, and chains, it is hard to remember that because the exchange of power is very different. But in locally owned businesses, there is give and take on both sides. What can you, as a customer offer, and what can the shop offer you? This is constantly being negotiated, expectations and demands shifting. Please know that we would like to help you as best we can, though know, that we, as in I, am on the other side of the counter, and can, at the end of the day, only offer so much. I physically and emotionally can only offer so much. What makes business exciting, healthy, and creative is the component of relationship, community, and humanity. Life will feel richer when we re-incorporate human-ness, or humane-ness, back into business.

5. On that note, we love to say hello to people and to meet our customers. And we love it when you say hello to us. I grew up in MN, where the law of the land is to greet people. Walking down the street, you say hello. To. every. person. Ok, I am exaggerating. But really, I find it extremely important to greet folks. In this reviewer's case, somehow, on two occasions, we've failed to say hello. We need to try harder. Just know, as I mentioned before, no one who works for Verb is paid equal to the tasks they carry forth, and the amount of work they have to do. They are asked, and pretty much required to: answer the phone, check-in shipments, add new products to Quickbooks, manage inventory, order new products, sign-up people for classes, create the class handout, field tons of questions, handle online orders and customers, process and ship club shipments (the bread and butter of or business), teach classes. Did I mention breathe? The fact that they come to work and are so damn happy and helpful amazes me on a daily basis. If for some reason, they don't say hi to you, please know that I am 100% sure it is not their intention to ignore you or discredit your trip to the shop in any way. If you come to the shop, say hi, the people who work at Verb are so awesome. They love to create and love it that you want to create too.

6. At the end of the day, it's true, we might not be the shop for you. That is why it so important that there are multiple shops in the area with a range of perspectives. I hope that you will support them and in the meantime, I hope to build a healthy business that will earn your respect, offer quality products, and hopefully have you as a customer.


By the way, in China Blue, the Gap won, they paid their 6 cents, and the young female workers were left unpaid. Shop local and know that you are supporting an alive, creative, and real economy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

13.365 a late night dye pot

Yep! 10pm. Verb's having a party and I'm still dyeing.

9-12:365 Building & Re-Building

 This week, I traveled to Nicasio, Inverness, and Point Reyes. While there I helped build a special floor to aid in the composting of indigo leaves. To read more about my adventures in indigo, go here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

8.365 The Great Snuggledown

Sometimes it is really hard to get out of bed. Especially when you sleep next to someone who wears flannel dachshund pants. And the covers are so white and fluffy. And sometimes you need a break. Which is precisely what I am going to take for the next three days. I am going to the country and going wireless - or at least, that's the plan. I will be collecting a photo a day to share with you when I return on Thursday. See you soon!