Friday, December 6, 2013

Marketing Makes My Teeth Hurt and Other Stories From Business as a Knitter

Early in retirement, I picked up my knitting needles to make family Christmas gifts. I learned to knit and crochet as a young child, along with embroidery, cross-stitch and sewing. I would have made a good little Victorian girl. I still had my equipment but had to go looking for yarn. I began in craft stores. I had no knowledge of "yarn stores", or the LYS (local yarn store) in knitters lingo. They carried a huge range of mostly artificial fibers, which were a vast improvement on what was available when I was in elementary school. I loaded up and started knitting.

I loved knitting. I could sit for hours working to finish a piece and be ready to start another right after it. The supplies were small and portable, I could keep enough yarn in my house to avoid emergency runs to the craft store, and the knitting motions soothed me and made my pain more tolerable. That was the up side. I knitted and knitted and knitted and finished accessories piled up and I connected my knitting to internet learning and yarn-buying sources and studied my craft and visited every yarn store I could get to, and all was well. I finally opened Turtlefat on the internet, and began selling my wares.

Enter marketing. I was a Girl Scout and sold cookies, and I was a Junior Achievement sales star. In those activities, marketing meant telling your parents and neighbors and friends what you were selling, and they bought some. Usually there was a reciprocal arrangement: I supported your baked sale for the cheer leaders, you bought my JA silk-screened tee. Even early on where my store is established marketing was simple. There just wasn't that much competition. I sold abundantly my first two years, before 10,000 other people decided they needed to join the site. Now, people either stumble over my products doing an exhaustive search for the right yellow hand knit baby sweater, or they go to my store because they are aware of my work.

My idea of marketing is taking my wares to the Chattanooga Public Market on April-November Sundays, chatting with people while they browse, and answering their questions about Turtlefat, knitting in general, a particular product, or the free musical artist of the day. That approach is very dependent on my state of health. I don't think I've attended more than six or seven markets this year, even though I've had excellent volunteer help for the booth set-up chores. So I've looked at alternatives. I placed some items at the Merchants Warehouse in Chattanooga, a fun and easy place to shop, and I've boned up on ways to let people know about my next original alpaca/merino/silk, cabled, lace, ribbed, violet gloves. Sadly, as much as I've read about using social media to get the word out, I'd rather knit a pair of gloves than spend the day photographing them, posting photos, describing them and labeling them.

This year's general decline in health is due to a medication failure, a temporary problem. I've started a new one, so hopefully next year I'll be in shape to go back to the Chattanooga Market and schmooze with my peeps. Meanwhile, I've gotta get on the ball with the photos and words and reminders and all the marketing stuff that makes my teeth ache. I can't even hold still to take a photo without pain, so it takes great resolve to dedicate an hour or two for that task.  Wish I could afford to hire a sky writer and rent one billboard. I think that would do it.

Meanwhile, my feet are up and dough is rising and time ticks on, passing through this spell of lupus flares and the rest of life. It's dark now. Have to put off photos 'til tomorrow. Shucks.


This is me trying on the finished Christmas hat I knit for a friend. She described what she wanted, I worked out a pattern and knitted.

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