Black Dog

Just a little outpost on the web for me to ramble, post pix, share ideas, and be a part of the crowd.

Friday, June 27, 2003

More Braggin' on Folks

Much love and thanks to all of you who've sent well wishes over the course of the week. We do deeply appreciate the kind words and support and hope we have half the success you've said we'll have. It's so gratifying to know that we have such a phenomenal community behind us as we move to the next level. And it extends beyond just the client side of the business--one of our MAJOR vendors has expressed their support of the new venture and been very generous with arrangements. And another one shortened the time window for some things with them that we thought wouldn't happen until the first of the year. In talking with a friend this week (HI BARB), I have to concur with her--it's as if everything is coming together to make this happen and that there are so many positive signs that our opening a new retail location is exactly what should be going on. And who am I to question fate?

Time for the bragging....

That is Pam's market squares bag, finished in May. Not only is the bag itself beautiful (Matt helped with the color combination, based on what Pam wanted to see in a finished project). But I have to shout HUZZAH to Pam for the incredible job in the knitting. Here's the fun part--she learned to knit during the month of March (see my archives back then for the details of me teaching knitting in Franklin, IN). And boy, did she ever take to it in a hurry. She made a couple pot holders after the very first class. At the second session, she started a felted bag and a felted hat. Session three saw her starting an afghan. She was hooked! Shortly after that, she started a felted bag from the most recent issue of BHG's Knit It! (which came out great). She started a "block of the month club" at another yarn shop in Indy. Then she came over for a weekend workshop and started the market bag that you see above--entrelac is something few beginners decide to tackle, and she's done a fab job with it. And shortly after that she began some felted clogs, which I saw over the weekend, and they're just beautiful. She's about to embark on two sweaters, and she's shopping for yarn for other sweaters. Yes, she's an addict. But along the way, she's become quite the accomplished knitter! All in about four months. So that's the bragging I had to do..............beware, she's looking at spinning wheels and she and her husband are investigating different breeds of sheep (and a llama) for their land. Now that's my kind of knitter!

Tomorrow brings us C and Teresa and Denise for a day-long dyeing workshop and more. C is coming for the entertainment value (ah, spectator sports in our kitchen), Teresa's dyeing some targhee/mohair yarn, and Denise is going hog-wild with a variety of fibers and textures and color to create her own unique version of a throw on the order of Colinette's Ab-Fab Throw, but at about half the price (she's starting with natural fibers from us and the wonderful folks at Henry's Attic). And Sunday is a regular day, with us being open at noon and nothing specific going on other than open spinning in the living room and deck and knitting happening everywhere else. Sounds like fun! See you there!

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

A Whirlwind of a Life

Long, long ago, in a distant land...........okay, it was just about two years ago.........right before we left Michigan. But that's not important here.......

Matt and I started talking about a fiber arts business in the summer/fall of 2001, as we were leaving Michigan for Indiana (why is another story, altogether, but I won't bore you with that one--trust me on the snooze factor there). We thought it would be cool to own our own local yarn shop (LYS), to work with great people who were making great things and who were great inspiration. But we looked at our business prowess and our bank accounts and laughed. Sure, we both had been crafting for over 30 years, but we had never owned a business (despite my having studied it in undergrad and grad school). We had no slush fund. We had no "white knight" to back us, financially. So we thought it was a dream, and just that. Then we started making and selling finished goods (predominantly felted things) and I taught at a couple nearby LYSs. The finished goods thing grew, and in January of 2002, we placed our first order for yarn from a wholesaler. We ordered about $600 wholesale in yarn and thought we hit the big time. We kept our modest stash in an unused bedroom in our townhouse and thought we could do a bang-up job in making and marketing finished accessories, especially with lower materials costs. And we added a couple more companies to our growing "stash" of business yarns--including a very special sock yarn vendor and another yarn company, both of whom have believed in us and supported us from Day 1 with them (Feburary 2002). And friends saw the room with the growing stash and asked if we would either sell to them from the stash or order things for them, as they had experienced slow ordering service from some other nearby retail sources.

We liked the feeling of helping out other creative folks, of keeping more and more yarn at the house, and of filling a niche that was going unsated, actually. Plus, the felted/knitted finished goods were moving well and I was turning all of the profits from that into more yarn. Ah, to see it back then, with our stacks of Cascade 220 on the floor and some actually up on shelves made with cinder blocks and 1 x 10s. And about 50 hanks of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport "displayed" hanging from a coat tree. LOL. And we added more and more to what we carried, mostly as stuff we could use for finished goods, but that would also sell if folks had the yearn for yarn. All along we knew it would be fun to have a retail location, but we also knew it would be 3-5 years until we could afford it (we had heard rumour of it taking about $35,000 in stock alone to open a smaller shop, plus the costs of leases and deposits and more--if ONLY...bwahaha). A few months later, Matt decided to leverage his web development prowess and up went the electronic side of ThreadBear, in August of 2002. Yes, the website is less than a year old. Hard to believe.................And the arrangement we have at the house right now? It's only been like this since January 2003, actually, when Christy E helped us put up shelving and stock new yarn at the beginning of the year. That was just SIX MONTHS AGO. Wow.

We've toyed with the idea of retail space since last November, when our good buddy Eva suggested we investigate some space for lease in Franklin, IN, just south of Indy. It looked like a good idea, but the 60-minute drive (each way) was prohibitive, especially with winter upon us and it being a rather snowy winter this past year. So we kept everything in the back of our heads, yet the nagging question was We thought long and hard about moving back to the Lansing, MI, area because we have some fantastic friends up there that we miss deeply (Hi Sarah, Ann, Wendy, Cheanne, Sheila, Judith, Jane, Teri, Evelyn, Tony, Ruth, Charlene, and more.....and to Traci, Daphne, LynnH, Krista, and others we "know" but have never met in the flesh). But we wondered how to swing it, with a move, a home to rent, a business space to rent, and not much in our pockets (but lots of yarn!). Well, the decision to go live with a retail site was a quick one, actually. Matt chronicles it on his blog today, but when you put it in a time line, it was VERY short. We mentioned it in passing to Low Helen on the phone on a Monday (June 9th), and she and a friend went out hunting for space immediately--even called us while they were driving around town. On the 11th, we saw the property for the first time, and by the time we hammered out all of the alterations, upgrades, modifications, repairs, and more we'd like to see, we knew we wanted the property by the 20th. So in the space of under ten days, we've decided to take that step off of the cliff, away from regular paychecks and out on our own (a friend described it as being like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, when he steps off of a cliff and has to trust that there's support that will keep him from falling into the abyss.....I've not seen the movie, but that's EXACTLY how I feel).

You want to know how we know this will work for us? We have the best friends on the planet who patronize us, inspire us, motivate us, and support us in any way they possibly can, at all junctures. This includes you, because as I've said, we don't feel like we have just customers--if you purchase from us, you become a friend. If you knit with us at a function, you become a friend. If we help you online or on the phone or in person with a knitting questions, you become a friend. And because of this network of friends, we have what we have today. And what we'll soon have............a quaint retail space with living quarters above, helping to support a thriving fiber arts community that has opened its arms to us and welcomed us quite warmly. And here's proof of this..............behold "Low Helen" in her striking knitted Obi from the fantastic book Simply Knit

You saw the finished project across our infamous swing last week, but I knew you'd want to see Low Helen's beautiful smiling face in a picture taken about three minutes after she finished it one evening (she was supposed to be knitting socks at our monthly sock group, but she opted to finish this). This is why we do what we do. And why we are able to. We work with the best folks on the planet--YOU. I'm not being overly gooshey today, as I'm painfully serious. We constantly reflect on the blessings we have, and the wonderful people that have come into our life at each stage of our growth.

Thanks and more thanks..........more than we can express.