Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010: Yarn Forward

So now for the second half of my yearly yarn review - looking forward!

I have so many designs in my head right now, and lots of ideas on how I'd like to use them this year. Writing this post will actually help me organize my thoughts a bit - thanks for listening :-)

Here is my current lineup of Knitters Brewing Events for the year - subject to modification of course. I like the events to be a suprise when I announce them, so you'll have to wait for the details of each event! The events are really the backbone of the business - they give the online group something fun to work on together, allowing me the enjoyment of virtually interacting with customers on a regular basis. Events also drive new design work, which fuels marketing campaigns, which bring back existing customers, who tell new customers, which grows the business... it's all good.

January/February: Mystery Sock II: Girls Night Out KAL. This knit-along kicked off on January 15, and has been just a ton of fun for the group with over 200 participating! We've just launched Clue 4, so the knitters are rounding their heels and preparing to work their way down the foot. Two more clues to go, and then we'll wrap up this KAL on Valentine's Day with a prize drawing for those knitters who completed at least one sock! The picture on the right is of my prototype pair - and notice how cleverly I've cropped out the view of Clues 5 and 6!

February: Ravelympics. I've organized a team to join in on this Ravelry-wide event that runs concurrently with the Winter Olympics. Knitters have committed to participate in fiber-related events which kick off during the opening ceremony on Feb 12th, and must be completed by the closing ceremony on Feb 28th in order to win a virtual medal. There are events for any type of project that a knitter could possibly want to do - and most events present a challenge for the knitter as they hustle to complete their project (or projects) in the allotted amount of time. I'll personally be entering three events - the most time-consuming of which will be The Designer Biathlon wherein I must go from a swatch to a newly published pattern in 17 days. The other two events are the WIPs-Dancing (wherein I'll complete an unfinished project that I haven't touched in the last month), and the Aerial Unwind (wherein I'm going to enjoy frogging a project that I started in 2001 which has major issues.) Our team uniform will be pajamas and a tiara, and our team power drink has been established as the Lemon Drop. We are SO ready to go!

February: Stitches West is once again coinciding with my end of the month birthday, and what better way to spend it. Hubby is going to join me in Santa Clara this year, where we'll spend the weekend visiting local wineries and other fun spots. Prior to the weekend, however, I'll be enjoying the Stitches Market on Thursday Night, taking a dying class on intentional patterning all day Friday, and hopefully will be having a cocktail with some customers for happy hour on Friday night!

March/April: Anniversary KAL. March marks the first anniversary for Knitters Brewing, so I've been brewing up a special celebratory sock pattern to launch for an anniversary KAL. Stay tuned for more details mid-February!

May/June: Summer Themed KAL. If all goes well with the design I have planned to complete during the Ravelympics, it should be a great one for a summer-themed KAL. This one will be toe-up - we haven't done on of those in a while!

August/September: Travel Themed KAL. I'm flattered to share that I was asked to design a project for another Ravelry group, the theme for which is inspired by the culture of a country outside the US. This design should lend itself to a fun travel-themed KAL for the Fall.

October: Socktoberfest Event. Last year we had a fun mini-sock exchange during Socktober, which brought 72 knitters from several countries together. This year I have a new idea which should be fun and challenging for the participants!

November/December: Holiday Gift KAL. For the final event of the year, I'd like to offer a project or two that would be fun to work on, and great to give as gifts when they are finished!

Some other concepts I'd like to work into the year are:
Charity Projects: I'd like to support some charities this year, and have already helped out two libraries by donating yarn for fundraising raffles and silent auctions. I think the Socktoberfest event is a great opportunity to raise funds for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I need to figure out how to work that into the planning.
Guest Designers: I see this year being heavy on the "work knitting" and light on "personal knitting". This doesn't bother me too much (it's still all knitting after all!), but I do need to move toward a little more of a balance between the two. Consequently, in the next month or two I'll be putting out a call for Guest Designers to help build our pattern and kit library!

New Colors: Always a fun part of the business!

These last three items are on the "maybe list"...

Implement new business operating software: This will just depend on how the year goes. In my former corporate life, my area of specialty was implementing systems to manage production, so I know what's involved, and will likely put it off as long as I can ;-)
Expand staff: Again this will depend on how the year goes, but I've already started researching the paths so I'm ready to pull the trigger when it's time.
Self-published book: Just a whim... we'll see!

So now we have my plan in writing for the year. Next January we'll look back and see how I did!

Friday, January 15, 2010

2009 Knitting Wrap and Turn

Wow! What a year 2009 was for my creative side and my career. I've been excited about carving out some time to write this post for the last two weeks. I just love looking back over a year to see what I accomplished and learned. Too often, I don't take time to appreciate things as they happen, so I take great fulfillment from this once-a-year tradition of mine to put together a summary.

Let's start with the Knitting Category, shall we!

In 2009, I worked on 22 projects, finishing 20 of them. Thirteen of them were my own designs as noted below:

5 sweaters, 3 of which I designed (and one of which is still WIP)
7 pair of socks, 6 of which I designed and published - one was a gift
3 pair of felted slippers - all gifts
1 scarf which I designed
2 pair of gloves which I designed - one was a gift
1 lace shawl which is still WIP (and may be at this time next year, too!)
1 stuffed kitty toy - a gift
1 pair of piggy mittens - a gift
and of course, 1 dishcloth which I designed. You have to have at least one dishcloth on your list!

On a side note, I also whipped out my ancient sewing machine this year and made a few quilted project bags for my knitting friends - that was a fun little diversion :-)

The highlights of this list would have to be:

  • The Piggy Mittens... I just love making things for my little niece. Here she is demonstrating what conversationalists they are!

  • Winning the Mens' Sock division of the XRX Think Outside the Sox contest in February! Fortunately the man who owns Universal Yarn Co. had a sense of humor about my compass-fitted sock for men who won't stop to ask directions. Two of my designs will be published in a new XRX book which is supposed to be released in April of this year. I think this contest is what gave me the confidence to move forward with the next topic...
A New Business!

The reason I didn't knit more, was that most of my time was spent opening and running my new business, Knitters Brewing Company. Preparations that began in December 2008 culminated in the business launch in March of this year. The long hours spent working on the business have been rewarded many times over by overwhelmingly positive feedback from a fantastic group of customers who visit again and again - and tell their friends!

Our Ravelry group has grown from 0 to 1000 members since March (!), and I can hardly put into words the way the group has become a second home to me. The members are a lovely collection of warm and talented knitters, who are super friendly, helpful, and supportive for me and for each other. I have learned many great tips through our group, had a ton of laughs, and have also gotten great satisfaction from the opportunity to exercise my "teaching gene" through various group projects.

Highlights from the business year (aside from opening and having a great online group!) include:
  • 4 Knit-Alongs which were managed though the Ravelry group. These included the first Mystery Sock KAL, which was tons of fun. We've just kicked off Mystery Sock II today with over 200 participants - more on that in another post!

  • A Mini-Sock Swap to commemmorate Socktoberfest, which brought together 72 knitters from around the world to ship little sock presents to each other.

  • The first (of many, I hope) successful business collaborations with outside designers. Our Knittin' Safari KAL sock was cleverly designed by Kelie, and it gave well over 100 knitters a great jungle knitting adventure last summer. As I can't possibly keep up with production and creative business needs all by myself, I plan to solicite more design partnerships for 2010, and soon!

  • A relatively quick, and hopefully not too noticeable, recovery from a complete computer melt-down mid-August. Thank god for the Geek Squad is all I can say, and yes, I've learned my lesson about backing up files!

  • The initiation of shipping to international customers via our Etsy site. Took some experimentation, but I finally found a way to work around the main website's lack of ability to provide $5 flat rate shipping for US customers AND international shipping at the same time.

  • and not of least importance... a financially successful first year that I look forward to growing! My biggest business success motivator is that I don't want to have to re-enter the corporate biotech world!

What I've Learned:
- As for knitting, the Estonian Cast On and Mosaic Knitting are new techniques this year.
- As for dying, there has been tons of "learning by fire" along the way. The processes I've developed are robust and efficient - yay!
- How to post video on YouTube. That has been a great educational tool for the KAL projects. It's so much easier to show people new stitches than it is to write about them. Hubby made a great cameraman over the year :-)
- Enough html code to be a complete hack - but I get things posted on the website!
- I'll probably never make another lace weight silk shawl.

And some other cool stuff:

I must give HUGE kudos to my hubby. He has been so supportive of the new business and all the time and focus that I put into it. Not once has he ever questioned any of the wacky things I do related to this business, and his knitting jargon is really getting quite good! He's proud of my accomplishments, and that's a wonderful feeling! He recently received his first pair of hand-knit socks, and started to notice right away why people like them so much.

I learned to play Rock Band, and through the game have became great friends with my band, The Hotties. I so enjoy having this new local group of women to knit and play with, and am continually thankful for them all! Rock Band is so addicting! Santa Hubby brought us a Wii for Christmas, so I imagine the instruments will be finding their way into my Best Buy shopping cart in the near future :-)

We successfully dieted! Talk about a great team effort between the hubby and me - wow! We started on October 1st with the South Beach diet, and there was no looking back. Hubby has lost almost 25 lbs, and is getting close to his goal. I lost over 10 lbs, and achieved my goal in spite of a complete lack of exercise and all the holiday cheating I did. We both believe that one of the main success drivers is that we have become much more aware of our eating, and about food in general. We can both be caught reading labels on food products now! We still enjoy an occasional "no diet" day here and there, but now we know how to plan for it, and how to make good food decisions in our daily routine. I don't think I can count how many omelets I've made since October! I just purchased Wii Fit and it says my Wii Fit Age is 32, so I think I'm doing OK.

So thanks to everyone for their support this year - I look forward to a fun and creative 2010! My next post will be the other half of this annual tradition - looking forward.