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Stitch Adventure Sale at Dances with Wool

jennifer+Raymond+teachingI’ve talked a little bit about my new partnership with Dances With Wool, a yarn store just outside of Richmond, VA.  I’m super excited to be able to teach at this wonderful, vibrant new store.  It’s been a while since I’ve been able to teach weekly classes, and to develop many of the relationships that I loved when I taught at Woolwinders.

This week we’re running a sale on a particular type of class – our inaugural Stitch Adventure class.  What is Stitch Adventure?  It’s a class that gives you the benefits of a private lesson – flexibility and ability to cover a variety of topics, with the community aspect of a class.

Stitch Adventure classes can be a great way to tackle a new project that you need a little help on.  If you want to be held accountable to finishing a project up, we can do that.  And if you need help picking a project and finding the right yarn, the instructor is right there for you.  Each class you can bring in a new project – it doesn’t matter if it is knitting or crochet, since I can help you with both!

Right now the Stitch Adventure class is discounted 25% off – so sign up before we start on February 1st.  The class with run Wednesdays, Feb 1, 8, 15, 22  7-8 PM.

I’ll see you there!

Progress Report: Tinking Turtle Post Baby

32195098356_fa3b4980bf_bI was once told by a friend that was proficient in email market that you should never acknowledge when you’ve been away from your blog for a while… merely you should continue as you mean to go on, and pick up blogging/tweeting/social networking as if you’d never been away.  But in this case, I think it’s worth a little note.

First a quick general life update: the Turtle household has been moving along at a fairly good clip.  We’ve managed to keep ourselves and our new child fed and alive, and got through the holidays with a minimum of drama.  But everything non-essential has been shunted to the side.

The state of things now looks like this: I’ve been wrapping up the last of my designs that I’ve had under contract, and contemplating how my business is going to pivot with Little Turtle’s needs growing and changing.  I knew, conceptually, that this business was going to change after a child, but the plan was rather vague.  We kept the plan vague on purpose.  I didn’t know what parts of the business I’d be able to work in and which parts I wouldn’t be able to.  Now, with nearly 8 months under our belts, I’ve come to some conclusions.

  1. I want to keep teaching. I love teaching students, and it is much more manageable to work teaching into post-baby life.  I can plan to have a weekend where I teach and Mr. Turtle takes Little Turtle.  I can plan to have every Wednesday night off so I can teach at local venues.  I can plan for fiber festivals and retreats and traveling to other locations.  I have a repertoire of classes, samples and worksheets, and can lean on all the work I’ve done the last couple of years to deliver classes that are great.
  2. I’ll keep up the repair and finishing. I like the challenge of working on different projects, and the repair and finishing provides a steady income, which helps.  I can also work on these projects around Little Turtle.
  3. I’ll be dialing back designing for magazines. I’m discovering that designing, for me, is really really difficult around Little Turtle.  Designing was always one of the things I did better when I had long stretches of times to work – to think out the math of a piece, to draw and sketch out proposals.  I need time to dream and think ahead, and that’s really really difficult to do these days.  My last two designs that I had due after Rebecca were born were really stressful, and I don’t think it’s the best return on investment right now.
  4. Instead, I’ll be working on some designs to support my teaching. I’ve found there are techniques I want to teach where I’ve had a hard time finding a design to teach off of that meets my needs.  Instead of making things work, I’m going to be working on self-publishing some pieces that will support the classes I want to teach.

… And meanwhile, Mr. Turtle will be making sure I blog more.

Looking to Interview & Hire Sample Crocheter

 

If you’re just here for the crafty goodness, this may be a post to skip.  If you’re based in the Richmond, VA area and you’re looking to earn some money with your crocheting skills, I’d love to talk to you.  Here’s the deal.  As you know, about 4 months ago I gave birth to my daughter, and I’m finding that my time for my business has shifted. I’m looking to hire a sample crocheter that would crochet some of my designs for me. These pieces would be featured in magazines such as Interweave Crochet and Annie’s Crochet World. I’d prefer someone in the Richmond area, as there would be times where in-person meetings would be necessary.Raymond_Foundation-Crochet_3

Compensation would be based on yardage used and complexity, to be negotiated on a project-by-project basis. Samples would be retained by either Tinking Turtle or the magazines.

If you’re interested in this collaboration, please contact me with the following information:

  • Examples of previous projects you’ve done and crochet techniques you are familiar with. I’m especially interested if you’ve worked broomstick lace, hairpin lace, Tunisian (AKA afghan) crochet, and other forms of lace.
  • You’d have to be able to meet deadlines with sometimes quick turnarounds. If you can, please give examples of projects you’ve worked on under a deadline, and the time it took you to complete them.
  • Please send me a link to your Ravelry profile or send me photographs of projects you’ve finished.
  • I’m looking for someone who follows directions exactly – this is not the time to take liberties with the pattern. If there’s a problem I’d prefer for you to contact me right away. Clear and prompt communication is key. Attention to detail is very important – mistakes need to be corrected, this is not a project where you can fudge the details.

For the most part, you’d be doing the body of the work and leaving the finishing details to me – I’d be weaving in ends, blocking, seaming and working edgings.

If this is an opportunity you’d be interested in, I’d love to hear from you!  Please email me at info@tinkingturtle.com with the subject line Sample Crocheter.

Unwind Recap

This past weekend a number of wonderful coincidences coalesced into the amazing experience of teaching at Unwind Retreat, 20160430_7695in Blowing Rock, NC.  Friday morning Mr. Turtle and I packed up the car and made our way (leisurely) to Blowing Rock.  We took back roads, ate at a hole-in-the-wall barbeque place (much to Michael’s delight), and pulled into the hotel around 4 in the afternoon.

The trip was not made without nervousness.  I had scheduled the retreat long before we knew that Little Turtle was coming.  One of my first questions to my Midwife was her feeling about us traveling 4-ish weeks before due date: was it feasible, smart, and physically okay?  About a month later I contacted the organizers of Unwind, asking if it’d be OK if I brought Michael with me, and informing them about the situation.  But really, there wasn’t much that we could do – as first-time parents, we had no clue how I’d handle the ending of pregnancy – if I’d have the energy or ability.  But I SO wanted to teach at Unwind – the retreat had an excellent reputation, the location was supposed to be amazing, and I love working with students.

So we made it work.  I prepped as much as I could beforehand.  Michael was coming to take many of the stressors off of me – I could focus on teaching, and not worrying about getting my materials from car to hotel room to classroom.  Having him drive would take much of the physical pressure off.

The weekend itself was amazing.  There’s that moment when you enter a large group of people you don’t know, where you get nervous.  But then I remembered why I love events like this – I may not know every person there, but we had something in common: a deep and abiding love of yarn.  Where the question “What are you working on?” always has an interesting answer.  Where everyone had a “knitting story.”

Nancy and Sue, the organizers of Unwind do an amazing job making the weekend feel intimate and open.  Events are booked with room to “breathe.”  There’s a two-hour break for lunch, another break after the last classes before dinner.  Everyone, even the instructors, have one period where they aren’t teaching/taking a class.  It allows people the time and space to truly Unwind – be that hanging out on the porch knitting, going shopping in town, or taking a nap.

While there are many highlights from the weekend, I thought I’d share just one:

20160430_7707

On Saturday night, Michael and I got to set up a table after dinner to show off projects being done at the classes, sell kits, and give people a sneak peek at some upcoming patterns.  I got to show off a giant replica of my logo that my mother and sister sewed for Little Turtle.

Maternity and Parental Leave III: Informing your Customers

As I mentioned in the last post in what has now become far more of a series than I had imagined, having a well crafted and working plan internally for your business is only half the challenge.  In order to maintain the trust and loyalty of your customers, preparing them for any changes in your business operations is key to ensuring this joyous time is as stress-free as possible for both the new parents and the business owner.

Balloon LogoDepending on your business model, this notification, and how you change your own operations, can vary significantly.  For a retail shop, it could very well be that the day-to-day operations for the casual customers are unaffected.  Perhaps it’s only those specialty orders or specific classes that will take a bit longer to fill or offer.  Alternatively, for a single-performer organization like Tinking Turtle, there are significant changes we needed to let our client base know about.  Specifically, for Classes & Instruction, Jennifer would be unavailable for either contract teaching or private lessons for a period of several months, and for our Finishing and Repair Services, we have already closed project intake and started a waiting list.

In order to ensure sufficient lead time for notification, we believed in  spreading the message about our new schedule and/or services early.  We’ve found that our customers- especially those who are repeat visitors and with whom we have an established relationship – are extremely willing to work with you to adapt to your “new normal”.  Having a child is an exciting time in almost everyone’s life, and framing the communication to reflect this can breed a great amount of good will among everyone your business interacts with.

Because our stakeholder base is fairly varied, we utilized a multi-tiered approach to ensure everyone was informed.  You can never (or almost never) reach every possible individual with whom you interact, so identifying the individuals you need to contact into “buckets” and then tailoring a communication out to each bucket would be a good first step.  For us that consisted of the following:

  • A pair of Blog Posts and an email notification out to our mailing list to notify individuals of the exciting news and potential changes.
  • Updating on our website service pages as early as possible to socialize the new schedule of offerings with individuals
  • Direct Outreach via email or phone call to our key vendor partners including publishers, LYS’s, and Fair, Festival, and Retreat contacts informing them of the changes

Additionally, we’ve tried to be as transparent as possible both through subsequent blog posts (like this series) and in our followup conversations responding to inquiries to keep everyone appraised of our future plans.

This brings everything full circle to where we are today; at this point plans are in place, customers are informed, and now it’s a matter of routine upkeep of the plan until the happy day arrives!

Have any questions about aspects of maternity or parental leave that I haven’t touched on?  Want to see anything more in-depth?  Leave me a note in the comments and maybe it can be the focus of a future installment in this series!

~ Mr. Turtle

 

 

Parental Leave, Repair and Finishing

Sweater repair with guidelines.

Sweater repair with guidelines.

If you’ve been following the blog in the last few weeks, you’ll have noticed Michael is writing a series on Maternity and Parental leave.  You can read Parts 1 & 2, and there’ll be a third part coming out next week.  I’ve been enjoying reading about his perspective as Mr. Turtle.  While Michael and I came to deciding on Tinking Turtle’s policy together, our thought processes in some ways were very different.  I struggled with the day-to-day operations: how is this going to affect myself and the customers?  He thought more about the big picture: how are we going to match our leave policy to our values?  How have others handled parental leave in the industry?

One of the things we were both on the same page about was being transparent to our customers – I want to be clear about why we’re making the choices and decisions we are, with plenty of lead-time to accommodate changes.

As of yesterday, I made the decision to stop accepting submissions for Repair and Finishing until after Little Turtle arrives.  Over the weekend we took a hard look at my workload, due dates, obligations and commitments.  We came to the conclusion that I’m nearly at max capacity for designing, teaching and finishing/repair.

If I’ve accepted your piece and you’ve made arrangements to pick it up with me, you will not be affected.  If I have your piece already, you’ll be getting it back well before the baby comes.  But chances are, anything new that comes my way will have to be tabled until the end of June or the beginning of July.

If you are still interested in finishing or repair, you have a few options.  Right now, I have a signup list to be notified when I begin accepting repair work again (note: if you are on my mailing list, this list is completely separate).  If it is a true knitting or crochet emergency, drop me a note, as I have a very tiny bit of wiggle room for small and contained projects.  And for some types of finishing or repairs, I may have another resource to point you towards.

Got questions about what’s going on?  As always, ask away in the comments or drop me an email.  I always love hearing from customers!

Maternity and Parental Leave II: Crafting a Leave Policy

Last week I took a first stab at exploring how the arrival of Little Turtle impacts our business, and some of the thoughts we have to ensure both the continued success of Tinking Turtle as well as our own personal well-being through a maternity leave policy.

Balloon LogoAs mentioned before, while a policy or leave of any kind isn’t a federal requirement for most LYS’s and other fiberarts business there are many benefits. These can be realized by taking leave herself as well as providing a leave policy for employees.  Some suggested benefits as compiled by the Small Business Administration (which calls providing this type of leave a “smart option” for small businesses) include: positive morale for the for the perspective parent and increased loyalty of all employees. The International Labour Organization goes further in a broad horizontal review of leave policies, and finds that providing a comprehensive and flexible level of leave across all ranges of organizations can lead to positive outcomes including improved worker performance, productivity, and satisfaction.

Implementation of a leave policy can vary differently whether or not you are a retail shop owner, or a provider of fiber arts services with a work-from-home schedule.  According to allBusiness.com, one of the ways small business benefit by being exempt from federal regulations is the ability to tailor broader policies to meet the individual needs of the company’s employees.  With the rise in teleworking, there can be a “tiered” approach to a policy, both as the child’s birth date approaches as well as for employees returning to work after leave.  The only caveat here is that whatever policy is established, it needs to be applied consistently and fairly across all levels of employees. This ensures there is no risk of an employee filing a discrimination lawsuit due to favoritism.  Having such a policy documented and provided to all employees (in a handbook or welcome packet) for businesses with multiple employees is a good way to ensure everyone is aware of the policy and is treated fairly.

Tinking Turtle maternity leave policy

Here’s our maternity leave schedule and policy!

When you have a single employee or are self employed (as in our situation), how to develop a policy means being comfortable with the business closing, taking a break, or going on vacation for a period of time.  With multiple employees, managing the business can be a bit easier, however it very well may mean reduced hours or services depending on the size of the business and the role of the employee, manager, or owner taking leave.

When we began contemplating a maternity leave policy, with Jennifer the sole revenue generating employee, we knew it would involve a period of time where Tinking Turtle would need to suspend most business operations.  While there are some basic administrative tasks that I can perform, I doubt I could stand up to the quality for designing or finishing that our customers expect!

After reviewing the economics in our annual budget for how much time we wanted to provide Jennifer, we developed a policy and schedule that afforded us the balance to allow for personal time with our new arrival as well as not lose business direction and momentum.  For Tinking Turtle, this came to be a gradual reduction of duties preceding the due date, and then a stair-stepped approach with both taking leave immediately after Little Turtle’s birth and then gradually returning to a “new normal” after our determined leave time.

Once we set this policy for ourselves, our next tasks were to communicate this out to our customers and our business partners.  I’ll write more on this aspect in my next post, as keeping everyone who interacts with your business in the loop is key to implementing a successful maternity or paternity leave policy for a small fiberarts business.

~ Mr. Turtle

Maternity and Parental Leave and Small Businesses

Little Turtle with balloon

Little Turtle!

Ah, Babies.  What greater topic can evoke such an array of emotions from new parents and family & friends alike.  In the business world however, babies and pregnancy are often met with a quiet sense of trepidation; just how will having a child affect an employee and their family?  What does maternity or parental leave even mean?

As Jennifer mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we are blessed to be expecting a daughter of our own.  This is an exciting time of change and discovery for us, as we start evaluating how having a child will affect both our personal lives as well as that of this business that we run, Tinking Turtle.  A wide variety of opinions and ideas exist on how Silicon Valley tech-startups consider pregnancy and childbirth, however this culture significantly differs from the fiber-arts world.  I figured I’d take a stab at documenting some of the items we are considering as we go throughout this process.  This will be a journey of exciting new learning for all of us, so please join me as we work our way through the process of putting all of the pieces together to ensure we can have a warm and happy welcome for Little Turtle.

Maternity leave means time to spend with your new additionUnder the defining legislation currently applied towards pregnancy and birth in the workplace, the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, business with less than 50 employees are exempt from any requirements to provide maternity or parental leave, either paid or unpaid.  Just because it’s not required, however, doesn’t mean that there are not benefits both to the business as well as the new mother.  In a small one or two person shop, this is a difficult decision to make; it would involve essentially cutting back or shutting down operations for a period of time.  With a large majority of LYS’s and other related businesses being owned and staffed by women, this is a doubly difficult consideration given the potential amount of time away to be considered.

Here at Tinking Turtle, we’ve begun exploring just how to balance these two competing factors: providing the time through maternity leave to nurture and welcome a Little Turtle into the family, while still being cognizant of the business landscape and relationships to maintain.

Check out our next installment, where I’ll drill down into some of the specifics on how we hope to accomplish this, and our thought process behind some of these decisions.

~ Mr. Turtle

Goals and Resolutions: Tinking Turtle 2015

Now that Christmas has finished, my eye is starting to turn towards the New Year.  While I don’t normally participate in New Year’s resolutions, I do use this time to put together some constructive goals – some for the business, and some personally.

What are some of the things I’m looking to change for the new year?  Well, this last year had a bunch of designing, and a number of tight deadlines.  On the plus side it brought designs such as Boston Ivy, Mercury, Electrostatic Lines, Riverbend and Lucky Hearts, and Stained Glass Rug to name a few.  On the downside, I’m not sure that pace is sustainable.  I’m going to be taking a good look at managing time and making sustainable decisions. On the plus side, I’ve now got over two years of data on how long a design takes me.  On the minus side, I need to figure out how to leverage that data more.

What did I do well in 2015?  Well, I made it to my second TNNA!  I reached 50 patterns published – a major milestone both personally, and on Ravelry!

50 Patterns Published!

50 Patterns Published!

I got to teach several video classes with Interweave, which I’m still super proud and excited about.

As Mr. Turtle and I meet to have our yearly planning meeting, I’m sure we’ll come up with more concrete milestones we want to hit in the next year, and taylor the long-term goals we have already set.  I think it’s important to keep evaluating your goals to make sure they’re attainable and still relevant.  As life, jobs, and careers take us in different directions, the things we strived for at one point may not be the things we’re striving for at another point.

Do you make crafting, crocheting, knitting or other goals for the new year?  How do you make them?  I’d love to hear!

Changes: Pricing and Holiday Deadlines

Repair of a Shetland Lace Shawl

Repair of a Shetland Lace Shawl

It’s getting to be the end of October (where did all the time go?) and that means we’re starting to move into the Holiday season. This is the time of year where the amount of finishing and repair I do nearly triples!

I love doing finishing and repair work – I love being able to help you finish your projects and make them perfect!  I love helping you restore older pieces that have gotten loved on a little too much.

But the reality is that Finishing & Repair are the types of work I can only do so much of in a day before my well runs dry.  It’s also time (and very often space) consuming.  There’s a reason I get so many different large shawls, blankets and other large items to block!  I’m fortunate that Mr. Turtle and I have been able to dedicate a space in the house just for this type of work, and that he’s totally chill with finding a bunch of sweaters and other things drying on the guest bedroom bed.

Repairing a Crochet Blanket

Repairing a Crochet Blanket

What Changed?
Quite a few things have changed since I last changed my pricing-  nearly two years ago now!  And many of these changes have led to me concluding that prices need to increase.

  • I moved, and it became more costly for me to drive to my drop-off/pickup locations.
  • More individuals have opted to mail, and have me mail back, their items.  Postal prices have increased.
  • The type of projects I tend to get have become more complicated: most of my customers like to handle the “smaller items” themselves, and send me the more difficult projects.
  • My volume of projects has increased!  Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m happy about this.  BUT!  The reality is that knitting, crocheting, seaming, blocking, pinning, etc are all hand and arm heavy activities.  I’m relatively young, but I’d hate to find that 5 or 10 years down the road, I’ve given myself a repetitive stress injury.  Because of that, I limit the amount of hand-heavy activities I do during a day, and I make sure I have time to stretch in between.  This means I have a finite amount of time during the day I can devote to finishing and repair.
  • I’ve gotten better. As I practice more and learn more, the quality of my finishing and repair has increased, and I believe that my expertise is worth it!

Frankly, I’ve known I’ve had to raise my prices for nearly 6 months, but the reality of the holidays coming really drove the point home – my prices are not sustainable.

So what does this mean for you, my customer?

  1. Coming Sunday November 1st, my prices will be increasing on Finishing & Repair work.  My hourly rate will increase from $30 to $40.  Many of the categories in my Finishing line of services will also change – some won’t change as much as my hourly rate, and some won’t change at all.  But most things will be increasing by a little.
  2. On Monday November 30th, I will no longer be accepting Rush Service.  This will continue thru January 1st, and then Rush Service will return.  You may still request (and receive!) Express Service. That means if you want to get something finished or repaired before the Christmas Holidays – get it in sooner rather than later.
  3. There will be a new surcharge for oversized items.  Details are still being determined.  But the long and short of it is: I have cats.  I make sure all my finishing stays in places where it won’t get affected by cats.  This is fine for smaller items, but when I need to work on really large things, I have to rearrange my house to create a space where I can work that won’t also have cats laying all over it.  This extra effort needs to be taken into account – otherwise I’m going to get frustrated and grumpy every time I go to work on large items.  I don’t want that to happen.
  4. Note: for any of you that have gotten items to be before the November 1st deadline, don’t worry! Your projects will be charged under the old system.

Got questions about the changes?  As always, you can leave me a comment, or drop me an email, and I’ll be happy to answer them!

Thank you so much for being loyal customers!