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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

Atlantic Beach

birds in the sky over the beachIt seems like every year that I’ve know Mr. Turtle, his family goes to Atlantic Beach over Martin Luther King Weekend.  I am told, that once upon a time, the family also went in the summer time, but with adult schedules being what they are, it seems that the off-season is the time we all make it work.

textures in the sand

patterns in the sand at Atlantic Beach

I like Atlantic Beach in the off season. The pace is slow: there is time to spend hours on a puzzle, a book, or a piece of handwork.  The tone has some things in common with the farm: we unplug, play games, and rest.  But there are things about the beach that are different than the farm: most notably, there’s always something to fix or do at the farm.  At the beach it is quiet and lazy.  There is time to bundle up and take long, multiple mile walks along the shoreline.  Most of the time you don’t have to share your space with anyone else; there might be a native with her dog, or a couple walking hand-and-hand, but these events are few and far between.

There’s time to sit on the balcony with binoculars and look for dolphins, fishing vessels, and “german u-boats.”  We look for shells, take artsy beach photographs, and spend time with family.  In the evening we cook in, or go to the Channel Marker, where we eat delicious, delicious seafood.  Seriously, if you’re ever in Emerald Isle, this is the place to go.

swatching in hairpin crochet

swatching in hairpin crochet

I made the choice not to bring anything with a pressing deadline with me, and managed to carve out some time for play – fooling around with shapes and textures and swatching for future things.  Since the pregnancy seems to make me always tired, I’d fall asleep on the couch to the sounds of the family working through a puzzle or playing a game.

I made a small hat as a class sample that’ll be for Kiwi afterward.  I caught up (a little) on my darning, and plotted for my next piece in Piecework.  It was lovely, and quiet and fun.

Me with all my tools, taking over the couch. My big crafting bag at my feet, my tin of stitch markers, my pile of scraps, and my scissors.

Me with all my tools, taking over the couch. My big crafting bag at my feet, my tin of stitch markers, my pile of scraps, and my scissors.

Is there an Atlantic Beach in your life?  A place to unwind and take the time for things you normally don’t get to do?

Pardon our Interruption

As we mentioned last week, Tinking Turtle is in the midst of some pretty major changes.  We are moving the business as well as moving to a new website.  As such, postings and information may be a bit sparse over the next several weeks, but rest assured, we haven’t gone anywhere!  You can refer to our previous post linked above for any FAQs, leave us a comment here, message us on Ravelry (JenniferRaymond), or email us at tinkingturtle@gmail.com!

We’ll keep this post on top during our move.  We’ll post as we are able below, but be sure to get out there and enjoy Spring!

Best,

The Tinking Turtle team.

Grief and Legacy

Last weekend Michael and I made the trip to North Carolina for his grandmother’s funeral.  It was a difficult affair for everyone.  I’d only met his grandmother once in the nearly seven years I’ve known him; which is speaking considering how much time I’ve spent with his other grandmother (nicknamed Oma) and the rest of his family.

Grandma Wilkerson was a difficult woman to be with in the later years of her life.  Bitter over the death of her husband and limited in her willingness to travel, she often made it difficult for people to be around her and reach out.  Michael’s family tended to deal with the situation with a dark humor, and it always made me sad because of the good relationship I have with both of my grandmothers.  It was only at the funeral that I learned of the good things she had done with her life – her involvement in church, the civil rights movement in her community and her organization of programs for the homeless and malnourished.

Sockupied Totem

It’s got me thinking about the legacy that a person leaves behind.  Of my great-grandmother I have stories from my mother and grandmother.  I have crochet and knitted items, collections of old crafting books, and some of the sharpest sewing needles I’ve ever had the fortune to come across.  From one of my grandfathers I have the wooden bookcase he made, from the other a house in Massachusetts and a play kitchen (and many other things).

As for myself, I’d like to believe that I am creating my own heirlooms to pass down to my heirs. I have a lot of knit and crochet items, and I’ve only been at this for a few years.  I have some rather strange bronze masks (those will probably last the longest, if they don’t get destroyed for the bronze).  I have my patterns, many of them floating around on the internet.  I think it’s a good start, even as a wonder what things my heirs will treasure and what things they won’t even remember.

Stitching Travelogue: The Poconos

Michael and I headed up to PA two weekends ago to visit with my parents before Christmas.  Among other things, I decided to drag my family to the nearest Local Yarn Store, mostly out of curiosity.  Mountain Knits & Pearls has one of the best knitting store names I’ve ever come across (and a practically perfect sign to go with it).  They’re located in East Stroudsburg, PA.

I had a hard time getting a good picture of the store without walking into the street, because I brought the wrong camera lens with me.  But the store was easy to find and parking was plentiful (though that might have been for the impending snowstorm).

Inside the store was a welcoming sight of lots of yarn in beautiful wooden shelves.  The walls, a light green color, went well with the overall look.  Light was plentiful and a good bit of it was natural (a priority for me, so I can see if colors are true).

Perhaps the most delightful thing, for Michael at least, was the front window display, which had a toy train running around the tree.

One of the best parts of the store, at least for me, was their bead selection.  You see, Knits and Pearls isn’t just a play on words.  The store carries beads.  Beautiful, beautiful beads.  I had to practically hold myself back – as it’s always so hard for me to find beads in the same place where I’m selecting my yarns.  I do love to put beads on my knitting.

My father, being more than patient.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I must say I might have been a little biased in my evaluation of the store.  You see, they were carrying the most recent issue of Interweave Crochet Accessories, which has my Plaited Hat pattern.  It made me really happy to be able to show a copy to my father, who hadn’t seen the pattern yet.

Still, I’d say that Knits and Pearls had a great selection of magazines.  If you are in the area, you should definitely check them out.

Grandpa Les, and The Joy Of Making Something Yourself

My grandparents’ house, still well taken care of.

The evening before NEFF, my mother picked me up at the train station in Springfield.  “I want to show you the house where I grew up,” she said, “The one your grandfather built.”

My mother had grown up in Springfield before moving, when she was in high school, to Deerfield.  My grandmother still lives in this house, but the last time I’d seen the house my Grandfather, Grandpa Les, had built I’d been much younger.  Since it was only a little bit out of our way, we swung by.

My grandfather, and his side of the family, has always been handy with tools.  For my grandfather that meant he loved to tinker – one of his hobbies was fixing clocks.  He had a fully tricked-out woodshop in the back of his yard that he fashioned himself.  For his sisters, one is a beautiful seamstress (though her eyesight is going now), and the other was handy with anything to do with yarn: knitting, crochet, tatting, rug making, etc.  Their mother, my great grandmother, used to dye her own wool to make rugs in intricate detail.  Going to my Grandfather’s childhood home (my great aunt, the seamstress, lives there still), the attic is a treasure trove of crafting supplies that are a joy to behold.

My grandfather built this rock wall for my
Grandmother’s Garden.  It’s still standing.

When my grandfather wanted to learn a new skill, he got a book.  Or more accurately, books.  When you go to his library in my grandmother’s house, you find books on electricity and wiring (he eventually got his electrician’s licence), plumbing, and carpentry.  My grandfather was an early adopter of the computer, and there’s books on coding and how the internet works (the internet ones make for funny reading, nearly 15 years later).

He loved to take things apart to see how they work.  I see that same quality in myself – I love to learn a new knitting technique, and then fiddle with it until it breaks down.  When I see a knitted sweater or a stitch pattern that I’ve never seen, I will shamelessly look at the inside seams or inspect the use of knits, purls, yarnovers and decreases.

Grandpa Les wouldn’t buy something if he could make it himself – and he could make nearly anything.  Need a rabbit hutch?  He’s got you covered.  His grandaughter wants a play kitchen? Give him two weeks.  I think he really understood the satisfaction of doing something yourself, to take the time to do it right.

I find that same joy in knitting and crochet.  And even though our crafts use different materials, every once and a while, while I’m meditatively working, I’ll think of him.  It makes me happy.

New England Fiber Festival Recap

This is going to be picture-heavy, but it’s worth it!

I spent this last weekend in Springfield, MA.  I was teaching at the Fiber Festival of New England

My grandmother and I, early in the morning before I head to NEFF.

(sometimes called New England Fiber Festival, or NEFF).  I grew up in Massachusetts.  My family lived outside of Boston when I was little, and we often visited family in other parts of the state.  Even when we moved to other states, I returned back to MA for summer camp at Chimney Corners YMCA Camp each summer.  Going to NEFF, in some ways, was a little bit like coming home… especially because I crashed with my grandmother, who lives nearby.  It meant that both my mother and grandmother could send me off on Saturday morning.

NEFF is an incredibly well-run event, and I can say that both as a teacher and the support I received, and as a participant, when I returned on Sunday to browse and network.

NEFF, Classroom Space
I got to NEFF early, so I could check out my classroom. Aren’t they nice?

One of the highlights of the trip was my second class, Hairpin Lace Scarf.  Our group had a bit of some adverse conditions – there was a fashion show and another class with a miked instructor just adjacent, but everyone kept a great attitude.

I had two great experiences happen during the class.  The first was when an old family camp friend walked in (Sue B!) and informed me she was one of my students.  I was so happy and excited to see her – I had not been expecting her to be there!  It took me a moment to recover myself I was so startled, but in a wonderful, wonderful way.

Then, nearly an hour into my class, as we’re making great progress I look up, and in the doorway is my Aunt Sue!  She had stopped in with her sisters to say hello.  It’s thanks to my Aunt Sue that I have the only picture of myself teaching from the weekend.

Tinking Turtle, Teaching, Hairpin Lace
Shot from my Aunt’s Camera-phone, I’m talking about Hairpin Crochet.

Having both camp friends and family stop by was SO incredible.  Living in Washington, DC, I have a wonderful network of people that support me in my endeavors.  Being able to have an opportunity to teach at a venue located so near my family and camp friends meant that my childhood support network could roll out the carpet to support me.

On Sunday I returned to the event with my mother and my best friend (again, from Camp, I’ve known her since we were both 8 years old!), Becca.  Both my mother and Becca coped well as I dragged them from one booth to the next telling them about what I loved.  It’s such a rare opportunity to share with people I love the things I love.

I’ll close out with some pictures of the event, with captions.

Melissa Jean, Buttons, Ceramic, Camera, NEFF
Melissa Jean‘s fabulous buttons, each one signed on the back and absolutely lovely.
Decadent Fibers, Sample, Cap Sleeve Top, Irina Poludenko
A fabulous stall by Decadent Fibers.
Pattern Is #15 Multidirectional Cap Sleeve Top by Irina Poludenko
Felt Pumpkins, Decadent Fibers, November, Fall
Also by Decadent Fibers, these cute pumpkins!

Wandering Wool, Rainbow Yarn, Gradient Skeins
Pretty Gradient Skeins by Wandering Wool.  I kept admiring her stall and samples –
turns out she’s from DC, pretty close to me!
Wandering Wool, Rainbow Yarn, Shawl, Cowl, Samples, NEFF
A few different samples in Wandering Wool‘s Stall.
Alpaca, Mustache, NEFF
This (girl) alpaca looked like she was rocking the mustache for November.

German Angora, Rabbit, Fiber, NEFF
German Angora Rabbit.  Nearly took it home.

Newport and it’s Namesake

I wanted to share this story the day that it happened, but couldn’t, because it would have given things away for Classic Elite, and they like their surprises.  But now that the design is out, I can tell you about it.

I wrote the Newport design nearly ten months ago.  By October, I had put the design out of my mind, and was working on other things.  I got an email from Classic Elite; they needed me to resend my pattern and, by the way, here’s some of the pictures from the photoshoot for the sample.

The pictures, which you can see on Ravelry, or in the previous pictures in my blog, were stunning.  I could hardly contain myself.  I went to call my mother, after forwarding her the email (probably against the rules, as I’m not supposed to make public the details of my design until they publish it, but I thought my mother could be… mum. heh.)  I’d forgotten that my mother and my two grandmothers had taken a trip that weekend TO Newport.

You can’t see it so clearly in any of the pictures used for Newport, but in Bondi, pictured at right, you can see some of the resort/hotels/condos that are typical of the Newport Beaches.  While I didn’t know for certain, I mentioned to my mother and grandmothers that I *thought* they had done the photoshoot in Newport.

I should have known that was dangerous.  Before I could say more, my grandmothers had declared that they were going to look and see if they could find the stretch of beach where the pictures were taken.

My poor mother knows not to protest when my grandmothers go off on a tear.

Me?  I could hardly contain my laughter.  Mostly because had I been with them, I would have been searching the beaches too.

Rosemary’s Hedwig

I realized that I had never gotten pictures of the Christmas gifts I made for everyone up – I had to keep them a secret because well… I wanted them to be a surprise.

Rosemary, my sister, this year got a crochet Hedwig.  I’ll quote my notes from my Ravelry project page directly, because I think it says my thoughts about the project well:

Heavily modified Nelson the Owl from Fresh Stitches, almost so that I wouldn’t call it the same pattern.

Different stitch count on body (made body taller and less squat), different stitch count on head, I didn’t do the color changes, sized up the wings, improvised my own feet so that there were toes, no ears, made eyes slightly different. Basically, only thing not changed was the nose. Changed the colors to reflect a snowy owl, made body white, didn’t do the color changes on the belly, embroidered little “ends of feathers” onto body after crocheting, made an improvised set of feet with bobbles turned inside out. 

I still think Hedwig looks funny without ear tufts, but since snowy owls don’t really have ear tufts, that’s fine. She reads as a snowy owl, so I guess that’s all that is needed.

Rosemary was happy with it, and all told the project probably only took me at most, probably 5 or 6 hours all told.  And that was mostly because I was being fiddly with things, and ripped back a few times to adjust.  I also was fiddly with the seaming, so that took longer.  I still think it came out crooked, but don’t tell my sister that – Rosemary has a “thing” about objects being symmetrical  and I already had to convince her the eyes really WERE the same size.