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Easing back into the Business

Hello All!27200594310_5a0974d315

I guess it’s been a while, and I thank you all for your patience as I’ve been easing back into the business.

First, a couple of business notes: if you’ve contacted me about finishing or repair work in the last while, you were put on a waiting list.  I’ll be contacting people in the order they were put on the list starting next week.  If you haven’t heard from me by the end of the month, please reach out, as something may have happened.

I’m trying to get back to all the emails by the end of next week, too.  If you haven’t heard from me by then, reach out again, please!


And now onto what everyone really wants to know about: Little Turtle.

Rebecca Belle Raymond was born in our home on June 1st.  We had a smooth, if long labor.  In the following weeks we had family descend upon the household, acting as pinch-hitters so Mr. Turtle and I could catch up on sleep.  God bless 27821484376_3bab44c23dgrandparents!

Now, five weeks later Little Turtle is two pounds heavier.  She’s gone from swimming in our newborn outfits and diapers to busting at the seams.  On a good night we’ll get a four hour stretch of sleep – pure bliss.

When home more often than not she hangs out in one of the many cloth diapers my mother has made for her. I’m so fortunate that I have a seamstress that wants to sew for my child!  I’m beginning to have fun playing with her outfits as she grows out of the few newborn pieces we have and into the plethora of 3-month clothes we have.

As Mr. Turtle will note, right now she’s just beginning to ease out of the boring-potato stage.  Now she’s beginning to smile in response to things around her, and beginning to stay awake for longer periods of time during the day.  She pees like a racehorse, though!

As for the projects I’m working on… I’ve been taking a step to the side to make progress on a number of sewing things.  I have a surprise quilt for someone I can’t talk about yet, and a number of scrappy quilts that I’m hoping to make for beds in the house.  I haven’t touched my yarn in just over a month, and it seems like it was a much-needed break.  Part of it was because Rebecca seemed to suck up all the energy I had for really thinking.  Sewing, especially sewing straight seems like I was doing, was so much more straightforward!

Still, I’ve got a few projects coming up in the next few months, so stay tuned!

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.

Life Updates

 

Feeling Unwell

Feeling Unwell

This last month has been a slew of busy – Mr. Turtle and I moved into the new house, and immediately launched into a countdown culminating with this weekend.

 

Three weekends ago we were in Cleveland visiting good friends for a last hello/hurrah before Tiny Turtle arrives.

Two weekends ago we had a full house – 7 adults and one infant over for my baby shower.  It was a lovely, wonderful, fun filled time, and I have pictures to share!

And this last weekend was my birthday weekend, where we planned on heading to the farm to go strawberry picking and have a relaxing weekend.  Instead, Mr. Turtle and I contracted a plague and spent the entire weekend prostrate and miserable.  It was the type of the miserable where reading was too much effort, and the only thing to do was drink apple-juice and hover between dozing and sleep.

Today I’m thankful to be among the living.  I’m working my way through a mountain of laundry, dishes, and detritus that accumulated over the weekend.  I’m looking at my schedule for this week to choose what can wait and what really must be put first.  I’m allowing myself to take things a little gingerly, and reminding myself it’s perfectly

okay to do so.

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

 

 

Everything’s about Socks

It seems like socks keep popping up in my life lately: specifically my favorite type – wool ones.  So I have two sock stories for you today.

My 2008 boyfriend socks – the only picture I have of them.

Back in 2008, when Mr. Turtle and I were first dating (and probably a little bit before then), I made him a pair of socks.  These were meant to be a luxury pair of socks, something simply so wonderful it would charm and wow him for years to come.  At the time we were both working at summer camps on nearly opposite ends of the country.  He was at Philmont in New Mexico, I was at Chimney Corners Camp, in Western Mass.

In the mountains of New Mexico, nights (even in the summer) can get quite cold.  I made the socks out of thick and sturdy Bulky Alpaca (called Lavish) in a masculine forest green.  And then I sent them off to Michael, with strict instructions to ONLY hand-wash these socks, and never, ever, never put them in the washer or dryer.

Now you think you’d know where this story is going, and you’d be wrong.  Michael was most dutiful, wore them for several nights and discovered how warm they were.  Hand washed them in the sink and hung them on a line to dry.  Basically, he was being a trooper with my gift.

And then he decided that they’d be perfect for a long hike he was going to take on one of his extended time-off periods.  Unfortunately, neither of us was experienced enough to think about the conditions of a hiking boot in relation to wool.  You see, wool felts and shrinks in the presence of three essential things: heat, water, and agitation. (You can actually get felting with two of the elements, but the sweet spot is all three).  Neither of us stopped to think about how hot, how sweaty, and how much friction is inside of a hiking boot.

Forest Green socks, felted

Forest Green socks, felted

He was barely able to pry the socks off his feet when the hike was done.  And when they finished drying, he found there was no elasticity in them: they had permanently shrunk.  He wrote me with chagrin – Michael felt terrible.  And I, reading the letter, smacked myself on the head – of course alpaca, which is even more prone to felting than wool, would make a terrible option for hiking socks.

Fast forward 8 years, and as we’re packing up to move in a few weeks, out comes a pair of socks I’ve never had the opportunity to see in person, after the incident.  I wasn’t even aware that Micahel saved the socks.  So here, in their much smaller glory, is a pair of felted slippers that won’t even fit me.  They’re about as elastic as a block of concrete and less comfortable.  Still, they do bring back memories!


My second story also involves socks, although this part is more of an endorsement.  As I’ve mentioned before: I love wool socks.  They’re what I wear about 80% of the year, when I’m not sporting bare feet.

And every year, like Dumbledore, I ask for wool socks for Christmas.  I almost never get them, even though they end up being the things I probably use the most.  Except for three years ago, when my brother-in-law got me two pairs of Darn Tough Socks.

My replacement Darn Tough Socks

My replacement Darn Tough Socks

If you’ve never heard of these socks, it’s okay, you’re not alone.  I didn’t know about them until that Christmas.  Turns out Darn Tough is a Vermont-based company focused on keeping as much of their process local.  They make the best and sturdiest socks I’ve ever worn.  Including my hand-knit socks.

It’s pretty typical about 2 years into things I have my first thin spots on my handknit socks.  Which is OK: I repair them and then they can keep going. (My oldest pair is going on 8 years, made the same year as Michael’s infamous failed pair of socks.)

My darn tough socks wore out about a month ago, after three years.  There was a very small hole in one sock, and the other was going thin.

Now, I will admit, Darn Tough Socks are pricey – they cost about the same as a nice skein of sock yarn.  But this is the thing: Darn Tough has a lifetime guarantee.  You wear the socks out, and they will replace them for you.  All you have to do is ship them back.

So I did.  And yesterday, I got a new pair back.

Seriously, if you’re looking into really good socks – hiking or normal, Darn Tough has so many options.  There are different heights to the cuff, different amounts of cushion and thickness, and so many different sizes.

I’m wearing a pair right now.

Wearing Wasabi Darn Tough Socks

Wearing Wasabi Darn Tough Socks

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

Snowstorm Projects

It’s grey and overcast.  Every once and awhile I see a stray flake drift down from the sky, and there’s a hushed breath feeling to the air when I stepped outside this morning.  Like any good snow-day or snowstorm, I have on a ratty sweater with penguins on it, and my favorite pair of pajama pants.  Unlike my childhood snow-days, my list is full.  Self-employment (especially when you work from home), means you get to keep working until the power goes out – and sometimes you don’t stop then.

Still, I’m planning on knocking out all my internet things this morning, and curling up with a blanket and my projects this afternoon.  Just in the time I’ve been typing this, the snow’s started to come down harder, and is starting to show up on the walkways.

So what will I be working on as the snow comes down?

Hairpin lace against a table

hairpin lace, looking like some strange creature’s spine

I’ve got a hairpin lace project I’m working on for Piecework – I have to get it off by next week.  I’ve created a lovely swatch, and now need to get cracking on the real piece.  One of the things I love about Hairpin is how it comes together so quickly, once you get the strips done.  I’ll put on an audiobook, and get a good chunk of it done this weekend.

still working on the puppy-chewed blanket

still working on the puppy-chewed blanket

This blanket is turning into the project I can really only work on for two-hours at a time – before my brain needs a rest and my back needs to stop hunching over it.  This too has to be done by the end of next week.  I’ve got one more big hole to fix, one smaller hole, and a bunch of worn places to reinforce.  I’m really happy with how this is working out, and hoping to get a good picture of it when it’s done.  This is logistically a little difficult right now, as our downstairs guest bedroom has become a staging ground for a larger home project, and the upstairs really doesn’t have a good spot.  I’ll figure something out, though.

The final project I don’t have a picture of, but it’s my near full-to-the-top meding bag.  It’s one of the larger bags by erin.lane (seriously good project bags – she doesn’t do anything revolutionary, other than having really cute fabrics, a well-lined bag, and sturdy reinforcing at stress points… but really, isn’t that all you need?), and it’s filled with hand-knit socks that need darning or reinforcing.  I made a dent in them this week, and I’m hoping to make a bigger dent in them, as I’m down to two pairs of handknit socks, and that really isn’t enough.

And now, in the simple 40 minutes I’ve been working on this, the snow has really started to pick up.  We’ve got accumulation on most of the concrete surfaces, and Mr. Turtle’s chomping at the bit to walk into town, get our snowstorm wine and cheese, and take a romantic walk in the snow.  So, I must be off!

What’s your snowstorm project?

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?

Exciting News for Tinking Turtle

Balloon LogoI’ve started this blog post more times than I can count.  I’ve tried for profound, silly, and serious.  I’ve tried imitating other people who have come before, and nothing quite has hit the mark.  So I’m just going to share.

Coming in May 2016, Mr. Turtle and I will be expecting a little turtle.  Yesterday, Michael and I headed to have our first ultrasound, where we found out we’re having a baby girl.  I haven’t even quite wrapped my mind around the gender yet!  Needless to say, Michael, myself, and both sides of our family our terribly excited.

For the last few weeks, we’ve been calling the baby “the Kiwi.”  While we’re in the final rounds of picking out a name, we probably won’t be sharing it until the baby’s born.  We like to keep some things a surprise!  So until then, feel free to call the baby the Kiwi with me.  Who knows, stranger nicknames have happened.

Come May there’ll be a bunch of new changes as we adjust to having a new member of the family.  On Saturday I’ll explain what that’ll mean for Tinking Turtle as a business, and how that will affect you, the customer!

I’m also now accepting suggestions for baby clothes and accessories to knit or crochet.  Priority being things that are practical, and that the baby will be able to wear more than three times.  Is there a particular pattern you love?  Share it with me in the comments!