Friday, January 27, 2012

Apple Yarns order

I'm in the middle of a series of wholesale orders right now, and here's the latest.

Apple Yarns - Jan 2012 order

Click on the photo for a link to my Flickr, where you can see colorway names. This order's for Apple Yarns, here in Bellingham.

In this order, my favorite was Sleeping Bear with Turquoise. This is a very old colorway--I dyed it for Apple Yarns right before the holidays, and it was so popular that she asked for it again. But before that, I can't remember the last time I dyed it. I really like how it came out this time; I'll have to put it back into my regular lineup. Sorry about the flash; it was a little less glare-y in Lightroom.

Sleeping Bear with Turquoise

And this was the runner-up, Mercado. Mercado

Next up on the dyeing list: NW Handspun's Madrona order, Pulling at Strings' February sock club, and a secret sock order. I have a busy few weeks ahead of me!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

taxes: the no-whining edition

I filed my state taxes last night. There was no whining. There was minimal confusion and delay. And they're not even due until next Tuesday.

Could it be that I have finally turned a new accounting leaf? Well, not entirely; my good intentions of downloading and categorizing all my PayPal records on a monthly basis didn't really happen. But I did enter all my wholesale and fiber show sales as they occurred last year, and that was a huge time savings.

Certainly it helped that I was doing this as a full-time, wage-earning business. Nothing motivates you to properly track income like needing to earn your daily bread.

I'm thinking a little more about buying QuickBooks. I find myself wanting to do sales data analysis that would be pretty cumbersome and time-intensive with my current spreadsheet setup. I've asked around and a lot of people think that it's too much program for a business at my scale. I also asked an accountant friend, who loves it. And QB integrates with the Washington Dept of Revenue's sales tax filing requirements (DOR has a database plug-in for QB). That alone might make it worthwhile, if QB has the capacity to tap into the state's GIS database; sorting out my in-state transactions and manually looking up location codes takes me quite a while. If I still have to manually look up the rate by street address, it won't really help, though.

Washington is one of the states participating in streamlined sales tax efforts. This is a multi-state attempt to collect sales tax from out-of-state businesses; so far, two-thirds have signed on, with 24 states that have already switched over to destination-based sales tax. States are losing a huge amount of revenue because of the growth of online sales, which has led in part to the dire financial straits that most of them are currently facing. Because Washington doesn't have an income tax, it's feeling a particular crunch from the decline in sales tax revenues. I have a lot of sympathy for the state budget people; many services that aren't mandated by federal or state law have been cut to the bone. People are getting kicked out of the state health insurance program (which has really stringent requirements; when I first moved to the state and was making $10/hour working part-time, I didn't qualify for any subsidies. But my experience with individual health insurance and my sheer outrage over premiums is a whole other story).

Anyway. The United States is moving towards collecting sales tax for all online sales. I had a horrible no good very bad six-month ordeal with the Illinois Dept of Revenue last year, rectified only after I fired off an email to the agency director (lesson reinforced, girls and boys: always go straight to the top), who to his credit, responded to my message at 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night and got it worked out for me in one business day. But if that experience was anything like what I can expect to endure after streamlined sales tax goes into effect, I might be rethinking how I sell yarn.

Monday, January 16, 2012

finding true bromance

Valentine's Day is coming up, so naturally a young dyer's fancy turns to thoughts of ... bromance. At Universal Mama, our theme this month is famous couples, and instead of doing Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, or Romeo and Juliet, I wanted to do something just a little off-kilter.

Over the past year, I've listened to all of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series (sometimes called the Master and Commander series), read by the marvelous Simon Vance. So when I started thinking about bromance, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin were the first to come to mind.

Meet Aubrey--he is a blend of sea greens and blue, with accents of navy (he's a captain in the Royal Navy) and gold (he's nicknamed Goldilocks, or you can prefer to think of it as a stand-in for prize money if you prefer):


And this is my take on Maturin. He was a bit harder to pin down, but I finally decided on this combination of black, charcoal, dusty and earthy browns, and the pale turquoise of the blue-footed booby, his favorite bird:


I've also recently been rereading the Sherlock Holmes stories and books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I watched Sherlock: Season One, a fantastic miniseries produced by the BBC, and it sparked my interest in the stories again. I like the BBC's Watson so much more than the one in the stories, who is really rather dim and more of a narrative device than a believable character. BBC Watson doesn't just let Sherlock's condescension pass (or not always, anyway), and his thirst for action makes him the perfect companion. Love this series, can't wait for Season 2 to get to the US.

This is Holmes--a brooding semi-solid of dusky blue and charcoal:


Watson echoes the same blues and greys, but the addition of several shades of brown and silver makes him a little warmer and more approachable:


It surprised me that Watson and Maturin would be somewhat similar. Watson's more like Aubrey--never mind maneuvers, just go straight at 'em. I thought about substituting a different color for the blue-footed booby in Maturin--I might play around with that a bit more.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

show roundup: Distaff, OFFF, Rhinebeck

Yesterday was NWRSA's St. Distaff's Day spin-in. No icy roads this year, so there were nearly twice as many spinners as in 2011--a guild member told me that there were 275 people who signed in this year, versus last year's 150. As usual with the small events where I've got an hour to set up, I forgot to take photos till pretty late in the day, so I'm afraid I didn't bother at that point. I was cleaned out of Polwarth/silk and silk hankies. I've come to the conclusion that how you display hankies makes a huge difference in how they sell. When I have an outdoor booth, I can't put them out because they fly away, and consequently they just sit there. But lay them out on a table, where people can see the brilliance of the colors, and they all find homes. I'll have to work on that for the outdoor shows.

Mr. Pocket Wheel was there doing tune-ups, so I brought mine and he was able to identify and fix the problem instantly. A very lovely bonus to the show!

It also occurs to me that I never did recaps of Rhinebeck or OFFF, lo these many moons ago. OFFF was so much fun. It has that wonderful atmosphere of camaraderie and fiber cheerfulness that a great show has. Lovely customers, as usual, many of whom came on the recommendations of their friends, which is just so nice.

One of the things I've most enjoyed about being on the show circuit is meeting other vendors, who I usually think of as my co-workers. I find most of them feel the same way--we help one another, share tips, commiserate and celebrate together. At OFFF, I connected with several old vendor friends as well as meeting some new ones, chief among them Bruce of Alana Marketing, my booth neighbor. Bruce used to be one of the co-owners of Lantern Moon, and then recently sold his interest and opened his own import/distribution business. We had a lot of conversations about retailing, working with LYSs, and the administrative/marketing side of running a business. We come at this industry from different angles with interesting intersections. Great stuff--I loved talking with him.

Rhinebeck was fun to attend, and it was great to go to a festival where I wasn't vending so I could actually take classes and see the animals and vendors. I met Ysolda Teague--I didn't realize she'd be there, so it was a happy chance that I was wearing my Vine Yoke cardigan when I walked by her book-signing table.

Vine Yoke detail

We chatted a little while about the pattern--she said that while the results are deceptively simple, it was quite a challenge to write the pattern for various sizes because the garter and lace sections have different gauges. She admired the buttons on the cardigan, which were a lucky find--I think the leafy branches really add the perfect accent. Later on, I found a copy of Little Red in the City (the bookstore hosting her had sold out) and she was able to sign it. Word to the wise, the sticker in the back of the book with the code to download the PDF is a scratch-off, not peel-off sticker. Keep scratching and it will come off--don't just dig at it with a tentative fingernail, peel off the sticker instead, and then have to humbly email Ysolda's assistant with a plea for help.

Rhinebeck was a little overwhelming. I don't mind crowds, but when you can't even get to a booth because you're trapped in the middle of the aisle by a sea of humanity, then it's not my optimal festival experience. I have to think shoplifting would be a huge problem there. One of the reasons I wanted to go was to see if I'd want to vend there in the future. While the exposure would be incredible, and I could cope with the logistics of shipping and the amount of prep work it would take, the sheer number of shoppers would be overwhelming. The vendors who I'd consider comparable to myself looked frenetic--like the overcaffeinated and underslept state that I usually find myself in on the first day of a show, but amped up a million times.

I also paid a visit to the Bosworth booth and picked up a lovely Bosworth Mini spindle. That was really the only place where I got the sense of connection with other knitters/spinners that I usually associate with fiber festivals.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Polar Bear Dip 2012

Yesterday we did the annual Polar Bear Dip in Lake Padden. My husband got it into his head that he wanted to do it, the boy eagerly agreed, and I decided I wasn't going to get left out. We were first-timers, and I was astonished by the number of crazy people in Bellingham who were willing to do this. The parking lots at the lake were filled and cars were parked all along the road--there were probably twice as many people there as on the hottest summer day. This is just a handful of the people who were there.

Some people dressed for the occasion.

It was the low 40s so we waited till 11:59 on the countdown clock to strip down. Then we dashed down to the water. My philosophy was to think as little as possible, so I splashed in till I was deep enough to not belly flop on gravel, and then flung myself in. Then I got the hell out. Husband and boy were still wading slowly out by the time I got back to the towels.

It was kind of ... fun? Did I just say that?

I also managed to finish a shawl--Kleio by Rosemary Hill. Love it, though the knitted-on edging took me as long as the rest of the shawlette. Here it is blocking.

Happy New Year!