Objects in Focus: Wendy Fowler Pottery Yarn Bowls

This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Wendy Fowler Pottery. Opinions and views expressed here are my own. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please email me using the envelope icon on the bottom left of your screen. 

Wendy Fowler handmade yarn bowl

Wendy Fowler handmade yarn bowl

If you've been following me here, on Instagram or Twitter for any period of time you will recognise my yarn bowl. My yarn bowl was my first ever Mother's Day gift and I loved it instantly. I spotted it at Unravel and while I wasn't looking, my mum swooped it up to present to me a few weeks later. I loved it instantly, presenting it with my current sock wip for it to house in all it's splendour. I've used and used this beautiful handmade bowl and snapped it many times to show my current knitting project or yarn obsession. 

I wanted to share a little about Wendy's talent for creating yarn bowls that not only look stunning when holding my current wip on the sideboard but also don't snag. These bowls are high on wow factor, often attracting admiring comments, but they're also totally functional. This is something that pleases me enormously. Tools that make life just a little bit easier and prettier are pretty much perfection in my mind! I pop the cake of yarn inside, thread my working yarn through the hole and it spins along merrily, snag free and stops anything from getting snarled and angry. Calm and pretty knitting- divine!

Wendy creates each unique bowl by hand using stoneware clay before adding a beautiful glaze. I fell in love with the different glaze effects the first time I saw them and blame Wendy for my growing obsession with hand thrown, hand glazed ceramics. I love the bumps, nubbs and little fluctuations that makes each piece to individual.

"I started making yarn bowls about 4 years ago after I was asked to make some by Helen at Woolly Chic. She wanted some to sell on her crochet stall at wool shows. I had quite a bit of technical difficulties at first and very nearly gave up! But after experimenting more I got it sussed! I then started making them to sell myself and that started on my road of many woolly shows! I throw the bowls on the potters wheel and when they have dried a bit I trim the base and then cut the slot and holes.  As I am a knitter I like to think I know what is needed in a yarn bowl. I make them deep enough for a good sized ball and always make sure they are lovely and smooth so they don't snag the yarn. I find I'm thinking of new designs all the time, I've recently added small holes to the bowl to attach stitch marker rings to hold stitch markers to the bowl. I make doubles and recently a triple bowl. These are good for holding multiple balls of yarn." - Wendy Fowler
Wendy Fowler Yarn Bowls 

Wendy Fowler Yarn Bowls 

"My Sea houses bowls are inspired by my visits to our coast and the quirky sea side houses that can be seen. I love the free painting and the use of ceramic wax crayons to outline the houses. They all have a row of bunting around the top. I love making yarn bowls and have some lovely feedback from happy customers!" - Wendy Fowler

As someone who crafts, I really love the fact my tools and notions are handcrafted too. It feels like a circle of makers, supporting our creative endeavors- it really resonated this month when I'm thinking about my own Creative Identity and what that means to me. I think I can safely say that I much prefer purchasing from creative businesses where you can really see the way their hands have worked to make something special. When I work with beautifully made items, it inspires me to complete projects as best I can. I want to make inspiring things too!

If you want to learn more about Wendy and here work, you can visit her website here to see an impressive portfolio of exhibitions. She'll be vending at Fibre East this coming July and also has an Etsy store, Wendy Fowler Pottery

Facebook and Your Knit Business- What You Should Know

Here it is, as requested, a follow up to the How to Support Our Indies on Facebook post. 

What you should know about Facebook and your knit business

There was A LOT of interest from people about this post that I'd presented for us, as an audience who want to support businesses on Facebook. Lots of you wanted to know more details about what your businesses could do to improve your audience reach because the reality is that the responsibility isn't with us as consumers, it's with businesses. 

First, I think it's worth mentioning that a free platform offering you a global online community to advertise to is going to eventually monetise. It's inevitable. How they've gone about it is a topic for a whole other day. My biggest advice here would be to treat Facebook as you would any advert for your company. Assess it like you would a magazine advert or podcast sponsorship- is this the right tool for you right now? 

It can feel like you have to do it all. You can't. Time is precious when you're running your own company, think where best to connect with your audience and start there. You particular audience might interact highly on Facebook but not Twitter for example. It needs to suit both you and your potential customers to interact on the platform you're investing time in. 

That said, let's unpick that 'Overly Promotional' phrase. When Facebook surveyed users, we told them that we didn't want advertising all the time or to be constantly sifting through cluttered timelines when we come online to chat with friends and family. The Facebook algorithm changed, in part, as a response to that survey. 

So here's what Facebook defines as overly promotional:

1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

Remember how I kept saying interaction is key to audience reach? I wasn't kidding. In my experience the posts that reach the most audience are those that encourage a response and that's the same for even if you pay for more- if you've got something appealing to interact with that you're boosting, your reach will always be further. So pay or don't pay but always think interactive for each thing you post. 

Amy Singer has kindly given me permission to use her Facebook page as an example. Let's look at that first post where we learned something was awry:

knitty screen shot

It got our attention didn't it? Those of us who saw the post in our timeline immediately interacted. What Knitty lover wouldn't? We clicked 'like', we shared with our friends and we commented. Facebook got a reaction from Amy's Knitty audience so  it started opening it up to more and more people who wanted to see knitting related news. Having not seen anything from Knitty for a while, it popped up in my timeline because a while ago I had clicked 'like' on the page and so Facebook knew Knitty fans would want to see this from the quick reaction is was already getting. 

In a nutshell, Amy gave us a call to arms and we got interactive. 

So think about that when you next post. Did you just drop your link to your most recent blog post? Did you simply add a product description and point it at the product page? If you want people to engage with you, you're going to need to think a little smarter and identify what your target audience wants to interact with you about. 

That I'm afraid is another chat for another day because boiling down the Facebook algorithm throws up not just important questions about the algorithm itself but also vital skills such as knowing your target audience and how to develop a strategy for online marketing. 

6 Resources for Getting to Grips with Using Facebook for Business

However, I will leave you with some of my favourite resources for getting to grips with Facebook for business:

1. Facebook's definition of promotional material

2. Inside the Facebook News Feed via BufferSocial

3. 17 Experts Tips On Dealing with The Latest Facebook Algorithm Changes via Buzzsumo

4. Online Marketing for Craft Businesses by Hilary Pullen. I reviewed it, I interviewed her and she touches on how to do this for free before you start hitting those boost buttons (again, another topic I'd LOVE to chat about!)

5. 10 Successful Facebook Marketing Examples via The Social Media Examiner. 

6. 4 Tips on using Social Media to grow your Business via Deborah Lee. 

 

Is now a good time to mention I'm teaching and writing this year? ;)

Stay clicky folks!

Craft Business, Facebook & an Important Lesson that Knitty Teaches Us.

Last week a post from Knitty popped into my Facebook timeline that made me sit up, read it twice and then click through to their page to check I'd understood. It read:

That's a pretty big discrepancy and one that really got me thinking about what this means for the rest of the knitting community. When businesses use Facebook to market themselves online, the possible numbers of views and interactions their posts can have is crucial to reaching a wide audience to tell them about their products. If we can't see what our much loved yarnies, designers and publishers are trying to tell us about, we're missing out on news and they're potentially missing out on sales. 

So what's going on here?

Knitty's fan members currently includes 101,789 likes. With that many people telling Facebook that they like Knitty as a brand, you'd think that their reach would be huge, right? Well, actually, no. The reason is pretty simple: a recent change to Facebook's Newsfeed algorithm means that Facebook doesn't want us as consumers to be viewing posts that Facebook deems "overly promotional". (You can find out about your timeline and why you see certain news feeds more than others in Facebook's help page here too). 

The emphasis is now placed firmly on interaction and if we as consumers aren't interacting with a page or particular posts, it appears less and less on our timeline. Have you had that feeling that a brand you follow has been particularly quiet lately? Check back, you might be missing out on their latest news. 

So what can we do as supporters of businesses like Knitty? 

1. 'Like' posts- It doesn't matter if you particularly loved a post or not, by liking a post, you're telling Facebook you want to see what this brand has to say both now and in the future.  

2. Interact with posts- Leaving comments is the happy outcome for Facebook or even better, sharing the content to your friends. When you pick up content and show your friends, this tells Facebook that people in your little corner of the internet are interested in what that business is posting about so it will let them see when you interact with brands too. 

screenshot of turning notification on

3. Turn on notifications- Look for the like button on the page and click on the little drop down arrow. My ticking 'get notifications' you're telling Facebook that it's ok to drop posts from this Facebook page onto your timeline. 

4. Act fast- Facebook simply loves it when a post gets interactions fast (likes, comments or shares). It loves it even more if your friends join in quickly too. When people react positively to a post in a short period of time, it opens the views a little more each time and the post starts appearing in more timelines that it deems relevant to that person's community. That's how things go from plodding to 'viral'- people sharing and reacting quickly!

5 Be a joiner- If you see something you like via someone else's activity in your timeline, give it a like there too. The algorithm thrives on the connections you and your community on the internet make so keep them strong to keep things visible. 

 

Of course it's not all down to us as customers but we can help by being alert to Facebook pages that seem a bit quiet and help to revive them in our timelines again. From businesses point of view great content on Facebook is a sure fire way for businesses to make sure we see them . That's a whole new topic in itself though....!

 

Happy clicking!

Developing Your Creative Business with Alana Dakos

Once you've worked so hard to establish your craft business, created a product line and decided what your brand represents, taking things to whole new level can be daunting. I've covered topics from finding support for setting up your own businessonline marketing and I've interviewed several designers about their process. Today on the blog, I've invited Alana Dakos of Never Not Knitting to give her insights into developing further and she's sharing her top tips for business development in the knitting industry. 

Alana wearing her own design ' Seedling '

Alana wearing her own design 'Seedling'

What motivated you to add distributing into your business?
"Our first self published book, Coastal Knits (co-authored with Hannah Fettig in 2011) opened up our eyes to the world of distribution. To our surprise, we were literally inundated with orders. Our first print run was gone within the first few weeks. I was 9 months pregnant at the time and we worked 12 hour days for weeks with the help of our family and friends to ship out all of the books to knitters around the world. Even after I had my son, my husband had to leave us at the hospital to ship more books! :) It was a crazy time. That experience taught us so much and we had to learn a lot quickly about efficiently shipping out multiple orders. We developed a system and really got it down to a science. When I released my next two books, we had it down and it was much less stressful. Since we had all of our systems in place, we felt that we could expand our business to begin distributing for other designers as well. It has worked out great! :)  I love to be able to offer really high quality patterns and books to shop owners. I feel like I am helping to support my fellow self-published designers and make their special products available to stores and in turn knitters."

NNK press products

With designing and publishing, your days must be really busy. What helps keep things together on a day to day level?

"I have to stay very regimented and organized. Fortunately I have the help of my husband who is employed by NNK Press and an assistant. Without them I would be in big trouble! :) I make lots of list. I never procrastinate and I keep up on tasks (like returning emails) on a daily basis. I try to follow the motto to "not put off til tomorrow what can be accomplished today".

NNK Press single pattern products


Running a multifaceted business must take a lot of planning. How do you go about looking at your long term goals and how to achieve them? 

"My end goal has always been running a successful business that supports us as a family. I am very happy with what we have accomplished so far with NNK Press. I don't really have specific plans for expansion in the future. I evaluate every opportunity as it presents itself. "

 


What would be your top 3 tips for people planning to develop their own creative businesses? 

  1. Look for a niche to fill in the creative field of your choice. Is there a product that you could make available to consumers that is fresh, new or not currently readily available? 
  2. Never skimp on quality. Whether you are putting together a promotional flyer, packaging, logo or anything else for your business, do it well. The more professional you are, the more your potential customers will take notice.
  3. Let your enthusiasm for your craft come across in your business. When you are excited about a product, others will be too. 

Focus on Design: Designer Inspirations

After some business support ideas and the dread VAT word on yesterday's Design Week blog post, I wanted to share some more designer inspirations. Today's insight comes courtesy of a very clever designer friend of mine, Kari- Helene. 

Kari-Helene is one half of Purl Alpaca Designs, a field-to-fashion company producing 100% pure British alpaca yarn and beautiful patterns to knit them up in. With Tracy, her business partner, Kari-Helene has taken her background in fashion and textiles and created a company that creates really beautiful (and soft) knitting kits, yarns and patterns. 

Adie hat  by Kari-Helene

Adie hat by Kari-Helene

What inspires you to design?

"This is a tricky one to answer. It can be so many things! A fabulous costume drama on tv, a great knitted jumper on someone I walk past on the street, a book full of knitting stitches and techniques, but most of all I feel inspired by knitting itself. Time and time again I will sit with my knitting and whilst doing a stitch or a construction something new will pop into my head and I have to draw it in my sketch book before I forget! Sometimes my designing is spontaneous and sometimes it can be a more structured approach where I gather images of a certain era or style and lay them out in front of me before I start drawing. 

What key skills have you developed as a designer?

The most important skill, I think, is the ability to translate a 3D design into a 2D pattern. Thinking about the body as a 3D object and the knitted piece to fit and flatter this can be difficult. Knit can be seen as a very flat way of designing, and traditionally a knitted sweater was just that, a flat front and back with two sleeves. Today knitwear is a lot more sculptural and the possibilities within knitting to create shape and structure without seams are incredibly fun to play with. 

Any tools you can't live without when you design or pattern write?

Good coffee and dark chocolate. Jokes aside, my calculator is my best friend. Doing a degree in design I never thought I'd be using maths so much in my day to day work. I also need pen, paper and my trusted mac. 

L  acey Scarf  by Kai-Helene

Lacey Scarf by Kai-Helene

When it comes to committing designs to paper, how do you start that process?

I always doodle. I have a book with me at all times that I fill with ideas that pop into my head at the most random times, on the bus, in a cafe or in the van on the way to a knitting show (not whilst driving of course, Tracy looks after that part!). Then one day when I have the "right feeling" I'll get my pencils and paper out, put all my inspiration in front of me and start drawing. I always draw ten times as many sketches as I end up turning into final designs, but that's just how it goes! 

What advice would you give designers developing their design and pattern writing skills?

Don't be afraid of giving it a go! Everyone can draw. Many grown ups are scared of drawing as they might not have drawn since they were little, but it's all about giving it a go. Use a template of the human body to draw from. I do. It makes drawing so much quicker when I don't have to think about getting the human shape right every time I sketch a new design. When it comes to pattern writing, a good starting point would be to read other people's patterns. Just make sure the ones you read are good patterns and from a well known source!"

Niobe Jumper by Kari-Helene

Niobe Jumper by Kari-Helene

With thanks to Kari-Helene for taking her time to share some insights into her design process. If you're inspired to get designing, please do join us for the Designalong

Tomorrow's blog post is all about swatching, listening and responding. If you're enjoying design week here on the blog, you can catch up with the posts here

Helpful Resources for Getting Started for Knit and Crochet Designers

It's been wonderful sharing the skills and tools that designers use to produce high quality knitting and crochet patterns to sell. In this post, I'm sharing useful links and resources to help you plan your Creative Business. Whether it's getting more training on vital skills such as marketing and pricing or getting your head around a business plan and accounts, setting up your own business takes some careful planning. Once you've done all that, how you communicate it with the world takes some careful consideration too. So here's some of the free resources I've found really useful when supporting clients. 

Useful Links For Starting Your Own Creative Business

Useful places to look for support:

The Design Trust - I love this website that's packed full of free resources and 1000's of useful links to follow up on if you're a Creative wishing to turn your skills into a serious business. You can register to become a member and there are regularly webinars which makes this UK based company much more accessible for everyone. 

The Creative School for Start Ups- A UK based course aimed at entrepreneurs looking to start up their own creative business. Not in the UK? Their Twitter and social media feeds are some of the most useful in my timeline so a great one to follow. 

http://ukhandmade.co.uk/ - A website that showcases Handmade Businesses. There's a community element with boards and forums as well as a Directory and their magazine has proven very inspirational as the featured makers in each edition are a something like a case study for how to go about creating and selling your handmade products. Again, useful for those outside the UK as well as within. 

https://www.etsy.com/uk/community - It's always worth becoming a member of the forums and community boards for each platform you use to sell your products. There is advice and tips from other traders as well as webinars and resources constantly being shared. I have also used these to find local Etsy support groups that run events to train up their sellers on how to effectively plan, sell and market their products. 

http://talk.folksy.com/ - Another sellers platform worth dipping into. 

Enterprise Nation- The blog alone is worth adding to your regular business reading but I also love the funding it regularly highlights for entrepreneurs as well as resources and courses. Their newsletter makes me eager to learn all the time!

CraftBlogUK- Written by Hilary Pullen who recently published Online Marketing for Your Craft Business' (I reviewed it here). Hilary shares lots of tips and tricks for free on her blog such as increasing your blog audience or adding social media share buttons. 

With all of these links I've shared, their social media streams and newsletters are worth following to keep up to date and source new business support. The number of times an article has been shared or a course announced that I was pondering seeking more information about is quite uncanny!

 

A specific issue raised in the Designalong discussion thread was VATMOSS. Here's a few useful links to get you started:

Ysolda's thorough blog post.  

The Storify link to the Vatmoss Twitter chat Ysolda hosted 

Emerging advice for Small Businesses on how to deal with VATMOSS changes

Ravelry's response to VATMOSS 

How the new changes to EU VAT rules effect your Digital Products via Blogtacular. 

 

 

Wish to join the Designalong and win tech editing, business support and yarn support for your published pattern? Find out more here.

More design inspirations heading your way tomorrow from a designer who crochets and hand knits!

'Online Marketing for Your Craft Business': A Review

I received some pretty exciting post this week and I wanted to share the book that has eaten all my free time this week as I've hungrily gobbled my way through it. If you are thinking about a career change into the crafting industry, already dabble but want to make the full time jump or already run your own business but have been unsure how best to connect with your audience, then this is most certainly the book for you. 

Hilary Pullen's 'Online Marketing for You Craft Business' is an essential manual for all craft businesses with clear steps laid out of how to get your handmade products discovered, shared and sold on the internet. Hilary knows her stuff- she's been creating communities, managing social media and creating blog content for some time and is well respected in the industry. If you're a craft blogger in the UK, you might know her from her personal website, CraftBlogUK, a directory and one stop shop that brings together the Craft Blogging Community within the UK. 

Picture courtesy of Hilary Pullen (c)

Picture courtesy of Hilary Pullen (c)

It's fair to say I was excited when my preorder of the book finally arrived as I've read several articles Hilary has written about her work and have always felt highly inspired by the possibilities that a strategic approach to online marketing can bring.  The benefits are huge and not just in terms of bigger sales either. A great online strategy will provide you with loyal fans, product feedback, better rankings in search engine results pages, a better awareness of your work and most importantly perhaps, a greater interest in your brand of products. Hilary skilfully outlines this is a way that is supportive and encouraging and the actions you will need to take are neatly laid out in a way that's not overwhelming but achievable. 

I wouldn't need to be massively experienced in the ways of marketing to access this book. Hilary's writing style is friendly and accessible without being too distracting from what I need to know.  Each page is beautifully presented too with plenty of white space and pleasing layout that draws my eye to reinforce key ideas while making things bite size and easy to digest. I love the graphic design and illustrations throughout that stop this being dry and unwieldy. 

Hilary knows a lot of people in the business and she peppers her book with useful tips on how to make online marketing work best for you as well as inspiring quotes from the likes of Tilly and The Buttons, Patricia Van Der Akker (of The Design Trust) and Timothy Adam (of Handmadeology). This isn't just showing off her formidable network of contacts, Hilary is showing you just what it takes to make it work. Making it work has been very much on my mind lately as you'll know if you took part in our #makeitwork Twitter hangout

The book is laid out in a really logical way, building from why you'd use these strategies, to the nuts and bolts of how each element works, through to how to have a cross channel approach. The part I really liked most though was that you can easily navigate to one particular section and start there. The book works as an entire learning journey but also allows you to cherry pick a topic that particularly resonates at that moment for you. Anything she cross references to previous sections is easy to find so it doesn't just become a load of marketing jargon that feels cold and unfathomable. 

I feel that for £14.99, you're getting a lot of useful information that you can come back to and review time and time again when you feel like you're missing something, or are ready to take it up a level. If you're really thinking about getting your hands on a copy, Hilary is currently offering 20% discount on signed copies

I was so impressed with what I was reading that I reached out to Hilary and she will be joining me for a special podcast episode that will go live on the 18th October 2014. Tune in to hear from one of the leading experts on how best to market your online craft business and get an insight into what some of your favourite craft brands are doing behind the scenes to inspire you. 

I bought my copy of 'Online Marketing For Your Craft Business' from Amazon

 

Update: Wow what a response! I need to add a few details for those asking:

1. Yes, there will be a digital version. I will update when I know the release date.

2. US version is likely to be released on 21st November 2014- save the date!