Saturday, December 28, 2013

Year End Thoughts

I've taken an unintentional break from the internet these past few weeks. It was an unusually busy end of year at work, with a huge design effort culminating in back to back week trips (one 2 days, the other a sort of massive 4 days....the week before Christmas). Most years it seems that projects kind of wind down before the holidays and end of year because there simply aren't the people around to pay them proper attention on the clients' side due to travel and vacations and such, so deadlines simply get set for sometime in January. But this year that was not the case, so that alone has me feeling a bit turned around. I mean....I had to have my husband address our Christmas cards! I did the list for him, but now in hindsight I can think of a handful of people I would have added had I been doing them myself, but you just have to do what you can do and let the rest go sometimes.

On top of the sort of odd frenzy at work, my little shop has had sort of an incredible year! I felt like I was a knitting machine these past few weeks (which has me thinking a bit how I'll want to differently handle next year's holiday season), and I finally had a chance to look at the numbers while I found myself awake at a sort of ungodly hour. I ended up sending out 17 hand knit or crochet goodies from November to beginning of December, plus another 2.5 on deck. (For fun, this compares to just 6 orders last year plus another 3 that came in just after the holidays through the end of January, with roughly the same non-existent level of marketing.) At one point earlier this month I was actually feeling simultaneously thrilled and a bit sick at the thought of it that I actually backed out of a craft fair I was supposed to do back on December 7, which is SO not like me. (Oh man, that actually reminds me that I didn't even include craft fair numbers in that count!) I set an order deadline for the shop to promise orders by Christmas and then I kept a close eye on the posted ship dates for USPS to deliver by Christmas Eve. Thank goodness they didn't seem to have the delivery issues that UPS and FedEx reported this year! In a fashion that is again, seriously unlike me, I found myself flying off to the post office minutes before they closed on multiple days before Christmas to get packages out on time. I even had to go so far to have to express just one of two pairs of legwarmers to my cousin, which would account for the "half" order on deck. I feel terrible about that, but I guess in trying to make the best of it I can adjust the fit of the second pair if needed, and there will certainly be some extra goodies in the second package for her little girl!

I had a hard time falling asleep last night as well, with tons of post ideas rolling around in my head, most of which I of course cannot remember now. One of them was definitely how I'd like to change up my shop process for next year. For starters, I think I need to pre-make some of my more popular items. While I definitely like the option for people to pick and choose their color and size, and will continue to offer that option, I bet I could take a little pressure off myself by examining the trends so far. The cottage slipper socks were definitely my most popular item both this year and last, and the colors trended sort of the same way as well - mostly the oatmeal color that's pictured as well as charcoal gray, and mostly size medium. They are probably the most expensive item in my shop on my end in terms of materials, which has always stopped me from keeping them in stock, but now that they've sold pretty steadily for two seasons, I'd be ok making up a few pairs in advance.

Last year I sold several of the long tail elf hats, but only a few this year via Etsy - I sold a few more at craft shows. Those are pretty low impact to make up ahead though, and I feel like the color options are more limited for the "standard" item - mainly reds and greens for Christmas colors, and it wouldn't hurt to have some newborn sizes in pink and blue around as well.

Toddler mittens were sort of a whim for me - basically I toyed around with a few different designs because I needed some, and listed them on the site for kicks. They've been flying! It sort of boggles my mind that people don't seem hesitant to pay $18 for kid's mittens, but that's a fairly middling price compared to others I've seen around on Etsy. There also doesn't seem to be a ton in the standard chain stores (from my super limited search) for an every day mitten that isn't the hardcore, playing in the snow for hours, enormous puffy deal. Definitely a time and place for those, but the run to daycare really isn't it. So while these are more time intensive than the elf hats, they've been pretty solid and are lower in cost for materials as I can make several pairs from a single ball or skein of yarn, that's another one I think I would consider keeping in stock. Especially since I had to turn down an inquiry for a bulk order! That one bummed me out, because I'd have loved to help this person out....there was just no way to do it before the end of the year. It's just me over here! As much as I enjoy knitting and this brave new retail world, I can't let myself take on too much to the detriment of my family life.

To sort of spin off that last line...I'm a little jealous of all of my customers! I have some generously gifted sock yarn just sitting in my disaster of a craft room/ office/ let's face it, it's the cat's room that I would love to turn into socks for myself...but the time just isn't there! Standard socks....while they are seemingly a staple for many knitters, they've always intimidated me. I'm not exactly sure why! I make the slipper socks, so I probably know all the techniques. But the yarn and needles I use for that are many times larger than those for real socks that are actually meant to fit inside shoes lol. I guess I worry that when working with such small tools that it won't feel like I ever make any progress? I definitely enjoy knitting as a hobby, but lately life has been all about deadlines, so the thought of knitting on a longer turn around is a little scandalous to me!

In addition to my apparently guilty pleasure, personal sock knitting, I have at LEAST 2 other things I'd like to make for my nearest and new ideas for the shop. I've got my sister testing out a new product, er, Christmas earwarmer headband thing. I made a few earlier this year that I wasn't happy with, and whipped out this new one just in time for Christmas. Literally...I mean like hours before I gave it to her! Given that amount of development, I'm not ready to list it yet, so I'll have to see what she thinks. Always trust little sisters to give you true, honest feedback! Plus I want to develop a shorter, slip-on slipper. I LOVE my tall slippers, but they really only work with leggings, skinny jeans/jeggings, or tights. I want more of an every day deal to leave lying by the back door that I can put on when I get home from work with normal pants. Bonus to self - I would get to keep the samples for myself! I also have a charity hat to knit (that I was supposed to have done by December 16! Ouch!) that will really move to the very top of my list after my paid orders are out the door. More than I need a nice pair of socks....a warm hat for someone in need is certainly more important this winter. So with that....since sleep doesn't look likely and who has time for to knitting!