A Hedgehog & A Butterly For A Perfect Match

One of the most exciting things about the internet and social media is the world it opens to us. As a small business and fiber enthusiast I find it especially exciting (and freakishly overwhelming at times). I have had the pleasure of connecting with some incredible fellow fiber friends. One such fiber find is Hedgehog Fibres.

For about 6 months I had seen the vibrant colorways created by Beata Jezek's Hedgehog Fibers stream across my social media feed. Bright colors. Bold combinations. All of it so exciting. And what I love most about Hedgehog colorways is they are fearless. They scream personality. They are, in essence, me in a fiber. 

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So when I got the opportunity to collaborate with Hedgehog for the Galway Shawl, well yeah... I was kind of stoked. OK, I WAS SUPER STOKED! I may have run around to all my fiber friends so excited saying "GUESS WHAT I GET TO DO". My friend Laura may or may not be able to confirm this ;-)

Now I want to say something about the team at Hedgehog: I have so much respect for how this collaborative process has progressed. Every detail was met with ease and attention. It was not a matter of "let's send you some yarn and make something". Oh no, they care about every bit of the makers that will get their fibers. They care about their customers and makers and creating things to best serve them. It is such an honor to work with such an amazing team. After a few emails to talk about inspiration and colors and texture we landed on the Aran Merino base and a crochet shawl inspired by the flight of a butterfly and the colors of the fields in fall in her Pod colourway. All was set for a collaboration of beauty.


When the yarn arrived I was BLOWN away. The colors are way more vibrant in person (like how is that possible???) and even my friend Laura said "THEY GLOW"! I mean Beata must have some magic in those dye pots in Ireland. I seriously could not stop looking at the colors. When I wound it up to cake the skeins they kept the vibrancy too.

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I love the weight and texture of this fiber. It works up so easily and is not clunky. As a crocheter and a knitter I am always excited about yarns that work well for both. This yarn is one of those. The design itself went through a few tweaks and changes along the way to get the drape and shape that I envisioned.

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Once I settled on the shape though, it flowed with ease creating my vision.  A vibrant butterfly emerged and I could not wait to block this beauty.

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A drop of my fave Eucalan in the blocking bucket with some water followed by a quick soak and my butterfly was ready to rest and let her stitches settle.

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You know the saying a watched pot never boils? Well I am sure there is a saying "the watched block never dries". I kept checking but had to leave this beauty on the blocking mats overnight. In the morning though, the most beautiful butterfly I had ever seen emerged and the drape and shape are perfection. I could not wait to wear it and show to my local fiber friends.

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And now - The Hedgehog Fibers team and I want to share this beautiful collaboration with YOU! You can get the free pattern here and enter below to win a KIT to make your very own:  yup 2 skeins of this beautiful fiber, hook, pattern and toggle. And check out Hedgehog Fibers. Make your world a little more colorful!

Truly The Heart Of Mine

I was so excited when Wool And The Gang asked me if I wanted to try the new crochet kit for the Heart Of Mine Jumper. Like excited is probably an understatement. I may have squealed in excitement! I mean come on... the honor of them asking me to try a kit... and a CROCHET Kit. Yes... EXCITEMENT!

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Ok so first I have to tell you that even though knitting has become a mainstay in my life, my first love and passion will always be crochet. So whether they ask me to review a kit or not, Wool And The Gang offers some of the most fun and awesome crochet kits. As a hooker these are not always easy to find. So I was already a fan and have made several of their kits. (See all their awesome crochet kits here). Anyways... back to this gem.

When the kit arrived I was blown away. I had just finished designing my Tuckoe Knit Scarf using Wool And The Gang Wool so was excited to switch to a crochet project. PLUS... SO MUCH COZY! They send enough for all sizes. Not all companies do this so I was really excited about that and the option to make any size I wanted. I could not wait to dive in.

The pattern was super clear and easy to follow. The diagrams helped when I had to add the sleeves. Their construction is a bit different than how I design garments so those diagrams helped. It worked up so fast that I made a whole sweater in a single day. I could not believe it. I blocked it - assembled it and have already gotten more yarn to start another.

And now - the most awesome folks at Wool And The Gang are giving one of you guys a Heart of Mine Jumper Kit Too!!! YES!! HOW AWESOME!!!! Enter below and if you don't want to wait to see if you win, Wool And The Gang is giving our community 20% off their Crazy Sexy Wool AND my all time favorite Shiny Happy Cotton Yarn AND ALL THE KITS!!!! WHAT?? Yup - use code 144Stitches through Sunday 11/19/17 at midnight.

Thanks WATG for always keeping crocheters in mind and yes, you have that Heart of Mine ;-)

Oh Gemma!

Oh my oh my the celebration of our November Featured Maker: The Queen Stitch continues with a bang. Exclusive to the Stitch & Hustle Kit Shop is the Tweed Gemma Kit.

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The kit features Deluxe DK Tweed Superwash Wool from Universal Yarn. Katie has come up with a kit that allows you to make not one, but TWO Gemma Scarves!

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What I love most about this is that unlike many triangle scarves, the Gemma is proportioned just so and makes a perfect wrap on those colder days.

And... In a doubly awesome opportunity you can win a Gemma Scarf made by Katie herself or the Kit to make your very one. Now that is some awesome! Enter either or both giveaways below and check out the Gemma Kit here.

So much awesomeness!!!!




Kit Shop Featured Maker: The Queen Stitch

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Although my business name is The Queen Stitch, my real name is Katie - and I’m the featured Kit Shop maker for the month of November! I am primarily a crocheter, though I’ve recently learned to knit, embroider, and weave. Crochet is my first love, and we’re in an open relationship. So, while I play with other crafts for a little while to clear my creative headspace, I always go back to crochet. Colorful, fun, inclusive, flirtatious, I see no reason why knitwear can’t be all of these things at once, and so I wanted to prove it – thus the Queen Stitch was born. My designs are usually a bit different in terms of structure, texture and color. Some of my favorite designs are a flamingo halter top, a lemon wedge bralette, and a backless sweater.

I first connected with Michele of Stitch+Hustle after she reached out to me about my women’s march protest vest, which read “I am more than my pussy, but she great” and I was honored to contribute to her blog! This will be my second contribution and I am so proud of her, the community inclusion in the kit shop, and all the fun projects that will come out of it.

My pieces are inspired by a lot of pop art and cartoons. Sometimes I’ll see a pin or a print on Instagram and think to myself – I could crochet that. That’s how the lemon wedge bralette came into being. I follow a marketing artist called @lizzie_darden, and she made lemon slices and sticks of sage look like a bikini, and I was like… doin’ it! I follow a lot of artists on Instagram – I think it’s about 50/50 of fiber arts to other types, and it’s usually these others that inspire my best knitwear!

 

 

 

 

 

 Though, I remember I saw a hot pink crochet kink outfit by @hanaquist that changed my life. Every new strange onesie photo in the wilderness by @lordvonschmitt - I really wish I could go camping with him and all his gorgeous models! I just bought this bare breast knit top from @responsivetextiles that made me the belle of the house party the other weekend. I could go on… I am just so continuously in awe of all the makers in the community.

 

I sometimes get inspired just by texture as well. @miskunn has this magical bobble pillow that I looked at and thought, I wish I could wear that. Which is how the bobble sweater sprang into being. I think that might be my favorite thing about creating. Seeing something in my head, grabbing a yarn and a hook and slowly watching it appear it front of me. It’s like the design flows right down my arms, going from behind my eyes to in front of my eyes. Plus then I get to wear it.

Alternatively, my least favorite parts of the craft are all practical things, rather than the conceptual and artistic. I live in New York City, my apt is approximately 500 sq feet, and I have another person sharing that space! I see this pictures of people’s gorgeous organized spaces and I’m like… how the frick do they do that? And living in NY isn’t even an excuse. I look at @debrosse_nyc and her space is Type A perfection. Meanwhile I’m sitting on my couch, under approximately 50 skeins of yarn wondering if I have a problem.

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I’m not a total loss yet; I usually sort my many works in progress into different project bags. I have the attention span of a beta fish so I like to switch between projects. That way, I’m technically still switching it up, but I’m always working. I always find it interesting when people give tips on making because it seems like the creative process is so different for each person. I’m very much of the “do you” school of thought.

My creative goal this winter is to remind everyone that knitwear doesn’t make you anything other than cozy. I catch some flack from my friends for going to bed early and making knitwear. Knitwear doesn’t make you frumpy, it doesn’t make you grandma-like, it doesn’t make you anything.  You can be hot, smart, active and ambitious and wear knits, you can go to bed whenever you want and wear knits. I have a couple fun projects lined up towards this goal in terms of re-branding, photoshoots, new patterns – so stay tuned for some more fun!

 


Make Sure to connect with The Queen Stitch:
Website: http://thequeenstitch.com/
Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheQueenStitch
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheQueenStitch/
Instagram: @thequeenstitch

Get Your Stitch On! It's The Ultimate Maker Co-Op

I have known of co-ops my whole life. Maybe because of my hippie-dippy upbringing. A few years of my childhood were spent hanging out with my mom's boyfriend (at the time) and he was a total hippie - refurbished VW Beetle and all. He was a super cool dude and shared a big piece of land with a bunch of other really cool dudes (and dudettes). We would build our own houses and grow food and play music and go on the river in rafts and stuff. It was where I learned about community and giving more than you take. Ah - that was a time in my life where I really felt like my world was right. Sure I was 5 years old, but hey... I know a good thing when I see it!

The littlest hippy of them all

The littlest hippy of them all

Fast forward to about 2 years ago when I was inspired to launch this blog and build this community to be more than just a platform to share my knowledge but truly feed into maker lives. I had no idea that it would grow at the awesome pace that it has but I feel so incredibly blessed it has and also feel like we are all just getting started. I knew it was time to revive those co-op roots.

Since launching the blog, I have had the idea to bring that co-op vibe that I loved as a kid into my maker world. I mean the word itself - co-operative means: "a farm, business, or other organization that is owned and run jointly by its members, who share the profits or benefits.". All of that is EXACTLY what I envisioned for Stitch & Hustle.

Putting it into action takes work. It started with posts and sharing and then led to Stitch Up Chicago and bringing people together to share, be in community and knit together. But Stitch Up Chicago was just the beginning. Here comes the next step: The Get Your Stitch On Kit Shop!

This Kit Shop has quite truly been over a year in the making. I am beyond thrilled to be here. Writing this. Launching this. It is surreal. So many hours and hours upon hours have gone into this. Abbey and I have poured our hearts and energy into this for YOU! Selecting fibers. Editing listings. Updating designers. Changing and doing all of that over again. But each step of the way, I have been blown away by the response of everyone involved. It is so incredibly exciting to work with a group of talented designers and makers to bring this to reality.

The Get Your Stitch On Kit Shop! is truly For Makers, By Makers. Featuring some of the most amazing talent of our community you can now get a kit to make that awesome item you saw in your Instagram feed. This is a chance to feed directly back into the maker community as well by getting kits from your favorite makers.

To celebrate the launch and first year of the Kit Shop, we have a Limited Edition Kit from Crave Yarn and only a handful of these exist. Amor has selected the chunky soft squishiest Alpaca fiber and dyed the perfect shades of blue. Get the Kit here.

And that is not all. Beginning November 1st, one of our fabulous designers will be featured each month for the next 12 months! You will get to know each of our amazing designers on a deeper level and we have something special planned for each month with the Featured Maker.

So I encourage you to visit the Kit Shop. See all these wonderful projects that you can make or give as a gift to your favorite maker for them to make. In the truest hippy-dippy co-op vibe, let's support each other and share the love.

The Great Granny Blog Hop of 2017

Welcome to the Great Granny Blog Hop of 2017.

First and foremost I would like to thank each of these incredible fellow bloggers for being part of this hoopla. I cannot tell you my excitement to be hosting a blog hop with these inspiring gals! And next I want to give a HUGE thank you and shout out to Lion Brand Yarn for sponsoring this granny extravaganza. Not only did they provide each of us with the yarn we needed for our creations but they are sponsoring the HUGE giveaway for you to win. What can you win you ask? You can win ALL YOU NEED TO MAKE ALL 6 PROJECTS! WHAT?!?!?  This is what I am saying!!!

THANK YOU LION BRAND!!!

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Ok so let’s get into the who what where of it all. Well first let me tell you that participating we have:

Nicole www.naturallynoracrochet.com
Jess www.makeanddocrew.com
ChiWei www.1dogwoof.com
Jessica www.mamainastitch.com
Kristawww.rescuedpawdesigns.com
Michele (me)  www.stitchandhustle.com

Now what exactly IS the Great Granny Blog Hop of 2017? Well… it is an exploration into that classic granny stitch. I admit, I was late to the Granny Square. I had already been making hats and scarves and such when a customer requested a traditional granny style blanket for a baby gift. I was a bit intimidated at first because it is an icon. The Granny Blanket is something you pass down for generations. And to be honest, I had never made one. So I did a quick google search and was so shocked by the simplicity of it. I started playing with the yarn and just loved the granny instantly. Now, I do my granny a little differently than most, I know. But it works for me. I use the more traditional method for my patterns though.

Anyway - the customer loved her blanket so much she ordered another full size for a wedding gift! Meanwhile, I had started to fall in love with the Granny. I started experimenting with different ways to incorporate the Granny theme into other designs beyond the basic square. This led me to the Ella Hood Scarf (free pattern here) and my Wonderland Shrug. I started to love the good ol’ Granny in a whole new (less intimidating way). So then I got the idea to team up with some of the amazing fellow bloggers who inspire me for the Great Granny Blog Hop (see what we did there) of 2017! Each of us has created an incredible fun pattern with a new twist on the Granny.

It is such an incredible thing to be able to take something classic and timeless as the art of crochet itself and give it a new spin with our own personality. I am honored to have teamed up with these gals for this project. So check each blog out and enter below to win all you need to make ALL SIX GRANNY PROJECTS from Lion Brand.

For my project I wanted to take a new twist on the classic poncho. I had already fallen in love with Lion Brand 24/7 Cotton from my Summer Cottons Collection and new it would be perfect for a fall themed poncho. It is also a great weight fiber for transitional weather so I knew it screamed Fall Cozy and would be ideal for this project. And it comes in FAB Fall Colors!

I could not be more pleased how it turned out. I added a couple of strategically placed buttons and suddenly had much more than a poncho. It is a shirt! A cape. A Shawl. And yes, A Fab Fall Poncho. I gave it as a gift to my good friendand co-host of Stitch Up Chicago, Ali of Ford Explorer Knits on our recent knit day. She loves it too!  So get the free pattern here and enter below to win all you need to make one for yourself! (eligible in USA & Canada only)

Market Season Redux

Oh Autumn... how I love you and wait for you all summer long but still you sneak up on me and cause a fright. Anyone else?

time for sweater weather is near

time for sweater weather is near

I find myself spending August clinging to summer sunny days and lightweight cottons while dreaming of sweater weather, layering up and cozy season. That duality always makes it hard to fully get into market prep and hustle mode for busy season. Then all of a sudden, as if to be a complete and utter shock, it is September and I am like... WAIT! WHAT?? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? I must now make all the things. lol

But the truth is that there is no need for panic and stress. (Maybe just a little) :-) With some planning and organization all will be well and you too can be ready for a thriving market season.

Booth is Up at 2016 One Of A Kind Show Chicago

Booth is Up at 2016 One Of A Kind Show Chicago

Part of my own "stress" is because I have made a change this year to my own show schedule. After 4 amazing years, I am sitting out the Chicago One Of A Kind Show. It was a hard decision but sometimes when those tough decisions come easy we know it is right! I am opting for a couple of much smaller area shows and events. I will miss the creative vibe and all my customers from OOAK but I felt this year it is time for something a little different.

But I still have to prep and plan and get ready for a new kind of show vibe. It is exciting. Like starting all over again. What will work and what won't? I ask this daily. Smaller spaces and new and different spaces will mean a new booth set up. Finding new ways to display my work and create an inviting "shop" is so fun. I am really excited for the challenge and creative opportunity to show my work and meet new customers. It all feels new and exciting and that is such a great feeling. I cannot wait to see what it brings.

So as you get ready for craft and market season keep in mind that it should be fun. Make lists. Have coffee and just do your best! And don't forget: visit the Stitch & Hustle Craft Fair & Market Series for all your market prep inspiration. From how to find and apply for the right markets to setting up your display for winning sales to selecting the right POS system, we've got you covered! And don't forget our handy checklist to help you Prep & Pack for Success!

Happy market season y'all!

Feel free to share your market prep tips in the comments as well.

It's A Pom Pom Party!

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If you know me then you know Pom Poms make me smile. They do. It is like a little POP of awesome.

Someone once told me that Pom Poms on hats originated in the Scandinavian Navy for sailors to prevent them from hitting their heads when entering their quarters. I have no idea if that is true or not. But I do really like that story and have certainly passed on that tale a time or two. It is simple and gives Pom Poms a bit of a noble purpose.

But for me? They are just awesome and fun.


As a matter of design they add contrast or whimsy to an item. I can use them for color pops too. And lately, I must say, I have gone on from Pom Poms to Tassels, but that is for another day. Let us stick with the Pom Pom shall we?

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So when I heard that Craft Yarn Council was hosting a Pom Pom Party for September, well, um... YES PLEASE! Not that I need a reason to celebrate Pom Poms but I love Pom Poms and I LOVE parties so it felt like it was calling me to join in the fun.

They have so many fun ways to join the party: CYC will be hosting a Pompom-Along September 11-15 to show you all the ways you can make and style your pompoms. On social media check the hashtag #pompomparty too.

Be sure to follow them and the Pom Pom Party on Facebook and Instagram throughout the week and check out their Pinterest board for even more ideas!  And check out all these fabulous projects featuring Pom Poms.

And that is not all... LEGIT.. WAIT THERE IS MORE!!! 

I teamed up with the incredible team at Clover USA to bring you ALL YOU NEED to make your perfect Pom Poms (and tassels)! Check this out and enter below to win the WHOLE POM POM MAKING KIT!

I used to use cardboard scraps to make my pom poms. Yes, this works but dang it is a pain in the butt and they were always uneven which meant lots of trimming and shaping.

Then I stumbled on to the Clover Pom Pom Maker. Have you seen it? This thing is the bees knees of pom pom making and now I cannot tell you how I lived without this for so long! It is so easy to use and Clover offers a variety of sizes so you can pretty much make any Pom Pom in any size you need. I make poms poms in seconds now and also - a great way to repurpose scrap yarn!

Now I know, because it happened to me, that upon first sight these handy tools can seem odd or overwhelming to figure out. It is strange to me now looking back because truly once you get the hang of it they will be your best friend. I highly recommend this how to video from Brittany at B. Hooked on how awesome these Clover USA Pom Pom Makers are.

Like I said, once you get the hang of it, these will become one of your favorite tools in your tool box. I was so happy when I reached out to Clover for this post that they wanted to sponsor this giveaway. You can win a Clover USA Pom Pom maker kit! WHAT? I KNOW!!!!!  Enter below.

 

 

Disclosure: Clover USA sent me the Pom Pom Makers free of charge for the purpose of this review and collaboration Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review are my own.

Influencer Marketing 101 For Your Maker Business

To follow up on my Brand Partnerships and Mama Knows posts, I wanted to go deeper into this world of Influencer Marketing.

Even without my marketing experience, as a blogger and a small business owner, I am quite familiar with the world of influencer marketing on both sides. Influencer marketing can and does work when it is authentic and real and done right. Anyone who knows me from my old days has heard me glob off a good rant or two about the down sides and the “false influencers”. They are real. But aside from that, true authentic influencer marketing can work not only for the influencer and their community but for brands as well. And, I am advocate of true, authentic influencer programs.

Having said that, without proper planning or execution, it can also go terribly wrong and damage a brand and cost them customers.  I recently had an experience of Influencer Marketing gone very wrong and it made me want to share some how-to tips and turn it into a positive to help YOU, the Stitch & Hustle community. Let this experience help you guys set up for a WIN!

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I’ve also invited Alissa Trumbull, a good friend of mine who works in social media marketing, to share some tips to help YOU plan and execute an effective and successful influencer marketing program. I have known Alissa for a many years and she is a voice I trust on this topic. As someone who supports and builds small brands (and big ones) I am honored she is taking some time to share insights with us. Also Alissa is truly one of favorite human beings on the planet. Together we've come up with Influencer Marketing 101 for Makers! So let's dive in…

What exactly IS influencer marketing?

Simply put, influencer marketing is when you utilize niche, community, (or celebrity influencers in some instances) to promote your product or service. Influencer campaigns are a wonderful tool, if utilized correctly, as they get other people talking about your brand.

Who is an influencer?

An influencer is anyone who impacts the lives of your target audience and has sway in your audience’s decision-making. Using the crochet and knit world as an example, this could be someone like Stephanie from All About Ami who always has new projects or great finds to share or Jess from Make And Do Crew who is always introducing us to new yarns and ideas. Remember that the best influencers don’t have to have the highest follower count. You need to look at the purpose and goals of your brand and the campaign to determine who is the right fit.

Take Time. Make It Personal.

Take Time. Make It Personal.

How to Create an Influencer Campaign:

  1. Figure out your end goal and working budget.
    Do you want to drive sales, increase brand awareness, or something else?
    Does your budget include compensation or just product or both or something else?
  2. Select your influencers.

    Ask yourself: "Which influencers speak to my audience?" Think about who your audience will be most receptive to and target influencers in that demographic. Is it stay-at-home-moms? Craft pros? That one music star everyone’s talking about?

    You are not confined to only niche or only celebrity influencers for a campaign. Often creating a tiered set of influencers can be beneficial, as long as the influencers you select are authentic to your audience and you build an authentic relationship between your brand and them.
  3. Do your research.

    Find out more about the people you’ve selected, their audiences, and expected payment. You have to take the time to dive deep and see the value and make sure it is the right fit. Some of the best influencers may have a small but active and dedicated following.

    Make sure the influencers you consider adhere to the FTC Endorsement Guides.

    Pare down your list to one that is manageable for your budget (whether that is in actual cash, event tickets, or product giveaways, etc.) and provides a good fit to meet your goals.
  4. Start reaching out!

    Get in touch with the people you really want to participate first. Don’t ask everyone at once. This helps ensure that you are not promising too much. If you only have the ability to send ten (10) samples, email 8-10 people. You may not know the response, but should always expect that everyone will say yes. Sending more offers and emails than you can deliver sets yourself up for failure and damage relationships before you can even build them.

    The spray and pray model for building an influencer community – and yes, this is a community you are building – is not effective and can end up with people having a negative taste about your brand and you feeling overwhelmed. Create lists and tiers and go from there. It may take more time but will set you up for the win!
     
  5. Be enthusiastic AND gracious.

    You are asking people to enter into a business partnership with you to test out your product or speak kindly of your brand. Approach potential influencers as if they are doing you a favor (because they are).

    Share the details and goals of your campaign and let your enthusiasm come across. You WANT to get people excited. Your enthusiasm can build the interest you want, and those whom you reach out to will respond positively to your energy and good vibes.
     
  6. Be clear in your ask!

    Let each person know what you would like from them and what you are prepared to offer. Your offer does not need to be the same for each person. Perhaps you create different offers for each influencer tier. Again, go back to the research and what is a good fit.
  7. Set deadlines.

    In your initial email, be clear on the dates of your campaign (when the campaign is taking place, when you need content completed by, etc.) and ask for a response by a certain date. This reply by date is very important, as it sets up a clear expectation that if they get back to you after this deadline, you may not be able to accommodate them for this specific campaign.

  8. Be prepared to say no.

    Some influencers may request more from you than you are able to give. Some may even ask for the moon in a pretty little box with a bow. While you may roll your eyes as you sit at your computer, make sure you decline graciously. You are growing the brand and may cross paths again!

  9. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

    Communication is key to planning a successful collaboration. From your first email, all the way through your final follow-up, it’s important to keep your updates clear, consistent, and personal. Don't let all that enthusiasm go to waste and fizzle away by sending generic emails and updates. If you are ONLY sending general and generic updates then you are not building a relationship. Ask questions. Engage people. Build the relationship. Keep their interest and use that enthusiasm to be contagious.

    If your marketing plans change and your strategy changes it is always best to communicate with people you have already reached out to. People (bloggers especially) plan content calendars and are people after all. We are humans behind these pages. People are excited and get others excited about your product, especially after you have contacted them directly to build that excitement. When you have a strategy change that changes a collaboration, communicate that to keep the relationship intact.
     
  10. Bring your campaign to life.

    Contracts are highly recommended to ensure mutual responsibility.

    Have a plan (and share it with your influencers) for how/when you’re going to amplify your influencers’ content on your social channels.

    Keep the energy and enthusiasm going all through the campaign. Treat your influencers like the VIPs they are - regardless of whether your supporter is large or small, or has a targeted or diverse audience, remember they are your customers first. Treat your influencers, customers and other supporters with respect and consideration for any time, money or effort they’ve shared with you.

    Think about every step all the way up to your packaging. The Reveal can be one of the most important parts of building a relationship with a customer (and influencer), and taking time to add a personal hand written note, extra gift or just a word of thanks can make a big impact in your favor. 
     
  11. Follow up

    Make sure your selected influencers are set to post their content and that the agreement is met.
  12. Wrap It Up & Track Your Metrics.

    (Is your social engagement up? Are you seeing an increase in conversation about your brand? In website visits? In sales? Track everything to know what is and isn’t working.) Numbers matter but look at more than numbers to see if there is actual influence. Are they engaging? Are people responding? Do they respond to their community and comments?

Last but not least, remember to thank the people who participated! Again, this goes back to building relationships and maintaining brand message and keeping it personal.

And remember, Influencers are not one-and-done, but should be viewed as part of your brand’s family. Who knows? You may want to reach out for another campaign in the future so build on this relationship!

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Here’s the biggest takeaway of all: Any marketing effort is to BUILD customer base. Are you creating Relationships that are long term and will grow with you and convert sales? Are you keeping your brand message and relationships in EVERY interaction? Are you missing opportunities to build and create your team of support? If you take the time to write a note how much MORE value will it add?!

As a blogger, I work with lots of brands. Small brands, big brands. You name it.  I am contacted by brands often and I also reach out to brands to collaborate for my own small handmade business as well as this blog. It is so important that the brands I work with and share with you guys are brands I can truly believe in. Not just the product but the company. Getting "free stuff" is far less important than what I can BRING TO YOU GUYS and the value I can ADD TO MY COMMUNITY. Sometimes I don't even get "free stuff" but the brand is so awesome I want to share about it.

Effective Influencer Marketing for your brand is more than just randomly contacting people with a following or with a blog. It is about connecting your brand and brand message with the influencer and their community in an authentic way. It is about contacting and connecting with the right people and growing those relationships. And it can work for you!

ORGANIZE & PLAN

ORGANIZE & PLAN

Stitches Midwest - Worth It Every Time!

I first heard of Stitches Midwest in 2013. I had recently opened my Etsy shop and just been accepted to appear in the upcoming One Of A Kind Show in Chicago. I knew it was time to step it up a notch and fill in some holes in my self taught crochet knowledge so I searched for area events and voila... my discovery of Stitches Midwest. As luck would have it, Drew Emborsky (The Crochet Dude), who was a big inspiration of mine and a name I recognized, was teaching a class, so I knew it was serendipitous. I enrolled right away and was grateful for a local find!

IN CLASS LEARNING WITH DREW

IN CLASS LEARNING WITH DREW

While it seemed to be more a knitting event, I had a blast and the class I enrolled in was simply fabulous. There were several A-Ha! moments and "oh man that's HOW you do that" light bulbs going off in class with Drew. I learned so much and could not have been happier and, in fact, we are friends to this very day! I also shopped until I dropped (for real) in the market and discovered all sorts of tools, fibers and delights. I learned Tunisian Crochet and discovered the Big Alpaca Bump from Becca Smith. That was also the year I met indie dyer Katie of Dragonfly Fibers, who I have worked with ever since.  A total success!


In 2014 I returned with Katie to grab my enormous haul of incredible hand dyed delights she made for me. For real... it was So. Much. Yarn. I wandered a bit and got to discover Karen and her company Fringe Supply Co with her lovely rosewood hooks and notions for fiber folk. That was also the year I met Stephen West and Steven Be,  which launched our fiber affair. (more on that later). So all in all... another success!

I had to skip 2015 due to being on location for a shoot so was super excited to return in 2016, even though the event itself somehow seemed a bit smaller. My fiber business was taking off and thriving, I had just launched this blog and was dialing in to go full time and full steam fiber dream chasing so I had a feeling it would be special. It was more special than I could have imagined.

Due to my schedule, I wasn't able to take any classes but was able to see some amazing humans and tear it up in the market. I got to spend some time with The ShibaGuyz Shannon & Jason Mullet-Bowlsby in person. We had basically become social media besties at that point so being in the same room was just too fun. And of course, Jason & I landed in a deep discussion about photo apps. I mean, no one was surprised by this.

And HUGE Bonus, Shannon introduced me to Theresa & Ron of The Buffalo Wool Co.. Not only are they two of the nicest human beings I have ever met, they have an incredible story and fiber. You know I didn't leave empty handed. Please check them out - you will NOT regret it. 

Then I made a mad dash over to Steven Be's booth for what can only be described as fiber fabulosity and the birth of our fibar antics and mayhem! At this point, I had to resort to using my auxiliary shopping bag because the yummy fiber finds were just to good to leave. I needed to get All. The. Yarn. It was my introduction to Freia Fibers and I have never looked back. And of course there's always time for fun fiber antics with Steven.

I hopped over to Yarn Culture New York where I met Patti and discovered her amazing fibers, including Crave Yarn. I was immediately in love with the colors and textures of Crave Yarn, appropriately named by the way because I was craving it on sight and it was SO SOFT! I also had to grab some of her Rosy Green Wool Cheeky Merino because it was very interesting and a bit heavier than most DK weight fibers and the colors are so vibrant. Total score!

A quick haul to the car to unload the day's finds and then a yarn break to recharge. It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car. Convention entrance seemed to be a good place to park for a minute.

It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car.

It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car.

Fully recharged I was super excited to stop by and see what the gals at Dragonfly Fibers had for me this year. I also finally got to meet Nancye, the other half of the magnificent dyeing duo!

And I was not disappointed. Normally I am drawn to their bulky Super Traveller but the new gradient kits had me swooning over worsted & dk weight like never before. Their colors are always so vibrant and fun.

 

Before heading out, I wanted to stop by the Halos of Hope to thank them for all they do. I have been partnered with Halos of Hope since 2014 to make and send chemo caps to cancer centers nationwide. You can read the full story here. 

Even though I had partnered with Halos for years, I had never met Pam in person. It was such a treat to see her there. She is spunky and fun and fabulous and genuine and exactly all the things you can imagine of such a kind person.  I was blown away by this beautiful woman and sharing a few minutes with her.  We bounced around Stitches Midwest booths and laughed and it was so much fun to connect. The absolute highlight of my day and a perfect way to cap off Stitches Midwest 2016.


When the Early Bird registration email for Stitches Midwest 2017 arrived I was ON IT! I was particularly excited when I realized Shannon & Jason (The Shibaguyz) would be back teaching the classes I missed last year. SCORE! And they added Jason's photography class. Um... HELLO please take my money and sign me up!

Now... before I get into the market madness and all my fabulous finds (and trust me, this may have been the BEST YEAR YET), let me do a little classes review first. Short review: THEY WERE SO GOOD. I learned so much. Longer review...

The Alter to Fit class was great to fill in some gaps in my self taught design knowledge. I also learned so much from hands on measuring and what I call Designer Math. If you ever want to get a pattern but Alter it to Fit, this is the class to take. If it comes to a town near you sign up, you can also get started online here.

Fab Crochet Fabrics was so good, though it did fly by. The class was small enough that Shannon & Jason taught a bit more conversationally than by following a strict layout. I feel like we could have gone on all day. It was such a joy to discuss and learn about texture, drape and how to determine the right yarn and stitch for your project. What a great thing to be in a room full of creative people on the same page as you. I just didn't want the class to end. THESE WERE MY PEOPLE!

The photo class was great but definitely too short. What was super cool is that it was interactive. Learning stances. Learning about lighting. Not from seats but from being up with our cameras or phones and doing it. It was great to have a photography class that focused on FIBER. What we are trying to show and feature in our work. So many great tips tricks and hacks too that I am blown away.  OK... so that is the classes.

 

Now on to the market... and Oh - Emmmm- Geeeeeeeee. If you follow me on Instagram you saw the awesomeness as it happened!

One of the best parts of Stitches Midwest is seeing fiber friends who are too far to see often. One of my faves is Steven Be. At first when I didn't think I would make this year's event missing out on a shopping day with Steven be was the worst part. But then when I was able to attend, well it was of course a highlight. His whole team, Missy, Pippin, Erin and the King Bee himself, are all so much fun to play yarn with.

And they curate some of the most FANTASTIC fibers that make me swoon. Colors and texture... it is a sensory overload upon arrival in the best way.  I may have stopped by a few times over the course of the event, going back for more each time. I even got a new Blue Sky Kit for the most incredible cocoon I cannot wait to make.

Speaking of seeing fiber friends, of course I stopped by Dragonfly Fibers a few times and may have left with 2 large bags of yarn. Thank you Nancye!

 

I made my way over to Yarn Culture New York to visit with Patti and see all her new fibers. Oh my goodness, her offerings are always so classic and modern all at once. It is that perfect balance. The new "joy" weight of Rosy Green Wool Cheeky merino is so fabulous and is indeed full of joy. Of course I had to grab some in shades of blue and cannot wait to design something fabulous... for the Fellas! We had time to chat a bit and cook up a few new ideas together so stay tuned... because some fun things from us are coming soon.

The other great thing about Stitches Midwest is discovering all of the amazing new Fiber Friends. I found an incredible hand carved size S Crochet Hook when I met Sandy & Dennis from S & S Camelid Co. They have an Alpaca Farm and sell the big Bump's of yarn! Rugs will be made!!!

making important yarn decisions with Dami of Magpie Fibers

I also met Dami from Magpie Fibers. Dami gets me. I had breezed by Magpie on my first trip as I must have been in a daze and missed her offerings. Thankfully she tagged #StitchesMidwest in an Instagram post and it caught my eye as I searched the hashtag. So I made a point to head to her booth.

After staring at her fibers for what must have been an eternity, she came over. Clearly I needed assistance lol. You know how it goes... you see a fiber you REALLY want to work with but you don't have a plan yet? Lord knows I don't need to grow my yarn stash. So the staring game begins. Between me and the yarn. It tells me to take it home and I tell it I must first devise a plan. Dami could see I was clearly in over my head staring down her incredible offerings so I am glad she came over to introduce herself and help.

I think what made me an instant fan of hers was that before she asked me if I needed assistance she offered to join me in the stare down. THIS IS SOMEONE WHO GETS IT! So we stared. Then we chatted. Then she helped me come up with a plan and I cannot wait to show you what I make.

Truth be known, there was no way I was going home without some of her fibers. But at least I can feel better about it now with a plan. :-)

So many incredible finds. Over the next few months I will be showing you some close ups and launching special collaborations and projects that showcase some makers and finds from the Stitches Midwest market. We have some really special stuff planned for you guys and you know that means a few AWESOMESAUCE giveaways too.

Click the photos below to get to the vendor site of some of my fave finds. 

If you have ever considered attending an event like Stitches, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Being around YOUR people. Supporting small businesses. Learning and meeting fabulous humans.  It's been 5 years since my first Stitches Midwest. Some years I took a class and some I didn't. Every year was different. Some vendors the same and some new ones to discover. Always awesome. Always worth it.

And of course... when you go... make some time for antics and a hat lesson with Steven. Enjoy.

Mama Knows Redux: Tips & Tricks Working With Big Stitch Merino

Since sharing my first project with Mama Knows Luxury, I have been asked about how the fiber works up. I am no expert on Merino Top (the official name for Big Stitch Merino) but have been working with this stuff for weeks now so can only speak from that experience. And my experience has been AWESOMESAUCE. I mean I have beat the heck out of it. I knit it. I crochet it. I frog it. I do it again. I have no complaints.

I am finishing a hat design, did a scarf and just published a free basket pattern after doing the barstool/placemats ... oh and I am kicking around a blanket idea. For real you guys. I JUST LOVE IT and am having so much FUN. You know I will always give you the straight talk about fibers. This is fab! It is big chunky merino and I was having a blast and it is super fun and holds up so far.

Sarah has a blog post that she wrote that dispels and explains many of the myths about working with Big Stitch Merino. And as I continued with exploring and playing with my Mama Knows Luxury stash, I also found a few tricks of my own. And now I will share those tricks with you :-)

Trick one: Do NOT pull it. No yanking, no tugging and certainly NO PULLING. When I frog the wool, I just do it a little gently. Then it stays pretty in tact with no fraying or separating. Also - when I frog it, it is better to leave it laying out yarn ramen style instead of making it back into a ball. This just keeps the fiber from one extra set of tugging.

 

some rare occasional extra fluff

some rare occasional extra fluff


Trick two: Do not pull at it (in case you missed it the firs time). Yes, there is some shedding and I had two snag issues while working up the fiber. To me that is minor and nothing to fret about. Certainly not as many as you might expect based on the nature of the fiber. You may see a little morsel shed off here and there or even a little chunk of the fiber as you work up. LEAVE IT ALONE. Do not pull at it or pick it. Because then it will fray and cause deterioration of the fiber. What I did was just tuck it in. Easy peasy.

Trick three: Get the Felt Kit from Mama Knows. For real. This will be your new best friend. And, to be honest, I use it for my bulky merino too such as scarves and sweaters. I use this kit not just when it comes to the ends, but if a little tiny bit starts to fray off (which only happened once to me) then i just felted it back into place. Boom! GET THIS KIT.

Trick four: This is the mack daddy of all my tips. You ready? Hand felt the merino as you work it up. WHAT? That sounds so tedious and hard! Michele you must be crazy. Did you just say that? HA! It is so easy. Watch this little video and you will see it is so easy and so helpful. It secures the fibers. It toughens it up. It makes it your friend. It is a few extra minutes of work that will make your project come together with so much ease it is worth it.

Well, now that we've got a handle on how to handle this yummy Big Stitch Merino... how about another project? Sticking with my "More Than Just Big Blankets" theme, I came up with another fun home decor item. Super easy to make and great if you want to get your feet wet with Merino Top wool. I bring you: The basket. Again, I opted for hand crochet but you can certainly use the Big Stitch Hook. Get the free pattern here and get the fiber from Mama Knows Luxury.

So go get some big chunky fiber and explore... don't worry about those myths. Have some big ol' big merino fun!

Got Gauge?

I get lots of questions about pattern writing and gauge. I touched on gauge briefly in my How To Write A Crochet Pattern post, but thought it would be a good idea to dive into gauge a bit more. And yep I get it - gauge can be very overwhelming and kind of annoying. But because nobody crochets with the exact same tension and yarn substitions vary, well... Gauge matters. That is really the bottom line.

I've invited my friend Amy to take the reigns and drop some knowledge. She's not just my friend and a badass tech editor, she's also a super knowledgeable yarnie who spends her days as Creative Director for Universal Yarn.  Amy take it away....


Gauge (It’s not a dirty word, I swear!)

If there is one word in crochet and knit terminology that drives stitchers crazy, I think it’s gauge. The word, the concept, the idea: gauge. But it doesn’t have to be so ominous, really!

Briefly, gauge refers to how many stitches you have in your crochet or knit piece of fabric over a given width. Most patterns list gauge over 4 inches or 10 centimeters. To determine your gauge, stitch up a piece of fabric (usually in the stitch pattern called for in your pattern) that is more than 4 inches wide and tall, and measure!

You can find handy-dandy square measuring devices like the one shown here, or you can use a simple ruler or measuring tape. Count the number of stitches in a 4 inch width. In crochet or a bulky weight yarn with knits, this may be half stitches. For example, you may have 9.5 stitches = 4”.

Whatever. Then count the number of rows high over 4 inches – this is your row gauge.


There are a few reasons why gauge is important. First and foremost, by achieving the same gauge listed in the pattern, you can be assured that your item will be the same size as the one pictured. For example: say you see a gorgeous scarf and want to make it and get the pattern. The gauge in the pattern is listed as being 20 sc x 24 rows = 4” / 10 cm using a sport weight (#2 yarn) using a 3.5 mm hook. This breaks down to 5 sc = 1”/2.5 cm (20 sc divided by 4). And say your stitch count is 40 stitches, and the finished width is 8”. This makes sense, because at a gauge of 5 sc = 1”, 40 stitches divided by 5 = 8”. So before you even begin, you have knowledge of what you need to do to achieve the look you want.

A good place to start is always with the same hook size and weight of yarn recommended in the pattern. If the stitch count of the pattern is not too large, personally, I just dive right in and start the project. Work several inches into the project, measure, and assess.

If I was making the scarf I described above, and it measured 8” wide and I was happy with the resulting fabric, I would happily continue with my project. If my theoritical scarf was wider than 8” and I was using the correct weight of yarn, I would adjust hook size and choose a smaller hook in order to get smaller stitches. If my scarf was narrower than 8”, I would go up in size.

Everyone has unique tension on their yarn. And this is something you can learn about yourself and remember as you’re starting a project. Always keep in mind that the hook or needle size recommended in the pattern may not be the size that is right for you to get the listed gauge. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong! It means that you tension your yarn differently than the person who designed and made the sample in the pattern.

Yarn Ramen happens when you don't check gauge and go to far and have to start over. Avoid Yarn Ramen. Check your Gauge.

Yarn Ramen happens when you don't check gauge and go to far and have to start over. Avoid Yarn Ramen. Check your Gauge.

When it comes to projects like scarves and shawls and things where a specific size is not that important, gauge is not overly important (don't tell Michele I said that). Though it can be helpful to keep an eye on it because if your stitches are much different than what is listed in a pattern, you may require more or less yarn, and the size of your object will be different than what is listed in the pattern. It may also affect the drape of the project and how the stitch pattern looks and behaves.

Garments are another story. If you are making an item that is going to fit your body, it is absolutely essential to get gauge. Before starting a project in a new yarn with a new pattern, make a swatch, and if at all possible, make sure it’s in whatever stitch pattern is listed in the gauge section of your pattern. Make approximately a 6” x 6” swatch in the stitch pattern and measure out 4” in both stitches (width) and rows (length). If your gauge doesn’t match the pattern, pick a new hook and start again.

I know knitters and crocheters who dread making gauge swatches, and I know those who sincerely enjoy it. I happen to fall somewhere in between. I know it is a necessary step in the process, and I treat it with importance. Though I will not claim to always have fun doing it! But when swatching, it gives you an opportunity to learn about a stitch pattern and the way it behaves with your hook size and yarn before committing to a large project. It’s sort of a “get to know you” with your tools before diving into a long-term relationship. Spending a relatively short period of time doing this can potentially save time, heartache, and precious wasted yarn and sanity in the end. It is the best route to wearing your well fitting garment!

HAPPINESS! Got Gauge and a GREAT FIT!

HAPPINESS! Got Gauge and a GREAT FIT!

 

About Amy:  Amy Gunderson is creative director at Universal Yarn by day. By night, she is a freelance designer, tech editor, and graphic artist specializing in crochet charts and other knit & crochet related graphics. See Amy's Ravelry profile page here.

 

Mama Knows And That Ain't No Lie!

Ok... I have to force myself not to use all caps for this entire post because I am so excited I want to yell and jump and dance and make sure everyone knows it. I MEAN THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! for real... I have had the time of my life collaborating with Sarah and Mama Knows Luxury. She knows fun too by the way!

I had seen all of these big chunky merino projects over the last year. Blankets and knits and hand knitting and arm knitting. It was all exciting and curious and totally overwhelming. I wanted to try but those big projects didn't seem to call me by name. I had a feeling I would start with a bang then see them over in that endless pile of all my other "in progress" projects. I wanted to do something different to try this stuff out. This stuff I talk about is big bulky huge balls of merino wool. I reached out to Sarah with my crazy idea for bright colors and home decor with a twist. I am so glad she was on board for this because I have had SO MUCH FUN!

Ok... let me sidebar a minute:

If you read my post about Brand Partnerships, then you know how important partnering with the RIGHT brands is for success. Partnering with Mama Knows Luxury was more than Right, it was perfect.  Originally, we had agreed to have this collaboration post for Easter. I had a big fun Easter spread planned. And then my sweet Sadie got sick. So we moved the project to be for Mother's Day. Then my Sadie suddenly died. And my world fell apart. I didn't want to create. I wasn't feeling inspired. I hardly wanted to make anything. I tried. I took out the project bag so many times trying to force myself to feel creative but all I felt was sad missing my Sadie.

A big Box Of Fun waiting for me

I emailed Sarah feeling terrible. I had never missed these deadlines or not delivered on a collaboration. I was so excited she wanted to work with me I was worried I would ruin the relationship missing all these deadlines. But then Sarah emailed me back. She said "Take your time and get yourself right". She got it. My head space wasn't there. And because I partnered with the RIGHT brand and the RIGHT small business owner in Sarah, the stress was lifted in an instant. I had the freedom to take the time I needed without added stress.

Then it happened. Time passed and I found myself reaching for these big fluffy chunky merino balls. In fact, they helped bring me back. Like magic balls of yarn. So thank you Sarah for being who you are and to all of YOU reading this.. partner with the RIGHT Brands because it makes all the difference.

OK... now back to this AMAZING project.

At first I just wanted to squeeze all of the yarn. I admit, once I got going there was some play time before getting down to business and it was awesome. I knit it. I crocheted it. My husband threw the big yarn gum balls (as he called them) at me. It was just FUN.

My initial idea was inspired by my favorite placemats but that didn't quite work out. Making them square was sort of boxy and didn't have the look or feel I had envisioned. But the yarn was so fun to play with that it was not long before I had a new plan. I switched to round placemats and then it hit me... barstool pads AND placemats. GENIUS!

Then...I decided... hand crochet. I WANT TO HAND CROCHET. 

Ok if you have never tried hand crochet then let me tell you: IT IS SO MUCH FUN!!!!! This is the perfect project for it because you can make each Barstool Pad with a single ball. Which, by hand crochet, I kid you not... 15 minutes. 30 if you are having fun and undo it only to remake it again! Think about it... a brilliant fun handmade home accent you can MAKE in 15 minutes. YES!

I decided to make my first set LSU Colors... because... GAUX TIGERS! They are great for mini playroom stools and big barstools too. You can make them in any team colors for your game day accents.

As I was making these magnificent fun barstool pads I had a brilliant idea. My FAVORITE coffee house is a super chill place in Peoria called Zion Coffee Bar (more on them later but if you follow me on social media you know it is my joint). so I asked them if they would let me come in and add a pop of color and BAM!!!!  How amazing is this?


Now for Phase II: The tables. My friend has the perfect North Carolina home with such beautiful decor. But what she is missing is a pop of color. So I sent her a set of these beauties and will you look how much fun they bring to your summer tables!

Big_Stitch_Extreme_Crochet.jpg

This whole experience, even with the challenge I faced personally losing my Sadie, was incredibly perfect. Sarah is the real deal. A woman with a passion for people who make things. It is what this blog is about . She made the project beyond my dreams awesome. I Love how the pads came out. I loved learning hand crochet. I loved playing with this big chunky merino. I love the whole shebang. If you have been wanting to try big merino but afraid of the big projects, this kit is for you.  A perfect start and introduction to Big Stitch Merino.

And standby... because there is more to come from me and Mama Knows Luxury.

Write That Pattern! How To Write A Crochet Pattern

I was recently asked by Vincent of Knot Bad to help him learn to write patterns for his wearable items. That request for help was followed by a long series of texts over the next several days with lessons covering everything from how to determine gauge and yarn requirements to general verbiage and then... like magic he published his first wearable pattern. YAY! Success!

I was also helping two other friends begin writing patterns this week and since I know so many ask about writing patterns and bringing ideas to life, I thought why not share my process with everyone and make it a blog post. Now I am sitting here typing and thinking, I wish I had saved my texts with Vincent so I could paste them here for ease. LOL. No worries... we can dive in. Let me start by saying: YOU CAN DO THIS.

To begin, I always go back to something Drew Emborsky (AKA The Crochet Dude) told me when I was first starting to write my own patterns and overwhelmed and clueless: Start simple. Make it a tutorial and just tell people what to do. It is so simple it is almost mind blowing. Write down what you do. Revolutionary right? But that's all a pattern really is: instructions to tell someone else how to achieve the same result you did. A roadmap.

My first patterns were more like tutorials and not at all technical. But they got the job done: to tell people how to make what I made. As my designs grew in difficulty, my pattern writing skills were becoming more developed as well. So while tutorials saying do this, then do this are great and can often do the trick, for garments with sizing and items with design variations I would need to go beyond that with solid pattern writing.

It all starts with an idea and some yarn...

For me, my process always starts with an idea. I have in my mind a look to achieve. As I work to achieve that look I take detailed notes. I have learned over the years that I should use pencil. There is a lot of erasing in my process. I also have a single design book that is in my studio but also carry mini design books in my bag for ideas that hit on the go. I prefer the grid pages of Doane Paper for my travel books and have a journal notebook for my main designs.

My note process is twofold: I write down what I do in words, but I also draw the stitchwork. This is known as Charting. I know it is intimidating to many, but the truth is that charting is a HUGE time saver. I can literally see the chart in my mind when I imagine what I want to create. I can visualize the stitches and it helps me create the exact look I am going for. It is also great for when I am in the groove and don't want to write all the words. I can just chart and come back later to fill in the complete steps.

Once I have got my notes and finished garment it is time to write up that pattern. Woo Hoo! Now starts the real work and is much less fun. Though, I have to admit... I kind of like this part too. As you sit down to turn your notes into your pattern, don't feel like things are "known" or make assumptions. The thing about writing a pattern is information: you want to give as much detail as you can to the person making it. Success is when I never hear from a customer except to show me what they have made. That means I have communicated clearly and they are able to create the item.

I have written enough patterns where now, I have a template that works for me and is set up to always give me prompts to add information. It is super helpful so I don't leave things out. Information your pattern should have at the start:

WHAT IS IT: What are people making? Who designed it? My cover page always has my logo, website, copyright detail, pattern name and photos right off the top. Boom!

WHAT DO YOU NEED: Remember, you are giving someone all the information to make your design. I always list supplies and stitches off the top. For stitches: I give the abbreviation and the stitch name. People crochet & knit all over the world so be clear. I refer to the Craft Yarn Council for best practices on abbreviations.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW: Again, the most important thing is to communicate as much information as possible for the user to get the result they want. On my sizes I use standard sizing but also give information on specific areas (bust or waist, etc) as well as any information on how the garment fit is designed. Sizing details will vary based on what the pattern is for. Again, I refer to Craft Yarn Council standards for best practices on sizing

GAUGE: OK... I could (and will) do a whole blog post on gauge. Gauge is my nemesis but it is essential. Gauge is the way to success, especially if you are using multiple stitches. In this case you need to communicate to the user how to achieve gauge and what stitch is used. No one has the exact same tension so in order to achieve the look, the user will need to know gauge.

Phew.... still with me? Now we get into the actual pattern... the meat and potatoes. YUM!

Design / Pattern Writing Essentials: Yarn, Coffee, Notebook, Markers, Tape Measure, Notions.

Take a look at some of the Free Patterns on this blog to get a feel for this part of the process. This is where you actually tell the people what steps to take so they can create the masterpiece you designed.  But this is not the time to feature all of your creative writing skills. Less is more here. No fluff. Just clear and precise directions.

And anyone who has purchased my patterns knows that I try to lay out the steps concisely and clearly as well as include charts and schematics. It is ok if you do not know how to do charts or schematics. You can also include photos if that best illustrates what needs to be done. As long as you are clearly laying that road map out then you are all good.

OK. So you've got your item made, notes transcribed into steps to follow and you've added photos or charts as needed. GO YOU!!!! You have nearly got yourself a pattern. Have a sip of coffee and get ready for the home stretch.

Give the pattern a once over, then a twice over, and maybe even a third look to scan for mistakes & make sure you got all of your notes from your notebook on there. Now you need to take it out for a spin. Grab some of your fiber friends and see if anyone is available to test your pattern out. Often times I miss things. It happens. In June I published 24 patterns that month. I would be lying if I said they were all perfect out of the gate!

Having fiber friends test your pattern is an invaluable opportunity for feedback from everything to gauge to fit to stitch counts to grammar to you name it. I am fortunate to have a great pool of testers and would not get my patterns out there without them.

Now you've had an idea, you've brought it to life and created a way for OTHERS TO CREATE. Woo Hoo! Publish your pattern and do a little dance.

Can't wait to see all of your design ideas coming to life. Happy designing.

Stop. Block. And Roll. Tips for Blocking Your Knits

Hey now! Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and let's chat about blocking to get the best fit of your handmade garments.  I know blocking... not the sexy part of making your own clothes but man it is just too important to skip. Ok...  let's dive in!

Remember school fire drills when we were kids? Or the visit to the local firehouse Fire Safety Day lessons where they teach you stop drop and roll? Well, in crochet & knitting the drill we need to remember is stop block and roll. Say it with me now: Stop. Block. And Roll.  

I know, I know. There are about a million blog posts out there about how to block or why to block or what to block. So why add another? Let me give a little disclaimer:  These are my views ONLY. These methods work for me and my products without fail. I do not disparage against any other method. I have tried many and landed here.  As a designer, I get asked A LOT about blocking. When do you do it? How do you do it? Must you do it? So allow me to dive in with my voice on the subject.

First things first: What type of garments should be blocked? Short and simple answer:
YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BLOCK.
PERIOD.

OK... next: When do you block?
There is no hard and fast rule on this one.  Typically it is best to block BEFORE assembly. You want your stitches to settle to their resting place. If you assemble THEN block it is common to have a "pull" effect at seam parts of assembly. Additionally, you lose the ability to manipulate the fabric to where you want it to assemble and rest.

But check the pattern is the best rule to follow. As a designer, I often incorporate blocking into the design and pattern flow. For example, some of my patterns are made in "parts" and I will have you assemble two pieces then continue on working with the assembled piece. In this case I make it a point to have the crocheter "block before assembly". I have gotten MANY messages thanking me for this noting how it changes the fit. Because it does! That's why I say it. So if a pattern tells you when to block, it is best to assume that relates to the result of completed item. If the pattern doesn't say, I follow the Block Before Assembly rule. Any pieces that you will assemble should be blocked FIRST.

And last... the big one: How do you block?

Remember before when I said there are a million opinions on blocking? This is usually where they come into play.

Some people swear by Wet Blocking and refuse to hear another way. I am not one of those people. Wet blocking is the process where you immerse your fabric in lukewarm water or solution such as Soak or Eucalan. Then you gently "squeeze" out the excess water. Typically this happens by taking the fabric and laying it on a towel and rolling it so that towel grabs that moisture. Shape the fabric to required shape and measurements and you can can either lay flat between on another towel to dry or you can pin it flat on blocking boards. Whichever you do - do not wring it out if you go for wet blocking methods. Nor should you "hang dry". No bueno.

Also, I hate wet blocking. I don't do it. OK, I rarely do it. I do it when I must.  I did it for the purpose of knowing how, learning the method and finding out it is not for me. Other than that I am not a fan. Why am I not a fan you ask? Well for one, it is messy. I don't like messy.  Also, it takes so much time and space. You have to fill the bin with solution, immerse your pieces, flat dry them... blah blah blah. That may work for individual garments. But for me it is not efficient. I create small batch items for my big annual show to sell and need speed and efficiency - and not sacrifice quality. Wet blocking proved to be good but not right for me.

I am a Steam Blocker. Steam Blocking is most universal and works for 90% of the fibers out there. Steam Blocking especially lends itself to cottons which is my current fiber obsession.

Steam Blocking is my JAM! And while there are many ways to do it, I have 3 that I love and work for me and give me beautiful garments. Allow me to elaborate on these.

Megan Pierce iron blocking

When I first started steam blocking I used my Black & Decker $20 iron and rocked the steam option. I put my fabric on my ironing board and lightly steamed to moisten the fabric. I then placed the fabric on a towel to dry. I still use this method for many items in fact, but did upgrade to a slightly better iron with a good steam option (Got a Sunbeam which was $30). I use this method for blankets, heavier wool items such as sweaters and scarves and cowls.

Another Steam Blocking tool I use far more frequently and especially with garments, is my Conair Steamer. Yeah baby. My husband got me this gem one year for Christmas and while some women would not be happy with such a chore related gift I was ELATED because I knew it would mostly be used for my knits and not his shirts. I live by this thing. It is probably one of my favorite tools of the trade. I cannot rave about it enough. It is also awesome for steaming my photo backdrop but that is for another post.

What I love about this is that the clips and hanging bar on the unit hold the fabric perfectly. I just hang my item and steam away. Literally the easiest thing to do of the whole process. Then I place the fabric with pins on my blocking board to settle and dry. Boom!

And a bonus for garments like dresses that may need to be re-blocked or blocked after assembly I just hang them and steam them right on my dress form. Easy peasy.

As I used to travel a lot for work, and still travel as much as I can, I needed a portable steaming method for blocking magic. I settled on the Rowenta Travel Steamer. Mostly because I already owned one from my wedding weekend over a decade ago. But also, when the one I owned died a painfully explosive death in a hotel room, I still went with the Rowenta Travel Steamer and have not regretted it. It is great for steam blocking smaller items, steam blocking on trips and a really awesome thing to have in my booth for shows and show prep.

dampblocking

Something great you can also do is "Spray Block" or "fake steam block" if you do not have any steam options but, like me, have an aversion to wet blocking. This is where you lay your garment on the towel, spray with a water bottle to dampen but not "soak" and pin into shape and place to dry. By controlling the amount of water you are controlling how damp the fabric gets which will help you keep the shape and form.

When you block and how you block will always depend on variables such as what the pattern calls for and what the fiber calls for. But the question of blocking is always the same: YES. Got blocking tips? Share below in comments.

BLOCKING SUPPLIES:

I have placed some links within the post but here is a quick ref shopping guide. Remember - these are affiliate links. I may get commission or compensated for purchases made through these links. It helps run the blog. So thanks.

Sunbeam Turbo Steam Iron works like a charm
My Conair Steamer that I love so much
Travel Steamer - for blocking on the go
Blocking Boards (you do not need these, but I prefer them and use these. Any towel & flat surface can work)
Blocking Wires (I only use these for lighter garments or even lacey items)
T-Pins(I like these because they are long)

CrochetBlockingTips

And because I can't leave you without some basics here are 5 Blocking Myths Debunked:

1. You do not always need to block. We've established that is just silly talk. You ALWAYS need to block

2. You do not need to block swatches? I hear this ALL the time. Um... yeah you do. Unless you do not care about gauge, repeating the pattern, completed measurements of your garment or consistency. I mean, yeah. If you don't care about those things then you can skip blocking swatches. In other words: YES BLOCK YOUR SWATCHES.

3. You have to wet block for "true" blocking. Um... no. I hardly EVER wet block and have achieved consistent gauge, finished garments for my finished goods and true crochet bliss. Like I said earlier, there are MANY ways to block. Find what works for YOU then stick with it to get consistency. If you ALWAYS wet block then go for a steam block be prepared to get a different result. Find your method of choice then stick with it.

4. "Oh I will just block it later" also known as: Blocking hides my mistakes. Negatory Ghost Rider. While blocking will allow your stitches to "settle" into place and may occasionally help hide a hiccup or two. Don't use it as a repair method. If you make a mistake and wait for blocking to fix it you will likely be twice as upset. Just frog it. Fix it and move on.

5. "My tension is off, I will just block to achieve gauge". See above. NO! That is why you swatch and that is why you block your swatches. You want consistent stitching. Garments you will wear and enjoy. Blocking will not magically add 5 inches to your garment width. Swatch. Check your tension. Then move on.

And last... but never least... a special shout of thanks to our community members Megan Pierce, Everything Evie Crafts & Triple Knot Studio for helping with these awesome blocking photos.

Happy Blocking!

A Noble Project

I have followed Amy of Noble Character Crafts since about the week I joined Instagram. I have always been enamored by her use of color and attention to every detail for her afghans. The girl has skills.  I have also gotten to know her a bit over time and found she's also incredibly kind, thoughtful and inspiring.

So when she messaged me to invite me to be part of a big collaboration project, it took me all of about two seconds to respond YES!!  Amy was collecting unique hand knit and hand crochet squares from several makers on Instagram. We were all given free range to make whatever kind of square we want as long as 1) we used machine wash fiber and 2) the color scheme had to be cream and grey. Sounds amazing!

At first I overwhelmed myself with how much artistically I could do in a 7" square. I knit it. I crocheted it. I did a few variations of both. But in the end I took myself back to basics and remembered the simplicity of my very favorite stitch combo isn't really intricate at all. So I took some of my fave washable acrylic from Universal Yarn and made a square that inspired me.


I asked Amy to share with us her inspiration for this incredible project:

Collaboration Squares

Collaboration Squares

At the beginning of 2017 I had seen a project involving a few makers that collaborated together to create a super scarf. One maker made the scarf, another added an embellishment, and each one passed it on to the next adding their own special touch. I was so inspired when I saw that project, that I wanted to be a part of something similar, but even bigger and involving a lot more of the amazingly talented makers I had had the privilege of getting to know on Instagram.

I have always loved creating afghans and seem to always have at least one in the making at all times. Granny square afghans are probably my favorite, so I had the idea to create a masterpiece involving 48 makers and 48 squares, and the vision for the 2017 Collaboration Afghan was born! I asked each maker to send me a 7" square, either knitted or crocheted, in the pattern of his/her choice. We used a neutral color palette of grays and creams to tie everything together, while still showcasing each maker's individual style in his/her design.

Amy piecing together a Masterpiece

It was so hard to choose which makers to invite to be a part of this collaboration with so many gifted knitters and crocheters out there. Our team of contributors varies from those that simply make for the love of creating, to those who rely on their handmade business for a source of income.  Stretching all over the US, Canada, and the U.K., our experiences range from those that have only been stitching for a few years to those that can't remember not stitching. Our various backgrounds, demographics, and personalities couldn't be more different, but this one thing unites us...the love of creating beautiful things with yarn, hooks, and needles. Each of the makers are people that I have been so honored and thankful to get to know, learn from, and collaborate with for this project that strives to put community over competition.


I am so honored Amy invited me to be part of this project. I Loved seeing all the posts on Instagram as various squares were created and Amy would often share when they would arrive. See all the Collaboration Afghan posts here. The finished blanket is more magical than I could have imagined. A true work of art and One Of A Kind. And you can enter to win it here.

The Cotton Club!

While it is true, I am a cozy vibe, snowboard loving, scarf making kind of gal, anyone who knows me knows I am truly an ocean loving Pisces to the core. Nothing gets to me like the fresh waves and salt air. When I lived in Australia, there wasn't a single day that went without a dip in the South Pacific, of course it helped that I lived and worked a short walk from the beach. With this in mind, it was probably only a matter of time before my two passions (yarn and ocean) collided.

beachside-knittng

About two years ago, while on location in Florida for a shoot, I got the idea to make myself some lightweight cotton garments to wear. But while on location with super long shooting days, and still prepping for the Chicago One Of A Kind Show... well let's just say such an undertaking would have to wait.

Last year, while in Miami for several weeks, the idea reignited and so the journey began. Over the last year I have experimented with various fibers and cotton was always the winner for this idea. Like the commercial says, it is the "fabric of our lives" after all. I began my process of swatching and sketching and found the old ideas I had tucked away coming to life again. In the process, I quickly fell in love with a few specific cottons that lent themselves in both color and texture to my vision.

Thus my first Summer Cottons Collection was born.

cottons-design-process

Within a few weeks I had edited it down to a variety of looks I would want in my own closet. I drew inspiration from the many coastal places I have been and created pieces that spark a memory from each place they are named for.

I have put my heart into my first Summer Cottons Collection. This collection features garments made from some of the softest cottons and breathable for those summer days. Garments I enjoy both making and wearing. And I hope they are garments many others will enjoy both making and wearing.

The collection is made up of 20 new designs for makers to enjoy and be inspired by and a handful of made to order garments available here. And you can try the Inwood Summer Beach Top free pattern here.

For a deeper look at the fibers, read on to learn about the materials. (disclosure: the following contains affiliate links where I may get credit or commissions but these are not sponsored posts and opinions are my own).

Wool And The Gang Shiny Happy Cotton
Ok... this is by far the most superior cotton of all the fibers I have used and tried gearing up for this collection. Yes, I work with WATG often, no they did not pay me to say that. My order receipts can be proof enough how much this material factors into my designs and offerings. Why is it so special? First of all, it is just a wee bit thicker than most other cottons on the market. It has that few added strands that makes a difference in how it holds structure of my stitches. And still, it does not sacrifice drape effect for being a wee bit thicker which is awesome because when designing with lightweight fibers drape matters!  Last, I do not know what their color process is but this cotton has a sheen like none other. It truly is Shiny Happy Cotton and I love it! And because WATG is awesome, you get 15% off with code WATG144S through 6/9/17!

Betta Knit Pima Cotton
I discovered Betta Knit last winter when I collaborated with them on the Stella Jumper design and fell in love with their chunky wool. I was thrilled to discover they are offering Pima Cotton for summer. This cotton is great for those drapey and lacey designs. It holds the stitch structure well for a finer fabric. This is technically a category 3 DK yarn but in truth it works up like a sport weight and I just love it. I designed my Megan's Bay Shrug specifically for the way this fiber drapes. And... Betta Knit is giving you 20% off with code 144XBK through June 30, 2017 WOOT WOOT!

Lion Brand Yarn 24/7 Cotton
Lion Brand continues to deliver for affordable yarn options. The 24/7 Cotton is mercerized adding a sparkle and sheen even after multiple washings. Trust me, I tested this claim out and it passed the test! This fiber is interesting because it is a little bit "rope-like" for lack of a better term. It was interesting to work up and I quickly fell in love. It is perfect for my Saratoga Shrug design! I loved it so much I reached out to Lion Brand and we teamed up to collaborate on a design specifically for this collection and this yarn. More coming on that very soon!

Universal Yarn Cotton Supreme
The name says it all. It truly is Cotton Supreme. One of my favorite things about this fiber beyond the awesome texture is all the colors they offer. You can get so many blends and without much effort in yarn change, your garments will have style and color all their own. This is a heavier weight cotton, definitely more category 4 worsted. And yes still gives you the soft drape of the finer fibers. It is ideal for garments like my Manchester Tunic where you can let the yarn do the color work for you!

DebbieBlissCottonDK

Debbie Bliss Cotton
I discovered Debbie Bliss Cotton well into this project. In fact, most patterns were already out for testing when I came across this gem. I discovered it while checking out a new Local Yarn Shop Wool & Company that opened about 15 minutes from my home. (More on them in a future post). This fiber is delicious! In colors and in texture, I was delightfully surprised. It says it is DK, but more of a sport weight for sure. You can order from them here and they provide free shipping in the US!

I know there are endless other cottons out there and have tried many. But these are the ones that inspired and are featured in this collection and I encourage you to try them out. Do you have a favorite cotton you want us to know about? Share in the comments below. And tag #stitchandhustle on social media so we can see your summer cotton projects. Happy summer and see you in the Cotton Club!

And to celebrate.... I am giving away the whole collection of designs. Yep - ALL 20 PATTERNS could be yours! Enter below

Meet Tina from Wool And The Gang!

Disclosure: Wool And The Gang provided materials free of charge for the purpose of this post and giveaway. Content is my own.

I am always both humbled and excited when I get an email from Wool And The Gang that says they have a new product launch and would I like to be part of it. I want to say, "duh you don't even have to ask" lol because UM HELLO!!!!  They are only like one of my favorite brands on the planet. But their new product Tina Tape had me extra excited.

It is 100% Vegan, something a lot of my customers ask for and is made using renewable energy. Oh and it is made of fibre from sustainably sourced eucalyptus trees. Like I do not even know how that is done but sign me up. Read more about the process here.

To celebrate the launch WATG is hosting a Make-A-Long and we have teamed up with Wool And The Gang to give you a Tine Tape Kit so you can join the fun. Enter below and tag your projects on social media #TinaTapeYarn and #MakeAlong

Handmade Mother's Day Gift Guide 2017

Ok you guys... in an ideal world I would make every single gift I give. But let's be honest... that is just not possible. Plus, I like to support other artisans and makers buying from them. So I am still giving the gift of handmade (but made by a fellow creative). With mother's Day around the corner, here is my official handmade Gift Guide.

Flowers are such a traditional Mother's Day gift. How about a handmade twist. If you follow me on social media, you know the wooden handmade flowers I have are one of the most valuable and important things I own. How about giving mom, or nana, or anyone, flowers that will last forever? I bought these from Stephanie at Triple Knot Studio and LOVE them. They are made so well, and she gives such care to shipping. They will actually be both a Mother's Day gift and a housewarming gift for my bestie. A perfect gift that lasts a lifetime.

One of my favorite new handmade items was actually a birthday gift to me from my husband and would be perfect for mom too. This HANDMADE breakfast tray was custom made by Sam of Giving Tree Woodshop and legit... I cannot express to you how much I love it. I use it almost every single day as either a snack tray, work station on the floor or in bad. It is so perfect. The legs fold up and are held by a strap (because let's face it, clutz that I am would snap it off if it wasn't) so it can literally be used so many ways. Sam worked with me to pick the right wood and finish and man... I love it. And it was SO AFFORDABLE ( I expected to pay double what he charged to be honest) so yeah... this would be a delight for mom. Serve her up some awesome treats on an awesome handmade serving tray.

Looking for something with a special message? For Christmas I got my fellow makers a handmade wood burned ornament from Ashley at Made of Embers. She also made the coasters for our Stitch Up Chicago gifts bags. Ashley makes wall hangings (I have one in my studio) and wooden serving spoons and so many other things. She is so creative. So if you've got a Mother's Day message to send, send it hand burned with love.

For something truly unique, check out Globe In. I talked about the importance of finding the right brand partnerships recently, and I could not be more excited that we partnered with Globe In for Stitch Up Chicago. Not just about Fair Trade, but in short, Globe In brings artisans from around the world to your door. I still use the items they sent me from my Comfort Box. Maybe get mom a subscription for the Artisan box or a really special handmade gift from around the globe.

 

If you are looking to send mom a project to keep her busy (or hint you want her to make you something) then check out the kits from Mama Knows Luxury. Because trust me, Sarah (mama) KNOWS! I myself am currently working up something fun with her big merino wool and I tell you that this would be such a treat to get as a gift. For real... this is so much fun that you may want to get a kit for yourself. She is even giving you guys a discount: code hustle10 is good for 10% off anything until June 30, 2017. WHAT?!?

 

So there you have it... awesome handmade finds for mom or even to Treat Yo'self ;-)

Manos Del Uruguay Milo & The Naples Shrug

Ok ... so I could hardly contain my excitement when I was told Manos Del Uruguay would be sending me their new Milo fiber to try and review ... and what colors would I like. Um... ALL OF THEM? Can that be an option?

No but seriously, even though the palette of this fiber is more muted than the vibrant colors I typically work with I wanted them all.  They are so fabulous and so enticing it was hard to choose.

As I looked at the colors I had this instant image from the Florida beaches on a full moonlit night. I selected to make an ombre item that would be like the shoreline beach up to the dark sky.

The colors I chose were:
Natural
Potosi
Lisboa
Indigo
Manchester  

Can you see it? Beach to night sky? Ah - PERFECT!

When the yarn arrived I was ecstatic about my choices once I saw how truly perfect they worked together. It was exactly the blend I envisioned.

Now, the yarn states that it is "fingering weight" but in truth it is closer to sport weight. Ish. You know how it goes... no strands are ever quite exactly the same. Either way - it was definitely thinner and lighter than my normal chunky yarn vibe. I worked up a couple of swatches and I knew a shrug would be perfect. I pulled out an old motif and got ready to put a new twist on it.

The Milo works up so quickly and so smoothly. It has an interesting texture because of the linen blend but it is not stiff with that starch-like feeling so many other linen blends that I've used have.

I could not be more please with this yarn and am already starting another project with it! because yes.. it is THAT GOOD! I want to make so many things with it. 

Thank you so much to Fairmont Fibers & Manos Del Uruguay for sending me this yarn to try. I am definitely a new fan.

You can get the Naples Shrug pattern here to make your own.

Webs Yarn has Milo in stock and also if you buy a certain amount you get their club discount. I love their customer service - here is the link. (nope - not an affiliate link - I just like shopping with them).

 

 

Disclosure: Fairmont Fibers & Manos Del Uruguay sent me this yarn free of charge for the purpose of this review and collaboration. Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review are my own.