Monday, September 28, 2015

Color Matters! Even when it isn't Orange

The importance of color selection has never been more apparent than after the announcement that we were hosting a Dreambird KAL.  Oh the decisions that had to be made!  Light background or dark? Striping feathers or solid?  Which colors compliment one another?  How in the world am I expected to commit to these kinds of decisions?  The stress was just too much!!!

Personally, I would prefer to just knit everything in orange.  Maybe throw some green & purple in once in awhile but orange is always my go-to color.  And I'm finding that I'm not alone.  Most people have that one certain color that we're drawn to and, try as we might, we just can't get away from it. Even when I make a concerted effort to choose a color other than orange, 9 times out of 10 the project has some sort of orange in it somewhere.  But I'm OK with that.  

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do was color and one of my most prized possessions was the Crayola box of 64 crayons!  You know, the one with the sharpener in the back.  Nowadays crayons have been replaced by yarn and color selection has gone way beyond 64.  Every hue has varying shades and those shades are blended with others to create the incredible fibers we've come to know and covet. There's just no describing the feeling of finding the perfect yarn in the perfect shade for a particular project.  But you know, don't you?

And there are so many different ways for discovering the perfect match!  Some of us are drawn to the pattern because it's designed in the color that we love and can't imagine it any other way.  When this is the case I consult my good friend Ravelry to show me the same pattern in other colors & sizes just to I can be sure it's the pattern and not necessarily the color that I'm drawn to.  And then I knit it in orange.

Others are drawn to the yarn and just can't live without it even though they have several bins, tubs, drawers, boxes & shelves (not to mention the trunk of their car) at home.  It calls to them, pleads with them to take it home and convinces them that they're sure to find the perfect pattern someday.  But for now it's all about that particular yarn in that color.

And then there's the dilemma of knitting for someone else, someone who may not like orange, which makes the color selection even more difficult.  For instance, let's just say that someone says they like blue and you want to knit a birthday gift.  Do they realize how many shades of blue there are or are they just trying to be difficult?  Are they knit worthy? Will they even appreciate that you were forced to knit with a color you don't particularly care for?  If not, find someone who loves orange and knit something for them. 

All kidding aside, I've found a whole new appreciation for color over the past year and have come to admire color combinations that I would have never considered before my venture into this world I've come to know and love so much!

According to Color Matters, "Orange is vibrant. It’s hot, healthy, fruity and engaging – but it can be abrasive and crass. It’s a polarizing color. People either love it or detest it."  Click here to see the meaning of your favorite color!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Year One Top 5 - Knitizens, Crazies and Freedom of Expression!

We recently celebrated Harps & Thistles' first year in business and what a fabulous year it's been!  Every experience this past year was new...  working in retail, owning my own business, managing inventory, etc.  I guess it's only natural to want to reflect on how things went so here are my top 5 discoveries.

#1 - Your customers quickly become your friends!  They hang out with you to keep you from being lonely, they bring you lunch or dinner when you have a 10 hour day and can't get out to get something, and they celebrate every milestone with you.  At some point the word 'customer' seems too impersonal for these wonderful people so you try to come up with another name for them.  Your husband suggests knitizens (which admittedly is cute and catchy, if not a little corny) but you settle on guests because your shop feels like home to you and hopefully to them as well.

#2 - Yarn enthusiasts are CRAZY!   Always looking for something new, for their next 'fix' of fiber, the newest color the latest addition.  During our open house celebration I witnessed one guest stalking another guest around the shop for AN HOUR because she was carrying the one and only skein of the exact color that she absolutely had to have.  She didn't get it and, although heartbroken, was able to maintain her composure and was quickly distracted by the the other 10,000 skeins on the shelves. Needless to say, she didn't leave empty handed.

#3 - Choosing colors is HARD!!!  If I had my way everything would be orange...  with maybe some green & purple thrown in.  But there are all these other colors that other people like and "you can't just buy what you like" and blah, blah, blah.  So I've taken to asking random people to help pick colors... my daughter, guests, grandkids, the mail lady, the person behind me in the checkout line. I can only guess that naming the colors is just as difficult as choosing them.  Names like Urban Transit, Fig Pretty, Ballerina Mirage, Naked Shame and Kensington Farm lead me to believe that the yarn companies are probably using the same method for naming colors as I use for choosing them.

#4 -  Freedom of expression is your new way of life.  You can wear orange every day and flip flops on your feet and dye your hair purple and green.  You can geek out over meeting one of your favorite knitting personalities or the purchase of a new knitting accessory and nobody judges. You discover the peace and happiness that you always suspected were lurking just beyond your reach and you wake every morning excited to greet the day with the expectation that it will be exactly as it was meant to be.

#5 - Be yourself.  Treat people with kindness.  Celebrate their successes and help them find the silver lining when a project goes horribly wrong.  Provide them with a comfy seat, a hot cup of coffee or tea and a creative atmosphere and they quickly go from customer to friend.  Which brings us full circle back to #1.

Now this is the type of vicious circle I can happily call home.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Misery to Bliss in Four Month's Flat

Wow!  I just reread my previous blogs which were all written long before I even considered opening a shop.  Back when knitting was just a hobby that I loved (and still do) and before yarn completely changed my life.  So please allow me to fill in the gaps.  I'll spare you the boring details and try to stick to the highlights. It's funny how things happen, how life just happens sometimes. 

December 2013 - I had a Pinerest board called Harps & Thistles where I saved photos of Ireland & Scotland and thought it would be a great name for a business someday. Nothing specific, possibly yarn or knitting related.  Maybe a part time online something-or-other, something to do in my retirement.  As luck would have it, the url was available and I bought it, thinking that since retirement was several years down the road, I'd have plenty of time to figure things out.

April 2014  - My job as a corporate Project Manager was suddenly eliminated. What in the world would I do without endless meetings, conference calls, reports and deadlines?  How would I possibly get by without someone critiquing my every move?  Was this actually relief I felt?   I don't remember consciously making the decision to open a yarn shop but the next day I started the Harps & Thistles Facebook site.

May 2014 - OK, so I didn't take into consideration that I was still a fairly novice knitter and that I really didn't know a lot about yarn.  I didn't take into consideration that I'd never worked retail or 
owned a business (but I did sell Home Interiors back in the 80's so that had to count for something).   Fake it 'til you make it right?  I knew to the very core of my being that somehow this was going to happen and that it needed to happen in time to participate in Northeast Ohio's Yarn Discovery Tour, so off I went.  Head down and full speed ahead!

June - Oh ye of little faith...  you bankers and real estate owners who poo-poo'd the idea of a yarn shop as a viable business.  Apparently you don't understand the tenacity and dedication of knitters once they have their mind set on a specific project.  Especially one with an outcome of a stash beyond their wildest dreams.  Where there's a will there's a way and in the end the knitter persevered!

July - KEYS!  I have keys to a gigantic empty space and what a space it is!  A quaint 96-year-old building with great parking and just a block off the interstate.  I started collecting secondhand furniture and fixtures and came up with the brilliant idea that the classroom table and all 8 chairs needed to be shabby chic'd.  I finalized my logo, ordered signage and hired a painter.  By this time I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 people following me on FB and was starting to get excited about meeting all of them! 

August - Attended Stitches Midwest (what was I thinking!?) to assist Three Irish Girls with their booth, oh yeah, and also to attend the impromptu birth of my cousin Erin's sweet baby girl.  Mad dash upon returning... arranging furniture & fixtures, checking in boxes and Boxes and BOXES of yarn. Shelves were delivered just 5 days before opening so a huge THANK YOU to my son for putting them all together and the ladies in my knitting group for attending my shelf stocking party and supporting me from beginning to end.  And at the risk of turning this into an acceptance speech, I also need to thank my husband who never wavered in his support and my family who were there to help with anything and everything I needed.

By the time I opened for business on August 26th I had nearly 600 followers on FB and was a little nervous that they would all be waiting for me when I opened.  They weren't all there that day, but eventually they all stopped by to check us out.  Many have since become friends and I can't imagine life any other way.

My dear friend Martha was my very first customer!

It's hard to believe, but in just two short weeks we will celebrate our one year anniversary.  Man oh man have I ever learned a lot these past 12 months.  Not just about yarn and knitting and running a business, but also about the importance of keeping an open mind and heart, about trial and error and about always treating people as you would want to be treated.  I'm finally doing what I was always meant to do and I thank my lucky stars each and every day!