Thursday, December 4, 2014

Inside The Grainary.....

I failed to show the really interesting features of the building but will do that this weekend and add them to the blog. There are the original grain chutes, the lovely beams and old floors.

Here is what we look like inside though....

The brick wall was originally built for the wood burner we used to have to heat the place. It is an antique Round Oak stove which now sits in my living room. We still heat the shop with wood, however, it is an outside wood burner now.

If you look to the left where the wooden flag signs are hanging, you'll see that they are mounted on the original grain chutes. The grain was stored upstairs and you would fill your burlap bags by hanging them under the chute and pulling the wooden stop.

We've started painting and updating this year. Our wallpaper is old and outdated and it's time for a facelift.
Management is telling us we will be adding a small addition to the front part of the building this spring. This will be where the fiber will be moved to. We'll have more space for spinning and display! Can't wait!!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sales, Fiber, Thanksgiving and More Sales.......

Just a few things today. As you guys know, I make my living by selling fiber/yarn and now the wheels/looms and giving lessons and workshops. Fiber is my future. It's what I love. It's in my blood. I've poured everything I have into it. I love my customers, who are more like friends to me.

As all of you know, I am slow on getting things done, even though I try my best to meet deadlines and keep up. Part of my business is processing fiber for local spinners. They bring me their raw wool/alpaca and I make it into a spinnable product. It is part of my business, but it is certainly time consuming. Aside from that, I process a lot of the fiber that I sell. I don't believe that combed top is for everyone and I want to support my local fiber producers as well. The Tequila Sunrise braids are locally grown alpaca blended with merino combed top and carded into roving, for example. After I have dyed it, of course.

While I clean and wash fiber, or do household chores, I am thinking of new things for the shop. I make plans in my head and kick them around for a while before making a proper plan. Over the past few months, I have been making plans for 2015 and will follow through on those plans. Time will be tight over the next 4-8 weeks but I will be offering new and hopefully, exciting products soon.
I want to vent about a few things that have been in our faces a lot lately. Sales. I've had it up to my eyeballs in advertisements blasting on the TV and in the mailbox. I've also witnessed this mentality seep into our small shops and Etsy stores. Here's why I don't offer sales on my products.
I am but one woman trying to do it all.

This is also one of the reasons I decided to do the giveaway for promoting the Etsy. It was designed to have you guys help me promote the shop, because I'm pretty lousy when it comes to that, and it would ease up some of my computer time. As it stands, I spend several hours each week doing administrative work.

It all starts with an idea. Then calculating the cost/price, finding and getting my hands on the fiber and making a plan. After the product is planned, dyed, blended, braided/packaged, it has to be photographed, photos cropped, and then listed in the Etsy. Then I have to let people know it's there. I design my ads (which as you all know, don't get updated as much as they should be), print my own labels, do the packaging, packing when the product is sold and getting it to the P.O.

I bottle my own oil, make the stitch markers, and put together samples. I also test each drop spindle after I make them, paint the painted ones, test mom's glass spindles, gather the fabric my aunt makes the project bags out of, hunt down and order all of the supplies for packaging/shipping, do what ever graphics need done, bookkeeping, and also design/print and iron on the logos for the Poopsy bags.

While I'm doing all of this, I am trying to plan fun things for us to do in Ravelry, as a group. I have very little time for spinning, crochet, weaving or now, knitting, so I rely on you guys to give me feedback on how the fiber is to work with. I appreciate that you all share this experience with me. It lets me know how I'm doing.
This brings me to the big topic, which is sales. I'm a member of a few Etsy groups both on Etsy and Facebook and I see a lot of people running sales all the time. The whole Black Friday craziness brought on even more sales and it actually makes me angry. Then those same shops followed up with sales for "shop small Saturday" and then "cyber Monday". I already see shops selling dyed fiber for less than I can buy it from my supplier for and I have to wonder how they can do this.

By the time I calculate the price of combed top, shipping to me, dye, the fees from Etsy, paypal fees, and packaging there is no way I can compete with some of these shops without having to work a full time job to pay for it. All the little things add up quickly and I can't run a business properly if I'm not including all of my expenses. Dye is not cheap. Hot water to process a batch is not free. I search for the best ways to produce my products as cheaply as possible, without sacrificing quality, and in turn, that savings gets passed on to you guys. I also need to pay myself a reasonable salary if I am to survive. If I can't pay the bills, I can't continue to sell fiber. Simple as that.
I also don't think it's fair to sell one of you a braid of fiber for full price and then turn around a week later and offer it for 45% off! That would discourage me as a customer and make me feel bad that I paid more than I should have. It would also tell me as a consumer that the product is not worth more than the discounted price to begin with. It downgrades the hard work that goes into each braid as well, and makes it harder on other sellers to keep their head above water.

My mom started selling her stained glass about 34 years ago. Before that, my grandmother ran a successful floral shop, then a ceramics shop out of her home. My grandmother was a smart woman and taught my mom how to do business. I, in turn, follow the rules that were taught to me. Handmade does not get discounted. If you do, you will fail. If you can sell your product for xx amount of dollars, then do so. Never overcharge, never undercharge. There is expense and time that must be considered or you will go under. I have no intention of loosing my business due to trying to compete with online shops that undercut each other to a point of loosing money. How long can one survive that way? Who is paying the bills for supplies? A large sale can put a small business under faster than just about anything. If I sell 100# of fiber at less than my cost, I will have to raise prices on other things to try to recoup that loss. I don't believe in doing that, nor will I. I have a steady price based on my expenses. If I can get fiber cheaper, I lower the price on that fiber. And this has happened in the past. It was not a large decrease, but I passed that on to you regardless. Over the past year, however, all of my expenses have gone up. Water has increased, electric has increased, shipping has increased and most recently, fiber prices have increased. Unfortunately, as costs of producing goes up globally, so does the end product. Farmers are paying more for their grain/hay, vet bills, and what ever other costs they incur. Commercial and local mills have increased their prices due to their production costs going up. Unfortunately, this is passed on to us as consumers. There is simply no getting around it.
I do my best to keep my prices reasonable. I recently got some Polish Merino in, for example.

It comes to me commercially dyed and ready to package. There is little work on my part, as I only have to braid and tag it. It happens to be cheaper for me to purchase than any of my undyed stock, and you can see that in the price. I'm not looking to get rich. I'm not looking for an easy way to slide through life. I work hard, I offer a good product and plan on doing this for the rest of my working days. I'm in this for the long haul. I'm not a hobbyist just having fun by selling products cheaply in order to see my sales numbers go up so I can feel good about myself. I don't offer sales because it's not fair to those who have just paid full price for something and it's not fair to me to loose money and risk my livelihood. I don't want to create a sense of grab it while it's on sale and then have you guys sitting on fiber that you didn't really want but purchased because it was cheap and you felt the need to jump on a good deal but later had buyers remorse. I also feel that by undercutting prices, it cheapens the product itself. If something can be sold at 45% off every other week, then it is not worth more than that to begin with. I can't afford to offer those discounts but good for those who can. I'm still small enough that I can't buy everything in huge bulk amounts. Some things I am still buying in terms of lbs. and some things I am now able to buy in terms of bumps. The supplier offers price breaks at certain amounts and I am now able to take advantage of that in some cases, but not all. As my business grows, so will my buying power and any savings will be reflected in my prices. You, my customers, can take satisfaction in knowing that you are directly responsible for that.
I don't do a lot of shows due to the fact that I can't be gone overnight. Therefore I am limited to one day shows that I can drive to, set up, and tear down and get home that night. With the exception of one show that is two days, but only 40 min. away. Therefore, my product does not get packed up and hauled around too much. It sits on the shelves in the shop, which is right here on the farm, until it is either sold on the Etsy or sold here. If something is starting to look frayed on the edges, I will either pull that for myself or recycle it into the Hodge Podge batts.

Nothing goes to waste around here. Anything that falls out of the carder and onto the floor gets put into a bag until I have enough to make cat matts out of. The barn cats greatly appreciate this! I also have a very expensive cottage card, as well as the small carder and some other equipment that is needed for producing a good product. I am not processing fiber in my kitchen sink. I have a whole set up specifically for that in my basement. I pay a mill to let me use their equipment to produce my roving sets. It's very time consuming and hard work.
So, this is why you won't see me holding sales. I can't afford it, nor do I believe in them for small handmade businesses. The big chain stores can afford it. I cannot. I hope that my customer service and dedication to superior fiber make up for this.
I've avoided this subject in the past, and no one has asked me about sales, but what triggered this post was the past weekend.
As many of you know, we hold a Christmas Open House every Thanksgiving weekend and have done so for the past 25 years. In the past, this was a tradition among small local shops and they were always very successful. Black Friday was there, but not on the scale it is today. Too many large stores are pushing sales to a point that they are opening on Thanksgiving day now and even offering the sales on the Wed. before. It has become a nightmare! As far back as I remember, the day after Thanksgiving was the biggest shopping day of the year. Not because of sales, but because well organized women were ready to start their Christmas shopping. They were ready for a well deserved day off after preparing a large family meal on Thursday. Husbands were off work and would stay home with the kids, putting up Christmas lights and the ladies would head out for a fun day of shopping, lunch and bonding time with their girlies.
I remember past open houses that consisted mainly of larger groups of women piling out of vehicles, entering the shop laughing and carrying on. Their energy was contagious and we all had a great time. They would walk around the shop and then stop at the snack table and make a little plate of goodies, take a glass of punch and chat with us while we packaged up their purchases. Before leaving, they would pick up flyers for other shops and ask where they can find a good restaurant for lunch. They made an event of the Open House Trail and we all benefited from that in one way or another.
These days, we not only see less customers, but the ones who come are generally in a hurry, looking stressed and agitated. They no longer stay to chat. They no longer stop to have a cookie and punch. They are hustling out the door because they are either tired from shopping the night before, or they are hurriedly rushing off to get to the weekend sales at the big stores. It's no longer fun for shop owners or customers it seems.
Our open house last weekend was nice. We had a nice crowd, taught some ladies to spin, met with old friends and made a few new ones. But these huge sales that the big corporate stores are offering is killing small business and holiday fun. Black Friday started out as the biggest shopping day of the year. It has now escalated into a free for all to see which store can create the most mayhem. Which store will end up on the news. A competition to see how many people get killed or maimed at their store this year. It sickens me!
On top of that, Thanksgiving is supposed to be an important holiday in this country. Now we see Christmas items on the shelves before Halloween. Stores opening on Thanksgiving day so their employees can't enjoy the holiday with their families. Sales starting the day before. Have we forgotten what Thanksgiving means? Are we now trying to bypass this very important day entirely? Should we simply rush into Christmas and forget the rest of the season altogether? Have we become so consumed with deals and the latest object that we are willing to forsake this very important day that helped shape the future of our own country? Have we forgotten what it means to be thankful? Perhaps we have. It's a sad thing that allows corporate greed to push us and steer us in the direction it has.
But, now that I've gotten completely off topic of why I don't offer sales. This "big sales" mentality has spilled over to small shops and Etsy stores. We saw many small shops who have been holding their open house just as we have, for many years, offering sales on their products this year. These same people who have been creating lovely and unique items for 20 years are now compelled to offer those items at a discount in order to try to draw in more customers. There will never be a way for us small business owners to compete with large corporate America. NEVER. They will always out price us. They will always get the jump on us. What we have to offer is unique, however. We offer a hand crafted product, great customer service, a way for unique people to support our unique craft. I'm all for giving back to my customers but I do it in a way of generous portions, little extras here and there, custom orders and strong relationships. That's what is missing today. A personal bond between customer and seller. My customers are not numbers filing through the door. They are friends.
So, now that I've written a whole chapter on why I don't offer sales, I'll leave you to the rest of your day.
Until next time,

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Christmas Open House, The Grainary, and Kromski....

We've been very busy here at the cottage for the past few months, but with the weather turning colder, we are slowly migrating inside for much needed catching up on things like blog updating!

There's so much to share, but with our annual Christmas Open House coming up on Thanksgiving weekend, I won't have much time in the next few weeks to post here. I will be catching up afterwards though.

The Grainary, as you know, is the mothership of The Spinner's Cottage. Located in the country near Wellington, OH. and started in 1990 as a shop to showcase Carol's stained glass, and moving quickly into integration with other home decorating merchandize, all handmade by either mom or myself. Eventually, we started carrying commercial retail items such as candles, primitive decorations and braided rugs that were made by a lovely operation in Kentucky.

But we prefer tradition and always opt to make our own inventory whenever possible. Several years ago, when I began weaving, we phased out the commercial rugs. Now, you can find my handwoven rugs, placemats, mug rugs, table runners and more displayed in our rustic and cozy setting.

Carol is still making stained glass pieces ranging from Christmas decorations for both the tree and table, to small windows and lamps. You'll find lovely angels, that make wonderful gifts for someone special, little stockings for the tree and much more. She also continues to take custom orders.

Aside from these two staple items, we continue to carry a small amount of primitive decorating items for the table, tinware, Keepers of the Light candles, and recycled bottle items such as cheese/serving plates and spoon holders. These are crafted by Carol as well.

A few years ago, my love of yarn took over my life. I have been crocheting since I was 4, and yes, I continued to crochet from the time I learned and still do today. My love of textiles began at an 8th grade field trip to Greenfield Village, where I witnessed weaving for the first time. From that time on I longed to own a loom and in 1985, the dream came true in the form of a Christmas present. A 4 harness Harrisville Design floor loom!

I now own more looms than I care to admit, and each one has its own purpose. For the most part, my weaving is rag rugs. I work on a vintage Union Loom, which was produced in the 1940's. These looms were originally used as therapy for returning soldiers, as weaving strengthened the coordination and muscle tone in wounded soldiers. I am drawn to the history of the Union loom, a simple two harness contraption that is built to produce rugs. I often wonder whose hands created on this loom before me as I switch shafts, throw a pick and pull back the reed.

But, I am off track here. I began telling you this as a segue into what lead me into spinning! It was the weaving. I had a desire to make blankets out of mohair yarn, but was finding it very difficult to locate a source for exactly what I wanted. In my research, I became intrigued with the processing of fiber itself and one thing lead to another and I began a small cottage processing mill. With that, I learned to spin and now even though I continue to process raw fiber for a select customer base, I primarily process for resale in The Grainary and on my Etsy at

I also carry combed top for both spinning and felting and you can find a nice range of fibers to choose from including local alpaca to silk hankies all hand dyed by me.
Aside from that, I also dye a nice little range of yarns. You can find fingering weight to thick and thin yarns and on occasion some of my handspun.

I recently learned to knit and am excited to delve more into this craft this winter.
At this time, The Grainary is split just about in half between our regular items and the fiber.
We are also very excited to announce that we have recently became an official Kromski Dealer. We carry a small selection of spinning wheels and looms at this time and will be expanding in the future. Kromski is my favorite wheel so I was super excited to become part of the Kromski family!

On top of that, this is our 25th anniversary and to celebrate both that and the dealership, we are giving away an 8" Kromski Harp Forte Loom! Purchases made from The Spinner's Cottage, both online or at The Grainary qualify for the drawing which is being run in the Ravelry group The Spinner's Cottage. Simply post your purchase in the drawing thread and you are in. This giveaway started on Nov. 3rd and will run through December 31st.
Good luck!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Shop Update...

It's been a while since I've posted anything fibery on here.

Killdeer, the Phat Fiber sample for the Birds of a Feather theme are available in the Etsy and shop again. These sold out pretty quickly the first time around.

I've also found 4 oz of Heather from the Phat Fiber 'Inspiring Women' theme hiding behind the now sold out Captain Batts. This is available in the shop and will be listed in the Etsy this week.

And since I am getting ready to get back to my dye pot, here is some fall inspiration.

Until next time,

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bike Night at Lake Erie Harley-Davidson

This post is way out of the ordinary for this blog, but I was fortunate enough to spend a lovely evening with the folks over at Lake Erie Harley-Davidson tonight and wanted to share.

My lovely aunt is a volunteer at Friendship APL and along with some other wonderful ladies known as The Beer Ladies, sell beer at bike night to raise money for the APL.

Mary Lou


The band Caliber was awesome!


A little something for the ladies....

Just because I like 'em...

A cozy fire...

And of course, the main attraction....

I think that about sums it up.....
Until next time,