One of the things that makes me happy to working in the fibre arts community is the level of collaboration. They say "no man is an island", or in this case it would probably be more appropriate to say "no woman". This industry is filled with strong, vibrant, creative women, running successful businesses. Nearly everywhere you look there are people offering help and advice. I've lost count of the times I've had a customer referred to me by one of my "competitors", and I try to do the same, if it's not something I sell or can make then I'd much rather see that person go elsewhere and get exactly what they wanted.
While there are certain pieces of advice I won't share because they're things I've spent time and money developing, there are many things I'll happily pass on. There's a world of difference between "what's your recipe for that colour way?" and "I'm after a blue-toned black or grey, can you help with dye companies to try?"
The first will always be met with a polite, sorry I don't share that information (it would also rely on my using recipes, which I don't). The second will be met with try Jacquard Silver Grey, and World of Wool Grey.
As time has gone on I've put together more and more samples. I put a variety of them up on display at festivals, but also have a list of them on the website. They let people get a feel for how the fibres work as spun yarn, and also give me experience of working with my fibres. When someone comes up to me and asks "I want a yarn that has good stitch definition" I can turn around and say "try the Superwash BFL & Ramie".
At first I just picked out patterns I liked from the huge collection on Ravelry, but I was always being asked for printed patterns when I was at shows, so as time has gone on I've developed a slight bias towards patterns that I can also stock in paper form.
With the rise in print on demand it's become so much easier for designers to supply printed patterns, and an increasing number are doing so. Some designers are really great to work with and this post was prompted by a lovely experience with Tin Can Knits last night. I contacted them about stocking the Vivid Blanket pattern.
I made up a sample using my Ceilidh Collection and when mooching around the internet discovered their wholesale pattern page. One quick email and I have printed patterns on their way to me, and access to their industry list so that I can carry on making samples using their patterns.
Such a refreshing change to one nameless designer. I'd purchased printed patterns via the wholesale section of their website, and a month later nothing had arrived. I sent numerous emails which weren't replied to, and in the end had to open a paypal dispute to get my money back... that designer is off my Christmas Card list, and no longer one that I'll recommend to anyone who's after a pattern to use with their handspun yarn.
However, back to the positive, that was very much an isolated incident.
I also now stock printed patterns by Woolly Wormhead. Woolly is a specialist hat designer, with a great understanding of hat architecture, and how to use construction to create different shapes. I love her patterns because they come in a minimum of 4 sizes, so it's very easy to get the right size hat even if your gauge is slightly different to the commercial yarn used. I took along her printed patterns to a workshop I did for Gloucestershire Guild last month and they were a huge success. It's a win-win situation, I get to sell the pattern, Woolly gets some income as well, and gets exposure to a new market who for the most part aren't online, but might now go and buy more of her patterns.
The designer I've had the longest relationship with is Kate Davies. I've sold a bundle of fibres to make the Sheep Heid Hat for a long time as a result of a conversation on Ravelry where a spinner wanted to spin the yarn, but didn't have enough natural colours, and didn't want to buy whole 100g of each colour just for this pattern. I've now sold a large number of the printed pattern, and the kits that go along with them, everyone benefits.
So I guess the general gist of this blogpost is that we all have to work together, yarn and fibre sellers can be a great showcase for designers. We can take their patterns out in to the wilds, it's hard for a designer to justify going to a festival with a stand as they have to sell a lot of patterns to cover their costs, but by supplying yarn and fibre dyers they can still have a presence. By retweeting, and commenting on Facebook, and sharing with different social circles and networks we get a larger community and exposure.
We all do better when we work together.