Did you know that last year, January 2018, was the 10 year anniversary of Tanis Fiber Arts!? The date I chose to mark the beginning of it all is somewhat arbitrary, because the knitting and dying started earlier, but on January 15, 2008 I made my very first Etsy sale (which happens to be my brother’s birthday!) The very first skein I sold? A skein of Blue Label Fingering Weight in Shadow. And then on January 27th, 2008 (which happens to be my mom’s birthday! what!?!? I hadn’t realized the coincidence before right now!) I started this blog. So January of 2008 - no specific day, just the entire month - is what I consider the official beginning of Tanis Fiber Arts. Wouldn’t it have been lovely if I had taken this walk down memory lane last January to celebrate our 10 year anniversary? Why yes it would have been, but I was 8.5 months pregnant at that point and there was only one milestone that I was interested in celebrating.
So here we are, 11 years into our TFA journey and looking back on it all I can see that so much has changed and yet so much has stayed the same (we still dye that Shadow colourway using the exact same recipe!) We have made lots of changes along the way to suit our growing family, our growing fan-base and our growing interests and I think that 2019 might be the year to make a few more. I don’t want to scare anyone, I don’t have anything super drastic in mind, but I do think that it’s important to look at everything that we are currently doing with a critical eye and make sure that we aren’t just doing it that way because it’s the way we’ve always done it but rather because it’s the best way.
What I’m thinking of specifically here is our website. When I built and organized the site it served as both our direct to customer retail space and our wholesale product catalog. Since we haven’t done wholesale for years maybe a bit of re-organizing could make it function better for our customers. We’ve also been streamlining our bases (more on that next) but the number of colourways we regularly dye and the number of new, limited edition colourways we regularly feature has grown substantially. The one thing I hear more than anything else is “More kits! More kits!” so that’s something that’s always on my mind as well.
The knitty-gritty: Does shopping by COLOUR still work for you? I am definitely in the process of updating all of my product images. We sell predominantly PureWash yarns now yet don’t have them well represented within the colourways at all. Working on that! Would it be simpler to shop by yarn type? I definitely notice that most of the orders that we receive are for single bases. Often for multiple colourways, but more often than not they are of the same base. There are obviously exceptions, but it makes me wonder if shopping for yarn by base rather than by colour would simplify things.
About those bases: Towards the end of last year I made the bold announcement that we would be discontinuing ALL non-PureWash bases after the Boxing Day Etsy Update. Well… I’m having second thoughts. I love the specialty bases and after dying, shipping and handling so much of them for the Boxing Day Update I have a renewed love for them. Oh, and I should also mention that while my long term goal is to create my own PureWash versions of my favourite luxury blends that is still realistically a few years off purely for economic reasons. This is the thing, I was never able to have them available! There are multiple reasons for this but the main one is that our current set up relies on the fact that we have every yarn available in every colourway. Sure, I could keep Red Label and only have it available in a dozen colours rather than 60, but since we’re organized by colour you would have to click on every colour to see if it was one of the chosen 12 to be available on Red Label - not very practical.
This is what I’m thinking: What if I divided our yarn bases into two different categories in two different sections of a “SHOP YARN” tab on my website. “Core Collection” and “Pop Up Shop” or “TFA Boutique” (I’m still workshopping names - I think I can do better) and everything in the Core Collection (PureWash and probably a sock yarn) would be available in every colour in unlimited quantities dyed-to-order as it is now - so if you need 16 skeins of PureWash Worsted in Atlantic to knit an epic blanket, you can order it anytime and we’ll dye it for you. And, everything in the Pop Up Shop would be ready-to-ship luxury bases in limited quantities and colourways. It would sort of be like how we use the Etsy Shop but I would fit it right into the website. Having the Pop Up Shop ready-to-ship makes dyeing and inventory management so much easier for us. The easiest option by far would be to have everything ready-to-ship and do no dyed-to-order at all, but there is no possible way for me to have 20 skeins of every base in every colour available in a ready-to-ship format so you can order those 16 skeins of Atlantic for that epic blanket project. Am I making any sense at all? Does that appeal to you? Do you have a better idea? Are you still reading? I would love any and all feedback.
So that’s where I’m at. I’m brainstorming ways to have our core collection of yarns and colourways always available while still leaving room for special bases and colours as well - because that’s a big part of the fun for us. It will take time to re-photograph and re-organize the shop, so things will likely happen in baby steps over the next few months but hopefully this year will be the year we figure it all out.
Thanks for the last 11 years and hears to the next 11!