04 Jan Putting Your Products Together for Local Yarn Stores
Whenever we head over to Ravelry to check out the patterns on the Hot Right Now (HRN) list or see what new yarns have been added to the database, we can almost always guarantee that we’re going to see fingering-weight shawl patterns on the HRN list and hand-dyed fingering-weight yarns in a range of fiber blends and textures on the Popular New Yarn list. There appears to be an unending appetite among knitters and crocheters for both the patterns and the yarns with which to make them.
A majority of those HRN shawl patterns feature stripes, gradients or color blocking, and many of them are designed to take advantage of the serendipitous nature of hand-dyed and handpainted yarns. But lots of knitters are afraid of mixing colors–they worry about choosing colors that won’t look good together or won’t contrast enough, and they are also afraid of pooling or flashing in hand-dyed yarns. As an indie dyer, their fear presents you with a marketing opportunity to get your yarns into local yarn stores (LYSes). How can you capitalize on these twin trends and create opportunity for your brand? We’re going to offer some suggestions that you can use to pitch your line to potential stockists.
Partner with a Pattern Designer
Finding a designer whose shawl patterns showcase your dyeing aesthetic is a win-win situation for both of you. Depending on your particular dyeing specialty, you can do a Ravelry pattern search, filtering for the particular attributes that suit your dyeing techniques. Do certain designer names pop up? Have your previous customers been so proud of their results that they have given high ratings to the project, the pattern and your yarn? Do you like what you see? That may be a designer you want to approach for collaboration. There are a couple of different ways to approach this.
First, you can create bundles of your yarns in ready-to-go color combinations suitable for a selection of the designer’s back catalogue of patterns. Knit (or hire someone to knit) a couple of samples out of your yarns so that you can show the LYS owner how the pattern will look in your yarn. It will be up to the LYS owner to decide to carry hard copies of the designer’s patterns or make them available to customers through the Ravelry In-Store Sales Program. This is a loose and informal way to show what your yarn can do. Just bundling pairs or trios of color combinations of your yarn may be enough–LYS owners may have their own ideas of patterns in which your combos will look great.
Or you can take a step further and pair with a designer in active collaboration. The two of you will have to work out the details, but either you’re dyeing yarn to work well in her pattern, or she’s designing a pattern that takes advantage of your yarn. It will probably be some of both as your collaboration develops. For dyers who are not comfortable making this kind of connection on their own, we can help find designers to fit the bill – and we can also match designers with dyers!
Re-Assemble Your Products
Maybe your dyeing aesthetic is more tonal than variegated, but perhaps your tonals span the entire spectrum. Have you considered creating gradient sets of mini-skeins in addition to your full-skein tonals? It’s a great way to get added value from your production over-runs, and packaging them as sets provides a ready product that the LYS owner can easily promote with pattern support. Quite honestly, this advice is not limited to semi-solid hand-dyed yarns: you can create gradient sets out of speckled and variegated yarns as well, offering something to appeal to an even greater range of tastes while also maintaining exclusivity. Because of the very nature of your hand-painted yarn, no gradient set is ever going to be exactly like any other gradient set. Most LYS customers love these kinds of unique yarn opportunities, and LYS owners love having a new and reliable source for supplying them.
Offer Yourself as an Alternative
Sometimes it feels like the world of fiber and yarn is just a slightly larger version of the high school cafeteria. We all know who the cool kids are, and we all want a little bit of what they’ve got – but there’s only so much and so many of them to go around. From the perspective of the LYS owner, becoming a stockist for one of the “cool kid” yarn dyers can be an exercise in frustration. Depending on the size of their operations, the cool indie dyers may not be able to take on any more retail outlets because they cannot keep up with the production demands. Another year goes by and the LYS owner sees stores that opened after hers jump ahead of her to become stockists. What’s wrong with my store? she thinks. And if the cool kid designers feature the yarns of the cool kid dyers, the scarcity problem increases.
That’s your point of entry: Talk to the LYS owners about which patterns they see their customers knitting, then suggest the yarns in your line that can be substituted in those patterns. Knowing all that we do about how knitters love to discover the Next Big Thing, you and your yarn will be sitting at the cool kid table in no time at all. Then you’ll have the happy problem of managing your expansion!
Take the Guesswork Out of the Equation
We’ve already established that fingering-weight shawl and wrap projects are perpetually popular, especially those that use two or three yarn colors, so our next bit of advice is this: offering your retailers some suggested groupings. While some knitters and crocheters love putting together colorways for a project, others are terrified by the prospect. When you’re shipping the orders for your newest palettes, include a sheet with possible colorway combos: pairs, trios, even quartets. It gives your retailers some guidance on how to display the shipment and helps them pick patterns that will sell your yarn. You can take it a step further and plan your dyeing so that your colorways play well together, but that might take some of the fun out of it. You’re a color professional – you know how to do this.
You can appeal to different crafting tastes, too. Your yarns may garner attention by being featured in a designer’s garter-stitch shawl pattern, but that’s not all they’re good for. Go after the beaded lace knitters by pairing your colorways with coordinating beads. Choosing the right beads is another one of those crafting tasks that some find daunting, but offering suggestions or actual packaged pairings can make it less intimidating. Again, these are suggestions that help the LYS owner market your products, which can only benefit you.
Scale Up Your Offerings
Once your products are in the LYS, you can expand your presence. Often the owner will sample a line by bringing in the fingering-weight yarns, as they are usually reliable sellers, both for socks and for accessories like shawls. If your fingering-weight yarn sells well for her, she is going to be interested in carrying your heavier (and lighter!) yarns as well. As an independent dyer, you have the flexibility to respond to the LYS owner’s desires. She knows which colorways flew out the door, and that’s valuable feedback for you. As you build this relationship, you can move forward together in ways that advance both of your businesses.
Keeping an eye on the Ravelry Patterns Hot Right Now list is a useful device for planning your product offerings. While we’re not suggesting that you dye with an eye to any one particular pattern, we are saying you should be aware of larger categories and trends. Creating yarns that work well with what knitters and crocheters want to make is just good planning. Putting it together in marketable units helps the LYS owner sell your yarn and that’s what you want.
Let us know if you found our ideas helpful, because we have lots more. Contact Leanne@stitchcraftmarketing.com to learn more about how we can make magic for your brand.