Sunday, February 10, 2008


I Am Becoming A Complete Asshole

Which is likely better than a partial asshole, which would be terribly inconvenient, but still ...

I loathe when people's blogs are all commerce, all the time, but seriously I'm doing little else these days, which is interesting for me (and for those who I meet on transit and who wonder about my blue and green hands) but maybe not quite so much for you.

I'm gearing up for the FibreFest and I think anyone out there who's done any dyeing understands how much work it is to dye 200-300 skeins of yarn, plus about 15-20 lbs of roving. We won't discuss the hand-knitting and the spinning because neither may make an appearance at the 'fest and I'd rather not embarrass myself. I think right now I have like one bobbin of Corriedale spun and I don't even know if I'm going to have enough time to spin a second so that I can ply it. It's that silly around here.

I received 94 skeins of yarn in the mail on Friday and there are another 80 en route as we speak. Oh, plus another 15 or so. Plus the other 100 skeins or so I have all over the house and the 20 I got the week before that and the 30 that came a few days before that. It's utter madness (you'll remember I'm working full time plus doing occasional weekend shifts and raising a child here). Utter madness, but I couldn't be happier. There's a pretty good chance that I can kick The Job That Blows Goats to the curb within the next six months.

I've managed to do a very small store update, but unless you're a spinner it won't be of a lot of interest to you. I'm hoping to get some of the "luxury" sock yarn listed tomorrow and the last few 100% merino skeins I've done, but mostly it's roving and such that has made its appearance.

Another thing that I'm being a complete asshole about is that of late I've run into rumours that a lot of indie dyers are being asked for the source of their fibre and that some object to telling. Most do. I certainly do, and I think that to ask is tackier than asking to share chewing gum, quite frankly.

I've only been asked once or twice and have deflected the enquiry politely. Yes, I can be polite, but now I'm going to tell you what I really think.

I've only asked one person, once, and that's because she was going out of business and I couldn't find a good Canadian source of a particular fibre. I didn't ask her from whom she ordered, I just said I was having trouble and asked if she could point me in the right direction. I will note also that this is someone who I have met face to face, although we don't hang out together. She knew that I was in "competition" with her also, although her work at the time was far better than mine. (I say at the time because I flatter myself that I've improved.)

I realize now that it was likely cheeky of me to even ask, but at the time I didn't know any better and like I said she wasn't doing it any more. Oh yes, and I also asked one of my suppliers, Birkeland Brothers, if they could help me source a particular fibre that they don't carry.

(See? I'm not completely horrible, I'll give up some of my sources.)

I work long and hard to find sources for good yarn and fibre. It's not all that easy to find good stuff. Being asked for the source makes me wonder ... is the person asking because they want to buy it and dye it themselves and go into competition? (I'm not scared of competition; there are enough yarn whores for all of us. I am scared, rather, of subterfuge. I'm not willing to be taken for a fool.) Or do they just want to know what I paid for the base yarn and then do the math and work out if they're being ripped off or not?

If you think you're being ripped off ... then you are. Fibre, yarn, and the buying thereof should be a pleasurable experience. If you're fretting and fuming about it then you're ripping yourself off from the prospect of enjoyment. The ripping off is being done by you, not the vendor. You need to go to Wal-Mart, immediately. Most indie dyers work for a heck of a lot less than you think they do.

It's not just the cost of the fibre, but there's the dye, the labeling, the shipping, the bags, the bla bla bla bla bla. The list is lengthy.

I'm not saying I don't make a buck on it, but what I'm selling is my time and talent. I deny anyone's right to decide what price my talent is worth. I ask what I think is a fair price, and if people don't want to pay it that's fine ... I'll keep the goodies for myself (alas I have never gotten to do so. I've never knat with my own hand-dyed. I have one skein I'm hovering over like a vulture but I may sell it ... maybe). Most people are happy to pay it. And if they're not, there's always the chain stores -- fly free and be happy, I bear no grudge and don't weep over the lost business.

My take on it is that I'm a private business, and my private business transactions are the business of me and my suppliers and the government (to whom, sadly, I must pay taxes on my transactions.) Unless someone wants to become a shareholder (and I'm not selling shares) then they have no right to that information. I mean, you don't go to a restaurant and ask where they bought their ingredients, hmm? In fact ... does the Fleece Artist get questions like that? I hope not, but I assume if she does that she tells people, politely, to stick it in their ear.

I'm not sure if this is happening because so many of us are accessible, through blogs, email, public events or whatever and so we seem like public property or something. I just think it's a little disturbing. And rude. In fact I heard of a case where someone said that his suppliers required that he take off the labels when he dyed and sell it under his own name and he was called a liar.

I was pleased to hear that his response was something along the lines of "as is your mother".

Mine would have been less polite.

If someone is seriously trying to start out in business and asks me for some leads please email me and I will share -- to an extent ... but otherwise, my sources are my own.

Everyone needs a little secret or two, don't they?

Brava! Well said!

And the base yarn in No Mean Feets? Yummy stuff!
Good write-up! After all this time, I'm STILL having to learn that not everyone on the 'Net is a friend, and that I am not obligated to answer (or answer completely) every oddball question. hehehehehe
This all sounds pretty reasonable to me. If you want us to believe you're an asshole you're going to have to work a little harder to prove it.
OK, I'm going to go all Emily Post~I work as a business/$ analyst, so I get the general idea of how things work. It's rude to inquire just as it is asking your cube mate how much salary they make. You nailed it right on the head when you said we could easily rip ourselves off by asking questions that really aren't necessary. There is a label on indy stuff. Look at the yarn, see the yardage and the fiber content. That's all I need to know. As a consumer, I have a general idea of pricing out there. Even though I have a budget (ouch) I realize I'm paying for one of a kind can't get it anywhere else (maybe never again) hand crafted merchandise, that frankly, makes me think to myself "I'm worth it as all hell so I'm getting it". Indies make sure we have unique and special fibers, but we have to keep in mind, they are profit making organizations just like any other business. If you say it's merino then that's what it is. My only only concern is beating everyone out of the way to get mine ;-) Therin lies the thrill of it all.
Yes, well said, agree. Even though I'm in another type of business, when asked about the where's and etc... I usually reply with. "at this point I've been doing it for so long it comes to me." That shuts up the questioner.
I agree with Jodi!
Word up, homes.
I may have asked the question of someone, not wanting to compete, compare, or anything so nefarious... but cause I was taking a dyeing class, and did not know where to begin to get undyed yarn. But that was before I knew much of anything about fiber in general. I just happened upon the class and thought it seemed like great fun.
I see this problem of people not valuing their work all the time, even in the photography industry. You know what? If your product (or service, in my case) is damn good, the price will reflect it. Anybody wanting to get something for nothing can go screw. Or go to Wal-Mart. Same thing.

I, for one, applaud you. If charging a living wage (or god forbid, a PROFIT) makes us assholes, I'm all for it!!!
I've been asked, and my standard answer is "Canada".

And Katrynka...if someone asked me if they could buy undyed yarn from me for a class...I'd sell it to them, without the dyeing markup. I understand totally where you are coming from, not knowing where to get some. That said, if I'm giving a class, I provide the yarn. Bring other stuff if you want, and I'll let you know if I think it'll work.

I've had wholesale inquiries that I can't fill, and I've sent them to others in the business that I know...pass on the favours I figure. But to be asked "who did you buy this yarn from" is right up there with "how many times do you and your partner do the hoochie koockhie in a week."
My buddy had a term for this, "It's a nunyer" as in none your business.
Good post.
Katrynka, I wouldn't be upset if you asked me where you could get undyed yarn. I'd likely offer to get you some at cost. I ~would~ be upset, however, if you asked me to tell you where all my yarn came from before you were willing to buy it after I'd dyed it.

I'm always willing to help someone out when they're starting, even if they're going to be "competition". I think the field improves with the addition of more vendors. I'm just not interested in involving strangers in the process of my own personal business.
I love the "as is your mother" very funny....and I have run into this scenario many times, and pride myself on sharing, but the difference I find is that there are some that are just keen and sharing and excited about it all as I am, but there are others that definitely give the vibe that they are after your goodies, they are not sharing but graspy and the feeling stands out, and the graspiness makes me stingy....and I think that is appropriate...they are generally the same people that you share your info with and they never credit anyone else ..and they never share, and these are a different breed than most and these ones make me stingy which I hate there will always be people like this and its a big drag...but the majority are just like you obsessed and excited to share for the love of fibre, and these folks I will tell everything too with no problem..and we will get excited together
I hope you have a commemorative yarn color in mind for when you leave the "job that blows goats".. I think that'd be a great way to celebrate.
Ha, it's funny, because I was reading along early in the post thinking about my previous business life as a chef/caterer, and how much OUR industry has changed (here in California, anyhow). Not only do customers expect to be told where there food comes from if they ask, but it is also a HUGE selling point now to offer up supplier information (Nimon Ranch beef, local grown and sustainable produce, etc etc). So I had a little chuckle when I read far enough and saw the bit where you wouldn't ask a restaurant for info. I hate to disagree with you on that, but my point is, it makes me wonder if ever the yarn industry will change? Will there be indie dyers that promote local raised, sheered, spun, dyed yarns? I bet there will be a few. I think the interesting thing is what is happening with the food industry....the growers and the restauranteurs make proprietary relationships between themselves.

And yes. I know yarn is not food. LOL
I think that those who walk in the way of the wool are considered to be gentle souls who just want to live in complete harmony. People forget about the business end of things. Add to that the fact that many dyers are also public bloggers and we end up with a complete blurring of the Courtesy Lines! No one would ask the guy who makes metal widgets where he gets his stuff. You have the same rights as Widget Dude and should be respected for maintaining them.

I could see myself asking someone I knew for business tips if I were taking the plunge as an indie dyer. But, I'd have to know them well and be sure that my work would be different enough to ensure a complete lack of competition. That's just common courtesy!
That's being asshole? Honey, you're just being a good business woman. There is nothing asshole about it.

I agree with Sheepish Anne. Sadly, common curtsy, just like common sense, is not nearly as common as we would like.
Yup, you're still not an asshole. Sorry. As I was reading, I was trying to figure out whether we've got anything like this in my line of work, and realizing that we most definitely do. I do fieldwork, and while I don't mind someone asking for pointers on how to develop a fieldwork relationship or how to find a consultant, there is something very touchy about being asked for a language speaker's name and phone number, and people often do it very gracelessly (and it really does end up being a form of poaching on my very carefully built relationships out there in the community where I work; whoever has asked me for the information gets an automatic "in" because of my work, and they could seriously arse up my relationships if they do something out of bounds). I also think that email makes people feel that they can make requests that they would never make face-to-face -- I get this with students a lot, who make certain assumptions about my constant and instant availability for some things that I should never be asked to do, just because I have email. I guess this is all by way of saying that folks should maybe be a bit more thoughtful when they ask favors!

Nothing made out of your own yarn, huh? Hmmm...
Hmm. I have asked before (not you, it was back when I thought all I could use was non-animal yarns). Mostly I wanted to know where to get a skein or two to dye myself because I had the urge to fingerpaint. No way in Hell do I have the time, talent or desire to compete - I just wanted to blow up my kitchen a little and had lost my only source of cotton. The dyer didn't tell me, so I went "darn" and went on about my day.
(Now I went back and read the posts and see that Katrynka covered my point. Like her, I have poked around and found my own things to dye. None as nice as my Toe Jam, though - where did you get it? HAHAHAHAHAHA)
If I asked, it would be because I wanted to support local producers, rather than one across the continent, so saying "southern BC" would satisfy my curiousity. And if I were told "none of your business" I probably wouldn't buy the yarn no matter where it came from or how much I loved it. There's no reason to give contact info out, I respect that you worked hard to find a good source, but not everyone that asks wants to be competition.
Oh, hell. I don't think I've ever asked, but I wouldn't hesitate if I was curious. Not, mind you, for any of the sinister reasons you list, but probably because it looks like something I'm familiar with and I'm looking to see if my identification skills are sharp.

It would never occur to me it was a trade secret. So if ever I asked anyone, I had the non-intentiest of intentions. Sorry if I stepped on your toes.
Yay Rab, Yay Rab! I love an Indie woman who knows her own worth and isn't afraid to say so! If you're an asshole, then you can be everyone's favourite asshole.

I've played enough with dying both yarn and roving to fully appreciate the amount of work (and risk) that goes into each batch. And that's what it was for me - play - as I've never had the fortitude it takes to consistently produce gorgeous (or even usable) results! Oh, I've also bought some nice Corriedale from Birkland and spun it, but never had a chance to dye it. So your "source" is safe LOL!

That said, I agree with Angela's point about knowing if the source is local as that's a selling point for a lot of people. Around here, I buy local if available (hah for yarn though mostly!) And it's rather fun to say "oh this is Shetland from Montana" and "This is Romney from Upstate NY" and "the Corrie is sourced from the Nanaimo area" - that sort of thing. I doubt you'll have too many people combing the interior of BC looking for a specific sheep named Alice or anything if you did that.

Actual e-mail on its way to you this week.
You just did that to get that Jimmy Buffet song stuck in my head, didn't you? 'Were you born an asshole, or did you work at it your whole life....'.

Note: While I am usually avidly impressed with you in every way, I am lacking such impression in your assholeness. No worry, I am sending you an 'instantly an asshole' kit and I'm sure that once you follow my tried and true program - we'll have you in top-notch asshole form!

Now, go dye and be happy you blue fingered freak!
I know that I've inadvertently insulted a couple of indie dyers by asking where the yarn came from. I had no idea that it was a trade secret, but I learned soon thereafter. So ... my point is ... I hope you have a fine-tuned sense of who's just being a ignorant newbie and who's being an ass. Spare the newbies and kick the asses?
Dude, thanks for saying this. I'm certainly one of the Clueless Many who would ask, not realizing that it's like asking if your mother was still blowing goats.

Waiting impatiently for my fiber... :D
Funny coinkidink that this is your topic today...I have been thinking lately about where the fiber I buy comes from...I have just started spinning...literally started last Monday, and have been dreaming about all the different fibers there are out there. The holy grail to me has been vicuna, because I've heard about it as a fiber since I was a kid and it has the "mystique" of having been illegal until recent years due to the animal being endangered. So, in the instance of vicuna or other rare fibers, I want to know that it was ethically harvested.
That being said, no indie dyer I've ever met is working with something like vicuna.
But, with regard to more common fibers, I also prefer if possible to support indie farmers, and preferably, local producers. So my interest in asking such a question would be to those ends. I have no interest in dyeing yarn myself or even in sinning for profit (good god, the barf I would produce... I'll leave that job to those who are good at it) but as a consumer, I do like to know where my money is going. In some instances, where the fiber comes from could be a huge selling point. Unfortunately, that is not yet the world we live in, and the opportunities to buy local and indie an be rare. But I try to when I can...

Ummm, I meant spinning for profit, not sinning...

I would ask just so I knew the provenance of my yarn. I am weird like that and like to know where (geographically speaking)the yarn is from, large or small producer, etc., but not so I can go get some, too. I am usually seduced by color and secondly by fiber content. I just want to know everything about my treasure.
I've asked Indie dyers I've never purchased from about the source yarn they use. I don't LIKE certain base yarns. I don't want to buy yet another skein of what ends up being Knitpicks Bare.

I don't need a name, phone number or address. But a quick response telling me it's from a small mill and it's similar twist to Louet Gems, will make me a happy informed consumer.
I have never asked anyone for their yarn source but, like Sherry W, often I would like to know. Have bought lousy yarn that was well-dyed in lovely colors from two different indie dyers - why do people use cheesy raw materials??? Neither of these yarns was inexpensive, but would far rather have paid more and had them use better fiber. Often it is hard to tell about yarn quality from a photo, so I just buy less over the internet now - but if I knew what the base yarn was, I might feel more confident about buying it!
Gotta de-lurk for this one - I would never dream of asking where you got your supplies. I'm an end user. I buy the yarn or fiber to make stuff with, I don't need to know where it came from! If I really need to know, then I can buy llama roving from a friend who has a llama farm. I'll even know the llama's name!! The only thing I might want to do is contact you if something bad happens (like supposed superwash felting in the wash - it's happened to me) so that you might inquire of your supplier what the hell they are palming off as superwash, but otherwise? Why do I need to know?
Well said. Bravo!
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