Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall Sale -- New Spindles, bowls, shawl pins!

Hi everyone!  I know it's been a while since I posted, but I've had soooo much going on!

Firstly, I would like to announce my FALL SALE -- 3 DAYS ONLY! Use coupon code "fall2012" for 30% off anything in my Etsy shop!

I've been busy creating some GORGEOUS new Russian-style support spindles -- along with matching spindle/spinning bowls. These are available in my Etsy shop.  (Also check out the matching dizzes, wrist distaffs, and nostepindes!)

I've also been keeping up with posting new crochet hooks in the shop all the time -- as well as hair sticks, and other fun goodies!

Shawl pins have been leaping from my shop my shop as well!  FOr many of them, I've used glorious natural woods, and then inlaid some beautiful glittery inlace for a touch, (who am I kidding here???)... a LOT of BLING!

Find this one, and many more, also in my Etsy shop!

I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday season! And remember -- if you need a custom order made, there's still time!  Just e-mail me:


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Estes Park Wool Market, 2012

I had the most FANTASTIC time this past weekend at the Estes Park Wool Market!  I absolutely LOVE to go - it's a lot of fun, and I just revel in seeing all the new and exciting techniques out there!

(Keep in mind -- you can click on the photos to enlarge).

The drive to Estes Park, CO isn't too far from where I live -- about 2 hours. The mountain passes are spectacular to say the least!

It's amazing to see the trees growing in such tight places!

When my ma and I arrive at the Estes Park Wool Market, we head first to the alpaca tent where there are lots of animals on display, (and goodies to buy!)  All of the products for sale are 100% grown and made in America!  (And I have to say -- I certainly did my part for stimulating the economy!  Yay!)

The alpacas were wonderfully sweet to see -- just lovely creatures.

These little alpacas were recently sheared for their luxurious fiber, (and it helps to keep them cool in the summer heat!) I love the haircut on the leftmost critter -- he looks like he's literally wearing "a rug!" :-)

My FAVORITE part of the event -- the llama competition! The participants train their animals to complete various tasks simulating the natural obstacles found in their original environment. (In Peru, llamas are historically used as pack animals and must navigate the steep Andean mountains, as well as any number of blockages).

This photo is of the jumping contest. My vantage point is directly behind the bar -- the lady dressed in pink is holding it.) In the background, you can see the High Park Fire burning in the distance... more on that later.

These two are Laurel and Hardy.... Laurel is the trainer, and it's very clear that she has an INCREDIBLE relationship with her llama. He follows her every command. (And when they pass the obstacle, she kisses him on he neck! So sweet!) Here, he balks at first, but then leaps and lands safely on the other side!

Another llama leaper! 

Here, the llamas and their trainers line up for the next event -- the llama limbo! 

The bar on the llama limbo is getting lower, and Laurel encourages Hardy to get on his knees to pass under the bar. It was wonderful to see the camaraderie between trainers and animals!

Next, my ma and I went into the paco vicuna tent to see these gorgeous little creatures! Their fiber is some of the finest (translation: softest) on earth! (And also very highly priced/prized). They are much smaller than alpacas.

After having a snack, we went to see the goat tent. (These are all fiber-bearing critters, in keeping with the Market). This little baby is scratching herself with her horn.

This goat has a fantastic set of horns, and was only too happy to leap up for attention! 

This little goat turned her head when I walked by and seemed to want a photo taken, so I obliged! 

This goat was very peacefully sleeping when I walked past -- all the commotion got him tuckered out! 

I couldn't resist taking a photo of this goat's glorious set of horns! Wow! They spiral so beautifully!

The vendor's barn was FULL of the most spectacular goodies you can imagine! From fiber arts tools, like looms, spinning wheels, and other fantastic stuff to processed fibers in all the colors of the rainbow to finished products! I bought a selection of all of the above!

I bought a beautifully-made niddy noddy from a craftsman who lives right here in Cheyenne! (and a lovely Fair Isle knitted winter hat from his good lady. The rest: on the left, the purple and blue roving is Wensleydale wool, the gray in the center is llama & silk roving. The pink is a skein of lamb's wool yarn.

On the left, the black/white and natural shades are GLORIOUS skeins of handspun alpaca yarn. (It is so lusciously soft.... mmmmmm......) As for the other colorful stuff -- the green, orange/yellow, red/green -- all mohair roving. The purple stuff in the front is bombyx silk roving. And the center gloves are hand-knit, 100% alpaca!

And... not pictured -- I got two fantastic knitting books with wild techniques therein. I also bought a new technique -- punch-needle rug making stuff. (And do I have ideas!)

The one downside to the trip was that during the day we could see the High Park fire growing. Here we are going home on I-25, about 6:00PM or so, and you can see how the fire is creating a HUGE stream of smoke.

Here is a panoramic view of the smoke from the fire -- the left is a WNW view to ENE on the very right. The wind was blowing toward the NE, and when we got home, there was a huge cloud of smoke trailing all the way there and beyond into Nebraska. My heart goes out to those who are suffering under this tragic event.

Overall, a GREAT day -- I learned lots of new stuff, bought fantastic goodies, and got my yearly dose of ruminant fixation!  (I just love those critters!) I can't wait to go again next year!  (And I think I'll buy a loom!)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Craftsman's Success: Make a Lasting Impression by Delighting on Delivery

"Craftsman's Success" is a new article series I'm writing based on my experience as a full-time craftsman selling my work online. I hope to share some of the processes I use to help other practitioners of craft to reach a higher level of success in their ventures and improve their marketing efforts.

Each article can be downloaded as a printable PDF. (Please note, articles are Copyright Katherine Kowalski 2012. Please ask for reprint permission. E-mail me at

This is the first in series. I present:

Make a Lasting Impression by Delighting on Delivery
By Katherine Kowalski

After you spend so much time creating beautiful work, give it respect by presenting it impressively to the client.
It seems trivial compared to the rest of the production process, but delivery is in fact the most important part of selling work. When you sell one of your pieces online, you can't simply shove it in a box and mail it to your client. Otherwise, when they get it, it'll look like it was shoved in box and mailed to the client!

Presentation is everything. The send-off you give your pieces is a reflection of how you feel about them – the respect you have for your own work. The packaging/presentation doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should be impressive. Giving a nice presentation will wow your clientele and entice them to come back for more. It makes good sense because it is part of excellent customer service.

The Postman Comes A-Knockin'
In my business, people often leave feedback about how nice the packaging is! Your presentation differentiates you from the "faceless corporations," and allows you to stand out as an individual, which allows people to relate to you.

If you've ever bought anything from Etsy (, you know how special it feels to get a parcel from a real person! The product comes beautifully wrapped, often with a hand-written note thanking you for your purchase.

Why do sellers go to this much trouble? Because every sale matters to them, as it matters to you, the craftsman. (As an aside, nowadays, I go out of my way to support real people, instead of buying from big-box stores whose products come from mass-production factories in China. These are often poorly made goods that don't last. Instead, I'd rather buy a high-quality item from a craftsman in my own country). Just think about it: how many times have you bought from a big-box store online and felt special? When people buy a handmade item, they want to feel special!

OK, So How Do You Do It?

I pre-cut items like ribbon, and punch holes in my tags so that they are ready to go out the door!
First question on everyone's mind: what does it cost? The answer: a little time and some materials. (Of course, if you have the capital, you can buy a huge variety of pre-made gift packaging items, like wooden/plastic cases, boxes, bags, pouches, etc. Just search online).

In this era of green living, however, I like to make my packaging materials decorative, but also usable. (Basically, something that won't simply be thrown out). The pouches I enclose my fiber arts tools within not only make a great impression, they also protect the item from scratches. The tag, held on by a coordinating ribbon, gives the client information about the piece, (the wood from which it is made, the size of the crochet hook), and, most importantly, my web site address, so they know how to find me again.

Small items (like jewelry, pens, and small pots/bowls) are most easily enclosed in pouches or small boxes. Larger items look best in gift boxes. Or, if the item is too large to reasonably enclose, wrap it in tissue paper with a hand-written note to the client).

Even simple paper cards can look great! (Such as for pens, earrings, etc.) And they're recyclable too.

After enclosing in the fabric pouch, I then wrap my items in tissue paper, ensconcing a business card. I place it carefully into the box, and send it through the mail! Remember – since you've already enclosed an info card with your web site address, the client can feel free to give the business card to friends and family members. In fact, you may want to enclose two!

Ready to Make Your Own?
For me, money is very tight, (as I suspect it is for most professional craftsmen). Thus, I choose to make my own packaging materials, (even though it takes a greater investment in time than simply buying them). But there's another reason too: the pouches I make are a branding tool for me. They are unique, because I choose to use unique fabrics, print my own cards, and follow a specific color scheme.

Because I spend so much time working my own business: making items, online promotion, as well as teaching and demonstrating, I want to do my "grunt work" (like online listings and making packaging), as efficiently and quickly as possible. I want to save every second. (For an excellent example, check out my pattern instructions for making pouches at the end of the article. It's filled with lots of time-saving examples).

Tips for Delighting on Delivery
I've made and sold thousands of fiber arts tools, which has given me new perspective on how to save time while maintaining excellent customer service.
  • Do things in batches that make sense. E.g. print all of your shipping labels at the same time, THEN pack everything. (Don't keep running back and forth to the computer).
  • Ship promptly, and keep your shipping promises. If it says on your web site that you ship every other day, do it. DON'T wait three weeks so that orders can accumulate before dropping them all off at the Post Office. (Clients LOVE to receive their items as fast as possible!)
  • Charge reasonable shipping costs, and combine shipping charges. I sell primarily on four web sites: eBay, two Etsy stores, and my web site. I invite my clients to purchase from all three, and items can ship together in the same box, saving them money. Only charge what it actually costs to ship, and refund extra monies paid.
  • Communicate promptly. Sometimes there's a problem with the order – always help the client immediately.
  • Avoid "canned" responses. Address your client's questions personally. (If you find that people are always asking the same questions, revisit your item listings and add more details.)
  • Personalize the experience. Enclose something hand-written, or a thank-you note. Always personalize e-mails, and send shipping confirmations, advising the client what to do if something's amiss. (Include your e-mail address and/or phone number).

Package Making Tips
  • Choose a consistent color scheme to represent you and your business. (Please, after reading this article, don't choose my color scheme – buyers in my market already associate those colors with me!)
  • Utilize consistent materials. Example: even if you are using different colored (coordinating fabrics), use the same color of thread – it will save you LOADS to time. Similarly, buy ribbons in bulk to save money.
  • "Real" looks better than imitation. Example: use satin ribbons instead of paper/plastic, unless it is intentionally part of your "look."
  • Recycled materials are generally free. Example: you can craft small boxes from old Christmas/greeting cards, or wrap cardboard boxes in the comics pages from the newspaper. (Please, avoid the murder headlines!)
  • You can also recycle clean packing material. Ask local businesses if they have extra that they would be willing to give to you.
  • For a long time I printed my own tags, but after the constant cutting became too much, I ordered them as business cards. A hole punch in each, and they serve as wonderful tags! (Be sure to buy matte – the glossy ones are difficult to write on!)
  • Create in "do-able" chunks. Example: while you may want to cut 3 yards of material to "save" fabric in the final cutting stages, realistically, 3 yards is unwieldy. One yard is far easier to put on your ironing board, sew, and manage.
  • Use "easy" materials. Flannels fray less than cotton calicos, and quilting flannels much less so.
  • Use "easy" tools. Cutting large amounts of fabric with a rotary cutter on a self-healing mat is much faster and easier than by hand with a pair of scissors.
  • Buy in bulk, and on sale. If you know what you need, buy in bulk – it will save you a LOT of money. When I go and buy fabric, I am armed with a multitude of coupons, and will buy a whole bolt at a time. (Note that many craft stores will take competitors' coupons). Sales are usually less advantageous than a good coupon, so watch for what you need. I buy ribbon online in 100 yd. spools.

For the Step-By-Step Pouch Pattern, please feel free to download the article (in printable PDF form) here. (3 MB, illustrated)

Copyright © Katherine Kowalski 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I invite you to visit my web site: for more articles on online marketing, as well as woodturning instruction and design.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Publication!

I am absolutely THRILLED to announce the publication of my "Color Rim Bowl" article in the latest issue of Woodturning Design Magazine! (Winter 2012 Issue). Please pick one up at your local newsstand, and check it out!

Also, I'm adding SIX new crochet hooks to my eBay Auctions page this evening. Please check out recent additions to my Etsy store: BRAND NEW nostepinnes, spinning wheel orifice threader hooks, hair sticks, letter openers, and more!