Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Finding a way forward?!

I gave myself quite a headache, yesterday.  I have been thinking for some time of selling my knitting online, but haven't been impressed with the usual suspects - ebay, etsy or folksy - as none of them really seem to be pitched at the market I want to reach. Also, i've been unsure of what product will best have a market and be something I can reliably produce - I'm not thinking of trying to run a full-blown business, but I do want to run things in a business like way.  As I have problems knitting large garments (between arthritis and a replacement elbow, my body isn't always that strong or reliable!) I had thought of making quality baby clothes in machine washable yarns, that are both stylish (to appeal to young Mums, rather than Grannies!) and practical (for the same reason) so, I decided to do some serious online research of what's already out there, how it's getting to the market, and what the pricing is like.

After some 4 hours of intensive surfing (Google must have been fed up with me!) I had an intense headache and a severe attack of despair.  The web seems to be awash with baby clothes (especially quirky hats - what's that about?!) mostly in nasty colours and yarns, or  very pretty, but not terribly practical, vintage style knits in horrendously expensive yarns.  Those seem to me to be rather turbulent waters into which to deep my toes - far too crowded with other craft, not very well steered!  So, I thought, what's the situation with adult hand knitwear?

Again, I could find quite a few sites, but while I could find wonderful traditional Fair Isles, Arans and Ganseys, or the kind of arty-farty knits that shriek "Look at me, aren't I clever?! Look what clever knitting techniques I can do!" or even the kind of In-Your-Face brightly coloured, so-called 'Ethnic' knits, there seemed to be no simple, wearable and modern hand knits at all!  Now, while I'm an experienced knitter, and have got my needles round quite alot of techniques (I do enjoy learning - just learned to do 2 socks at the same time, pure delight!) I see no point in designing a garment around a particular technique.  Clothes are meant to be practical, first and foremost, and stylish.  The technique should be a means to an end, not the end in itself, and while fashion is exciting, style is more personal and important.

When I studied Dress & Design at college in the 60s, I rapidly realised that a garment that is uncomfortable, difficult to keep clean, or in any other way impractical for the wearer is not going to earn its place in the wardrobe for long, and the purchaser is not going to return to that source for further purchases, either!  Classic designs last because they work, but they need to be re-assessed in the light of current life, so a style of garment that worked well in, say, the 1940s, is going to need tweaking more than a little to work well in the early 21st century!  However, it would be foolish to throw out the baby with the bathwater, the shape of the human body, and what it does, don't change much.

So, I'm thinking of making One-of-a-kind knits, and blogging about each one as I create it, from design, through yarn selection etc to finished garment, then making the result available for sale, so it will be more than just something nice to wear, it'll be a story, too.

So far, so good, but then we have the issue of a website.  In about 5 hours of surfing, I didn't see one site that I found satisfactory!  I have to start from scratch.  It must be easy on the eye, not too business-ey, but business-like.  It must load quickly, so my potential customers don't get impatient (it'll be picture heavy, so that's crucial)  It must have a youthful feel, as my potential customers will be young and stylish (not easy to get my head round that, as I'm no spring chicken) and not take itself too seriously.  Uuuuum!

I think I shall experiment by blogging about one or 2 garments on here, and ask anyone who reads this to give me feedback, please! And I don't mean compliments, but serious 'this is rubbish' type comments where needed, please!


Anonymous said...

For me, the problems with knitwear are mostly that:

It's usually too thick to put a jacket on over comfortably, unless I rethink my entire look to facilitate more baggy coats and jackets;

Even if it reckons it's easy-care, it's never sling-it-in-the-washer/dryer easy;

It's often quite unpleasantly scratchy, and far too hot once you start moving around, and;

It's very rarely in the form of something that could be described as 'basics', instead being generally an item of clothing that says something about the wearer. The number of times I want to say that about myself is going to be linked to the number of times I will wear it, and therefore whether or not the item pays for itself. Basics pay for themselves quickly, and are worth more money to most of us than signature items.

As regards websites, I personally find that a lot of the sites I use most frequently are in fact hosted by blog servers, and just have links to direct sales pages for the individual items they sell, such as the ebook sales pages of the bloggers Moomin often links to, among others. I myself certainly feel more at home on a blogsite than on an official sales site, and can make the choice to click the "buy the eBook" link, or whatever it may be: it takes the hard sell out of it for me, and leaves me feeling like I went looking, rather than like I got sold to.


Moomin said...

Thank you for such a comprehensive response, Alex! I think alot of what you say about knitwear chimes with what I said about design in my essay, and I take what you say about washing on board - though I'm thinking of the sort of basics that it's worth making an investment in, like good shoes, for instance, which are expensive, but take looking after a bit, because they're worth it.
Having said that, you're not actually the market I'm pitching at - despite the fact that you're the only one who still has one of the enormous jackets I made in the 1980s!
I too feel that the blog + sales option is much more approachable, I don't really want to 'sell' things, so much as offer them to the world, and see who would like to give them a loving home! I'm not running a real business, just trying to finance my passion. xxxx

Wendy Irene said...

I saw your comment on the Scott H Young blog and liked it so I had to pop over and see your site. I love your description of yourself, it made me smile! It is great you are thinking of starting up a business for your creative work - knitting! All the best with it :D