This past Fall, I closed my pattern and design service business of eleven years. It was a tough decision as there is no shortage of work and in today's economic climate, I'm a fool to turn away from work, right? Well, call me a fool.
My plan was to work on this little invention I have that corrals stuffed animals, keep having fun with my line of knitting/crocheting related accessories and other fun items and also create a line of copyright-free patterns for the designer who has no pattern drafting experience. The patterns would come with instructions on how to manipulate a pattern to a desired design. This last idea is very well-received and alas, I have not allowed any time to work on it as of yet. Once I made the decision to close Master Pattern and started sewing for the Holiday season, I realized that I'm not hopping to keep on doing so much engineering. Plus- the graphic part of it (the most important part: the instruction booklet) was/is intimidating me! After all, this is the crux of the entire project and I want to do it well.
As the Holiday months approached I sewed like crazy to make things for a few Holiday fairs and I had so much fun. It was also so nice to feel like I was 'allowed' to do it as I didn't have as many clients to work for and I have always felt that it was distracting to their projects to work on my own. I do have some client work left on my plate- and I was developing 'senioritis' towards the end of the year- but I am happily working on it in tandem with my current projects.
You know, I went to design school to be a designer. While I have focused more of my resume on becoming a pattern drafter, I still do a lot of designing through my pattern work but it hasn't been entirely my own work but for a few periods in my life. I've amassed this crazy amount of skills and I was beginning to wonder- 'what would it look like if I was designing whatever I want?' Working with the AAI students has given me great inspiration and I think has helped me return to those initial roots. After all, I was their age when I decided to become a designer. There is nothing like working with young people while in their prime of dreaming big to remind you of that period in your life and realize that you didn't quite take that path the way you planned. I have absolutely no regrets- I hope it doesn't sound like I do. I LOVE the math-y side of things and I can geek out on a pocket design for an outerwear jacket for months. I have also very sincerely LOVED working clients to help them make their vision a reality. I've learned a ton from this experience! It did not matter whether I thought their design was a good one or not. I think that was something that felt the best- doesn't anyone want that chance?
Unfortunately, in today's USA, domestic manufacturing is almost gone and while I think there has been a mild backlash for this, it will not be back in my lifetime the way it was in the 80s or 90s. This makes it extremely tough for any new designer to get their product in the market place. I can go on and on about this topic. How about a separate preachy blog post for that topic?
What a meander...where was I?
Why aren't I designing clothes? Yes, why aren't I? Most of my skills are devoted to this but like I said, there is limited manufacturing available and most also don't realize that the State of California has an antiquated law on its books preventing ANYone from sewing clothing in their 'home' or paying someone else to sew clothing- in any place- without a Garment Manufacturer's License. Don't get me started on this (yes, I know tons of people do it but I also know a few who have been shut down for it too-it's very risky) Another reason I am not making clothing is the fact that each clothing design comes in more than one size so you have to have a lot of SKUs in a clothing line. This can be very expensive and limiting. If you had a small line of five garments, and each came in five sizes and three colorways, you just made a line of 75 SKUs! That's a lot to sell, make and keep track of.
So, here I am, making accessories. It suits my technical outerwear skills perfectly, my love of knitting, my love of cotton and color!!, and my love of making functional things. Oh so that's why I make these things. It's even good for me to see it in writing! I re-named my business Chicken Boots and am focusing solely on accessories for knitters and crocheters. I have a habit of picking niches.
I'd love to talk about starting a completely new business and will soon. I NEED to write about it- I need some therapy about it and hopefully that will help :)
Today, I continue to prepare for my first official sales trip to the SF Bay Area to visit yarn shops and sell my line. I love preparing for this although I am nervous and excited! But like I said to a friend recently, I am ready too!