The nice thing about being a small business is that I'm very, very flexible. I don't have employees with specialized skills whose time needs to be used wisely, I don't have to pay rent on a separate business space, and I don't have large standing orders that need to be fulfilled or else I lose customers. When something changes, I can change with it.
This is not to say that it's easy, change, no matter what the circumstance. I had a rhythm going. I had regular customers and a fairly predictable set of activities that I would do over the course of a week or a month. Then I needed to stop dyeing in the house, and everything had to be rethought.
However -- I've been thinking and researching and planning these past weeks, and I think I have a workable plan. Here it is.
Firstly, my experiments with Wilton's and my research on the subject (which mostly consisted of talking to a lot of dyers on Ravelry who have used it and various other dyes) has led me to believe that it is not the answer to my problems. I believe I would be sacrificing too much in terms of my results (can't get the colourways I want) if I switched to food dye. So it has to be the toxic stuff.
However, I have figured out how to do a limited amount of dyeing on my front porch. How miserable this strategy makes me in January remains to be seen; it probably behooves me to stockpile a bit. I'm also investigating taking part in Felicia Lo's (Sweet Georgia's) shared studio, a project that she's setting up so that several of the casual and small independent dyers, weavers, and spinners (both business people and hobbyists) can have a suitable space for their activities. I'm not the only dyer out there with the problem of how to use toxic dye without polluting one's living space.
Secondly, the fiber sales are not kaput, but they will be limited. I will not wholesale my fiber, except for the carded batts that I offer to the two local stores I sell through. I will continue to sell some fiber on Etsy and to those who know me well enough to send an email that says "hey what do you have right now, can you send me a picture?"
Thirdly, I need to sell a lot more yarn. I haven't pushed the yarn sales because my fiber sales were doing so well. My yarn sales were mostly wholesales through Three Bags Full and Black Sheep Yarns. This was perfectly satisfactory to me -- the volume was high enough that the cut I take on the wholesale price still leaves me sufficiently compensated for my spinning time, and the online fiber sales made up the rest of my paycheque. Now, though, I need to somehow convince The Internet to buy more yarn. I can do this. I just have to put my mind to the marketing problem.
The last part of the strategy is teaching, which is ramping up about now. My beginners class at Black Sheep will begin this week, and it already has 5 or 6 people in it -- which is awesome. There are three or four more classes already scheduled at the shop, and once I find out whether my Arts Centre classes are going ahead, I'll be able to firmly schedule a bunch more for later in the Fall.
So that's that. I feel much less panicked than I did a couple weeks ago. I'm heavily buoyed up by yesterday's success -- I handpainted some BFL and cooked it in my new, standalone turkey roaster which lives on the front porch. Here is the roaster:
And here is the 3lbs of wool I painted:
3lbs is almost nothing compared to my previous production, but I'm still working out the details. It's a bit like going back to stovetop cooking, this roaster, and managing convection and colour splitting is something I'm having to re-learn. The batches are slow, very slow, so far, and I can't queue them up like I could with my oven method. I probably won't have many more 10 lb days, but hey, that's fine -- I'm mostly dyeing to supply my own spinning, and I can only spin so fast. Slow is fine.
Lastly -- I have had my final Farmer's Market. For some reason, this season has been the pits for sales at the market. Dunno why, but it has. So I've cancelled my last two scheduled days, because I have more productive ways to spend my time than huddling outside in the cold. The market was awesome while it lasted, and I'll continue to shop there, but my days as a vendor are over for now.