If you've followed my blog for any time at all, you know I normally like to write about the goings on in and around my home and business. When I started my blog a few years ago I was an Army wife who was just starting a business....or starting it seriously I should say, as I dabbled for years in crafts, painting, hooking, punching, etc. Before I knew it, my hobby turned into a legitimate business.
In 2012 my oldest son told me that if I was going to be in business I was going to have to have a facebook page. He was right, that I can not deny. It is my belief that facebook is what caused our business to grow and it continues, daily, to introduce people to our business and the world of rug hooking and punch needle.
So, I have my personal facebook page, my business page (The Old Tattered Flag) and I belong to many Rug hooking and Punch needle groups on facebook that allow me to share new patterns, ideas, see what is going on in "our" world. I love being able to see the excitement when someone is new to hooking or punching. They are like a sponge and want to soak in everything they can about this wonderful new venture. It's fun to see....and it's also fun to see seasoned hookers and punchers share their beautiful works of art.
A couple weeks ago someone posted a question about buying Rug Kits in one of the groups. Since I own a business that sells rug hooking kits I kept an eye on the post to see what the feedback was. I was surprised that most of the comments were negative. Now, let me tell you, these comments were not directed at our business, but rather each person's own personal experience.
So, after thinking about that post (which has since been removed by the person who posted it) for a couple weeks, I wanted to write about Kit making from the perspective of the business owner. I don't know what the barometer of success is for sales in kits but I will share with you that we have sold close to 600 Rug Hooking kits from our website this year alone and many more from ebay so I do feel like I can give a somewhat educated idea of what goes into kit making.
On our website we allow the buyer to choose to have their pattern drawn on monks cloth or primitive linen. There is a slight price increase for primitive linen as it is more expensive than monks cloth. We use quality monks cloth and primitive linen from a reputable rug hooking supply business. Our patterns are all drawn by hand paying close attention to drawing on the straight of the fabric.
We also offer a cutting option, which is a necessary service to offer for new hookers who may not have a cutter yet. We cut our kits in the same cut (usually a #8 or 1/4 inch strip) that we have hooked the rug in, unless another size is requested.
On our website, probably 99% of the rug patterns are shown already hooked. We like to provide a pretty finished picture of the design. When Mom hooks a design she keeps track of how much wool she uses.
The rule of thumb for figuring your wool usage for a pattern is between 4 and 6 ply. That means you should fold your wool over to that ply and however big that piece of fabric is at that ply is the area on your rug that it will cover when hooked. We provide enough wool in our kits for 6 ply. This method works well for us. Mom is a tight hooker and likes to fill most holes, though she is a low hooker. Usually after she is done hooking her rugs she will take her figures and add a bit to those figures to ensure that she has provided
When you receive a kit from us, each piece of wool in the kit will be labeled with it's color and where it should be used. For instance "Ollie Green ~ Leaves". Those little tags should always be kept, and even attached to a strip of that particular wool so you can order more if you like it or run low.
Our kits come with all the woolens ready to go. That means even "As is" woolens are washed and ready to go. "As is" woolens are basically woolens that are off the bolt and untouched by us, meaning we have not dyed them; a nice plaid or texture or beautiful shade.
Dyed woolens are more costly as wool dyeing is labor intensive and uses dyes, vinegar or synthrapol, electricity or gas, washing, drying, etc. We make our kits with a combination of hand dyed and as is woolens. All woolens, whether hand dyed or As Is, come washed and ready to hook.
In our shop and on our website our woolens are available for purchase at a minimum of a 1/4 yd. piece, but when we put kits together, a certain element may not need 1/4 yd. so naturally we only provide the amount needed; 1/16th or 1/8th.
Pricing for a kit takes into consideration the amount of wool, hand dyed or As Is, packaging and labor. Notice I said packaging and labor, yes, kits do not make themselves. Contrary to popular opinion, the wool does not just sit on the shelves.....wink, wink. Mom assembles ALL our kits.
They are very hands on.....the kits have to be put together with the appropriate amounts, labeled with color and where to use and if it is a more detailed pattern, it will include a diagram. If the average user was to buy one of our patterns and then bought 1/4 yd pieces of all the colors in that pattern they would spend more than the cost of the kit, even with the added cost of packaging and labor. What is not included in the cost of our kits is my Mothers color expertise. She has done the hard work for you. Color planning is her thing. If you have a large wool stash and have those particular colors then you would only need to buy the pattern of course. But most people who buy kits from us see it, love it, want it, just the way we have done it. It's a beautiful thing.
I'd like to address a few of the comments I saw on that post.
"There is never enough wool in kits" ~ Well, I've just explained how we do it. However, out of those 600 kits we sold this year, I would venture to guess that I've heard from less than 8% who have run low. You might think 8% is a high number, but consider this, those 8% might be a high hooker or a tight hooker and may consistently use more wool. Should I penalize the other 92% of people who have bought kits from us by charging a higher price to accommodate the few who need more wool? That really wouldn't be fair, would it? All our kits come with a quality control card that lists the number of woolens that should be in your kit and states that if you run out more may be purchased. We are not completely unreasonable though, if someone is short only a few strips we will gladly send them out, but if someone needs a significant amount of many colors, they can order more. We would not be in business for long if we made a habit of giving out free wool.
I have quite a few customers who order a kit and say, please add in and charge me for more wool because I'm going to need it.
"They hook their rugs with the good stuff then put crap in the kits" ~ Well, I cannot speak for other business, but we do not do that. We buy our wool from the 3 main quality wool suppliers in the country. We put the same wool in our kits that we have used to hook the rug that you see in the picture. We do many "hook-ins" a year. How would it be received if we are featuring a rug but have put different wool in the kit? Now, as far as different colors...yes, that can sometimes happen. Many of the rugs we show have been hooked years ago. Woolens are available to us in certain quantities at a time and though we do order several bolts at a time, we will run out eventually. A disclaimer on our website says that woolens might not be the same as in the photo, but will be the same basic color and of course quality as the original version.
"Their wool was cut horribly or it was shreddy" ~ This one can get sticky. First, let me tell you, all wool is not created equally. There are some woolens that are "shreddier" than others, it's a fact. Mom hooked this rug below with a beautiful wool, but man oh man did it shred. She went ahead with it because that was the color and look she wanted. It was meant to be nubby. However, she decided not to offer that wool in our kits because it was difficult to use so we now offer a compatible color in that kit.
Here's the part that gets sticky.....some people shred wool when they are hooking. I'm sorry, but it is true. It is most common with beginners. We experience displeasure from time to time with a new hooker who is shredding her wool and thinks it is our fault. Most hookers when they are starting out will pull too hard, or even put their hook in the middle of the strip or rock their hook back and forth making it fray. We try to explain that this is part of being a new hooker and we try to teach them how to pull the loop correctly. I would venture to say that everyone looks at their first rug with pride. Pride because they can see how far they've come since they first started hooking.
Regarding cutting, I can, again only speak for ourselves. We use the Sizzix cutting system that cuts all strips perfectly even.
The thing is, and again, sticky here, if you have hooked a rug and are not happy with the end result, you have to ask yourself does the rug look the way it does because of the person who gave you the materials or because of the person who is hooking it, especially when there is a finished picture of that very project with the exact same woolens.
Phew, that last paragraph was a hard one to write, but I think it needed to be said.
I wanted to write about this because as I mentioned above it is my belief that facebook is the reason our business has grown the way it has, but I also believe that facebook and most social media give people a sense of courage that they normally would not have. I read each and every one of those comments with a sense of sadness. I was a business owner at the other end of those comments. They weren't directed to me, but I took it personally. I wanted to explain the process of how "WE" do it and maybe remind you that there are people on the other end of that screen that work long, hard hours doing what we do and are so invested in our business that comments like those are bothersome and plain our hurtful. We usually sit down at the end of a long day to see what everyone is up to, what people are working on, look at pretty things and to see nasty comments is certainly not what we signed on for. It kind of takes the wind out of my sails for sure.
Until next time......