Sunday, November 10, 2013

Creating the Color Cards for a New Yarn

Scan of official Lotus yarn color card.
You can enlarge it here
This post is part of a series: I'm blogging what it's like to start a yarn company as a crochet designerIt's an adventure with unexpected - ah - twists, and an odd sensation that I'm transgressing industry categories/roles. A new Crochet Inspirations Newsletter issue goes out soon; subscribe to be alerted when I add new posts to this blog series.
If I have color cards made for Lotus, the yarn must be available for purchase soon, right? YES!! In just a day or two! Right NOW!! In the meantime you can see all the colors and test swatches and labeled balls of yarn here. Adding them to Ravelry right now too.

So what's a "color card"? It's a yarn industry thing: an official "B2B" (business to business) fact sheet. Color cards display the available colors of a yarn as accurately as possible. A printed card is traditionally large with actual yarn samples of each color attached. Nowadays, the online equivalent might just be a close up of photographed colors. 

You've probably seen color cards if you have looked up yarns in Ravelry. You might even own some if you have ever:
- Paid for one while ordering yarn from a website or mail-order catalog.
- Been taken seriously enough as a designer by a yarn company. 
- Owned or worked in a yarn shop.

Tassels from the first mock-up of the Lotus color card.
These are actual Lotus colors (four neutral colors are missing).
It's an important reference for yarn shop owners and magazine editors. Color cards may be created by the yarn mill or packager/distributor to help a yarn shop owner order the best colors for her/his shop. A magazine editor can use the same color cards to plan a unified color theme for an issue, and to quote the correct color names and numbers when ordering yarn for the designer. The magazine's technical editor might check yarn facts in the patterns against what the color cards say, before the issue goes to press.

Before creating a short stack of color cards for Lotus, I compared a range of
Exhibit A: Glued Yarn Snips
color cards that have accumulated in my studio over the years. Some yarn companies add "glam copy" (persuasive, even flowery descriptions of the yarn's features). Others provide terse product specs. 

As you can see in "Exhibit A" at right, yarn snips may be glued down to the card. This is very common. Maybe it's the fastest and easiest way to mass produce them. 

Exhibit B: These 6" tassels are the longest of
any examples I have on hand.
Another common type of yarn snip is a tassel (Exhibit B at left). They can be of any length. The ones at left are especially long.  

As a designer I've wished that I could pull out a small length of the yarn to see how smooth and even it really is, and to just chain it to quickly experience crocheting it. I'm trying out a 30-inch length doubled up a few times, as shown in the top left photo above. 

Something that has always bugged me about color cards is if the tassels are long, they look messy and don't work well in a binder. I designed mine to fit in a 3-ring binder so that the yarn snips don't flop around beyond the edge of the binder.

Next in this series: How My Lotus Yarn Got its Name.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

On Becoming a...Yarn Company?

The Starpath Scarf, one of 
several Lotus yarn patterns!
Developing yarns to add to my site is having a powerful affect on me as a crochet designer. This blog has been about the designing journey since 2005, so I thought I’d blog a series of journal-like posts about my yarn-designing adventure here.

Scroll to the end of this post for a clickable list of all posts in this series.

For the first time ever, I can design with a yarn that I already know I love, that I understand intimately, and over which I have complete control. I don't have to worry that someone will suddenly discontinue it. This has happened a lot. Doris and I have talked about this a lot.
Lotus Yarn in "White Blaze"

Freelance designers do not get paid for all the time it takes to get to know a yarn, yet this is one reason that creating design proposals, especially for yarn companies, is so time consuming. (For magazines, this task is delayed until you find out which yarn gets assigned to your design proposal.)
Big ol' cones of rosy Lotus colors

Over the past few months I’ve been developing a new yarn, and I mean new: not offered elsewhere. The first is called Lotus, and it's nearly ready for purchase! It's a z-twisted sport weight blend of cotton and rayon. The yarn labels are currently being printed, and the last of the first fourteen colors is being dyed right now now available!  
My Tunisian Wicker Stitch in "Satin Grey" Lotus

DesigningVashti Lotus Yarn in "Crystal Blue"
I’m going directly to yarn mills with some ideas for yarns that are not already available. I’ve been an avid yarn user (consumer, swatcher, stasher) for years. It's fascinating how fibers, plying, twist, dyeing, etc. add to my love of crochet and pattern designing! I pay attention to differences between yarns, and so by now it's easy for me to envision my own ideal yarns.

Yarn mill folks seem to appreciate that I study yarns and have some ideas to try. This is a great relief to me! I was afraid I’d get blank looks, or “Well, that’ll cost you!” responses. Instead, they seem more relieved and curious.
Brushed Shells in color "Peachy Sheen"

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. 

Today, what brings me to my blog is that I’m in a design slump! Not a crochet slump, just a design slump (it happens every time I return from teaching a lot of classes at a national conference.) 

Being surrounded by my Lotus yarn in rainbow colors makes this slump a fun experience.

(By the way, I never know how the colors are going to show up on different computer screens, so I try different kinds of lighting and add various photos everywhere.)

This year, shipments of my new yarn were arriving from the mill while I was preparing to teach. Now that I'm home from teaching, I feel like a mother with her newborn baby. I spend every day trying out new stitch patterns with different colors of LotusI take photos of Lotus at different angles and times of day. I've dug out early designs for which I used favorite stitch patterns. I'm going through my old books and trying stitches that have always intrigued me. 

It turns out that designing a YARN and making it a reality is like having a baby, in several ways: the months of anticipation, choosing a name, and the "labor." I even had to prepare a new room for its arrival. 

Zenobia Palm Stitch in color "Pearly Pearl"
I love that my early years as a freelance designer have taught me that the best thing I could be doing right now is swatching up different crochet stitches with Lotus! 

Crocheting with a yarn is like getting to know a new person. Each has a distinct temperament, unique strengths & weaknesses, and preferences. The better one knows a yarn, the better a design will work for it. 

As a crochet designer with my own yarn company, I don’t have to go on blind dates with yarns I may never design with again. Lotus is family!


Other posts in this series (in chronological order):