Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Making what is "good" v. making what sells.

Every day, I face the same dilemma. Should I make what people want? Or make what I know will sell? Or should I make what I know is good, even if it doesn't sell? Or both? I am sure you know what I'm talking about, no matter what line of work you are in.

Well, here is what it is like as a yarn designer: I learned years ago which gauges and color combinations sell the best. If I want to have a more lucrative business, I will stick with purples, teals and greens. People scarf those up in a heartbeat.

But in my heart, I know that the average yarn buyer does not necessarily look good in purple. It takes a certain complexion and hair color range to wear it, e.g.: Women of Color or Caucasian brunettes with brown eyes and dark hair.

A pale blonde, on the other hand, does not really wear purple well; purple wears her. A pale blonde often looks outstanding in peach. But peach yarn is the kiss of death. I have made peach color combinations that took over a year to sell out.

And peach is far from being the least popular. Pastels in general do not sell as quickly as bright colors. Gray is worse. I have a wool blend yarn called Paiolo that I think is to die for, but it is gray and copper, so it sells slowly. And gray is nothing--NOTHING--compared to maroon and navy. I rue the day I created a maroon, navy, silver yarn that echoed the New England Patriots colors. It was a stunning, dramatic yarn but took three years to sell.

I know I cannot change the buying public. But I wish I could hold little workshops and show people which colors work best with their coloring and which fibers work best for certain applications. That fuzzy purple acrylic from Walmart may be easy on the wallet, but it will look very cheap worked up as a child's sweater and will start pilling after a few washes. It's not a bargain. I have non-fuzzy acrylic strands in my yarn studio that do not pill and add strength to any garment. I'm sure I repel the purists by using it, but I know that when I mix it with cotton, it makes the yarn easier to knit, whereas 100% cotton yarn can be so stiff, it makes your hands ache. And when mixed with wool, it adds strength.

Sorry, I digress. I was talking about color.

Chinchilla, the yarn at the top and bottom of this post, is a great example of what I mean. I put a lot of thought into it. I used gray, beige, taupe and ivory to give it lots of texture and depth. The gray or beige alone would have been boring, but the two together, especially with the multi-color beige/tan strand I used, make it a fascinating yarn. I put a thin green rayon in there for pizazz, without disrupting the overall muted quality. The ivory is an odd crinkly wool that gives the yarn a bit of fluffy excitement without going overboard into a chunky, mohair fluff extravaganza which is unflattering in a sweater--although fluffy can be very nice in a hat. Chinchilla could be stunning on a man or woman with graying hair or anyone with muted coloring. It's also a classic, dignified, sophisticated palette. But it's going to languish in my shop for some time, I feel sure, since it isn't a neon shade of purple that makes your jaw drop and your heart pound.

What about you? What do you make that you know in your heart is wonderful, high quality and right for so many people, but will largely go unnoticed? Comments welcome on Facebook.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition

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