It sounds like such an amazing arrangement. A perfect symbiosis between designer and dyer.
In short, it works like this: a dyer provides yarn to a designer to use in a design sample (usually free; occasionally discounted*). When the design is published, the designer promotes the yarn as a great match for the pattern, the dyer promotes the pattern as a great match for their yarn, and everybody benefits and is happy.
When I first started designing and someone explained this concept to me, I was amazed. And I was eager to try it.
But first, I had to get over my anxiety about asking someone—generally a complete stranger—for something.
I am not an asker. I will marched determinedly through a store, searching every shelf on every aisle for what I’m looking for and admit defeat, leaving the store empty-handed, before I ask an employee for assistance.
I will read every single reference material I can find on a topic and then just give up on learning rather than asking someone in the know to explain it to me.
No, I don’t know why I’m like this. But I am. I’m sure I could pay a therapist a good salary to figure it out, but instead I’ll just call myself “self-reliant.”
So getting over the fear of asking was the first challenge.
But it’s the 21st century and email exists, so this wasn’t too terrible. Writing I can sail through; face-to-face interaction is the killer. Email, being fairly anonymous, was far less scary. I would generally write an email, read through it a million times, honing it to within an inch of its life, and eventually click send with a grimace on my face. DONE!
And I never got a direct “no.” I got a few “we don’t do yarn support,” which I could handle, because it’s not personal. And a got a lot of unanswered emails, which I understood to mean “no” but could also brush off as “they never got the email” or “they don’t do yarn support.” It was annoying and frustrating to get no response at all, but without a real answer, I could chalk it up to trouble on their end, not mine. Usually.
But sometimes, the “yes” answers were actually more painful.
Because on a fair number of occasions, this would happen:
Me: Yes, hello, I would like some yarn support, please.
Them: Of course! We love giving our yarn to small-time designers! Let us know what you need.
Me: Great! I’m designing XYZ, here’s my sketch/swatch/other info, and I need X much yarn.
Them: No problem, send us your mailing address and we’ll get it right out!
Me: Provides address.
Them . . .
Now weeks have passed with no sign of the yarn and I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I cannot bear to email them yet again with a needy request. How would I word it?
“Just following up . . .” So passive aggressive.
“Did you have a chance to ship out the yarn yet?” Ugh, too pushy.
“Hey, maybe this got lost in the mail.” Well, that’s no good. If it did get lost in the mail, I can’t fairly expect more free yarn.
“Hey, do you want to work with me or not??” That’s a non-starter.
“Is my business too small? Was I rude? Did I upset you? Do you actually hate my design and were just trying to be polite??” Time to see the therapist again.
Ultimately, because of instances like these, as well as some other frustrations with the yarn support process, I just more or less stopped asking. I just bought the yarn I wanted to design with (or used stash yarn, on occasion). No deadlines, no commitments, no confusion and no scary emails.
But there are downsides, the obvious one being the cost of design yarn, which is eating into my salary. There’s also both personal and business value in making connections within the fiber arts industry, which is necessarily going to mean putting myself out there, writing scary emails, awkwardly introducing myself at fiber events, and proposing collaborations like yarn support.
So this year I resolved to give the whole yarn support thing another try, anxiety be damned. And I’m happy to say I have secured yarn support for almost all of the indie patterns I have planned so far for 2019, and all from new-to-me dyers I haven’t worked with before. True, not all of it has arrived yet, and I’ll probably have to send a few awkward emails following up on missing yarn as the year goes on (one thing I’m trying this year is to request yarn support waaaaaaay in advance of my target publication dates, to allow time to approach new dyers if the originals fall through), but in the end, I think it will be worth sending a few scary emails.
*The few times I’ve worked with companies that offered discounted rather than free yarn support, the discount was minimal, and they did nothing to promote the pattern; in fact, they didn’t even acknowledge the pattern when I sent it to them. So I’m done with that. And unfortunately that yarn company, even though I love their yarn.
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