New week, new knitting help and a few thoughts about quitting, Part 1

I prepared another knitting help for today, this time it is about the Chain Selvedge Method. I advise to use this method in every flat knit pattern and it is causing confusion in my experience, so that is what I try to make clear in this tutorial. You can find the explanation here, and the tutorial video here. You can find all of my knitting helps here.

Another thing I wanted to talk about today is a few lessons I learned in the last 5 years about running a knitting business. This topic was inspired by a conversation with a dear knitter friend, Szila (please check her work out, she is amazing: Instagram: @szilacreativedesign Ravelry: Szilaa). We were chatting about the Hungarian knitter community, how non-knitting Hungarians perceive knitting and things like that and it made me conclude some things. I finally decided to share these thoughts with you because in the past two weeks, since I posted about shutting down the ready-made part of my business, I got questions every day from people about my decision. Why did I quit knitting and not designing? How could I choose between the two? So here are my honest answers for all those questions but first I have to take you back to the beginning of my story and tell you how GK was born so you can see the whole picture. It will probably be too long for one blog post, so I will split it in two. In the first part I am talking about the reason I quit selling ready made items and in the second about why I chose designing instead.

I started my small business 5 years ago just like most of us start it: I was a fresh mom of 2, I had no chance for a full time job but there was the social expectation around me to earn money, because “it puts too much pressure on a man to be the only breadwinner in the family” (actually and fortunately that was not the case for us, my husband is a system developer and he has never felt that making money would be too much pressure on him – on the contrary, he loves his work and he is good at it, so work always finds him – but everyone else around us was keep forcing me to do something for a living). I really loved knitting so I thought it was a great opportunity for me to strike two birds with one stone: do what I love when I want it and shut the mouth of society.

Little did I know by then that a knitter’s small business consists of all but knitting. I was naively imagining myself knitting and watching TV while children are in kindergarten… what a perfect picture of making an income! But instead what happened is in no time I found myself in the jungle of tax system, billing, website and online shop editing, social media platforms, SEO, creating marketing materials and such. None of them because I fancied the topic so much… It was rather because I wanted to run a successful business alone, so I had to learn how to manage every part of a business. Alone. And it was really hard for a creative person like me.

I soon realized I would have been better off working 8 hours anywhere else and then come back home to my family. That would have involved more knitting for pleasure, too, I guess… and much less stress… But by this time I was in the middle of it. GK was running, I worked basically 24 hours a day… I had the time for it, because our daughter had no need to sleep so I was awake with her through the nights, too (later she was diagnosed with ASD, I wrote about this in the same post – she is fine now). And I wasn’t making money. At least not the amount one would expect for working 24/7.

After 2 years I was really tired and burned out. And I know many fellow entrepreneurs running a small business feel the same way after a while. I know because I talk to them regularly. We have the idea of running the perfect business but it is not like that in real life and by the time we realize this, it is too late to turn back. We have put way too much work and money into something that is not working the way we imagined it, trying to change things for the better. This is especially true for knitters in Hungary. The market is really small here as most of the people still think knitting and hand knitted garments are out of fashion. But this leads to another thread of the story which I will write about in my next post.

When I realized my income was way too far from what I would have liked it to be, I started to blame myself for it. I thought there was something wrong with me. The more work and energy I invested in the knitting business, the more I took away from my family, so finally I was failing as an entrepreneur and also as a mother. I started to go downward spiraling myself into really dark places but then my husband jumped in and told me to observe things from another perspective (once again, he works on the IT field, so he basically sees everything as 0s and 1s… 🙂 he uses his brain to work and not his heart like me…). And that perspective was:

  • declare how much money I want to earn in a month (I opted for the Hungarian average income which is less than what I had earned before I gave birth to my children. But you know, that is the life of an average woman who decides to have children… I was happy to be able to do what I love, at least)
  • count all costs of my business in a month (taxes, yarn, packaging, tools, online shop fees, marketing costs, table rent fees at design/handmade markets, the costs of designing new collections, price of photo shoots, etc.)
  • add together the two amounts mentioned above and divide it by the average price of my hats to get the number of items I need to knit/sell in a month to earn that money
  • decide if it was achievable or not

It turned out I should knit and sell over 200 hats in a month to earn that money. TWO HUNDRED. If I want to count how many working hours is that, I have to multiple 200 by 2 because I knit a hat in an average 2 hours. That means 400 work hours a month, 100 per week. And that is only knitting, it doesn’t include the time spent on designing and testing new items, marketing, website, social media and online shop editing times, all the other administrative tasks, standing in line at the post office to send packages, etc… And as I mentioned before, that actually took up even more time than knitting. Basically there is not as many hours in a week as I need for working if I wanted to run this business successfully. I could hire someone to do the administrative work but then I have to knit and sell twice as many hats to pay their salary, too. It was the moment I had to admit to myself what I want from this business is simply not manageable. And it is not my fault. Even if I had 100 hours/week to knit, there is no way I can sell 200 hats in a month in Hungary. This is not the country for so many handknitted hats in every month of the year.

If you are thinking about creating a small business that sells handknit hats, I won’t talk you out of it. I’m not telling you that the same applies to every knitter. Everyone of us is different. Maybe you are a faster knitter and knit a hat in under half an hour, so less working hours are needed for knitting… or you don’t have that many costs to your business because you don’t run an online shop. Or simply you higher the prices of your products because you live in a country where you can do that (in Hungary this was not an option. I had already been asking for the highest prices possible). Or you don’t have any children, one of which diagnosed with ASD, so the number of working hours doesn’t matter to you. It is different for everyone. All I want to say that it was my decision considering my own circumstances. I can’t manage a business 24/7 that is not making me satisfied 100% and even if it did, my family still needs me.

My moment of enlightenment actually was the same moment when we realized that we needed to start investigating the problem of my daughter ASAP because it was getting out of our hands, too. You already know the end of this story: I pushed the pause button on GK and started to sort out my family issues. I spent two years concentrating only on family and in my free time I was brainstorming about GK and how I can turn this into something that I feel more satisfying without taking anything away from my family. What I came up with will be the topic of my next blog post. Will you join me next time, too? 🙂 Until then,

Happy Knitting!