Positive Yarn

March 15, 2009

New and improved blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — heathergooch @ 12:52 am

Please visit me on my new and improved blog site:



January 23, 2009

A week of goodbye

Filed under: Personal — heathergooch @ 5:23 pm

If you’re wondering why my posts have been sparse this week, it’s because I had to say goodbye to my mentor. My grandmother died Monday at the age of 86. My mind rationalizes that she had lived a good long life, enjoying grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My spiritual side rationalizes that she has reunited with the only man she ever loved, who left her a widow 35 years ago. But I’m going to miss her mightily.

Gram sat me down when I was 5 and taught me how to embroider lazy daisies and French knots all over a preprinted pattern of a flower basket. Being stubborn and inpatient (almost as much as she was, but at least she understood), I would rip out any stitch she would make as demonstration so I could truly say that every stitch in the piece was mine. About a year later, I was enthralled by her vast collection of crochet hooks and asked that she teach me how to do that, too. She did, although I only have a couple of scraggly projects to prove it. Luckily, I have several completed afghans and baby blankets that she made over the years, and as I type this I wear her beautiful black and white wrap around my shoulders. It’s like getting a hug from her again.

As a professional seamstress for many years, Gram loved using her “power” sewing machine. The industrial-grade machine would dim all the downstairs lights as she worked upstairs in the sewing room, making it hum as it created my First Communion dress, repaired the rips in my favorite soft-bodied doll’s midsection or created the outfits of one of the hundreds of clown dolls she made and sold at craft fairs. During my overnight visits with her as a child nearly every weekend, I was only allowed to touch the much-less-intimidating Singer machine that usually resided on her dining room table. I made about five tube-style Barbie dresses, then decided that Gram was much, much better at this sort of thing.

In high school, as I coped with all the drama that being a teenager brings, Gram got me into making ceramics. She was always such a talented, creative soul. She was self-taught but a natural teacher — she was in her element if she could tell someone what to do! Of course, I mean that in the most affectionate way.

When I started getting into counted cross stitch about 13 years ago, Gram was starting to hang up the crafting and sewing habits. She delighted that I was dedicated myself to sewing again, and gave me several hoops and needles. She was also starting to make rosaries for the local Our Lady of Fatima Group. Even as recently as Jan. 3, she was still stringing the beads, making more than 150 rosaries a week for both soldiers serving overseas and for local needs. She had arthritis, diabetes and other ailments, but she felt that the Blessed Mother was working through her as she created each one anew. My daughters instinctively knew whenever we visited “Grandma Jo” in the nursing home that their primary task was to pick up all the beads she dropped recently and organize them into the many cups, bowls and other makeshift containers she used.

It’s Gram who instilled me in the importance of piecework when faced with a large task. From her tales of the days at Gordon Uniform, where making hundreds of sleeves at a sitting just meant you were that much closer to making hundreds of finished jackets, I learned that you can get things done if you just work on it at least a bit at a time. I remember weekends where her living room was filled with hundreds of crochet star snowflakes stacked and ready to be starched and glittered; little white balls that sat patiently waiting to be transformed into clown faces with a couple of Sharpie pens; and half-completed drum ornaments that only needed toothpick-sized drumsticks glued on to be called complete. We may have gone to lunch first, visited with some of her many, many friends, and maybe even waited until Dallas or Love Boat came on the TV that night, but we always managed to get it done in time for the next craft show.

The time I spent with her is some of my best memories of childhood, and perhaps adulthood as well. She always had a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. The lessons she taught me went well beyond how to a hold a needle or paintbrush.

I can only aspire to be as goodhearted of a person as she.

December 30, 2008

Procrastination Doesn’t Pay

Filed under: Personal — heathergooch @ 8:24 pm
Tags: , ,

While professionally, I try to meet — and exceed — my project deadlines, my personal life is filled with the potholes of procrastination. Why didn’t my Christmas cards go out this year? Part of the reason, I must admit, is because of the time lost playing Solitaire on my husband’s iPhone this holiday season. Why is my wedding dress, circa 1996, still hanging in my closet on a wire hanger instead of being preserved in a box? My excuse has morphed over the years from not having the money to now not having the time.

The problem (or perhaps my saving grace) is that I always have remorse after the fact. For example, as I got ready for bed a couple nights ago after spending three hours on the Internet surfing really random, but somewhat interesting things, I lamented that I could have been stitching/folding laundry/paying bills/spending quality time with my family. Why those thoughts weren’t occurring to me as I clicked hither and yon hours before, I don’t know. I realize that everyone needs some down time now and then — but on the other hand, I firmly believe we only have one go-around in this world, and it’s up to each of us to make the most of our time.

So I admit that I had a chuckle this morning when my husband emailed me a link to a CNN health feature, “Putting a price on procrastination.” I encourage you to check it out in its entirety (don’t put it off!), but the gist is that this Web site will light a fire under you to accomplish a goal you’ve been slow to move on, be it losing weight, finally calling an old friend, cleaning out old inventory or whatever else is on your mind but not off your list yet.

What’s the catch? Well, if you don’t make your set deadline, you have to pay up. The site itself is free — they just make a donation to your charity of choice. And while your money could go to a charity you like, it really ups the ante if you put it toward one you don’t!

If the site is not your cup of tea (or maybe you just won’t get around to joining it), consider another point the CNN article makes: Procrastination could be costing you in and of itself. If you are not religiously setting aside money for retirement, for example, the interest you could be making today is not going to be there when you start to get serious about deposits five years from now.

Similarly, if you’re not ordering inventory in an appropriate volume because it’s “too much hassle” to change the invoice order, you’re paying that price every time — be it more frequent drops because you’re selling more or less profit margin because you’re selling less.

New Year’s resolutions rarely stick, I realize, though they have a better chance if there’s a support system or incentive in place. Have both, and you’re that much closer to scratching something major from your “to-do” list.

Who knows — you may even see me at the dry cleaner’s in 2009.

December 25, 2008

Very Merry

Filed under: Uncategorized — heathergooch @ 2:54 pm

I just wanted to wish my readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Kwanzaa — or Happy Thursday if none of the preceding fits!

While the weather outside here in Northeast Ohio looks more like drizzly April than late December, I’m not complaining. We’re driving to my aunt’s house later today (I’ll have my newly started second cross-stitch stocking in tow so I can finish it by December ’09), and I’d rather not drive an hour in snow, no matter how pretty it is.

I’m closing my laptop now so I can enjoy watching my daughters play with their new treasures and enjoy this lovely day. I wish you and yours a blessed, relaxing day too!

December 5, 2008

NFIB IDs top customer traits

Filed under: Uncategorized — heathergooch @ 8:49 pm

With the holiday season in full swing, you might see some new faces in your shop — be they friends of friends dragged in “just for a minute” while they’re out and about, or gift-buyers looking to you for expertise about what to get their spouse/friend/relative who is a frequent sight in your aisles. Regardless of why they walk through your door, take every opportunity you can to convert the casual browser into a bona fide buyer.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) offers 12 commonly encountered customer types. Keep in mind that every customer is unique, and is a mixture of more than a few of the categories on any given day. But picking up on what their dominant personality traits are by asking some questions — and listening carefully to their answers — can help you respond positively to their needs. Here is my tailored adaptation of the NFIB’s 12 categories. I’m using “her” throughout, but don’t forget many men stitch (or at least buy), too!

• The boss. This customer wants to be in charge, with things done her way. Conversation starter: Imagine she is a respected supervisor. Speak deferentially. Ask questions to be sure you understand what she’s looking for. Make notes if necessary.

• The competitor. She’s checking around to see what she can get from the competition. She’ll spare no effort to identify the “best deal.” Conversation starter: Refrain from kicking her in the shin when she mentions the big box store down the street! Seriously, stay composed and reiterate why your store’s inventory, sales support and knowledge is what sets you apart. Remind her to “please sign up for our mailing list, because we offer our readers discounts all the time,” which may be all she needs to become convinced she’s getting the most out of her money.

• The explorer. This customer may not even be certain she wants to buy, but perhaps her kit requires a thread color her usual sources don’t supply, and she doesn’t want to order online because she wants to see what it looks like first — or wants it immediately. Conversation starter: Find out what other questions your customer may have, and offer guidance as best you can. If you don’t stock what she has in mind, see if there’s at least something comparable on the shelf, or how soon you could get it in for her. Try to make “Sorry, we don’t have it. Have a nice day!” your course of last resort, not first.

• The miser. She’s out to save every possible nickel. Conversation starter: Just like with the competitor, bring the conversation around to the value of your store and its offerings. Make sure that she is aware of your discount programs. In this economic climate, it’s better to keep smaller customers than lose them completely, so think about your next clearance display: Is it shouting “Hey cheapskate, you could at least get this” with items tossed carelessly in a basket or on a shelf? Or are you treating the items with as much respect as you would a brand-new line, maybe even showcasing a made-up sample you did with some orphan yarns, for example? (Then again, there’s something to be said about the bargain hunters who enjoy rummaging through your clearance shelf for their perceived “diamond in the rough”!)

• The negotiator. She believes hard negotiation is the key to just about every successful business transaction. Conversation starter: This is encountered more when there is a problem — “What are you going to do about this?”— than a mere purchase of some needles and yarn, but this customer wants to negotiate, so negotiate. Keep your employees attuned to how much they really can give a customer without giving away the store: a credit voucher, a free kit of her choice, a free class. It’s a win-win if she feels better about the situation — and you get to keep her on the mailing list.

• The novice. This first-timer is on your doorstep with a seeming willingness to buy or seek assistance. Conversation starter: Ask a few questions to determine the extent of her knowledge about needlework, so that you neither insult her intelligence or overload her with so much detail she’ll run out the door. She’ll appreciate a customized “introduction” to the needlearts that will help her find the right fit.

• The preacher. Almost evangelical in her tone, this customer has firm — and quickly expressed — opinions. She’ll want to spend time expounding on her views. Conversation starter: This customer requires extra-careful listening. As long as she isn’t knocking the competition (it won’t take long to realize that if she says something bad about them, there’s little keeping her from equally badmouthing you to someone else), your most important role is to empathize with your customer. Once you get beyond the opinion and the emotion, you can address the issues at hand.

The researcher. She wants to gather information about her prospective purchase or her post-purchase problem in a studious, almost academic fashion. She may even have a notebook in hand. Conversation starter: Listen carefully to her questions. Ponder your answers. If you’re not certain about a point — or want the opportunity to continue the conversation later — indicate that you’ll research the answer and get back to her.

• The sampler. This is the classic kick-the-tires customer. She wants to try and test. Conversation starter: Let her browse, offer assistance where needed and underscore your superior class lineup. If she’s in the market for something new, show her the latest and greatest. If she wants to get back to basics, you can show her that aisle too — it just takes a bit of listening to what she’s truly looking for.

The skeptic. This customer doesn’t take advertising or product claims at face value. The result is often a stream of pointed, sometimes trivial questions. Conversation starter: Depending on what she’s skeptical about — a product, an activity, your store’s reputation — try to emphasize the strengths of whatever is being brought under scrutiny. Be as honest as possible, of course, but what this customer is often looking for is reassurance: “It’s true the book says you can finish the project in under six hours. It took me about that long, and I have other customers who say they finished it in about eight. So it’s definitely doable in a weekend.”

• The socializer. This customer likes to buy, and even looks forward to seeking customer service. Yes, this probably defines most of your core customers! Conversation starter: This customer wants a personal relationship. Engage in chitchat. You’re not wasting time talking about the weather, your children or your customer’s weekend plans.

• The speed demon. Whether she’s got many things on her mind, children in tow or just on her lunch break, this customer is in a hurry. You might notice her anxiously tapping her foot at the register or appearing slightly agitated. Conversation starter: Use a brisk, authoritative but friendly tone of voice. Give fast answers to first questions. If asked, she wants genuine assurance that you’ll address her need of assistance quickly. And while your shop would never be mistaken for a fast food joint, a reputation of addressing customer needs as fast and as accurately as possible is a good one to shoot for.

I encourage all small-business owners to take a look at the “Small Business Toolbox” Library that NFIB offers. There’s a treasure trove of ideas that work, just waiting to be implemented at your shop.

October 28, 2008

Looking forward to next Wednesday…

Filed under: Personal — heathergooch @ 7:18 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m anxiously awaiting Nov. 5 for two reasons. One, the election will be OVER and I won’t have to lay eyes or ears on another campaign commercial for a while. But two, and perhaps more important to me personally, it’s when the November meeting of my needlework guild takes place.

I have been a member of the local guild for three years and counting. I am the official photographer and newsletter editor, so I can’t afford to miss a meeting. Not that I’d want to — I love being around other stitchers, whose experiences and skills shape their projects into true works of art.

However, because I am one of only about five members under the age of 50, it’s sometimes hard to keep up. After a day of work and chasing my kids, it’s difficult to find time to sit down, find my place in my sampler and get a few stitches done before sleepiness gets the better of me. Still, I believe everyone should MAKE the time for their passions, be it for family time or a hobby. I attend the monthly guild meeting even if it cannot be at a less convenient time, because I know when I’m there, I’m at my happiest.

And so I plan and I plan, for in seven days I need to have 22 more beads stitched in neat little crescent shapes, plus a completed felt Christmas ornament to donate to the Head Start program. Then there’s my younger daughter’s Christmas stocking, which I am gunning to have hanging on the mantle this year so all four of ours are handmade. I am 80% done, which if experience tells me anything means the last 20% will be completed around Dec. 23 in a round-the-clock effort.

But that’s OK, because there won’t be any campaign commercials to distract me.

Blog at WordPress.com.