There are people who read my blogs and take offense that I tell it like it is.
As a shop owner I've never had a leg to stand on or a voice to defend my side of any story and now this forum presents a place to level the playing field.
I talk about life in general both personal and professional and add my style of dark humour, a lot of it self deprecating. I write to spread knowledge, to entertain and sometimes do a bit of unloading. The old adage you can't please all of the people all of the time rings true and I'm absolutely fine with that.
Some don't think I'm funny and that's fine. Maybe my sense of humour isn't the flavour your taste buds are comfortable with. Other's complain I write too much...ah well. When I pass on my experiences I hope that it will help others and if that is misconstrued as being insulting that is beyond my control. If people expect me to shut up and eat crow I guess they'll be disappointed but that does not take away from the fact that my shop is one of the best in Canada with a quality product that customers can count on. I'm fiercely proud of this accomplishment and don't appreciate it being muddied so if you don't agree on something, that's okay, but I invite you to come on by and take a walk in my shop owner shoes and then we'll talk.
This next piece is to spread awareness how comments can hurt a business. I had a not so pleasant confrontation yesterday with a customer who claimed my wool was garbage. Now I take great pride in the quality of my wares so I take that personally, especially when I know news like this gets around faster than a forest fire in a drought. So yesterday I was upstairs talking to a supplier on the phone when she arrived and started in on my son, telling him the wool she bought in this store was garbage and demanded “Where’s the woman?” Shane came up the stairs with a pleading look in his yes…help!
So I go downstairs and there she is tearing strips apart and throwing them on the table with a face on that would scare a baby. I could see what the problem was two feet away. The wool was a frayed mess with jagged fibers flying off in every direction, made it look like a giant fur ball coughed up by some cat. I kept my cool and my son said he was impressed that I remained as nice as I did, because the woman would not listen as I tried to explain that it was a result of cutting the wool across the grain. She argued that it had never happened before so it couldn’t be her and she kept taking the strips and pulling them apart in front of me and throwing them down on the table with contempt saying, Look….look…LOOK! She had whipped herself into a frenzy before she arrived and came in with guns blazing and all I could think was, thank goodness no one else was in the shop.
Then she took out the remaining piece of ¼ yard that she had been cutting on and told me it was basically rotten and threw that on the table with the strips and asked me what I was going to do about it. I picked up the wool and simply folded it in half so she could see how the two edges did not line up. The one she had been cutting on was on a 45 degree angle, a diagonal cut across the entire grain of the wool. There was nothing holding the strips together and you could have torn them apart by blowing on them. She was using a #3 blade, wool slightly thicker than human hair, it is imperative that the wool goes through the blades straight on the grain!
And on top of that, she had been cutting using the entire 1/4 yd piece of wool, not tearing off smaller pieces. A BIG NO NO. If you have more than a 3 inch wide piece of wool it pulls and drags away from the blade as it wants to fall off the edge of the cutter. It is harder to keep the piece going straight through the blade with all the drag created by the weight of the wool.
She still wouldn't believe me. Told me she always cuts like this and there had to be something wrong with the wool. I am supposed to be a bit of an expert on certain things, god knows I’ve cut enough wool to surround the globe several times over but that didn't account for much.
So I took the remaining wool and tore it down into pieces and cut it for her in my Bolivar. I took a strand of the wool, a perfect cut piece I might add, as I pulled it a bit to see if there was any fraying before I handed it over and asked her to inspect it. You can tell when you go off grain a bit as little bits will poke up when you stretch the wool ends apart. I watched her pull on the strand that would not break and she looked total amazed, swqitched gears and then proceeded to blame the problem on her cutting machine.
I took the time to explain once again that the wool had to feed through the machine as straight as possible. I told her there was absolutely nothing wrong with her Bliss cutter. A machine can only work as good as the wool placement under the cutting wheel. I told her to only use strips no bigger than three inches wide or less to put through the machine. And never put a scissor cut edge of wool through the machine…torn edges only. If the wool goes wonky on the one side then flip to the other torn side and if that gets screwed up, make a slit with a pair of scissors in the middle and tear it down the center and then you have two fresh edges to work with. Before she left I asked if she hooked with a group and she said she hooks alone at home so I felt reasonably sure the misplaced anger she felt for product didn’t get leaked to the locals.
There was as similiar incident over burlap a few years back. The Canadian supplier received a shipment of a weave that was wider than the normal primitive, a mistake during the manufacturing. They sold it off at a reduced price for people who hooked with hand torn wools. I personally didn’t buy any but I know a few shops that did. The quality was still there, the same weave, it was just a larger hole.
So a woman who happened to be a teacher, came into my shop one day and started asking in a very big voice in front of several customers, “Is this burlap rotten? The stuff I bought at so in so’s was rotten and I don’t want any more of it!” She kept using the word rotten over and over and I was red faced and embarrassed in front of the other customers. I explained to her that the burlap wasn’t rotten, it was just a larger hole but I couldn’t convince her otherwise. Between the bad advertising of the teacher and possibly the store full of customers who heard her complaining that day, for months after people came in asking if the burlap we sell is the rotten stuff they'd heard about.
So later my shop friend told me that she attended the Nova Scotia Guild AGM and the woman was sitting several seats behind her and in a booming voice that cut through the chatter to silence the room, she said to the back of the shop keeper's head calling her by name “_____, I need some burlap, do you have better stuff now or are you still selling that rotten one!” The shop keeper was mortified and although we later laughed at the lunacy of it all she lost business. The woman being a teacher had the ability to direct new students to the shops so spreading the news of an inferior product hurt her business. The friend said sales plummeted for months. If you sell one rotten product there isn't much faith built for the rest of your goods.
Another tale is of a woman who bought all the wool for one of my patterns to take to Florida for a winter’s project. She was new to rug hooking and had never cut before. I gave her a lesson on what to do and she left. She was planning on buying a cutter in the states.
So off to Florida she flew and a month or so later I get a very nasty phone call telling me that my wool is so rotten it falls apart. Back then it took me by surprise as this had never happened before so quite frankly I didn’t know what to do. Besides, I couldn’t assess what the problem was over the phone but I did have a sneaky feeling that it was cut across the grain and asked if she followed my instructions for cutting that we had gone over before she left. She assured me the wool was cut properly. She demanded that I replace the wool at my expense or she would never shop from me again. Between the shipping and the wool that I had to redye and cut I was out $100.00. It was a very sticky situation. Newly opened I wasn’t in any position to argue but I only agreed on the provision that when she returned to Mahone Bay she bring in this so called rotten wool for me to inspect. She agreed but I never saw her again. I don’t even know if she is still hooking.
So all you new hookers cutting your own wool take heed that the making of a strip is not a job to be taken lightly. It takes a steady hand and concentration. Cutting larger cuts, say anything past a #5 you can relax a bit because there will be enough width to maintain the wools strength if you stray a bit, but if working with a #2,3 or 4 you have to be very careful not to compromise the integrity of the wool.
This was a lesson learned for me and the reason why I insist on cutting all my custom made kits. I am asked often for a discount if they cut their own wool and I explain it isn't about the money. I want to ensure the product I send out is top notch, if a problem should arise, like maybe I missed something I can deal with that, at least it isn't a problem with the quality of my wool!