I’m pretty excited to finally be able to write that and tell you all about it! Well, mostly. I have to admit, I’ve done more writing in the past couple of months than I think I have in the past 5 years combined. I wrote personal emails to many many dyers, wrote a new SkeinMinder website, wrote the entire Kickstarter campaign, wrote a bunch about it in my Ravelry Group, and now writing more here! It’s a good thing I like to write.
In any case, I don’t want this blog post to just repeat what you can already find on the website or Kickstarter campaign. I’ve kept my blog a little more personal, a little more behind-the-scenes, a little more of a direct pipe from my brain to your eyeballs. So I’ll keep the pitch short – the SkeinMinder is a tool for indie dyers. It automates their existing motorized skein winders. You can plug in your winder, set it to a number of rotations, and the SkeinMinder will keep track of them, and automatically stop your winder for you. It may not sound like much to knitters, but for dyers with table-top winders, it’s revolutionary. You can read more about life with and without a SkeinMinder on the campaign page.
When I say that the SkeinMinder is the best project I’ve done, I really do mean it. Sure, I’ve worked on way flashier cutting-edge tech projects that were pushing the limits of what you could do with off-the-shelf electronics. The work was fun, and I love an impossible challenge. The SkeinMinder is comparatively simple from an electronics standpoint, but it has an element of personal connection that is rarely present in a pure tech project. What I mean by this is that I’m actually improving people’s lives. I realize I’m not feeding starving children or curing cancer or anything, but I’m making a huge impact on people that kind of mean a lot to me – indie dyers.
There aren’t many businesses who cater to the needs of indie dyers. We’re a very small niche, we pop up and disappear all the time, and we tend to run our businesses without a lot of spare cash. Newsflash, right? Dyeing yarn is a lot of hard work for very little pay. Lots of personal satisfaction, sure, but not a lot of dollars. So who would actually try to make tools and sell them to this market? You’d be marketing to a group of people that don’t really function as an industry, don’t have an official organization or network, have a high turnover rate, and are struggling to be profitable. Pretty much only another person with a passion for dyeing would attempt this. To anyone else, it’s just a losing proposition.
You can see this with the main tool that indie dyers use – skein winders. They’re all made by other dyers, or the spouses of dyers. They’re expensive because they’re made in small quantities – one, five, or maybe 10 at a time if business is screaming. The SkeinMinder faces the same challenge, but even more so because it’s an electronics product. It’s possible to make electronics in small quantities, but not at a price at which you can turn them around and sell them to someone else. You need to build batches of about 100 for the cost of parts and manufacturing to fall enough for that.
This is why the SkeinMinder’s Kickstarter goal is $65,000. The stack-up goes like this: I need to make 100 in order to sell them as low as $365 each. Add fees, shipping, and start-up costs to that. And then, in order to ship in August, I’m going to have to work on the SkeinMinder full-time for 4 months. I’m not going to be able to dye yarn (other than what I’m dyeing for the Kickstarter rewards), and I’m not going to be able to do any consulting work. So it has to be able to pay me a fair and reasonable wage for that amount of time.
Making the SkeinMinder is a bit like hand-dyeing yarn – it’s mostly a labor of love. I don’t know if dyers are a big enough market that I can sell 100 of them. I really don’t know if I can actually reach the majority of hand dyers by the end of March. This is where you come in. (You were waiting for this part, right?) Yes, backing the campaign is super awesome and you will have my gratitude until my dyeing breath (see what I did there?). But what’s even more awesome is spreading the word about the SkeinMinder. Dyers tend to the get their news from other knitters, so the more knitters who know about it, the more the word will spread to dyers. Sharing, re-posting, re-gramming, re-tweeting, blogging, and podcasting all make a huge difference. Thank you to everyone who has done that so far!
I really hope that I can reach out to dyers everywhere. And not just because I want to work on SkeinMinders for the next 4 months, but because I truly want dyers to have better tools. Wrangling yarn is so much work, anything to make it just a little bit easier is so worth it. When my beta group wrote me their testimonials, I actually might have shed a tear or two. Their workflow improved so much and they were so grateful for it – I was moved. Every engineer’s dream is to make something that people love. And here I am, living the dream. Now to do everything I can to make it come true.