Today we have the originator of those wonderful Beanie Baggies that you keep buying up. I met Janie at the TNNA Market this past summer and placed our first order with her then. She is amazingly quick in getting orders out to me – I don’t know how she does it! I know you’ll enjoy learning more about her in this Loopy Limelight.
Loopy: Hi Janie – thanks for being with us today. We love having your wonderful bags here and have a hard time keeping them in stock. How long have you been sewing and do you remember the first thing you made?
Janie: Thank you to all at the Loopy Ewe for allowing me to visit with you today and to all of the wonderful customers who have purchased Mind Your Knitting products. I began sewing when I was a teenager. It was most certainly out of necessity. When I was in high school I was just over five feet tall and weighed about 90 pounds soaking wet. Since that was back in the sixties and there was no such thing as petite sizing, I asked my mother to teach me to sew. She was a wonderful seamstress and had an impeccable sense of style not to mention the patience of a saint. I began making my own skirts at a time when mini-skirts were all the rage. Since I was so short and fabric was so much less expensive I could make a skirt for about .25 cents. My mother did the hard part since she knit me matching sweaters and made me the best dressed girl in school. It’s obvious she had a huge influence on all of my needlework skills by passing her knowledge onto me just as her mother, my grandmother had passed them onto her. My grandmother lived with us and helped raise me. One year as a surprise she took all of the scraps from my skirts and made a quilt. My daughter who is now 32 still has it and every time I see it I have quite a walk down memory lane.
Loopy: A skirt for a quarter sounds like a really great deal – and then you got a sweater to match? No wonder you like sewing. What made you get into making bags as a business?
Janie: I guess you could say necessity knocked on my door again. I travel quite a bit and on one particular plane ride I think I must have rescued my ball of yarn at least 10 times from under the seat in front of me. I was certainly not making any friends and out of my frustration I muttered something about the fact that someone needed to invent something to deal with this problem. In that moment a light bulb went off and I realized I didn’t need to sit back and wait for someone to invent something that I was dreaming of. I guess it was the concept that if you can dream it you can do it. So I went to work and after about two weeks and 50 attempts the Beanie Baggie was born. Many days I would be so frustrated because I knew how I wanted the Beanie Baggie to look. Though it looks simple there are many steps involved. It was a real lesson in perseverance.
Loopy: They really are colorful and you came up with a great design. What is a typical day like for you. Do you sew all day long?
Janie: I really don’t have a typical work day. Some days I might work an hour or two and some days I might get up at 2:00 A.M. and work until 6 00 P.M. Working at home takes a lot of discipline because in a sense you’re always at work and you have to learn to draw a line. It is just as easy to play hooky as it is to get so involved that you forget to quit at quitting time. When I set up Mind Your Knitting the most important thing for me was to be able to work from anyplace at any time. It has been my biggest accomplishment and has allowed me a great deal of freedom.
Loopy: It’s nice that your business is portable, since you travel a lot. Do you have a workshop where you create? What things are “must haves” for your sewing room?
Janie: My workroom is actually a converted bedroom with a huge walk in closet devoted entirely to my business. I have found that I can have all the fancy tools and machines ever created but if I don’t have the space for spreading out while still keeping organized, I can’t think. So I guess organization is my must have. If you sew you probably don’t need as much space as I do but do try to carve out a little spot for yourself someplace in your home where you can keep everything at your fingertips. A tip I learned from my brother who did a lot of woodworking was always make sure you clean up your workspace at the end of the day. There is nothing worse than starting a new work day surrounded by chaos.
Loopy: You mentioned that you were knitting on a plane. How long have you been knitting and what do you like to make the most?
Janie: I have been knitting since I was a little girl, when both my grandmother and mother taught me. I love to knit everything but especially enjoy knitting anything I can give as a gift. I feel there is something special about giving a handmade gift to someone. Any knitter knows how many emotions can go into a project beginning with picking out the yarn to finding a mistake halfway down to binding off that final stitch. It’s like giving a piece of yourself to someone.
Loopy: And hopefully you’re giving it to someone who appreciates the work that you put into it! Do you find the time to knit as much as you’d like? Any tips on squeezing more knitting into a busy life?
Janie: No I don’t knit as much as I would like. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. I am sure most women can relate. I always make sure I have one project that is quick, simple and portable. It is surprising how easy it is to finish a small project even if you only have a have a few minutes here or there. Of course scarves are a great item. A change in yarn and needle size can give an entirely different look to the same pattern. I also like to do baby items as they also work up so quickly.
Loopy: Hmmm. Scarves. I seem to know someone else who is making a lot of scarves, too. For any other artisans out there, do you have any advice in starting up a business and marketing yourself?
Janie: I used to own a retail store as well as work for Corporate America. I always thought that starting a business such as Mind Your Knitting would be so much easier. In some respects it is because there are no employees to deal with, you can work in your p.j.’s if you want and there is no boss telling you what to do. But the hard part is that you become the employee as well as the boss. You have to learn a new kind of discipline which isn’t always easy to develop at the beginning. Your new business will seem like a shiny new toy. But then the daily chores show up and you realize that owning your own business is so much more than selling your product. I believe one of the hardest things for very creative people to deal with is paper work. But I can’t stress how important it is. If you don ‘t have the knowledge of how to set up your books or protect yourself financially ask someone for help or do some research on the internet. A good set of books and accurate records are not only a road map to your success, they can make you or break you in the end.
Loopy: You have brought a lot of good experience into setting up your own business – and you’ve shared great advice with us. Can you tell us about your family?
Janie: I have been married to the boy next door for 38 years and he has always been my biggest support. Together we have two sons and a daughter, who are 32, 33 and 34. That’s right, they are 13 months apart and at one time I had a newborn, one year old and two year old. The day they could all put on their own coats was a great day. Unfortunately they all live in different states but this does make any family time we get very precious. Our daughter has given us two beautiful granddaughters who are 2 and 3. They are such a joy and give so much comfort without even knowing it.
Loopy: No wonder you travel – you have family spread all over! We appreciate you spending time with us today. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Janie: I feel extremely passionate about passing down the many wonderful handcrafts we have to our daughters and granddaughters. I was given that gift by my mother and grandmother and it is a something that I will always cherish.
Loopy: And I’ll bet you will have some fun family knitting sessions as those granddaughters get older!