Sunday, May 30, 2010

Confessions of a Wool Dyer

When I was young, I hated my last name. I was the butt of many jokes and mean nicknames by the boys in school. In fact, one boy, William, was so mean to me in the fourth grade that my teacher stood us facing each other, and told me to slap him! (Can you imagine this happening today?) Being the mild-mannered (but obedient) girl that I was, I gently slapped him. The teasing never did stop until, perhaps, high school, but by then I was a confirmed last name hater.

My last name? Dyer.

This seemingly innocuous last name was transformed, by the imaginations of many young boys, into all kinds of interesting epithets. "Dyer-EE-ah" was very popular over the years, as was "Diaper Dyer", "Clothes Dryer", etc. These nicknames were all somehow figured out by the local boys, no matter what school I went to, and I went to many, while growing up. Over time I really came to hate my name and wished many times that it were a simple last name, like Anderson or Taylor. Or, better yet, a name that evoked the idea of Old Money, like Hastings or Windsor or Chamberlain. Anything but Dyer, please.

When I was in my 20's, I lived in Mexico for a year, and my last name was, legally, Dyer-Dupuis, according to the tradition in many countries of using the father's surname, followed by the mother's maiden name. I liked this, because at the time I identified more with my mother's side of the family, and I liked her pretty French name. And I also liked the fact that Dupuis (doo-pwee) was the last name of the two in this format, and was more often remembered than Dyer. So when I returned to the States, I kept the name. When I got married I took my husband's last name Sylvia, although I have missed my hyphenated last name over the years, especially when people accidently use 'Sylvia' as my first name.

The name Dyer is of English origin, and most likely the first 'Dyer' was literally a dyer in his community, and so would have become known as 'John the dyer' or, as time went on, simply, 'John Dyer'. And he was, most likely, a wool dyer, because in those parts wool would have been a mainstay in the wardrobe of most people. So the name is of entirely respectable origin, and it's a shame that a few mean boys would have ruined it for me.

My profession today? Dyer.

When I first began dyeing wool, the irony of my maiden name was lost on me, because it had been a long while, by that time, since I had been a Dyer. It wasn't until fairly recently that I realized that I had come full circle in the history of my own family name, and I have finally come to appreciate it in the end. My father has passed on now, which I regret because he always felt bad that I hated our family name, and it would be nice to tell him that I am now proud of the name his family passed down, and that I have returned to its roots, carrying out a craft that is almost as old as time, really (although I hear there is one profession that is older . . . ).

I enjoy the fact that what I do is, with a few modern changes, essentially the same craft that others have developed, perfected and carried out as a trade for generations, and I like it for the same reason that I love singing old hymns from the 16th century--there is a connection with generations before us which in many other ways has been lost in our modern society. With the whirlwind of our technological advances surrounding us everywhere, I find it comforting to walk into my kitchen, put a big pot on the stove and stir The Wool from white into a lovely grey-green, just as my very first ancestor did so long ago.

Woolin Rouge

While I'm on the subject of wool quilting (in the post below) and giving a tip of the hat to my customers, I must include a mention of Sylvia Gauthier, who has embarked on a venture with two other women, called Woolin Rouge, to provide kits for quilting and applique. Their designs are very whimsical and she has bought a number of bright colors to include in their kits. Feel free to visit her excessive-compulsive sewing blog! Their designs incorporate both cotton and wool, and I think they are taking the craft to a new place, which is exciting! Her writing is entertaining, as well!

Since I first started doing wool applique 10 years ago, there has been an explosion in this craft. It started with penny rugs, and I remember that my friend Marcia and I lamented that there was no good book out on the subject of penny rugs, and we even dreamed of doing one ourselves -- definitely a dream for two women with six little kids between them. Well, that era is gone. Since then, several books have come out, and many, as we did, saw the potential to applique nearly anything in wool, beyond circles, especially because it does not ravel, so the edge does not have to be turned under. So now there are many wool applique artists out there, and a number of books.

There are not the prints available in wool as there are in cotton, but wool has an earthy feel and texture that cotton just doesn't have. So each has its advantage. Sylvia tells me that wool quilting is growing rapidly, and I have seen this myself. As I cruise around the web, I see quilt artists that have begun to include wool in their work, or they have decided to switch entirely from cotton to wool. At Woolin Rouge, they use a really cute mix of both cotton and wool. There is no end to the variety out there. As for me, I am a 'Wool Forever' girl.

I still hope one day to create a book on wool applique with my friend Marcia. We have both been through breast cancer since she first introduced me to The Wool, and for me that is a real bonding factor. She is also a wonderful artist and an amazing wife and mother, who somehow finds the time to do it all with grace and aplomb, while still having time left over to be a good friend. Yes, there is still a book out there for us to write, and trust me--if we do one, it will be good!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mardi Gras in May

This week was an extraordinarily busy week wool-wise, and by far my biggest 'sales' week to-date (although I hesitate to say 'selling' when it comes to my little darlings, the wool strips. I prefer to think of it as sending them off to their adoptive homes and retaining a fee for my services!).

I find that many rug hookers who are planning their first original project, rather than doing a kit, are a bit nervous about it, and I often help them with color and quantity planning, which I enjoy a lot. In particular, I had a new customer this week who is preparing to go to a rug camp, and she is planning a very bright Mardi Gras themed rug, with vibrant elements. It sounds so fun! She wanted the brightest, most primary colors she could get, so we looked through the inventory and picked out what we thought was best. She ordered very large pieces, so I dyed-to-order for her. Boy, the bright colors on large pieces were amazing, especially the red going into the pot -- I literally had to squint putting in the wool -- it was highly reflective! Such a beautiful red -- the name of it is 'RED Red', named by a friend of the family who loves red.

Hand Dyed Wool,Rug Hooking,quilting

The pots above are sitting on Big Bertha, the new commercial stove we had installed for cooking wool. Oh, and I'll probably make dinner on it sometimes, too! (Cooking "dinner"? What's that??)

Yes, it was a busy week. For another customer I dyed a color called 'Gina' which is a lovely red-orange. I worked up a medium value, and it was just beautiful. Had not done that color before. I also did many primitive colors for a large order from a woman who does wool quilting in an antique or vintage style. I mottled those pieces a bit more, and the dull greens she ordered seemed just perfect for her style. To see some of her really nice things, please visit:

Folk and Formal

Click on 'slideshow' at the top to see what she does. I will enjoy seeing my wool in her work.

Now we relax in Virginia for a few days, staying in a beautiful highrise apartment that is part of the 'Semester Abroad' program that my husband administers at Dartmouth College. We'll be spending a lot of time at the Smithsonian this trip.

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Dyeing Articles

I have three articles on now, on the subject of dyeing, using primary colors, liquid dyestock, metric equivalent and percentage-based formulas. I have one more to write. These thoughts will ultimately be turned into a book, but for now I am covering some of the basics with these articles.

Article I - An Overview of My Methods

Article II - Equipment Needed

Article III - Carrying Out the Methods

And I found a kindred spirit, who is as exacting as I am when it comes to dyeing, maybe even more so! I have not met her, but I like her already! Here is an entry on similar methods on her blog, with some great photos.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

'How to Get on Page One of a Google Search' for Beginners

Last year I went merrily along dyeing wool, planning my new business and making some sales, too. Great, right? The problem is, though, that I have very big plans for my business, because we have three teens to put through college soon. Around Christmas (business was completely dead, and we were all home on vacation, with a little extra time on our hands) I decided to do some analysis on where I was in a Google search. The harsh reality was that for my three major search terms, 'hand dyed wool', 'penny rug wool', and 'rug hooking wool', I was on page six or LOWER! Only the most desperate rug hooker was going to find me there! So I made a firm decision to rectify that little situation ASAP. I concluded that it was no good dyeing all that wool and waiting for word of mouth to take hold. The kids will be graduated by then, for Pete's sake!

So the next morning I got up extra early, all psyched to 'ramp up my web presence'. I got an extra big cup of tea, and industriously sat down to take care of the problem. And . . . . . there I sat, scratching my head, wondering 'Where do I go? What do I do?" I really had no clue whatsoever. The community board at my site, eCrater, didn't help much, other than to give me a little terminology, and a few sellers had other sites where they would allow eCrater businesses to post a link back to their site. I knew that links were somehow important to the search engines, but, honestly, that was about all. So I started from scratch, finding a word here or there that seemed to be important, and googling it to learn what it meant. Then I would go from there, googling other terms that I learned along the way. Pretty soon I was finding some helpful information, albeit scattered all over the web. In the end I spent about six weeks on my virtual odyssey, and today I am pleased to say that I am on Page 1 for two of my search terms, and page 1 or 2 for another, and all are climbing. Not bad for a clueless wool dyer. So I will share with you, one website owner to another, what I have learned.

One important thing to know first is that the ease with which you will be able to get on Page One is determined in large part by how popular your items are, and how many other sites sell them. For instance, things like clothing, health products, games, electronics, and beauty items are highly competitive, and so it may take a longer term commitment to get towards the front of a search. My item is pretty specialized, so there were only about 20 other businesses to leapfrog over to get to page one. So you may need to prepare yourself for working on this consistently for a long time. That's OK--every business that you will own requires marketing effort on your part, and for the website owner, this is it. If you are faced with a lot of work to get to Page One, just commit to working on it for 1/2 hour each day, and eventually you will improve your ranking.

First, some terminology.

Keywords/Search Terms Step one is taking some time to evaluate your most important 'search terms', or 'keywords'. These are the important words that describe your goods or your topics and they are the terms that consumers will type in when searching the web for info or things to buy. The ones listed in the first paragraph are, for me, my most important keywords or search terms, particularly 'hand dyed wool'. So spend some time making a list of the top dozen or so terms you know are the most important to your site and focus on using those terms. You will use these a lot, and it can make your efforts pay off, or hamper you if you are not using the right terms. You might ask others what they would type in if they were looking for what you offer -- you may be surprised at the different terms they would use in a search.

Here is a great suggestion: If you don't already use it, go to the Google Analytics site, and sign up. It's a handy and free tool that is pretty easy to figure out. Once you sign your site up, the Google site will track all the traffic coming to your site, and spit out tons of information about it in report and graph format, right down to which search engine your visitors use, what city they live in, and whether they have dial-up or broadband, along with much more info. Included in this is a report on which keywords they have typed in when they found your site and visited -- this will help you to adjust your keywords properly over time.

Content is King. This means that there is no substitute for a good quality website, that has a lot of content, whether you are promoting your blog, or, if you are selling, many good products for sale that are of interest to consumers. For a commercial site, a big selection with keyword-rich descriptions, a blog on-site, FAQs, video feed from YouTube (which gives you more exposure), articles for customers to read (these can be found and used on your site for free at many sites like Ezinearticles) etc., all help. Use the search terms that you know customers will type in, and use them regularly on your site. But don't overdo this, because it is theorized that the search engines actually measure the amount of search terms in your text, and they know if you are stuffing your site with terms to increase your pagerank. They say that to have about 3% of your total text as keywords should be about right. This looks like regular, informative, on-topic conversation to the search engines, rather than keyword stuffing. If you are trying to improve the ranking of a blog, keep it interesting, with many keywords, and you may even want to import writing from others to keep it relevant and newsy. Use some of the widgets and other features and applications that the blog site offers to provide variety and lot of places to look around for info.

Use the most important words at the top of your homepage, which are the first words that the search engines see when they 'crawl' your site, or if there is a place for Title Tag and Meta Description on your site, put them there, in some logical arrangement. For me, my Title Tag is "Hand Dyed Wool, 1,100 colors for rug hooking, penny rugs, wool crafts" and my Meta Description is "Hand dyed wool fabric in every imaginable color -- primitive, country, modern, vibrant colors, for rug hooking, penny rugs, quilting, and other wool arts." See how I have strung together a lot of keywords, but in a logical, sentence or phase format, which is important. And I have used the most important words at the beginning of the phrases, (hand dyed wool) rather than in the middle, using a descriptive phrase to follow up those first words. These little things do matter, and most website owners don't pay attention to it, so you can capitalize on that, by paying attention to it yourself.

So when Google produces my site in a search, this is the information the consumer sees on the listing for my site, and more importantly, it is the information that Google sees when it responds to the consumer's search; it views me as relevant for a search for 'hand dyed wool' because of my initial phrase, and so it places me higher. And, very importantly, my description is phrased to make potential customers want to visit my site to see that many colors in one place, something I know they will not find anywhere else.

Try not to hype this information -- forget the exclamation points, for instance -- keep it professional, but with some kind of hook in your keywords to pull customers in. Once you have set up these phrases on your site, wait a week or two and do a search on your keywords and find your site in the result, to see what phrases the search engines use in your site description. Then adjust the words on your site until it looks good on a search. I adjusted my meta tag and meta description phrases until they didn't get cut off in the middle of a sentence on my search results. Sometimes the fine tuning takes a few weeks, because you have to wait until the search engines crawl your site again (every couple of weeks) to pick up the changes you've made.

Backlinks are links on other sites that send people to your site, and they are the criteria that search engines use to determine how important you are, and therefore where to list you in a search. Imagine if someone likes your site, and puts a link on their blog to let others know about it. This is like a 'vote' for your site to the search engines, and the more backlinks all over the web you have, the more the search engines will like you.

The equivalent in the 'real world' would be the business owner who is deeply involved in his industry. Perhaps he has several offices, he belongs to the relevant associations in his industry, and he advertises regionally on TV, radio and print. He speaks at conferences on the subject, holds seminars, writes articles in trade magazines, or maybe he has written a book. As a result, he is often referenced in articles as an expert, or quoted on radio, etc. His name is out there. Compare this to the business owner who hangs out a shingle in his little town and does nothing else. Who is going to do better in his business? No business owner can expect to do well by just opening up shop. It takes regular effort on your part to get things moving. But don't feel discouraged. Doing all this on the web is pretty easy, and can be done from your living room -- comfort yourself with the knowledge that at least you don't have to make a lot of cold calls, or pound the pavement looking for prospects. Certainly you may have to do some off-line marketing, as I do, but the online work is relatively straightforward once you understand it.

So on the web, putting many backlinks to your site, (and following the suggestions I make below) are the equivalent of that first businessman, both to customers and search engines. References to your site all over the web show that you are paying attention to your business. When you are backlinking using the methods below, you will look like that first businessman, in the 'virtual world'.

The bottom line is that you need backlinks to your site to get you higher in a search. To get backlinks, you have two options - let the backlinks occur naturally over time as people find you and tell others about you, (these are called 'organic links', and we are talking eons for that to happen) or you can produce the backlinks yourself in a shorter amount of time. Some people feel that this is a little dishonest, but from all my research, I know that it is absolutely ethical and certainly not illegal, so don't give it a second thought.

Backlinks from more important websites carry more weight than links from little sites. But don't worry about that. They all add up, whether they are counted for a little or a lot. And the websites that link to you don't need to be relevant to your goods, services or topics. For instance, I really tried at first to get my links on wool and craft sites, but there are not very many out there. Then I learned that it doesn't matter that much, ultimately. Just get all the links you can, anywhere!

Anchor Text If links are important, links using anchor text are even better. Anchor text is that little underlined phrase that you click on to get to the site it points to. So while I could put my 'URL' (the web address of my site -- as my link, it is better for me to put 'Hand Dyed Wool', so that when someone clicks on that phrase they will jump to my site. I don't understand why anchor text is important, but any SEO guru will tell you to use anchor text. I show you below how to format anchor text several ways. (Why can't sites all use one format?)

SEO This stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it simply means the process of getting your links and your name out there on the web to the point that when someone types in your major search terms, like 'Knitted Caps' you will come up early enough in the search to be found.

Reciprocal Links This is when two sites agree to link with each other, and apparently in the past this was abused. There were sites that were stuffed with links to other sites, which all had links back to the first site - with an obvious agreement between them to get links. All of this looks suspicious to the search engines, so too much of this is frowned upon. There seem to be mixed opinions about the value of reciprocal links, but I don't think a few will hurt, as long as the majority of your backlinks are 'one-way' - coming from another site to yours, without your site linking back to theirs.

Pagerank This is a measurement from 1 to 10 of how relevant, established, and quality your site is, based in large part on how well-linked it is. (By the way, Page does not stand for web 'page', but for Larry Page, who developed the algorithm.) For instance, sites like CNN and Facebook are rated 10. My site was a '0' when I started, and now I am a 2! Not bad. I would love to be a 4 or 5 eventually, if that is even possible with a small site.

The Google Sandbox About three weeks into my journey towards Page One, I suddenly found myself back on page four! I had read about this phenomenon, called the Google Sandbox. The theory is that this is a test to see if you will stick with the program, or just fade away and give up. I have heard that Google denies doing this, but I certainly did spend about three long weeks on page four for no apparent reason, before leaping back up two pages, to page two. I just kept at it, and eventually found my way to page one. So prepare yourself for this possibility.

So how do you get links all over the web? I have found a few effective ways to do this with relative ease. Before starting, though, I suggest that you set up an email account that just collects the emails from all the sites you will be visiting, and use that when you join sites. Then you can avoid having your business email clogged with spam and marketing. Use gmail or some other more reputable email platform. A few sites will only allow a proprietary email address, like one linked to your web business, or Outlook, etc. but most will take any email address, as long as you respond to the email they send you once you sign up, confirming your desire to join.

Next, set up some bookmark folders to keep track of the websites you will be joining or putting links on. For instance, I have folders for the social sites I belong to, like Facebook and MySpace, and for the forums and blogs I like to visit and participate in (often leaving a link), a folder for helpful information related to SEO, and one for possible link places in the future -- this is where I put bookmarks of sites that I find but don't have time to set up a link for right then, or online lists of directories or sites that I might work through when I have time. In my bookmark titles, I also include my login info, to remind me what I used -- for various reasons, you may use different login info for different sites. Sometimes a site will request your email address as your username, others will ask you to set up special name, for instance 'raminthethicket' is what I use in those cases. Some sites want a password that is at least eight characters, with at least one number and one capital letter. So I suggest creating a password at the very beginning that will meet this most stringent criteria, and just always use that one (maybe omit the capital letter -- most don't require this). I didn't know this at first, so I have several different passwords that I use now, only because I'm too lazy to go back and change everything. And some sites have a limit of 10 characters for a special username, which I didn't realize at first, so for those I use 'ramthicket'. Had I known of this limitation for some sites at the beginning of my odyssey, I would have just used that everywhere to begin with. So you see, it can get confusing, so deciding these things up front is helpful, and putting your login info as part of your bookmark title is helpful when your 'cookie' file accidently gets cleared.

OK, so you've set up a special email account to use for creating profiles, you've decided upon a password and username that will satisfy most sites, and you've set up some bookmark folders in your browser to keep things organized. Now you are set to get going. Go get a cup of coffee!

Obviously, start by asking your friends with blogs and websites to give you a link, especially without asking for one in return.

You should submit your site to Google, Yahoo, MSN/bing and a few other larger search engines -- this is critical. 'Submitting' is simply letting them know you exist, so that they will put you in their list of sites to scan when they do a search. They will probably find you eventually anyway, but speed things up by submitting. Type in 'submit google', 'submit yahoo', etc. go to those sites, and they will walk you through the steps to submit -- it's easy. There are hundreds of search engines, and lots of online submission services that will submit your site to many of them, but the general consensus is that the ones you really need are these three, and maybe a few more if you like, like AOL search, and Altavista. The rest are probably not worth your time. When I look at the search engines my customers use (on Google Analytics) these top three account for nearly all of my search engine traffic. Another thing to know is that it is probably only necessary to submit once -- there are those who say to submit regularly, but I have read in many places that this is not necessary.

Look for business directories that give free links
. If the directory is relevant to your site, it's even better. Type in 'free directories' or 'directories __________' and fill in the blank with something related to your industry. These searches will also turn up other sites that offer links or listings in their directories, just follow the rabbit hole a bit, and you will find a few places to put your link right away. There are many directories that require payment to list you, and it will be up to you whether you want to do this. If the directory is important in your industry, you may want to consider paying to get on, at least for a while.

A great place to start finding some basic free directories to list your site in is:

Top 100 Free Directories

Join Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, Friendster, Netlog, Propeller, and a few other big name sites, set up a basic profile for yourself, and put a link to your website where it allows you to add one. There are many other sites, but I have found these to be among the best and most user friendly. When I first started, I did a search on 'largest social networking sites', and I turned up this review list. I visited every site on the list, and set up a profile, but the ones listed above are the only ones I ever visit and add info to. Be sure in the 'settings' sections of these sites to enable searchability of your profile by search engines. You can always specify separately who can contact you, to avoid unwanted approaches by strangers, especially those pesky suitors from Dubai!

RSS 'RSS' stands for 'Real Simple Syndication'. Wikipedia has some good basic information about this. In a nutshell, there are several programs, like Google Reader and Bloglines, that you can use to gather all the information that you want from the web in one place for you to visit and see everything. For instance, if you enjoy looking at CNN, and follow several blogs, you can use Google Reader to 'feed' updates from these places all to one place. Then you just visit there to get all the info, rather than having to find and visit all the sites individually. I have heard it said that this is a great way to market your site, but I have yet to see a good explanation of it, and I have not felt the need to venture into that area, since my other efforts have gotten me where I want to be. If it interests you, here is a list of the best 'feed readers' in addition to the ones above.

'Social Bookmaking' sites are relatively new in popularity, and I don't have as much experience with them either, but, again, Wikipedia has some great history on the subject. Basically, these are sites that allow people to share bookmarks of web addresses where they have found interesting information, making these sites hubs for information from all over the web. Again, this is a venue to use judiciously and conscientiously -- participating in the community as you go, and placing links sparingly -- some of these sites resent overt marketing of commercial sites, and so these may be better places to promote a blog instead. I innocently blundered into and put a link to my site, and was immediately blacklisted on that site. I couldn't even go in and put in my blog URL! They knew who I was and what I was up to! But if you were to only put in your blog, or an article you have written, that would be fine. and are two of the bigger and more well-known sites, and here is a more complete list.

Now for some more suggestions.

1. I hate to pay for advertising, but I did subscribe to this link business, and I have been happy with it. With this company my site started to gain some momentum up the pagerank ladder. It is owned and run by Angela Edwards, and she is a small businesswoman, just like me, not some nameless internet corporate giant. For $5 a month, she sends you a list of 30 quality websites that have a 'membership' format, allowing you to set up a very basic profile and include a link to your site as part of the info that you provide about yourself. She gives screenshots that show you how to do it on each site, and she sends plenty of info about her program, so I won't go into it here. She selects sites that have a pagerank of 6 or higher. If you use this service, please don't abuse it by stuffing in a lot of links, or keywords. It hurts everyone. You can cancel this service anytime. I think she offers a great product for the money, although you should plan to spend 6-8 hours each month putting in your links.

There are many other link services out there, and many which will do more of the work for you, although those will, of course, cost more. So you should weigh your money vs. your time. There is another software program offered through Angela's service that promises to cut your time spent linking dramatically. I have not tried this, because I am too cheap, but it's not too expensive and may be a happy medium for you. One thing I like about putting in my own links is that I can see the content of the site, giving me some control over where I put my link, and it allows me to see some sites that I actually like. I have kept up with a few of the sites I have joined -- they were worth visiting again!

2. is a free service that I have been overall happy with, although it is a little harder to learn and you have to be willing to write short articles. This is owned by a man named Dim (short for Dimitri?) and while it has its glitches and I had some complaints in the beginning, I did move further up in the ranks after using it. Here is how that works. There are lot of members, and many of those who join set up an article site for the sole reason of accepting articles by other FTS members. (You don't have to create an article site, but they offer greater benefits if you do.) So you write a short article on any subject and within the article you can place up to two links to your site, and more if you set up an article site. Then you look through their large list of article sites owned by other members, and submit your article to any relevant site, up to 30 sites, which would give you 60 backlinks. Personally, I can say that my articles only made it onto about 18 sites each, but I still got over 100 links from this. They may reject an article if you don't take care in finding relevant sites from their list, and communications once this happens is nil, so be aware of this, if you decide to join. I can't vouch for how they might treat you, but it is worth trying -- I have written three articles with good results.

The hard part with this is learning how to 'spin' your article. Spinning is formatting your article so that the words are changed a little each time it is submitted to one of the sites. This prevents it from looking like a spammy duplicate article that you are just writing to get links. With a little time and patience, it is relatively easy to learn, and there are video tutorials to help you. This method is looked down upon by sites like Wordpress, Blogger (sorry, Blogger) and Ezinearticles, who prefer 'original content', and some consider this "blackhat" or shady backlinking. But even the articles I write for FTS are informative and quality, so if I arrange to have the words changed slightly, I see nothing wrong with that. You will have to assess for yourself if you feel comfortable using this service.

If you do use it, don't write complete garbage -- participate in the web community. You can keep your articles short, but I suggest you try to make an honest contribution. Yes, you are writing so that ultimately the search engines will see your links, but don't forget that human eyeballs will also come across these, and your reputation should remain intact after they are done reading! I spent about three days total, a few hours here and there at a time, to give you an idea of the time commitment, although as you can see, my articles tend to get long. It's free, so I think I got a lot out of it, considering. If you don't write, have one of your teens write something, or a friend. Even three or four articles will help.

3. Try blogging if you don't already. The best blog platforms that are free are this one, ( and As mentioned above, I maintain several blogs here at Blogger. I blog on topics that are important to me, and that I feel I have a lot to say about, and that makes it easy and fun. I sometimes include a backlink to my site, using anchor text, which I vary to hit the three major search terms for me. I place backlinks judiciously, so that it doesn't look like I am just using the blog to advertise, because I'm not. It's a good idea to also include links to other sites, as well, so things stay balanced. Writing on topic is good, because it will provide keywords in your blog that match up to your backlinks that lead back to your site with the same keywords. But you can write about anything, really, if you have a more general info blog. You can do more blogs, but it might become harder to maintain, and regular entries are optimal. Blogging has become its own industry, and some people actually make a living at it! I won't go into much detail about that, but if you are interested in making some extra money blogging, check out This guy has an outstanding article that talks in simple terms about SEO and blogging in particular, and how to make some money at it. And if you prefer to have your own blog website, rather than using one of the free ones like Blogger, he explains to you in simple terms how to get a domain name, establish your site, and load the blogging software on it.

Blogging has limited value in adding backlinks, because it is always preferable to have backlinks in many different places rather than all on one site. It will, however, give you some credibility in your own community in a way that backlinks won't, whether it be the world of sports gear, or theater, or whatever your topic, services or goods are. If you are blogging to help promote your commercial site, you may also want to do SEO for your blog, as well, which will help people find it more readily, and read more about your commercial site there. If you are using a backlink service like Angela's, you could also add a link for your blog to your profile, where appropriate, while you are at it. So if you decide to establish a blog, do that first, then you can put links for that as well, as you go around the web backlinking for your commercial site.

The web is ever-changing, and linking your information among sites is a revolution that is going on right now. Honestly, I am very new at it, and I find it a little confusing and overwhelming, but you will find a few basic ways to do this, and it can be a valuable tool. For instance, on my commercial site, I suggest that my customers visit my blog, and I send them to a link that shows all three of my blogs, just to get some traffic at the others that also contain links back to my commercial site. In the articles that I write, of course I mention my commercial site, but I also mention my blog. I find ways on my blog to point readers to my website, like suggesting that they might like to see all the colors I produce in wool, etc. In one forum I frequent, they allow you to put a listing in for your blog, which I have done, and I suggest on my site that readers visit that forum. I get a lot of readers for my blog from that forum now, and I have several followers. Over time, this will seed word-of-mouth, which will bring me more customers.

You can also promote your site on your profile page at the social networking sites, using the different applications they provide. For instance, I created a profile for myself, and one for my wool site on Facebook, and then I added the 'Networked Blogs' application to both profiles, and linked it to this blog. After a few weeks, I looked at my wool site profile and I had some fans -- people that I didn't know that just FOUND me. And now when I add an entry to my blog (for instance, this very article) a link for it will appear on my Facebook profile automatically! I also added the 'links' application on Facebook and put my link as one of my favorites, on my personal profile page. You can also ask your 'friends' on Facebook to add your link to their pages too. I get traffic regularly from Facebook.

Blogging also makes you more personal to your customers, in a virtual world that contains no voices or faces. I know my customers really enjoy reading about what I'm doing, seeing pictures, and reading about other customers that I ask to share information on my blog. It makes us into sort of a community, rather than my being an invisible merchant that they buy wool from. And I know I enjoy it very much!

4. Article Sites If you don't mind writing, consider writing articles for the best article sites. Here is a good list of the best articles sites to consider. Choose 2-3 that interest you. The ones I have settled on are: Ezinearticles, Searchwarp, and GoArticles. There is more information on these at this site. There are a few others highly regarded as well, such as ArticleCity, and ArticleDashboard, but I never did hear back from them on two articles, and I can't find my articles anywhere, so I have stuck with these three.

Submit to Ezinearticles first, because they don't like receiving articles that they can see have been submitted elsewhere. Each site has its own rules of engagement, so to speak, so adhere to those, or you risk having your article rejected. Some sites allow you one link in the body of your article, others want you to put your link into the 'resource box' that you will set up and which will appear at the end of each article that you write. That's the little box that says, "Susan Sylvia lives in New Hampshire with her family, selling wool at her website. Please visit!, etc., etc." This info, once you set it up, will appear at the end of all your articles automatically, including your link. The article sites will give you some limited reports for free about who clicks on your links, and Google Analytics will also pick up when someone clicks on the link and visits your site.

The article sites allow anyone to come and take your article to use as they like, so understand that you have no recourse about how the article is used, and I have seen my articles used elsewhere with the links removed. Bummer. (That's what's good about Free Traffic System--this doesn't happen.) But regardless, you will get some additional links if the article is used elsewhere intact, and you get your name out there, as well. It all helps to increase your presence on the web, and it gives you some credibility.

There is a school of thought that says not to submit to too many article sites -- it's time-consuming, and theoretically, your articles will be distributed over time to other article sites without your help, because the articles that you write for article sites can be taken and used by anybody. Personally, I just don't have time to submit to more than two or three. They all have their own formatting rules, which means reformatting your article each time you submit to a site, and this is a real time drainer.

You can keep your articles short, but keep it informative and good quality, and consider your links as payment. If you don't write well, have someone help you, or ask them to edit your work. There are minimum requirements for quality by the article sites that you will have to meet.

5. Commenting Many of us love to tool around the web, looking for others who are like-minded. If you enjoy this, be sure to include a link to your website when you comment. It's not good to get into the habit of just leaving a tiny comment and then putting your link in. Make a genuine contribution to the conversation. If you decide to make a more organized effort in doing this, Google has a great tool to help you. This tool allows you to generate a list of blogs on any topic that you type in, which you can then visit and comment, if appropriate. You will notice that this tool generates a list of 'dofollow' links. This is a desirable type of link, vs. many sites that turn your links into 'nofollow' links that are of little use when backlinking. Look especially for those blogs that have a format that allows you to include a website URL as part of your comment. These have been invaluable to me in my backlinking efforts.

There are about a million open forums and message boards out there. One approach is to seek out forums using Google to search on various forum topics, find one or two each day that may be on-topic for you, or that simply interest you, and visit them, making thoughtful comments. For my own purposes, I will search for 'needlework forum' or 'quilting forum' or 'craft forum'. Most forums today are moderated, and if you don't contribute something meaningful, your comments may be removed by moderators. Many of the more organized forums that require membership allow you to set up a 'signature' to include in your posts, and/or a profile for yourself, both of which can include a link. A signature (including any link you include) will appear with any comment you make. Or you may be able to simply place a backlink at the very bottom of your comments. Personally, I have found several forums that I just like to participate in, and I visit regularly, putting backlinks here and there as I go, but not always. I want to be a participant, not a visitor there to place backlinks. Think of it that way.

Now for some help in formatting your backlinks and anchor text. It took me HOURS to ferret this information out when I was learning all this, so I give it to you to save the headaches that I had! Much later I saw it in one of Angela's packets, but here it is, easy to find. I suggest that you copy and paste the formats below into a document that you keep on your desktop. Replace my URL and keywords with your own, then anytime you need to use them, you can just paste them in to the box you are filling in, without having to remember the formatting.

The most used format out there is html, which you surely have seen before, and it is the traditional language that programmers have used to, well, program! To use html to put a link to your site, with anchor text, it will look like this:

[a href=""]Hand Dyed Wool[/a]

(You will need to use the 'greater than' and 'less than' characters in place of the brackets above, though. These are the characters at the top of the 'comma' and 'period' keys. Blogger formats backlinks with html, and I couldn't figure out how to display the formatting above as plain ole text, rather than generating a backlink like the one below! As you can see, my html skills are, shall we say, very specialized!)

The result will look like this:

Hand Dyed Wool

Plug in your URL (web address) where mine is, after the two slashes. The anchor text part is the 'hand dyed wool' phrase, and this is what the reader will see and click on to go to your site. The URL part will operate in the background and will only be seen in the search bar at the top of your browser. Be careful to copy this exactly -- don't forget the little 'a' at the beginning, and don't accidently erase the quotes -- any change will screw it up.

Some sites have to be different and they use 'BB Code'. I have no clue what that is, but here is how you format your link that way, and this time you can keep the formatting as-is, just plugging in your web address and anchor text:

[url=]Hand Dyed Wool[/url]

You'll get the same result as the html example above.

As if that weren't enough, occasionally a site will use Textile, whatever that is.

Textile Set Up:

"Hand Dyed Wool":

Again, you can keep the formatting exactly as you see it here, with the quotes and colon.

I have spent hours upon hours (probably several hundred) researching all this, and those who know me will tell you that I am a rabid web researcher. So trust me when I say that the suggestions and sites I have mentioned are among the best of those that will cost little to no money. So I have done most of the homework for you, and if you follow these few ideas, you will gain some pagerank. Remember to keep at it regularly, and consider it an investment in your business.

Good luck!

Rug Hooking Wool

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Medieval Themes

I have tinkered over time with 'Medieval-style' themes in my designs, in fact the printing in my business logo (in the title of the blog) is taken from the Illuminated Manuscripts -- manuscripts from the 6th century into the middle ages. These were manuscripts with very ornate lettering, and often gold burnishing, making them lovely! The script I borrowed for use in my logo is known as 'insular majuscule' and there is also a very 'Celtic-looking' insular minuscule script, the smaller script in the image below.


So, as much as I love these themes, I made a decision this past week to really pursue that idea, and make it my signature. It is a rustic and classical style that lends itself to applique, and, I believe, would also translate well into rugs, although I don't design rugs. The colors are also conducive to the wool arts -- earthy, rich colors, that were plant-based, because that's all there was at the time. (Golly! No sparkly hot pink gel pens?!) The best part of all is that I can borrow ideas with less fear of copyright infringement! Because the art is so old, it is easy to find royalty-free sources. I never copy to the line, anyway -- I only use the inspiration, or general scale.


So I did some research on art books with Medieval images, and I emailed the Hubs with a concise listing of all the books I want, complete with URLs, so he can look for those for the next gift-giving holiday. I find that this is the only way to get anything that I truly want out of him, the poor dear -- he really is gift-challenged. So I figure I'm just doing him a favor! This will give me a nice library to get going.

My wool business is keeping me quite preoccupied at present, so I am patiently waiting to get it into 'cruise' mode, so that I can return to my creative endeavors. At that time, I will develop this idea and work on some projects. I like applique especially, because the payoff is fairly quick -- a nice project can be done from start to finish in a week, even with a lot of embroidery, and I have a short attention span!

Penny Rug Wool

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Little Project All For Myself

As I get my business off the ground, I am getting the old urge to do some projects, and to do some sketching for future projects. Even a busy life can't squelch the creative urge, I guess. It feels good. Long ago, I did a pillow with a theme of the Garden of Eden, and the serpent in the tree, to tempt Eve. As a result of this temptation and fall of Man, God decreed that man would have to work by the sweat of his brow (depicted by the thorns growing into the garden from the side) and that he would ultimately die, instead of living forever, depicted by the words in the piece. It's a theme that is meaningful for me.

Recently, I pulled it out and spruced it up. Applique pillows do suffer from wear and tear over time, so I redid a lot of stitching. It was enjoyable work, remembering all my motivation when I did the piece.


Penny Rug Wool

Fulfilling My Potential

When I was young, I did quite well in school, and in fact won several scholastic awards during high school, graduating near the top of my class. I would have been at the very top, but my extra-curricular activities were way more fun than homework! I don't say this to brag at all, because I regard any intelligence and ability that I have to be a gift from God -- something that He just poured into the top of my head, snapping the lid shut and saying,"There. Go enjoy that".

I tell you this because after high school I did nothing with all this talent. I went to the local community college, and finally became a hairdresser, never even completing the courses that would have at least earned me an AA degree. For the next few years I starved in that profession, because, as many will tell you, doing volume services is usually what brings in the money, unless you are at the top of the field and can command a nice dollar for every service. I was way too nitpicky and careful in my cutting and other services to ever do volume. There is certainly nothing wrong with the field of hairdressing, but when I look back now, understanding more who I am, I realize that, with some encouragement back then (which I didn't have) I could have gone to nearly any college in the country and become, perhaps, a medical researcher. That is something I would have been really good at, and who knows? I may have played an important part in discovering the cure for a disease, like breast cancer. Is it too late for me to still do this? Well, at 51, maybe not, but I am beyond wanting to do it now. I have a husband, three teens, a business, and a household that I barely have time to run, as it is. Taking on a major career would take away too much from them now, and I'm not willing to do that.

But to digress a bit. I got out of hairdressing and into office work at an investment advisory firm. I did not make the money that the college graduates at the firm did, doing the same work. So while I did make better money, the lack of degree cost me many thousands of dollars over the years I was there. I got married, and went overseas with my new husband, again doing administrative work. When we came home I continued in that vein until we had our first child. I wanted to be home with her, so I returned to my hairdressing work, opening a shop in my own home to be near her. Eventually I simply got tired of doing hair, and closed the shop. Next, I did some cooking locally for extra money, which continued through a major move about 10 years ago. Since that move, I have worked in banquet service at a local hotel for about 8 years, and I have done some catering, as well.

Two years ago, I developed breast cancer. Fortunately, it was found at stage 0 and my prognosis is excellent, but the whole experience, which was difficult, gave me pause to re-evaluate. (For more on breast cancer, please see the link to my breast cancer blog in the sidebar.) I realized that the common theme of all my 'jobs' up until that point was that they were all on The Path of Least Resistance. I had never really taken the time to evaluate my ability, and find the thing that I would enjoy and be good at -- I always chased the dollar. I won't get into great commentary on the subject, except to say that for me, this realization brought regret. I love my life as it is, and I know that all the decisions I made earlier in life, right or wrong, brought me to where I am today. So from that standpoint, I don't regret making them. On the other hand, I feel a sense of having squandered the abilities that were given to me.

So I finally did take the time to evaluate what I love and what I am good at, and to formulate a plan to find work that would take those things into account. The one thing that I love most is hand dyeing wool. So I began to imagine a business doing just that. In the past, when I had imagined having my own business, or inventing something and selling it, or some other hairbrained scheme, I always became discouraged by not knowing where to begin, or by not having enough money to invest, or by not wanting to have a storefront that required my presence many long hours each week. Fortunately, the internet is at a stage now where many of these roadblocks are removed. And I realized, looking at the wool already available on the web, that no one was offering what I, myself, wanted -- many colors in one place, and the ability to buy many small pieces in the colors of my choice, at reasonable prices.

All of this thought and planning lit up my mind. I wrote down pages and pages of notes and ideas. For the first year of the business, I worked many long days, in fact one night I worked clear through until the light of day to reach a goal I had set for myself. I felt on fire to get my ideas up and going. At first I planned to offer about 400 colors, but as I worked on more and more formulas, they organized themselves in such a way that I concluded I would need to use them all if I wanted to offer a complete selection of colors, which I did. And I wanted to offer all those colors in enough values to make shading possible in any color. Simple math made me realize that I was looking at offering at least 1,100 colors, and I felt very hesitant about this, which started to paralyze me, as I tried to plan what my business would look like. So one day I sat down and evaluated my hesitation to offer all of the colors I wanted to. I concluded that I was concerned about all the work needed to keep that many colors organized, and I decided that my desire to offer as many colors as I wanted trumped any fear I had of organizing it all -- I knew I could do it, it would just take more work, which I was not afraid of. Once that was decided, I kept any color that I felt was worthy of being in the collection -- which basically meant that it was not too similar to the color next to it.

And, yes, it was a lot of work. It took a full year to develop the formulas, name them, organize and document them, and photograph and upload them onto the web. And with that many colors, there were lots of little discrepancies to deal with, and I am now working on going back through every single color to resolve those. When I am done I expect to have a perfectly organized collection, with accurate graphics, interesting descriptions, and a complete inventory. Only then will I turn my attention to the fun part -- developing ideas and formulas for specialty colors, working up patterns, doing shows, and even writing a book on color formulation, a subject on which I hope I have a lot to contribute, after all the color studies and dyeing I have done.

So at 51, I am finally fulfilling some of my potential. Is it medical research? Nah. But that's OK. If I can aspire to making a difference in the field of wool dyeing, I think that will be enough for me at this stage. Maybe my lot in life is to make small and personal differences in the lives of others -- both those that I know personally, and those that buy my wool and enjoy it in their own home on the other side of the country. (I really do get a charge out of knowing that others are enjoying my wool.) And it's enough that I can get up in the morning and spend the day doing something I love, while being home when the kids and the Hubs get home from work. My house is still a mess, but I never was a good housekeeper -- as the business grows, the first thing I will treat myself to is some maid service -- more thoughtful evaluation has led me to understand that this would be an excellent use of my resources!

Hand Dyed Wool

Working With Liquid Dyestock

I am so completely satisfied working with liquid dyestock, that it is hard to imagine dyeing wool any other way. I can fine tune formulas with brutal accuracy, and I am generally able to reproduce a color of the same formula with nary a 'dyelot' difference. Usually there is no way to tell the difference between two pieces, although this is not always the case. As my technique improves, however, I see differences in dyelot happening less and less.

I realize that most dyers are not preoccupied with the accuracy issue that so motivates me. Many are happy to throw some dye and wool in a pot and stand back to see what happens. I'm not sure if it's the frugal person in me, but I never feel that I have the money to throw around when getting results that I was not after. And I'm not the kind of artist to just throw together colors in a project and take what comes. I find the color planning process to be the most enjoyable, and at times the most frustrating, part of any project. I wish I could be more relaxed about it all, but that is just not in my nature. I envy those who do have this more relaxed approach. I envy the serendipity that brings about an unexpected result that is fabulous. I may never experience that, being so structured in how I do things. On the other hand, my customers benefit in getting a good consistent color when they buy something. (That process isn't perfect quite yet, but it will be very soon.)

Another part of this is that, since I have so many colors in inventory, I don't feel the need to 'build a stash' as many do -- simply putting the colors that may not turn out right into the stash pile. Because I already have the most enormous stash imaginable, I am looking for something specific when I dye for myself. So this also drives my need for accuracy. I guess in my situation I can always overdye the mistakes to a nice primitive brown or black and sell it as a penny rug background!

Quilting Wool

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Closing in on Goals

After 1 1/2 years at this wool business, I feel a tremendously warm and fuzzy sense of accomplishment, although there is much left to do before I will feel entirely done establishing myself. My inventory is about 3/4 complete, and I am preparing to go back through each and every color to make sure all is well with the formula, the documentation, the dyestock, the listing description, and to prepare to release color planners of all the colors -- a monumental project to say the least, and one which will cost $2,000 or more upfront to finance.

In particular, I have been going back through graphics to fine tune them for accuracy. This is very time consuming work, but vital. It is hard to shop online for color, so I hope to remove some of the quesswork by at least making sure that the color on my screen looks the same as the color I am holding in my hand. I have checked my colors on other monitors, and I do find that the colors seem correct, although perhaps a little more or less intense, depending on the monitor. I have noticed that laptop screens are not nearly as good at rendering the color as desktops screens are, so I suggest the use of a desktop screen to my customers. I also try to help my customers select colors by giving a good description of the color they are viewing, as it relates to the colors around it. Also helpful, I believe, is the fact that the colors are grouped according to similarity in formula. For instance, all the colors in the Primitive color family have at least 15% of each primary in them sending the closer to the center of the color wheel. The Vibrant colors all have only two primaries, so they can be expected to be very bright. In this manner, a customer can be assured that the colors in a particular family will go well together in a project, and I find that customers tend to favor color families, often selecting colors from only one family, or sometimes two that are next to each other, for instance, from the Vibrant and Modern colors families, or the Primitive and Country families.

I believe that this way of organizing color is new, at least in the commercial arena, but it makes logical sense to me, and is the only way I could think about color really. There is a lot more detail to share about this approach, but to be honest I am saving it for a book that I hope to write about formulating colors. I hope to make it very comprehensive, in looseleaf format for easy use on the workbench, with many, many quality graphics to guide the dyer, and logical, comprehensive techniques for formulating each color family. In particular, I have what I believe are pretty revolutionary ideas for looking at the formulation of yellows, oranges and greys.

In the meantime, I enjoy the day-to-day of dyeing and adding to the inventory. The pleasure that I get from simply looking at all the colors hanging on the racks is difficult to describe. Isn't color wonderful?

Hand Dyed Wool,Rug Hooking,quilting

Penny Rug Wool

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Standing Back to Admire my Work

Day-to-day, I keep my head down and dye wool, correspond with customers, shop for wool and supplies, put together orders and all the rest. But once in a while, I feel the urge to simply stand back and look at what I have done so far. In 16 months, I have gone from having absolutely nothing relating to a wool business (except a dream), to having 160 named and organized formulas, all grouped into families, over 1,100 resulting colors photographed and uploaded to the site, and an inventory of perhaps 800 of those colors, with more added weekly as orders come in. I advertise, have links all around the web, and my site appears on page one of a search, for all the major search engines. It doesn't sound like much, but with few exceptions I have worked nearly every day at the task, with no end in sight. The good thing is that I love what I do so much, that I look forward to each project that I have before me.

This business puts into action all of my previous work and hobby experience, which makes it very gratifying. It feels like a culmination of many experiences over my life, as if I were destined to arrive here! Back in my teens and 20s, I found a Vogue sewing pattern for felt Christmas ornaments, stitched together with blanket stitch and stuffed. I used synthetic craft felt, and they were very cute. I pulled out the pattern several times over the years, made some, and sold many of them for extra money. The last time I did that was in my early 30s, and then I had put a box of them away and forgot about it as we started raising kids and got into the thick of family life. Recently they turned up during a foray to the basement. I realized when I saw them that I have come full circle -- not only do I do wool applique using blanket stitch, but I sell the product that is used. I had to smile. The irony of how I had turned a fun craft of my youth into a viable business was not lost on me!

In addition, over the years I have done office work, which gives me the skills for organizing and streamlining. Working on a computer for years has made me savvy enough to figure most things out, online and off, and I have used the computer to do graphics projects for others, even professionally. This came in handy for logo work, including putting together business cards and other stationery items. I have drawn for years, and the logo is a result of this, as will be the many patterns that appear on the site in the future. And catering, ironically, gave me lots of experience in handling big pots, and helped me to design a kitchen that is perfect for dyeing wool -- a commercial stove, a huge 2' X 3' butler's sink with a wall-mounted gooseneck faucet. Being a mom has given me patience, and an eye for working towards long-term goals, while wading through the problems of today (which are many). And, most importantly, my hairdressing experience gave me a true appreciation for making my customers happy. And did I mention that my very first job, at 16, was in a fabric shop? Boy, do I know how to measure, cut and fold yardage!

So it is exciting to see how all my past experience has prepared me from this Grand Adventure!

Quilting Wool