For the next installment of the Meet Our Unicorn Fibre Dealers, I’d like to introduce Carla Cain of Handknit Habitat. Here she is (left) with her mother, who helps her at the craft shows where she sells her finished goods and patterns. Carla has found a niche within a niche and focuses on science fiction and fantasy-themed handknit accessories. She makes each hat or scarf by hand from materials that are as responsibly sourced as possible. Many of her yarns come from independent American mills and dyers.
Unicorn Fibre: Hi Carla, thanks for doing an interview! Is there anything else I forgot to mention?
Carla Cain: …hmm…maybe just that I’m a lifelong crafter who was searching for way to share her love of handmade goods with the world…
UF: Please tell me the nuts and bolts of your business…how did you get started?
CC: I started in 2011 selling multi-colored hats with a bohemian style on Etsy. I had put myself on waiting lists for several local craft shows and conventions and the first one that responded was a group called Gallifrey One. They stage the largest Dr Who convention in North America right here in Los Angeles every year. 3000+ people attend and they are a very friendly crowd that loves to shop! I learned quickly about how to understand and appeal to a niche audience and now I focus all of my work on the science-fiction/fantasy community. I also do craft shows at costume shops and other such venues as well.
UF: You have a cute website that connects to your very interesting blog, www.handknit-habitat.com. How do people usually find out about your business?
CC: Mainly from the craft shows and conventions, and my Etsy page.
UF: What are some of your favorite products that you sell? What is your bestselling item?
CC: My best-selling item is a hat made famous by a character from a TV show called “Firefly”. One of the characters on that show wore an orange, yellow, and red Chullo-style hat that has become an icon for “in-the-know” sci-fi fans and those hats have really become my bread and butter! I also started selling kits for people to make their own when I found out how many fans are also knitters.
UF: What is the most surprising thing that has happened with your business?
CC: On the positive side I’m always touched by how loyal, friendly, and welcoming the sf/fantasy community is. But I seriously underestimated how much work it takes to run a one-person business.
UF: Yes, so many of us in the needlearts industry are really just one person shows, or small, family businesses. How did you learn about Unicorn products?
CC: I learned about Unicorn products while searching for something to use on my personal knitting products. It worked so well, I’ve started recommending it to my customers and giving out free samples as a gift-with-purchase.
UF: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?
CC: I love being outdoors. I’m really looking forward to an upcoming trip to Yosemite.
UF: Wow, sounds rugged and beautiful. I like to be out in my garden and am so happy the weather has turned nicer here on the East Coast. I even do some knitting and sewing outside when I can. What is your favorite craft and who taught you to do it?
CC: I love knitting, and my grandmother taught me.
UF: That is really nice, and especially so since your mom helps you out at shows. Great to have the help, too, I suppose. Those shows can be busy. Please describe your typical work day.
CC: Work the “day job” till midnight, up at 9am to do business (order yarn, plan projects, balance the books, etc) for a couple of hours, then I spend 2-3 hours knitting, then it’s time to get dressed and go to the “day job” again.
UF: Yes, many professional crafters fit this work in and try to balance with another job. It can be tricky on many levels. What advice do you wish you could give yourself when you first got started?
CC: To take an accounting class! Book keeping and accounting are not my strongest assets, and the learning curve has been steep.
UF: What is your favorite quote or saying?
CC: This passage from Seth Godin’s blog keeps me inspired to work hard to improve my craft:
The difference between commitment and technique
We spend way too much time teaching people technique. Teaching people to be good at flute, or C++ or soccer.
It’s a waste because the fact is, most people can learn to be good at something, if they only choose to be, if they choose to make the leap and put in the effort and deal with the failure and the frustration and the grind.
But most people don’t want to commit until after they’ve discovered that they can be good at something. So they say, “teach me, while I stand here on one foot, teach me while I gossip with my friends via text, teach me while I wander off to other things. And, sure, if the teaching sticks, then I’ll commit.”
We’d be a lot more successful if organized schooling was all about creating an atmosphere where we can sell commitment (and where people will buy it). A committed student with access to resources is almost unstoppable.
Great teachers teach commitment.
UF: That is a great one, and so true. I know many creative business people who follow him. Thanks again for doing the interview. And keep up the good work! Anything else you would like to add?
CC: Thanks so much for this opportunity — I’m such a huge Unicorn fan that it’s really an honor!