Wednesday, August 05, 2009


UPDATE: I wish I'd put this off 24 more hours, because now I look like an idiot. On Thursday evening the CPSC issued some guidance which pre-emptively exempted all textiles, including those that compose my booties, from third party testing. So I will not be shutting down bootie production. However, I still have some thinking to do about how exactly I'm going to continue, and I'm not going to have time to do that until at least the weekend. So my Etsy shop is in vacation mode at the moment while I work all this out.]

I've had to make a very difficult decision to close Curious Workmanship, my baby bootie business. The blame lies squarely at the feet of CPSIA, for it is because of the third party testing requirements that I am closing down.

I spent all day yesterday listing the last of my booties on Etsy, and I spent this morning marking them all down to below my cost. After I did that, I became physically sick to my stomach. This hurts. It really, really hurts. I honestly had no idea that it would hurt this much. On Sunday I broke down crying at church. If you know me, you know I never cry. I'm so cussedly stubborn that every bit of pain just makes me more determined. But this broke through.

I've gotten a lot of support from my #CPSIA buds on Twitter, and even radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt has helped me get my story out. It's been really good to have all this support and to have the chance to educate the public about CPSIA and what it is doing and what it will do.

The second hardest thing I've had to deal with, though, is all the messages and tweets I've been getting from well-meaning people helpfully letting me know that they saw something in the Etsy forum or heard a rumor that anybody who makes things out of yarn is exempt from CPSIA. Here is some information that evidently got left out of the Etsy forum: yarn is only covered under the CPSC's stay of enforcement for third party testing, which expires Feb. 10, 2010. And I know for a fact my yarn is lead-free-- I had it tested by XRF by an environmental engineer. However, this testing doesn't meet the third party testing requirement, because it wasn't done by a certified lab-- those tests I can't afford. On August 14, I (and everybody else who's trusted in the CPSC's stay to protect them) become fair game for any of the 50 state Attorneys General plus any plaintiff's lawyers, who DO NOT have to follow CPSC's stay of enforcement.

That is why I'm going out of business now. The CPSC's stay of enforcement only protects me from CPSC action. It does not protect me from everybody else's lawyers. They can sue me for violating the third party testing requirement, even though my booties are lead-free. It only takes one to ruin my life. I don't think it's likely they'd come after me, but I just can't take the chance. I have a family to think of; losing all our assets (which is what a lawsuit would mean) could be strain enough to break it up. Not only that, but if I sell things wholesale that don't meet the letter of CPSIA law, stay or no stay, I'm putting all my retailers and distributors at risk too. THEY can be sued by any of these same lawyers for selling a noncompliant product, and if they get sued, so probably will I. My business model, which I've always thought was a good idea that enabled my booties to be on the Ellen DeGeneres show twice and to put together international wholesale orders, also puts me at exponentially more risk from CPSIA than the average retail crafter as well.

I do not, I repeat do not, blame anybody for making a different decision than mine. I'm not going to try to manipulate anybody into sharing my fears. Everyone will have to make the decision that is right for their own business, and evaluate risks and facts for themselves. I will do whatever I can to educate with facts where such are available, so that everyone can make the most informed decision. When they succeed, I will celebrate their success; if they fail, I will give them my shoulder to cry on.

I will continue to track the latest developments in CPSIA, and post to the What Is The CPSIA? site for the benefit of my fellow crafters, artisans, and small businesspeople. And I will do my best to stay in business at least through the end of the year by making the old standby products that got me started: dishcloths and dish scrubbers. I will pay off my business' debts, liquidate my assets and run out my contracts. But after that, I'm afraid I will have to close down for good. Those items were never profitable enough for Curious Workmanship to replace the income I got by working, and so it will be a better deal for me to go back to tutoring than to keep Curious Workmanship on life support. It made sense to do it that way when I was plowing all the profits back into the business while I worked at a job, but it doesn't make sense now that I know my business won't have a bright future towards which to work.

I built this business from scratch, pulling myself up by my own bootstraps. Five years ago when I started, I had two small plastic bins full of dishcloths. And when the business finally ends, it'll be back where it started: two small plastic bins full of dishcloths. I had a really great time, and I learned a lot, and I earned money-- I even bought myself a vehicle with the money I earned. But all good stories have to come to an end. And this is the point where I have to say goodnight.