Strange and Happy Weekend

I am just now coming down from the high of this weekend. I had an amazing time at the Strange Folk Festival. I didn’t see much of the place beside my little corner of the pavilion but that was all I needed. I met a lot of lovely, creative people and got some great feedback about my work. And I had sales that exceeded my own expectations. I had a goal and I sailed right past it, which felt wonderfully validating.

The pictures are from Saturday. I learned a lot on this day and made a few minor but important changes on day 2, which resulted in even better sales on Sunday than Saturday. I de-cluttered the table a bit by leaving more scarves and scarflettes back. I put fewer of the wire bracelets out but put them in the front and center since I found that they drew people in but they rarely ended up buying one. I only sold one of the wire cuffs but many times people started out looking at them and ended up buying one of the yarn wrist cuffs.

I wore one of my necklaces on Sunday so people could see them in action and put them in a more prominent spot on the coat rack. I ended up selling 2 of them on Sunday to a sweet woman and traded one for my Strange Folk memorabilia item. I also kept my quilt racks much more organized on Sunday. I let them get chaotic and overfull on Saturday so I think people were overwhelmed and didn’t want to take the time to dig through them. I kept them single-file and color arranged on Sunday and put more out as they sold.

I was also much more calm and confident on the second day which I’m sure helped. I hovered a bit too much the first day and since I’d only brought an uncomfortable lawn chair I spent most of the day on my feet. Sunday I brought a stool and I was much more comfortable. I made several large credit card sales that I know I would not have made without Propay so I’m glad that I made that investment.

My favorite customer was the girl who said she had seen my wristcuffs on my website and came out that day to find me. I also loved the woman who stood at the table just taking it all in for about 5 minutes and then said I just love the way your mind works. That was the best compliment I could have asked for.


A Rare day of Productivity

So I took 3 days off this week to get everything together for Strange Folks this weekend. I actually got a surprising amount done yesterday. I only slept in until 9:30 and got up ready to go, not common for me on a day off. I got my hair cut, and on my way home stopped by Goodwill for just a few minutes. It was one of those rare moments at Goodwill where I not only found what I was looking for but some amazing scores to boot.

I wanted a cream sheet with tan trim for my table, which I found immediately. I also got a few tops and this gorgeous blue merino wool yarn from Louet, a major yarn brand in Canada. It was marked $9.95 per skein and there were 4 skeins. I picked it up thinking I'd pay $2 for 4 balls of crap yarn but when I saw what it was I was stunned. I don't know what I'll do with it but needless to say it belonged in my stash.

I also got all of my scarves priced and tagged. I used the Moo cards on all of the nicer scarves, when I ran out of those I just used my old business cards. I have 2 big tubs, 1 medium tub, 1 small tub, and a basket of inventory. I've decided to put out a basket of $5 items with some little girl scarves and things that didn't turn out perfect. I know I'm always a sucker for a deal and if I'm already buying something I will often find something else to add onto it.

I bought this rack at a flea market for $2 and I think it works perfectly for my wrist cuffs. It fits almost all of them since it goes all the way around with the little shelves.

I bought this spice rack at Goodwill for $3 and it holds all of my barrettes perfectly. I struggled for awhile with how to get them to stay put but I finally got it figured out. The great thing about it is that it spins so you can turn it to see all of them. I also have a few other racks that I'm going to use for my other items but those were the 2 I thought were most creative.

I'm getting excited now and feeling a little less anxious as I'm getting things ready. Thanks to everyone for your encouraging words about the show. I'll post pictures this weekend when I get back.


Wondrously Strange

I have a policy that I don't buy items off the front page of Etsy since I don't want to take time away from someones moment in the spotlight. Every rule has it's time to be broken, however and that time came for me when I saw wondrousstrange.etsy.com on the front page a month ago. It was her gorgeous Raku miniature masks pictured above. They were hauntingly beautiful and they had to be mine. I couldn't risk someone else taking them away from me so I bought them immediately. They are so beautiful that I still haven't found the perfect project to use them in yet. I like to look at them and think about the possibilities, which is more fun than actually using them at this point.

I also bought this lovely pin called There's Love in your Future. It was inspired by the HBO show Carnivale. This show was prematurely canceled a few years ago and I still have dreams about it. This pin captures the haunting and surreal qualities that I loved about the show just perfectly. I have it pinned onto my old gray winter coat to add a touch of intrigue to the cold winter days coming up.

She is also an amazing photographer and doll maker. I am honestly in awe of her artistic talents. Everything she does has that same dreamy and strange quality that I love. I have a feeling she will be seeing a lot more of my paypal dollars in the months to come.


Fair Expectations

I did a few little craft shows last year with some friends for fun. The picture is from the Pattonville show I did with my friend Leslie. We hung out, I sold a few scarves, and it was all pretty low key. This year I'm doing 3 different fairs and it is causing me a fair share of stress. I know everyone blogs with tips and lists for preparing for shows. I'm going to talk about my worries and get them out there so I don't have to dwell on them.

The first is next weekend, http://www.strangefolkfestival.com/. It was my first juried process which was the first round of stress. When I got in I was totally excited but as it has gotten closer and closer the worry has gotten more realized. The process of having other people look at the fruits of my labor and creative process always intimidates me. What if I'm not good enough, cool enough, or just don't sell anything. I know I'm not the only one who goes through these emotions. It doesn't matter how prepared you are and how well you set up your booth if they don't like what you're peddling than you're not going to sell.

I don't have incredibly high expectations but I do want to make enough to make it worth my while. My goal for this years show season is to make enough to pay for my trip to France next year to visit my brother. He just moved there for work and it will be the perfect opportunity to see some of Europe, which I've never experienced before. Last year my goal was to make enough to cover what I spent on other people's crafts that day. So there is a bit more pressure this time around. It is certainly not as though my mortgage or dinner depends on how much I sell, thank goodness. I think that would take the fun entirely out of it.

I don't know why I'm so worried. I have plenty of inventory and I'm taking 3 days off work this week to make sure I'm plenty prepared. I will post some pictures when I do my sample booth on Wednesday. I want to get a feel for which of my display racks I will use for which items. I've been picking up spice racks, quilt racks, and boxes throughout the last year for displays. I spray painted most of them a nice glossy tan color for consistency and I'm going to use a white sheet over the table with a tan and brown table cloth over that.

I signed up with Propay to take credit cards and bought a knucklebuster to use with a name plate. I'm a little worried about that process but I might do a practice purchase with my husband's credit card this week to see how it works.

I'm going to use my Moo cards that I was not very happy with as price tags. I bought them on sale and they just didn't turn out how I was expecting. The pics are all cut off awkwardly and the quality wasn't what I thought it would be. I know other sellers are ga-ga over them but not me. So I will have very expensive price tags this year. My info is all printed on them and I will have to hand write the price, yarn content, and washing instructions on the back. I have pretty terrible hand writing so it will take me a long time to get all of them written legibly I'm afraid. I'm just going to price the scarves not all the smaller items. I will make up some signs for the smaller items.

I'm really concerned about how to price things for the fairs as well. I think I'm going to make all of my small items $7. This is less than I charge on Etsy but I just don't think I will be able to get $9 for a barrette or wrist cuff there. I want this to be a success so I'm going to charge what I think I can get not what it is absolutely worth. I don't think I'm going to do a deal for buying in multiples. I've given a lot of thought to this and I don't think the few extra sales it might garnish is worth getting $5 or $6 for something I put time into. I may still change my mind between know and them however.

I also have my standard worries about interacting with people. I'm an introvert and having to spend 2 days sitting next to someone I don't know is intimidating to me. I will bring knitting to work on and I'm sure I will be fine but it is a worry. Then there is the fear of getting lost on the way. I'm helplessly direction dyslexic and despite having directions already printed I'm afraid I will get hopelessly lost in East St. Louis on the way there.

I think that is it. It feels better to get it out there.

Wiggle Room

I have been meaning to publicly declare my love for the Etsy seller http://www.wiggleperfume.etsy.com/. Wiggle sells bath and body products with a very feminine mystique. I love what she says in her shop announcement:

"The wiggle is about pushing back against the notion that all our parts are meant to be hard and flat and angular. It's about realizing how much power there is to be found in the curvy jiggly bits. It's about spending less time in the gym and more time in the bedroom. It's about relaxing and letting the good outweigh the bad. Rock what ya got!"

This really could be the foundation for a revolution. I don't know if Wiggle realizes the power in those words, but I have a feeling that she does. Speaking as one with her fair share of curvy jiggly bits it is so refreshing to have someone celebrating them rather than trying to hide them.

Not only does Wiggle have a philosophy that I can be excited about but she has products that are absolutely amazing. My favorite is her Hair Polish that has a rich blend of exotic sounding oils. I don't know how she does it but it somehow adds just the right amount of polish and shine without the weight of most hair products. I have pretty thick hair for a blond and it is perpetually wavy/frizzy depending on the humidity. I have been using it for the past few months through a particularly wet summer and I have had fewer bad hair days than I can ever remember.

I'm definitely a low maintenance kind of gal and her products fits into my beauty routine perfectly. I generally take a shower at night and let my hair air dry. I wake up in the a.m. brush it out, sometimes pull it back and sometimes let it hang. The hair polish makes my hair look and feel natural without the weight and crispiness of a gel or mouse. Her sugar scrub has just the right amount of scrubiness without roughing up my skin. It leaves my skin feeling exfoliated and soft.

She also has some rich perfumes I can't wait to try. The only scent I've tried so far is her Stinky Pirate which is an amazingly earthy blend of mango and patchouli. I love how her photos set a mood and seem to capture a real moment in time. She is an Etsy seller to watch for sure.


Chaos Theory

Let me start off by saying that I love my Mom, but she is without a doubt one of the worst housekeepers on the planet. There were periods of my childhood when we had not one but two people coming in each week to clean the house, do laundry, etc. No we weren't wealthy or special in any other way, she just hated doing housework. So I was raised with very little training in picking up after myself or any other organization skills. Since I lived by myself for most of my adult life, until getting married 4 years ago, my cleaning disfunction was no one's concern but my own. My husband is by no means a neat freak but he is used to a more organized approach to life than myself so cleaning and clutter are our hottest topics.

I know many people can not concentrate if things are not in their place but in all honesty I feel uncomfortable in a perfectly organized environment. I like clutter. I like chaos. I actually feel less in control when things are organized around me.

Enter my friend Tiffany who is dating my husband's good friend and bandmate. Tif is not only a very charming and fun person, but she is also a professional organizer who runs www.yourlifeorganizedstl.com/ I must also say that she is one of the least judgemental people I've ever met so I have no problem with her dropping by my house or seeing some of my shameful clutter. She thrives on everything "having a home" and a place where it belongs. I really try but somehow it just never works out. This spring she helped me convert my spare bedroom/disaster area into a functional and cute craft room shown above. There was yarn storage in my closet utilizing hanging shoe racks and several dressers around the room kept everything in it's place. It was perfect for the first 3 months. I put my yarn away when I was done with it, my shipping supplies were always right were they needed to be when I had an order, my computer desk was clear with folders for receipts and other business items.

Let's just say that I've backslided. My once creative sanctuary is now full of more clutter than even I can stand and it has slid right out into my couch in the living room were I do most of my knitting. My "work space" is full of yarn, boxes of beads and buttons, and my knitting references. I was talking with Tif this weekend about how I use my space. She came up with a brilliant idea that I can't wait to implement. I'm going to convert the wall shelving in my living room that is now full of decorative knick knacks and what nots into a work space. I will fill the shelves with baskets that I will use to organize the yarn I plan on using in the immediate future. I will keep the craft room for additional storage but since I do most of my knitting and work in the living room it makes sense to have my work space there also. I will have a shelf for my reference books I use all the time and a spot to keep my buttons/beads/lace/etc. that I use all the time.

My husband doesn't care what I do and would be thrilled if I was able to somehow keep the yarn contained. I will probably wait to make the transition until after Strange Folk since I have a lot of details to still work out for the show. But here's to hoping that I can regain some order in my life and keep some peace in the house.


Too Old for Dr. Martens

I remember when I was 17 I bought a black pair of Dr. Marten combat boots that I wore throughout college until they were nearly falling apart. They are embedded in my memory as the coolest shoes I've ever owned. I stomped around in them throughout all the many phases I went through in those years. I am now in my, shall we say, mid-30's. I like to think my nieces, including the one I am with above, keep me young. I am also surrounded by college students on a daily basis so I know what the younger crowd is wearing and thinking about. So when is one too old for Dr. Martens?

To elaborate, I participate in a program called http://www.mypoints.com/. Whenever you shop online, through their website with one of their participating stores, like E-bay and Target, you earn points. They also send you a ton of spam that if you open the front page you will earn points. I save the spam up and spend about 10 minutes every few weeks opening them to rack up some points. Well, I have been saving them for about a year and had enough to get a $50 gift certificate for http://www.overstock.com/. I spent all afternoon, obviously we are not in a registration period around here, shopping for what I wanted to spend my hard earned points on. I fell in love with these adorable Dr. Martens.

I questioned whether I was too old for them or if you can ever really be too old for Dr. Martens. And I decided to just go for it! I would not have bought them with my own money but since I was spending "points" I could have some fun and get something different than I would usually buy. I'm guessing my husband is going to hate them since he hates most of my footwear choices but I really don't care!


Celebrating Betty

This weekend was my mother-in-law's 70th birthday. We celebrated with a party at the Rendezvous Wine Bar in O'Fallon. The Bloolights have been playing there since they opened so it was the perfect setting. Luckily the rain held off and we were able to use the outside patio for music as well as the inside for food. Betty usually doesn't enjoy being the center of attention but she really loved getting to show her family off to her friends, particularly the boy's musical talents. My twin is the guitar player sitting down and his brother is on the drums. One of their closest friends for the past 30 years is the singer standing up. I didn't get too many good pictures but I love the one of Betty dancing.

She wanted everyone to write a poem instead of giving gifts so I made my first attempt a poetry in years. I promise I won't be sharing any other sappy poems here but indulge me for a moment while I celebrate the woman who has been so special and inspiring to me for the past 5 years:

Two Moms

I grew up with a Mom who
Didn’t put up with my crap,
Taught me to laugh,
And helped make me what I am today.

I met a man and started a life.
Along with the deal came a woman with
Spunk and love to spare.
She brings me a smile
And helps keep me sane.
Just what I need in my life today.

How lucky can one daughter be,
To have two Moms,
To guide her through the years.


Gray Day

I'm feeling about as gray as the weather is today. A friend from my past died yesterday. My parents were friends with his parents and I grew up with a bit of a crush on Scotty. He was always so vibrant and the life of whatever room he was in. That is how I remember him anyway. I haven't seen him in over 10 years and I know times haven't been easy for him. He died of complications from a liver transplant. A liver transplant at 36 is usually not a sign of an easy life.

Scotty introduced me to my high school boyfriend. When things got complicated between Tyrone and I, Scotty and I stopped talking to each other. When we were in high school he got a brain injury when he stood up in the back of a convertible and flew out the back. Ty was with me at the time and always said it wouldn't have happened if he had been there. What a way to make your girlfriend feel guilty for something she had no control over. Scotty was never really the same after this.

I'm feeling sad for someone I haven't seen in over a decade. I didn't know the adult Scotty, but I have some very fond memories of the care-free child Scotty.


Something New

So I bought a huge box of crafting stuff at a garage sale this weekend. Obviously an old woman cleaned out her craft room and I got the benefit of years of her collecting for $3. It was full of lace, buttons, sewing supplies, ribbon, some yarn, and some florist wire. I made some cool wrist cuffs and a necklace with some of the ribbon and lace this weekend. And I tried to make bracelets with the florist wire. I knitted them with some seed beads and used a little clasp that was in the box. My husband thinks they look like a mistake but I think they are kind of cool. They have an organic, free form look to them. My friend at work said she would worry about them poking her, which is a concern. I don't have a crimping tool so I stuck the ends into a bead and folded it over. I bought some toggle clasps on sale at Joanns last night that I will have to experiment with.

So I'm wondering if I should make some more and try to sell them at Strange Folk. Similar ones are selling on Etsy for $25 or more, but that is a high price point in my opinion. I was thinking about pricing these in the $11 range but I don't know. I think it also depends on the quality of beads I use. I have acquired quite the stash of beads lately so I could use some cool beads to spice them up. What do you think? Do you agree with my husband or are they worth trying to sell?


Treasury Chaos

I happened to click on the Etsy Treasury this afternoon in the midst of a crash where around 400 people lost their treasuries. Sorry, so sad, I snagged my first one in over a month! For those of you who don't know a treasury is a list of items on Etsy, not your own, that you put together based on some sort of a theme. I don't know what the thrill of the treasury is but so many of us covet them, think about them and look at them when really there is no benefit to the curator that I can think of. I've never had a sale that was directly related to a treasury that I had created. I have had a sale from one I was in but that is a different story entirely. I like thinking up a theme and then looking for the best possible pictures to go with it. Finding items that complement each other and flow from one to the next is kind of like an art form in and of itself. And then there is the fantasy of seeing one of my treasuries actually making it to the front page of Etsy. This is a long shot I am sure. There are a few curators that seem to be up there every other day however. I don't spend that much time obsessing over it.

This is not one of my favorites that I've done but I like the calming colors and laceyness, if that is a word. The only treasury I ever had make the hottest list was a racy one entitled "She was the High School Slut". I wish I had kept a screen shot of that one. Those are the titles that get attention. I had one last month that got a lot of clicks, "Shop for Barack", of just items that the seller was donating the profits to the Obama campaign. That was a fun one and I happened to buy a few items off it at the end. I got something cool and my candidate got the money, can't beat that.

I doubt that this one will be breaking any records but it a nice little collection so I'm happy with it. If you have any wild ideas for treasuries let me know and we'll see if we can make my dream come true of making it to the front page. I am a big dreamer, let me tell you!


Keep It Clean

About a year ago I bought my first bar of handmade soap. Before that I used whatever shower gel was on sale at Walgreens. Soap was a necessity not a luxury item. Since then I have fallen in love with the different scents and sensibilities of handmade soap. I'm not the type of person who buys their soap to last for six months. I want to open a new bar at least once a month to have a new experience, so I keep at least 2 bars as backups at any given time. My favorite scents are Patchouli and Sandlewood but I also like any Eastern sounding combination people can come up with. You just won't find these on your shelf at the local Wal-Mart.

My favorite soap maker on Etsy is HelloCrafty.etsy.com . Her soap lasts at least a month and probably longer if you wanted it too. It suds up better than a lot of handmade but not too much. Her scents last throughout the bar and she has some really cool molds she uses. My favorite is the Hippie Chick mold in Patchouli up above. I also use her face soap which I combine with my occasional use of Pro-Active to keep me clear.

I tried to turn my husband on to handmade soap by giving him some in the shape of his favorite body parts. He uses it but not passionately. I've also spread the joy by given them as gifts to various others in my life. Another reason to always have a few extra on hand at all times.


Strange Folks

I feel pretty guilty about neglecting my Etsy shop lately. Over the summer I let a lot of scarves go inactive since I didn't think anyone except for maybe a few Australians, would be shopping for scarves. Well, I have continued to be lazy and I now have over a hundred scarves finished and unphotographed, not to mention all of the necklaces and wrist cuffs sitting around.

Luckily I have my first craft show of the season coming up. I'm very excited about it and will probably be talking about it a lot in the coming weeks. It's called Strange Folks and it is Sept. 27-28 in O'Fallon, IL. This is what it says in the press release:

Strange Folk is the heartland's largest indie craft show, having been featured in Readymade magazine, on Craftzine.com, and numerous other online and print publications. Modern handmade goods appeal to people of all ages and gender. It's a way to bring genuine art into everyday life, and directly support those who create it.

From the list of vendors it looks like I'm the only knitter, with one crocheter and one spinner, so that is a good thing. It is focused on using environmentally sustainable materials so I have been working on items in hemp and cotton for the show. I hope it will open me up to a new group of shoppers.


Yarn Shopping

My husband says that my first hobby is shopping for yarn and my second hobby is actually knitting. I hate to admit it but he is at least partially right. I love looking at yarn either on-line or in person. Unfortunately you find the best deals on-line. I say unfortunately because I really would love to support my LYS more but I would never be able to keep my prices as low as I do if I got all my supplies from them.

I have a few favorite places on line that I go to whenever I am looking for good quality yarn for at least 50% off. I wouldn't say that I am a yarn snob but I do prefer working with name brand/natural fibers, although I'm certainly not too good for a sale at Hobby Lobby or Michaels.

1. My favorite place to go is the sale section at Webs: http://yarn.com/
They always have a great selection of good yarn marked down and if you catch their summer or end of year sale you will be in heaven!

2. The first place I ordered yarn on line was http://www.littleknits.com/
They have great sales on Noro yarn, my favorite brand. They also have some lovely handpainted and Chilean yarns, such as Malabrigo. This is actually a yarn shop with a very friendly owner you can call and chat with if you have questions about her merchandise.

3. For quality without paying for the brand you have to go to http://www.knitpicks.com/
They took the middle man out and do all of their own yarns now. They have gorgeous merino wools, alpacas, and superwash wools for a fraction of the price. I am also dying to try their new straight needles in gorgeous wood tones.

4. A lot of people swear by Elann at http://www.elann.com/frames.asp but I've only bought from them once. If you are looking for a sweater's worth of yarn I would start with them. They have lovely DK and sport weight's in just about any fiber you could want.

5. If you are looking for fun novelty yarns at really good prices http://www.herrschners.com/ is a good place to start. You never know what you will find there and sometimes you can score an amazing deal, like I did on some Rowan for $2 a skein a month ago. They update their weekly sale yarn on Wednesday afternoon and I get an e-mail reminder I always check out right away since they often sell out in a day.

6. If you are really wanting to build your stash fast the place to go is http://www.smileysyarns.com/
They have amazing deals on yarn for as much as 80% off and less than $1. The only catch is you have to spend at least $50 and they charge $12.95 flat rate for shipping. So I do it like once a year, but you won't believe the deals you can find.

7. The other way to find great deals is to hunt the destash sales on Ebay and Etsy. I have gotten some amazing scores that way. I bought one box full of Noro and Rowan, pictured above, most without their ball bands, for $25. If I sell all the scarves I've made from that box I could make well over $200 for that small investment.

If you have any tips for finding quality yarn at discounted prices please leave them for me in the comments. Not only does it help me keep my prices down in my shop it helps feed my insatiable yarn habit too!

(c) Lenox Knits, 2009|Created by NSD