Halloween Humbug

Is it just me or does the whole world seem to be obsessed with Halloween now. When I was a kid it was a fun day but I don't remember it being such a big deal. I used to dress up in my grandmothers old clothes and costume jewelry as either a flapper or gypsy, alternating each year. There have been silly teenagers dressed up in rental costumes on just about every street corner for the past month and a half advertising for one costume store or another. I've heard lots of adults and teenagers talking about costume parties which I honestly never did past junior high. Am I the only one who doesn't get it?

Perhaps being childless has something to do with it. I don't have the anticipation of finding a costume and parties leading up to it. The Child Development classes all came trick or treating through our offices this morning on campus. It was fun seeing all their happy faces but it also kind of made me sad. Another side effect of being childless I suppose. There are certain moments when it hits me.


Gray Eyed Sister-in-law

I decided I would do a series on my favorite bag makers on Etsy. I, of course, had to start with my sister in law of grayeyedscorpio.etsy.com fame. I have a bit of a purse obsession which I believe runs in my family. I have bags tucked away, often filled with yarn, in various corners of my house. I once had a guest open a cupboard looking for a board game to have 10 purses fall out.

You can learn more about my sister in law at her blog Fabric Addict. She is a very talented sewer along with her many other skills, including gardening, cooking, building things, and teaching. She also introduced me to sushi, Scholarshop, the Wentzville flea market, and my husband, in no particular order. We've had the typical sister in law miscommunications through the years but she is one opinion I truly value and respect. We have drastically different taste in footwear but I know she will always tell me the truth when I ask her if something looks good on me. I would be a very different person today if I had not met D. and I am grateful to her for many things, including bringing me into her family.

Last year I asked her to turn a cape that I no longer wore into a bag. Despite the fact that she really hates the constraints of custom projects she did it for me. It is one of my favorite bags in my "collection". She generally uses very earthy colors and upcycles materials quite a bit. She also makes very comfortable headbands in every color and pattern imaginable. I still wear her prototype and first headband from when she got her shop started. I told her about Etsy and because she is much more the go getter than myself she had her shop up and running months before I did. If you are in the market for a new fall bag I couldn't recommend anyone higher than the grayeyedscorpio.


Trading Etiquette 101

I talked earlier about how I was working hard to get trades set up for my holiday gifts this year. A few people asked how I went about making trades. There really is an etiquette to the process that some people just don't get, so I thought I would give my thoughts on the subject. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not perfect. I know I've broken a few unwritten rules in pursuit of a good trade, but I do keep them in mind as much as possible.

The first thing I would say if you are wanting to do trades on Etsy is to not have a skin thin. If you don't handle rejection well then I would stick to joining trade games where no one gets hurt. You can also make sure your name is on the big trade list and join the trade team and let people interested come to you. You will have to be prepared to turn some people down but there is a protocol to that as well. Many people don't reply to trade requests, which I find much more rude than a simple and polite no thanks. I have had to say no on different occasions when the other shop did not have anything I needed or wanted to trade for. All you have to say is "thanks for your interest in my item but I don't think there is anything I need at this time from your lovely shop." If you say no politely there is still a chance the person will like your item enough to go ahead and buy it. If you ignore them they will go away and likely have a slightly sour impression of your shop. Most people pursuing trades know there is a very good chance of rejection so they are not going to get offended if you say no. That is part of the process so don't sweat it.

Once you are prepared to pursue a trade you can start looking through the many trade threads on Etsy like I do by doing a forum search or going through the huge trade list found here: http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=5735502 I love "shopping" for things to trade for. When I find something I like or that would make a good gift I convo the seller and say something like, "I love your xyz item and I was wondering if you would be interested in trading for something in my shop. If not, no worries!" If you're lucky they will reply back with an offer of what they would like in your shop. Make sure there are items in your shop that are of comparable value. I've actually had someone offer to trade something when all of the items in their shop did not add up to the cost of the item they wanted of mine.

If you are happy with the arrangement reply back and let them "buy" the item first. If I'm the pursuer I feel it is polite to let them make the first move and put the item in their cart. After they've done that then I will "buy" their item without going through paypal. If it is a heavy item it is polite to ask if they would like for you to pay for shipping. They can then send you an invoice through paypal for the shipping amount.

Don't go through with it if you feel like you aren't getting a fair trade. I've asked someone for a trade before and was offered to trade for something that cost twice as much as what I wanted. I probably should have told her why I did not want to go through with it but I was a bit offended so I did not reply to that one. When I have been on the other side of that situation and I found something that cost more than what the other person wanted I offered to pay the difference. Often times they will tell you not to worry about it but it is polite to offer.

If you are interested in trading be sure that you are put that you are open to trade requests in your profile. I know that I rarely if ever ask someone for a trade if I haven't seen them on a trade list or in a trade thread on etsy, and it is always nice to see that trade friendly message in the profile to know that it is an option.

As I said getting trades is not always easy. I actually prefer to be the pursuer so I tend to stalk the trade threads looking for new people interested in trading. I'm happy if I get a trade set up from 25% of my requests. If you get turned down you can't take it personal. It is just part of the game.


Playing With Matches

One of my husband's closest friends since High School is Brian Katcher, who wrote the young adult novel Playing With Matches. He had a book signing at our local Barnes and Nobles this weekend. He is one of the nicest, most genuine people I've ever met so you can't be anything but happy to see his success. Here is what I wrote in my amazon review of the book:

"As I read this Young Adult novel I was brought back to my own years in high school with all the angst and emotions that entailed. I was rooting for Leon so strongly that it was painful to see him make the inevitable teenage boy mistakes. I was also constantly reminding myself that it was written by a man. The writer was able to capture the emotions of both the male lead and the female characters which was fascinating to read. This is more than YA fiction. It is a seriously good read for anyone. "

It would make a great gift for a teenager in your like whether they read or not. It is about underdogs and has a great message of acceptance. There is sexual content appropriate for a teenager but I wouldn't recommend for anyone under 13.

Brian is on the far right, my nerd Mike is next to him, his twin Mark, and Ajay another good friend of theirs from high school. Mike says that Brian took all of their personality traits and put them in a blender to create the friends in the book. There is a lot of references to their high school, Ft. Zumwalt South, which made it fun for a lot of the kids around here to read.


Handmade Pledge

I know my family thinks I'm kind of crazy but it is really important to me to support other crafters and artists by buying handmade. Last Christmas I managed to give about 75% handmade. There are a few people in my life that are hard to please but I still gave them something small handmade and then gave them a gift card or something from their list.

In today's world it is so much easier to just buy the latest toy or gadget for our loved ones, or even worse a gift card for them to buy themselves something. I think it is so much more personal to give something created with someone hands. Trust me, it is not always easy to find something handmade for some people, particularly men. Etsy does not have the largest selection of men's gifts to choose from. My father is a farmer and a very manly man. Last year I found a painting of a cowboy on horseback that was just perfect. I think he really appreciated it much more than when I used to just give him a shirt or a book.

This year I'm starting my shopping early. I've been participating in different trade discussions on Etsy. I love the idea of trading. You find something you like in someones shop and they hopefully find something they like in yours. No money is exchanged and all is good in the world. Sometimes it doesn't work that smoothly but that is the theory. It is actually a lot of work to get good trades set up, but it is definitely worth it in the end. I have made 3 trades for gifts so far and have convo's in to about 7 other people. A lot of people are tightening their gift giving budgets this year so trading is a good alternative. If you are interested in making the Handmade Pledge it is really easy. Just follow the link and sign the petition!


Care Bear All Grown Up

My brother and I have always called my little sister Care Bear, her name is Karrie, and when she was little Care Bears were all the rage. My baby sister turned 30 this week and it is making me feel incredibly old. She was always my little pet when we were growing up and we had a very symbiotic relationship for a number of years until I went away to college. She developed into an amazing person and she is now someone I'm proud to call my friend.

She has her Masters from Tulane University and now runs a program for sex offenders and extremely behaviorally disordered boys. I don't know how she keeps her sanity with everything she has to deal with. She has an amazing sense of humor and a strong sense of self which I admire more than she knows.

I knew hitting 30 was going to be hard on her so I sent her a stuffed turtle from loves2docrafts.etsy.com. For years Karrie "collected" turtles. She would find them on the farm and write their name and a number on their shell and then set them free. My father found a few of them years later with her writing still visible. A few years ago she excitedly told me she a had very spontaneous thing planned for when her good friend came to visit her in 6 months. She was going to get a turtle tattoo on her back. I hated to be the one to tell her if she was planning it 6 months in advance it really didn't count as spontaneous but whatever made her happy.


My little Muse

Unfortunately I don’t have a model available for me to photograph my scarves to show them to their best potential. I make do by using the body torsos I got from Ebay, 2 for like $25. I have definitely gotten my money’s worth out of them, can you imagine what I would have paid Heidi Klum this weekend to model for 2 days straight. I also love the glass head my friend Tif rescued for me from one of her hoarders basements. He shows off my scarflettes really well and takes a fun quirky photo.

I had my little niece A. over last night for one of our crafting play dates. I got her to do a little photo shoot while the sun was still up. I took close to a 100 shots and got about 10 I really like and will probably use. She is a little diva and loves to ham it up so it was no problem getting good shots of her but it was more difficult to get a good shot of both her and the scarf. I kept telling her it’s good of you but I can’t see the scarf. My only fear is that someone will think it is a little girl scarf and not for them. I can’t wait until she gets a little older because she really will be the perfect model then.

She loves to “help” me with my business and we always have a good time. I’m thinking about bringing her for one day of my Lindbergh show as my little salesperson. I don’t know how anyone could say no to her. My only fear is she will lose interest and start distracting me about half way through. We’ll see if she can help to get me to my goal for the show season. She has been eying more than a few items that I could “pay” her with.


Restocking in Progress

I finally feel like I've started to regain control of my Etsy shop. I hadn't taken pictures in so long I was feeling guilty and overwhelmed by the idea. I spent all weekend working on it. It was a perfect fall weekend with decent sunlight and reasonably cool temps. I set my table up out on the sun porch and had it.

I'm starting to feel more one with my Canon. I still mostly just used the Auto setting with a lot of Macro shots for closeup. I think they came out pretty well. I doctored them up all afternoon yesterday with the free software from Canon and I think I'm starting to get a handle on it. I'll probably just list a few items every day and let some other things expire off that have been around forever.

I'm also thinking about running a sale on all my hair accessories. I'm thinking of putting them at 40% or something like that. I'm debating whether I just want to do a Saturday Night Special or have a week long sale. I'm ready to clear out some of that inventory. Let me know if you have any suggestions for getting the word out about sales.

My brother sent me an e-mail saying he was bored and read my blog one night, and that it was the most yarn obsessed, lame thing he'd ever seen. I told him I didn't think he was my target reader but I thought that was pretty funny. When I told my husband he said, "welcome to my world."


Too much camera to handle

When we got our pointless stimulus check earlier in the year, looks like it did a bang up job stimulating this economy, I went out and bought myself a new camera. I had an old Canon Powershot that I sometimes had to bang on the table to get it to work, so it was definitely time. I went a little crazy and ended up with way more camera than I think I need or can handle at this point.

I bought a Canon PowerShot A650IS with 12.1MP and 6x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom. Being the sucker for a deal that I am I was also talked into buying 2 different lenses that can be attached. I have tentatively used it on a number of occasions and even got out the book to try to figure out how to use all the different settings. I have been essentially using it as a point and shoot when there is so much more I could be doing.

This weekend I plan on getting as many pictures taken of my inventory as possible so I can start listing new items on Etsy again. I know I should be excited to work with such a cool instrument but I feel nervous for some reason. I know there is no right or wrong way to take my pictures, as long as I'm happy with how they come out, but a part of me wants to use the old one with all of its quirks and limitations. Hopefully I will get into it and have fun playing with all the new bells and whistles. I just wish there was someone to show me what the best setting to use for each shot would be. I'm such a novice I really don't know what all the terms and settings mean. Unfortunately there is not a scarf shot setting on it to tell me know what to do.


Made for Fun

I love Etsy sellers that set a tone with their shop and make you want to know them better just by their pictures and items. http://www.madeforfun.etsy.com/ is just one of those stores for me. She has a beachy and care-free shop, and life in my imagination anyway. She sells items she picked up while on leisurely walks along the coast, in between fruity drinks and long massages, in my imagination anyway.

Her store is where I bought my fabric letter banner for my craft show booth awhile ago. When not in use as advertising it is hanging as decoration in my craft room, talk about bang for my buck. I recently picked up some adorable fabric pouches from her as well. Get this, they were 20 for $10 and she included 2 extras. The fabrics are so colorful and fun I can hardly stand it. My initial thought is that I will use them for little Christmas gifts in the office. I'll fill them with some candy and my Etsy business card for all my office mates. They are also the perfect size to use for wrapping gift cards. I'm not a big gift card giver but there are a few people in my life that always prefer them.

I also bought some of her stone buttons which are very organic and natural. I'm sure I will find the perfect scarflette and wrist cuff to use them on. To top it off I picked up some of her sea shells with the hole drilled in. I'm envisioning a beachy scarf to use them on as dangles.

I know that my photography definitely could use some work and I'm planning a marathon photo shoot this weekend so that I can get my shop in order. Madeforfun and others have been an inspiration for me to try to get that tone and friendly vibe going in my shop before the holiday shopping season hits full gear.


Make it Work

I was thinking about what a few people had said about my scarf vs. scarflette quandary, that I should find a way to use fun stitches in my less expensive scarves to keep me interested. I heard the voice of Tim Gunn in the back of my head telling me to just "make it work" and got inspired. As I've been out with a cold I spent the last few days trying out different stitches on less expensive yarns.

If I can't finish a $15 scarf in a few hours it is just not worth my time. That is why big needles and the drop stitch has always been my friend with these items. I spend more time figuring out the perfect stitch for my higher lines and experimenting with different things, but with the lower end I just pick up my needles and go.

The Sea Foam Stitch from Barbara Walkers Book 2 of stitches, which is like the knitter's bible when it comes to stitches, is one of my go to favorites. It looks great with handpainted yarn, is ideal for beading and is a fast and fun stitch. The other great thing about it is that it impresses non knitters and even knitters tend to admire it. It is essentially an 8 row repeat pattern of knit stitches with strategically placed yarn overs throughout. I used it yesterday on a quick knit with some pretty but cheap pink yarn, not the handpainted pink to the left, but a sparkly synthetic. It turned out equally lovely and I was finished in my few hour time frame so I was happy. I also used another of my favorites in a quick knit with chunky yarn today so I think I have broken the monotony of the drop stitch!

I'm planning on writing down my pattern for one of my favorite and most popular scarflettes. I'll try to have it posted some time next week. It is my first attempt at writing down a pattern but trust me it is no Debbie New. I would like to work out some of my patterns though and have them in writing for my own benefit.


So I recently joined a free blog networking service called entrecard. You may have seen the Blog of the Day button to the side. I'm not a fan of cluttered and ad ridden blogs but something about this service appealed to me. For one thing it's free and no money ever needs to be expended for you to drive traffic to your blog and promote other like minded blogs.

Basically the way it works is you place the widget on your blog and then visit other blogs just like you normally would do, and while there you "drop" your card. It is as simple as clicking on their drop box. Then they come visit you and hopefully check out your blog and maybe even visit your shop.

Since joining I haven't really spent any more time on-line then usual and my traffic has definitely taken off. Some people complain that it is not "real" traffic and that people are just dropping in and then dropping right back out. I'm sure that there is some of that but I can speak for myself in that I do honestly look at the blogs I drop in on and really only look at blogs I would enjoy. I sometimes leave comments and sometimes don't, just like when I am browsing blogs any other way.

I'm also a sucker for any system that involves collecting points. I've discussed shopping with MyPoints.com, I'm an off again on again Weight Watchers user, and now Entrecard. For every blog you drop in on you get a point, whenever someone chooses to advertise on your blog you get points, and whenever you add content to your blog you get points. You use those points to buy time on other bloggers widgets. I really enjoy shopping for blogs to advertise with. I look for new users of entrecard whose price isn't too high and who have a regular readership shown through comments on their blogs. If they are Etsy sellers that is a plus since their readers are probably already going to be familiar with Etsy and hopefully registered shoppers.

I don't know if it will result in any sales but it's fun to know more people are looking at my blog and hopefully getting some enjoyment out of it.


Scarves vs. Scarflettes

The Strange Folk Festival was definitely a scarflette crowd. I had my glass head handy with an eye-catching scarflette on him and we sold a ton. I started calling them neckwarmers since people sometimes looked at me funny when I said scarflette so I may start referring to them more descriptively.

I really like making scarflettes. They are fast; I can use fancy stitches and pretty buttons, and still make a good profit off of them. I also like making the higher end scarves with my more expensive yarns and fun stitches, but I only sold 2 of them at the show. I sold quite a few lower priced scarves but honestly I’m making next to nothing for my time on those items. I also get bored making the lower priced scarves since I pretty much use the dropped stitch on every one of them. It shows off the novelty yarns well and it is super fast, but it gets old fast. I know I have more than enough of my higher end scarves right now so I need to focus on scarflettes or lower end scarves. So my quandary is whether I should keep making scarves that bore me or make the scarflettes my signature item and focus on them instead.

My next show is at Lindbergh High School the weekend before Thanksgiving. I don’t know if they will be as much of a scarflette crowd. The scarflettes take a bit more of an adventurous person who likes to try different things.
Lindbergh is the biggest show in the St. Louis area and I know it brings out the people but I’m unsure of whether they will get me like the Strange Folk did. I think the lower end scarves are much more of a sure thing but I don’t want the next few months to turn into drudgery if all I do is churn out drop stitch scarves.

I will probably end up dividing my time between the 2. I’ll do low end scarves until I’m bored to tears and then do a fun scarflette, but I really wish I could just be confident enough in the scarflette to make it my signature. I did really well with them on Etsy last year also so I think they would sell there if not at the show. So let me know what you think about my scarf vs. scarflette situation.

(c) Lenox Knits, 2009|Created by NSD