New Friends and Strange Trading

I was truly blessed this year with the perfect conditions and location at the Strange Folk Festival. I was located right next to the stage so I had one quilt rack on the far end of the table and the other on the steps. I set my chair up on the stage so I was queen of my domain and could see everything going on below me. This shot to the right is from my perch with a few customers browsing my table.

I was also blessed with the friendliest vendor neighbors you could possibly ask for. Directly next to me was Lisa from Cornflower Press seen above. I was captivated by her original linoleum block art of rural images that reminded me of my childhood. I bought a plaque with the white barn house image as it reminded me of my Nana's old house. By the end of the weekend we were laughing like old friends and I hope to stay in touch with her. She has been making a living from her artwork for many years and I found her quite inspiring.

Straight ahead of me was the utterly tempting Dyeabolical Yarns. I always enjoy visiting with Rachel and drooling at all of her colorful fibers. I actually got one of her amazing handspuns in my favorite fall colors in a trade for one of my organic cotton creations. Trades are actually as good if not better than sales in my book as you get something that you probably wouldn't have bought otherwise to remind you of the day.

I also traded a hat for a set of all natural beauty products from Erin. I got the anti-aging lotion, the blemish treatment (how sad is it that I need both of these at my age), the mosquito repellent that uses catnip of all things and smells really good, and the cut and scrap balm.

I traded for a very cool fused glass plate from ArtLady Designs that she made out of a recycled shower door. Turns out she lives in the next town over from me and her husband works for the community college.

My goofy trade of the day was for a floppit from Tindlebears. I always need to get one item that will make my husband question my sanity and that will remind me of the inherent strangeness of the event. She also makes some really adorable teddy bears that would make great Christmas presents.

I bought a Christmas present for my Mom from Three Strands who does hand embroidery of nature images from rural Missouri. She is an ecologist from the parks service and I admired some of her photographs she was selling on notecards. One was of a controlled burn and when I told her that my Dad burns every year she got way more excited than a person should at that news. I love when someone is really enthusiastic about things other people don't think about so I instantly liked her.

And finally I once again enjoyed the yummy concoctions of the Hot Cookie. She was my booth neighbor last year and even though she was at a much healthier distance this year I couldn't resist her double fudge drops and Lemon Tarragon Sables.

Meeting unique people and making new friends really is the best part of Strange Folk each year, and is why I look forward to it more than any other event of the year.

Strange Folk Wrap up!

I've mostly recovered from this weekend. I would have to say that this was my favorite Strange Folk Festival yet. I had a perfect spot in the covered pavilion right next to the stage so I could spread out more than those in the center aisles. I had the best booth neighbors, which I will talk about more tomorrow. Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day in the upper 70's with huge crowds most of the day. I had a perfectly acceptable number of sales but nothing spectacular. Sunday was a rainy, cold, and somewhat miserable day and guess what. I had my best day ever at Strange Folk!

On day one I didn't sell a single hat. I sold mostly lower priced scarves and a whole lot of wristcuffs which I had marked down. On day 2 I sold over half of my hats, most of my higher priced scarves, and several of my higher priced scarf/hat sets. What a difference 15 degrees makes. I felt terrible for the vendors in the tents on Sunday as many people just weren't venturing out into the park with the rain and cold. People were taking their time in the covered pavilion and those who hadn't worn a scarf that day were buying them off the rack and wearing them around. A couple of nice folks said they were leaving the tags on them for free advertising for me.
I really had some of the sweetest customers this year. My absolute favorite was the girl in this shot (posted with her mother's permission.) She bought one of my favorite hats and she had her own quirky style which I loved. I actually made 3 in this style with the tufts of Ozark Mountain Handspun sticking out every 5 rows. I will probably end up keeping the one that I didn't sell for myself. This girl fell in love with the hat as soon as she tried it on and her face just lit up. . But her Mom told her she wanted to look around to make sure there wasn't one she liked more. An hour later the girl comes running up to the table and says "I tried every hat in this entire place on and this is the perfect one." I couldn't resist taking a picture since the hat really was made for her with her little curls poking out.

My second favorite customer was a little girl around 7 or 8 who came up with her sister. They tried on every one of my wrist cuffs. She picked out a wire wrist cuff, which is the most grown up item I sell, with Eiffel tower charms, probably the most grown up of my wire wrist cuffs. It fit her barely but she had made up her mind. She got her wallet out and handed me her $7 so grown up like. I was a little worried about what her mother would think. Around 15 minutes later the whole family comes up and the mom says I just wanted to tell you that she had been shopping all weekend long and your bracelet was what she chose to spend her money on. I told her how special that made me feel and we chatted for while. The mom had bought a scarf from me the year before and I think she was a vendor.

My last customer of the day was my biggest sale of the weekend, just like the first year I did Strange Folk. It was about 15 minutes before closing time and a family came up in a flurry. Her daughter picked out one of my most expensive scarf/hat sets and the mom chose one of my $30 scarves for herself. If I had started to pack up like many of the other vendors, she probably would have passed me on by. Mike had come to help me pack up and he was sitting on the steps next to my booth. The sister sat down next to him and he was sharing his popcorn with her and they shared a moment. When the family was leaving the girl gave Mike a big hug which everyone thought was so cute.
I was pretty happy with the booth display. I sold way more items off the table this year than last year. The display items I talked about here were much more effective than the shelves I spent so much money on last year. I didn't change much from day 1 to day 2 except putting out only one head since I got tired of taking things on & off of the heads all day long Saturday. I also arranged the quilt racks by color on Sunday and not price. I ended up pricing things as $15, $20, and a few $30 scarves.

I'll share more about the weekend tomorrow, including the great trades and friends I made.


Craft Show Tidbits

Last year I did a whole series of posts about craft shows as I was getting ready for the Fall season. This year not so much. I was rereading them this morning to reassure myself that I was ready for the Strange Folk Festival this weekend and thought I would share some of the highlights.

From the post Craft Show Ideas:

Another thing to consider when choosing a show is whether it is juried or not. Personally I prefer juried shows since it keeps the resellers out but there is the stress factor of waiting to see if you got in. I am not in the league to consider the high end art shows but if you are than you need to plan pretty far in advance and be willing to put out some bucks in fees. The most I've ever paid for a booth fee is $90 but I have heard of shows that cost in the hundreds of dollars that attract a high end clientele. Shows that have been around along time and have a built in clientele are worth the investment in most cases. You should consider how long they have been doing the event and if possible find out how many attended the year before. I've never done an event that charged attendees to enter but I've been told they bring out people really ready to shop.

Missouri has a site called MissouriArtsAndCrafts with a list of events and I'm sure your state probably has something similar.... Another comprehensive site is Festival Network Online. You can search events for free here but to get full details and other services it costs $49 a year. This is more than I can justify paying but I do use it to search and then I google events that sound interesting to see if I can find more details.

From the post Fall Craft Show To Do list:

Figure out how you are going to accept credit cards. I think that it's vital to have a method of accepting plastic. You are missing out on so many sales if you just take cash and checks. I use Propay and it's super easy and very reasonable. I just renewed my membership and it was around $30 for a year which is so worth it.

Stock up on business cards. I recently bought 1000 cards from Vista Print with one of their many coupons for around $15. I have heard that some people had bad experiences with them but I've put in 3 different orders and never had a problem. You have to be careful to opt out of all of their silly promotions and you will get spam e-mails from them but I'm okay with that for such a good price on a business necessity. I've also been thinking about ordering some postcards to use as follow up with some of my return customers.

From the post My Craft Show Checklist:
  1. Vendor information. The organizer will usually e-mail you info like your booth number and parking directions that you will want to have that day.
  2. notebook. I like to keep a running tally of how much I've made. Be sure to keep track somehow of how much you make so that you can pay sales tax.
  3. calculator
  4. receipt book
  5. credit card receipts

  6. cash, I usually bring $100 in cash.
  7. cash apron, I prefer to keep my cash on me rather in a cash box that could walk away when I turn around.
  8. Mirror, I'm always amazed at how many vendors forget this one and ask to borrow mine.
  9. Shopping bags of some sort. Paper lunch bags can work for small purchases.
  10. Tools to "fix things", if you make jewelry bring some extra findings just in case.
  11. camera, so you can take lots of pictures of your booth for your blog!
From the post First Craft Show Anxiety:

The best way to elevate your anxiety is to be as prepared as possible. Set your booth display up at home and get everything just the way you like and then take a picture. Save it to your phone or make a copy of it so that you have something to work from on the big day.

Don't be disappointed if you don't sell a ton of stuff at this first show, just look at is as a dry run to get over those first show jitters. Keep telling yourself that this is your hobby and it's supposed to be fun. That helps me for some reason. I will also tell myself that this is not my job and my mortgage doesn't depend on it. If it did I can't imagine how nervous I would be. I'm usually a mess until I have my first sale and then I will calm down a bit. Once I make my booth fee I breathe a sigh of relief and am much calmer for the rest of the day.

Definitely get a good night's sleep the night before. Don't, I repeat Don't, stay up all night making new items to sell. If it relaxes you to work on your craft do so but having a few extra things will not be worth the all nighter if you are tired and cranky the next day.

Try not to have a thin skin and don't take it personal if someone turns their nose up at your booth or doesn't get the inherent wonderfulness of you and your product.... As creative types we tend to have a more sensitive disposition. Don't let this stop you from trying something new and putting yourself out there. Most people will be complimentary and you will get more feedback in one day about your work than in a year on line. I have had some wonderful interactions with customers that gave me warm and fuzzy feelings for weeks afterwards. When someone really gets you and wants to actually buy something you made with your own hands it's one of the best feeling in the world.

From the post
What I learned about craft shows:

Too much is not necessarily a good thing. I always brought all of my merchandise to the shows but I found that over filling my quilt racks and table actually overwhelmed shoppers. If someone was interested in a different color I could always get out the plastic tubs with the rest of my inventory and let them look through them. I sold a bunch of scarves right out of the tub.

Make friends with the organizers and keep a smile on your face even if it's painful. The last thing you want to do is to be seen as a trouble maker by the organizer, especially if it is a juried show.

If you can't set up the night before than at least pack up the car and be ready to go. Have the mapquest directions printed out and read through carefully. Try to get a good night's sleep.

I know this is not my first time at the rodeo but I still get those pre-show jitters. Hopefully I will be able to take my own advice and enjoy the weekend!


Strange Folk Here I come!

I'm getting so excited for this weekend's Strange Folk Festival. I can't believe that it is almost here. I thankfully took Friday off so that I can get myself fully ready. If you let me know that you are a blog reader I will give you 15% off your entire purchase this weekend!

Here are the details from their press release:

The 5th annual 2-day Strange Folk Festival happens September 25 & 26 in O’Fallon Illinois from 10am to 6pm both days! There will be 150 indie crafters and artists from across the country. Live music, good food, activities for kids, and you have the Heartland’s largest outdoor indie art festival. Just 15 minutes from downtown St Louis, easily accessible from both sides of the Mississippi. Family-friendly Strange Folk offers free admission and was voted "best craft festival in St Louis" by the River Front Times.

Log on to www.strangefolkfestival.com to see a preview of vendor crafts! Other highlights include a wide variety of food and drinks, The Upcycle Exhange, Authors Pavilion and book signings, live blogging stations, performance art, sewing demos, hand-on crafts and demos, alpaca petting zoom, animal rescue booths and more!You can also meet our good friend Brian Katcher, author of two Young Adult novels, on Saturday afternoon in the Writer's Block booth.

It looks the weather is going to be perfect, knock on wood. I'll be under the covered pavilion so if we should get another rain shower like last year I won't have to worry. I hope to see you there!


Here comes the bride!

I have only had one photoshop class so far but it has vastly improved my understanding of how PS works and what it can do for my pictures. As I said yesterday, I didn't have much time to take hundreds of pictures as I wanted to of Chris and Tif's big day so I had to get the most out of the few shots that I did get. I finally understand why my teacher has been preaching to me about shooting in RAW format instead of JPEG. I shot some in RAW and was actually able to salvage a few shots that I would have had to throw away in JPEG.

I spent the bulk of the day focused on Tif and making sure her needs were met so that is why most of my pictures are of her. The top shot is the first picture I took of her after she had been completely made up and dressed. I was close to deleting it since the exposure was off, when I went ahead and opened it in PS to see if there was any way to save it. Because I had shot it in RAW, which means that the camera doesn't make any of the final decisions about the exposure, I was able to fix the White Balance and and I lowered the clarity to get that cool hazy effect.

The next shot was one of the last I took and it captures the festive mood of the reception. It actually looked under exposed but I was able to fix that in PS and I think it makes a nice compliment to the first more serene shot at the very beginning of the day.

Now for an example of how I was able to use PS to create multiple images from one exposure. The first is the full image with just a few adjustments in color and saturation. It's kind of busy with the trees, boat and flowers at her feet but I like how it reflects the beach theme of the day.

In the next image I cropped everything but part of the tree which helps to frame her. I also flipped the rotation since I think it read better that way. I think it makes a nice, traditional bridal portrait.

In this final image I really put my meager PS skills to work. I cropped it down to a head shot, turned it into black and white with a lot of contrast, and then added a filter which gave it a watercolor effect. It is one of my favorites but without my new experience with PS it would have never been created.

I can't wait to learn more about layers in my class and how to get the most out of my images. I can now say that I'm a RAW convert and will never go back to shooting in JPEG after this experience.

Wedding Weekend Over...

Today was the day of rest after 3 full days of wedding activities with our close friends Chris and Tif. I've talked about them often here as they are really more like family to Mike and I. Mike was the best man and I was the de-facto coordinator. I've had my hand in a lot of the planning of their beach themed wedding from the beginning so it was most appropriate. I can honestly say that I've never worked so hard at a wedding before including my own but when Tif gave me a hug at the end of the day and told me I was her rock it was totally worth it.

My main job was to make sure that Tif was calm and enjoyed the day and I think I accomplished that quite well. They had a photographer with them for 12 hours of the day so I didn't have to worry about capturing every moment. Because I was dealing with the vendors, following Tif's perfectly laid out agenda, cleaning up, and making sure that people were happy I really didn't have time to worry too much about my camera.

I was able to catch a few candid moments and I've been playing with the images in photoshop today. Tif was a beautiful, statuesque bride. To be honest I felt and probably looked a bit like a troll standing next to her. Mike said that everyone looked like a troll compared to her yesterday which is as it should be. All I did to the top shot was add some waves to the water with a filter and I obviously cut out a heart in the kiss shot. I added a watercolor filter to this last one and made it black and white. I'll share some more shots from the big day tomorrow and some stories. It was the most intimate and special wedding I've ever been to, as a guest that is.


Pricing Delimmas

I've been really struggling this year with how I want to price my inventory. The past 2 years I've streamlined everything into very narrow price points. I priced all of my scarves at $15 or $30. My soft wristcuffs were $7 and the wire wristcuffs were $11. Scarflettes were primarily $25 except for some lower end ones that were $15.

Last year at the Strange Folk Festival I started out like the year before with one quilt rack of $15 scarves and one of $30. Two years ago I sold more $15 ones but I sold a good number of $30 ones as well. Last year for the entire first day I didn't sell a single $30 scarf so I eventually took them down and put out all $15 ones. I sold some $30 ones at the Rock and Roll Show but I think with the economy in the state it was in, $30 was just too much of an investment for an accessory.

I'm seriously considering adding a third price point this year at $23. This is right in between the two and would give me more profit on those scarves that I don't feel comfortable selling at just $15. I will only have the top tiered scarves with the highest quality yarns at the $30 mark. They say it is good to have some items that are out of most people's price range to let them know that you are a quality vendor. Mike says that I should make it an even $20 since most people don't want to make change but I don't think there is enough of a difference between $15 and $20.

I'm even more confused by how I want to price my new scarf/hat sets and the single hats. I have used such a range of yarns and techniques on them that I really feel like I should individually price them as I see fit. I want to sell the sets with both pieces and I will probably connect them with twine. They will have the prices marked and I will have all of them on my table.
For example the scarf/hat set at the top of the post was made with a 100% wool, hand dyed yarn. My yarn cost were $8 but if I'd paid full price the yarn was worth much more than that. I used the exact same pattern for this second set and the time was approximately the same but the yarn is an acrylic that I only spent a few dollars on. I wouldn't feel comfortable asking for anything less than $40 for the first set but I would be happy with $25 for the second set.

I also have some individual hats with a wide range of yarn costs and time spent on them. Do you think it would be appropriate to price them all differently or would that be too confusing? I like it when vendors have some consistency in their pricing. When I'm looking at a display or rack I like to know that what I'm looking at is in my price range but I just don't feel comfortable putting the same price on such varying items. Any thoughts about either of my dilemmas would be greatly appreciated.


Tif on TV!

First off I just wanted to mention that this is my 400th post. Yay for me! I've been blogging for 3 years now, my blogaversery was back on August 28 but it slipped by me with the craziness of last month. That is a lot of mindless chatter with a few thoughtful posts thrown in now and then.

So now for the second video I wanted to share. My good friend Tif Engler was recently featured on our local show Great Day St. Louis on KMOV. She is the professional organizer who has so patiently helped me to get my craft room organized on more than one occasion as I pictured here. Too bad I have to keep the door shut when she is visiting lately, even though she is the least judgemental person I know. I still feel some shame for letting my yarn habit get the best of me again.

She discusses useful organizational tools some of which are free in the video above. This is her second appearance on the show and she is so much more relaxed in front of the camera now. She used to work in TV but behind the scenes as a producer and I think it shows. She is actually getting married next week and she said that she was so preoccupied with it that she didn't have time to get herself nervous about the TV spot.

If you want to read more about her services you can check her out at Your Life Organized. She now has several employees helping her and she has organized her business like she does everything else in her life. I'm super proud of her and what she has done as a small business owner living life on her own terms.

She is organizing Estate Sales now and has a big one tomorrow in Foristell, MO. If you are in the area you can check it out here. It's going to be quite an event and if weather permits the bloolights are going to put in an appearance and play a few sets. They have played at tent sales in the past and do a good job at keeping the shoppers entertained and hanging around longer than they might have otherwise.


A few videos to check out.

I don't normally post videos here but there are two I'm particularly excited about this week and wanted to share. First Robin Carnahan is running for the Senator from Missouri and she and her family have deep ties to Rolla, where my family is from. She filmed the commercial above on Dad's lot with his very well behaved bulls. I love the last shot of the bulls which perform right on cue. Mom said that they did just what they were told to do this time around.

When her father, Mel Carnahan, and brother were tragically killed in a plane crash a decade ago she was left with the family farm nearby the Lenox family farm. Instead of selling the farm and moving on after this tremendous loss she called my father and he and his hired hand come over to help her learn the ropes. She now works the farm and has continued in the other family business of politics equally successfully.

She is running against the very conservative Roy Blunt and could use all the help she can get in this tough year for Democrats. My dad was involved in local politics on the side when we were growing up and still has a lot of local connections. He is holding a fundraiser for her down by the lake this month. He was also recently quoted in an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch about her rural roots. Dad said that they clearly had an agenda to try to explore how involved she is in the farm but he did not play along.

I will post the other video of a friend of mine on a local television show tomorrow so that this post isn't too big to handle.


To Etsy or not to Etsy?

I've been thinking a lot about my online selling woes the past month. I've had my Etsy shop closed for the summer with a message saying that it would open again in the fall. Well, fall is basically here and my shop has no signs of life yet. I'm struggling to find the motivation to get my pictures how I want them. Even now when I know way more about photography than I did when I started, it still takes a lot of time to take the pictures, edit them, and then set up the listing. All for maybe a few sales a month which just isn't worth it to me.

There was a time when I could expect 1 or 2 sales a week during the prime knitwear buying season, late Oct-Dec. There is now so much competition on Etsy that it is nearly impossible to be found, even with improved photos. There are currently 26,553 results for knit scarf. You can tag as efficiently as possible but without some kind of personal promotional tool it's a long shot to be found. I'm not even going to get into my pet peeve about the same people constantly being promoted on the front page and other Etsy promotional areas.

I have kept my shop open the past 3 years through the dry spells because I thought it was important to have an on-line presence. My main priority has been doing a few targeted craft shows a year but I liked having a shop to direct my customers to online. I've enjoyed the camaraderie on Etsy despite their many flaws, but lately I just feel over their antics. They have made a number of controversial design changes and major overhauls to the checkout and feedback systems which make me nervous to reopen at this time.

Etsy Bitch as always, is the best place to go to find out the real story behind the changes. I am sick to death of reading the Storque and getting the sugar coated BS that the Etsy Admin put out. You have to read between the lines so much that it almost becomes illegible. I was even more confused after reading their post about collecting sales tax with the new checkout system. The 99 page forum thread is simply too daunting to figure out what I need to do to be safe.

I'm once again considering other options such as Artfire but I have a box of 500 business cards with my Etsy address on it that I'm planning to use as price tags for the Strange Folk Festival. If anyone has thoughts I would gladly hear them. Do you think that I'm hurting myself by not having an online venue as a kind of portfolio for my work?


Strange Heads for Strange Folks

In between long stretches of good knitting time this weekend I think I got my Strange Folk Festival booth display ironed out. I am completely changing it from last year. I used those fold up shelves last year which were easy to transport but a total failure I'm afraid. People were unwilling to look through the piles of scarves on the shelves. Things just sat there until I moved them to the quilt racks. I will continue to use the 2 quilt racks on either side of the table which is where almost all of my sales came from last year.

So I've decided to retire the shelves and use only display items that are drapeable. I set up my table minus the knitwear on my back porch this weekend. I found the rack on the right at a Salvation Army for $7 and painted it tan but I think it probably needs another coat. It will hold a lot of scarves/scarflettes draped over it without being overwhelming like the shelves were. I already had the child coat rack on the far left which will be perfect for displaying hats. I gave it another coat of tan spray paint. I got the plant stand in the middle at an antique mall in Rolla for $10 and painted it a deeper beige.

I painted my Styrofoam heads which I bought at Sally's Beauty Supply for $4 a piece with a metallic copper acrylic paint. I had a failed attempt at spray painting them tan. Who knew that there was a chemical in spray paint that would turn a styrofoam head into a mutant creature? It started bubbling up but for some reason I kept spraying until the eye socket completely sunk in. Only then did I research what you should use to paint styrofoam. I obviously won't be using this one at Strange Folk. I will use the heads to display scarf/hat sets.

I will probably use 2 of the levels on the stand to hold mug racks that I got for a few dollars at Goodwill and painted the metallic color. I will hang some of my left over wrist cuffs from last year on them.

I got the table cloth at Goodwill for $4 and I really like the colors. I will probably put a cream sheet over the top and just show the print on the sides of my table but I haven't decided yet. I will use my banner from last year with my Lenox Knits logo on it.

So I spent around $40 including the paint this year on improvements to the booth which I think will pay for itself with more sales off of the table. What do you think? Do you like the tablecloth or do you think it will be too busy once I put all my colorful scarves on the table?

(c) Lenox Knits, 2009|Created by NSD